Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Utter Failure

I have never, ever, EVER failed a state auto inspection. And I mean utterly and completely failed. Sure, we've gotten the calls from the mechanic stating that the inspection is complete and such and such (my technical mechanic terms) needs replacing, estimated costs are, and we'll be ready for you to pick up your vehicle by 7:00 tomorrow morning. So I haven't always passed with flying colors, but never have I been looked in the eye by the greasy mechanic (whom I respect enormously because I truly do NOT understand what occurs in the inner-bowels of my van) and told, "Mrs. Rutherford -- You failed."

GASP. Seriously? And, for information's sake, how serious is this seriously? It turns out that we had a tire -- our front left tire, to be precise -- which had something called cords sticking out of it and that is bad. So bad, it triggers an automatic fail. And, while we are on the subject of tires, the back right is a technical pass, but not the kind of pass where the mechanic himself would drive his children around using this tire as one of the only traction points keeping the van connected to the road. YIKES. Now we are at one fail, one borderline. And the other two tires? They actually have a lot of life left, but they aren't wearing evenly. Which led to the very question I knew was coming.

"Mrs. Rutherford, how frequently do you rotate your tires?"

Drat. I knew it. I knew he would ask. I knew from the moment he said things were actually sticking out of the tire that I was sooooooo busted. I have rotated the tires on our behemoth vehicle exactly once. When I bought the tires at Sam's three years ago (literally almost to the date three years ago! I know this because I keep the paperwork for the tires in my van in order to redeem my free rotations.) they came with life-of-the-tires free rotations. When I arrived for my first free rotation, the children and I found ourselves trapped in Sam's for FOUR HOURS while waiting for our "free service" to be completed. And just how much money do you think I spent wandering around Sam's for four hours with six children and pregnant with our seventh???? Definitely more than I would have paid to just have them rotated at my next oil change. (Which I do religiously, by the way. The oil change, not the rotation.) So, in protest, I never went back for another free rotation. But, whenever I was asked if I wanted my tires rotated at our oil changes, my answer was always no because why would I pay for a service if I have it free with my tire purchase? If you have stuck with me this far, I'm sure you are already shaking your head at my warped and twisted logic which was now quite visible to this very knowledgeable man in front of me. Drat drat drat.

So, the procedure for failures is this: I pay for the service they have performed. I then have 30 days to fix whatever they found lacking the first go around, after which I bring the van back for a free second inspection, which I should pass. Then I finally gain the privilege of paying $2 for my PA State inspection sticker and resting comfortably in the knowledge that I have done my legal duty by my state. Not to mention no longer driving our eight children around using tires-of-death.

Yes, I have already replaced both tires AND had both new tires installed in the front as recommended by both my father and the Tire-Guy, who both know more about tires in their pinkie-toe-nail-clipping than I do in my entire body. The Tire-Guy agreed that while the other two tires do have life left, they are worn unevenly, so I really should be replacing them within the next few months. His recommendation was that at our first tire rotation (4,000 miles - I looked it up on the paperwork already) we purchase a second set of tires, installing them in the front while moving our current front tires to the back, ensuring that they will all wear evenly. Okay. I can do that.

And so, after $329.43 I now realize that if I don't rotate my tires, I will be caught. Or, more appropriately, busted.

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Is The Day That Never Ends

When we were kids, Ryan and Jenna used to sing this awful song that would get stuck in your head for days . . .  "This is the song that never ends. It just goes on and on my friends . . ." And after another line or two, the song repeats. Endlessly. E. N. D. L. E. S. S. L. Y. And Ryan and Jenna took delight in just going on and on and on and on . . . Today, the song popped into my head (where it is unfortunately still stuck) because it felt like today was just the day that wouldn't end.

6:05 - Elias wakes up (a full 25 minutes before the alarm is scheduled, drat that boy!) to nurse. I fall back asleep.

6:12 - Tucker comes in & wakes me. Asks if he, Keats, & Aidan can play Wii. I mumble no and go back to sleep.

6:14 - Keats wakes me up & asks if I can make them chocolate milk since they aren't allowed to play Wii. I tell him to wake Dawson to make his milk. (Lest you think I'm heartless, it is Dawson's morning responsibility.)

6:17 - Aidan wakes me up to tell me that Dawson is awake so I can go back to sleep. Nice.

6:30 - Alarm goes off. I heard every child come in, but this I sleep through. Elais, zonked next to me, also slumbers on.

7:30 - Tucker wakes me to ask what that annoying noise is. I realize it's my alarm. Oops. Frantic face washing, teeth brushing, hair brushing, clothes grabbing ensues.

