Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a resounding yes

Our family is planning on participating in a group trip to the Outer Banks next fall. The coordinator of the trip recently sent out an email to confirm which of the families were planning on going. I found Scott's response too brilliant to be relegated to the cyber-wasteland.





Can you see why I married the guy?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

tree hunt

We used to enjoy an annual "day of decorating" during which the entire house was transformed and the tree selected and decorated on the same day. But once the twins were born, Scott and I realized that trying to manage the daily ins and outs of a large family plus decorate an entire house meant that instead of it being a joyful, fun day it was a stressful, crazed, get-through-it kind of day.

And so, we busted up our decorating. Because we aren't trying to decorate everything at once, we all savor our time together. And an unexpected benefit was that we had more time to enjoy all the little things which mean Christmas is coming.

Phase One: the house. We transform our cozy abode into a magical, Christmas wonderland. 

Phase Two: tagging of the tree. During the weekend after Thanksgiving, we all bundle up to enjoy a long, long, long stroll through the woods while 10 people try to agree on the perfect tree. After we find the tree, we stop in the ornament shop where everyone chooses a new ornament for the tree. Our goal is to be able to send each of the children off from the nest with a nice, big box of Christmas memories from all of our years together.

Phase Three: killing the tree. A week or so after the tree is tagged we return to the farm to chop the tree down, bring it home, and allow it to dry out before draping it with electric lights. 

Phase Four: trimming the tree. Within the next day or two, we work together to fill it with memories and more memories. This time as a family is by far one of my favorites every year as each Little Rutherford shares stories and laughter over all the ornaments as they are brought our of the bins.

And so, in the spirit of enjoying the season a little bit at a time, here are some pictures of our afternoon adventures while scouting out the perfect tree.

Elyas clutching a chocolate chip cookie and asking Santa for trains for Christmas. Unfortunately, we learned that the trains Elyas desired were the ones circling the trees on either side of Santa.

Keats with Santa. We didn't realize Santa would be at the barn when we arrived to tag our tree and Keats was particularly excited!

Abigail talked with Santa about his life in the North Pole, being married, working with elves. Only when she was getting down did she remember to ask for gifts.

Aidan really wanted to talk to Santa, but he was very nervous. He didn't stay on Santa's lap for very long!

Alas! My favorite Christmas tree cannot be hand selected and chopped down. And so, I gave it a hug and went walking through the woods with the family.

Elyas, ready to be carried.

Scott teaching the children the southern art of grass-gnawin'.

Aidan -- like father, like son.
Elyas preferred studying the grass to chewing.

Elyas continuing to help us look for the tree, even as the sun begins to set.

Dawson and Tucker finally found the perfect tree. They proudly posed victorious with our tagging flag.

The whole crew (minus photographer Scott) and our new tree.

And now we can see Scott and the tree.

Isabelle all smiles as we begin the walk back to the barn and our van.

Scott and Aidan, with appropriately grass-stained knees considering all the tumbling down of hills which occurred.

Heading west.

Monday, November 28, 2011


How much of our days are spent waiting? Right now I am waiting on laundry to finish drying so I can place another load into the washer so I can go upstairs to bed. Earlier, Shelby was waiting for me to come home from running an errand so she could go up to bed. Earlier still, the littles were excitedly waiting for Scott to wake up so we could decorate the house for Christmas.

In a family of 10, it seems someone is always waiting for something. Frequently, it's the bathroom.

But lately (and today especially) I have found myself spending a lot of my energy encouraging, admonishing, cajoling, and bellowing at Dawson to use his "waiting time" better. He is the king of time wasting followed by my all-time-least-favorite-excuse for miscellaneous items not yet accomplished: I didn't have time. To which he usually receives his all-time-least-favorite-retort back from me: Are you kidding me?

What exactly happens at the age of 13 to that teen-age boy brain? Was he invaded by some sort of alien force which sucks away all the training we have laboriously worked to instill over the years? It is some sort of hormone wash that coats the neurons, causing major black outs in common sense from time to time? And if so, is this like electricity where they have rolling black outs so there will still be glimmers of hope here and there? Is this a permanent phenomenon or a temporary one?

I don't have any idea.

What I do know is this: I love that kid like crazy. And I will persevere on the faith that eventually all the years of effort into molding a decent, hardworking, respectable, gentleman of a man will come flooding back into his consciousness and I will look into his eyes and say: There you are Dawson. I knew you'd come back.

Monday, November 14, 2011

overly tender

Keats didn't sleep well Saturday night. He came into our room around 11:30 and snuggled with Scott for a little while before being gently carried back to his room. At 1:30, Keats came in again, a little weepier than normal, and curled up between the two of us before falling into a fitful sleep.

