Thursday, December 30, 2010

husband 101

what love looks like
I couldn't let today end without extolling Scott's remarkableness.

First, I awoke to 12 of the most beautiful, long-stemmed pink roses. In our world of debt elimination, fresh cut flowers were a line-item budget cut, so these were a delightful surprise. And they smell just like roses should.

Then as I was helping the children reassemble all their beds with freshly laundered sheets and quilts, we began to notice delish smells wafting up into the second floor. I came down to discover that Scott had made dinner. And not just any dinner. A healthy, colorful, undo-all-the-holiday-eating-madness dinner. Using no recipe, he put together this amazing dish using all of his acquired knowledge of cooking ala Julia Child. What came out was a bowl of whole wheat noodles and freshly steamed vegetables tossed with olive oil, various spices, and Parmesan with Gorgonzola cheeses. The kids have all stopped in just to say, "Yum!"

We are so blessed to have Scott in our lives. Both as an amazing example of what a man should be, as well as what a man can be.

christmas for 10, plus 4

a Rutherford Christmas morning
We often get asked if Christmas at our house is absolutely crazy. Bonkers. A zoo. Our answer is the same every year. Nope. It's just a whole lot of fun.

There are things we do to simplify the process and enable us to enjoy the time together a little easier. Traditions reign supreme during Christmas. Traditions have given us a sense of continuity along with the security of knowing what to anticipate. Whoever chooses the Christmas tree is allowed to hide the pickle ornament. Whoever finds the pickle ornament gains the privilege of opening the first gift, after which we open by age. When we prepare the Christmas Eve party menu, we prepare the same foods that have been around since the first party back around 1981. There is a simple joy in feeling free to enjoy the ride without the pressure of making decisions.

On Christmas Eve from 2 to 6 in the afternoon, the kiddos open one gift each every hour from family and friends close enough to be family. Not only does this help ease the crazy anticipation that fuels gift-ripping mayhem, it allows an hour to enjoy every new gift. Everyone is able to be part of the fun of watching a treasured wish come true and then there is plenty of time for assembling, building, learning rules, and trying out. After the final gift opening, stockings are hung by the chimney with care, cookies are carefully selected for Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, a frigid glass of raw milk is poured, and the rocking chair is carefully positioned for optimal posterior resting.

Christmas morning, Scott usually slips downstairs early enough to brew a pot of coffee and enjoy the soft glow of the tree alone for an hour or so. He so loves hearing that first excited footfall as the children begin to slip out of their bunks. A call is put in to the local family who rush over to our home in their jammies before the children are allowed downstairs. This year the local family included both my parents and Uncle Ryan and Aunt Laura (my brother and his wife.) Believe it or not, gifts are opened one round at a time with clean-up happening in between each round. We learned a few years ago that not cleaning as we go means the inevitable search for utterly important pieces which have been thrown away amid oodles of discarded wrappings. Trust me - not the most fun to be found on a Christmas afternoon! 

The rest of our day has us enjoying new gifts, almost always assembling Legos, playing new games, and eating the intentional leftovers from the Christmas Eve party during a movie siesta. Close friends drop in throughout the day, adults take turns at showering, and there is almost always a nap or two. It rarely feels rushed or overwhelmed. 

For Scott and I, we both feel with each passing year that Christmas is taking on more and more of a storybook feeling. I don't know if it's pure experience which allows us to better flex each year or if it's the sense of fleeting time which helps us to grasp onto each memory and hang on tight. I do know that I love this time of year for all the extra time we gain together.

cool new blog

Through a group of moms I belong to, I recently learned of a great blog. This family is truly living a dream of Scott's and mine - big family, 10 acre ranch, manageable livestock, gardening, and lots of laughter. I have enjoyed perusing their blog today and heartily encourage all of you to just click and visit, even if it's just for a peek into a world that many of us just don't experience in our suburban world!

My original reason for visiting was mine and Scott's new found love of all things cast iron. As we continue to delve into French Cooking, we love the Lodge heavy-bottomed enameled dutch oven we purchased in order to prepare so many of Julia Child's recipes. But I learned today that Janelle is giving away a great cast iron casserole in my very favorite kitchen color:  red!

And as I tend to think that if I find a great opportunity, then I think everyone might like to know about it, I am including the link to her blog's giveaway. Perhaps one of us will get lucky!


http://blessednationgiveaways.blogspot.com/

my post-christmas downer

Tonight finds me wondering if in the midst of our big family joys, our kids are getting shorted. We went bowling this afternoon & I relished the joy of doing something together just for the sheer fun of it.  There was laughter, cheering, and encouraging as our family joined the Dubach side for a jolly-good time of sending one heavy ball after another down a long, narrow lane just to knock things over.

So now I find myself thinking about the amount of time spent on homeschooling, piano, church planting, and living that just doesn't seem to leave a lot of room for stuff like bowling. I find myself thinking about things like finite amounts of money and increasing costs of gas which makes longer trips harder to accomplish in our gas-hog van. I find myself frustrated that we have been working on becoming debt-free for three years now, and even though the end is in sight it still feels too long off.

This is uncomfortable territory for me because I love every one of our kids more than anything and, if I could, they would have every possibility for life on a platter placed before them in order to select accordingly. But that just isn't going to happen. And some of our kids are old enough that they are now well aware of the truth that having ages 16 months through 14 years in one family means a lot of compromise by everyone.

Usually I can see this fact as a positive - that our children are going to be so well prepared for life with their own families. That growing up learning to share space, time, attention, and possessions is helping to craft selfless, humble, patient, and generous individuals. That if being part of a sports team helps children to learn to work together towards a seasonal goal, how much more blessed our kids are for being a part of team Rutherford working together towards a life goal.

Not so tonight.

Tonight all I can seem to think about is what we don't and can't give them. To think that just the number of kids we have might cause some of them to be frustrated at what we choose not to do or simply can't do breaks my heart. Do our kids feel this way and choose not to share it with us? Or do they feel this way but aren't able to articulate their feelings yet? Sigh. I hope not.

Just the very size of our family leaves us fairly unsupported by conventional wisdom. I know hundreds of families have been there, done that already, but sometimes it really does feel like we are flying solo. What if we really, really mess this one up?

Bummer thoughts, aren't they?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

just happy

Scott and I celebrated 16 years of marriage last week. On the actual day, life went on as normal. But the next day Scott had arranged to have the night off, leaving us free to enjoy our annual "Day of Us." We didn't do anything major. We grabbed some coffee at Dunkin' Donuts, enjoyed a late lunch at Buca, caught a movie ("Tron" - which was painfully awful. We absolutely should have gone with our gut and simply watched "Harry Potter 7 Part One" again.), before coming home to watch a "making of" documentary while playing Scrabble.

We had a fabulous time. And yes, we are aware that we are utterly boring.

But the truth is, I would rather be laughing with Scott while playing Scrabble or drinking coffee or watching a really bad movie than just about anywhere else in the world. He truly is my perfect match in every way.

Happy anniversary, dearest.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

accountable

I've been mulling over the idea of personal accountability a lot lately. Just today there was a news bit on an organization (The Center for Science in the Public Interest) who, along with the help of a mother of two from California, is suing McDonald's for exploiting children by marketing unhealthy food through the use of toys. Really? Have we sunk so low that we'll now blame the cheap, plastic, made in China toy which accompanies the burger, fries and soda for our unheathly lives? Surely it has nothing to do with the parent choosing to stop at McDonald's and purchase the meal.

