Keep calm, it’s summer

This is a mantra I keep telling myself. But when you just finished up your math curriculum from last “school year” this past week, well, one can understand why calm has been an elusive thing around the Dillingham household for much of the summer.

Clan Dillingham on the stern of the U.S.S. North Carolina in Wilmington, NC. Now there’s a nice looking crew!

Many friends that are normally at school during the day are now home while the 3 Amigos and I do lessons, so it has been a bit challenging. Even though we’ve summer-schooled in year’s past, the dudes didn’t have as many solid boy friendships in the neighborhood back then, so there simply weren’t as many distractions.

But that has all changed, which is a blessing, of course. It can just sometimes make the logistics and implementation of educating year-round a tad arduous. Not mention, all of our sleeping-in late hasn’t helped … then again, that’s part of the “calm” of summer, right?!

And now that we finally wrapped up the Saxon math curriculum, I feel like I have broken free of the chains. See, Saxon is very teacher-centered and time-intensive, so it was taking virtually all morning for me to complete a lesson with Houston and then one with Gabriel and Zeke.

Gabriel “steers” the battleship from the bridge. He sure makes one cute & confident captain!

This obviously left sparse time to do other necessary school, catch-up work, supplementary learning activities, and other fun projects I have been putting on hold till what I hoped would be a big, fat swath of seasonal spare time. I guess the laugh’s on me.

Good news is now that Saxon is finally complete, we will never again use that curriculum. I am in search of a more student-centered math that frees up the parent significantly while also fostering independent learning for the child.

I think I’ve decided on Teaching Textbooks, which comes highly recommended by other friends and is fairly cost-effective, considering that I’ll eventually be using Houston’s curriculum for the twins. Plus, it’s pretty popular among home-educators, so it shouldn’t be a problem to resell a level once we’ve completed it.

A contemplative Zeke looks out a porthole from the bridge. Maybe being a helmsman is what it’s going to take to calm down this wild child.

Another rough spot of the summer has been dealing with our exit from Mercy Hill. I wrote about our reasons in the three previous blogs, but it was still a hard decision. I mean, two of my kids made their professions of faith in Jesus in the baptismal waters at that church, so yeah, it’s sad.

And right now, we’re taking a church hiatus, just trying to get our muddled heads and broken hearts in order before “church shopping” later in the summer. There are two in particular that I think may meet our theological and non-social gospel needs, but we shall see. Please be praying for us that we find a church home. Thanks.

Of course, there’s seemingly always some behavioral bone of contention that decreases the calm around the homestead. It has been a mostly twin thing for most of the summer, sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both (a la the “freight train.”)

A view of the battleship bow from the bridge. Can you imagine actually steering this behemoth?!

As of late, Gabriel has been showing a much greater deal of self-control and maturation, though. Thank the Lord! You can tell he’s really trying and liking the results of being a bigger boy. Fewer punishments. More rewards. Greater freedom and independence.

Zeke, on the other hand, well … let’s just say that he has always been our most stubborn, quick-tempered, prone-to-a-meltdown child. We’ve made a tiny bit of progress over the last few days, but geez, can that kid wear a person out! Prayers on that front would be sincerely appreciated, as well.

Despite these hurdles, we’ve actually had a great many adventures this summer … yet they’re ostensibly peppered with a dash of stress here and a sprinkle of anxiety there. I suppose that’s parenthood, but for the love of Pete, let’s relax and have some fun, people. There are too many cool things to do and see to be sitting around, crying about nothing!

Inside the battleship, we found Uncle Bill’s name on the Roll of Honor wall commemorating all North Carolinians (listed by country) who fought in WWII. Bill Houston was Stephen’s grandmother’s brother on Granny’s side. He was a pilot in the war & died in action when he was shot down over India.

Oak Island

We went to this wonderful destination June 18-25. It’s a quaint, low-key little island, about an hour south of Wilmington. Not too fancy and commercial, just the perfect mix of down-home beach town but with a few nearby conveniences.

The interesting thing is that we went with extended Biddix family, including Granny and Cathy; Kelly, Rusty, and cousin Ella; Dale and Teresa; Tiffany and cousins, Grace and Faith; Dustin and his girlfiend, Anna; Christy and cousins Marley and Sofie; Tee, Morgan, and cousins Rawley and Sloane; and Mike and Diane.

It was a raucous week of drinking too much, eating yummy homemade food, and having many loud, boisterous, and often profanity-laden conversations. The swimming was excellent because it never really got that deep, so you could walk way out onto what I guess was a sandbar to catch waves, while never having to tread water.

Granny & Houston hang out @ Oak Island Point, right where the Intracoastal Waterway, the Eastern Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean meet … very cool.

The weather was incredible, even kinda chilly in the evenings, because there was an ever-blowing ultra-force wind. I mean, it was powerful. It even blew over Mike’s canopy, which hit a guy, so there was never any shade to be had while on the beach. Too dangerous.

On the flip side, I never broke a sweat, despite the heat and humidity, so it was always temperate and nice. Most nights featured exquisite moon shows, including a Blood Moon, and a billion perpetual stars dancing on the ocean that we viewed from the front-row seats of our ocean-front house.