Yesterday, around dinner time, Keats crawled up onto Scott's lap during the football game and snuggled in. He had spent his Sunday in a relatively normal way. We went to worship together, then I left early with Tucker, Keats, Aidan, Abigail, and Elyas in order to pick Shelby up from her weekend away at Youth Advance, a leadership conference for teens in the Northeast. Once we had Shelby, we then headed back to our county for Tucker's final soccer game. Keats joined Aidan, Abigail, and Elyas in playing a game of soccer with all of the other younger brothers and sisters on a field behind the game. He never gave any sign that he wasn't feeling well.

That is, until he was curled against Scott. After a quarter or so of the game, I noticed that Keats' normally rosy cheeks were now looking a little sunburned. Scott checked and sure enough, Keats had developed a fever. It wasn't overly high, but we gave him Motrin before bedtime anyway, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

Again, Keats joined us a few times throughout the night, finally coming in to stay around 2 in the morning. He stayed curled tight to my side and I noticed throughout the night that he seemed quite stiff and unable to relax.

This morning, Keats came to me and said in a tremulous voice, "Mommy, there is something coming out of my ear." He pointed to the ear causing his concern and I saw the telltale drainage of a ruptured eardrum. I can't even begin to express how puzzled I felt, as when Aidan's eardrum would rupture, it was a major event with a lot of screaming and writhing in pain. And the only other time Keats had an eardrum rupture, it was also accompanied by a lot of pain-induced noise.

I asked him if his ear had been sore and he nodded. I then asked if it had been hurting and he nodded. So then I asked what I felt was the next logical question: why didn't you tell us?

Keats replied:  "I knew that the pain would go away and when it hurt too badly, I could always go to you and daddy and you would hold me. So I didn't need to cry and complain because you and daddy were there to hold me. I didn't want to cry too much, because that might make you sad, too."

I gave him a big hug and told him that while I was very impressed with his act of bravery, that I would never think less of him if he told us he was in pain.  As I was holding my courageous six-year-old, I found myself wondering what caused him to grow up so quickly. And then he asked his next question, instantly assuaging my fears that he was growing up too fast.

"Mommy, will my ear fall off?"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

accidental eating

Keats: "Mom! Abigail snuck a cookie!"

self: "Keats, did you see her eat the cookie?"

Keats: "No, I just saw the bin open."

self: "Then you don't know if Abigail even ate a cookie."

Keats: "Yes-huh! She smells like cookie!"

self: "But you don't know for certain, so you can't come in accusing your sister. You can, however, say you suspect that Abigail ate a cookie."

Keats: "Ok."

self: "I'll ask Abigail, though. Will that seem just to you?"

Keats: "Yes, if I can witness."

self: "Okay. Sure. Abigail!" [Abigail comes trip-trapping down the hall.]

self: "Abigail, did you eat a cookie?"

Abigail: "Yes. But I didn't sneak. I simply forgot to ask permission before I ate it. And now, it is in my belly, so I can't give it back. I'm so sorry mom."

Keats: "May I have a cookie, then?"

self: "Well, I guess you may each have a cookie."

Abigail: "Me too?"

self: "No, Abigail. You already ate a cookie. You told me so yourself."

Abigail: "But that was an accidental eating! It shouldn't count!"

self: "Totally counts. Sorry, Ab."

[Abigail sobs uncontrollably  and heads for the stairs, her go-to place when perceived injustice occurs.]

oh, to be young

Abigail relaxing. Really.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

baby squash

Dad planted butternut squash this year as one of his experimental veggies in his organic vegetable garden.  When he brought one over for us to cook down into soup, we ran into a snag. You see, where we saw food Abigail saw a dolly.

For several days, she carried it around just as it was, wrapped tenderly in a blanket. It was only after Keats pronounced that her dolly was "creepy because it has no face" did she request that we add a face complete with curly hair to match her own. The face was such a success that soon after Abigail requested hands, clothes, and feet.

She and her Baby Squash had many adventures together before the poor squash finally succumbed to that malady which impacts all good vegetables which are frequently dropped, bashed, and run over by boys: rot.

We had a short funeral over the garbage can before Abigail unceremoniously dumped Baby Squash into the can. We heard a dull thud before Abigail went off to wash off her hands. She explained her reasoning so gently: "I don't want to have any Baby Squash juice on me. She was just getting yucky!"

Ah, the never ending depths of a mother's love.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

piano runnin

Wednesday morning are our piano lesson days. In an ideal world, we are all up between 6 - 6:30 am in order to ensure we have plenty of time to get ourselves ready to go.

However, it is not always an ideal world, so usually our morning goes something like this:

7:15 - finally get out of bed; scrub face & teeth, get dressed. Skip makeup.

7:20 - wakes kids up gently.

7:25 - drag kids forcibly from bed/rip covers off body to generate movement.

