Sunday, July 24, 2011


I was recently referred to a link for a blog of another large, homeschooling family in a similarly smaller home. As I was skimming some of the posts, I found myself nodding along and thinking: of course - why wouldn't you do it that way? Most of her comments on the hows of a bigger family simply struck me as common sense no-brainers.

But upon reading through her myriad of comments, I realized that what I saw as common sense, several others were noticing for the first time. Which now has me wondering: how many people look at our family and wonder how?

Just this last week as we were cheering on some of the children in the pool during their meet, one of the moms turned to me and said: "I just have to ask. Where on earth do you all sleep?" I chuckled and replied that we have triple bunk beds. Immediately, eight other moms turned toward me and said something akin to: "Oooohhhh. I see."

I find myself trying to watch our normal through new eyes in order to see what everyone else sees. Our life is so routine to us that we really don't find much to be amazed at. Yet, perhaps it is time to spend a little time sharing the how.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

wow. we're identical

Scott was on a mission to capture the sameness.
Mission accomplished.

Who's who?

ah, harry, how we'll miss you

Isabelle, Jazzmyn, Brynn, Emily,
Shelby, Dawson, & Valerie
This Thursday our home was invaded by Professor McGonagall, Luna Lovegood, Hermione as she is being sorted, a Gryffindor student, a deatheater, a muggle, Aunt Petunia, and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself.

Our long-standing tradition of dressing up and attending the midnight showing continued for this, the final movie in the Harry Potter series. Kids (whose parents are more normal and went to bed instead of acting like they were still in their teens) came to our home to watch the first half of The Deathly Hallows and continued on in the gigantic family van to the theater. We were the group taking pictures by the movie poster, watching The Half-Blood Prince on the iPod/Bose SoundDock while waiting in line, and chatting excitedly over which scenes we were the most excited to see brought to life. Hermione as Belatrix, the final duel between Harry & Voldemort, the kiss between Ron & Hermione, the dragon busting them out of Gringots . . .
Brynn & Isabelle

Actually - you wouldn't have been able to pick us out of the line very easily. There were literally hundreds of people just like us standing in line, waiting to get into the theater and grab the best seats possible. And since all three theaters showing the film were sold out, I was extremely grateful that Scott insisted we needed to leave at 10:15 for a 12:05 showing. Even with what I was sure was an insanely early time to arrive at the theater, there were about 50 people ahead of us in line.
The perfect Lupin Moon
as we arrived.

As were sat in our seats watching people stream through the doors, I enjoyed seeing the costumes come in, listening to the excited chatter, and watching our group of very giggly girls in the back of the theater. (Dawson couldn't take it: he moved up and sat with Scott and I with our more sedate group.) There were grandparents with their grandchildren, families like ours, groups of 20, and people who came alone. There was no end to the differences but the same comment issued from all corners.

I can't believe it's over.

Yes, we have discovered Rick Riordan and his Olympians, his Kane Chronicles, and his 39 Clues. Yes we were introduced to Flannagan's The Ranger's Apprentice and Birdsall's Penderwicks. Yes, there are literally 20+ books on our shelves upstairs that we are still waiting to read for the first time.
Swooning over Harry
Simultaneous gagging over the swooning

I know The Hobbit is coming with all its Peter Jackson perfection. I know that, as Scott says, we are living smack in the middle of the golden age of great film series: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones (ignore the second film, please).

But Harry Potter has truly been magical. Our kids have no memories which aren't drenched in the world  of Harry Potter. They have enjoyed the books and the films as much as Scott & I have. They have journeyed with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Snape, Dumbledore, and McGonagall with an utter joy in the storytelling. Our kids are more familiar with Jim Dale's voice from his reading of the audio books than any singer to hit the top ten.
Professor McGonagall looking
over Luna's shoulder

We are all going to miss the anticipation, the discovery, the excitement. I will miss hearing the plots of the newest books discussed in earnest for weeks after the first reading. I will even miss the arguments which inevitably erupted during heated debates over whether a character's choice was wise or not.

And so, as I sat in the theater watching the final film, cheering during iconic moments and crying when my heart was aching, it was bittersweet. Rowling wrote the series to a perfect close. I couldn't have asked for more. And yet, I will miss it.

confronting Harry
So now, we have all turned our attentions to Keats, Aidan, Abigail, & Elyas. They are our next best hope. As they grow and discover the world of Harry Potter, we'll be along for the ride. And we'll remember again the joys of our own discovery when Harry was new.

