Friday, April 30, 2010

My Boys Are Becoming Men

So the deal I made with myself tonight was this: if I clean all three bathrooms and dust our bedroom (which hadn't been done since -- eeep! -- before Elias was born), I would sit down and finally begin reading "The Time Traveler's Wife," which I have now checked out of the library for the third time. I have completely worn out the kids (which is why I am cleaning the bathrooms at all) and the house is delightfully quiet. Of course, after the cleaning was accomplished, I wrapped up a few loose "to-do" ends and then poked my head into bedrooms to view the peacefully sleeping. And as I looked at Tucker's relaxed face I realized that I simply had to write down one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed from my boys before it was lost forever in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

As I was perusing the Exeter Football League's website in preparation for signing up the boys a few days ago, I happened to notice that games are played on both Saturday and Sunday. A little more digging and a few phone calls later, I learned that there are Sunday morning games and Sunday afternoon games. I am still waiting to hear back on which slot one of the boys would be in.  So I ran it by Scott, who looks at me with shock before he proceeds to say out loud what I've been thinking: "We can't do football if it means missing worship every week." Yeah. I know.

Yesterday we spent quite a lot of time in the van running hither and yon and it occurred to me that this might be a good setting to talk with both Dawson and Tucker at the same time. They are, after all, strapped in and quite the captive audience. I asked them to both sit in the front bench seat and I let them know about the possible problem on Sundays. I was prepared for anything but what happened.

Dawson: "So, they actually hold games during worship times? Why would they do that?"

me: "Well, buddy, not everyone worships on Sunday and I think they just work really hard to fit a lot into very short windows of time. You have to remember that most families have both parents working or only one parent."

Tucker: "Yeah - but that stinks that people couldn't worship. Or do people actually skip worship to go to games?"

me: "I'm sure they do, and perhaps if we had an evening worship option, we might have considered it. But, thankfully, we don't so it isn't an issue."

Dawson: "So, neither of us can play now?"

me: "Well, it would only affect one of you. I know how excited you both were to play this year and your dad and I feel really, really bad that we didn't check the game schedule before saying yes."

Dawson: "So, only one of us would be playing?"

me: "Yes."

Tucker: "Well, if we both can't play, then I don't want to play. That's just not very nice."

Dawson: "Yeah, me either. I don't want to be out there playing knowing Tucker couldn't. That's just wrong. I mean I was excited and all, but he's my brother."

me: "Really??"

Dawson: "Oh, yeah. I'm not playing if Tucker can't."

Tucker: "Yeah - me either. I can't make Dawson just sit around and watch me. It's just mean."

I literally couldn't say anything else because I was all girlie and stuff in the front seat. You know - choked up with pride and weepy over their absolute selflessness. Never in a million years would I have guessed their reaction would be completely and utterly the opposite of selfish. That it would be, well, manly.

Once I could talk, I went on to propose a compromise which would still enable them to play football. I gave them my word that I would take the time I would have spent carting them back and forth to practice to create a league for some intramural-style flag football and that I would use the registration money to purchase some real flags, not the cheap ones we use when camping. Again - their reactions were completely unexpected.

Dawson: "Cool! That would be so great to be able to play with families instead of just kids my own age!"

Tucker: "That's great, mom! I really hope we can't do league football now - your idea sounds way more fun! Would you play?"

me: "Sure, if that's what you want."

Tucker, to Dawson: "We'd better start working out. She's tough."

Which just goes to show that growth happens even when I'm convinced it won't, that all this crazy talk about priorities really did sink in, and I was right to hold my tears back. I wouldn't want to jeopardize my reputation before the big game.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gotta' Love Kitchen Aid

We are big smoothie drinkers here in Rutherford-dom. We love green smoothies made primarily of spinach and strawberries (sound and looks gross, but YUM!) We're big fans of yogurt and frozen mixed fruit with stevia, or bananas and blueberries, or strawberries and blueberries. Really, we just love smoothies.

