Friday, February 28, 2014

What do honey and wine have to do with education?

Besides the obvious -- kids love honey and occasionally use sticky hands to complete their math worksheets, and we teachers tend to use wine as a coping mechanism -- another, more inspiring connection was made by a man named Alcuin who lived a long time ago.  He also talks about fruit and dazzling splendor... it's a pretty great quote.

So I wrote about it as a guest-poster on this homeschooling web site.  If any other moms/teachers out there need some fresh ideas and inspiration to get through this long season, come check it out:

Honey and Wine

Two steps forward, one step back...

Parenting is full of these moments, I suppose.  You get so elated when you see a child accomplish something new or better, and then 5 minutes later, so frustrated when that same child, or another one, repeats the same mistake over and over.  It feels like it's been one of those weeks.

This past Thursday Strider found out that an organization was sponsoring a 5K in our neighborhood, so he asked to run it.  We were surprised how much he wanted do it -- but sure enough, on Saturday morning he hauled himself out of bed early and got himself to the starting line, willing to pay part of the registration fee and everything.

We waited at our house until we saw some runners come by and then headed to the corner to cheer him on:
Here he comes!

We are proud of our Stride-r!  He came in 4th for his age group -- a good showing. We love that he's realized he's stronger than he thought he was.

The little guys tried another kind of striding -- on thin steel blades.  Pete took them ice skating for the first time, and even though one of them arrived home with a huge goose egg on his forehead, the reports were all jubilant.

The pictures were not so clear, since they were taken on Pete's phone:
First a clip showing Miles with a little "walker!"
Colsen took right to the ice, and Miles wasn't
far behind -- pink gloves and all.

Finally -- a not too blurry picture
 (Rayna was a little under the weather earlier this week, so she stayed home with me.)

Meanwhile, when they're not out running and skating around, everyone's been growing and stretching at home.  Stretching my patience sometimes, that is.

For example, Miles has been battling me allllll week over practicing his violin.  Every morning at around 8:30 I tell him to practice.  He refuses, and so for the next several hours he gets one discipline measure after another.  (He spends most of the morning in his room.)

Some of the arguments he's given me today for why he shouldn't have to practice:

“That song makes me cough and I don’t want to cough.”
 “You think I’m your slave.”
 “Grandpa and Gee-Gee are coming later today so I need a break.”
“Where’s my bow?  See, Mom, I lost my bow.”
“It’s way, way too hard.”
“Well, then I’m only going to play ONE song ONE time.”

 Finally we near lunchtime and I tell him he's not getting lunch until he practices.  At this point his arguments escalate, tears begin, and then finally he caves and does his 4 minutes of practice.

I truly wish we could see some strides forward in this behavior!  (And some others as well)  Ah, well, still creeping forward...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

And now... back to the kids

While I've been pondering and writing about acedia and other stuff, the kids have continued to be, well, kids.  I love hearing all their philosophizing, so I finally sat them down and put a camera on them to ask them about "the point of life."

Here is Colsen's point of view.  (It actually went on for 4 and a half minutes, but I trimmed it down for sharing.  :)  )

Then Miles wanted a turn.  His turned out to be about, well, food.

Finally, Rayna wanted to get in on the action, too.  Unfortunately for her, the action around her didn't stop, so the poor girl was distracted.... which is a commentary on her life as it is.  She came up with some good truths anyway, though!

The soundtrack you hear in the background occasionally in these videos is provided (unwittingly and unknowingly) by Strider and his guitar teacher Steve, who were playing upstairs at the time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Acedia: The Silent Enemy? (Part 4: Overcoming Acedia)

Seedy acedia! Deceitful acedia!  This nasty “bad thought” of the long ago monks appears to very alive and well in our culture.  So what can we do about it?  Here are some suggestions:

Name it.  As I mentioned originally, it seems to be no small coincidence that the rise in acedia has come with the loss of its name through the years.  What used to be readily recognized as a sin in the monastic communities, and even in the church at large for centuries, slowly came to seen as an ailment or a distraction, such as the “ennui” of the 1600’s, or its later relative, melancholy.   But let’s call it what it is:  the Enemy’s attempt to lead us away from the full love of God and His transforming work in us.

Confess it.  It is a sin.  When we give in to the temptation to leave the things we know we should do, to follow our desires for distraction or amusement, we are disobeying.

Change your viewpoint.  The monks viewed repetitive work as part of working out their salvation.  They even rejoiced in it (at times) because it gave them more time to pray.  Perseverance and manual labor were at the core of their spiritual discipline.  We lucky moms get to have plenty of opportunities for both!  So the next time you are facing a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, remember that this is another chance for the “straw” of the repetitive task to become the “gold” of ceaseless prayer – just as the monks thought.

