Where Sponges Come From

So, Tigue is kind of a Tay replica, if I haven’t mentioned that before, and she is known to take on a pretty maternal tone when she is instructing her twin brother Rook in weightier matters of the world.  The other day I was fortunate to be a silent witness to one of those moments.

We have a natural scrubbing sponge we use in the shower; one of those that actually did come from the ocean floor.  On this sponge is attached a string with a little suction cup that allows us to hang it on the wall of our shower.
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Well, Rook was letting Tigue know that Mom had purchased a new sponge, to which Tigue corrected him that this sponge did not come from a store but rather from the ocean, this mistake on Rook’s part giving her a window of opportunity to enlighten him on yet another subject about which she clearly knew much more than he.  Remember, we’re talking pre-kindergarteners here.
“Rook”, she began, “Sponges are alive and they live on the bottom of the ocean.  In some places people swim down there and cut pieces off and bring them to the top”.  “Are they alive?” Rook asked.  “Yes, they are,” Tigue responds, “but when they bring them to the top of the water they put them out to dry and that kills them”.  “Oh,” Rook responds, perfectly willing to either accept what she states as truth, or in some instances I can absolutely see that he is simply accommodating her need to be in ‘instructing’ mode.  He’s learned that arguing is futile, and honestly he’s the type of kid that really doesn’t care; as I recall he was actually building an airplane out of Legos at the time and was carrying on the conversation almost half-consciously, though wisely indulging her need to have a teaching moment.
Recognizing that he may be losing interest, Tigue thought she’d better get on with the additional facts before she completely lost him.  “Rook, did you even know that they stuck to the bottom of the ocean?”  Rook, showing great aptitude at feigning interest, skillfully responded without even looking up from his Legos, “No, I don’t even know how they could stick down there.”
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Now, as a quick aside, notice the skill with which Rook feeds Tigue’s hunger to be up on a soap box. I’m not saying all men do this, and for all the wives reading, I’m sure your husband is the exception – along with me, of course, but I have seen at times that SOME husbands aren’t always actually listening but are nonetheless surprisingly adept at SEEMING to listen by inserting socially appropriate comments at appropriate times almost without any consciousness of the subject matter at all.  I’m just sayin’, if this is a skill Rook will need at some point (without a doubt he’ll need it in high school), he’s got a huge leg up on the rest of the suitors out there.  He can build a robot, draw a picture, and paint a rock, all while managing to keep her convinced that she has an attentive pupil. Back to our story.
So, with Rook’s comment astutely offering her the chance to continue her lesson, she began again to orate, but in that moment i could see on her face that she too did not really understand how the sponge might stick down there.  Heaven forbid, however, that the teacher admit ignorance in front of her pupil.  In a diving catch of a response she looked at the sponge, and pointed to the string and the suction cup, “Rook, that’s what this piece is for – that’s how it sticks to the bottom”.  “Oh, that’s pretty cool”.
Rook did his part, Tigue was completely satisfied with herself, and the delicate balance of the unspoken but critical peace treaty between these two remained perfectly intact.
You know, some days I wouldn’t wish twins on my enemies – certainly not two sets back-to-back, but what a riot it is to be around to watch the dynamics.  This is one conversation of hundreds they have each day, each as interesting as the last, all of them hovering somewhere between facts, rational assumptions, and complete conjecture.  It’s easy to forget how hysterical their chatting is because it literally never stops, but what a blast it is being a part of it.

 

Dirty Clothes and Stomach Blows

Sorry for the drought of information on the website of late.  I’d say I’ll do better, and I really think I will, but I hope you’ll understand that given our current life pace, I am reticent to commit anything except those things that might otherwise get me fired, cause me to fall out of Kat’s good graces, or incur the wrath of Providence.  Unfortunately, a lot has been going on, and there’s a lot that I think many of you might find entertaining.  That said, due to the shortage lately, I will do a two-fer today.

