BFFs, betterment, & bustling about

Obviously, holiday happenings have been in abundant supply lately.

First up, Thanksgiving

We deviated from the normal tradition of going to the mountains for Thanksgiving. Instead, Granny came here, and then the lot of us headed to Virginia .

All the usual Richmond family gathered for the occasion, as well as frequent no-show, Cousin David, and New Orleans newlyweds, Casey and Garret. This whole cool crew + Granny made for an extra-special holiday!

Papa, Granny, & Gramsey get cheery on Turkey Day!

The following day, Stephen, Granny, and I cruised around town for a bit. We gave her a driving-by tour of some of the highlights, including Monument Avenue, the Virginia Capitol, Shockoe Slip, and a few of the Seven Hills of Richmond.

Atop Church Hill, which is Richmond’s highest point and home to most of city’s original 32 blocks, we visited St. John’s Church. This historic site was where, in 1775, Patrick Henry gave his revolutionary “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech.

We rounded out our afternoon by hitting Alamo BBQ, a funky little Yelp find of Stephen’s. Although the eats were tasty, I still think my hubby makes a way better brisket.

Albert keeps score as Zeke aims @ cans during a target-shooting contest w/ his bros. Thanks for the super-fun Nerf guns, Casey & Garret!

December: Tis the season of building relationships

The dudes and I met up with my new pal, Carrie (whom I met through Christie) and her four adorable boys for a playdate at Backyard Paradise. I’m hoping our friendships with these fine folks grows in the new year.

I got together with a gal named Kristie, who sought my advice on homeschooling. (Weird, I know.) She is an acquaintance from our days at Westover, but I also see her at random Mercy Hill events, as she and her family are neighbors with one of our pastors.

Not sure how much I relieved her overwhelmingness at being a newbie homeschooler with a kinder and two toddlers. But I’d like to think that my sharing of mistakes, as well as successes, and my passion for home education as a blessing and a calling helped instill greater confidence in her. Man do I love being an homeschooling ambassador!

Houston finally got sick of having a shaggy do & begged me to give him a buzz cut. Sure, the hippie thing is kinda cute, but man, does that kid have some thick, unmanageable hair, so I happily obliged. Here he is just moments before the big change.

Not sure if we’ll be seeing Kristie and her kiddos around CC next school year, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we did? I think the two of us would be fast friends, if we could just see each other a little more often.

The boys and I went to see “A Christmas Carol” at the High Point Community Theater for a field trip with CC. After meeting up with a few families for lunch at Freddy’s, we headed to Wilkesboro to meet Granny.

Houston spent a weekend with his sweet Gran, who took him to a gem museum and a junk store (and spoiled him rotten, of course!), while I seized the opportunity of being sans Houston.

Gabriel & Daddy enjoy each other’s company & musical musings while playing some improv on the piano. Yay for awesome father-son moments!

See, Gabriel and Zeke sometimes feel like they’re second-rate to big brother when they’re all hanging out with other kids. It’s not that they really are. One thing is that the 3 Amigos are so close in age that they have many of mutual friends.

Nevertheless, Houston is older and pretty mature. Thus, he tends to be the ringleader, so naturally, the twins get a bit fed up with this competitive dynamic from time to time.

Now couple that with the fact that Gabe and Zeke sometimes whine (ugh!) and still have occasional tantrums (double ugh!) when their frustration gets the best of them, and it’s a recipe for Houston being seen as the cooler kid and the twins feeling like hangers-on at best.

I think it’s safe to say that Josh’s sleepover was a smashing success. See, I knew los gemelos (Spanish for “the twins”) would let their lights shine through with a little less brotherly competition.

To help remedy this a bit and foster Gabe and Zeke’s friend-making confidence, I invited Josh (their bud from CC and church) to spend the night. Well, it went off without a hitch — quite the feat, especially since it was Josh’s first sleepover ever — and everyone had a grand old time building their budding relationships!

Speaking of which, we have convinced our pals, Penny, Jim, and their son, Tyrnan, to start attending Mercy Hill. This is welcome news not only because they were already church shopping, but also because we’re totally vying for them to be our much better friends.

