Monday, March 28, 2011

first finally

Genuinely how Elyas smiles when asked. Painful, isn't it?
The back view of our wild-child, might be mistaken for a hippie (or a girl) son.
The gorgeous blond, softly curling, floppy hair which made all of us loathe to cut it other than the obligatory bangs so the kid could actually see.
The Process:
Not so bad.
Never mind. In Shelby's arms begging for relief.
Beginning the bribery by handing over non-sticky Multi-Grain Pringles.
The Aftermath:
The pile'o'hair.
Post bath. The size and prominence of his eyes is stunning!
The Reward:
Waiting anxiously for his ice-cream.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

assume much?

While doing our end-of -the-day pick-up, we discovered the following nestled on the shelf behind the Lego Shape Sorter:
A bowl of carrots from the snack provided two days ago.
Of course, like any good and wise parents, we immediately knew why these carrots were hiding behind the Legos. There is really only one conclusion which can be drawn: sneaky children.

Imagine our surprise when Abigail rounded the corner, saw the bowl and exclaimed, "Oh you found my carrots! I never got to finish them! Thank you, mommy!"
Happily snacking away.
Well, don't I feel sheepish.

a good time to invest in shout

 Spring Will Be Pretty

Spring will be pretty. 
Just give it a week, 
when flowers are blooming 
down by the creek. 

Bees will be buzzing 
as trees start to bud, 
But for the moment 
I'm covered with mud. 

Snow has been melting, 
since winter is through, 
Replacing the whiteness 
with puddles of goo. 

I stepped off the sidewalk 
and into the ooze. 
Next thing I knew, 
I stepped out of my shoes! 

Mud on my ankles 
and mud on my clothes. 
I stumbled face-first 
and got mud up my nose. 

Spring will be pretty, 
but I must confess, 
The first days of spring 
are a muckety mess!

- Dave Crawley

Saturday, March 26, 2011

end goals revisited

We have had a rough, rough, really rough year with homeschooling this year.  Did I emphasize the rough part enough? Some of the children have simply sailed through, meeting their daily education head on with a smile and a job-well done sigh at the end of the day. However, for our oldest two, hearing the words "School time!" being sung out in the morning has meant another day of frustration, tears, and all out stubborn-I-can't-do-it-itis.

Scott and I struggled so much over what to do. The kids had outlined extreme educational goals for themselves this year and both Shelby and Dawson were falling further and further behind with every single moment that passed. We had numerous discussions about personal discipline, accountability, and pushing through to the goal. Nothing made any difference.

Finally, toward mid-January I was on my knees in tears. I couldn't think of anything I could do to make a difference for these two precious children. They aren't bad kids. They aren't unintelligent. They have so many incredible qualities. Why on earth were they refusing to apply these gifts to their education? And then I heard that small voice which only comes when you are finally done trying to solve it on your own and you truly and utterly give it over to God. "They have ADD."

No way. Not possible. They are in their upper education, can focus when they choose to, and wouldn't we have discovered this way before now? Again, the voice. "They have ADD."

I went down stairs, jumped online and did some half-hearted research (insert here: stubbornly refusing to even consider the possibility while looking simply so I could rule it out.) Reading the teen ADD page for Shelby was like reading her life in print. Everything fit. Everything. Ditto for reading the symptoms for Dawson. It was such a match to what we have been struggling with that it was eerie.

I copied the symptoms and forwarded them to Scott at work, and he was equally stunned at how specifically the kids matched. We contacted our pediatrician and had evaluations done. Yes, they have ADD. Yes, it is controllable without daily medication. No, further evaluations aren't needed at this time, but serious modifications to ensure maximum success for both Shelby and Dawson needed to be implemented as quickly as possible.

I came home both relieved and frustrated. Relieved because we now know that neither of them are slackers and there is an actual medical reason for their struggles. It was very similar to the feelings of relief the day they were both diagnosed dyslexic. The sense of aha. So that's why this is so hard.

