Saturday, July 31, 2010

Utterly True

The story you are about to read is absolutely, without a doubt,  no exaggerating, sure enough the truth.
The cover of In A Dark, Dark Room

Today's blog about our goings-on last night actually begins with a book which has been read for days and weeks and years, ever since Shelby was younger. It is marketed as an easy reader and it is a family favorite entitled "In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories." We are actually on our second copy since we read the first copy to tatters. It is perfectly spooky for Rutherfords of all ages. In it are stories such as The Ghost of John with his long white bones and the flesh all gone.

The Ghost of John illustration
And then there is the story of Jenny, who wears a ribbon about her neck her entire life. On the day of her death, she allows her husband to finally untie the ribbon . . .
The illustration of Jenny's de-ribboned neck.
And, of course,  you have the required ghost stories which include a pirate ghost who announces "And ME!" to a little girl searching her room who sighs, "There is no one here but me!" and the ghost who comes out of a secret box inside the Dark, Dark House.

The final illustration for the story about a Dark, Dark House.

Last night I was sleeping deeply enough that it took me a few moments to realize that the noise I thought was inside my dream was actually a child calling "Mom!" very loudly. Disoriented, I listened for a moment, trying to place who and where.

"Mom!" Pause. "Mom!" Pause. "Mom!" Pause. "MOM!" Pause. "MOM!" Pause. "MOM!" Pause. "MOM!" Pause.

It finally sunk into my awareness that part of my befuddlement was the fact that it was pitch black in our room. Ahhhhh . . . dawning realization. Power outage and a chicken-in-the-dark twin. I sat up and realized it was very, very dark. I waited for a moment, trying to think clearly about how to proceed while listening to the continuing escalation of panicked "MOM!"s being shouted, when I remembered my Light Wedge. The Light Wedge is a book-sized piece of plexi-glass with two LED lights shining into the clear plastic, allowing the entire page to light up. I picked it up off the bed and flicked it on. Instant light. My watch read 2:30 am, which means there is plenty of time to salvage the sleeping portion of my day.

I carried it out into the hallway, vaguely aware that Elias was waking up in our room as I was leaving. Keats's terrified face met the blue lights from my impromptu flashlight. I calmed Keats down and left the Light Wedge with him as a night light and went back to bed. Of course by now, Elias was completely awake and ready for some attention. I laid down to nurse him, hoping that the light would have enough battery power to get us through the night.

Moments after Elias fell asleep again, Keats walks into our room. Of all the things he is quite good at, whispering is not one of them.

Keats: "Mom! What if the batteries fall out? [Elias wakes up with a start.] What if we have to live in the Dark, Dark House again? Mom - what do we do?"

Me: [picking up Elias to begin rocking him with one arm while comforting Keats with the other] "Keats, it will be fine. The batteries won't fall out. Really. Go back to bed."

Keats leaves and I lay Elias back down, who fusses gently and then falls back asleep. Perhaps four and a half minutes go by.

Keats: "MOM! [Elias begins to cry again] I heard the voice saying 'And me!' just like in the Dark, Dark House! Mom, HE'S HERE!!!"

Me: "Keats - go to you room while I calm down Elias and I will be right there. It's okay. I promise."

Keats leaves again, I rock Elias and lay him back down. Of course, this time there is no gentle fussing but rather full fledged crying. Keats again appears in the doorway.

"Mom! Is Elias alright? Is he scared like me" [Elias cries harder.] I think to myself, No, he isn't scared. He just wants you to learn to whisper!!

I sigh, kiss Elias on the forehead, and leave with Keats, firmly shutting the door on Elias. I know he's upset but it will quickly pass because he's tired. Sure enough, within minutes, E is silent. I go in with Keats to tuck him into bed and whisper good night. He looks at me with wide eyes and asks me to please stay. Truly, this request is a rarity, so I agree. I grab a very hard pillow they use as a doorstop an throw it on the carpet next to him. Then I pull a fleece blanket off Tucker, who mumbles, "Hey! That's mine!" before snoring some more. I spread Tucker's quilt over his sleeping body and curl up on the floor next to Keats.