We decided to homeschool our kids because we weren't very impressed with the public school offerings where we lived at the time. Not passing judgement - it just wasn't a good fit for our family. The local private Christian school really is amazing, but we looked at the tuition and looked at my college background full of physics, literature and preparing to teach high school before coming to the conclusion that we might as well try homeschooling first.

Homeschooling for us has been like any other major decision in our lives -- there is no way we could be prepared for the way it would affect everything. There are just some things that our kids really are clueless about (most of which I'm pretty thankful for) and then there are other things which they have more knowledge of and experience in than adults.

We experience our fair share of "He did it!" around here, but our eight are actually fairly quick to accept responsibility for both the good and the bad. I think that a lot of their attitude about accountability has been nurtured through our decision to homeschool. They are constantly surrounded by people of all ages helping to hold them to a higher standard. Either the younger brother or sister is looking up at the ball-dropper with devastated eyes or a loving adult is gently reproving a bad choice. Rarely are they in a position to have someone of equal maturation level encouraging them in their foolishness or putting the brakes on their aspirations.

Also, when one of our kids makes a disastrous choice, we have a lot more authority over their time to make it really, really uncomfortable. We can say no friends until . . . and mean it. My parents said "You're grounded!" and off I went to school to spend most of my day with surrounded by my friends. In hindsight, groundings for Scott and I didn't carry nearly the weight that our kid's groundings do.

On the flip side, when our children make wise decisions, we are equally in a position to offer immediate gratification. You got up early and started your school work so now it's 10:30 in the morning and you're finished? Cool! Take the next couple of hours and have some fun. You saw that a family is really struggling and you would like to serve them by watching their children/cleaning their house/cutting their grass/ etc - no problem. We can absolutely make time.

Because we have so much control over our schedules and time, we are really able to use time to teach in all aspects of life -- not just the Three Rs. Don't get me wrong - education is important and we take it seriously. But there is so much more to education than book work and I truly have come to cherish the flexibility homeschooling allows.

I would much rather have a child who grows into adulthood with the ability to accept responsibility than a child who can recite population figures for China.


"In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned. Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authority, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men." Titus 2: 7 - 8a; 3:1-2

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Magic Number?

When we announced that we were expecting again after baby number four had turned one, we were not met with joy. Rather, the comments ranged from teasing incredulity to plain old rude. I think of all the ways to ask why someone would have yet another child, we heard them all.

You do know what causes this, right?


Nothing to do on Saturday night at your house?


Just haven't made the perfect kids yet?


Hoping to create your own country all by your self?


You do know that there are other ways to evangelize, don't you?


Ah, your parents were the conservative ones who kept you out of sex ed, weren't they?


You just don't have enough to do yet?


Don't you think the world is populated enough?


I think China's one child policy might not have been such a bad idea, don't you?


Hoping to have enough children that everyone will simply give you things for free?


Do you know that a full quiver was really only 5 arrows?


So your plan to keep Scott out of the house is just to have more kids to take care of so he'll need two jobs?

On and on and on they went. Some of the comments came from acquaintances. Some from family. And, here in the good old Northeast, some came from perfect strangers who felt the need to comment on the ever expanding belly with four other children walking along beside me.

And then at our routine ultrasound we discovered not one little Rutherford head, but two. (Yes, the phrase little Rutherford head here is used metaphorically. Our kids have gigantic heads. And to borrow a phrase from the immortal Dr. Seuss: no one quite knows the reason.) We were shocked. Every measurement, every symptom, every visit had been that of a routine, single pregnancy. Within the next two weeks, however, my body swelled from a normal 20 weeks along pregnancy to looking almost full term. Scott is convinced that  my mind needed the information before my body was allowed to take over.

What we were the most struck by, though, was the complete about-face the comments took.

How wonderful that you'll have so many hands to help you!


What a blessing to have such a large family!


Oh, the wonderful memories you'll make for these children!


What a gift to have such big helpers at home already!


Isn't it wonderful that God waited until you had so much experience before sending twins?


How exciting!


You  must be thrilled!


I always dreamed of twins!


Can you imagine how much laughter your home will hold?

The same naysayers who struggled with the idea of us having five children were now dancing a jig over six. What is that about anyway? I mean, shouldn't the post-twin news have been just as maligned? Shouldn't the news that we were not only bringing one child into the world but two be greeted with equal scorn, mockery, and loud whispers of "overachievers?"

I don't know what had me thinking about this today, but I did find myself chuckling over the memory quite often. Perhaps it was Aidan's comment that he hopes were are going to have another baby soon. Or, as he put it, he hopes I am making another baby. Even now, while we do get the occasional snarky comments, most people seem to think that the news that another little Rutherford is on the way is a good thing. We have no such news to report, but that doesn't seem to stop the hopeful queries.

Scott and I continue to wonder what precisely made five children odious but six children glorious. For he and I both, this bit of wisdom eludes us.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coed Naked Wrestling

What is it about more than one boy in a room which immediately requires wrestling? And even more puzzling to me is the preference to do it after bath time, resulting in naked wrestling. And, dratted homeschool kids who listen, they know the original olympics were naked competitions so whenever I request less naked time, inevitably one of those boys will pipe-up with "We're just being authentic,  mom!"

Our Abigail, who has gorgeous ringlets and adores pink is also quite impressed with naked wrestling time. It is not unusual to see her as a completely clothed bystander one moment and a naked participant in the blink of an eye. Then her chirping voice can be heard over the ruckus: "I'll rip your head off, boys!" Ahh, the gentility and charm she exudes during these moments.

Now, Elias has begun to catch on. Once the naked wrestling begins, he often tracks down one of the older members of the family tugging at his footie-jammies, his version of would you please assist me in the removal of my clothing so that I may participate with my siblings in their vigorous exercise this fine evening?


I would love to think that this version of family time is not unique to our home, but I'm really not holding my breath. And, just be warned if you come by our home in the early evenings, you may see more of us than you anticipated.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just Do it

I am a member of an online group of women with larger families. I have come to cherish this group of women as they have some of the same bizarre daily living decisions to make that we do, and have often times already been there, done that. Such as the dilemma of keeping track of 8 toothbrushes and 8 cups while also keeping them separated so as not to transfer germs. You don't really stumble across advice like that in Modern Parenting or Family Circle.

Recently, a question was posted within this group about how to learn to enjoy getting up early. I chuckled out loud thinking about how I've been trying to figure out how to enjoy it for years now. But, after some thought, this is what I have discovered.

I hate to get out of bed in the morning. It is so cozy and warm and soft and nobody is poking me or asking me for things or  needing to be taught anything . . . Well, that is as long as Elias/Elyas is still sleeping.

For me, I know that as much as I despise to get out of the bed, I know how much better I feel about my day, myself, and my relationship with my family. When I get up with the alarm, there is time to linger over my chapter in Proverbs, there is time to wash my face and put on make-up, there is time to tiptoe in and wake the children gently instead of the alarm doing it, which gives them a gentler start and a better attitude.

