Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Littles No Longer

Vocabulary Lesson for today's post:

Littles: the younger grouping of Rutherford children who require more assistance than they are able to give.

OARs: Oldest Available Rutherfords have the ability to accomplish many of the tasks required throughout the day in Rutherford-dom.

Today was the day Tucker has been anticipating for weeks, months, and years. He was taken to Camp Manatawny and left for his very first week of sleep away camp. This is such a milestone in each of the children's lives and Tucker felt the weight of the change. I just didn't realize until later how seriously he took this moment.

We arrived extremely late, with only five minutes left to register Tucker. We had managed to get trapped behind a verrrryyyyyyy sloooooowwwwww truck driver, turning what should have been a 10 minute jaunt into 25 minutes of agony. Moments after we managed to get everyone unloaded, friends of ours pulled in next to us. Now, I love this family (who have six children themselves) but trying to get anything accomplished when our kids combine forces is laughable. They also have a first time camper in their midst. We managed to herd all 12 of the accompanying children into the lower level of Garret Hall where we were the only two families left to register. As I waited my turn I realized that our combined children made as much noise as the entire registration gaggle normally does. I handed the business end while Shelby had the unenviable privilege of quieting the troops. The moment the business was transacted, the kids ran for the vans to grab the gear the boys needed for their week of camp and headed over to their mutual home away from home, Boys Cabin 10.

I always manage to forget how much more is involved in settling in a first time camper. Shelby, Dawson, and Isabelle each hit their cabin, we meet their counselor and then it's a hug, kiss and "See ya' Saturday!" before the kids are ready to part company with us. Not so for a first-timer. You have to help them make their bed and unpack a few choice items. "Here is your dirty laundry bag. Your gross clothes go in here, not on the floor. And this is your toothbrush and toothpaste. Please - take pity on the rest of your cabin mates and use it daily. And about this stack of clean underwear. While I would prefer you change it daily, please at least crumple it up into the dirty clothes on Friday so I think you changed it, okay?"

Shelby had Tucker's bed made in a jiffy while Isabelle helped him organize his cubby for his duffle and shoes. Meanwhile, I was helping him change into his sneakers since Boy's Athletics had already been called and there is very little at camp Tucker was looking forward to more than Athletics. Just about the time we wrapped up serving Tucker, his counselor was free so we finally made all the introductions. And that was that. Time for goodbye.

I never know how each child will respond at this moment. I seem to always guess wrong, so while my head said Tucker would have a hard time given all the nervous questions he had been asking, experience was telling me the kid wouldn't even notice. Experience was right. He was hugging and kissing the whole crew goodbye, completely prepared and anxious for his adventure to begin. And then it happened.

Abigail became a weeping mess. "Tucker can't stay here! He can't!" She began to cry in earnest.

I shot Shelby a dumbfounded look, which she was mirroring. I knelt beside Abigail and asked her what she was talking about.

"Tucker can't stay! He's a little!"

I tried to explain it to her. "Honey, Tucker is staying at Camp just like Dawson. Remember - we picked up Dawson this morning? Tucker will come home."

"But Dawosn is my BIG OAR brother. Tucker is my littles brother. He's a little like me! HE CAN'T STAY!"

I was so completely caught off guard I was silent. And in my moment of silence came Tucker to the rescue. He gently lifted her up into his arms and she clung to his neck while wrapping her legs around his waist. He craned his neck way back so he could see her face and explained the situation to her as only a big brother could.

"Abigail, I'm an OAR now. I'm not a Little any more. It's time for me to go to camp. I'm a brother for you like Dawson now. I love you and you'll be alright." And he set her down. She gazed up at him with eyes still dewy and said simply, "Alright Tucker. Have fun." And that was that. He stayed with his cabin and we walked to the van, loaded up, and left the camp that I now realized has become a symbol of reaching OARdom for our kids.

And so, my son is a littles no more. He is officially an OAR. Welcome aboard, Master Rutherford.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th, Rutherford Style

Today, being Friday the 13th, has always been one of those "special days" in the calendar which we anticipate. I honestly don't know the reason Friday the 13th is supposed to be unlucky. I guess I never really cared enough to add that information to my stores of useless trivia knowledge.

This year, though, Friday the 13th means Elias's first birthday. How fun is it that every 6 years or so our boy gets to have a completely bad luck birthday party? At least, those were the original plans this year. We were going to have ladders leaning against the walls to walk under, salt on every table, black cats peering out everywhere, broken mirrors along the food table and cracks to walk over. I loved the idea of celebrating a year of firsts among every superstition we could think of. I'm just not sure why it appealed to each of us so much. It could be more of that weird Rutherford living showing again.

However, our plans were dashed when we realized that most of the family would be gone doing their own things this evening and so we decided to move the celebration to Sunday. It only makes sense when you realize that the best part of a first birthday party is the entire cake-eating/wearing display. So today was supposed to be a normal Friday the 13th. Clean some bathrooms, bake some bread, pack a kid for Camp Manatawny. I guess I should say it's a normal summer Friday. But, like most good Rutherford days, this one had a twist.

