Monday, January 24, 2011

high class

Some people have wine tastings. We have marker tastings.
bon app├ętit

Sunday, January 23, 2011

legos, grown-up style

Scott and I are on temporary leave. We have decided that for a short period of time we shall no longer be in our mid-thirties raising a family and devoting every spare moment to this endeavor. We shall no longer be encumbered by all of the responsibilities which come from being mature, wiser individuals who have moved beyond our teen and twenties. We have left behind our usual evening pursuits of Scrabble and documentaries and we have gone so far into our leave that both of us are acting very much like obsessed teen-age boys.

It's all about Harry Potter Lego for Wii.

Yes, we still have our priorities in order. The kids are still schooled, fed, cleaned, and cared for. Scott is still maintaining his work responsibilities and schedule. The house is cleaned, laundry washed, and bills are paid. But when we have a free moment - we are sitting in front of the TV together working our way through the world of Harry Potter, Lego style.

It is not unusual for us to glance at the clock, shriek, and run like crazy to get Scott out the door on time for work. Nor is it unusual for us to play until after midnight when he's home, even knowing that we have very early obligations the next morning.  What is unusual is that this is happening at all.

I'm not entirely sure what it is about this particular game. Perhaps it is because it is Harry Potter and we so love the books. Perhaps it is because it's an easy enough game that I can actually keep up which makes it much more enjoyable for us both. (I'm almost always willing to play the games with the kids, but even the twins can smoke me in MarioKart.) Perhaps it's the Lego concept which means I get to shoot, things explode, and then I get paid for it. Or I get to build, get paid for it, and explode it again. I like the exploding parts very much. (Perhaps there is some pent up hostility I've simply been unaware of residing deep inside the well that is me. Or it could simply be backlash for years and years of training manners by example.)  Most likely it is simply a combination of all of the above.

Regardless of the reason, playing has been a very entertaining way to ditch thinking. While there is the progression within the game which keeps us coming back for more, the reality is that there truly is nothing getting accomplished in the real world. It is very freeing to be doing something while actually doing nothing.

Like all breaks from reality, this will pass and we'll be back to our regularly productive selves. But in the meantime, I'm perfectly content with our do nothing something.

Friday, January 21, 2011

the inner workings of a cracking mind

One afternoon a few months ago I had my first official breakdown. Not the kind where the men in white coats are called and I get carted off to the "mommy spa." Rather, I had the type where as I was sitting in the bathroom changing the roll of toilet paper again, I was suddenly struck by the fact that the reason we go through the sheer volume of toilet paper we do is because we are home all the time. Sure, sure. Ten fannies plus constant company will use up the toilet paper. But so will being home 24/7/365. Now combine that stat with the ten fannies and I think you can see how I arrived at my mental snap.

Most of our neighbors get up every morning and use their water, electricity, and toilet paper for an hour or so before everyone departs for work and school where they promptly begin using water, electricity, and toilet paper provided for their convenience by someone else. Then they return home for an few more hours of use that they pay for before going to sleep.

I actually got myself so worked up that I had his wonderful scenario play itself out in my head where I showed up at the school administration building with a box for each school aged child in my possession. Then, I collected my "supplies." Crayons, markers, pencils, paper, safety scissors, toilet paper, light bulbs, computers, laminating machine, brooms, cafeteria lady, vomit absorbing powder . . .

And then I came out of the bathroom with an unread magazine which had arrived four months earlier. I poured a mug of coffee -- decaf -- and told the children I was taking a break for a few moments because I had finally cracked. And to please hide any toilet paper rolls from my sight for the next week so I simply wasn't aware of how much we were using.

Of course, this last plan totally backfired when I learned we were completely out of toilet paper. Just as I needed some.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Wii As I See It

We have a rather ambitious school schedule for the kids this year in which all of them will be accomplishing two years worth of math during this one year. This decision was made to ensure there is room for calculus in their senior year, which I believe to be a valuable tool for ordered thinking.

An aside here, but I really think that the intrinsic value of math is not being able to figure multiple equations for the unknown, but rather to learn how to think systematically and with an ordered purpose. A daunting day of too much to do becomes much more manageable when I allow the math portion of my brain to take over and begin to mass tasks, times, and deadlines into groups which are similar and maximize my energy and abilities. This aspect of a mother's life is absolutely grounded in math, not flowing literature which rambles and meanders to whatever end.