There is time to go downstairs and start a pot of steel-cut oats (instead of the old fashioned kind, which cook in 5 minutes but just don't taste nearly as yummy) and fold a load of laundry while having quiet chats with the children who are trickling downstairs. There is time to eat together as a family and greet Scott when he comes in from his night shift at the hospital. 

We are able to begin school work for the olders by 8:30 and whoever is in rotation to play with the littles first always has more patience when they've had a few hours to be awake already. I can complete the day's worth of 2nd grade and kindergarten by 9:30. 

There is time to move through our daily chores with the little ones "helping," so the extra time required for their participation isn't as impatience inducing. We have the time to prepare the meals on the menu in my head rather than rushing through a second bowl of oatmeal, PB&J or anything else that might be fast.

There is time for games and puzzles because the olders finish their school before the younger ones take their naps, so we have time without little fingers undoing everything we are trying to put together.

In short, the difference in our days when I get up is night and day so I truly focus on how much better I'll feel 15 minutes after I've gotten out of bed. I still hate to get out of bed. But I prefer the 10 minutes of "ugh" to the 12 hours of "catch-up" I have when I don't get up. So it isn't really that I feel better about it, but rather than I feel motivated to just do it.

How much of life is truly about making the decision to simply do what one ought rather than what one wants? And, if I'm honest, how much more of my life should be about doing what I ought instead of what I want? Scott and I work hard daily to help teach the kids by both word and example that what we need and what we want are two very different things. Of course, the downside to this education is that trying to pry a Christmas list out of our kids is quite a challenge because they are (for the most part) extremely content.

Wouldn't the world be a much better place if the oughts were occurring far more often than the wants? I often wonder if Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men should actually be stated more along the lines of Keep Your Mouth Shut if You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say and Don't Do Anything That You Wouldn't Want Your Mother to Find Out About

Of course, that doesn't sound nearly as Christmas-y.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inheritance

As we were drawing up Shelby's goals for her first year of high school, I announced that she would finally be delving into really good literature. Both she and Scott cringed because they knew with my background as an English Lit major, my version of really good literature usually means old, boring, and difficult to read.

I love Shakespeare and one of my dreams is to one day sit in The Globe Theater and watch Macbeth, my favorite Shakespeare play. But I have never agreed with the notion of forcing students to read the plays by The Bard. They were never written to be read - they were written to be performed. So we have continuously exposed all the children to Shakespeare through summer plays and great DVDs from the library. Of course, once we realized there is an entire graphic novel library for Shakespeare's works, we had to have them for our personal library. I absolutely adore looking over and finding Dawson curled up on the couch re-reading Macbeth or A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shelby knew there wouldn't be any Shakespeare on her list, but she was still concerned at what I would consider "great reading."

Instead, we were focusing on a smattering of authors over the decades. Charolette Bronte. Homer. Mya Angelou. John Knowles. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Harper Lee. Scott shared that he had never read most of these books either, so the two of them are working through her list of 12 books together. Except for The Oddessy by Homer. Scott won't touch that one. Wuss.

Shelby began with A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I wanted her to experience the book because of it's historical references to World War 2 and the way the war affected the boys of the era. But, truly,  I can't stand the book.  I find it as dry as toast and the characters make me crazy. Scott, however read it and thought it was amazing. I was certain there was some resonance for him with the characters as a man, but mostly I was just pleased he enjoyed the book. And then Shelby came to me as if confessing a deep, dark, sin.

"Mom. I like the book. A lot. And I'm really frustrated that I like it."

You see, Shelby and I are as different as different can be. Yes, sometimes that makes for really tense mother/daughter moments. But usually, I enjoy how different we are because I appreciate her perspective on things as it is so far from my own thoughts. She often gives me more to mull over or see than I would have observed on my own.

But for her to like a book that I said she had to read (never mind that she likes the book that I don't) was the equivalent to saying, "Hey mom. You were right." And right now in Shelby's world, that is about the hardest confession to make. Ever.

So, as each book makes its way through her hands I usually only have to wait for a few chapters into the story before she hunts me down to say, "Hey mom - this book is really good!"

A small part of me wants to look at her and say something really cheeky such as: "Duh. The book's only been printed a billion times and read by millions over several decades. But it's nice of you to give your stamp of approval."

Another small part of me wants to say: "SEE! I do know something!"

But mostly, I am just really, really enjoying the camaraderie of sharing books with my daughter. I am appreciating the bridge that is forming between she and I as we find even more common ground. That as different as we tend to be, we are actually a lot more alike on the inside than I think either one of us would have realized otherwise.

Scott and I have always approached books with the idea that we would eat beans for a week to afford a good book. I just never expected this love of reading to become the inheritance for our children that it has. It never occurred to me that when all else failed for conversation between my 37 year old self and my 14 year old daughter, there would still be books.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Scott and I have been reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan since college. Somewhere along the line, I stopped reading the new books as they came out due to total lack of self-control and a houseful of kids needing a mom. But, as Scott was reading this summer, he asked my to please consider beginning the series again so we could manage to talk about it together.

So far, I'm on book 9 (out of 13 with one more to be published) and I am completely enjoying myself. It is a little mini-vacation every evening when the children are in bed, Scott is at work, and the washing machine, dishwasher, and dryer are merrily humming away.

However, one aspect of re-reading this series has thrown a wrench in our otherwise idyllic life here in Rutherford-dom. I discovered that we spelled Elias's name wrong.

I could let it go, but it really bothers me that we named him after a book series on purpose, yet couldn't be bothered to check the spelling. Not to mention that it doesn't really set the realm's best example for our homeschooled kids when they discover that mom and dad don't check either. Sigh.

We are in a family debate over whether to officially change Elias's name from Elias Cullen Dale to Elyas Cullen Dale. Part of me feels like we should just let it go. The kid's 15 months old, it isn't hurting anyone, and it will be a huge pain. Another part of me says we should just fix it.

Thoughts?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Phase One: Complete

Last year, we decided to break up some of the holiday nutiness and what we discovered was that we enjoyed everything so much more. Our normal MO consists of a crazy sprint to have Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, break out the Christmas china before breakfast on Friday, then decorate the house and cut down the tree that weekend before stashing all of the boxes back into the attic to enjoy hot cocoa, popcorn, and "It's A Wonderful Life" on Sunday. Whew.

Last year, Elias was just 3 months old and really, really didn't like to be anywhere but someone's arms, so we felt a shift from the usual was in order. So,we decided to adopt a more marathon approach to our holiday traditions. We went to tag our tree instead of cutting it down the Sunday before Thanksgiving with Ryan and Laura. We had never tagged the tree before so there was a much freer sense of tromping through the woods to look for the perfect tree. Of course, we ended up with the very first tree we had looked at, resulting in some good-natured grumbling from Scott. But we also captured some fantastic photos of the day, which normally doesn't happen because we're in too much of a hurry.

We watched the Macy's Day parade and had our Thanksgiving Turkey, which was wonderful. And we did get the china out on Friday morning for our annual pumpkin pie breakfast. And it was here that we rested again. It wasn't until the following week that we decorated the house and then the week after that when we cut down and decorated our tree. And the cookies? Not a one was baked in this house. I love to bake, but we receive such bountiful gifts of cookies every year that we all decided to simply enjoy the cookies others gave and invest our time into Elias and each other.