I jest with Penny that I’m in the market for a new BFF and that she’s in the running. But I’m only half-joking, as I’ve seriously been looking for a close mama buddy ever since Christie moved away. A good girlfriend is simply necessary for getting through this crazy thing called life!

It’s quite apparent that Houston’s exhilarated to have some hang time w/ his BFF, Asher. And yes, they’re constructing Legos in their undies … it’s just what they do!

And speaking of BFFs, the J-Crew stopped by for a quick day visit over the holidays. The kids fought over games, played in the rain, and built Legos in their skivvies. It was as if no time had passed since we last saw them half a year ago — always a good sign of a quality friends.

Stephen and I also got to catch up with Christie, and the big news there is that they recently moved to Roanoke. Sure, they’re still not local, but the Crew is now a heckuva lot closer than Charleston, so we’re planning on definitely seeing one of our fave families much more often in 2016.

Now, on to the Big Show: Christmas!

I attended the CC Mama’s Comfy Christmas Party, where guests wore PJs and traded plush socks for the Dirty Santa gift swap. In one room, we talked about gun ownership and conceal-carry permits, and in the other, we chatted about home-brewing beer and owning livestock. I just adore my cool homeschool community!

Zeke plays Christmas carols w/ Piper. I wonder if that sassy girl still wants to marry both Zeke *and* Gabe, like she used to. Hmmmm.

Miss Stacey and Matthew took the 3 Amigos to the Greensboro Christmas Parade.  They also took the boys and me to see the Christmas lights at McLaurin Farm. They let us ride with them, and they paid. Not only are they terrific neighbors, but they’re turning out to be pretty fabulous friends, as well.

Stephen went to the dudes’ Piano Christmas Party. They were thrilled to have their Daddy there for the festive event, and he was equally impressed with their performances. Turns out that all those (increasingly pricey) lessons are paying off … thank goodness!

Granny, who was visiting for Christmas, took the boys to see the newest Chipmunks pic, Road Chip. Yeah, that’s one of the “perks” of being a grandparent: going to see a lame movies, so that the parents don’t have to endure it. Thanks, Gran.

Zeke helps Granny put the finishing touches on a gingerbread house. Apparently, it was the first one she ever made, so Gran was in holiday heaven.

As per usual, we kept Christmas as simple, commercial-free, and Jesus-centric as possible. Interestingly, Santa’s still in the mix.

It’s funny ’cause Houston claims he doesn’t believe, but you can tell he still clings a bit to the wonder of it all, whereas Zeke is still firmly in the Santa camp. And Gabriel says he doesn’t believe in the jolly old elf. But oddly enough, Gabe doesn’t question the existence of the Tooth Fairy in the least.

Honestly, I think Gabriel only asserts disbelief due to Houston’s stance. For example, Gabe did some last-minute shopping with me at Barnes & Noble, where he picked out his own book. Yet, he seemed truly surprised when he opened that gift on Christmas morning.

The 3 Amigos play w/ their flags, which were among the “sensible” gifts that Santa brought them.

After Granny hit the road post-Christmas, we made another short trip to Richmond to trade gifts and chill with family. We wrapped it all up with a tidy 2015 bow by ringing in the New Year at home, just relaxing, drinking toddies, and enjoying each other’s company.

Being better in the New Year

Sure, I understand that betterment is not a self-help thing, but rather, a response to God’s radical grace. So, only by relying on the Holy Spirit any improvements ever possible.

This is what has gotten Stephen and I through the first 10 days of January alcohol-free. Our goal is to stay on the wagon for the month, so we’re a third of the way there! Funny thing is we’re also trying to be quieter and calmer, so this can be quite the quandary without cold beer to celebrate another day in the trenches of parenthood survived.

Nothing says “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” like settling grievances with bop gloves! See, not all of Santa’s gifts were sensible.

The kids are working on their issues, too. Zeke, who I call my “distracted dancer,” is trying to have better focus. Gabriel, who is our “bull the breaker,” is working on being more careful with his own stuff, as well as other people’s property.

And Houston is the “the picker,” but not of his nose. Rather, he sometimes revels in prodding and poking los gemelos till he gets the tearful reaction he wants. Thus, he’s diligent about being a kinder, gentler big bro.

So, here’s to building relationships, battling sin, and embracing life to its fullest in 2016. Happy New Year!