I sleepily watch for Keats to fall asleep so I can return to my very, very comfortable bed with the freshly laundered sheets on top of my beloved four-inch memory foam. It takes almost an hour, but Keats finally begins to nod off. I turn off the light wedge and I am about to get out from under my fleece cocoon when I hear Tucker's voice.

"Dawson?" Pause. "Dawson?" Pause. "Dawson!" Pause. "DAWSON!"

Ahhh, Tucker is aware there is no light.

Me: "Tucker."

Tucker: silence.

Me: "Tucker."

Tucker: "Dawson, you're voice sounds weird."

Me: "Tuck, it's mommy."

Tucker: "Mommy doesn't sleep in here. Who are you?!"

Me: "Tuck! It's me, mom!"

Tucker: "No - mom sleeps in the other room!"

I remembered the light wedge, which was so helpful for Keats. I lift it up and hold it in front of my face in order for Tucker to see that it's me once I turn it on. I flip the switch.

Blood curdling scream follows.

Keats wakes up yelling gibberish and Aidan sits up and yells, "What?" Aidan sees my glowing head and jumps, banging his head into the bunk above him. Dawson never, ever moves.

Realizing I have made quite the colossal mistake, I resolve to my night of sleeping on top of the comfortably soft but irritatingly scratchy wool rug next to the three boys who will probably never forget this particular power outage. Or their remarkably idiotic mother.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The D's Nest

Years ago we were dreaming at a Pottery Barn Outlet when we stumbled upon a Queen-sized Pottery Barn Kid's Quilt with a surfer theme marked down from $175 to $20. So -- no brainer for us -- we doubled timed it to the register and purchased it for Dawson. I figured he could double it up on his twin sized bunk since he is always so cold, and the price plus quality made me willing to make it work!

Dawson loves this quilt specifically because of it's size. He crawls onto his bed and cocoons inside the quilt like a little ball. Seeing our lanky boy all squashed into this tiny sleeping mode caused Scott to christen Dawson's bed "The D's Nest."

Dawson flew to Arkansas for his birthday 10 days ago, while Shelby was at Camp Manatawny. Shortly after he left, we stripped all the sheets off the beds in order to make certain both Shelby and Dawson returned home to freshly laundered sheets and bedding with perfectly plumped pillows. Scott and I have passed on our love of crisp sheets to the kids, and I always change beds early on in the week when the kids are gone to ensure that nothing interferes in providing this "Welcome Home" gift.

Everything went as planned until the younger children crawled up to The D's Nest. Hmm. Apparently, we have misnamed The Nest. It seems it would be much more appropriate to simply call it "Magpie Haven." A Magpie is famous for stealing shiny objects in order to build its nest. Now I am not calling my son a thief, but his nest certainly looked as if it had been assembled by the Magpie. I would absolutely expect to find sheets, quilt, some favorite stuffed animals, a pillow, and a book or two. (These kids are Rutherford/Dubach hybrids after all. They read until they drop asleep onto the page.) I did not expect to find several card board boxes, 4 changes of clothing, every missing sock from the lonely sock basket (including some of his sisters'), several pencils and pens, tissues, candy wrappers, more paper scraps than I cared to count, football cards, baseball cards, hockey cards,  Legos, K-nex,  magnifying glass, specimen jars from the science shelf, GI Joe goldfish cards, a missing toothbrush . . .

Beds are absolutely off limits in our home to all but the assigned sleeper. Beds are literally the ONLY private place we each have here in Rutherford-dom, so we keep them sacred. You may climb onto another's bed only when invited or when serving said sibling/parent by taking off or putting on sheets. So I knew that this was not some evidence of naughty Littles we were discovering, but rather Dawson's recent version of "Of course I picked up my room and made my bed."