Aidan's cast was due to come off today. I took all the Little Rutherfords (minus Dawson who is already at Camp this week) with me to the Orthopedist. We all filed in one at a time to the office and I heard several of the nurses counting under their breath. "One, two, three, four . . ." As this was not my first experience with the whispered counting, I was completely prepared for the inevitable.

"Are they all yours?"

"Nope. I picked up some random kids to bring with me to the doctor's office. A broken arm wasn't a interesting enough. We had to add to the drama."

I wish. What I really said was, "Yes, they're all ours." Totally polite, yet boring, answer.

Anyway, we were all sitting in this large room equipped with one exam table, one chair, and one spinning stool I immediately declared off limits. We managed to find a place for everyone just as a nurse came in and called out in a chipper voice. "Are you ready, Aidan?"

Aidan, trusting soul that he is, smiled politely and said, "Yes ma'am." Immediately, he looked at me and whispered, "Ready for what?"

I had no idea. This is our first foray into broken bones and Scott had made the initial visit to the Ortho's office. I was about to inquire what was next when I heard a nice, loud whirring noise. Gulp. I know what that means. I may have never seen it done, but I had heard stories about the saws of death used to remove casts so I was pretty sure I now knew exactly what was next.

I turned expectantly, waiting for her to calmly explain to Aidan what was about to happen. Boy, was that the exact opposite of what happened! Just as I turned, the nurse was lifting Aidan's arm and beginning to saw away without a single word. Aidan, who is easily the calmest Rutherford in the bunch, sat very still while his eyes became the size of dinner plates. He and I both stared, dumbfounded, as she continue to move the miniature saw of death with convenient vacuum attachment over Aidan's arm. Then, just for good measure, she flipped his arm over and did it again!

Okay - no blood and I'm sure it's a pretty easy finishing job from here. Right? Nope. Next came the gigantic clamps of death, which were used to pry the razored cast open. Aidan's eyes were now bugging out of his head. Okay. That was surprising, but I'm sure we're finished now. Right? Nope. Next came the gigantor scissors used to cut the knit lining inside the cast off. Aidan's eyes just popped right out of their sockets and dangled down his cheeks. Not really, but his eyes were wide enough they could have popped out. And now . . . it was finished.

We did have a couple of x-rays to go before we were allowed to get our lollipops and leave. And this time, I took a lolly too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Always Interesting

I have been spending most of this week squinting at bright lights and cringing away from sounds as I have dealt with a horrible headache since late Sunday afternoon. Just today I learned that it is most likely the result of a virus which will run its course within a week. I was actually happy to hear that because it meant I could just accept that I have an ache in my head rather than secretly worrying I was finally feeling the effects of a gigantic tumor pressing on my optic nerve. I know - morbid, but that's usually where my over-active imagination runs to. Just another reason I am very careful about the types of movies I watch.

Just yesterday while I was sitting and trying not to move too much, I was going over what safety procedures it is time for our family to review. One of the downsides of having a larger family is that I remember teaching certain topics, but I don't always remember to whom or how long ago. To solve this very real issue we simply repeat sciences and history in a loop every 3-4 years, so we know everyone has learned the same things and the older children delve deeper as they repeat it for the second and eventually the third time.

Safety issues are done annually, usually in late August or September.  The whole fire drill practice with all of the kids meeting at the tree in front of our house and stop-drop-and-roll time. We include kitchen safety (knives are not for swordplay & boiling pots are not to be substituted for Shakespearean cauldrons), bathroom safety (drain the tub before you leave a room unsupervised and no duckies in the toilet), and internet safety (if you wouldn't want everyone -- including the creepiest guy you can think of and your mother knowing this -- don't put it on the web.)

Of course, having children aged one to 14 in our house means we deal with some things most families with a 14 year old have outgrown - cabinet locks, electrical outlet covers, cable guards, anti-tip devices on shelves. Well -- the anti-tip device really should be a must for anyone raising boys. I don't care how old they are. So during our annual safety discussion time, we also make time to repair and replace any of our safety latches needing attention. For example, the cabinet lock which protects the potatoes really does need to be replaced as Elias has developed a taste for raw potatoes. I know this because just a few days ago each potato I pulled out for cooking had a miniature Elias-sized nibble removed from it.

All of this thinking makes today's events more than just a little ironic. As I was sitting and squinting (headache - remember?), Abigail was brought into me. Shelby was carrying her and while it was obvious she was upset, I didn't realize Abigail was crying until she was on my lap and in my arms. Completely bewildered, I was both comforting Abigail and questioning Shelby. Eventually I managed to learn the bizarre and awful truth. Abigail was injured while sucking on a plugged-in laptop charger.