The feelings of frustration, though, were completely personal. Absolute disappointment that in the midst of all the craziness I never once stopped to really evaluate this year's homeschooling successes and failures against our main objective of individualized success in learning. Rather than questioning the content of the year to make certain Shelby and Dawson both had a chance to succeed, we were focused with almost myopic intensity on meeting each and every day's to do list. As they feel behind, I never once questioned the content or the style but instead assumed it was a lack of personal discipline.

I met with their evaluator and we have since dumped all electives and anything not required for the year. We have scaled back their personal objectives. We have worked again to focus on positive encouragement. And, probably the most valuable decision we made - we have walked away from school for the better part of a month. Writing projects were completed and books were still read. But an absolute ban on math, english, history and science was enacted so we could just focus on building back these fragile esteems that Scott and I had spent the better part of a year tearing down.

The difference in Shelby and Dawson is remarkable. They are smiling again. Laughter is heard with much more frequency. The relationships with their brothers and sisters is again a friendly one as the pressure has been lifted. And they are entering back into the process of learning with a hopeful attitude instead of a defeated one.

I am grateful for this past year of homeschooling  not because of the pain it caused, but because of the reminders we so obviously needed. We needed to be reminded that we chose to homeschool not so we would have brilliant children who graduated high school early with a concurrent associates degree in college. We chose to homeschool so our kids would be able to learn using their style. So that they would have a great relationship within their own family and all ages outside. So that our kids would grow up learning while also becoming really, really great people. And, most importantly, so they could develop a relationship with God that wasn't daily challenged by a world view completely contrary to our own.

Notes like those at the beginning of this post have been sparse this past year. I am happy to report that as we have revisited our primary goals as a family, they are again cropping up just about everywhere. It feels good to be back on track.

Friday, March 25, 2011

the beast

Pregnancy is a beast all it's own. Once upon a time long, long ago I thought there were only two states of pregnancy: you are or you are not. As I have aged, though, I have learned there are many sides to this phenomenon.

You aren't because you don't wish to be and all is right with the world.

You aren't but have decided to stop trying not to be.

You aren't but are trying like mad to be.

You aren't and the entire process is absent all romance and is instead completely clinical.

You aren't and have just been told you never will be.

You aren't and never intend to be.

You are and all is right with the world.

You are for a little while and then suddenly there is no heartbeat and you aren't.

You are, but you have lost one previously and are a complete wreck the entire first trimester because you might have another miscarriage.

You are, but have no desire to be.

You are and have no intention of ever doing this again.

When did it become so unsimple and complicated? And it isn't just an impact on yourself and your immediate family.

Perhaps your happiness is tempered by those you love who are trying to have a baby but having trouble.

Or you are struggling because your friend has had a miscarriage and you don't know how to be joyful without being hurtful.

Or you just aren't sure how to let the world full of over-population-propaganda know that you are expecting again.

Or you are the one having the miscarriage and you flit from dealing just fine to a weepy mess within moments. Yet you want others to share their joy with you because you genuinely love them and your pain has nothing to do with their joy.

Or you are hugely pregnant, completely uncomfortable, and hesitant to complain because most people give you the look that says: "Deal. It's your problem. You could have prevented it if you wanted to."

As we are working through another miscarriage, it strikes me as bizarre that this simple, beautiful act of bringing life into the world is so completely complex and rife with emotions. Yet, I think in some ways it must have always been more than the black and white/you are or you aren't. Any time there is so much at stake, so much deep emotion, so much love, there will always be much more involved than just a plus or a minus.

the injustice of being the youngest

I honestly don't know who took these pictures. I don't know what was occurring when they were snapped. I don't know anything about the situation other than the fact that I have personally seen this response from Elyas whenever he feels one of us has not met his demands quickly enough.

Forget that he has 9 people who serve him continuously. Never mind that he doesn't want for anything. All that matters is his perception of a slight which could simply mean that one of his 9 servants didn't leap to do his bidding quickly enough.

Ahh, the struggles of being the youngest.

sandwiched within the boys

Our Abigail is a ringlet-haired girlie-girl who loves ruffles, bows, and all things pink. She adores hats with large flowers and headbands which do nothing but add flair to her hair style of the day. She prefers dresses for their swooshing feel about her legs which, she says, "make me feel like quite the lady." She loves to have her hair styled and thinks ponies are the most wonderful thing in the world.