Look for times that allow for contemplation.  Certain daily tasks are mindless enough that they free up the RAM/space of our brain for more serious thought.  Use those times as the monks did, to meditate on the goodness of God.  Whether we're pushing the stroller around the neighborhood, weeding the garden, or washing dishes, we can choose to chew on the Truth of God’s word, instead of immediately turning to external noise or stimulation.

When you fall down, get up again.  When the noon-day demon besets us, or our weariness threatens to overwhelm in the evenings, be quick to turn back to the task at hand.  The word acedia shows up so much in the monastic writings because it was a common threat.  But they were not content to just give in and give up.  Instead, the monks admonished one another to “get back up again,” and return to finish the task.  Even just following through on one small task (emptying the dishwasher? Folding that last load of towels?) can often be enough to drive the acedia away.

Focus on perseverance.  One monk who wrote a lot about acedia is Evagrius Ponticus, who lived in the 4th century A.D.  His primary antidote for acedia was perseverance.  Before taking on a task, he suggested that we decide how much was to be done, and then not turn aside until it was completed.  Of course he doesn’t account for interrupting toddlers or screaming babies… sometimes moms have to finish simple tasks in several short bursts.  But you get the general idea.  Another one of his wise teachings was that it is not in our power to determine when we will be disturbed by bad thoughts, such as acedia, but it IS up to us to decide if will keep those thoughts around.  If he was speaking to us today, I think he’d say something like, “Kick acedia to the curb, people!”

Turn to the Psalms.  When we are particularly beset by acedia’s lies and despondency, it is good to see how other handled it before us.  David and the other Psalm writers transparently show us how the battles in our minds play out, and how God can have the victory in our souls.  Psalm 42, for example, shows David repeatedly asking himself why he is so “downcast,” and then he reminds himself to put his hope in God…. But a few minutes later he is again feeling downcast.  God is no stranger to the battles that rage within us, but as with David, who ends the Psalm with “For I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God,” He will ultimately provide the victory.

Recognize that the road is hard, but right.  Your work is difficult, dear mom.  It is repetitive, it is mundane, it is often thankless, and the results aren’t seen for a long time.  But it is right.  This is the road God has put you on, as the very best thing for you right now.  He is using it to transform you, to make you more like His Son.  He loves you greatly and wants you to turn to Him.  Don’t leave the path; don’t look for escape or other things to distract you. 

“We are made for love. To resist it is to deny who we are. In their reluctance to die to the old self, those with acedia choose slow spiritual suffocation to the birth pains of new life. They cannot fully accept the only thing that would ultimately bring them joy. They refuse the thing they most desire, and they turn away from the only thing that can bring them life.” – Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Acedia: The Silent Enemy? (Part 3: 3 common acedia traps)

Acedia has a variety of faces and can manifest in many ways, but I’ve noticed three common  trends among mothers home with their children.

1.  We turn to electronic escapism.  When acedia hits, I find it all too easy to turn to a screen to give me input, and to help me avoid whatever task is in front of me.  Acedia has been called the “noon-day demon” because monks often struggled particularly at that time to stay focused and joyful.  At my house it’s more like the post-nap-time blah’s.  In the mornings I can usually stay reasonably focused and energized, but once 2:30 hits, I’m ready for some chocolate and some diversion. 

Evenings can be even worse for me.  By then I am exhausted and don’t feel like doing anything.  Enter Netflix or Facebook, anything that will help me to forget that pile of clean laundry staring at me, or that conflicts I’m having with my teenager, or my anxiety over the health of my children.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with entertainment occasionally, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with taking time to rest, but we need to evaluate our motives.  Kevin DeYoung put it well in a blog post last year:

For too many of us, the hustle and bustle of electronic activity is a sad expression of a deeper acedia. We feel busy, but not with a hobby or recreation or play. We are busy with busyness. Rather than figure out what to do with our spare minutes and hours, we are content to swim in the shallows and pass our time with passing the time. How many of us, growing too accustomed to the acedia of our age, feel this strange mix of busyness and lifelessness? We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thoughts. We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts. That’s acedia—purposelessness disguised as constant commotion.

Acedia is that demon that takes us by the remote-holding hand, or the texting-thumbs, right down the path to numbness and death.

2. We turn to busyness.  When faced with the hard work of sanctification – of allowing God to shape me through the daily, mundane or hard tasks – I’d rather do something else.  And I want it to be loud enough and consuming enough that I can’t hear God’s whisper reminding me that He has called me to something else.