We have multiple ways to make our liquid power drinks, too. Our Tribest Personal Blender is fantastic if only a few of us are partaking. Think "Bullet" from the infomercial, but made waaaaaaaay better. But if it's an afternoon snack or the drink for a meal, we pull out the KitchenAid 7-cup Polycarbonate Jar Blender. I adore this machine. However, I must admit that we are not on our originally purchased blender.

We have replaced it once due to Shelby's belief that if the amount of fruit I told her to put in was good, then double that would be better. Of course, she stripped the knob which rotates the blade assembly, leaving a perfectly good motor without the all-in-one Polycarbonate jar, which happens to be one of my favorite features about the blender. Amazon being Amazon meant that for only $10 more than a replacement jar, I could just buy a brand new blender and have a motor "on reserve."

Then, during one of my episodes of major decluttering, I looked at the extra motor in Scott's closet and felt like we should sell it on eBay, make a few dollars, and clear some space. Yes, I can feel you shaking your heads already at the Murphy's Law situation I set myself up for.

Sure enough, less that 2 weeks after selling the motor, Dawson decided that the smoothie needed some extra "umph" and added some ginger ale:

Ginger Ale + Liquefy = Smoothie Encased Motor

Suddenly, the $35 we received for the extra motor didn't seem like such a good deal.

I checked our faithful Amazon again to learn that the only blender to be had for less that $100 was the hideous black one. Not to bash black if that's your color preference, but I adore having bright and cheery colors all about me and I really, really loved my Tangerine. But, I love my husband more and I couldn't justify his working for an entire extra hour to enable my purchase of the preferred orange over the more affordable black, especially since the end result is the same: liquid fruit drinks.

Our dull and color-sucking black arrived quickly & we were happily blending away again. And now we had the added bonus of TWO polycarbonate jars, which was just fabulous. A family of 10 really does need more than one batch of blender pancakes, so now that we were able to mix up two batches at once we were again enjoying this family breakfast favorite. I did notice that the motor sounded a little "off." Just a higher pitch than our previous motor had emitted, but I quickly dismissed it as simply resulting from my crazy-sensitive hearing.

Last week, as we were preparing a smoothie snack for the afternoon, the first jar was whirring away when there was an ear-splitting crack followed by a crazy-metal-on-plastic-rattling. I cringed as I looked over toward the blender, fully prepared for smoothie to begin oozing out the gaping hole I was sure was in the jar. After shutting the motor off, I lifted the jar to discover there was no hole, but there was a nice, big piece of metal sitting on the bottom of the clear-plastic. Huh. Turns out, one of the four blades literally ripped itself free. Yikes.

I called KitchenAid, as the warranty was still in effect and -- get this -- after I hit about two buttons directing me to the proper department, there was no more automated system. A REAL, LIVE, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS PERSON ANSWERED THE PHONE. Within moments of my telling her what had happened, I was assured a new blender would be sent THAT DAY to my home accompanied by a return shipping label in order to send back the entire blender. Also, they would make certain that my new blender had paperwork to ensure that my warranty was reset for 1 year from the receipt of the replacement, not from the date of original purchase. Wow.

Then came the best part. She asked if a white motor would be acceptable. I looked over at the yicky black and this little voice inside me said: "Just try it." So, I explained how I really loved the orange motor but my children had had some blending issues in the past resulting in the current ownership of the defective black motor. Would it be at all possible to have a Tangerine motor sent? Her amazing answer: "If it is in stock, I will happily send you the orange. If not, is there any other color you would prefer?" Seriously, when was the last time you had a company behave this way????

TWO DAYS LATER . . . FedEx arrives with my blender. TWO DAYS!!! And, sure enough, it was my beloved Tangerine. Again - wow.

Now, admittedly my really, really, really favorable impression of KitchenAid could simply be timing. We have been dealing with Pampered Chef returns of my pay-through-the-nose-lifetime-guarantee -Professional Cookware that simply isn't holding up well to a family of 10's usage. I mean, seriously, do they need to tell me with each piece that they will be inspecting for misuse and if they determine that I didn't use the proper tools (which I purchased from their company to ensure my pots would be fine, thank you very much) then you will simply send my pot back?

