Our first family camping trip!

We did it … we all survived our first family camping trip! The grand adventure took place from 5/17-5/19 at Myrtle Beach State Park. And to make things even more exciting, we went with our good pals, the J-Crew: Christie, Logan, Asher, Jackson and Piper.

The campground was packed with a diverse array of outdoor enthusiasts and a few family-friendly motorcyclists visiting the Grand Strand for Bike Weekend. In fact, our first night there, we fell asleep to the constant hum of popping, revving and roaring of bikers cruising the beach streets.

Stinky, tired, bug-bitten & sunburned, the J-Crew &  Clan Dillingham manage to get a group shot on the day of our departure.

The second night was filled more with the sounds of nature and many native critters welcomed us to their subtropical forest home. Mosquitoes buzzed about in the surprisingly windless air. Copperheads were spotted at a nearby picnic table. And once the sun set, raccoons brazenly trolled the campsites in search of human food.

Admittedly, our six kids together made for some wildlife of their own, offering up quite the comedy show for our mellow neighbors from Quebec. But the Canadian couple was cool, and it was only expected that our brood was just a tad overstimulated with their introduction to the wonderful world of camping.

Of course, our exhilarating trip also entailed treks to the ocean, and unlike last summer, the 3 Amigos were confident at the beach! The were comfortable in the water and sand, and just relaxed, frolicked and had fun in the sun. We’re looking forward to going back to Myrtle for our family vacation (in a hotel) in July!

A gleeful Gabriel uses two light sabers to battle the surf @ Myrtle Beach.

Overall, the camping experience was a positive one, with some mistakes made, many lessons learned, and lots of good times and memories made. Can’t wait to put our new 10-person tent to use again for the next excursion to some place mountainous and a bit closer to home.

We kicked off our post-camping recuperation early morning on 5/20 with Houston’s adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy. It was an outpatient-procedure that went smoothly, thank God, and rather quickly to boot.

The recovery, on the other hand, has been rough and prolonged. In fact, at Houston’s ENT check-up just last week, the doc said he’s only 80% healed. Each day seems a bit better than the previous and Houston’s sleep apnea has all but vanished, but my brave boy still complains of some lingering throat pain on occasion.

An intent Zeke braces himself in anticipation of the next big wave.

And then if recovering from surgery weren’t enough, the entire family (sans Stephen) has been battling a nasty illness the last couple weeks. It started with Gabriel, whose fever and cough caused him to miss AWANA closing ceremonies on 5/29.

By the next morning, Zeke was hacking, too, so I took the twins the doc. Told it was just a gnarly virus working its way through town, the ailment eventually nabbed Houston, me and even Granny. Our regimen of over-the-counter meds has helped, but none of us is feeling ultra-healthy quite yet.

So, the boys and I had two weeks of major unproductivity. There was little schooling and structure, lots of TV watching and napping, and virtually no outdoor play, and our lethargic moods were accentuated by unusually tasteless food (for Houston’s tender throat) and a general feeling of listlessness.

Although Daddy told Houston & Asher tales of mermen smelling of cucumber, Houston wasn’t dissuaded from taking on the Atlantic & its chilly waves.

Luckily, Daddy never got sick, so he was able to tend to us. Plus, Granny came to visit for Memorial Day weekend to help with Houston’s post-op recovery and also made an emergency trek to town the following weekend to care for the virus sufferers. Sorry we got you sick, Granny!

Getting back in the swing of things, Houston and I kicked off June by finally completing his kindergarten phonics curriculum (although the book says he now is proficient at a second-grade reading level). Whatever … we’re just psyched we survived our first year of phonics and that we can spend the summer gobbling up books galore.

And just when I think I’ve hit a milestone as an educator, Houston proclaims that Ms. Frizzle from his current favorite show, The Magic School Bus, “is the coolest teacher ever.” My immediate reply: “Hey now, I think I get that honor, son.”

Munching on quickie snacks while patiently waiting for the fire to get going is par for the course when camping.

I mean, I might not have a bus that can jet through space or explore the depths of the ocean floor, but I did give my child the gift of literacy, for goodness sake! That should count for some level of coolness, right?!

And just when I needed it most, the CC Practicum took place in Burlington from 6/4-6/6. While the twins attended Play Camp and Houston Geo-Art Camp, I participated in discussions and workshops on this year’s theme: The Art of Arithmetic.

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” — Galileo

After all, Leigh Bortins, the creator of Classical Conversations, got her degree in aerospace engineering. So she wants to demystify arithmetic for home educators, especially those who have told themselves they just aren’t math people (read: me!)

Houston climbs into the kayak for an ocean voyage that didn’t last pass the breaking waves. Oh well, maybe next time, Mr. Logan!

Here’s the gist of what I learned: Human beings shouldn’t be excluded from any realm of knowledge, and that includes the challenging pursuits of mathematics. So, the more we understand math, the more we can understand beauty and the Creator who made it.

“Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” — Galileo

God is expressed through math in its absoluteness. Math, like God, is unchanging, consistent, orderly and logical. God is the “eternal inventor” of arithmetic, and it’s a privilege to be able to stretch our minds through all learning to better understand our magnificent and benevolent Heavenly Father.

This line of thinking is music to my ears, since I have always struggled with math. So, not only will I be teaching my children all subjects and their connected relationships through our awesome Creator, but I will also be redeeming my own education in the process. Good news!

From superheroes & pirates to cowboys, cops & fire fighters, & shows like “Samurai Jack” to Sunday school studies of the Old Testament battles of Jericho and Ai, the boys incorporate all their current likes into an armed mass of powerful weaponry.

The practicum also serves as fellowship between we Christian sisters (and a few brothers) and a way to foster relationships in the greater homeschool community. It aims to encourage and equip us a parents and teachers, so that we know we can achieve our education goals, even on those inevitable rough days.

The practicum reminds us that that we want our students to desire knowledge, and that each child is “a soul to be nurtured, not a product to be measured.” The annual events are part therapy, part instruction and part sermon — just what the doctor ordered for the tired homeschool mama!

On 6/7, we continued the fun with a few of our fellow CC families and hit Backyard Paradise for the June-birthday-boys bash. Of the six kids from Ms. Murphy’s Abecedarian class, four (including Houston on 6/26) have birthdays this month.

Off to church on Mother’s Day: I could ask for no better gift than my beautiful boys & wonderful husband … I’m so blessed!

So, we moms gathered all six boys and their siblings at the outdoor-play-equipment facility and celebrated the special June occasions. And for gifts, we did a book swap, which worked out great for the kids and didn’t break the parents’ banks.

The next day, Daddy took the 3 Amigos on the first boys-only outing in a while. They chose to go swimming at the Y, and had a blast showing off their matured swimming skills and using their new goggles.

This week, the boys are doing Vacation Bible School at Westover. The dudes absolutely love getting to hang with old friends, and enjoy learning about Paul’s journey to Athens, as well this year’s mission focus on India’s rail children. VBS rocks!