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The first is relative to our laundry system at the Reynolds.  At the ripe old age of 6 our kids are given the character-building opportunity to take charge of their own laundry.  Yes, their whites aren’t necessarily white for very long, and stains tend to be stains forever, but they’re clean, that’s the bar and we’re prepared to live with it.  We don’t tell them that most people would consider them way too young to do their own laundry, and so they just accept it as the way things are and surprisingly there is very infrequent complaining about it.  That said, it doesn’t mean they necessarily enjoy doing laundry, or that they won’t put it off as long as absolutely possible, as is the case with all chores and most kids.  Dak in particular seems to feel the deepest disdain for laundry duty, perhaps that goes for chores in general, but with laundry it is particularly noticeable in several ways.  First, the sheer weight of his laundry basket is your initial clue. I don’t know if a physicist could figure out a way to pack more clothes in Dak’s dirty clothes bin; I swear that thing is so tightly stuffed you could use it as a foundation block of a multi story home with no concerns.  Another indicator that Dak’s laundry day is looming in the not too distant future is by simply observing his attire.  Dak is no prima donna, so his bar for acceptable public presentation of himself is slightly lower than the average bear, but when clean clothes are running low, this guy has seriously no boundaries, so long as it will buy him one more day away from the laundry room.
Well, I think he reached an all-time low a few weeks ago, when Kat was looking around for Fife’s little sweat pants.  Yes, Fife, our 10 month old baby.  Try as she could, they were nowhere to be found.  Granted, finding anything in a house of 11 is not easy, but Kat runs a pretty tight ship so most things eventually turn up if you look hard enough.  You can imagine our surprise the next morning when Dak wandered up from bed, bleary eyed and the standard bed head he brings to breakfast, and to top it all off, he was wearing Fife’s sweat pants as pajama shorts.  How is it possible, you might ask, that our 9 year old boy is wearing a 10 month old’s pants?  Well, Dak is a pretty small dude, and I don’t know that you could find an ounce of fat on his little body, but c’mon, we are definitely into the realm of the ridiculous.  Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you, other than I guess you have a sense about how Dak feels about laundry.  So, just know that next time you see him, if his clothes don’t fit just right, or if he’s wearing his church slacks with mismatched socks and and old beat up tee shirt, you’ll know the story behind the story, and you might even show him a little pity, because you know – like he knows – that he can’t hold out much longer.
The other quick one is about Rook.  Rook has serious personality, and I may have already mentioned his confidence.  He’s always had it somehow, really can’t saywhy.  For example, when he was only two we took all the kids to watch a Dak’s baseball game.  Of course we were fashionably late, and upon arrival found the small bleachers full.  We spread out a blanket on the grass to watch the game, but it was clear the Rook was not down with sitting on the ground.  So, he brazenly walked up to the bleachers, chose the person that looked most likely to make a comfortable chair – in this case an older bearded Santa looking fellow – climbed up on his lap and watched the game from there, occasionally looking down his nose at we peasants seated on the ground.
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Well, part of Rook’s innate confidence manifests itself in his astonishment at any suggestion that he may have done something wrong.  And in extreme cases, where in fact he knows he did something wrong, he actually considers it more wrong for anybody to ‘tattle tell’ on him.  Lately he has taken to preempting tattling with tattling for tattling.  That is to say that if he believes somebody is going to tattle on him,he usually beats them to Kat or I and tells on them for their plan to tattle on him, fully expecting us to chastise the other child for tattling on him.  When MaShay was here with the kids while we were out, she said she witnessed Rook actually tackle Tigue and bulldoze over her on the stairs to get to MaShay before Tigue had a chance to report on his misdeeds.   Well, the other day it played out like this:  Rook came barreling up the stairs, with Reese not far behind, yelling, “Mom, Reese is going to tattle tell on me!”  When he eventually made it to Kat, he repeated that Reese is a tattle tell and is about to tattle on him.  By now little Reese has also arrived with her patented offended face, expecting her case to be heard before judge Kat.  So, Kat turned to Reese, “Why are you tattling on Rook, Reese?”  To which Reese responded, “He punched me in the stomach!”.  We let a lot of things go around here as kids just being kids, but all know that punching isn’t tolerated – I mean, we have to draw the line somewhere.  Kat then turns to Rook, “Rook did you punch Reese?”  That previously expression of righteous indignation on Rook’s face begins to give way to a little smirk that says he knows he’s caught, but he’s not even close to surrendering.  “But Mom! . . . her breath stinks! She never brushes her teeth!”  What a kid, he’s always good for a laugh.

The Limits of Generosity

IMG_4946Sharing.  A tricky concept indeed. I’m knocking on 40’s door and I still grapple with this one. How much to share, how often, when is enough enough?  If you have a pack of gum and your sibling wants a piece, you should share, right?  What if you have 8 siblings?  What if they each want two pieces? What if everybody got a candy bar, they all ate theirs, and now they want you to share yours because you conserved?  What’s the point in having your own stuff if your parents say you just have to share it anyway?  A lot of gray area in this whole sharing business, especially when you’re just a kid.

