Wednesday, May 25, 2011

man up

All of the Rutherford Boys (excluding Elyas, much to his dismay) are giving soccer a try this fall. Scott and I signed them up and ordered their uniforms, then assumed we were done until the fall.


We began to get emails in which quickly helped us realize that there is a lot more to childhood sports than when we were kids. Please upload your child's photo to their player page. Please prepare for Family Fun Fundraiser on May 2. Please order your spirit gear by June 1. Please have your child ready for coach's evaluations beginning May 21. Don't forget their cleats & shin guards! Please upload your child's birth certificate on their player page. Please . .  .


So, after a brief adjustment/acceptance period (because there was only time for a brief one) we dove in. And, it hasn't been all that bad. I find I am actually feeling more like the suburban American mom than I imagined I ever could. It's pretty weird.

Tucker had his coach's evals yesterday. He had never played soccer and I wasn't sure how it would go. But, Tucker is as Tucker does. He asked directions and then gave it his all. When the coaches told him to kick differently, he did. When they said to get into the action, he did. It was actually pretty fun to watch him learning.

Then he kicked a goal from about 20 feet away. Or I should say he tried to kick a goal. He bashed the ball and it made a very un-impressive plink-plink-plink before resting about five feet away. Tucker's shoulders shlumped defeatedly and the coach called out, "You wanna try again?"

Tuck nodded and then I saw him rolling his shoulders and I could barely make out his personal pep-talk: "Gotta' man up. Gotta' man-up."

And then, The Run. WHAM! That ball never saw his foot coming and it sailed right into the top of the goal before rolling down the back side of the net. Tucker's arms shot over his head and a jubilant "YES!" rang out over the field.

Atta' boy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

knuffle bunny

For those of you who have not yet met Mo Willems' delightful Knuffle Bunny, just pop back to the children's section of Barnes and Noble and give it a quick read. It is truly one of the most charming books I have read since No David by David Shannon.

Elyas agrees.

He adores Knuffle Bunny. When he is upset, he cries not for mommy or daddy or Shelby, but for Bunny. When he crashes into a wall, smashes into the floor, or falls off tall objects, he is calmed by Bunny. And when he was running a 104 temperature last week, all he wanted was to sit on someone's lap and read Bunny over and over and over again.

Each of the Little Rutherfords has had a book they couldn't live without. For Shelby, it was The Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang. Dawson read No David over and over. Isabelle carted around My Cowboy Boots by Crystal Bowman while Tucker wanted to read The Little House by Virgina Lee Burton at least three times a day. Keats and Aidan both adored Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky and between the two of them I think it must have been read continuously. Abigail had Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor memorized by the time she was 2.

Shelby and I probably read Knuffle Bunny to Elyas with the most frequency, so when she stumbled on a stuffed version of Knuffle Bunny while browsing on Amazon, we were both excited. We generally don't buy things "just because," but the only new things Elyas has had since he was born are one pair of crocs and some jammies. I felt like maybe we could make an exception and we ordered it.

It arrived a few days ago, and now the two of them are inseparable. He snuggles with his bunny while waiting for someone to come read to him. At nap time and bedtime, he wraps his arms around his bunny and sighs contentedly. And throughout the day, Elyas tends to travel with Bunny safely tucked under his arm. I love it.

One of my favorite things about experiencing the children growing up is watching their personalities develop. For each of them, blankies may have been their first love but it was always a book which gained favorability second. Each of the OARs still fondly talk about their favorite childhood books and when they read them to a Little, it is a with a deep sense of "passing on the torch."

Of course, Scott and I have had our own Passing of the Torch moments such as Shelby recently beginning to read The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan and when Isabelle read The Little House Series. Dawson and I very much enjoyed laughing together over a favorite book of mine, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg. And I can't even begin to describe the sense of deep satisfaction when I look up to see Dawson handing a Shakespeare play to Shelby or Isabelle with the comment: "You have got to read this!"

I love this quote from the movie You've Got Mail: 

When you Read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

testing. blech.

One of our state requirements for Homeschooling is that in third, fifth, and eighth grades we will have the children take standardized tests. And as we are currently prepping Isabelle for her exam, I have to say that I have so much sympathy for public and private school teachers at the moment.

I hate the loss of time as I literally "teach to the test." Isabelle has an amazing math brain with a highly respected curriculum. The girl has a 98% average for the year! But we are having to take 2 hours a day to help make certain she can do the math which will appear on her test. And all I can think as we do this is: why?

It is such an arbitrary tool and it measures nothing other than how well a child can take a test. I truly cannot conceive of the challenges of helping to prepare an entire classroom for these exams, knowing that the school will be judged, my abilities would be judged, and the students will be scrutinized. Yikes.

Don't ask me what we should replace testing with because I don't have a clue. I really don't spend much time thinking about it until I'm forced to. And even when forced, I try not to think about what we're doing, but instead work like mad to just get it over with.