But, I don't think that's it. I think it has just been a really long time since someone in customer service didn't assume we were out to cheat them and were instead simply letting them know that our machine didn't perform as promised. Then again, having a blade whirring about the jar probably wasn't in the plans when they designed the blender. It is pretty hard to argue with.

But, for my money - KitchenAid all the way. They certainly sold me on their products simply by standing behind the one that broke.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blog By Shirt

I thought that tonight, I would let my t-shirt write the blog.

This morning, when I put it on, it was a crisp, clean, baby blue Life is Good shirt. It's one of my favorites because it depicts a home with a large picture window framing a family eating dinner together over the caption "Value Meal." I love it. I bought my mother one, too, as she is the one who really instilled in me the idea that family was meant to eat around a table together. It just made sense to buy the one who inspired so much of my life the shirt with the very message she pumped into me for 21 years.

So, here goes: Blog By Shirt

The entire lower 2/3 of the shirt is a criss-cross of wrinkles from a day's worth of up and down to feed Sir Elias.

The lower right hand front corner has a perfect hand-print of muddy fingers from Keats grabbing for anything to keep him from falling down at the farm where we buy our milk. Of course, I ended up bending, too, to keep him from ripping my shirt which meant he fell anyway.

There are a couple of dribbles of milk right smack down the middle from where I was drinking a glass of the cold stuff when I was suddenly informed I was "base" nanoseconds before Tucker plowed into me once we were home.

My left shoulder has some spit-up from Elias's meal outside of Sam's Club. We were all holed-up in Big Red so I could nurse him before we continued our errands, and Elias just couldn't stay focused. I know he was hungry, but there was so much to see and hear that he kept popping up and down like a groundhog. Enough popping and eventually you foam the milk, which apparently needed a pressure release. Wha-la! Instant milk-bath for mommy! I'm sure I would have paid a fortune for such treatment at a spa.

My shoulders and back have water spots from the thunderstorm I was caught in at Camp Manatawny while helping Shelby and Dawson check in for their week-end retreat. It is Dawson's first time and he was nervous that he wouldn't know anyone and, as he doesn't make friends easily, he was concerned he would spend much of the weekend alone. I said my goodbyes and walked far enough away that he wouldn't see me double back where I stood in the rain with lightening bolts flashing around me as he hesitantly made his way over to the basketball courts where several boys were already playing. Of course, as the rain became heavier the game was surrendered to the weather and they were beginning to scatter. I watched with baited breath as several of the boys ran past Dawson while he stood there in his hoodie, hands in his pockets, watching. The rain was cold and hard, but I just couldn't bring myself to walk away until I saw one boy walk over to Dawson and extend his hand. They ran off toward Garrett Hall together.

My left side has a smear of pizza sauce from rough-housing with a friend's kiddos while she took a business call. I was threatening to kiss the boys goodnight and they implied I was too old to catch them anyway. Of course, never one to back down from such an open invitation, I attacked and won quite handily. However, as they we eating at the time, I did receive a pizza wound.

My Right Shoulder has chocolate blobs from tucking Abigail in bed. She hadn't been sleeping well when I came home from taking Shelby and Dawson to camp, and so I brought her downstairs with me for a little quiet time and a treat. The two of us, along with Isabelle, munched on some Snickers snack bars and talked about our day. I carried the exhausted Abigail upstairs with her warm head nestled on my shoulder. The smell of her freshly washed hair completely the masked the unwashed chocolate face. I did wash her face before laying her down, but it wasn't in time to save the shirt.

Now, my shirt is covered in goopy Shout (which we buy by the gallon) waiting to be washed with the morning load of laundry. Poor thing had a full day. I'm just glad I was there to share it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Same Kind of Different All Over Again

Elias continues to astound me with his differentness. I keep thinking we've just about seen all a baby can dish out, only to be proven wrong over and over again by Sir Elias. It's truly not that I'm arrogant about the whole baby thing. It's just that we've obviously been through this before, so we're starting to feel comfortable with the process. But comfort, experience, and know-how just don't prepare you for what inevitably occurs. Different.