It promises to be magically fun.

Monday, July 4, 2011

the diver

Dawson had initially planned to swim this year without adding diving to his schedule. I was relieved because it meant one less night of running. Scott was publicly supportive, but privately saddened because he finds diving to be such an elegant sport and, to be perfectly frank, Dawson is good at it.

He's a natural. The coach tells him how to move his body and he does it. For me, his completely uncoordinated mother, I find it incredible to watch. And Scott is absolutely right: there is a simple elegance to diving that Dawson's streamlined, muscular body seems to be made for.

After two days of watching the practice, Dawson came to me and said he had changed his mind about diving and would it be okay if he spoke with the coach about joining the team. We're already at the pool, so practice isn't too big a deal. And the meets are only one night a week - we can manage that. The season ends with counties on the last Saturday of July - seems workable. But mostly, it was the gleam in his eye as he was asking for my blessing. The light that said: I'm ready to be challenged.

Yesterday, Dawson's coach came to find us at the pool. It's the Sunday of a holiday weekend. Everyone is off and relaxing, lounging in the water, laughing at the cannonballs, and eating third helpings of the ice-cream sundaes we were assembling as our evening dinner. Yet here was the coach.

"Dawson really needs to go to diving camp this winter. He's good. Really good. And more importantly, he's coachable. He could really make something of this. You need to consider taking him to West Chester."

I glanced over at Scott and saw the same didn't see this coming look on his face that I was certain was on my own. The coach went on to talk about the other boy who goes through the winter, that we could probably carpool, that there might be scholarship possibilities, even just once a week would work at first . . .

We spent our Fourth of July doing all the things we love to do but struggle to find the time during the summer. Breakfast out at Shady Maple with a crowd of friends, watching LOTR in the living room with the furniture pushed out of the way and every pillow in the house brought down to create the ultimate viewing/napping environment, reading those I-can't-bear-to-put-it-down-and-now-I-don't-have-to books. But in the back of my mind all day was the conversation with the coach.

I find myself wondering how to balance the burgeoning talent of the one with the needs of the nine. How would we make this work?

I have no answers yet. I know that there will be many discussions between Scott and I accompanied by much prayer. And in the end, I know that whatever decision is made, it will be a good one. But for now, even as I'm reeling from the pronouncement, I am feeling incredibly proud.

My boy. The diver.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

insanity, or what you call july

Our July is always a little busier than normal life. And yes, I'm aware that what we refer to as normal life most people already find busy.

But this July has become downright insane. We are still managing to accomplish everything on the to-do list (except blogging, which has fallen quite obviously by the wayside.) In fact, the month has become so crazy that I dusted off my trusty planner and am back to toting it around. I knew we were in trouble when I was trying to schedule Isabelle's next orthodontist appointment and finally said: "You just pick a time and I'll just make it work."

Our typical week day begins at 6 am: putting on swim gear, eating breakfast, packing pool bags, and piano practice for both Tucker & Isabelle.

8:30 am: Drop Shelby, Dawson, & Isabelle at the pool for their swim practice.

8:45-9:45 am: back home for Tucker's school

10:00 am: back to the pool. Dawson and Tucker begin dive practice (ends at 11:30)

10:15-10:45 am: Abigail's swim lessons; Shelby works as a swim instructor sub (Mon - Thur)

11 - 11:30 am: Keats and Aidan's swim lessons; Shelby works as a swim instructor sub (Mon - Thur)

11:45 am: head for home. Eat lunch, Elyas takes a nap and begin homeschooling/piano practice.

Monday afternoon: pick up Isabelle at 2ish (from her babysitting job), pack a picnic dinner, swim meet warm-ups at 4:45 pm, meet begins at 6

Tuesday afternoon: school until 3ish, take Scott to work at 2:30, pack a picnic dinner, dive meet warm-ups at 4, meet begins at 5

Wednesday morning: pick Scott up at 7:30 am; afternoon: piano lessons for Shelby, Dawson, Isabelle & Tucker from 1:30 - 4 pm (take school with them.) Pick up Tucker at 2:15 and return home and complete school for Tucker, Keats, Aidan, & Abigail. Family dinner. Scott watches the video of Tuesday's dive meet with Tucker and Dawson before he takes all the boys to soccer camp from 7 - 8 pm while we have a girls night here at home.