The next time Dawson phoned, I politely and enthusiastically listened to his adventures before I mentioned his D's Nest. I was met by momentary silence which was followed by a slow, deep chuckle which eventually morphed into a full-fledged chortle. And what, pray tell, do you think his comment was when confronted with the Magpie-style sleep environment he was maintaining?

"Sorry mom! I didn't think you could still climb up there!"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Mountain

I think every family has their own version of The Mountain. For some, it is orderly and neatly maintained. For others, it is overgrown and threatens to topple with the slightest breeze. But, regardless of the state of your mountain, if you are blessed enough to live here in the States, you have The Mountain somewhere in your home.


Right now, I have a load in the washer, a load in the dryer, and a load patiently sitting at my feet waiting to be folded and returned to it's potential energy storage. Of course, once clothing is put on in this house it morphs into Kinetic Energy with the speed of light, but that's for another post.

Generally, folding is accomplished in the morning by several Little Rutherfords around the dining room table while enjoying an audio book on the iPod. Lately, we have been listening to "The Red Pyramid" by Rick Riordan, which we also happen to be reading aloud (as able this crazy month) in the evenings. But given the recent scattering to the winds of Little Rutherfords combined with our unusual business, laundry is being accomplished with more of the "hey - anyone available?" method.

I must confess, I'm not really a fan of this method. I really, really like my usual method. All the day's clothes are thrown into the washer - no sorting. If there are any fairly new/still might dye bleed clothes included, a Shout Color Catcher is added in for good measure. Then, 1 TBS of Charlie's Soap into the drawer along with 1 TBS of baking soda to soften our ridiculously mineralized water followed by a splash of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser later, I walk out and let my servant, LG, perform his duties. I adore my servant LG - he is quite capable at his duties, freeing me to any number of other activities I might choose to pursue. And he quite amicably works extra-duty should the stain cycle be required, or an extra rinse be called for, or any of the other laundry-related skills be deemed necessary.

Once LG has completed his task then his fraternal twin, also named LG, takes over with the drying. Again - amazing that I can do so many other things while he does his job! Generally, once this second LG takes over I retire for the night under the guise of reading (for all of 10 minutes, max) before being unable to avoid sleep any longer. Which means that I, along with my Little Rutherfords, awake to completely, wonderfully, cleaned clothing just waiting for us to finalize the process. Truly - this is still a marvel to me, especially after particularly muddy-play days.

Folding is, as I have said, a family affair. The younger Little Rutherfords sit around the table and wait for hand-outs such as square rags, face wipes, or napkins so they are able to join in the folding. Some are in the more advanced stages of training: t-shirts, shorts, and balling up the sock pairs. A few have the knowledge of folding but lack the height to accomplish hanging the clothes on the bar in the laundry room, which requires enlisting the help of one just a wee bit taller. And so our morning usually begins over the flat surface of a table working to accomplish one common goal together. It is a good way to begin days which find most of us within the same rooms accomplishing many goals as time progresses.

The "is any one available" method leaves a lot to be desired. For one, it is completely random. There is no dependability whatsoever. Times and availability are completely determined by chance and open windows of time. For an activity which generates upwards of 40 - 75 items per day, chance isn't a great catch net. Secondly, I am amazed at how quickly Little Rutherfords become busy when they are given the option of being available. Suddenly there is great activity about me as books are being read, puzzles are being assembled, and great towers are being constructed. And yet, incredibly enough, each of these oh so busy individuals expect that laundry will be replenished with regularity, regardless of their input. I don't really see how this attitude contributes to a family growing together.

While I don't care for the laundry results, I do appreciate the occasional bout of "is any one available" simply because it reminds me that there is value in routine. We rarely feel overwhelmed by The Mountain precisely because we climb it daily as a family. When we remove several parts of our family, when we allow our outside activities to crowd out our usual time or, such as this week when we do both, it is a wonderful reminder that our family needs balance. A reminder that my business it to be a keeper at home rather than having home be a pit-stop in the day. A reminder that mixed in with all of the experiences life brings their way, each of our children is being trained to no longer need Scott and I. Which means that they, too, must learn to balance the outside activities with the demands of a home and family. A reminder that their most important experience is learning when to say yes and when to decline.