It felt strangely wonderful. There was no frantic scurrying from one goal to the next. There was plenty of   time to watch and enjoy the children, to take our time, to savor the moments. There was something so delightful in laughing while we worked!

This year, we decided to approach our holiday festivities with the same type of calm, deliberate, and  tortoise-like pace. And that is why it isn't until today that Phase One: The Decorating of the House is complete. And, pleasantly enough, we are still digging this method within our madness. I loved that when we plugged in our 30 foot garland for the mantle only to discover that two light strings were out that there wasn't the freak out moment of years past being fueled by the sense of I don't have time for this! Instead, there was just the calm acceptance of sure, light strings go out. No worries.


It still seems strange to be two weeks into December before our tree is up, but I wouldn't trade those two weeks of a dark corner for the franticness the holidays had become for us for anything. I find that now I really, really enjoy decorating with the kids. It didn't bother me that it took us over an hour and a half to get Scott's Santa Collection placed because each Little Rutherford participated. There was chatting and memories and nostalgia. You just don't get that when you're rush, rush, rushing. I find that now I am actually a part of the moment, instead of the frenzied mill-boss shouting orders at everyone while running by with my arms full so we can move, move, move.

It makes me wonder why we rush at all? I know there are moments when we are going to be busy. But is it really the best way to do everything? I'm not talking about being slothful here. I'm talking about packing our schedules and our calendars so tight that there isn't the room to be delayed by even a moment, let alone a blown-out diaper. I truly appreciate the opportunity to genuinely participate in what is happening around me, rather than hearing about it second-hand because we had divided our numbers to conquer more of our to-do list in a shorter period of time.

So tonight, as we read from "The Lost Hero" in our very cozy and Christmased living room, I enjoyed studying the treasures that are only released from their attic prison once a year. And I found myself anticipating (rather than dreading) that we still have more to come next weekend. On to Phase Two.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mid-Potter

Scott and I have been harry Potter junkies since the first book came out. We love everything about it from the individual & unique characters to the plot development. In particular, though, I have to admit I am just a huge fan of very good verses very bad. I like knowing who to root for.

Last night, Scott & I took our three oldest to the midnight showing of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1." We wore the Quidditch robes and the sorting hats. We cheered as the lights darkened with all the other Potter junkies (our community's head librarian was just a few rows behind us) and watched this first public showing of the final Harry Potter book unfold before our eyes. We gasped at the right places, jumped along with everyone else, and cringed at the choices our favorite Hogwarts students had to make. When the credits began to roll, we joined the collective moan that the entire room gave out. We would have happily sat through an additional 2 hours and 40 minutes. Of course, we always go see a Potter film twice for Scott. He needs the first viewing to get over his disappointment with the changes made to the book, and the second watching to enjoy the movie as is. I am already anticipating seeing it again.

This particular Potter book has a special place in our hearts. Scott went to buy a copy at the midnight release and brought it home along with a gigantic poster of the book cover which you only received at the midnight release. He described the scene as being out of a movie you would never believe -- people lined up, snaking their way down the shopping strip and into the parking lot waiting hours for a book. And as the doors opened and people were allowed in, the lines began reversing as people began sitting on the curb side-by-side reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I began reading at 6:00 the next morning. The kids ate pizza all day and I remember being thrilled I had the pizza delivery numbers in my phone so I didn't even have to look anything up and instead could order while reading. I lounged about very pregnant with Abigail reading, reading, reading. I completed the book around 2 am, sighed contentedly and went to sleep. Of course, I had to start reading it again immediately. Which is why we quickly had two copies of Harry Potter 7 in our home - because Scott wasn't about to wait for me to read it through a second time.

We had the audio book read by Jim Dale loaded on the iPod by that weekend and we picked Shelby up from her week of Camp Manatawny and rushed her home for a quick shower. Then we simply drove and drove and drove. We drove as much as humanly possible during the next few days so we could all listen to the book. The twins were two at the time, so reading aloud when they were awake was challenging. We moved their car seats to the back of the van so they could jabber away happily and the rest of us just listened together as the final chapter of a very beloved story unfolded.

I have loved watching these stories become a part of our children's lives and our family's history. I have enjoyed the sense of anticipation that built when each new book was nearing release. And eventually, it became the sense of excitement as a movie was about to open. I have loved listening to our children make decisions about outside activities based on whether or not we'll be reading a good book aloud they won't want to miss. I love listening to the whines of: "We need to find a new series of books to read!" We didn't start reading the Harry Potter books because we knew they would be this remarkable gateway into a love of reading together as a family, but I am utterly grateful that is what occurred.


Truly, I appreciate JK Rowling's books just for her ingenious storytelling - the woman is a master. But I love her books for the relationship with books she brought to our kids. To borrow a phrase from Ron:

Brilliant.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

37?

When do you think it is in life when we begin to feel our age? I don't mean act our age -- goodness, I've acted older than my age in some ways forever and significantly younger in others. No, I mean feel our age as in "I feel like I am 37."

I've always looked younger than I actually am, which I realize now is a fabulous gift from God. (It didn't feel so fabulous when I was 18 spending the summer in Europe with my 16 year old sister and I kept getting asked how much older than me she was. Grrr.) On Saturday, I ran an errand with the children in my usual mom-uniform of jeans, a Life is Good t-shirt, and ball cap with required pony-tail sticking out the back and as I was checking out at Target, the cashier asked me how long I had been a nanny.

I glanced at her in surprise and said I hadn't been a nanny since college, more than 15 years ago. This was followed by the statement: "You don't look old enough to have one child, let alone all these!" I assured her I was in fact 37 and that yes, they were all mine. We laughed together, I thanked her for the compliment, Shelby made a couple of smarty-pants remarks about being seen with a nanny, and we headed home to the rest of our day.

But it keeps coming back to me. When my Grandfather Ballenger was in his 70's, I remember him sharing that sometimes the thing that frustrated him the most was that he was still 17 stuck in some old man's body. I think I was about 15 at the time, so I really didn't get it. I just made some random comment (I'm sure it was something intelligent like, "Uhhhhh . . . interesting, Grandpa") and went back to my oh-so-important teenaged life.

Now, though, I get it.

Only I'm not 17. Instead I feel like I'm forever 20, which is when I met Scott. I cringe at the thought of going back to the sheer ignorance of life I had a 20, but I feel 20. When I get up in the morning and the arthritis in my left foot aches, I am always surprised. Isn't arthritis supposed to be an old-lady thing? I'm not old, I'm 20! And then reality swoops back in and I realize I am almost twice that. That I have the life of a 37 year-old including the responsibilities and life-cares of someone who is 37.

So, when will I actually feel my age? Will there ever come a time when I say, "Nah, I'm not interested because I'm just too dang old."

Or am I destined to wake up each morning a little stunned at the age I feel in my bones but not in my mind?

I don't mind getting older. The wrinkles around my eyes when I grin don't bother me. The puckers above my nose when I'm concentrating don't bother me. The grey hair mixed in with the darker brown doesn't bother me. (My natural highlights are a thing of the past since I quit going outside without hats to avoid the cancer-inducing sun rays on my face. Stupid nursing school.) I like feeling more comfortable with me than I did at 20. So why is it my mind can't seem to catch up with time?