7:30 - morph into Nag-Mom, which consists of reminding various Little Rutherfords every few minutes, "It's piano day - move faster!"

7:40 - check on morning chores to see what has been accomplished thus far: dishwasher emptied, paper recycling and piano books by the door, towel load started in washer, Abigail dressed, Elyas diaper changed (yet still mostly naked.)

7:42 - Bellow up the stairs that dad is due home in minutes and I'm telling on every child who isn't down stairs pronto!

7:45 - Begin assigning responsibilities to the bodies which are miraculously appearing before my very eyes. Send Keats back upstairs to put on pants, as they are definitely not optional.

7:48 - Greet Scott as he comes through the door. Remind Dawson to take commingled out back and return with the bag for drop off at the center on our way to piano. Go upstairs to get the rest off the dirty laundry and have a quick chat with Scott about his night.

8:00 - Morph into Super-Nag-Mom as I realize upon returning downstairs that every instruction I gave has been ignored. "Piano is a life skill and is not optional! Now GO GO GO!!!"

8:15 - Sit down for a moment to have breakfast with the kids. (Banana bread) Go over what school items they have assembled for their time at piano. Remind them of the items they have forgotten.

8:25 - Begin to load dishes as they come into the kitchen. Super-Nag the littles to finish their morning milk. Tell Dawson that if he can't focus he gets to clean every bathroom in the house all by his onsie this afternoon. Mind boggling how quickly he can change into Super-Focused-Teen.

8:30 - Alarm goes off on my phone reminding me it's time to start putting parkas on. Become Crazed-Super-Nag-Mom forcing everyone to increase their speed to that of light.

8:35 - Begin to herd Rutherfords to the van accompanied by backpacks, tote bags, packages to be shipped, commingled, and paper recycling.

8:40 - After only two "I Forgot!" trips back into the house, everyone is buckled and I start the car.

8:45 - Pull into recycling center and drop off our weekly accumulation.

8:50 - Pull into Dunkin Donuts where I order my standard reward coffee for accomplishing our getting out the doorness - XL Regular with extra cream and extra sugar. Pick up a Large Decaf cream & sugared coffee for our piano instructor.

9:02 - Pull into piano, only 2 minutes late.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Our door dresser serves as a storage unit for gadget cables, hats/gloves/scarves, and girlie-hair stuff. The back third of the top is where we keep our bibles, glasses, cameras, and cell phones.

The front portion is supposed to be reserved for collecting items as we are preparing to leave the house or storage for people when they are visiting. However, family being family, it sometimes gets used as a catch-all on our way from one room of the house to another.

I came down one afternoon and glanced at the door dresser. I had just been putting some clean laundry away and wasn't thrilled to see more stuff to be put away. Then I sheepishly realized that most of it was my stuff anyway. (Thankfully I noticed before I bellowed at the kids.)

Then I was struck by the absolute bizarre combination. There was the People Magazine Scott had brought home. We do not live far from the Gosselin family of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame & are frequently contrasted with their family when we are out and about in the community. Scott said he just had to read the cover article and brought it home for me to look at. We were both concerned at the portrayal of a family as "in need" living in their very, very, very nice home.

Then there was the cardboard box from Elyas's recent order of Tom's Shoes. We are so impressed with the company's dedication to helping others. Tom's motto is One for One, meaning that for every pair of shoes you purchase, they will give a pair of shoes to a child needing shoes in countries such as Haiti, Argentina, and Africa. We can't afford to purchase Tom's for all of the kids, but the Shoes for Elyas were the same price as the Robeez we usually buy and far less than the Stride Rites. And, as we have worked hard to become more deliberate in our decisions and use of money, we feel Tom's is a good fit when we can do it.

Then there was the book I had grabbed off the New Arrivals rack at the library, Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. I thought it would mostly be the woman power, stick it to 'em,  hippie-feminista nonsense I have come to expect whenever I read something designed to educate me on the mine-field of life my daughters are wading through. However, the title intrigued me and so I planned to skim it and return it a few days later. Instead, I found myself engrossed and mesmerized as I read through thoughts on the "girl culture" that we largely avoid due to homeschooling. Shelby, Isabelle, Scott, & I had many discussions centered around each chapter as I read parts aloud and we discussed it together.

And, of course, there was my standard morning cup of coffee which I am forever losing. I take it with me all over the house for most of the morning and it isn't unusual for me to call out, "Has anyone seen my coffee? I've lost it again!" The kids love it because for all the things I remember (both the important and the mundane), they don't understand how I can loose a mug filled with coffee several times a day, day after day. It really is ridiculous.

There it all was in one place - the miss-mash of my interests assembled before my very eyes. It was like looking at a representation of my brain. I could see for just a moment the contradictions of my Physics and English Literature majors: the gossip magazine, the philanthropic shoes, the culture wars book, and my caffeine addiction all rolled into one.