Who knew laundry could do so much?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I accept it. I'm just a weird cookie. I blame my parents. And all of those influential people people they put in my life. So really, it's not my fault at all. I'm weird because they made me that way. The normal, expected mom-reactions seem to elude me, which is just one facet of my weirdness.

Tonight we put our second oldest on an airplane in order to enable him to fly 1,000 miles away from us for two weeks. Did I do the traditional mom thing and cry over my baby growing up? Nope. I watched him standing against the pre-boarding wall all slouched and bored looking with his back-pack slung onto his shoulders and realized something. He isn't a boy any longer. He is officially my man-child. Standing there, I saw my brother Ryan all over again. Same facial expression, same posture, same air of indifference while waiting for the excitement to commence, same sense of reserving the energy until there is a reason to spend it.

I am officially working myself out of a job with this man-child of mine and his woman-girl older sister. My influential time with them both is shrinking. It is time for me to begin scaling back my opinions and thoughts in order to watch their wings begin to spread. To take on more of an advisory roll than the more comfortable role of dictator. Who knew this moment would arrive after a mere blink of an eye? As I stood there looking at my brother recycled, I felt the first stirrings of confidence that we CAN do this next phase of life, and do it well.

After all, not only are the same people who made me weird still around, we've added to their numbers. Our adults-in-the-making don't stand a chance.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is There Any Hope

Abigail, our ringlet-haired princess, will turn three on August 25. She is brilliant in so many ways with one glaring exception. The use of a real-life toilet confounds her greatly. She has no desire to sit anywhere near the porcelain throne, let alone on it. When any of us attempt to explain the benefits of toilet training we are met with a completely blank stare rather than usual sparkles of excitement, knowledge, and a wee bit of mischief thrown in.

And so, diapers continue to be changed with regularity. And occasionally we are treated to the sight which met Scott upon entering his Kingdom after being away for the afternoon.

Truly - if this diaper/tumor doesn't even register in her consciousness, is there any hope that this youngest daughter of ours will ever use the indoor plumbing?


All Things Weasley

We adore the Weasley Family from the Harry Potter Books, and we take delight in being compared to their family. Once the twins were born, the comparisons between the two families increased exponentially. And then there is our camping tent, which is an enormous two room Columbia and is referred to within our camping community as -- I'm certain you see where this is going -- the Weasley Tent.

Scott came upstairs the other day to walk into our bedroom where he found the pictured plates and bowls exactly as you see them here. I had carried them upstairs and simply set them on a chair in our bedroom before walking away. I truly cannot count the number of times I have walked passed them and not really noticed anything about the stack other than to think: those really need to be listed on Craigslist so we can get rid of them. Then, Scott came in one evening, paused, and then knelt down to really study the discarded dishes. His observation caused quite the bubble of mirth from both of us: "That is a tower of bowls in the Weasley home if I ever saw one!"

He's right, of course. Bowls would be stacked in just this manner in Molly Weasley's kitchen. And, of course, the shelf wouldn't truly be able to hold much more than the weight of a feather but for the magic used to strengthen it. The description of the Weasley home is really nothing like or own home. There is no pile of Wellingtons just outside the front door. We tend towards flip-flops and Crocs or snow boots. We also do not have an infestation of garden gnomes. We are simply overrun with Voles, one of whom ran across my foot two days ago while waiting for a Rutherford Straggler to come out of the house on the way to swim practice. (Eww.) We also lack the precarious leanings of a home obviously held together by magic. But after fixing two toilets this week as well as battling an invasion of ants I would give just about anything for a bit of magic to hold our house together!

I think that which appeals to us about the Weasley family is their obvious closeness and their devotion to one another. They fight evil together (Mostly. To be called Percy is the ultimate insult here in Rutherford-dom.) and watch over one another. They laugh together, learn together, work together, and play together. In all ways their unique largeness as a family resonates with what we actually experience around here. In my opinion, it is the ability to write such utterly believable characters which makes JK Rowling's books so wonderful.