I have a feeling that this isn't a puzzle I will figure out any time soon. I wish Grandpa were still around so I could ask him some questions about his 17 year-old self. I would love to know why he stopped aging at 17 instead of 16 or 18. What precisely made 17 his forever age?

And so, I will go asleep tonight knowing in my head I am indeed 37 years old. And yet, I will awaken in the morning, throw my feet over the edge of the bed, stand up and pause for just a moment, trying to figure our why on earth my foot aches. And then it will all come rushing back to me. Ahh, that's right. I'm 37.

And for anyone wondering what exactly caused my left foot pain, I confess it is an old band injury. Yep - super nerd. No Boston Marathon injuries here. I caused irreparable damage to my left foot by marching on sprained ankles.

For the record, the podiatrist said I am his first band-injury. That's gotta' count for something.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Snaps

Halloween was as fun as always. No rain this year meant a casual trick-or-treating as opposed to last year's mad dash to get the candy before the flood gates opened. Elias truly joined the festivities for the first time this year and he adored his Tin Man hat, wearing it most of Saturday and for Trick-or-Treating on Sunday. And this was also the first year Abigail was able to anticipate the upcoming evening of scurrying from house to house, admiring Jack-o-Lanterns and gigantic blow-up Winnie-the-Pooh Vampires while inspecting the candy being kindly dropped into her bag.

I know that many of our friends avoid the holiday of Halloween and choose not to have their children dress in costumes and join others in the annual candy plunder. But for Scott and I, this is one of the few traditions from our mutual childhoods that has made it with us into our own family. Between the sheer size of our family and the homeschooling, church planting and living in one location for more than a couple of years, our children's childhood looks very different from our own. I enjoy the unadulterated tradition as we design and make costumes together which inevitably brings about stories from Halloweens from when I was a little girl. 

The temperature was a deliciously brisk 55 degrees and we decided it was time to head home around 7:45, which was about the same time we discovered Elias's hands were cold enough to refrigerate meat. The kids enjoyed their usual five pieces of candy before bed and we all joined around the dining room table early on November 1st to partake in the Annual Rutherford Candy Breakfast. Which, as always, was followed by lots of manual labor in order to burn off the sugar rush.

Happy Halloween!

Elias, the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz," being restrained by his Iron Man brother, Tucker.

Abigail, the Wood Fairy, as were her sisters before her.

Mario and Luigi, or more commonly known as Keats and Aidan.

Iron Man ready to protect us,  even after he revealed his secret true identity was actually Tucker.

Isabelle reprising her favorite role of Evil Princess.

Dawson, our very own Druid.

Ever the fashionista, Shelby was quite the trendy witch.

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Later

The last two days I have been determined to do everything we had planned. In fact, I have been just as determined that we will accomplish everything on our list as our children have been determined that we won't.

Our children labor under the delusion these days that time in infinite. There is always plenty of time to "get around to it." Or to "get it finished after this." Or, my personal favorite,"I was just relaxing mom! Don't worry, I'll do it later." When precisely does it actually become later?

I decided today that later occurred at exactly 2:45 pm. At this point, Scott had left for a shift in the ER and I was surrounded by children who had assured me "later" was coming. The items still remaining on our list of things to do was as follows:

school work for 7 children

piano practice for 3 children

clean 2.5 bathrooms

put clean sheets into dryer so 7 beds could be remade

bake 15 loaves of bread plus one pizza crust

clean 1 kitchen

replace 2 electrical outlets

eat dinner & complete dishes in order to start dishwasher

vacuum both upstairs and downstairs

steam mop kitchen floor

bathe Elias and Abigail

I gathered our wee and not-so-wee charges and announced it was officially later and that bedtime would not occur until all of the list above was completed. The dumbstruck looks on the faces of Shelby and Dawson were particularly intense as they asked my all-time favorite question on days such as today: "How are we supposed to do all that?"

I sit here at 10:57 pm in order to write that we did manage to accomplish everything on the list. And the kids did all agree that they would like to use their time a little wiser from now on. I know that only time will tell if these last two days of stick-to-it-ivness have really made a difference in our family's perception of time and its limitations. But for tonight, I will move about in a cloud of naiveness, assuming that I have managed to instill in our children the important truth that time is precious. There is always a way to spin into positive.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chickens

The kids experienced their first haunted house tonight as we went with my parent's to an Optimist Club sponsored Zombie Fest at a local library. When my dad asked if I wanted to go, I concentrated on the words "Optimist Club" and "library" and extrapolated the following thought -- shouldn't be too scary. Sure, let's give it a whirl.


Our kids are pretty casual about some things. They love "Lord of the Rings" (both book and film) and they have no trouble with Orcs, Gollum, and the Balrog. We are also big fans of Harry Potter (again - both books and films), but there are scenes in the films we completely skip over to this day because the creep-me-out factor is just a little too much. (For instance, Voldemort latched onto Quirrell drinking unicorn blood in the Dark Forrest is a definite skip.) There really is no rhyme or reason behind what will be perfectly acceptable and what crosses the line into utterly frightening.

When we arrived at the library, I should have been tipped off by the Grim Reaper pointing the way towards the parking but it wasn't until I was standing with our guide, gazing over a field of tombstones and moving figures that I really began to question whether this was a wise idea. Keats and Aidan were each clutching my hands and Abigail had a death grip around Shelby's neck. Elias was happily snuggled in Papaw's arms and making his R2D2 noises while pointing at everything.

The first stop we came to was a camp fire where some zombies were preparing their dinner, which is a perfectly reasonable activity. Cooking over their fire, though, was a cauldron of human body parts. And while trying to explain this away to the boys ("How neat that they made their hotdogs to look like body parts! That's a very creative way to eat!"), an escaped convict zombie came dashing out of the woods at us causing everyone to jump and Aidan to begin trying to climb up my leg. But even Aidan relaxed once he understood that the convict-zombie was running back away because "he thought we were his cousins and he was just super-excited to see us tonight! Imagine how disappointed he is right now."

The next stop had some chainsaw-wielding zombie who proceeded to slowly march toward us. I turned him into "the nice gentleman who is going to cut firewood for the campfire we just passed. Isn't he thoughtful?"

Next we were instructed to notice the shrouded skeleton over in the bushes ("Oh my, boys! He must have had to pee in the bushes just like you like to do when you are playing outside!") and the headless giant who was carrying his head in his arms ("Well, that is a convenient way to be able to wash your face. You could simply put your head in the dishwasher while your body slept!")

The zombie girls who waited for us in the gazebo asking if we had any blood to spare certainly earned sympathy once I explained that Zombie blood is actually translated as Hot Cocoa, and these poor girls were just wishing for a nice, warm drink.

On and on it went as we continued to encounter scary situations that I frantically tried to change into something Disney-esque. My creativity went into over drive as I explained away scene after scene. The haunted barn was a tough one, but here I was reminded again that I really do not understand the way our kids think sometimes. As we walked into the Zombie Ball-room, all the kids breathed a little easier as they said "Ah, here are the skeletons!"

Sure enough, the room was full of every type of skeleton you could imagine on display and the kids happily pointed out their favorites in this foggy, poorly lit barn. We really are bizarre.