Now, there was one particularly stressful time when Stephen and Houston took our new inflatable raft into the Eastern Channel from Oak Island Point. This is where the channel meets up with the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic, causing a huge suction toward the ocean, unbeknownst us.

During our camping trip to Peaks of Otter, here are the boys, precariously balanced on a cliff face & ready to conquer the world during our hike to Harkening Hill, a 3.3 mile loop with an altitude of 3,364 feet.

At first, I thought I could swim out, and help them get back shore. Certainly my kicking at the back of the raft and Stephen’s paddling would create enough force to actually move through the water. Well, as confident of a swimmer as I am, I was scared to even get out to them.

Luckily, Uncle Mike had his boat and proved his nautical skills by rescuing my dudes, even navigating through 2-3 feet of water without getting stuck or ruining his engine. Of course, holding on to the rope that pulled them back to safety almost broke my hand and Stephen’s finger, but eh, that’s the stuff of which memories are made.

And even after all that, awesome Uncle Mike still took Clan Dillingham for an amazing sightseeing ride along the Intracoastal Waterway. Thanks, Mike!

U.S.S. North Carolina

On the way home from the beach, we took a detour to Wilmington to visit this battleship, which was part of the American fleet during WWII.

Enjoying a break @ the summit of Harkening Hill. Sure, you couldn’t see the mountainous view from this high vantage point because stupid nature was in the way, but @ least the national park rangers made up for their lack of stewardship by sorta helping us out when Rick & the boys went “missing.”

According to the battleship tourism pamphlet, “She steamed over 300,000 miles. Although Japanese radio announcements claimed six times that the North Carolina had been sunk, she survived many close calls, near misses, and one hit when a Japanese torpedo slammed into the battleship’s hull” on Sept. 15, 1942.

The boys learned about all that history, and got to check out the ship up close and personal, from the gun mounts and gun turrets, to the Kingfisher scout plane and the plotting and coding rooms, to radio central and the bridge, to the engine room and the powder magazine and projectile storage, to the chapel, galley, and barber shop. Neat.

Houston’s 9th birthday

Santa gave the boys season passes to Wet n’ Wild, and we finally put them to use on July 2, as a belated celebration for Houston’s 9th birthday. Yeah, I knew a Saturday on a holiday weekend was going to be a bit chaotic, but it was even crazier than I had imagined.

Gabriel, Jackson, & Piper do their best “Atlas Shrugged imitation during our hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The additional stress began when I was prohibited from using my two free friend passes, even though my official paperwork didn’t specify any such a restriction. Then we were forced to pay adult prices for Nick and Bret, who are 8 and 11, because they exceeded some arbitrary height rule. What a ripoff.

Despite all this and the very long and tedious lines, I think the boys had fun. Good thing kids are so resilient because I was exhausted by the end of the outing. I think the pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream served at the house and enjoyed with all their neighborhood pals, and a sleepover helped to create some fond birthday memories.

Independence Day

4th of July really wasn’t that notable. We did school that morning, since we were still in hardcore Saxon mode then, but that evening entailed yummy burgers and other delicious edibles grilled by Daddy, and then fireworks and sparklers at Matthew’s house.

This pic was taken literally moments after we returned home from Oak Island. Other than Houston’s pretend angry face, you can tell how happy the hood crew is to be reunited after a week apart. So sweet.

Grasshoppers game

We went to see a minor-league baseball game on July 7 with our neighborhood posse. It was a Thirsty Thursday event, which meant the yummy local microbrews were flowing for only $2 a pop. Now, there’s a bargain!

The kids had half a row of seats along the first baseline all to themselves, and then the parents sat staggered behind them, with the moms first, followed by the dads. I got the tix this way as to foster greater conversation, and I think my plan was a hit. Good times at the ballpark for sure!

There was a rain delay, so the game didn’t end till quite late. And by the time we were leaving, there was a Black Lives Matter protest going on right in front of the stadium. Now the city cops had things well under control, but it was still disconcerting when the 3 Amigos and Matthew started chanting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

The boys @ Wet n’ Wild for Houston’s 9th birthday outing. With a buy-one-get-one-free discount, those Icees were about the only thing affordable @ at the waterpark. Highway-robbery prices, I tell ya!

I mean, you know I’m a firm believer in free speech, but when I’m prohibited from carrying my weapon into a baseball game and I’m put in a defenseless position, the last thing I wanna do is tee off a bunch of young, angry black people. Luckily, we made it to the van and home safely. Thanks for driving, Miss Stacey!

Peaks of Otter

From July 8-10, we went camping with the J-Crew and cousin Rick at this national park in Bedford, Va. Camping always provides for many entertaining moments, and this time was no exception.