Usually, we have our test in October and we meet up with dozens of homeschooling families from all over the county and the kids have a fun time visiting and accomplish a state requirement at the same time. But last October, Isabelle had two teeth pulled the day before the test. Truly, she was quite the trooper and handled the procedure and the aftermath with a grace and patience which belied her age. But there was no way I was asking the girl to sacrifice two teeth and then take a test. That would just be evil.

I have learned during the last two weeks that testing in October helps us to just get the thing over with much faster, and that there is no way we'll put it off again. I'd rather reschedule surgery than the test. I think Isabelle agrees with me, too. She came out of prep session today with glazed eyes and stated, "My brain hurts."


Saturday, May 14, 2011

rainy day

I adore waking up to a grey, overcast sky. To me, it is such a cozy feeling to be enveloped in the murky light, to be forced to use lamps in the middle of the day, and to have an excuse to put off any and all errands we can in order to stay inside.

Today, we left home only because a concert pianist was at Camp Manatawny and, as opportunities to hear classical piano live for free are few and far between, there is no way I was going to skip it. But since we've been home, we have read chapters of The Penderwicks, snacked on bell peppers and hummus, watched The Tale of Desperaux, enjoyed some group Zumba, indulged in waffle cones stuffed with ice cream, and are now in the throws of preparing to watch Harry Potter 7: Part 1.

Snowy days are wonderful, but they are not relaxing as there are 8 children to help get into snow gear and then 8 children to help get out of their snow gear and then 8 sets of wet snow gear to deal with while simultaneously filling chilly bodies with hot cocoa. Don't get me wrong -- it is a lot of fun. But it is also a lot of work.

Rainy days mean no one wants to go outside. We're not really the splashing in puddles kind of fam. We are more the eat as simply as possible and stay cozy inside the dry house kind of crew. And I love it. A rainy day is my mom-version of a snow day when I was a kid. I would really struggle if we ever moved to Portland. I would think I was "off" all the time.

One of the kids just came over and asked if we could have popcorn for dinner. Popcorn for dinner? Sure, why not. 

Friday, May 13, 2011


I was watching Abigail build one of her Lego towers and along came Elyas who, in perfect toddler fashion, destroyed it.

Abigail cried out, "No, Elyas!" and then set about building it again. Again, Elyas came over and destroyed her tower.

A third tower was erected. And a third tower was deconstructed.

A fourth was begun; a fourth preemptively crumbled.

A fifth round.

A sixth.

Each time Elyas wrought his damage, Abigail would cry out "No Elyas!" and then start over. She never moved and she never asked for help. She would simply begin again and he would toddle over to stop her progress.

I sat watching and found myself thinking of the common sense definition of insanity. You know, the one which states that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Abigail's tower building while Elyas was still free to attack was absolutely insane.

But equally insane was the older children's response. Each time Elyas would topple a tower, a chorus of older voices would chide, "No Elyas. That's rude." Seriously, this statement was repeated six times in a chorus of six voices. And it never once phased Elyas, caused him to stop and ponder his actions, or to reconsider his next course of action.

Finally, Aidan stood up and picked Elyas up, carried him away from Abigail, and sat Elyas onto his lap. Then he called to Keats: "Guard Abigail, please. Just in case he gets away from me." Abigail built her tower before she called to Elyas to come and topple this last one, inviting, structure of breakability to the ground.

Now, Elyas, Abigail, Keats, and Aidan are all happily playing away on the floor with the Legos together. It seems that the teamwork required to construct the tower created a camaraderie among the four youngest Rutherfords.

As I sat back and watched these last 15 minutes unfold, I found myself wondering how many times I have done the same thing while expecting different results. Or how many times have I sat back and instructed a friend without the willingness to put forth efforts to actually assist.

To be brutally honest, I think it would be safe to say that more often than not I think of a way to physically help, yet do not act on it. I don't write the encouragement note. I don't make the meal. I don't watch their children, clean their house, wash their laundry . . .

But watching the joy which Keats, Aidan, Abigail, and Elyas all shared together after their joint efforts made me realize that when we decide not to assist one another, we are actually missing out on the joy of accomplishment, not just the work to get there. We loose the peace which comes from doing a job well. We loose the bond which is forged by kindness. In the end, I loose much more than the efforts of helping would have cost me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


There are some chores/responsibilities that most families do weekly which we find we must do daily. Ten pairs of feet track a lot through the house, so vacuuming is on the list. As with everything else, we work hard to share the wealth and if you're old enough to move on your own, you're old enough to pitch in.

Scott and I are firm believers in the idea that you should learn to work hard, serve cheerfully, and do a job you can be proud of. But we also recommend finding a way to pass the time as enjoyably as possible.

We don't allow the kids to have anything which encourages isolation in a crowd, so none of them have a DS, their own iPod, their own cell phones, or anything else which would enable you to escape human interaction when surrounded by people. So being able to use the iPod with headphones is a true privilege. And as you can't hear much with the drone of the vacuum anyway, it is a match made in heaven.