After our trek through the zombie fest, we were given our choice of Little Debbie snacks and a styrofoam cup of hot cocoa. We double-timed it back to the van where we could get out of the wind and we all enjoyed our snacks. On our drive home, everyone shared their favorite part with the categories being the most creepy part, the funniest part, and their favorite part.

I may have a little damage control to do, although not with the nightmares I thought I might have to deal with. You see, when we arrived home Keats asked Abigail if he could have a drink of her Zombie Blood. I glanced at him puzzled and he replied with perfect sincerity, "You know mom, her hot cocoa."

Oops.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And Now Back to Our Previously Unscheduled Viewing . . .

We became a part of the TiVo community just about 5 years ago. It all stared because while we really enjoy watching the Eagles play together as a family, we really do not enjoy most of the commercials during the breaks. So our solution was to have the TiVo record the game, begin watching an hour or so into it, and then we would skip through commercials, ensuring our eyes were not melted by the images being flashed in front of us.

Eventually, we figured out that we could even fast forward the game and only watch really great plays, reducing a 3 hour window of time down to 45 minutes. Not always the first choice, but time being time means there are limitations and occasionally the only way to catch the game is on fast forward.

The longer we had our TiVo, the more we began to rely on it. Crazy week coming up? No problem, I'll schedule some documentaries to record and we'll watch those to keep up with school work. Diaper explosion in the middle of the big game? No worries, we'll just pause the game, clean up the offending odor, and get back to it. New series we are interested in? Great - we can TiVo the first couple of episodes and decide if it's a good fit. "Curious George" always coming on during dinner? No tears here, a season pass will take care of the recording and we'll just watch when we feel like it.

It is the season pass feature that we absolutely adore. I love that I can tell TiVo to record all the "Phineas and Ferb" it can hold and the machine doesn't need any more information from me other than a channel. It finds the programs whenever they are scheduled and just magically turns itself on, records, and neatly categorizes all programs into the "Now Playing List." Brilliant.

In December of 2009, we learned that I had actually managed to win a new TiVo Premiere XL with a lifetime subscription service. I had no idea what this really meant, so I looked up the stats on the Premiere. This baby can record two shows at once while still allowing you to watch either live TV or a previously recorded show AND stores 150 hours of high def. Which, since we aren't high-def converts yet, translates into a whopping 900 hours of regular tv!! (I know 900 hours seems a little over the top, but c'mon -- it's 900 hours!!)

Our Premiere arrived sometime in July and we were immediately enthralled. Now, instead of having a long column of "Phineas and Ferb" in the play list, there is a neat little folder, which you can open and display all your programs. The clarity was amazing and the new features made our almost favorite gadget (the iPod is unbeatable) even better.

Unless you tried to pause a program.

And then, our new BFF became quite temperamental. Rather than simply pausing like a good-little machine, our Premiere would jerk to a stop, act like it just might pause, and then reset the system entirely. BAHHHH!

After several emails back and forth with customer support (who were fabulous, by the way) it was finally determined that our Premiere would need to be replaced. And so, with heavy hearts we detached all the cords and shipped off our TiVo. And thus our children were thrust into retro-tv-viewing.

scenario the first:
"Mom, can I please watch a "Phineas and Ferb?'"

"Well, I'm not sure what time it comes on." [I suddenly realize we are stuck to a schedule. This is really weird. And, quite frankly, a little nostalgic.]

"No, mom. I mean can I watch it now?"

"Nope. You are now experiencing TV the way most people do. You only watch it when it comes on or you buy the season DVD. Or, you check them out of the library."

[serious whining] "When will our Tivo come baaaaaaack????"

scenario the second:
"MOM! There is a new episode of Wizards of Waverly Place on Friday! Can we please, please, please stay up to watch it??"

"Well, it will be kind of late since we  have the Farmer's Market the next morning. Perhaps if you guys agree to fold laundry until it comes on . . ."

"That's great! Thanks mom!"

scenario the third:
[a firm knock at the door followed by a chorus of voices] "MOM!!! I think the TiVo is here!!!"

[upon opening a box way too small to be the TiVo] "Aw, man! It's just books."

Finally, on Tuesday, a firm knock on the door was followed by a suspiciously good-news-shaped box being brought into the house. And there it was. Our TiVo. A crazy wild rumpus-style dance ensued from every Little Rutherford. Until we realized that our TiVo was without a power cord.

Sigh.

A miscommunication between myself and the gentleman who walked us through the returns process meant I sent the power cord with the return when I actually should have kept it. Mistakes do happen. A quick phone call to customer support meant we had a cord in the mail that day resulting in its arrival today. The kids made sure I had time to get everything set up and programmed after dinner and then they all came it to enjoy "normal tv time" for the crew.

A flurry of pausing, skipping ahead, "Please replay that part" and squeals of delight that "something's recording!" ensued and waaaaaay too soon it was bedtime. Tucker said the prayers this evening and along with requests for healing others and appreciation for our day together came a very heartfelt thanks for the TiVo being returned. As if this weren't enough to help me understand the revered place TiVo holds in our children's eyes, Keats and Aidan both kissed the TiVo goodnight.

As for myself, as much as I enjoyed the nostalgia and memories being aware of the tv schedule invoked, I am really happy that our Season Pass is again doing the work for me. But let's face it, I really do love anything that does it's job without much input from me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Snaps

Elias cozy in the dryer, which he heaved himself into while my back was turned.

Abigail watching the boys play Wii, shortly after asking "May I borrow your bucket for just a moment? Please."

Adoring Elias

Inside the box house. The best part about taking your own recycling is having the opportunity to snag great, huge boxes in order to create forts, houses, castles, boats . . .
Photo by Shelby

Yippie! Potty trained at last!!!
Photo by Tucker
(who was asked to please get out just after the picture was taken)

Shelby, racing through the Nicholas Flamel Series by Michael Scott.
Photo by Tucker

Elias, being instructed to blow raspberries by Tucker, the cameraman.

Post-bath Abigail.
Photo by Shelby.

Jane, after a particularly messy lunch.
Jane is the darling we are blessed to have join us during much of the week. She makes life sweeter.
Photo by Shelby

Aidan allowing Elias to "push" him down the hill.
Photo by Shelby

Tucker giving Elias a ride down the makeshift slide in the backyard.
Photo by Shelby

Isabelle at the Farmer's Market.
Photo by Shelby

Abigail and Sadie at Dutch Wonderland

Isabelle with Mac, a charming yellow lab puppy who is NOT ours.
Photo by Shelby

Keats and Aidan with his Silly Bandz at Dutch Wonderland.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

O Where O Where Has It Gone

Abigail is a barefoot fan. She prefers walking around with her feet au natural to having to wear shoes regardless of temperature or weather conditions. And since she is quite the dexterous little three-year old, her shoes rarely stay on her feet, which is particularly problematic in our behemoth 15-passenger van. Once off her feet, those shoes could slide anywhere and virtually disappear. Just today we discovered her pink croc which has been missing for over two weeks.

Today was no exception to the "I'd rather be barefoot" tendency. But this time, she was wearing shoes and socks, which makes for four items which can be removed and tossed willy-nilly. Wednesday is piano lesson day, so we took the oldest three Rutherfords to study and then I ran every errand I could think of where the younger set doesn't need to get out of the van. We dropped off our recycling, did banking, made our Goodwill donations . . . anything we could, really. If the weather is nice, I prefer to go to a park. But three days of rain had me content to simply keep everyone in their car-seat purgatory rather than making mud-pies.

