Fall field trips

Boys have such wild and wonderful imaginations. Moving on from their intense Wild Kratts adventures and boisterous Angry Birds war games of late summer, the 3 Amigos are now in the midst of medieval mania.

Gabriel gleefully models a knight’s helmet @ the NC Renaissance Faire.

Much of our CC memory work is about Middle Ages. Plus, Story of the World — a history audio-book we’re also enjoying — is on those dark and violent times. So, it’s not shocking that the dudes’ make-believe theatrics often involve a feudalism plot and include many brave, chivalrous characters.

Consequently, we decided to take the boys to their (and my) first Renaissance Faire. It was actually a CC-organized outing for 10/16, which just so happened to be Gabriel and Zeke’s 5th birthday! Stephen even took the day off work, so it was quite the jolly jaunt.

The kids’ favorite part of the festival was the jousting and their least favorite was the dungeon tour. Luckily, there were many other distractions from that latter frightening experience, like rides, lively performances and hardy food. Houston even attempted to eat a giant turkey leg just like Daddy!

Sir Zeke concentrates as he prepares to “joust,” in which the knight rides a wooden horse while attempting to capture a ring w/ his lance.

That evening, the J-Crew and the boys’ new pal, Mason, came to the house for an impromptu birthday celebration of rich chocolate cake and banana-split ice cream. “It twas a great feast,” as is Gabriel’s wont to say about meals these days, since it sounds so medieval-like.

On Friday, I took the dudes to see The Armor of God. Another CC-organized event, this one-man show (along with his volunteer squire) uses history and all the parts of a knight’s armor as the vehicle to teach kids about Ephesians 6 and how to live for Christ.

And then that afternoon, Houston attended Miss Julie’s Halloween piano party dressed up as a knight. If you recall, the dudes had been piecing together creative make-shift warrior costumes during their pretend Middle Ages games.

Houston wields an ax as Zeke checks out another piece of armament.

So, Stephen and I decided to buy each of them a decent-quality knight set, which includes a breast plate, shield, helmet, and sword with sheath. We figured the 3 Amigos could use the gear for Halloween and for lots of imaginative play beyond holiday. No homemade costumes this year will save me some valuable time to boot.

The twins’ birthdays always kind of outweigh Stephen’s and my anniversary, which was 10/14. We commemorated our 13th year of marital bliss by devouring take-out sushi at home with the boys. It was peaceful and eventless: a perfect evening for two tired old folks like us!

We had our second family camping excursion the weekend of 10/18-10/20. We told Gabe and Zeke that the trip was a continuation of their birthday celebration, but I suppose it could’ve just as well been to observe our anniversary. Either way, it surely was an adventure!

Houston snaps this photo of the birthday boys w/ Mommy & Daddy as we bid fare thee well to the festival that commemorates all the glory & ghoulishness of the Middle Ages.

We stayed at a campground along the Dan River. The route to Stoneville from home was all country backroads, but still only took about 35 minutes. It was a sunny, cool day and we were all ready for both excitement and relaxation in the wilderness.

The dudes made insta-friends with a couple other little boys on Friday night. They all wore headlamps and played nighttime hide-and-go-seek. The kids’ parents even treated the 3 Amigos to s’mores.

Turns out, Saturday was wet and very chilly. It never really poured, but it misted and drizzled the entire day. The precipitation started early in the morning when I awoke to the sound of raindrops, so Stephen and I immediately had to exit the comfort of our toasty sleeping bags in order to attach the rain fly to the tent.

Houston shares his turkey leg (leftover from the Renaissance Faire) with Gabriel during our first night @ Dan River Campground.

Since we had embers from Friday night, our first course of action on Saturday was to get the fire going again to warm our chilled bones. Thus, most of the cold morning was spent searching the woods for extra fuel, since we didn’t want to use our last bought bundle until dinnertime.

This is much like the clean-up we do on Liberty Loop every so often, so the kids and I are accustomed to this kind of fun labor. Plus, burning stuff is one of our favorite things to do, so we delighted in tending to the campfire, while Daddy prepared our breakfast and lunch.