7:45 - Scott arrives home from work, ready for our family Bible study. No one is ready. He showers while I grab my lifeline. Translation - a really big cup of coffee.

7:55 - Family Bible study begins. Today's character quality? Justice, which interestingly enough, is the opposite of fairness. Great discussion ensues, but cut short due to impending commitments -- Scott with his bed/sleeping and two of the children at swim practice.

8:30 - Drop Shelby & Dawson at the pool for practice.

8:45 - Begin working with Isabelle to accomplish morning chores -- laundry folded, kids fed, dishes loaded, table cleaned. The usual.

9:30 - Load up Isabelle, Tucker, Keats, Aidan, Abigail, & Elias to run by Staples to pick up supplies for information posters for tomorrow's Farmer's Market.

10:01 - Receive call from Shelby letting me know they are done swimming and she will shower, but could I please pick them up soon since some day-camp kids are now loose at the pool. I assure her I'm already on my way. Finish collecting our purchases from the check out and load the kids back into the van.

10:11 - Pick up Shelby and Dawson.

10:16 - Stop at Exeter Community Library to collect flyers for all the programs to have at the stand tomorrow. Take all of the kids in, warning them that we are going for speed, so no book checking today. Leave 15 minutes later with all of the kids plus one "Sleeping Beauty" book clutched in Abigail's death-grip. If you look closely you can find the "Sucker" written on my forehead.

10:35 - Arrive home and start making bread. Realize I do not have enough honey because we didn't make it to Sam's Club yet. Drat. Shelby and Dawson are cleaning the upstairs bathrooms already.

10:37 - Dash out the door to Giant, shouting instructions over my shoulder as I go. Purchase five pounds of honey, 4 bottles of organic ketchup, and 5 cartons of ice-cream (on sale, 5 for $10 -- like I could pass that by!)

10:49 - receive call from home. Shelby's evaluator (Jenna) has arrived. Drat - she's early.  Assure them I'm checking out and will be home in moments.

10:59 - Arrive home & start on first batch of bread while Jenna finishes feeding her daughter, Jane. The Grain Mill noise is awful, but required to get the bread done, so we chat very, very loudly.

11:20ish - We all sit down to a lunch of Taco soup leftovers. Yum.

12:00 - Lunch is over except for the stragglers - Keats and Aidan have decided they don't want to eat today. Too bad. I shift them down to one end of the table near Dawson, who is beginning his math. I clean the other end so we can accomplish Shelby's homeschool evaluation. I pop up and down as needed for bread.

1:00 - Evaluation complete, Jenna is taking Jane home to nap and type her report. We'll see each other again at 5 for the library clean-up which got rained out yesterday. Keats & Aidan are almost finished their lunches.

1:10 - Baking bread, putting together signs for the farmer's Market, supervising Dawson & Isabelle's math, washing a little bit of laundry, and working with Shelby to design the recycling stickers for the cans out at Camp for their service project. We also strip off the couch slipcover because I just can't take the booger smears on it any longer and I throw the covers into the laundry.

2:00 - Send Shelby upstairs with Scott's phone. He is planning to call into the hospital to see if he can swing a double shift today so he can be home tomorrow.

2:05 - Shelby arrives downstairs with the news that Scott is going in, so we begin to pack his meals for while he's at work and Dawson whips up an egg sandwich.

2:20 - I know Scott is downstairs because I can hear the excited shouts and squeals of "Daddy!" I am finalizing the signs after setting the second batch of bread to rise. I leave instructions with Isabelle for taking bread out of the oven and buckle Tucker, Keats, Aidan, Abigail, & Elias back in the car. Dawson is working on a second math lesson so he can be off tomorrow and Shelby hasn't even begun her first lesson, so I decide to take the littles in the car with me to give them a quiet house to work in. Isabelle offers to clean-up the few toys that are out while we're gone as she has already completed two lessons.

2:50 - Kiss Scott goodbye and watch him walk into the hospital. Remind myself that we want to be debt free.

3:10 - Arrive home and get to smell the fresh baked bread. Usually I don't smell it because I am right here and become completely desensitized while I'm baking. But walking back into the house -- YUM.

3:20 - Place second batch of bread in the oven, set the third batch out to rise, clean the kitchen, and begin making the library posters for tomorrow. In between, print the sticker labels one at a time on the computer while Shelby isn't using it for her math lecture and solutions. My sister Jenna drops by with a Pottery Bark Kids Quilt and sham that she found for Tucker. It's all sports balls & gear. He loves it. Throw the quilt into the wash.