At the last minute, though, I ran into my dad in the parking lot at the grocery store. Actually, that's not true. I passed him on the road and stalked him to the grocery store. It was something to do to kill time and keep the kids buckled in. Besides -- they thought it was great fun that dad didn't even notice our giant car until we pulled up next to him at the parking lot.

We did need some tortilla chips for lunch and I felt my coffee-buzz was still nice and strong, so we all got out of the car to go inside. Of course, that was when I learned Abigail had nothing on her feet. I found her shoes easily enough ("Oh, I threw those back there at the twins to see if I could make my aim better.") The socks were a little trickier. Only one could be located quickly, so I told her we would simply put her shoes on without socks. Given the smelly nature of our kids' feet this is usually an unheard of solution. I put the left shoe on with no problem.

But when sliding her foot into the right shoe, it seemed really tight and I found myself banging her foot in. At this point, Abigail started crying about her foot hurting. Puzzled, I pulled the shoe off, and put it back on. Still tight and these shoes are fairly new. More tears. I'm noticing all the little Rutherfords in the parking lot with my dad and I am starting to feel really rushed. Finally, I drug the known sock off the floor behind us and put it on the right foot before putting the shoe on, thinking perhaps her toe was getting caught on something. More tears. I felt the end of the shoe and was shocked that her toes were completely at the end of the shoe. It couldn't be helped now. I grabbed Abigail's hand and told her we would have to go.

I hustled the poor girl with her one sock-on, too-tight shoes across the parking lot in order to catch up to dad and the rest of the kids. Little Jane, who was in the crook of my right arm, kept looking at Abigail and saying "Help?" in her sweet, tiny voice. Well, I may have my moments, but even I am not amazing enough to miraculously make a shoe fit. We shopped in record time and the moment we were back at the van, I took off the offending shoes and told Abigail we would find her a larger size of sneaks as soon as humanly possible.

Once home, I asked all the kids to search the van for Abigail's missing sock. In a family this size, you quickly realize that if you don't locate something within moments of its being misplaced, you are usually out of luck and it is gone forever. No sock, but that dratted missing croc was finally unearthed beneath Tucker's booster. (Why there????) Partial victories are absolutely acceptable and applauded in cases such as this. We unloaded the van and went on with our day. I set the offending shoes on the door dresser in order to pass them onto another Disney Princesses loving toddler.

Tonight, as Scott was preparing to leave for work, I picked up the shoe again. I shared with Scott how Abigail was complaining they were so tight and how surprised I was that these shoes just don't fit her any more. I decided to check for a foot imprint because she had only worn the shoes a few times, thinking Scott could just take them to work and give them to someone in need. No foot imprint in the left shoe, but I really couldn't tell in the right since my fingers couldn't make it to the end of the shoe. I was hitting something hard and in the way. I managed to pry away part of it with my finger and there it was. The missing sock. I'm thinking it wasn't really that the shoes were too small. Instead, it is that the shoes were never meant to be worn with the sock stuffed into the toe. I think that is a reasonable deduction

Scott, of course, chuckled heartily. As he should have, even though it never occurred to me to look inside the shoe for a missing sock. I don't think any of our kids have ever voluntarily set a sock inside their shoes. And while I appreciate her attention to detail, in this case it was really quite unhelpful.

And now I will have the added benefit of explaining to our Abigail why she will not be getting a new pair of shoes, even though she talked about it all afternoon. Which just now has me wondering . . . was it really attention to detail, or is she much more brilliant and conniving than I thought?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cherry Trees

Tucker is my darling 7 year old who has had quite a sticky relationship with truth lately. If he thinks telling the truth will help his cause, he is all for it. However, if he thinks the truth might land him into some trouble, he has no trouble hopping on board a rowboat and leaving quite the tall-tale in his wake.

Scott and I came to a decision long ago that the telling the truth would never be punished. There might be consequences for what happened, but you would never, ever be punished for telling us the truth. We wanted to encourage our kids to be honest and freely confess wrong doings. When Dawson was throwing a ball in the house and broke my favorite vase,  his immediate confession that it was his fault meant no lecture or punishment; however, he did have to clean up the broken pottery. Truth meant no punishment so he was allowed to continue laying ball outside, consequences meant he had to clean up the pottery first. It's not always an easy standard to live out with the kids, but it seems to be worth it.

Tucker is different in that he wants so badly to avoid pain of any sort. He is the kid who absolutely will not do anything risky until he is one-hundred percent convinced he will not be hurt. It took him most of the summer to go off the slide at the pool because he was sure it would hurt. When he finally went down because a life-guard promised to catch him, he spent the last few remaining swim days on the slide having the time of his life. It's not that he's cowardly -- he just hates pain of any sort.

Which is also true of emotional pain. Tucker loves to be helpful and he enjoys doing for others. He is only 7, though, so occasionally what he thinks will be helpful ends up on the sliding scale of slightly to horribly wrong. He also really likes to do his own thing from time to time, which may or may not be within the boundaries of allowable behavior. We are all well aware of the tell-tale clues to a Tucker induced calamity but when asked if he has any information about whatever pickle may have occurred, Tucker's standard answer these days is, "Uh, nope."

I hate it. I absolutely, unequivocally hate when one of my kids lies to me. And I especially hate it when it is over something that seems to me to be so unbelievably ignorant to lie about. Tonight, I asked Tucker if he could please tell me where the remote to the upstairs TV was. He and the twinners had cozied up in the big bed while I brushed my teeth this morning and Tuck had turned on the Disney Channel. When I went to put the remote away after everyone had gone downstairs I couldn't find it, so I made a mental note to ask Tuck about it later. I knew he was the last one to have it. I knew he would know where it was because he has an incredible memory. And I knew it would just be easier to ask him rather than spend time trying to figure it out myself. At bedtime, I finally managed to ask him about the remote after I had called him to my bedroom for a moment.

"Tuck, can you please tell me where the remote is?"

"Which remote?"

"The TV remote. I can't find it."

"Which remote?"

"The one you were using this morning."

"Uh, nope."

"Tucker -  I know you were using it this morning. I know it has been missing since you used it. I know you have some information to give me. This isn't a big deal."

"Uh, nope. I didn't do anything with it." Strategic shaking of the head side-to-side while looking up at the ceiling = busted.


"Tucker, do NOT lie to me again. Where. Is. The. Remote." Mother-son stare down begins. I win this round.

"I put it behind there [points at clock] so Elias wouldn't get it and then I heard a crash and it was gone."

"Did it fall behind the bookshelf?" Tucker nods, and I pull out four books on the bottom shelf below the alarm clock. Sure enough, there is the remote and I have to acknowledge that I would have never looked there. I sighed and then met Tucker's worried eyes.

"Tuck, why on earth would you lie about that?"

"I just didn't want to get in trouble."

"Why would your trying to protect the remote from Elias get you into trouble? It was an accident. They happen."

Tucker shrugs.

"You know what Tuck? I hate that I can't trust you anymore. Your lying is hurting me and it's hurting you. [I actually start to cry,which rarely happens] I hate it when you lie, Tuck. It hurts."