Abigail is Little Rutherford number 7 and she was the much desired sister after three boys joined the family. And as much as I love our sweet Elyas, I prayed like mad for him to be a girl so Abigail would have some company. Or perhaps it would be more honest to say that I was hoping that she would have a kindred spirit to help fend off all the Legos, footballs, mud building, sword fighting, and Star Wars mania of her three older brothers, who have learned everything required to be all-boy from their oldest brother.

Alas, it was not to be and we now have the joy of watching our Pinkie tumble around just like a brother. While most of her boyish moments are just as fast as her brothers and therefore impossible to capture on film, occasionally we have managed to document her manly ways.

After some serious indoor trampoline playing, Abigail decided to crawl underneath while the twins took turns jumping above her. She emerged having left several hairs behind in the springs as well as a dress which had definitely seen better days.

She watched Tucker showing off all of his skills and decided that she, too, could be a contortionist.

One of Abigail's favorite weekly achievements is her tower building. Each week she strives to build a bigger tower than the week before. 

what to do

We decided to turn off our cable. We realized that we consistently use cable for two things: football and "Phineas and Ferb." And it seemed a little excessive to pay $45/month for a seasonal sport and a weekly family show. What has been interesting is the mind shift for the kids. It seems that simply saying we no longer have cable has created a changed attitude towards life. Even though we watched very little TV, their creative use of time has expanded exponentially.

My personal favorite use of time would be the "Warm Wash Game:"

Abigail, Keats and Aidan slip one of their stuffed animals into the dryer when placing the wet clothes in. Then, they turn out the main light, turn on a flashlight, and watch their stuffed animal going round and round in the dryer. It is definitely not a game played while we were a cable-connected family!

The original intention was to let go of cable temporarily. But as I watch the kids think outside the TV box, I am wondering if this will actually become a permanent change. So far, we haven't missed it at all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


This morning wasn't too bad. Tucker, who has been fighting a horrible virus (after it ripped through the rest of the kids earlier this week and all of last week) turned a corner around noon and his previously high 103.5 temperature dropped to a breathe-easier 100.2.  Around the same time, I realized I was dealing with a dull headache and discovered I now had a fever. Sigh -- my turn with the virus brought home from TN by Shelby.

At this point, things stayed pretty even keel. We kept working through finalizing some of Shelby's writings and began kneading our bread. I saw Scott out the door for his double shift and spent some time reading books with Elyas and Abigail.  I encouraged Tucker as he practiced his piano and enjoyed listening to Isabelle's "bouncy" notes for her "Chopsticks" as I shaped the bread. I supervised massive Lego surgery as Keats and Aidan customized several Lego men into their favorite, weird combinations. (Of course, my personal desire is to keep each of these men perfectly put together, just as they came out of the box. However, Keats and Aidan are both facinated with the idea of creating their own versions of Dr. Frankenstein's monster by assembling various body parts. Sometimes, homeschooling has really strange consequences.)

Pulling the bread out of the oven went as planned, the documentary on General Howe was fascinating, and Shelby was wrapping up her piano when the day took a serious downhill turn. I had noticed that the oven knob was not centered on Bake as I pulled the bread out. Rather, it was haphazardly resting between Bake and Off. I made a mental note to chat with Shelby again about being more careful when doing tasks, and went back to reading. When Shelby went to dump the bread out of the pans a few minutes later we learned that those beautifully shaped loaves concealed a lurking secret of gooey, unbaked madness underneath. Apparently, having the knob half-way results in half-way baking. We threw the loaves back in, hoping to end up with something we could use for croutons and I contacted the individual who had ordered 3 loaves of the bread to let him know that it wasn't going to happen today.

Frustrated already, I wasn't thrilled to find Keats and Aidan surrounded by even more little Lego pieces everywhere. I gave instructions to please, please, please pick up every teeny, tiny piece and headed upstairs to put a few clothes away.