4:15 - Call everyone in to begin dinner so we leave the house to clean the library with full bellies. Ulterior motive is that perhaps we can go from library clean-up to the pool to cool down and get cleaned up there, meaning we simply come home to sleep. Directly to sleep. No passing go, no collecting $200.

4:20 - Tucker begins to cry. He isn't feeling good and now he has a headache and a sore ear. Sounds like what Shelby had last week and Dawson the week before. Shelby says she'll stay with him while we clean, which will also give her the opportunity to accomplish two math lessons. There goes the pool. Pull last batch of bread from the oven.

4:30 - Receive a call from Kathy, who was meeting us at the library. She is not only already there (miscommunication on times), she's finished everything. WOW!! I send texts to everyone coming to let them know we now have the night off thanks to Madame Hartzell.

4:45 - Clean up from dinner while Shelby is finishing her math. Have Tucker start a "Phineas and Ferb" from the TiVo for the littles while he lays on the couch. Dawson begins vacuuming and Isabelle is  cuddling Elias, who just woke up from a nap.

5:00 - Have the littles put on their pjs and brush their teeth, so we can enjoy some unexpected quite time together. Bag the bread and Isabelle helps me load it into the basket while Shelby feeds Elias his porridge and Dawson mops the kitchen floor. Isabelle finishes and heads into the living room where I am instructed to "not come in or you'll spoil my surprise!"

5:25 - Shelby heads up to give Elias his bath and I ask Isabelle if I may come into the living room yet. I would like to check the status on some eBay sales we have ending today in case we have questions from potential buyers. After a few more minutes, I am allowed in to find Isabelle has managed to put the entire couch back together by herself. Quite the feat!  Isabelle and I go upstairs to change the sheets on the twins' and Tucker's bed. We put Tucker's freshly laundered new quilt on his bed.

5:40 - Isabelle asks if they can go to bed early and listen to two sides of an audio book. I'm all for that, so we read a quick book together as a family ("Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey  -- family favorite) and go upstairs.

5:30 - Remember Dawson told me earlier that the drain in the kids bathroom is clogged. Drat again! Tucker is admiring his new quilt and Keats, Aidan and Abigail all ask if the can sit on it and "feel the newness." Tucker invites everyone up onto his bed and Isabelle obliges by grabbing several Berenstain Bear books for the four of them to look at.

5:40 - Dawson brings up my plumbers wrench, the bucket, and a towel. He can't find the pipe dope, but he'll keep looking. I pull apart the pipes under the sink and clean out the muck. Ew. Ew, ew, ew!! Shelby brings in a pencil to finish pushing out the gunk-clot, which lands in the bucket with a tremendous splash. Gross.

5:50 - No plumber's dope has been located yet by Dawson, so I proceed downstairs to show him what a terribly bad finder of anything he is by putting my hands on the dope within -- literally -- seconds. He gives me a sheepish grin and says (I quote); "I didn't think to move things around while looking." No kidding.

5:55 - I am reassembling the plumbing, Dawson is changing Abigail's bed sheet to get a jump-start on tomorrow's chores, the girl's are cleaning up/sorting their room, the four readers are still cozied up on Tucker's quilt, and Elias is just happily crawling around and grinning at everyone.

6:30 - Everyone is officially in their bed areas waiting for prayers. I begin in the boys room and listen to each of these men-in-training chat with God about their day, their hopes, their fears, and their thankfulness. It is always a humbling moment to hear their prayers as they are such pure thoughts. After rounds of hugs, kisses, and admonishments to keep bed-lamps off tonight, I close the door with our standard "Miss Clavel" moment from "Madeline" -- "Goodnight Little Boys, Thank the Lord you are well. And now go to sleep . . ." and they reply (with grins in their voices): "Said Miss Clavel!"

6:50 - A repeat of prayers, hugs, kisses and giggles in the now tidy girls' room. Abigail is safely zipped in her bed and Elias is beginning to squirm in order to remind me that he prefers to nurse after his bath. Another round of Miss Clavel later, and I leave the upstairs with both bedroom doors securely shut as the sounds of Jim Dale's voice begins to drift from both rooms. Ahh, the magical sounds of Harry Potter on audio book.

7:20 - Elias and I have put everything into it's proper place and I sit to enjoy some quiet snuggle time with my boy. His blue eyes stay with mine for longer than I expected before his eyelids begin to flutter, slowly staying closed more than open. Eventually, he slips into a light sleep which quickly gives way to a deep, peaceful, relaxed sleep.