Take yesterday, for example. I'm washing dishes and Elias is sitting at my feet cooing, burbling, and just having a grand old time playing with his fingers. I mean, why play with one of the dozens of educationally beneficial and Dr. Toy Award Winners available when you have ten fingers at your disposal? So, anyway, I hear the telltale gurgling noise of Elias filling his diaper with something a wee bit solid, but still mostly runny. I glance down in time to see a gurgling Vesuvius exuding from the top of his waistband into a lava-like flow which ran down his backside, pooled onto the floor beneath him, and continued into a semi-circle around his posterior. That was a new one for me. And, for the record, ew.

We have Jumperoos, Exersaucers, & Baby Einstein DVDs galore. And don't forget the above mentioned toys which have been carefully selected based on their color hue, relative quiet play, and country of origin. Does any of this interest Sir Elias? Not really. He loves a small, wooden circle hand carved out of maple with a blue, painted bead attached to a rod so that it makes a "clacking" sound as it is being shaken. And he would be lost without his swing, a Fisher-Price Aquarium Cradle Swing purchased off Craigslist for the bargain basement price of $35. Elias wouldn't really notice if the rest of the baby gadgets, paraphernalia, and must-have items were swallowed up by the great-gullible-parents-of-a-baby monster, who simply takes these hardly used items back to the store for restocking in order to be purchased by the next pregnant sucker.

We didn't even waste our energy and money on a stroller. Elias thinks strollers are the spawn of Satan. Which, incidentally, is how he feels about anything which requires a seat belt. The only exception to this hard and fast rule is the car seat, which he recently decided is a great place to be since everyone else in the van seems to be in the same predicament. Instead, we have two Ergo Carriers which Scott and I use to pack-mule both Elias and Abigail around in. I keep watching Craigslist for a Bob or Chariot Double stroller even though there is a nagging question in the back of my mind saying: "Why?"

The most baffling difference for our Elias is his complete and utter lack of a schedule. He has no schedule. No routine. Nothing, absolutely nothing predictable. All of our other children settled into a comfortable rhythm right around 3-months old. Elias is 8-months and literally just goes and goes and goes until suddenly, he crashes. And sometimes he'll be out for 2 hours and sometimes he'll be out for 20 minutes. You never really know what your day is going to be like with this Little Mister in tow.

My productivity levels are at an all time low. If I can't do it with one hand while cuddling the almost 20-pounder, forget it. I work crazy hard to get all important two-handed jobs out of the way before bedtime for the older kiddos. Typing is a slower one-handed process, but still doable. Mending Scott's scrubs definitely requires two hands, so it gets done during the day. Since Elias rarely chooses to crash before 10:00 pm, which is incidentally about the time I am ready to crash, many of the projects which were handily accomplished "after family hours" now find themselves either going undone or being crammed into our regular day.

I know this is all temporary. I know that before I can blink, Elias will be wrestling with all the other boys. I know that Scott and I will look back on our Early Life with Elias and fondly "Remember When" sooner than even seems possible.

Perhaps that is the only predictable dependability about a little one. How fast the time does go.

Monday, April 12, 2010


While we are working to become debt-free, a frequent word in our house is "No" and a frequent phrase is "Do we really need it?" Sure, we do stuff that costs money from time to time, we splurge here and there, and we work hard to help the kids realize we choose to not spend money in one place so we can instead spend it in another.

Of course, Scott and I have our concerns over what effect will this have on the kids. Will they look back at their childhood and simply remember a world full of no? Will they look back and see all the opportunities they missed out on? Will they go crazy once they leave home, trying to buy all the happiness we denied them? Will they tell their kids stories about hand-me-downs (although I tout them as very earth friendly as a hand-me down is simply recycling at it's best), eating only fresh fruits and veggies in season because they are dirt cheap (again -- good for us and the planet, but still not as much fun as buying any fruit which suits your fancy), and being limited on everything because either it isn't a genuine need or it doesn't fit in our limited space?

