Our autumn blur

I haven’t blogged in nearly three months — officially the longest gap I’ve ever had between writings. And that pretty much sums up the blur that has been life the last few months.

Our summer wrapped up with these end-of-dog-days notables:

  • Matthew’s birthday party;
  • our final trip of the season to Wet n’ Wild with Matthew and Miss Stacey;
  • my completing the Color Vibe 5k with Tricia;
  • Zeke breaking his arm while playing nighttime freeze tag at Miss Jessica’s;
  • my 45th birthday;
  • and Papa’s 80th birthday party in Richmond.

We attended a Trump rally, which served as our anniversary kick-off & the 3 Amigos’ civics lesson for the day. Plus, we ran into Tyrnan & Jim @ the event. What a win-win-win!

From then on, we began mixing a brew of activities, which seemed to make life rush by in the blink of an eye. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was all good stuff, just a bit overwhelming, especially for a mama who took Awana off our schedule this year just so we’d have more free time. Ha, live and learn.

There were 3 main ingredients to our cocktail of crazy:

1. SRA baseball

Baseball was the big kahuna time-wise because all three boys played this season, although Gabriel and Zeke were on the same team. However, being that there were two games a week per team and two early-morning Saturday practices every weekend … well, just talking about it makes me tired.

Houston the big-hitter! (Speaking of blurry, my apologies for the not-so-focused baseball pics. Sports photography is hard, people.)

Now, throw in these curve balls (pardon the pun):

  • that kids were supposed to show up a half an hour before game time to warm up;
  • the fields where they played were both 20-30 minutes away from home;
  • sometimes the 3 Amigos were scheduled for games on the same night (and sometimes at the same time);
  • dinner either had to be eaten in the van en route to the game, or made and served up upon arrival home to a tired and hungry (read: “hangry”) crew;
  • and then there were even games every night of the week during part of the playoffs.

Luckily for me, the boys’ teams didn’t advance too far in the tournament. I know that sounds callous to say, but sheesh, this old lady needed a break something fierce. I think the 3 Amigos and Daddy did, too.

Houston participated in his last season of coach-pitch ball with good buddy, NickO. His team, the Athletics, didn’t do that well, but Houston really came out of his shell as far as his personal skills go, especially his hitting.

Bum arm & all, Zeke does what it takes to help out his team during an early-season scrimmage game.

That child actually hit a few home runs and a lot of RBIs. He was even moved to 4th position in the batting lineup, which is the “cleanup hitter” (a.k.a. the “power hitter,” says Stephen). Way to go, Houston!

This season was Gabriel and Zeke’s first experience with competitive baseball. Their team was the Rockies. And I’ve gotta say, they really took to the regimen, the hard-nosed style of the rec coaches, the technicality and rules of the game, and the responsibility that comes with being part of both a winning or losing team.

It was amazing to see my two sometimes head-in-the-clouds boys out on the field, focused and ready for action; to watch them attentively listen to their coaches, heed their advice, and improve on skills; and to witness them strike out or be called out or lose a game, and not cry, although I know it often devastated them. Studs for sure.

Gabriel, whose running had been likened to a kid moving through quicksand, sprints to home plate. Running was just one of the many drastically improved skills the twins attained over the course of their baseball season.

Moreover, Zeke played the first five weeks in a cast. Sure, he didn’t get to hit. But when he was in the outfield, boy, he was working his butt off, stopping grounders and even catching a couple pop-flies with his baseball cap.

I’ve got to say, although it was an exhausting few months, it was such a pleasure to watch the 3 Amigos grow in their sportsmanship, maturity, and love of the game. It really was a blessing to be a part of it all.

2. CC + Essentials

Sure, this is our 5th year of doing Classical Conversations. But this is Houston’s (and my) 1st year of Essentials, which is the dialectic stage of the classical-education model called the trivium.

Zeke & Gabriel get ready to blow out their eight candles during their birthday celebration @ the Eden Drive-In. Where have all the years gone, my sweet babes?!

What the boys have been doing up to now is called Foundations. It’s the grammar stage of the trivium, and it involves tons of memorizing vocabulary and basic facts about a variety of subjects.

The dialectic is when kids start “asking questions, sorting, comparing, and practicing the knowledge learned in the grammar stage.” It involves delving deeper into English grammar and writing. It’s an extra 2-hours of instruction after Foundations wraps up at noon every Tuesday, but it does comprise our complete language-arts program.

It’s intense, humbling, time-consuming, and challenging, to say the least, but it’s effective. I also had good advice from a couple veteran moms, who advised us newbies to take it easy, chill out, and relax. After all, Houston will be in Essentials for three years, so no need to bite off more than we can chew. (The twins will start it in fall 2018.)

The neighborhood crew held their own election & the results are in: Zeke won secretary of state, Jacob governor, Gabriel treasurer, Houston VP & Congress, NickO president, Gavan (not pictured) press secretary & Congress, & Matthew (also not pictured) general.

Houston has become a madman at diagramming and parsing sentences. He actually enjoys it and always says, “Let’s do one more, Mommy.” And we’ve written some great papers on a myriad of medieval topics, with Houston taking the helm more and more each week, coming up with his own similes, alliterations, metaphors, and more.