Most of my fellow moms are pretty educated.  Many of us have been to college and/or prepared for careers.  So when the opportunity comes to do something, we are skilled and ready!  We can throw ourselves into a book drive or a church ministry team or a fundraising effort or a school function with great gusto – and even a sense of fulfillment.  “Finally,” we think, “Finally, I am getting to do something that will not get undone, something that will be appreciated, something that gives me a sense of worth.”

Aha!  I’m looking for something to do to give me a sense of worth!  The ironic thing is – acedia is leading me to find my sense of worth in a deceptive way.  My worth will never be defined by the type of banquet I throw;  it can only be defined in my relationship as God’s child.  That “bad thought” that the monks recognized – acedia – is leading us away from this truth.  God tell us to be still and know Him.  Acedia tells us to do something – anything – else.

It also wants us to be busy so that we don’t have time to think, or to care.  Kathleen Norris (the author of Acedia & Me) says that acedia has come so far with us that it easily attaches to our busy schedules.  Even though we appear to be the opposite of slothful, we actually are using our activity as an excuse to do less of what we should, and to even care less about what we should.  She quotes Wendy Wasserstein, who says that some people keep themselves so busy in their active lives that their spirits actually reach a permanent state of lethargiosis.  (Now there’s a thousand-dollar word for you!)

Sometimes we pride ourselves in being so busy that we don’t have time to think.  But, as Norris points out, that also means we don’t have time to care about the things we should- -namely our transformation in Christ.

3. We turn to consumerism.  Another way that acedia sneakily takes hold of us in persuading us that we need more, which is true, and that the “more” that we need can be bought in stores, which is the distortion of the truth.  I wish we could measure acedia and that we could do a historical study of it because I suspect that as the age of consumerism has grown, the amount of acedia has trended up right along with it.

Acedia turns us away from our True Love, away from the hard work of discipline and sanctification, away from the tasks we don’t want to do… and drives us right into the welcoming arms of the big, lovely, brightly colored stores who can seem to be organized, crumb-less refuges to the young mom.  In the mirrors of those stores, she can be a trendy woman, a woman who has a lovely, clean home, a woman who has kids who have clothes that fit, match, and are ironed!  The stores promise hope… but as we all know, it is an empty hope.  Those new purchases are soon grasped by little hands, stained, broken, and lost.

We chuckle about “shopping therapy,” but that’s exactly what it is - -an attempt to heal the hole that our turning away from the tasks at hand causes.  When we don’t want to face what is going in our world, inside ourselves or in the lives of people around us, we go shopping. 

Consumerism has a way of acting like the black mold on my shower walls.  One day I might spot a little bit in the corner, and by the end of the week it has spread  to all four walls and is grotesque.  (And then I want to ignore it—and just leave and go shopping!)  Once we start giving in to consumerism, it begins to take over our lives.  We measure ourselves by how well we, our homes, and our children look.  The appearances and purchases crowd out the other thoughts we don’t want to face, the ones that matter.  As Norris says, we become, “more concerned about the thread-count of our sheets than the ones who have no beds but the streets.”  The things that break Jesus’ heart no longer break ours.

The really sad thing about seedy acedia is that it generates a cycle of itself.  When we turn away from God’s desire for our lives, and choose entertainment or consumerism or busyness or anything else, we think we are making ourselves better off – but we’re doing quite the opposite.  I like how Benedictine monk Hugh Feiss puts it: “[T]he confused heart, having lost joy within itself, seeks… consolation outside… itself.  The more it seeks exterior goods, the more it lacks interior joy to which it can return.”

So, what is one to do about all this acedia?  Tomorrow I will summarize some suggestions for how to overcome its lies.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Acedia: The Silent Enemy? (Part 2: Why moms are especially prone to acedia)

I believe mothers home with young children face unique circumstances in our culture today.  They are often educated and trained for something other than what they are doing,  the work at home is often seemingly thankless and tiring, and they can feel removed from the rest of the adults in their lives.  In some ways, this stage of motherhood can be seen as similar to a monastic season  in fact.

Just as monks centuries ago struggled greatly with acedia, moms today may, too.  Here are some reasons why:

1. The work can feel mundane.   No one ever claimed motherhood would be glamorous --well, maybe June Cleaver made it look that way -- but some of the things we moms are asked to do are just downright boring.  Matching socks. Emptying the dishwasher.  Telling the 2-year-old to get down off that high stool for the 27th time.  Reminding the teenager to put  a sweatshirt on for the 227th time.  Making oatmeal again. (“This time maybe I’ll get really crazy and add raisins while it’s cooking!”)