Well, one of our kids finally drew a line the other day, and we thought it was sufficiently meritorious as to warrant mention on the site.  I can’t remember what it was that he did, but Dak had performed an “above and beyond” act of service which we deemed worthy of extra special recognition.  In times such as these when we are really pulling out all the stops, we take the drastic step of buying a child a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, in the child’s flavor of choice.  (As an aside, there is something about ice cream, not sure what it is but there’s magic there.  We Reynolds boys are convinced we are actually uniquely endowed with an ice cream stomach – kind of like cows and their extra compartments.  For us, there is never a scenario when we are so full that we can’t find room for ice cream.  I think it’s Cody who doesn’t subscribe as much to the “ice cream stomach” theory, as it is his belief that it melts on the way down and “fills in the gaps” left by chunky food – you’ll have to ask him about that.)
Whatever the case, ice cream’s supernatural powers have enchanted our children, and it is no surprise to me that it is the treat to beat all treats.  Even in the dead of Colorado winter, in our home at 7200 feet, buried in snow, ice cream is still the answer.  So while what I am about to share may come as a surprise to you, upon my own witnessing of it, I barely took a second glance.
I was just arriving home from work, there were about 3 feet of snow piled up on either side of the two miles of winding country road between the last pavement and our home.  It was the middle of winter so although it was only 6:00, it was already dark and probably hovering around 15-20F degrees.  As I pulled up to the house, I could see from the crack under the door that the light was on in the garage.  In some homes that would indicate something was afoot in there; in our case I just assumed the light had been left on . . . again.  However, on this occasion, something actually was going down in that chilly cavern.  As I opened the door and entered the garage, there before me sat Dak, bundled to the hilt, sitting in a chair in the middle of the room, calmly excavating bites of his treasured Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  Apparently he had thought through the situation, asked himself where he might go that would give him the best odds of not being discovered, clothed himself in the appropriate vestments, and made his clandestine exit with the cherished winnings of his good deeds.
You may see irony in the fact that it was through his unselfishness that he had earned this reward but now with it in his possession he was choosing to go the totally selfish route.  I however, have no problem with it.  Just a boy working out the balance between ownership, pleasure, and generosity, and after all, we are talking about ice cream here.  Of course he had to share a bite with his old man – I did discover him so fair’s fair.  However, he did swear me to secrecy . . . other than to get his permission to tell his mom so we could snap this photo.

Cool Points Rewards System!

 

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Kat thought it would be interesting for me to write a little bit about the rewards system at the Reynolds.  As any parent knows, there are tonsof great ideas out there.  We have given many of them a shot, but honestly, it’s hard to find something that really works well. We eventually came up with something that in no way is monumental or brilliant, but perhaps the fundamentals behind it are what have made it work, or shall I say, at least endure much longer than anything else we’ve done.  We call it “Cool Points”.

So I went out to the shop and built from wood a small 8 compartment box – (this was before our recent surprise baby #9 – and yes, you’d think by now we’d have figured out how to avoid surprises) –   I found some little marble sized cedar balls and put them all in the middle.  Each of the 8 children has one of the 8 compartments around the outside, and they can be awarded with cool points, which means they get to pull a cedar ball from the middle and put it into their respective boxes.  When they get 10 cool points,they can either choose something from the cool point bin (huge candy bars, toys, etc.), or have 5 dollars added to their account.  Like I said, this is not rocket science.  Teachers have been doing reward boxes for good behavior longer than anybody reading this has been alive.

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Rook and Tigue helping Sade get her swimming suit on

But there is something kind of unique about the way we manage cool points that seems to make it work better for us, and it is that this is not a “compensation” system.  The kids do not “earn” cool points by doing things they are asked to do.  We don’t pay them or bribe them with cool points (not that we are above bribing).  Kids can not ask for cool points in exchange for their services – though they try – and we never say “if you do X you can have a cool point”.  Cool points are awarded completely at our discretion when they do kind things that are completely motivated by their own initiative.  Tay may change a diaper without being asked, Tigue might make Rook’s bed, or Payte might take Fife into a room and play with him for a while.  Tagg may write a nice note to somebody, or we may hear that Dak stood up for somebody at school that was being teased.  These are the kinds of things for which we award cool points, and it is completely at our discretion and generally pretty unpredictable.  One day something may earn the child a cool point, while another day it might not.  The whole idea is for the children to look for ways to show kindness and serve others.  Sometimes they are rewarded with cool points, but hopefully they are always rewarded with the positive feelings that come from serving one another.

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Reese and Reese bringing in firewood

We do enjoy watching them when we award a child a cool point.  Rook may go into the bedroom and clean up Sade’s mess and get a cool point, and suddenly Tigue is bustling about washing stools with a dry rag as conspicuously as possible, frequently glancing at her mom to see if her service merits the coveted reward.  So we do get some of that, but generally it’s a pretty effective system to teach the kids to recognize opportunities to serve and take action, and recognize the positive feelings that come from selfless thoughtfulness.

Not that we don’t do the work/reward system as well.  We do have a long price list of things kids can do to earn money, but that is separate from cool points, as each scheme is aimed at reinforcing different things.  Of course we want them to learn work ethic, saving, and the value of money, Dak recently had a hard lesson about how easy it is to squander hard earned money on momentary urges – that was a hard day for him when he realized his siblings accounts were in the hundreds while his had dwindled to $36.25 thanks to a temporary interest in some particular action figures.  Was hard to see, and a tough night for Dak, but better to learn now, as they say.  No surprise yesterday when he cashed in his 10 cool points he chose the $5 bucks.