Both Thursday and Friday afternoons are reserved for catching up on home responsibilities and either resting or relaxing pool time. After school work, of course. And if we have decided to go to the pool, then that means an extra trip of running Scott to work so we have the van and remembering to pick him up the next morning. (I've only ever forgotten once.)

We also have various little rutherfords at Camp Manatawny for a week at a time from now until mid-August, with Shelby also staffing as a lifeguard for two weeks. Which means most of our Saturdays are spent attending closing ceremonies in the morning and returning to drop off a new camper in the afternoon.

And, in our infinite belief in our abilities, we have also scheduled a fellowship gathering on Sunday afternoon at our pool, lasting from 4 - 8. All of the children have shared that this weekly activity is their favorite, as they are surrounded by friends and family while swimming, which is absolutely their favorite thing in the world.

I try to keep up the mantra that I can do anything for 6 weeks. We are still managing to accomplish our summer school schedule of math, grammar, typing, and literature quite easily. Piano has remained a priority and the kids will be prepared for their October recital despite the craziness of summer. Friendships are being renewed and revitalized as we spend time out and about.

But down-time is at a premium right now. Every moment is scheduled, with very little wiggle room for blow-out diapers or missing shoes. My daily to-do planning sheets, which I almost never use, are about to be re-ordered to get us through the end of July.

And yet, I am watching our older children truly blossom as they are becoming very aware of the precious aspects of time. They are learning to prioritize, to organize, and to really use every moment to its fullest. In our life of flexible scheduling, having a given period of highly scheduled time is good for us and good for our self-discipline. It isn't a life-style I would ever want to adopt permanently, but it does have it's benefits.

And so, as we continue with our July, our updates may not be as frequent as we would like. But never fear. Mid-August will be here in all it's slowing-down glory before you know it.

blu-ray, finally

We have assiduously avoided Blu-Ray. The Rutherford library of movies being quite extensive, the idea of purchasing a player that would make us feel like we needed to upgrade the films as well was quite a distasteful notion.

It was the marketing which began to shift us away from our firmly held position. No, I'm not talking about the astounding resolution or the dramatically increased number of pixels. I'm talking about the genius who finally figured the only way to get some of us out of our entrenched positions was to hit us where it hurt: below-the-film-geek-belt.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One was released a few months ago, creating an enormous problem for us. The bonus features, the behind the scenes & how we made stuff, was only available on Blu Ray. And our family adores these features. I mean really, really adores them. We love to watch how films are made, listen to the commentaries as the film is rolling, and will watch the Lord of the Rings Appendicies with the same fervor as the movie.  To be denied access to this holiest of holies was just downright horrid. And it worked. We bought the Blu Ray version.

However, we contentedly remained committed to not purchase the player until the last credit card was paid off. We watched the regular DVD version of the film and looked forward to the time we would be able to watch the bonus features. It was a pretty good compromise.

Until we realized that the second half of the final Harry Potter film was due to be released within weeks.

The kids began to wheedle, to beg, and to cajole. Every reason within the realm of reasons was given as to why we should just give in and buy the player we had selected after our research. Scott and I remained steadfast in front of the kids. But behind the scenes, I was just as bad as they were. Scott remained stedfast. Drat.

However, one should never underestimate the combined might of will eight children can possess. I was preparing to sort allowance into their envelopes one day when all of the kids approached.

"That's a lot of money you've got there."

I looked up at their faces and should have recognized the scheming when I saw it.

"That's almost enough money to buy the Blu-Ray player."

I reminded them that dad said we weren't spending the money.

"What if we pay for all of it. We all have some spending money."

I would still have to drive to the store, 20 miles round trip, to actually buy it. That's a lot of gas expense these days.

"What if we pay for the gas?"

Well, that sounded reasonable. But I still had some chores left to do.

"What if we do the rest of the morning chores and practice our piano while you go to the store?"

There's got to be a catch.

"You take all the littles with you, so we can work focused. And then, we'll watch the littles so you and Dawson can hook up the player before daddy wakes up."

Well, what would you have done?? Of course I took their money, loaded up the littles, walked into Sam's Club to purchase the Sony Blu-Ray, replaced the gas, and came home. Dawson and I had it installed pretty quickly and set up the Harry Potter Bonus Features disc to play on a loop while waiting for Scott to come down.

Scott responded to the explanation with a fairly typical reaction: "You've warped the kid's minds, you know."

Why yes, yes I do.