Keats and Aidan have both been practicing becoming proficient at vacuuming in order to gain the end-of-the-day iPod time, and it has been a fun process. Neither are very good at catching everything yet, but they work hard and serve cheerfully while doing the best job they are able to.

One of the most encouraging aspects of our large family is watching the baton passing of responsibility from one child to another. Isabelle trained Tucker to take over her chore of cleaning the downstairs bathroom. She was responsible for showing him how it was done, then working together for a few weeks and once Tucker took the job over fully, it was Isabelle who inspected his work. The pride they both shared was enormous the day Tucker passed his inspection the first time.

As I slowly work myself out of a job with each of these precious Little Rutherfords, I am continuously amazed at just how easily they step up to the plate of responsibility. None of them are perfect and all of them have areas they struggle with (just ask Dawson about having to give baths for 2 weeks straight)  but I have never once felt the need to say "I can't wait til they move out!"

Well, let's be honest. When they move out, I'll be left with all the chorin' to myself again. Who would wish for that?

still boyish

Abigail came downstairs packing.
When Scott inquired about her accessory she stated:
"Dad, I need to be ready for anything."

The end of a brand new, beloved pair of pink jeans. One slide down the tree trunk (which had come crashing down during the ice storm) later, she announced:
"I feel a little breezy."

Her response when informed of the gigantic tear across her backside?
"Oh well. It happens. Let's go again!"

golden 15

For Shelby's Golden Birthday (the year your birth date is the age you are turning) we were determined to make it memorable.

We are big fans of not buying our kids much outside of their needs, in part because we want them to truly treasure receiving gifts and in part because we would quickly be overrun with stuff. (Ten people, remember?)

So for her Golden Birthday, we decided to buy Shelby either a Nook or a Kindle. Both Scott and I were terribly excited to see her reaction as she opened her gift: a paper with nooks and kindles plus covers all over it with directions that she was to choose which eReader she wanted and we would buy it. We could just imagine the gleam of excitement in her eyes at the thought of carrying her library of books around in one hand.

She ripped open the envelope as Scott & I exchanged excited glances. And here it was -- The Reaction.


"Oh, this is great. Thanks!" Little enthusiasm. Little excitement. Little anything.


Scott and I chatted after the cake, trying to make sense out of Shelby's response. She had been drooling over eReaders for months, had lovingly cradled Aunt Laura's iPad, and had mentioned daily how nice it would be to have a Nook, but that a Kindle might be a smarter buy. We were (not surprisingly) utterly puzzled.

 A few days later, we went to Shelby to ask her about it. We explained our surprise and subsequent confusion. After a loooooooooot of assuring her our feelings wouldn't be hurt, we weren't upset, and that we just wanted her to be excited about her gift, Shelby confessed.

"I like to hold books. I like the feel of a book in my hand. I like the sounds of the page turning. I like being able to write in it, to dog ear it, to drag it around. I just really, really like books and the words inside."

Her gift quickly changed into a hefty gift card to Barnes & Noble. Shelby chose to wait until after Easter to use it as the Easter Bunny has always left books for Easter. (No candy, no baskets, no stuffed animals. Just towers of books. And I cannot even begin to express how much I adore the excitement which builds in the week before Easter over the books which are on their way. Le-Sigh. My reader's heart is just so content at those times.)

This morning we spent over two hours at the bookstore. Shelby and Scott had done the Rutherford version of window shopping (insert here: strolling around the bookstore and finding books that peak your interest to go on the when-there-is-enough-funds-I'll-be-back-to-pick-up-this-bad-boy list) a few weeks ago, so Shelby already had a good idea of what she wanted. And then, she just kept browsing, and making towers on the table nearby.

I made a tally, subtracted the Educator's Discount we receive for homeschooling, and let her know she still had about $29 to spend. I wish I had a picture of her eyes lighting up as she looked at all the books she had chosen before dashing back to grab four books she had fingered lovingly.

It took all 9 of us working as a team to get Shelby's books plus two more Ranger's Apprentice books (for Dawson; he came downstairs this morning excited about the amazing cliffhanger the second book ended with but quite distraught knowing that we did not yet possess book 3) plus a new Berenstain Bears book (for the twins -- it was 50% off!), a Fancy Nancy book (for Abigail, also 50% off), a Tangled Painting book along with a Disney Fairies book (Isabelle heard we were going to the bookstore and grabbed some of her spending money) and a Wee Sing America (which was finally in stock) up to the front of the store.

Of course, our Make Way for Ducklings-style trek to the checkout was commented on by several people, a few other children thought we were having a book parade & tried to join us, and the lady who rang us out groaned a little as we began forming towers on her counter. Our work at the bookstore done, we drove home with a van full of jabbering about who was reading which book first & would someone please read this to me & I can't wait to go back and get that one book I saw. It was simply fabulous.

Shelby says this was truly the best gift ever. And really, that was the goal all along.