Anyway, there you have it, Cool Points – that’s what works for us, and has actually stood the test of time.

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 All the kids help out with Fife

Prayer Time with Tigue

DSC_0072I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but some of our kids have gone through a phase with their praying that is quite melodramatic, and honestly, super hysterical.  Tay did it, it skipped Payte, Dak, Tagg, and Rook, but Tigue is redefining this particular genre of prayers.  My kids always groan when it is my turn to pray, and they are sure to get pillows under their knees and a blanket to wrap up in just to make sure I am aware they think I pray too long, but if this business keeps up with Tigue, she’ll be giving me  a run for my money in no time.  Her prayers include phrases to Heavenly Father such as, “I know you like to give me beautiful things,”  and, “I know that the Holy Ghost wants to be all of our best friend”.  But the other day, she made a comment in her prayer that may have topped all previous prayers.  She said, “I thank thee for giving us such a special wonderful person to create this beautiful earth for all of us to live in”.  Now, you might ask why she didn’t just say “Jesus”, rather than referring to him as “a special wonderful person”.  But the next phrase clarified why she did not find it necessary to identify Jesus by name, as she then stated to Heavenly Father in a tone only used among two people who really know each other well, “And YOU KNOW who I’M talking about”.   Man that little girl is a piece of work, and I don’t know if it’s proper protocol or not, but I’m going to start recording these prayers, you just can’t make this stuff up.

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Christmas Letter 2014

Our Christmas cards are LENGTHY and don’t come out every year, but it seems that people get a kick out of them.  Here is our 2014 Christmas letter.  BTW, I got few back in the mail you might be hearing from me for address updates:)

 

Merry Christmas friends,

If you can’t tell, we’re on the every other year Christmas Card plan.  In fact, that is my excuse for disregarding all the unspoken rules of decorum regarding just how long a Christmas Card letter can be.  That and the fact that I can barely write all my kids’ names on a single sheet of paper, much less elaborate on their individual awesomeness (as determined by a somewhat biased mom and dad).   Hope you enjoy. If you decide to gut the whole thing out, remember it will be at LEAST two years until you have to do it again.

Well, July brought with it sun, rain, and baby-Reynolds #9.  FIFE, true to the Reynolds tradition, showed up 4 weeks early on July 30th, spoiling my reign as the sole July birthday in the entire Gary Reynolds clan.  The other kids were delighted of course for the spoiler.  Some of you know the last time we had a baby she came with a partner, and we already had two 1 year olds.  It also happens that the year brought with it two cross country relocations.  Well, Kat figured she got ripped off on all the cuddling and spoiling that should come with a last baby.   So, we have #9.  I don’t know if that is a very great reason for bringing a human being into the world, but the fact is that there’s plenty of love to go around at the Reynolds ranch, not to mention the care of the greatest mom on earth.

REESE  and her twin Sade are recently 3.  If we ever had two kids alike, I think they would be Reese and Tay.  She’s conscientious and aware, and is really a parent pleaser, always “helping” out in her way.  She is her mom’s shadow and her dad’s ardent disciple.  She struggles with the menu around here though.  We have a rule in our house that if you don’t eat your dinner, you can get down from the table, just know you’ll get it back for breakfast (I’m sure some of you are questioning our parenting practices right now).  No surprise that Reese has had a lot of Brussels sprouts or green bean breakfasts lately, she sometimes even holds out until the next day’s lunch.  And mind you, just getting them in her mouth is no cause for declaring victory; we have to keep a close eye on her as we often find some of those items tucked away in her cheek hours after they crossed her lips.

SADE.  Where to begin.  Every year there is one for whom the writing fodder abounds, and that is certainly Sade this year.  First, she’s crafty.  She went to hand a Ziploc bag of Chex Mix to Kat, saying “This is Reese’s” (all that was left were pretzels and Chex – blah).  As it passed in front of her however, she noted some chocolate chips had settled down at the bottom of the bag.  “Actually, it’s mine” she corrected herself, pulling it back.  A month ago when Kat said, “Sade eat your food”.  then turned around to the sink.  When Kat had turned back to Sade, Sade had slid onto Tigue’s stool in front of Tigue’s empty plate and pronounced, “Look Mom, I’m finished”.  She thinks the word for freezing is freaking, so we all get a huge kick out of her on cold snowy days, “Dad, I’m freaking cold”.  She’s quite the little contrarian.  A couple interchanges: Kat: “Sade, eat your broccoli”.  Sade: “But I’m dying forEVER!“  Kat: “Sade, pick up your blocks”.  Sade: “But I’m scared of monsters!”   Finally, she is quite the bug collector.  As Kat was walking her up the stairs for her nap, she dropped something. Then the something moved.  “Oh, my moth!”