Every now and then, though, there is a window into the minds of our offspring which makes me realize I worry to much. Take, for example, today.

Scott and I had pretty low-key plans for this beautiful spring day which would only cost us a couple of gallons of gas. First, we would do some yard work in the back re-potting some plants, ready-ing the air conditioner for tomorrow's service call, and cleaning up the kids' fort in the woods. Then, we figured we would snag some lunch at our favorite bistro, also know as the Rutherford Kitchen, before heading over to our favorite park for a couple of hours. Of course, we would have to be mindful of the time because Isabelle and Tucker had a homeschooling swim-class tonight and Shelby was going to help set up a pool for Youth Group Mondays, so we knew we would need to leave the park by 4:00 to be home in time for the mass parting of the Rutherfords scheduled to begin at 4:30.

So, Tucker comes in and asks, "What are we doing?"

Scott quickly sums up the day by stating: "We 'll play in the backyard until lunch, we'll grab some leftovers, then we'll head over to the park until your swim class. How's that sound?"

Tucker's face immediately breaks into an amazing smile as he bellows, "I'm the luckiest kid in the world!! We're really going to do all that?! Wait 'til I tell everyone else. See ya', dad!"

Huh. So maybe we aren't scarring the kids for life by not buying everything under the sun my heart longs to do for them.

Maybe, just maybe, we're doing all right.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

I have learned these past few months that I despise using the thermometer, I hate having to use our Little Green Machine so often, and that I think throw-up bowls are disgusting.

Sure, the above list would probably get a hearty thumbs-up from just about everyone, but my reasons are much more sound than a "just because." I am just so tired of us being sick & tired. Today, I got a call from someone near and dear to us dealing with Strep Throat and there is a good chance we were exposed over Easter. Of course, I feel badly for the other family because who really wants to have strep? Besides, I'm not totally self-absorbed. Just moderately so, since the very next thought I had was "OH NO!! NOT US TOO!!!!" I did manage to ask of we could help in any way, but after we were off the phone I called the pediatrician's office to see if we should be seen immediately or wait for the inevitable symptoms.

I did the next responsible thing on our "Etiquette for the Sick & Tired" and informed the host family of a birthday party we were scheduled to attend on Saturday about our situation. The reply? "Perhaps we'll get together sometime in May." (In all fairness, they are leaving town to travel, so May is the soonest we can swing a visit.) So, lemonade from lemons means our weekend is a little less busy now. That's always a good thing, isn't it? C'mon - help me out here!

And in true bacterial-infection-realm, the possibility of a very contagious round of ick has come at the start of what was promising to be a very fun weekend. The girls are scheduled for a sewing lesson tomorrow afternoon and we have ball game tickets for tomorrow night. Obviously our Saturday is a little less busy since we are officially unwelcome at the birthday festivities, but we can still prepare our fine, French meal. There is worship Sunday morning which will find Scott giving the lesson followed by a picnic lunch in a great backyard full of tons of stuff for the kids to do. Not to mention our weekly trip to the dairy farm to purchase our delicious raw milk, during which we check out new baby chicks and calves, run with the dog, and feed the chickens. And one positive swab for strep will simply wipe it all away as effectively as a nuclear bomb.

Drat. It hurts when I swallow. That's bad, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Twins

Keats & Aidan.

I think for all who have been blessed enough to have experienced our twins, those two names will be forever linked. People will not be able to hear the name Aidan being called at a playground without immediately thinking: Keats. And as Aidan was one of the most popular boys names for 2005, you do indeed hear it often. I think you would be equally hard pressed to read "Ode to a Grecian Urn" by John Keats (whom Keats is named for) or pick up the wonderful book "Snowy Day" by Ezra Keats (whom Keats is not named for, but still delights in reading the books as his name is written quite large on the cover) and not think: Aidan.

They are, as Forrest Gump would say, "Peas and Carrots." By the way -- what exactly does that mean?

When I accidentally call Aidan: "Keats," Aidan simply looks at me, softly smiles, and asks, "Do you mean Aidan?" That's it. No frustration. No guilt trips. No long-suffering sigh of disgust at being saddled with a mother who cannot even tell her boys apart.