We went on a hike that afternoon. The trail snaked along the banks of the Dan River and circled back around to the pond, swing sets and campground picnic shelter, where we taught the kids how to play ping pong.

The 3 Amigos & Mommy rest @ the Prayer Garden, alongside the Dan River. The mystery baseball cap in the foreground caused the boys concern, since they thought it may have belonged to a dead person or even a ghost.

Even though we felt quite remote, turns out that “civilization” (the town of Mayodan) was just a short drive from the campground. Being that we were damp and muddy from the hike, we cranked the heat in the van and trekked to the store for ice, libation and candy.

Admittedly, we were pretty underprepared for our cold, rainy campout (damn your incorrect forecasts, weather.com!), but everybody had a really good attitude and the clan survived no worse for the wear. Now we feel like we can handle hardcore camping, especially if we’re better equipped for the next adventure.

Although we’ve had lots of field trips lately, don’t think we’re slacking on our studies. Sure, we’re a tad behind on the day-to-day stuff, but that’s one of the joys of homeschooling: we get to make our own schedule. Plus, we like to learn from doing, exploring and being, not just writing and reading.

Zeke tries to stay dry in Daddy’s raincoat, while Gabriel tends to the fire during our recent wet, chilly, but extremely fun camping trip.

Gabriel and Zeke are really coming into their own in their separate CC classes, which I requested for our Tuesday community meet-ups. They seem to enjoy being solo and having a respite from the other. And all the boys thrive on their memory work, which they do for both CC and Awana.

Houston’s reading is flourishing. Not sure if I ever fessed up to this, but last spring I nearly turned my former bookworm pre-reader into a kid that hated to read. I made the mistake of having him tackle books that were way too challenging, instead of giving him easy books in order to build his confidence.

Fortunately, I realized my error early on and worked at remedying the situation all summer long. Now Houston’s back to loving books! Currently, he’s gobbling up a variety of emergent-reader books from the library, and exploring the Bob Books Gabriel and Zeke got for their birthdays.

The dudes take a break on Turkey Neck Trail, where Gabriel was tracking an animal he says was either a fox or a deer. Hmmm.

Last Wednesday, I schooled the 3 Amigos plus Asher. I was a favor to Miss Christie, but I thought of it as good practice for becoming a CC tutor some time down the road. Not only do tutors get a significant discount on their kids’ CC tuition, but it would also be a compelling challenge as a home educator.

Overall, school’s cool. Sure, we have our moments … and sometimes even our days. But when one of the boys chooses school as their “high of the day” during our highs-and-lows discussions at dinner, you know we’re doing something right!

Aunt Dina and cousins Kara and Meredith visited for a night in mid-October. It was a rainy weekend, but we made the most of it, playing Chinese checkers and cooking homemade lasagna (as per the boys’ request, since it’s Garfield’s favorite food).

Granny poses w/ Zeke & his pumpkin named Pooty 2 (since our first pumpkin of the season was also named Pooty); Gabriel & his decorated gourd, Monster; and Houston & his pumpkin, Louis.

Granny came to town this weekend. She took the 3 Amigos to a free fall event at our local grocery store, where they decorated pumpkins, ate cookies and drank apple cider. Thanks for the Halloween fun, Granny!

Stephen and I got a night out to attend the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center’s annual banquet on 10/7. GPCC is my favorite local non-profit and we love supporting their life-affirming efforts here in our community. Plus, Dr. Gary Chapman — author of the powerful book, The 5 Love Languages — was the featured speaker. What a treat!

Miss Jessie’s availability for babysitting is sparse these day, so we rendered the services of Callie, a kind and responsible tween we know from CC. Everything went well, so I’m sure we’ll be offering her another job in the future … always good thing to have a mature and trust-worthy babysitter on call.

Tubes tied

Yesterday, I had a tubal ligation, more commonly known as getting your tubes tied. I received the laparoscopic method, which uses electrical current through a lighted, pencil-shaped instrument to cauterize sections of the fallopian tube. Yep, I am officially out of the baby-making biz!