TIGUE, 5 in December, is a bright little whipper snapper.  She is sweet and articulate, has real attention to detail and uses those skills to manage her twin brother Rook and younger siblings.  She’s quite the mother for her little sisters.  She goes by and covers them at night, brings them water, and comforts them when they wake.   As sweet and helpful as she is, she is no slouch and knows how to take care of herself in this band of savages.  She took a good hit this year and came in the house with a pretty bloodied nose.  “What happened,” I asked.  “She bonked her nose” Kat responded. “No”, Tigue corrected her, “Rook just sat on my face”.  She can be crafty as well, like the other day when the kids were eating sweet peppers.  Imagine this interchange.  Tigue: “Mom, can I have a pepper?-”.  Kat: “Sure”.  Tigue: “-mint patty”.

ROOK (also 5), now this guy is a piece of work.  For example, his birthday list includes the following: power ranger, rocket ship, iron man, knight helmet, dollhouse.  I think he thinks his superheroes need a place to live when they’re not saving the world.  Rook is quite a protector of his twin sister.  I shudder to share this, but the other day we saw Tigue sneak something from her nose to her mouth.  Everybody quickly jumped on her, “Tigue, that’s disgusting, don’t do that”.  Rook, quickly to her rescue, “It’s OK, Tigue, sometimes I eat my boogers”.  Last month our cat caught a mouse and was playing with it like a rag-doll as cat’s do.  Tigue and Rook approached and found it dead.  As they got a closer look it turned out the mouse was feigning death, and it jumped up and bit Tigue.  Rook immediately jumped forward and stomped on it to where he was sure the feigning was over.  He’s a man’s man, that kid, and has the confidence of many men; he’s well suited for this gaggle.

TAGG is 8 in February.  He is a super aware and thoughtful kid, rapidly becoming a young man.  He has his own way of thinking, and we appreciate his conscientiousness and unselfishness.  He is regularly making hand-made gifts for people at school who are having birthdays, he always has something ready for each of his siblings on their birthdays well before we even talk about them.  We had a funny incident with him with a bow and arrow.  He got a new bow and was messing around with it.  After dinner he took it back outside without our noticing.  About as dusk began to fall, we realized he wasn’t around and saw the bow was missing.  The weather was cool and darkness falling fast.  We drove up and down the roads with no luck.  I saddled a horse and took off the direction one of the kids thought he’d gone.  I found him out in the woods, about a mile from home, well aware of where he was and didn’t see what everybody was so worked up about.  After all, he was ‘huntin’.  That little incident was the impetus for the new exploring rule: if you go out, think “WWBD” – stands for “Whistle, Walkie Talkie, Buddy, and Dog”.  Since then, so far, so good.  Don’t think I would even hesitate, though, if somebody came up with a reasonably priced surgically embedded blue tooth tracker . . .

DAK is now 10, and against all odds (at least on my side) he seems inclined towards the sciences.  He recently spent a hard earned 50 dollars on a collection of the 50 most common North American minerals.  We regularly get educated on the attributes and differences between things such as granite and quartz.  He’s a hoot.  Along with that scientific brain, he’s got a little less consciousness about what might be more obvious to the socially astute. Example: a while ago we were about to leave to church and I found Dak in mismatched socks and Rook’s church pants.  It wasn’t that he didn’t realize that either of those situations existed, but he simply couldn’t conceive of a rational reason why pants that barely made it half way down his shins and socks that didn’t belong in the same drawer, much less on a matching pair of feet, didn’t functionally fit the need as well as an alternative apparel selection.

PAYTE just becomes more Payte with time.  I think I could build a full elk skeleton with the bones she has collected in her room and in the garage.  She loves building our fires, she saved up and bought a high powered pellet gun.  She is shooting fewer birds these days, however, due to the trouble it was to feather and cook the last sparrow she shot and was obliged by her father to eat.  I did, however, stumble on a skinned and frozen squirrel in the freezer in the garage.  So she still knows the rules on killing animals, I just don’t think she can muster the appetite to eat that thing.  Needless to say, small game hunting is on the decline around here.  Payte has a really gentle, kind, understanding streak that is a welcome attribute in our family, though a little better attention span wouldn’t kill her.  The other day I was giving her the 3rd degree about something, when she responded, “Dad, you don’t have to tell me again, mom already did”.  I responded, “Well, what did your mother tell you?”, to which she replied, “I don’t know.”

TAY is now 13.  And I must say it’s easier to write about the little ones, because they generally don’t read my writing and frankly, if they did they couldn’t care less what I write.  Tay, however, is a full-fledged, card carryin’ young woman, so daddy has to watch himself.  Tay went from a girl to a young woman in about 15 minutes at some point this last year, and all that entails for those who have been through this.  For one thing, she told her mom she was done with public school drama, and decided to do homeschool.  Kat relented, and Tay has completely blossomed in this environment, challenging herself with different subjects, topics, and books.  She is incredibly driven, making big plans and seeing them through.  She exercises, takes on projects (i.e. building a swing, training one of our horses to carry a bareback rider, and on and on).  She has also clearly contemplated the path she wants her life to take, and is making very deliberate decisions about being a strong, righteous, helpful young woman.  She extends herself to her mom endlessly to help with kids, cleaning, work, do kids hair . . .  she’s an amazing young lady and we’re glad the rest of the crew have such a wonderful model to follow.

