Friday, November 19, 2010


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:


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


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.