Ever since Scott snapped the photo of our Weasley dishes, I have found myself noticing other "Weasley-Inspired" objects scattered through our home. Unfortunately, I haven't located any of Ollivander's wands, though. That would really be helpful.

Elias Was Here

In my opinion, this post is relatively self-explanatory:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Waves in Motion

I was at the pool this morning watching all of the children in their various pursuits. Shelby, who had just completed her 90 minute practice, was heading to the shower to de-chlorine her hair. Dawson had completed his 90 minutes of swimming and was just beginning 60 minutes of diving. Isabelle, using her signature pencil-dive entry, was just beginning her 60 minutes of swim practice. Tucker was wheedling the coach into letting him practice with the "9 & 10's so I don't get rusty!" even though he is supposed to take Fridays off for his little body to get some rest. Keats, Aidan, and Abigail were Three-Musketeering it at the playground, which is located just down a little grassy knoll from the pool. And Elias was crawling, toddling, and being carried by any swimmer who's eye he could catch. He has completely wrapped the entire team around his finger and they each take turns playing, carrying, and snuggling with our E.

Fridays at the pool are utterly different. Monday through Thursday there is so much purpose. All of the officers are scattered with their laptops, drawing up schedules, papers, sign-ups, and whatever else they do to be important. Moms and dads come and go in their work clothes to check in on progress, sign up for invitationals, and encourage their wet offspring while occasionally admonishing for more respect for the coach. Meltdowns occur with some regularity as one swimmer is pushed a bit too hard or a back-dive goes horribly wrong.

Fridays, however, are like the casual day at the office to the extreme. Officers show up in their swim wear and lounge in beach chairs with juice boxes and water bottles, although they are held in such a way to conjure visions of  Margarita and beers. Parents stroll around and watch, laughing with one another as they share their upcoming weekend plans. Kids compare notes on who will be back at the pool and when for the weekend. 500 meter drills are replaced with Fun Friday Relays. And laughter is heard everywhere.

Truly, my Monday is pretty much the same as my Friday and every day in between. I wear my standard summer uniform - jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap with a pony-tail pulled through. Really, only my footwear fluctuates and even then it's only between flip-flops, Tevas, Crocs, or my beloved Keds. I find it interesting to watch the morphing from the standard through the week into Friday. You can actually see the tension has drained out of everyone for Friday. Why is that? Nothing much has changed. We're still sitting around a pool we can't go in watching our children swim from one end of the pool to the other and back again. Repeat as needed. What is it about Fridays which makes everyone feel so relaxed?

I learned today that I have been given an official title. I am the "Event Scribe." Translation - I am the parent who writes the kids' event numbers on their arms using a Sharpie. As the average meet has 60 events, it is helpful to just look at your child and say, "Show me your arm so I know when you're supposed to be in the water, please." And, since we have four children swimming this year and they are in 3 - 4 events each, having arms to look at is infinitely easier than listening for their name to be called. Informing me of my new title (which Scott shares, by the way) was the only bit of business accomplished today. Otherwise, it was just a lot of laughter and juice box/margarita drinking.

We came home to bake 32 loaves of bread for tomorrow's farmer's market, completing two days worth of schooling (the kids are really enjoying doubling up on lessons on Friday so they can take Saturday off,) and getting Shelby packed for her week away at Camp Manatawny. It was a busy afternoon, but I found myself remembering the easy, carefree attitude that our Friday morning at the pool was surrounded by and I found myself just sort of gliding through each task at hand. I didn't have a juice box in hand, but my water seemed to go down a bit smoother.

I admit, I don't really understand the Friday attitude. But I really enjoyed the after-effects today. It was almost as if you could hear the island music playing wherever you went. Unfortunately, that same music is now beckoning me to end my relaxing Friday by getting some sleep. I wonder if I will be able to wake up in the morning having retained some of Friday's magic. Or, will it be all used up until the next Friday rolls around?