KAT actually is the saint that everybody assumes she must be, not only in her unmatched ability to create a home environment where kids are learning to learn, to work, to love, to care, to share, to sacrifice, and to make wise choices, but also in her tolerance and support of a hopelessly flawed companion.  Some of you know that Kat was honored as the “Colorado Young Mother of the Year” by the American Mother’s Association.  I normally don’t like to fall into the bragging trap with these Christmas cards – I think we all get our fill of that at this time of year – but when it comes to Kat, I don’t know what else there is to say but, holy smokes how did I land this one.  Her smile lights up a room, and her love and purity lights up our lives.  She’s one in a million, and we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have her at the helm of the Reynolds household.  I lean and depend on her in every way that really matters, and she gently leads all of us with her sweet example, her bottomless well of patience, and her commitment to choosing the right.

Personally, I continue to be overwhelmed at the abundance of blessings that continue to flow to our family.  Late at night I often lay outside in the snow as it reflects the soft glow of the full moon in these spectacular mountains and I can’t help but wonder how I ever got so lucky.  Such wonderful kids, such an amazing wife, a job and company that I love and dear friends and family whose lives are to me examples and models that I know will help me become the man I hope to one day be.  We are grateful at this Christmas season for all these many things, and above all for Him whose birth we now celebrate.

We thank you all for your kindness and friendship.  We pray God’s richest blessings on you, and that the peace and happiness of this Christmas season will help us all choose to be a little kinder, a little more thoughtful, a little more giving, a little more understanding, a little more selfless, and a little more anxious to serve and lift our fellow man.

God bless you, our dear friends.  Love, The Reynolds (By the way, Kat built a website for us – your best chance of hearing from us again before another two years passes is to go there: www.katsninelittlelives.com)

 

Rook and the Bloody Nose

 

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Every so often we are once again frightened into action by some story in the news about a child being abducted by some creepy guy in a big white van.  We consider ourselves particularly vulnerable because, well, our kids have a high degree of comfort with being in huge white vans because, uh, we own one of course; in our defense it’s the only thing that will house our whole Reynolds team at once.

Anyway, such was recently the case and Kat determined it was time again to remind the children about what appropriate behavior looks like if by some chance somebody tries to abduct one of them.  Most of the kids have been through this routine multiple times, and get very excited to share with the group all the things they are permitted to do, which in any other situation would be strictly forbidden and cause for serious discipline.  In fact, the excitement that is generated by the conversation of what they CAN do in this type of situation gives me some legitimate concern that deep down inside a couple of the more brazen of the troops don’t have a teeny little twinge of desire to someday test out their prevention skills.  We’ll have to deal with that too.

So, Kat asks the kids to share with the family some of the things they should do if somebody tries to snatch them, and immediately a vigorous chorus of suggestions ensues.  “Stick your fingers in their eyeballs and try to scratchthem!”  “Pinch them super hard!”  “Kick them in the privates!” “Scream super loud, ‘HE’S NOT MY DADDY, HE’S NOT MY DADDY’!” “Start shaking and going super crazy and having a huge tantrum!”  And on and on.

Well, out of nowhere comes the unmistakable sound of Rook with a suggestion of his own.  He hollers at the top of his voice, “YOU CANPICK THEIR BOOGERS!”.  All the kids immediately stop, look at Rook and start completely busting up.  Rook is not one to be ashamed, in fact he just smiles as all the others laugh at his suggestion.  When the laughter subsides he determines an explanation is clearly necessary, so he simply states, “What? I want to give ‘em a bloody nose!”  Let’s just say Rook has given himself a few bloody noses recently.

SIDENOTE: In our church, we have a program called Family Home Evening.  It’s basic purpose is to set aside one night a week (generally Monday) for families to be together both to strengthen their ties, plan for the week, and teach principles that will help us be better people.  Perhaps one of the  most memorable and enjoyable lessons we ever had according to the kids is the night where we role-played what to do if somebody tried to abduct the kids.  I grabbed each of them in turn and they got to scream and go crazy and flail and go nuts.  We did have some rules however against the eye gouging and private part kicking . . .  Anyway, I highly recommend it.  Not trying to make light of to what any parent is likely the most feared event that could ever happen in their lives, but I think it helps to let kids actually do what they’re supposed to do.  Can’t be too ready.