I read with amusement the antics of Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter books. I especially loved how they teased their mother, Molly Weasley, into thinking she didn't know which twin was which. Now I know they weren't being playful. They were stabbing the mother-guilt sword through Molly like a hot-iron poker every chance they could in order to get away with their other shenanigans.

Keats is picking up on the fact that I can't tell them apart quickly. That I frequently call him Aidan, not because I'm in a hurry (such as calling Shelby by Dawson's name - they really do look very different) but rather because I genuinely don't know it is Keats. His look is not the gentle look I receive from his brother, but rather a calculating one. A look which seems to say, "Seriously? You don't know who I am? I'm officially offended yet secretly delighted because, eventually, this deficiency of yours will work to my personal advantage quite well." You can see it in his eyes. And then, he sighs and offers to get a tattoo so that I might better tell them apart.

But I know it's all just a cover. I know my day is coming. Keats will bring Aidan on board with his evil plotting and then the torments on poor Molly will look like "Love Notes to Mother" compared with what my boys will come up with.

And my tombstone shall read:

"Keats and Aidan. The real reason I'm lying here."

Friday, April 2, 2010

French Chef Saturdays

After months of waiting, I finally managed to watch "Julie & Julia," which was on my movie wish list during those last few months of pregnancy with Elias. Of course, Elias came a little early, I was too covered in baby-vomit to really care what we watched, and then the movie left the theaters. Besides, the kid was a screamer so I wouldn't have heard it anyway.

Anyway . . . Scott and I watched the movie as a Redbox rental. I adored it. Enough to order it through our TiVo/Amazon set up, which is supposed to be a 30 day rental thing until you start watching it, then you have 24 hours to wrap it up. I never rent a movie twice, so this was a huge thing for me. I cannot even begin to detail my utter disappointment when I clicked on the title only to learn that when you buy the weekend special for $1.99, it is just that - a weekend special. If I choose not to watch it by the end of the weekend, I might as well flush two dollars down the toilet because it would achieve the same thing. Scott was caught off guard by the depth of my emotion and, in true amazing-man fashion, purchased the film on his way home from work the next morning. Sigh - I love that man.

We both watched it again, enjoying the dialogue, the characters, and the storyline. Scott and I both tend to be fans of dialogue driven movies. If we don't like the conversations and the characters, no amount of special effects or blood can win us over. (In fact, the further away from the "Inglorious Basterds" bloody moments I get, the more impressed I am by the characters. Scott thinks I'm crazy. To which I say just one look at our lives is enough to make someone hear the crazy comment and simply reply with: "Duh.") But, after this movie, we both found ourselves thinking about French food. A lot. Scott kept saying that he was going to pick us up copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" so we could give it a try. I checked around a little bit and the only copies I saw were relatively expensive considering how hard he is working right now, so we were thinking it would just wait for a couple of months. Then, while buying a Barbie Movie for a dreadfully ill Abigail one day in Target, I spied the anniversary edition of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" poised on an endcap with the most glorious sign above it: 60% off!!

We have now designated Saturday as our French cooking day. Our cooking supplies are dreadfully under-stocked for Julia Child's recipes, so we not only find we must shop for ingredients, but we are having to purchase pots, pans, scrapers, etc. However, we are still spending less each week in supplies and ingredients than we used to ordering pizza one night each week. (For the record - how sad is that statement?) Our newest acquisition is a gorgeous blue dutch oven which arrived in plenty of time for our beef stew recipe - scheduled for next Saturday. Tomorrow's meal is Ratatouille, which was chosen by the children, who are learning French cooking right beside us. Tucker's favorite thing to do is chop anything so he can announce he is finished with a Julia Child/Meryl Streep inspired victory cheer.

We are enjoying the time in the kitchen together immensely and we all anticipate Saturday with an eagerness similar to Christmas morning. I would have never thought that we would, as a family of 10, find that our favorite activities together would include camping, bike rides, swimming, sledding, and preparing a fine, French meal.