7:45 - I carry Elias upstairs and gently lay him into his crib. He wakes enough to cry for a very short moment, almost as if he is crying simply to let me know that he'd rather I didn't put him down before giving into the overwhelming desire to sleep. He stops before the bedroom door is even closed completely.

7:50 - There are still things to do, which seem minor compared to the rest of today. I switch another load of laundry and begin to clean-up from our plumbing adventures. Of course, by now that ridiculous song is in my head, playing over and over. What I wouldn't give tonight to have Jenna and Ryan both here singing it!

And so, I am going to squeeze a few more minutes of work out of my body before I go upstairs. I need to pick Scott up in the morning and we have a market booth to staff. I know tomorrow will be busy, too. But regardless of the way it felt, today is coming to an end. And so I know that as long as I simply focus on "the next thing," we can truly accomplish just about anything.

It's a good life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer with a Bang

This pile 'o' shoes means only one thing. We have officially begun our summer chaos.

After a break from the pool last year, we are back in the swim of things this year. Shelby, Dawson, Isabelle, & Tucker are Barracudas, swimming for our pool's summer swim team. It is Tucker's first year and after getting over a serious case of nerves, he is now quite the speedy little fish.  We span the ages for practice, so we have a Rutherford in each and every practice session. Shelby and Dawson get dropped at the pool at 8:30 am and swim until 10. At that point, the rest of us have arrived for Isabelle to swim from 10 - 11:00 while the younger five run around the extensive and blessedly fenced in "non-pool" grounds. Tucker hits the water from 10:45 - 11:30. After he dries off a little, we head home for some lunch.

And, after lunch comes . . . SCHOOL. Yes, we school year-round. Yes, we've almost always schooled year round. And, yes, this is the first year EVER that any of the children have said, "I'm actually glad we go year round. It feels weird to not be learning." Cool. They started back up this Tuesday and we are taking it easy this week by just tackling math and American History, which only takes up about 1.5 hours of our day. Next week we shall be adding in science: Astronomy for most of us, Biology for highschooler (gasp!) Shelby. Then comes language arts/literature followed by ancient history. Somewhere in there we'll start back up with typing, art history, and music theory. Not to mention Shelby, Dawson, & Isabelle are beginning piano lessons after their camp season is over. And Dawson is helping Tucker with his reading. And Shelby and Isabelle are teaching Keats, Aidan, & Abigail using "Five in a Row." Productive productive!!

Once school is complete, we generally head back to the pool for some water fun for the littles, who are forced to go to the pool in the morning and never touch the beckoning blue waves of water. Poor kids. We are considering placing them into swim lessons the week after next so that Keats, Aidan, and Abigail could get some intensive swim learning in. Elias is just happy crawling every & any where.

Of course, Fridays mean that after school ends for the day, our bread baking begins for Saturday's Exeter Community Farmer's Market. This year is significantly simpler in that we are only baking 24 loaves of bread for now. We are praying that the amount increases since the more bread we sell, the more money goes to the charities and organizations we support throughout the summer. Last weeks total of $220 all went to the Exeter Community Library, which felt pretty doggone good.

So, if we're baking on Friday then we're selling on Saturday. Scott helps with the booth set-up on his way home from work. He joins us at home for our family Bible-study, shower, and much earned rest, the last of which is our cue to exit the premises. We head over to the market where the children use their charm to sell while also learning to make change and chat politely with adults.

And, this summer, just for fun we have thrown in a family service project largely managed by the children. We learned that Camp Manatawny wasn't recycling while we were attending family camp. After a family meeting and a conversation with the caretaker, we had found a cause to adopt! So, every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday after-Farmer's Market, we'll drive out to camp to collect recycling bags. Our community has a drop center and the larger the volume processed, the better for the township. My job is simply to drive the kids back and forth. Their job is to collect, load, and unload. Pretty simple stuff with a pretty big impact!

Then there is the annual pilgrimage those Rutherfords of age make to Camp Manatawny's hallowed grounds for a week of sleep-away camp. This year, four of our offspring will be slurping jello, wearing wet clothes, running unders up the flag-pole, and all in all enjoying life away from the townhouse.

Ahh, the gentle beckoning of Sir Elias waking up from his nap. Time to move onto our "next thing." (Which right now will be nursing Elias, waking Scott, and then heading over for our annual clean-up at the library grounds after which we'll eat some Taco Soup before going to the pool to cool off. And somewhere in there the children are hoping to meet our new dog, a chocolate lab named Bill.)