Tucker stared at my face and then walked to his bedroom. I came in pretty quickly after he had gotten there, but he was already curled under his quilt and crying softly. Dawson, looking alarmed asked, "What happened to Tucker?" I said it was between Tucker and I before I spent the next several minutes tucking the rest of the boys into bed. Then, I climbed onto Tucker's bed with him and we laid there for just a few minutes, nose to nose.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked softly.

"Mom - I feel so bad."

"Why?"

"Because I lied to you. Because dad told me that a man doesn't lie. Because it hurt your heart. Because it made you cry. And I'm supposed to love you and I hurt you and dad and God."

"Was it worth it?"

"No. I don't like feeling like this. I think it would be better to just get in trouble."

"Well, I don't think it would feel better at first, but I think it will feel better sooner. I make mistakes and sometimes it's hard to look at someone and say that you're sorry. But after you say you're sorry, then you get to help make it better, and that part usually feels good. Not always, but usually. When you lie, you don't ever get to the good part."

"I want to get to the good part."

During his bedtime prayers, Tucker asked God to help him not lie anymore and to remember to be a man who doesn't lie. I hugged him as tight as I could before kissing him goodnight and leaving the room.

I don't expect there to be a miraculous turn around because habits can be tough to break. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like my boy just might see that honestly really is the best policy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Project Completion

So, we have decided that if we are really and truly going to own a home someday, we should probably get busy and learn how to manage projects together. There are plenty of times when it is just myself and an OAR as Scott devotes so many hours towards our goal of being debt free. However, this weekend was a big one for us. Not only did we manage to complete our selected projects in the projected time, there was not a single cross word or argument. In fact, there was a genuine sense of camaraderie and a lot of laughter. Wow.

Abigail proudly displaying her completed
chalkboard for "her kitchen."

On Saturday, the kids and I attended the monthly Home Depot workshop with my dad as our official extra-pair of hands. After the project, we inevitably wind up inside the store buying something. This time, it was the chalk board paint so we could finally paint the top of the little table, which is looking a little worn. The painting went much quicker & used much less than I thought it would, so I began brainstorming. The kids always love the idea of putting up a menu in their kitchen, so I quickly grabbed our square and drew a rectangle on the wall which I promptly painted with more chalkboard paint. Two coats later, we were ready for phase 2.

Abigail and Isabelle in front of Daddy's new tool box.
Although, truly, it's more accurate to call it Dad & Mom's.
Scott, the kids and I went to Home Depot after our lunch yesterday  in order to buy moulding to create a frame around the chalkboard on the wall. In keeping with our new commitment to slowly add to our supply of needed tools, we also purchased a miter box and saw. As we headed toward the check out,  Scott spied a tool box on special which came with a lifetime warranty and two sets of tools inside. For us, this was a no brainer. Ten people in one household means a lifetime warranty is a must due to inevitable heavy usage. Phase 2 was complete.

The completed chalkboard.

The third and final phase of our project involved teaching Dawson and Scott how to measure the painted rectangle and cut using the miter box to build our own frame. The guys did great and we had the rough edges sanded in no time and began the final painting, which included turning both the table legs and the frame pieces into a great shade of Key Lime that we had picked up off the Home Depot clearance rack months ago. I set to putting the two coats of paint on, in between which included exercise, showers, snacks, and vacuuming. After dinner, we were able to quickly assemble the pieces of framing, using a staple gun to hold the pieces in place (Dawson's idea.) before we tapped some nails into the frame and then driving them on into the wall. We stood back and sighed a contented, job-well done sigh before children started marching into see their new chalkboard.

The newly painted table (previously all white) as
Abigail makes some coffee in her kitchen.

And so, we are beginning to feel the stirrings of confidence in our abilities to actually build, repair, and perhaps even maintain our possessions. Of course, I think a large part of this comes from the fact that this is the second project in a row that Scott and I have done so successfully together.  The first was installing the new microwave all by ourselves. We had several offers for help, as we have not established a reputation of self-sufficiency. Rather, we tend to ask for help with tasks quite freely, readily admitting when something is beyond our abilities. We let everyone know we would like to try, but wouldn't hesitate to ask for help if it should be needed. And then, 25 minutes later, we were done and our 1970's kitchen was restored to it's modern glory.

Keats (top) and Aidan model our new microwave

There is something good about setting a goal and completing it. Scott and I have been exercising together six days a week, and I am noticing that the further into our commitment to self-discipline regarding our physical activity we get, the more it is beginning to pour over into other areas as well. Rather than shrinking, as I thought our free-time was bound to do when we gave time to daily exercise, we seem to be finding more time to accomplish more goals. I am surprised as anyone could be, but I am so grateful. We do have more projects on the horizon. A door needs to be caulked. A GFI needs to be replaced. Some paint needs to be touched up. I am actually finding myself looking forward to completing these tasks as well.

There is something good about working together with Scott, learning side by side.

Plan B Duex

We are involved in a new church plant in Exeter Township, Kainos. Our goals are authentic, genuine, inviting Christianity which makes a difference in one another's lives and the community. It has been fabulous and one of my favorite times is Sunday worship followed by a lunch together afterwards. Not everyone comes to lunch and while we do gather together more often then not, it's not an every Sunday thing. I truly enjoy the opportunity to extend our time of visiting while we eat a meal together. Everyone has to eat anyway, right?

Most of the meals are a coordinated effort with people signing up via email to bring various dishes. Occasionally, though, we get the green light to do an old fashioned pot luck, which basically translates into "Who knows what we'll eat but at least there will be food." I'm a big fan of the old-fashioned pot luck simply because I think it's a great adventure to eat such a jumble of foods. My favorite pot luck meal of all time involved a magic spell which possessed almost everyone to bring dessert. For such a sugar-fiend as myself, this was a dream come true. One health conscious spoiler had brought a gigantic salad which marred the occasion just a little, but otherwise it was paradise.

Yesterday was  pot luck, but on Saturday I learned that someone was ready to get rid of some corndogs out of the freezer, so they would comprise the main dish. Perfect - I could bring the Tater Tots in our freezer which are definitely NOT a part of our healthier eating life-style. (We did use organic ketchup, though -- does that help the health-o-meter?) Our entire family really enjoys corndogs, so we were pretty excited. In fact, one of the twins (I think it was Keats) thanked God for corndogs during his bedtime prayers Saturday night.

Imagine our dismay when we were all biting into our corndogs only to discover they were absolutely NOT the crunchy, soft, inviting state fair concoctions were were all expecting. Rather, they were rubberized sticks of grey meat covered by corn rocks. Drat. Freezer burn strikes again! Family being family, everyone had a good laugh as we tried to find ways to make the meal palatable. Some people did eat theirs, but most of us gave up after a few bites. Aidan ripped his corn rocks off and ate the hotdog and Abigail ate the corn bread. Myself, I didn't even finish chewing the one bite I managed to gnaw off.

Plan B involved all the extra desserts we were unable to sell at the weekly Farmer's Market the day before. Music to this sugar junkies ears - dessert for lunch. I did eat some fresh cut veggies and sliced tomatoes, but I really, really, really enjoyed my main dish of chocolate cake with vanilla and coconut icing.