Some highlights included:

  • a freak storm that blew in just as we were about to finish setting up the tents … classic Dillingham;
  • Houston and Zeke going in circles, like a dog chasing its tail, trying to walk the tent up the steep hill toward the van;
  • watching the twins “fall over rocks, sticks, and thin air,” as Christie described it, and out of chairs constantly around our rugged campsite;
  • an inebriated Christie (a rare occasion in and of itself) laughing hysterically at the reflectors on my tennis shoes and then me laughing hysterically at her;
  • our camping neighbor yelling, “Shut up!” at said mirthful ladies;
  • and the boys following Rick around like he was the Pied Piper.

From L to R: Yours truly, Shannon, Jessica, Stacey, & Joanne representing the hood @ the Thirsty Thursday Hoppers game. Looking good, chicas!

The last item led to our most disturbing memory, however. On our hike down from Harkening Hill summit, the boys took off with Rick ahead the rest of us. By the time Stephen, Christie, Piper, and I slowly meandered down to the visitor center, where the 3.3-mile loop began,there were no dudes were to be seen.

We sat calmly for a while, thinking that they had probably taken a detour to Johnson Farm, a 1930s-era working farm that offers a glimpse of what mountain life was like back in the day. But then an hour passed, and then another, until I started for freak. With no cell coverage up yonder, what’s a worried mama to do?

See, if I had known for a fact that they were all with Rick, I wouldn’t have been so concerned. But he’s such a fast hiker, and the boys are sometimes slow or get off trail or get separated into splinter groups, etc., that my biggest concern was that all kids were not actually with the one adult in the group.

This is what I get when I ask all the kiddos to “act silly” for the shot.

Christie drove to our nearby campground and then to a lodge that was across the parkway, thinking that perhaps in a daze of selfishness, they had completed the hike and set off on a new adventure. But again, no boys were to be found.

Stephen talked to the park ranger inside the visitor center. He apathetically radioed the farm, but got no answer. Then we considered having one person stay at at the center, one hike back up to the summit, and the other do the farm loop.

Then we surmised that that plan would take too long, pushing us way too close to sunset. And did I mention that there had been lots of black bear sightings in that part of the forest?! Yep, that’s always a good thing.

I even went back inside the center to see if the dispassionate ranger would try again to contact the farm. He did so in uncaring, post-office-like fashion, but somehow forgetting to mention to the farm rangers the most distinctive aspects of the missing crew: that Rick has bright green hair and all the missing kids are only ages 6 to 9.

Stephen & neighbors Bill & Heather attended Trump’s rally in Greensboro back on June 14. He was a little apprehensive about going to an event where he’s prohibited from carrying a firearm, even when the protesters are known to turn into a riotous mob. But the rally went off without a hitch, thank God.

As we discussed this tense predicament, a friendly ranger happened to hear our anxious conversations and queried as to what was wrong. After I, in my “Libertarians plotting to take over the world and leave you alone” t-shirt, explained our worries, the ranger commented, “Oh, you’re a librarian? My mom was a home ec teacher!”

After a quick chuckle over the libertarian-librarian misreading, we took the ranger’s advice and walked to a nearby police van. The cop was very nice and told us to head back to the center, so we could discuss the game plan, which he said would most likely entail a couple of us hiking back in and him taking a vehicle up to the farm via maintenance road.

But right as we reconvened, the green-haired leader and his minions came waltzing out of the woods. After we hugged all our beloved boys and thanked the good Lord for their return, we pieced together that Rick had confused the “.8 mile” sign pointing back down to the center with “8 miles.”

Doing sparklers on Independence Day w/ some of my favorite mamas, Stacey & Shannon. Happy b-day, ‘Murica!

In his defense, the engraved decimal was not filled in with paint. And the poor dude had tried his best to get those kids back down the hill safely, scouring the farm in pursuit of us, and even hiking back up to the summit solo (while the boys rested at a the farm-hill crossroads) to try to figure out his directional mishap.

So, all’s well that ends well. And the final humorous clincher was that the listless visitor-center ranger emerged from his governmental cave to ask me what had happened. Then he went on to compliment my shirt and admit that he, in fact, was a libertarian, too, making him the Ron Swanson of the federal parks. Classic.

Wet n’ Wild … again

On July 13, we did a waterpark redo with Jessica and Jacob. It was a Wednesday, so there were much shorter lines. We packed food and got our hands stamps, so we could eat outside and didn’t have to buy the overpriced junk food inside.

It wasn’t only the nights that put on grand displays for us while @ Oak Island, but the sunsets were pretty impressive, as well. God is everywhere, watching over us, reminding us to keep calm, it’s summer.

I bought a $4 waterproof bag that hung from my neck beforehand, so all I brought in was our season passes and my car key. When we got thirsty, we drank from the water fountains, and we reapplied sunscreen during our picnic lunch. We also got to use one of our friend passes for Jacob. I was determined not to be taken advantage this time ’round.

Well, the only thing I couldn’t foresee was that the twins were being total scaredy cats about the rides (even ones they had ridden previously), and Houston was being picky. Therefore, I got dissed on much of the fun because of that and our spending a large amount of time contemplating who was willing to ride what and how we would play that out.

I told Jessica I was “wangry and wild,” and that Santa was a fool for buying these season passes. Oh well, live and learn.

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