The 3 Amigos & J-Crew kiddos pose in front of the Old Mill of Guilford — a fully operational, water-powered, 18th-century grist mill located right down the road from our CC community.

It was a decision that Stephen and I didn’t take lightly. There were, of course, many factors that led us to choose surgical sterilization, as opposed to other forms of birth control.

First, I’m certain I don’t want any more children. I am perfectly content raising the 3 Amigos and thank God for each of those blessings. Plus, if we had an addition, they’d have to be the 4 Amigos, obviously lessening the homage paid with the current nickname to the Martin-Short-Chase classic comedy flick. 😉

Let’s be honest, I’m no spring chicken. At age 42 and with my minor ailments, it is some times physically exhausting trying to keep up with the boys’ break-neck pace. I think another kiddo could possibly just push this old, broken body over the edge.

Gabriel rests @ the gates made of the retired water wheels.

Plus, the older women get, the higher risk the pregnancy, including increased chances of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome or other longterm maladies. Now I would love my child no matter what mental or physical challenges he or she would face.

But the thought of not being able to kick my independent and self-reliant kids out of the house at the onset of adulthood is something I don’t want to have to consider. At that point, my job is done, now it’s their turn to fly on their own.

I mean, sometimes counting down the days till the boys turn 18 is all that keeps me going … well, that and thinking about (lovingly) laughing at them when they call me for advice with their own children. That’ll be some sweet justice! And bring on the empty nest … eventually. 🙂

Houston stands guard atop the grounds of the Old Mill, where we stopped for a quickie field trip last week.

Lastly, my views on life have evolved drastically over the years. From being a participant in and radical proponent of the abortion industry in my 20s and early 30s, to now an ardent defender of the unborn, my only choice was to be proactive.

Having done extensive research on the potential abortifacient effects of typical oral contraception, I knew the pill wouldn’t work for me, nor would an IUD. In fact, I had one inserted after having the twins, but just got it removed in August.

Again, my research showed that, to my dismay, an IUD doesn’t always prevent fertilization. But what it does definitely do is prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the lining of the uterus. So, to be consistent with my principles on life, I knew I couldn’t continue using the device.

Zeke checks out the architecture of the mill’s exterior.

A tubal ligation, on the other hand, prevents eggs from reaching the uterus for fertilization. And since condoms and the rhythm method are just too sketchy as birth control methods, in my opinion, my decision seemed clear.

As with any medical procedure messing with nature, there are risks. Out of 1,000 women who have had their tubes tied, 17 will still get pregnant. And of those, 15-20% will result in an ectopic pregnancy. This is when an embryo implants outside of the womb, usually in the fallopian tubes.

You know when people talk about abortion and the health of the mother, well, this is one of those rare cases in which both the woman’s life is in danger and the fetus isn’t viable. It’s just a horribly sad scenario. God willing, I won’t end up being one of those statistics.

The 3 Amigos hang w/ Dr. O, Houston’s phenomenal orthopedic surgeon. We are forever grateful to the good doctor for the wonderful care & concern he gave to our sweet, broken boy!

On 9/27, Houston had his final physical therapy appointment. I can’t believe how far he has come since his first visit with Mr. Scott … what an incredible recovery!

After therapy, we headed right over to see his orthopedist, who agrees that Houston’s elbow is doing great. His next appointment isn’t till late December, which will be six months after the break.

On 10/2, Gabriel and Zeke went to see their allergist, who wants them off the inhaler by the month’s end. She’s certain they’ve outgrown their cough-variant asthma, so November will start the trial. I pray she’s right, so we can finally get the twins off these allergy meds once and for all.

Mr. Scott & Houston (& the Mardi Gras skeleton) on his last day of physical therapy. Thanks for being such a great PT, Mr. Scott, & putting up w/ all of us during Houston’s many sessions!

10/3 marked the 25th anniversary of the first placental fetoscopic laser surgery for Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. This groundbreaking work was pioneered by Dr. Julian De Lia.