DSC_0384SIDE NOTE #2:   On the subject of having a twinge of hope that they might get a chance to use these abduction prevention skills: My kids come by this hunger for risk honestly.  A perfect example.  We live in the mountains outside Denver, and mountain lions are a real issue to be considerate of.  One day my father and several brothers were all visiting here for some reason, and the subject of mountain lions came up.  You’ll not be surprised to know that each of us, Dad was not an exception, had already imagined these scenarios and had plans in place in the back of our minds as to how we would handle it if and when the situation of a mountain lion or bear attack presented itself.  And we’re not talking about standard, animal attack prevention techniques here – we’re talking bona fide personal strategies that had clearly been formulated with great thought and consideration.  Further, and I can’t believe this is the case, but each one of us – I honestly can’t exclude myself here – shared our plan in such a way that made it clear to me that in some freakish way, we all hoped someday we’d get the chance to put our well laid plans to the test.  I know what you’re thinking: something is seriously wrong with this family.  You’re probably right, but it’s the best family in the world – hands down.

 

Sade and Pigs

DSC_0139I don’t know the when, where, and why, but for some reason Sade as an obsession with pigs.  I think it may have some connection with her affinity for pink, but whatever the case, pigs have become Sade’s world.  In fact, one way to determine just how may pigs you have in your house is to just invite us over.  A few months back we all traveled to Utah to welcome Brady back from Qatar and attend Annabelle’s baptism, and while we were there, Sade found pigs they didn’t even know they had.  Toy pigs, pictures of pigs, books about pigs, some pig ears, and on and on.

Also funny is that if she is unable to locate a pig, she will find some other object that is pink and just call it a pig.  Like the other day, Sade was sitting at the counter and in came one of the kids with Kat’s 3 foot sewing tape measure that happened to be pink, and Sade immediately went berserk, alleging that her brother had stolen her piggy.DSC_0130

So, it will be no surprise – OK, maybe a bit ofa surprise – to find that one of the Christmas gifts that joined our family was a cute little pig, that Sade affectionately named “Grubby”.  Now the pig belongs to Payte and Sade, of course Payte does all the work but Sade certainly claims it, and strangely the pig completely trusts Sade.  I have stories to share on that subject another day, but suffice it to say for our present purposes that we now have a cute little porker sharing the house with us.IMG_4283

Well, the other day during what we stubbornly continue to call nap time but has become anything but nap time, Sade and Reese dragged a chair into the closet and successfully removed some of Tay’s old frilly dresses from the rack.  They managed to get them on, and when Kat called them down from their “nap”, theycame down bedazzling all in their snazzy duds.  Well, Reese came first, and as she descended the steps with grace and grandeur, Kat pronounced, “Reese, you look SOOOO BEAUUUTIFUL!”  As Sade followed shortly behind, checking herself out in the mirror as she came down, and before Kat could say anything she pronounced, “I look so beautiful, too” . . . Now that part wasn’t unexpected nor surprising, but the end is what had us all cracking up, “I look so beautiful . . . . for my PIG”.
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Baby 1 vs. Baby 9

IMG_2563You know, I don’t think many people go into marriage thinking, ‘nine kids, that’s where we’re headed’.  I know we didn’t . . . well I know I didn’t.  To be fair, however, the thought well may have been buried somewhere deep down in those secret recesses of my wife’s psyche that she chose not to talk about until I was too far gone to pull the rip cord, but I can say at a bare minimum that it was never part of the vocally articulated plan for the rest of our star-crossed lives together.

Don’t get me wrong, no complaints here – mostly because I don’t have any college bills yet – but suffice it to say that we didn’t know a lot about what we were getting into, and to some degree, it just happened . . .  and happened . . . and happened . . . you get the idea.

Speaking of it happening, you may be surprised to hear that the last time we tried to get pregnant we only had 4 kids.  Not kidding.  OK, I think it’s only appropriate to qualify this statement as well.  Let me rephrase:  the last time I was deliberately working with my wife to get pregnant we only had four kids.  Again, speaking for me alone.  For the more astute among you cyberspace readers, you may be sensing a pattern here.

As I considered just exactly how we might kick off this little website of ours,  I thought it might be interesting to find a way to contrast some of the differences between living with 1 kid versus 9.  And then it hit me, let’s talk about actually having babies.

Uncategorized 080Kat and Tay in 2001

So there you are, you’ve been married just a little while but you’re expecting.  So many things to do to get ready, but I’ll leave that essay for another day; let’s cut to the chase on this one.  You’re eight months in, you don’t know when the baby’s coming, but coming it is.  So, despite due date being a month away, you have a backpack packed with the critical necessities – and there are so many you almost need two bags.  Not the least of which is of course the outfit you have painstakingly selected as the baby’s ‘coming home from the hospital’ duds.  You have the shiny new carseat already in the car – and it’s the safest throne money can  buy.  You have everybody you know on alert and ready to jump in and help – with what exactly you’re not sure, but they’re ready nonetheless.  Your moms are waiting in the wings somewhere to buy the plane tickets, if they’re not already in town lingering close – and it’s a good thing too, because for heaven’s sake you’re going to need them – you’re having a baby.