Really? She saw this plug and decided, "I think that looks tasty." How does that work?

After about 15 minutes, Abigail calmed down enough for me to go investigate the area to make certain I really did understand what I was being told. Sure enough, a drool-coated charger was dangling off the shelf, the surge protector was blown, the 2 GFI switches were popped, and the breaker was thrown. Wow. That is some powerful spit.

Now that I had confirmed that our princess had electrocuted herself, I called the pediatrician and explained our predicament before asking if Abigail needed to be seen or if there were simply things we needed to watch for. I was given the signs to watch for during the next 6 hours, assuring the doctor that if any of the signs appeared we would bring Abigail in immediately for some neurological tests. And Scott gave her a very thorough exam when he woke up before going to work.

The six hours of observation came and went and Abigail was very much her normal self. The house, however, hasn't been so lucky. The surge protector did it's job and is now trashed. And the upstairs GFI refuses to reset, which means it will need to be replaced. Which isn't too big a deal until you realize that is the outlet the bathroom night light uses, which means it is a pretty high priority to fix. (To understand why this is a priority, I direct you to the post entitled "Utterly True" about chicken-in-the-dark twins.)

During evening prayers, we were all thankful that Abigail was completely fine and that the repairs are minor. I tucked the children into bed and came back downstairs, thinking again about our upcoming safety reminders. I am officially adding "Do not suck on plugs. Ever." to the list.

It is always interesting around here!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Breaking Point

I hit quite the low point last week. I have heard the phrase "burned out" for as long as I have memories of words, but I truly never experienced it before last week. My bucket was empty. My commitments were too many. I wasn't up to the task. I had bitten off more than I could chew. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. Pick your phrase - I was there. And all I can say about my visit into overwhelmed land is: yuck.

I have heard that there are individuals who take up permanent residence in such a land. Really? Why? I can't imagine ever wanting to feel such an utter sense of depletion on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. For goodness sakes, I don't want to feel it ever again - why would you chose to live there?

In all honesty, I'm not sure what happened last week. I think it was simply the combination of a very busy swim season combined with the commitments of our weekly Farmer's Market, which we have never done simultaneously before. Throw in school work for the older four plus Keats and Aidan learning to read and you certainly have full days right there. Of course clothes still needed to be cleaned, a home maintained, food purchased and prepared, items used up needed to be replenished, children going to sleep-away church camp plus one who left the state. Don't forget the ER visits for a ruptured eardrum (Keats) and a broken arm (Aidan), not to mention the follow up doctor's appointments for those two calamities. There were other doctor visits as well - Aidan's follow-up for his tube-check (they are both finally out!) and well checks for a couple of our littles. And, in the midst of it all were the efforts involved with planting a new church and dealing with an employer who is doing everything to accept Scott's time and not compensate him for it. It was a very full six weeks.

Usually Scott and I do a pretty good job of maintaining our personal level of crazy without it being overwhelming. Not so last week. I arrived home on Friday afternoon to my children cleaning the house from top to bottom. It was wonderful to see and I was so appreciative of their kindness, initiative, and thoughtfulness. Right up until Shelby met me at the door. I should be honest and say that the teenager and I have been butting heads lately, but Friday we hit a new level. Her response to my returning home from dropping Scott at work?

"Can you leave?"

It wasn't said with malice, but it wasn't kindly requested either. I replied, "Babe - I haven't even started the bread for the market yet. I really need to be home." Drama rushed in through the open door faster than the air-conditioned air was rushing out.

"FINE! We were trying to do something nice . . ."

My oh-so-mature response to this comment? "Fine. I'll leave. You call me when I can come home." And I left.

Of course, Shelby made quite the scene of yelling "MOM!" after me, trying to quickly undo her attitude and comments. But it fell on deaf ears. I was at my breaking point. Enough was enough. I could no longer be all things to all people. I went to my daddy and mommy's house where I sat and enjoyed a glass of wine while the littles (who had all come with me to take Scott to work) enjoyed some unexpected play-time in the backyard.

An hour or so later, I gathered up the children who were with me and we headed home. Somehow, in that hour sitting at my mother and father's house consuming my glass of fermented grapes, I regained my perspective on life, family, and commitments. I remembered again why I was thankful Scott has a great job. I felt up to the task of molding the teenager instead of leaving her to figure it out on her own. I knew that I would, without a doubt, be ready to read to Abigail her favorite stories. Again. That I could be enthusiastic over Tucker, Keats, and Aidan's newest achievements in their quest to conquer all things physical. That I could help Dawson pack for his round of sleep-away camp with true excitement for his upcoming adventures. That I would bake the bread thinking not of myself, but rather of the people the money raised would serve.

In short - I remembered that my energy is spent on the people I love and serving the God I adore. Yes, there had been heavy usage lately and I wasn't quite over it yet. It was really only this morning that I began to feel like myself again. But I had found the strength that flows from Above again.