Which then lead me to look at the children a little differently all day. I found myself wondering if I pigeon hole them without intent, expecting each one to follow a set path based on what I think should relate to their likes and dislikes. It lead to a lot of conversations over the next several days: Why would you do it that way? Why do you like this and not that? What do you think about  . . . ?

It is much easier to presume we know someone based on stereotypes than to take the time to investigate further. I learned a lot about my kids during those chats, and they in turn learned a lot about themselves and each other. It was, in all actuality, very cool.

Now, the challenge is to remember.

halloween humor

Before I post our costumes for the year, I thought I should take a moment and share some stories from our night.

Elyas, who actually remembered the whole Trick-or-Treating process from last year, spent most of his time with Scott. We would take turn accompanying them up to the door in order to absorb some of the more charming Halloween moments. Elyas really enjoyed just looking at everything on everyone's porches. The candy seemed to be an afterthought, although a happy one.

At one home, Elyas was given a list of candies to choose from. He held up one finger, did a no-no-no motion, and stated: "M&Ms. Please." The homeowner said that he didn't have M&Ms. Elyas looked him in the eye and said, "No thank you. I'm finished." And then he walked back down the stairs. At another, the owner's had done a great job of creating a very creepy home and were all dressed up on their porch to add to the drama. Elyas, though, wasn't a fan and finally asked Scott to take him away. As Scott carried him down the driveway, Elyas announced in his singsongy way, "That was a creeper!"

We were surprised at the mild weather given the 9" of snow which had fallen just two days before. It was a nice surprise though, as it meant we were able to stay out much longer than anticipated and we could really enjoy the lights and decorations once it became dark. And the darker it became, the more families were joining us on the street. Towards the end of our loop of the neighborhood, we were all commenting on the overwhelming Dick-and-Jane feeling to the night.

At one home, several children joined ours on the stairs to someone's home. As the first of the costumed kids began to make their way back to the sidewalk, my dad grabbed one. As the kids struggled, my dad held tighter and began to say things like, "I'll never let you go. No matter how you struggle." I looked over and realized that the kids my dad had grabbed was not one of ours. Thankfully, everyone was laughing as the released prisoner ran off to join his friends.

It was a great night, with lots of fun and laughter. It was nice to have Nana and Papaw along with us after several years of their traveling during the Halloween season. I managed quite well on my crutches and all total we hauled in over 60 pounds of candy.

Our annual candy breakfast was a smashing success, accompanied this year by a reading of the cauldron scene from Macbeth. And then, the kids all moved seamlessly into their daily routines accompanied by some friends who had come to spend the day with us.

It was a lot of fun. And now, without further delay, the snaps:

all 8 in their finery

Shelby as Amelia Earhart
She had toyed with being a surfer,
but the snow put an end to that notion.
As it was, this costume had the most positive reaction
of any she has ever worn!

Dawson as Dylan Haigh
A family friend whom Dawson admires.

Isabelle as a Ranger's Apprentice.
Based on the series of books by John Flanagan, this is the first year Isabelle branched away from admiring Shelby's ideas and simply came up with her own costume. The result was something she felt a great deal of pride in.

Tucker as Legolas.
His original intention was to be a Moria Orc, but when Aunt Jenna told him she had found a Legolas  costume, his eyes lit up and he changed his mind immediately.

Keats as Mario and Aidan as Luigi
When we made these costumes last year, it was with the hope that they boys would want to wear them again this year. Success!

Abigail as a Wood Fairy
Abigail was the Wood Fairy last year as well. She loved the costume so much  that she would check on it as it hung in Daddy's closet all year. This costume was lovingly made by Aunt Jenna 11 years ago in order for Shelby to wear it at the age of 4.

Elyas as Buzz Lightyear
This costume is a hand-me-down from the twins beloved Buzz and Woody days.

The haul
Weight total? 68.5 pounds.

end of an era

We received our first iMac with the 1998 release of the colorful g3 computers. For weeks, the youth group would come to our house for Youth Group Monday and just want to play with the computer. Our home computer had always been a Mac, but now we were completely sold. The simplicity of the all-in-one machine was just what this family was looking for.

Alas, as time always does to electronics, our lime green iMac's era in our home has ended. It is still in great working condition, but it just can't keep up with today's software. And so, as our new iMac is being tweaked and our now-for-school eMac is being is being stripped down, we are prepping our greenie for shipment to the Apple recycling facility in California.

It was a good, long run.

missing mom

Just a quick view of what happens when mom can't walk and the soccer game temperature is 41 and rainy. While we spread most of the family responsibilities out amongst us all, laundry is still pretty much my job. None of the kids had ever seen the laundry room piled in the manner, so when it happened on October 2, they had to take pictures!