Sunday, November 23, 2008

Marathon Day

The Philadelphia Marathon is today. And I woke up at 5:00 in the morning, just like many marathoners, whose anticipation, excitement and anxiety kept them from sleeping.

Which would make sense if I were running today. But I'm not.

I trained for the Marathon. I logged training runs of 15 and 17 miles. But I kept putting off registering - I was pretty sure I was going to run, fairly certain I would be ready, but what was the harm in waiting? After all, I had run the Broad Street Run (10 miles) and the Philadelphia Distance Run (a half-marathon) this year, and both times I had signed up at the Expo the day before. That way, I could check out the conditions - after all, I wasn't one of those running nuts who would slush through 13 miles in a downpour.

Then, about three weeks ago, Keri told me that she had heard from a friend that the Philly Marathon was closed. They weren't accepting any new registrants.

I couldn't believe it, but it was true. Apparently, there are a lot more people in town who can run 26.2 miles than I had ever assumed. So, no marathon for me.

It serves me right. I've noticed this tendency in myself before - to have an idea, a plan, but not to commit to it fully. I always like to leave myself a back door. I could very easily have had a tubal ligation when the twins were delivered by C-section, for example, but I chose not to. I mean, five kids is more than enough by anyone's standards, and I honestly have no desire to have any more (and would probably have a heart attack if I somehow found myself pregnant, like what happened to Keri) - but I guess what it comes down to is that I don't trust myself not to change my mind.

Which is a shame, because I can't help but feel my life would improve enormously if I could throw myself into projects with reckless abandon. Instead of working in dribs and drabs on the novel revision that my agent has been waiting on for the better part of the last two years, what if I had stayed up all hours of the night, or gotten up at 4:30 in the morning on the days Andy went to work early? What if I hadn't spent so much time surfing the net or playing games on the computer or even blogging for Strollerderby (which I just recently gave up, recognizing it as the time-sucker it was, instead of the paying, identity-affirming, writing gig I liked to think of it as)? What if I had been able to eat healthily on a consistent basis, instead of constantly undermining myself by eating four bowls of Andy's homemade oreo ice cream? What if I had set aside the time every night to help Erika with her math and help Hilary practice her reading? Maybe by now, Hilary would be able to read to herself instead of just being able to read out loud - a mysterious gap in her skills I can't really explain.

On the one hand, I understand that kind of intensity is not really part of my personality, and in fact runs counter to the laid-back, flexible attitude that keeps me sane amidst all the chaos of my life right now.

But on the other hand, there's no reason I can't turn up the heat a little bit. So, there's my New Year's resolution, a month early: sustained commitment. My buzz words for 2009.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'll always wonder what Declan would be like if he had grown up as the oldest child of three, rather than the middle child of eight, as he is here. Older children are generally higher achievers than their younger siblings and, from my experience, tend to have much stronger personalities. Younger kids tend to be pleasers, as I can attest.

But every time I lament the Declan I'll never know, something happens that makes me realize the benefit of having older siblings around to look up to. (No, Erika and Hilary teaching Declan to dress up in princess dresses was not such a benefit.) And right now, it's homework.

Declan is obsessed with homework. He sees Erika, Hilary, and Jazzy doing it each day after school and so desperately wants to be a big kid like them. So I printed out some worksheets and have him practice his letters in a spiral bound notebook. He does his homework each day like the older girls and beams with pride when he learns a new letter. He's getting better and better at writing his name, though yesterday he wrote "Decalin" at the top of his worksheet. That actually impressed me, because that's how some of his friends say his name and it means Declan might actually be sounding out the letters in his name rather than just copying.

Would Declan be so driven to learn if he didn't have his older cousins to mimic? I don't know. Perhaps he'll tire of the homework when he's actually required to complete it, as Erika has. But until then, I'll enjoy the huge smile on his face when I congratulate him on the proper execution of a "C" (it's harder than you think) or a careful printing of his name, all the letters in the right order ("I ran out of room," he says, when I question why he sometimes puts the "N" in front of the "D").

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Big Happy Family

Being part of a huge blended family means that people tend to only see you that way: one big family of 12. Sometimes it feels like we've lost our identity as a nuclear family of five (or seven, in Amy's case). And while it's wonderful to be part of such a warm and loving group, its not ultimately what defines us.