 We can feel very underwhelmed in our daily tasks.

Meanwhile, we watch our husbands get dressed each morning (in clean clothes!), and go off whistling to work where they will likely get to talk to other adults (!) and finish some task that will not get undone immediately.  They may even get told they are doing a good job by their bosses, and they may even get to have lunch at a restaurant on a table that’s not smeared with peanut butter, and… ok, I’m digressing.  The point is, we moms long to have more stimulating work and more stimulating conversations sometimes.

Did you know, though, that the ol’ monks actually embraced the banality of the work they did?  They believed that the simple rhythm of mundane tasks actually helped shape them into the people God wanted them to be.  They saw it even as a form of prayer and worship.

As Kathleen Norris points out in her book, Acedia &Me, it is acedia that urges us to brood or fantasize over circumstances in which we would be affirmed and admired by more stimulating companions.

2. The work is redundant.  Much of a mother’s day, especially when her children are very young, can be primarily about doing something that is about to be undone.  Changing a child into clean clothes.  Making meals.  Washing dishes.  Washing clothes.  Putting the couch cushions back onto the couch.  Putting the toys away.   It all needs to be re-done almost immediately.  It can begin to feel like the mythological Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up to the top of the hill, only to have it roll back down again.

Norris tells a story about a monk centuries ago who lived in a cave far away from all civilization.  Every day he would do his work – which was weaving baskets out of straw.  When his whole cave was filled up with finished baskets, he would burn them – because he lived too far away to carry them somewhere to sell.  Then he would start all over again.  If that’s not the definition of mundane work, I don’t know what is.  I imagine he was not unfamiliar with acedia.

3. We have more “solitude.”  I almost chuckle every time I remind myself of this because at my current stage of life, I am never alone for longer than 20 seconds at a time – even at night, it seems. 

But, the fact reminds that for many of my earlier years as a mother, even though there were other warm bodies in the house (warm, that is, IF they were wearing their sweatshirts), I often had no one to converse with – other than, “Hey baby, want some milk?  Milk?  Milk milk?” which generated no intelligent response. 

So, we moms are “in our heads” a lot, as they say.  And so we blog.  And we journal.  And we process.  And we think about ourselves.  And our plight.  And we wonder and analyze and conclude.  And sometimes we find ourselves despairing because of our plight.  And sometimes we want to escape our plight.  And sometimes we’re tired of caring.  And all of that is acedia.

Monks had long periods of silence, too - and they thought about acedia a lot.

4. Our work is long-term.  Some of our tasks are not mundane, and they're not redundant, and they are important.  In fact, the very heart of motherhood is raising new humans to do what is right and good and true and to follow their Savior.  But that is a looooong road.  At least, it feels long when you’re in the middle of it!

Even though what we are doing is extremely meaningful, we can find ourselves looking forward or backwards, looking at what else is out there.  As the early monks discovered, acedia’s special dislike is staying alone in one place.  But that is what moms are called to do – to stay here and embrace the now. 

Norris tells us that when acedia tempts us to reminisce about the past (those happy, golden years when we could sleep in on weekends and spontaneously go to a movie with friends!), or dream about the future (someday I’ll be able to go to the beach and read a book all by myself!), we are unable to see the grace available to us here and now.

Like monks, we moms have some lifestyle challenges which can make us extra prone to acedia.

Tomorrow I'll share some of the common traps this can lead to....

Monday, February 17, 2014

Acedia: The Silent Enemy? (Part 1: The Demon That Lost Its Name)

Ok, raise your hand if you can relate to doing any of the following:

  • Wasting away numerous hours each week watching mindless TV
  • Avoiding your husband when things are “tense,” and choosing to spend the rest of the evening in a different room
  • Ditching the housework responsibilities and going for some shopping therapy instead
  • Rapidly scrolling past another blog post about children in need in some country you can’t pronounce because you feel too helpless anyway
  • Looking at the mountain of dishes that needs to be done – and going to take a nap instead
  • Looking at the mountain of paperwork that needs to be filed – and going to scroll through Facebook instead
  • Caring more about the matchy-ness of your kids’ Easter outfits than about the plight of the children that probably made them
  • Feeling ready to just walk away from your whole life and responsibilities if one more small child asks you for one more thing

As I look down this list, I can say, “Check, check, check, check, double-check, double-check, check, and check.”