“Nobody cared about fighting TTTS until Dr. De Lia came along,” said Mary Slaman-Forsythe, president of the TTTS Foundation, in a Facebook post. “He saw the devastation TTTS brought families and felt that he could make a difference in this cause. He studied the placenta, lasered the placenta of monkeys who always gave birth to identical monkeys, and then the first surgery was” October 3, 1988.
“What a brave mother to be the first in the world,” Mary explained. “I want to send my love to her family, her surviving twin son, Josh … and to her and her twin son in Heaven. Every chance anyone was given to fight for their babies was because Dr. De Lia began the fight himself.
“He was the only one that cared along with pathologists who understood this was a placental problem,” she continued. “I was there to witness doctor after doctor yell and scream at Dr. De Lia for years, ‘Who do you think you are telling us how to treat our patients?’ They were not treating their patients, but they did not welcome his help. In fact, the National March of Dimes told me not to associate myself with him if I wanted my foundation to be successful.”

Well, here we are, some quarter of a century later and Dr. De Lia has truly changed the world for the better. Here’s what I wrote to him in a recent email.

Dr. De Lia,
In July 2008, I got the laser surgery that you pioneered. It was performed by the wonderful surgeons at the Fetal Care Center in Cincinnati and was the medical procedure that saved both my twins lives.
As Albert Einstein said, “It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.” So, let’s here it for the rebels like yourself, who don’t bend like reeds in the wind. Thank God for heroes like you. Please keep up the amazing work you do for families all across the nation and beyond!
P.S. Attached you can check out a photo of my miracle babies, Gabriel and Zeke, who are now healthy as horses and will be celebrating their 5th birthday in about two weeks!

And here was his reply:

You are welcome.
The boys appear to have several things going for them: a) they are Libras (ahem!); and b) the guys in Cincinnati probably cranked up the juice from the laser machine when they operated on G & Z’s placenta (I can tell these things you know).
Looks like everyone is having fun at your place.
Love to all there,
Dr. D
Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Medical College of Wisconsin
Fetal Concerns Program

What a kind, humble man and brilliant man. Simply amazing.

The dudes pose for a shot in front of one of the Old Mill’s historic outbuildings.

Honestly, we haven’t been doing much besides doc stuff and school these past few weeks. On 9/28, we did have a campfire with our new neighbors, Miss Melissa and Mason, and a playdate at the park with them on Friday.

They’re not really new, having moved in last spring. But we’re just now getting to know them. Melissa’s a sweet Southern gal and Mason is her energetic 3 year old, and the dudes love having another rambunctious boy to play with in the hood.

And Granny’s has been here for the weekend, helping with the kids and allowing me to recover from surgery. As always, thanks a million … you’re a life saver, Granny!

Houston, who is the king of medieval dress-up & make-believe these days, decked out Zeke in his favorite Middle Ages garb, which serve as knight, samurai & Muslim warrior costumes.

Tech update: I finally bought an iPad, which the boys and I lovingly refer to as Piggy. I sold Stephen’s motorcycle and used cash to buy the high-priced item in late summer. And now I wonder how I ever lived without it.

For a gal who doesn’t even have a cell phone, that sounds like a funny thing to say. But as the lead teacher of a homeschool family, it is just one convenient learning tool.

For the dudes, I have available only educational games and e-books. It’s a perfect solution to the doldrums of waiting in a doctor’s office or some other place that likes to thieve time.

Houston, Zeke & Gabriel take part in Crazy Hat Day @ CC community last week. Even though their hats weren’t that crazy, they sure had fun w/ their friends.

But overall, it is a Mommy gadget. My favorite things about Piggy are my blogging app, camera/video, calendar and the Web, of course. It’s astonishing how much spur-of-the-moment lesson prep I can get accomplished with this thing.

I also replaced my broken, water-logged iPod with a refurbished iPod nano. It’s only 16 GB, but that’s plenty of space for school stuff (CC, Awana and “Story of the World”), the kids’ music and my Jason Lewis podcasts. Yep, still keeping it simple!