It is quite a wonder to see a classically-educated child unfold and mature and grow into an independent learner. One day, the 3 Amigos will all be smarter than me … but not just yet, fellas. And can you believe we wrap up our semester this coming Tuesday? Life is a blur indeed.

3. “Church shopping”

That’s what Protestants call it when they flee a church because it’s not meeting their spiritual needs anymore. It may have gotten too worldly because it has too many parking volunteers, too much of a rock-n-roll praise band, or too much of a social-justice bent.

We had a corntacular good time w/ friends @ Harvest Ridge Farm on Halloween morning.

Or it may have been putting too much effort into lobby coffee, happy Sunday greeters, or video messaging. Whatever the case, evangelicals say their hungry for authenticity and truth, not watered down, gimmicky, commercial, popular sentiment. After all, truth is probably the most unfashionable thing these days … or any days, for that matter.

But because of this, we left our church of 3+ years this summer and have been “frolicking,” as one pastor called it, this fall. We have visited three churches over the last few months: two Reformed Presbyterian and one Eastern Orthodox.

I will write more about our religious adventures in a future blog. But for now, suffice it to say that we’re seeking a church with stronger roots and traditions, more liturgy, and a deeper respect for history and the early church.

The Halloween posse, featuring the 3 Amigos as different warriors throughout history: Gabriel is a Confederate infantryman, Houston a U.S. soldier, & Zeke a Medieval barbarian. Not politically correct in the least, which is just the way we like it!

And because we’re so serious about participating in a church, a denomination, a corporate worship that is grounded in longstanding convention with an adherence to great Christians and rituals of the past, we have been very intentional in our frolicking, as well as getting to know each church’s leaders.

My pal, Adair, and her family are extremely involved in Christ Covenant. Her husband, Eric, is an elder, and a few cool CC families attend there. One Sunday, Adair and Eric even hosted a lunch at their house, where they invited our family, the lead pastor, Neil, and his family, and a few other choice folks. That meant a lot to us.

Neil even reached out to Stephen on his own accord. The two met for lunch and talked about everything from faith to firearms to freedom and more.

The dudes go nuts on the giant jumping pillow @ Harvest Ridge. You gotta love the feel & smell of a warm autumn day … it’s just like a cozy blanket.

Our pals, Tricia, Jeremy, Bret, and Bella go to The Kirk. In fact, Jeremy preached during our first visit there. He’s not a pastor per se because he didn’t graduate from seminary, but still, that was super-cool. They even treated us to a post-church lunch twice and on their dime. Very kind indeed.

Like Adair and Eric, Tricia and Jeremy are serious, thoughtful Christians. They wear their faith humbly, but forthrightly, always growing, reading, discussing, reaching out, delving in, and just keeping Jesus at the center.

It’s like my BFF Christie, who actually introduced me to Tricia and Jeremy, once said: that her walk with Jesus was head and heart. Intellectual and emotional. Reason and faith. And that describes where Stephen and I are, and the Kirk and Christ Covenant, which are both Reformed/Calvinist, meet those needs.

Our crew @ the Carolina Renaissance Festival. Jousting, dungeons, falconry, fire eaters, jugglers, sword fighting, gothic weaponry, fairies & even camel rides + awesome friends = medieval merriment!

Holy Cross, on the other hand, is Orthodox, meaning that it has basically done things unchanged for 2,000 years. It was the early church. The first Christians sung the same songs, chanted the same prayers, and had the same liturgy.

When the Great Schism took place in 1054, Catholics tweaked a few tenets and invented some new ones from their base in Rome. But Orthodox Christians just kept doing things old school and kept its center in Constantinople. And when Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517, it was against Catholicism, not Orthodoxy.

Admittedly, Stephen and I still researching this ancient, but not-well-known brand of Christianity. And it is vastly different than what we’ve become accustomed to at Protestant churches. It’s extremely serious, not casual. It’s highly ceremonial, not preacher-centric. It’s solemn, not loud and over-the-top.

Interestingly, Father Christopher, the head priest at Holy Cross, was in the popular alt-rock band Luxury in the ’90s (click on this NRP link, and he’s the second dude from the left). Before that, he was into punk and says that he used to read a lot of Noam Chomsky. Pretty zany for a man of the cloth, huh?!

Zeke’s uses his new double-headed axe to slay this scalawag pirate @ the Renaissance Fest.

Recently, Stephen met with Father Christopher for lunch, and even though some of the above tidbits might lead one to believe that he leans left, he explained to Stephen that, because of keeping with tradition, there’s really little room for politics in a homily. And for us, that’s a good thing.

Sickness, Stanley, & slogging

This triad of busy was intensified by a stomach bug that worked its way through the family in early fall. People puking in trashcans, on couches, in beds, and on walls… you know, the average abdominal-virus fare. It was rough.

Houston, Gabriel, and I were hit early on in autumn with severe seasonal allergies. Mine haven’t been that acute in years. We really should buy some stock in Kleenex.