Then it comes; the faint twinge of a contraction . . . panic, elation, terror, excitement, all flow through you at the same time, each emotion undistinguishable from the other, but it’s time.  And you’re outta there, to the hospital you go, driving way too fast and ready to run over the first cop that gets in your way, he can take up his issues with you at the hospital, but not now, dangit, you’re having a baby.  And you arrive, you’ve managed to call all your parents somehow between that first flicker of a contraction and now, and the troops are mobilized, ready to help . . . with whatever it is that needs helping.  You get to the hospital, screech into emergency parking likely filling 3 spaces and dash into the hospital.  You butt into the front of the line because you’re having a baby, what emergency could be more important than that.  And on, and on.  So goes the rodeo when you’re having your first baby.  Unfortunately, in all likelihood you get sent home and told to return when you’re really having a baby.

Now, allow me to walk you down my recent memory lane of child number nine’s grand entrance into the world.  And yes, this is actually how it happened.  I woke up about 5:30 and Kat is walking out of the bathroom slightly hunched.  “I think it’s today, I’m having some contractions”.  “Okie doke” I say, “how soon?”  “Probably not too soon” comes the response, “I think I want to have some pancakes – I have been wanting good pancakes and I’m probably going to be stuck in the hospital for a couple days”.  So downstairs she goes to the kitchen for her last real meal in a little while.  I lay in bed for another 20 minutes or so then drag myself out, adorn my weary body with whatever I consider to be reasonably comfortable for sleeping on a hospital couch, and meander down the stairs to join her.  Kat, amidst periodic bending over to sustain contractions, is cheerily making pancakes as bleary-eyed kids start trickling in.  She lets them know it’s probably the day, and they are genuinely excited; in fact, they are nearly as excited as they are to have pancakes with whipped cream.  Well, we doddle around for a bit, throw some clothes in a bag, dig up the car seat and head out, with our trusty 12 year old there to hold down the fort.  Grandpa’s there too, but I’ll not pretend that we’d call a babysitter if he weren’t, I’d put my 12 year old up against any daycare professional on the planet.  Anyway, as we’re just about to pull out, I realize I have dry cleaning to drop off and it’s not too far out of the way.  “Honey, are we OK dropping off some dry cleaning?”  “Sure, we probably have time”.  So, I grab the clothes and we’re off.  After dropping the cleaning, I realize we’re kind of low on diesel.  “Do you think we have time to fuel up?”  “Sure, I think we’re fine”.  Then, it’s to the hospital we go.  It’s now been a couple hours since breakfast and Kat’s still dreading the imminent reality of hospital food in her not-too-distant future.  She suddenly recalls a faint memory of a Mexican dive she’s noticed a few times.  “Can we stop by that little Mexican place I’ve been wanting to try?” she asks.  Of course I’m not complaining.  Greasy spoon Mexican food?  Shoot, I may even be tempted sneak out of the delivery room for that.  So, we stop by and squeeze in a couple tacos and some horchata (it wasnt very good). We get out and are thinking it’s really probably time to get moving, but Kat realizes how close we are to Costco.  In an instant a peaceful vision settles into her consciousness of going shopping at Costco without a thousand little kids hanging on her legs and shopping cart alike.  “Honey, can we stop at Costco?”  “Up to you, sweetie,” I reply, knowing good and well I’m totally onboard given the fact that the Mexican food was a total bust and I know those chocolate covered ice cream bars at Costco never fail me.  Well, unfortunately we’re only a few aisles in when we have an ‘event’.  I can’t believe I’m using this word because in all of labor and delivery terminology, this term is by far the most repugnant, but the mucous plug is out, and we’re both just grateful she’s in black pants.  We head back outside, and on our way out it occurs to me that, well, we can’t get the truck all messy – I hurry back in the store to grab one of those cardboard boxes that used to be full of economy sized Tide bottles, smash it flat, and put it on the seat to protect the upholstery.

IMG_2836Reese, Kat and Fife 2014

Suffice it to say that we made it on time, little Fife came into the world safe and sound, and he is now living happily on the couch, or the floor, or in a drawer, or wherever we can find a quiet place that he can sleep relatively undisturbed.

So there you have it, folks, in a nutshell, that’s the difference between 1 and 9 kids – there is simply not enough time in the day to get too worked up about . . . well, anything really.  People often ask “how do you do it”.  My first response is usually, “I really don’t, it’s mostly Kat”, and that is absolutely true.  But my second thought is, “With every kid you just give a few more things up, to the point that all you have left is your family, your work, a friend or two, and your faith – and there’s almost always room for one more when that’s the whole equation.”  But just between you and I, dear reader, you don’t give up your horses either, but shoot, that’s pretty much family.