Because of our branding as "that crazy Lutz/Fisher/Murphy family," no one ever invites us anywhere. I think many people assume that inviting one of us means inviting all of us, though of course we don't feel that way. There have been times that Amy and her brood have gone to parties or dinners at friends' homes that we haven't been invited to, and this coming Friday, in fact, Matty and I and the kids are having dinner at the home of one of Ronan's friends. But these outings are few and far between. We're much more likely to host our friends at our house.

It makes sense; there are a lot of us and we have a big house, so inviting another family over doesn't really put us out. And I realize that most people would feel slightly claustrophobic inviting four more adults and eight kids into their home.

But I hope our friends know that though we live as one big happy family, we're really two separate families that try to maintain our single family relationships. We try to schedule individual family outings on Sundays, and sometimes even leave all the kids with a sitter so two separate couples can go out with two separate sets of friends.

We've tried hard to instill in our kids the distinction between sibling and cousin, parent and aunt/uncle, and it seems to be working, as we've written about here . Now if only we could get everyone else to see the same distinction.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Want to Live in Your House: A Guest Post from Rhea

Everyone thought we were crazy. You really want to live with two other families???

Well, yeah. We have nowhere else to go! It was just perfect. Close to our new house, same teacher, class and bus for Jazzy and Erika, two chefs. Why not? Patrick and I are good sports. We can do this. It should only be for a few weeks.

Well, it has now been over two months and it looks as though it will be just a few weeks more. All in all, things have been good. Here are some of my deep thoughts, reflections and comments about communal living.

“Who the f--- is crying now??? It’s f’in’ 7am on a Saturday!!!”

Everyone (even Marina) is a little bit scared of Gretchen. (And you thought Imelda had a temper and a shoe fetish.)

We only get to watch TV on a 3” screen and only political shit since Matty has a coronary if we change the channel. The BIG TV is reserved for Eagles games and they won’t show us how to use it.

What the…? Where’s RoNo??? He is just the sweetest thing….

“Is Amy dressed to go out in public?”

“Molly spit up on me again.”

Hilary is a very WHYs child.

Iwanbeer actually means “I want my bear.” So should I not have given Aaron a beer? I put it in a sippy cup…

Thai hairdo’s are no-do’s. But the food is delish.

Andy can buy ANYTHING in bulk.

Erika totally gets her money’s worth from drama class.

Naked boy! is always followed by another Naked boy! and then another Naked Boy! and then a Naked Girl!

“Must we eat steak, again?”

Depo makes babies who have very sweet demeanors.

ALL men have the same sense of humor and only ONE topic of humor.

It takes a village to buy a boat.

“Someone’s crying.”

And those a just a few thoughts off the top o’ me head.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Two Angels, a Mouse, a Pirate, a Ladybug, Rapunzel, Tinkerbell, a Grey Furry Baby, and Robin Hood Walk Into a Bar...

Update on the Uber-Commune

I got an email from my friend Sarah last week, expressing mild shock that after more than two months, our mutual friends Patrick and Rhea and their daughters were still living with us, and everyone was still happy with the arrangement. Which reminded me that I hadn't posted any updates on that situation since Patrick and Rhea moved in.

In case you haven't been paying attention, here's our current head count: 3 moms, 3 dads, 9 kids, 2 kid helpers. When Jonah comes home at the end of the month, that will make an even 10 kids.

And I have to say, I love it. I think I was just meant to live on a commune. I love that my children are always occupied - Erika and Jazzy (Patrick and Rhea's older daughter) are in the same class at school, share a room, and are rarely apart; Sophia (their younger daughter) has formed a sweet bond with Gretchen. I love having even more smart, interesting adults around with totally different skill sets than mine - Patrick, who's an architect, has helped us immensely with the townhouse we're in the process of buying down in Atlantic City, and Rhea makes a completely addictive kimchee fried rice.

And of course, it's no small benefit to have more people around to share the chores: packing lunches, doing dishes, driving to school. I can honestly say that it's less work for me personally having Patrick and Rhea here.

What they think about the whole thing, I'm not sure. They haven't fled screaming to their shell of a house, choosing to live without a kitchen or working bathroom rather than stay here, so I guess it's not too terrible! Look for a guest post from them soon.