Those illnesses subsided, only to be replaced by a harsh debilitating cold that’s been bringing Stephen, Gabriel, and me down for the past week and a half. Oh, and did I mention that I got a gargantuan stress-induced fever blister on my top lip the night of the election?! Here we are, nearly two weeks out, and I still have a healing scab. Nuts!

A nervous Houston grabs on for dear life on this real, live camel during a ride @ the Renaissance Fest. It was an hour-long wait to ride, so I hope the boys’ enjoyment & adrenaline rush outweighed any anxiety they may have felt these atop these huge, smelly beasts.

Stanley had an injury, too: a cat bite on his front right paw. Once I noticed his limp, I doctored it myself for a few days, and it seemed to get better. But all of a sudden, it ballooned up and his hobble intensified, so I finally took him to the vet.

The doc said he had the cat version of cellulitis, so he got his booboo drained and cleaned, a shot, meds for home, and had to have a check-up a few days later. While at that return visit, the vet noticed that Stan had lost 3 pounds since his annual appointment this summer. So, he had a third appointment for a round of blood tests.

Turns out, Stan has hyperthyroidism. Because we’ve caught his early on (unlike Bob’s, which was in the extreme stages once diagnosed) and because he’s 14, we are foregoing expensive treatment options, which the vet says is ethical at this point. However, once the condition worsens, we’ll have to put him down. So sad.

I actually completed an entire 5k (w/o walking) w/ my pal, Tricia. And amazingly, I have been running fairly consistently ever since. Here’s to good health.

Stephen’s job got a bit hairier than usual this fall, with calls from the powers-that-be for additional sacrifices in personal time and little to no telecommuting. So, I had to get creative in getting to all my necessary yearly medical appointments, which, for some reason, all take place this time of year.

Thankfully, Granny visited, allowing me to get to my gynecological and eye exams, and then I squeezed in my mammogram late one afternoon when I think the kids were playing at a neighbor’s house. I can’t really recall, but it was touch-and-go for a while there.

Fortunately, Stephen can work from home again without too much hand-wringing from his workplace overseers, but he could still use any and all prayers for just doing what he does so well: laboring diligently and providing for his family with little complaint. We love you, darling!

Gabriel readies himself to ride a mini-motorcycle @ NickO’s birthday party. What a cutie pie!

October occurrences

October always offers up an annual whirlwind of fun. Our 16th anniversary began with a Trump rally in the afternoon. That evening, we got Donni to babysit, and Stephen treated me to an hour-long couples’ massage and then an eating/drinking feast at World of Beer. Doesn’t my husband know me well?!

We celebrated Gabriel and Zeke’s 8th birthday at the Eden Drive-In. A smorgasbord of cool kids and even a few families were in tow for the movie. We packed up already-prepared hotdogs, sides, popcorn, and cake, and enjoyed the beautiful night outdoors under the balmy fall sky.

Bret and Tyrnan spent the night, so the good times kept on rolling until wee in the morning. And then our clan went out to Burger Warfare and Krispy Kreme that Sunday (on their actual birthday) to round out the celebratory weekend.

There’s always a haze of activity surrounding All Hallow’s Eve. A few days prior, Miss Julie hosted a Halloween piano party, at which each student played their spooky-themed songs.

During our outing to Harvest Ridge, Gabriel & I strike a pose w/ Miss Jessica — my partner in crime for mirth-making & mischief.

On Halloween morning, we went with Miss Jessica, Jacob, and NickO to Harvest Ridge Farm. It had massive hillside sliding boards, a giant jumping pillow, a corn cannon, huge rolls of hay to climb on, a barrel train, and of course, a corn maze and a tractor-pull ride.

Miss Stacey hosted a pre-trick-or-treating party that evening. She had a variety of games for the kids and food for all, which really came in handy since I had spent my whole late afternoon helping the 3 Amigos piece together their homemade costumes, not fixing dinner.

Trick-or-treating was a hoot. Miss Jessica even drove us wide and far in her golf cart, so the boys’ pumpkins were overflowing with goodies, and the adults were able to kick back and enjoy an adult beverage or two during our escapades.

Playing Risk w/ Daddy: a new favorite pastime of the 3 Amigos. It can get pretty intense, y’all.

We’ve had quite a few other special fall memories, like:

  • a rare visit from Gramsey and Papa, who got to catch both a Rockies and an Athletics baseball game;
  • a farewell dinner hosted by Miss Shawn for our longtime and wonderful neighbors, Miss Ruth, Mr. Kevin, and Maddie, who’ve moved back to their home state of Pennsylvania;
  • Q Commons, a “live learning experience” that focuses on discussing relevant topics through a Christian lens, which I attended solo;
  • the Renaissance Festival, which we did with Mr. Jeremy, Bret and Bella, as well as the J-Crew (sans Logan), who spent the night with us the night before;
  • local birthday parties for neighbor NickO and CC buddy Joel;
  • and Asher’s 10th birthday party, which was in Roanoke, so our entire clan made a weekend of it and was able to spend some much overdue with our beloved J-Crew.

So, yes, we are busy and our lives do sometimes seem to be a blur. But what is abundantly clear is that we are truly blessed. Of that, I am sure and grateful.