So, back to the Wii. We received our Wii from a much beloved Aunt and Uncle who were very disappointed that our family would not be able to attend the family reunion due to my pregnancy with Abigail. (And as she wound up in the NICU and then transferred to St. Christopher's in Philadelphia, I have never regretted our decision to heed our OB's advice.) Scott and I were hesitantly excited. Excited because it was a Wii and it sounded like so much fun. Hesitant because while we did have a GameCube, we did not leave it set up but rather stored in the game closet just like any other board game. This out of sight, out of addicted-little-boy-trouble solution meant that while we could play games, we weren't treated to the daily whines of "Can I, Can I, Can I." The Wii isn't exactly the type of system to be set-up and then taken down as you feel like it.

Fast forward over three years later and I have to admit that I really do love having a Wii. It is fun, we play together as we have mostly 4 player games, and we really do enjoy the Wii Fit and Zumba games for daily exercise.

But my favorite part of the Wii has nothing to do with any of these reasons.

Each morning, my younger four will follow me around the house, school books clutched in hands, begging for me to do their lessons. My older three quickly came up with solutions on their own to ensure that they would have their primary school work as well as the daily family'o'10 chores accomplished before lunch.

I would love to say this burning desire for their education to be mastered is because our children simply adore learning and they just can't get enough of reading, writing, and arithmetic. I would be over the moon with happiness if I could report that household chores are completed so quickly because our children have already learned the value of a clean and tidy home. Alas, the actual answer is much more American. The kids who finish all their school work for the day before 3:00 in the afternoon earn 30 minutes of Wii time.

Of course, I have come off as the hero in this arrangement. I am the cool mom who allows them to play on the Wii a little bit every single day. I am the patient mom who understands their needs to just have some play time.

Little do they know that I am the mom who completely exploits their love of Wii to my own advantages.

Insert evil mother laugh here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Notes Among the Noise

Our home is slowly becoming a musical Mecca. Scott and Shelby have been practicing their guitars and Tucker's junior sized guitar arrived today. (Which, I was asked to inform everyone, he bought with his own money.) He is quite anxious to join Scott in learning to play and his goal is to play worship songs "as soon as possible" so he can supplement the singing with our church family.

We now have four children actively studying piano with three more trying desperately to catch up. Just today I found Keats practicing tapping his fingers shortly after I worked with Tucker on his music theory. I stood around the corner and watched for a few moments as Keats systematically whispered the numbers for each finger while tapping. Then he promptly went over to the piano and worked on Tucker's 2-3 exercise. When I finally rounded the corner, Keats's grin split his face as he beamed at me.

Dawson, who still talks about playing football, came up to me after he and Tucker had a mini-concert tonight and said "Mom! I had no idea how cool it would be to play with my brother! That was so much better than wrestling him to the ground!"

This was our first Christmas with carols sung round the piano and it was every bit as Dickens as we dreamed it would be. We have had birthdays with musical accompaniment and frustrations have been soothed over the keys while Hayden drifts out instead of angry words. 

We ate a vegetarian rice dish for dinner the other night, which was actually quite tasty. But some nights I really, really miss eating meat. We still eat meat - but it's more of a luxury item these days. Some of it is due to the higher costs of the healthier meats we insist on eating. Some of it is due to personal choice to put that money towards our goals of becoming debt free. And some of it is due to the cost of weekly music lessons. 

I am watching our children gain an appreciation for music along with the ability to use it. There is such a palpable joy when one of them successfully masters a piece that has been giving such trouble. And as the abilities are beginning to grow, so is the camaraderie and laughter over the keys and strings. 

I can't even imagine what family gatherings will be like 15 years from now, with some children still at home and learning and others returning for visits. And I think it is that thought that helps to keep me scouring the internet for vegetarian recipes. The idea of eight grown children with their families all laughing over that baby grand we will someday squish into our home.

Bring on the noise.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snap Moments

Dinner with the Rutherfords means you never know who you'll dine with. Tonight it was a young German girl, Iron Man, and an Amish farm boy.

Keats and Aidan are truly the best of friends.

Abigail disappeared one evening while watching an Eagles game with the family. We discovered her laying under the bench watching football. When asked why under the bench, she replied, "Because it's my cozy house! Smaller is always better, you know."

As I was capturing Abigail's photo, Elias appeared behind her.  Of course, he looks completely and utterly charming.

And in true little brother form, he scurried right under the bench in order to be just like Abigail.

Sick day at our house found the air mattress brought out and a Lord of the Rings marathon underway. 

The entryway to our home, which I never have given much thought to until my brother Ryan's comments. "You don't really realize how many people are here until you look at all those coats."