Then I get the call from the stairs. "Mom - Abigail had an accident!" While trying desperately to get the baby-gate open to access an upstairs bathroom, Abigail just didn't make it. And just why didn't anyone help their sister get through the gate? "We thought she was kidding, mom." Ggggrrrrr.

I cleaned the carpet while Shelby bathed Abigail, Isabelle read to Elyas and Dawson supervised twins getting jammied.  Ready to give up on our day, I went to order pizza. Now, we just don't order pizza anymore. We make it or we go without because the expense equates to an hour of Scott's working time. But I was ready for something to be easy. Of course, the kids favorite pizza place had web issues, so after several frustrating attempts to order, I went to another company and had dinner on its way within moments.

And then, the day changed again. The kids, having heard I had ordered pizza, all went to get their spending envelopes. Each of them has an envelope marked "Choice Giving" in which they save part of their allowance in order to have money to do things for others. (Scott and I learned over the years that actually budgeting for acts of kindness ensured we could do little things and we have worked hard to teach the kids this idea as well.) They all emptied their envelopes and presented me with their gift: Pizza Money so we didn't use up daddy's time.

I know that only through adversity do you get stronger and that only by working with a lemon can you make lemonade. What I didn't realize is you must have an everything is suddenly going wrong afternoon to give your kids the chance to shine.

Thanks for the dinner, gang. It was delicious.

From book to movie: To Kill a Mockingbird

Not long ago I read "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. It is an amazing book. The book is about a black man, Tom Robinson, who is falsely accused by a white woman. A lawyer, Atticus Finch, defends Tom because he is assigned the case. Atticus is not like the other white people in his community because he respects the black community as people who have feelings and rights. All of the story is told from the perspective of Scout Finch, who is Atticus's youngest child and only daughter. Her brother is always with Scout throughout their many adventures.

The way Harper Lee wrote this book made you feel like you were in it. I found myself rooting for Mr. Robinson, hoping that he would win the case and he could go to his family who were waiting at home. I could just picture his wife and children sick with worry and then with grief when he's killed. I thought of his children sitting at home praying to God that their father would win the case. I thought of his wife probably not sleeping, worrying about her husband.

My absolute favorite character in the book is Scout Finch: the trouble maker, the tomboy, the little girl of the family. I love the scene where she, her brother, and their friend Dill are watching Atticus, who is sitting at the jail guarding Tom Robinson. A gang of white farmers drive to the jail to kill Tom. Atticus refuses to move and the mob begins to threaten Atticus. Scout runs from behind a car and saves her daddy's life by simply talking to the mob as friends. The men realize they have made a mistake and quickly and quietly leave.

When watching the movie, I felt like I was watching the book come to life. I loved how I was able to watch the movie and say "Hey! I read that in the book!" or " Hahaha! That was one of my favorite parts in the book!' I could tell that the director and cast really worked hard when they were creating the movie to make sure that it was just like the book. There were lines in the movie that were word-for-word from the book. I enjoyed how precise the movie was and how the actors and the actresses in the movie were just like I had imagined them.

I have friends who are black. I was thinking about how, if I were Atticus and I had been put in the position of saving a friend, I would try anything to make certain they were safe and secure. To learn in the end that they had lost hope would break my heart.

I would like to think that I would do what Atticus did, but sometimes I can be a coward and just as easily follow the crowd. Would I have acted like all the other white characters in the book? I would like to think of myself as being Atticus, a strong person of bravery and courage who stood for what was right. He stood by what he believed and carried through without loosing his temper or giving up.

One of my bff's Maleeka Bennett
I wish that we could change what happened in history from slavery to racism and instead have a history where people of all colors could live as friends, respecting one another as humans created equally by God.

To Kill a Mockingbird changed my views, my thoughts, and the way I act to something better. I am now more aware of the way others act towards one another. Having never experienced racism myself, I had never thought about how people can treat one another so terribly. I hope that everyone can work on becomeing more like Atticus Finch, the man who stood strong. Even though he's not a real person, Harper Lee created him strongly enough that he is a hero.

Shelby TG Rutherford