Would it surprise you to know that at the base of all of those impulses there could be one common enemy?  It’s an old, old word called acedia, and although the word is no longer in fashion, I believe the concept itself is very relevant in our culture.  In fact, it may be more prevalent now in our daily lives than it has been in previous eras…. perhaps because the name has been lost?

So what is acedia?  Originally taken from the Greek words meaning “a lack of care,” acedia was a word quite common in the monastic tradition as early as the 3rd or 4th centuries.  In fact, the monks used to refer to “8 bad thoughts.”  Later most of those 8 were transposed to the “7 deadly sins” list – all except acedia.  It was left off the list…. but surely was not gone from practice.

Acedia can be described as listlessness, a deep boredom, or a desire to run from what is in front of us.  It can be confused with depression.   But, according to Rebecca DeYoung, who wrote an article about it, its roots go much deeper.  She says acedia is resistance to the demands of God’s love.  We’re not ready to surrender all our desires/treasures to Him so we won’t fully enter into the relationship with Him.  We don’t like the work of discipline or transformation required by our new identity as God’s beloved. 

She says, “As a result of its resistance to love’s demands, acedia can take two opposing forms: despairing resignation or desperate escapism.”

Well, doesn’t that sound like a common plight among moms today?  Despairing resignation (“If I have to wipe one more butt today, or do one more load of laundry, or clean those floor one more time….”) or desperate escapism (“How much longer until Downton Abbey is on?”).  What is in front of us – the housework, the whining, needy children, the meals that need to be prepared….Sometimes it can become overwhelming, and seem meaningless at the same time.

I could go on and on here... and I will.... but so as to not overwhelm anyone with words, I will take it in pieces.  Tomorrow I will post a segment called, "Why Moms Are Especially Prone To Acedia" The third segment will be, "3 Common Acedia Traps" and the fourth will be, "How Do We Avoid -- Or Throw Off-- Acedia?"  So, stay tuned!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Year of the Winter Storm -- for real!

See the cardinal? 

So it turns out we got real snow dayS here in NC!  Three of them in a row!  With snow falling each day!  And actually a good amount of accumulation!

We have been feeling sorry for our friends and family up north, some of whom have seen +/- 100 inches of snow thus far.  And now that we've seen +/- 8 inches this week, we feel like we can empathize even more.

Day 1 of the Big Snow Event found the kids running outside to sled across the street, and Rayna spending lots of time trying to assemble her perfect outdoor attire.

Day 2 brought more snow and more crazy activities:

By Day 3 even some of the adults wanted to get out and play.  Our next-door neighbors Jo and Wayne kept the kids occupied for hours!

Rayna and Miles are on the sled being pulled

Strider and Colsen being pulled

It's actually been a fun 3 days... nowhere to go, nothing major to do (although we've gotten in a good amount of school time).  But hopefully we'll be able to dig out by tomorrow!

(And we hope we don't lose power tonight when everything re-freezes....!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Date Night

Pete and Rayna signed up for the Daddy-Daughter Date Night at Chick-Fil-A this year again, and again it was a treat!

Rayna was looking forward to it for days and days, telling me over and over about she wasn't going to see me on Monday night because she was going out with Daddy.  Monday afternoon I ended up getting stuck in traffic and couldn't make it home before they left.  When I talked to Pete on the phone, I reminded him to tell her she could dress up.  He answered, "Oh, she's already gotten herself all dressed up -- you should see her!"

She looked colorful and beautiful -- just like her personality.  :)

They had a great time -- the highlight being a horse-and-carriage ride around the parking lot!  Even though it was freezing and raining, Rayna still thought it was totally awesome.

I'm very thankful she has such a wonderful man in her life to take her special places!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Turning 5!

Miles has declared that today was his best birthday ever --- "even better than last year when I had a party!"

First, he was verrrrrry excited to have a donut for his birthday breakfast.  And the experience lived up to all the anticipation.

Then, after church, came the major highlights of the day.

Our family custom when each of the kids turns 5 is to take them to Build-A-Bear.  FINALLY it was Milo's turn!  In the past each of the kids were allowed to bring one friend/cousin, and Miles this year chose to take his great-grandmother because she shares his birthday!   And she was a very good sport and agreed to come along.  Nonna and Poppa were game, too, so it was a whole party!

Miles' siblings all enjoyed coming along, too.  None of them had been back since their respective fifth birthdays, so they enjoyed being reminded of it all.

Strider thought the bear underwear was funny, of course

The whole group, minus Poppa
 Then we headed out to a park, where the Clarks joined us for birthday cake and frolicking.
The birthday buddies:  "M" for Miles and Mor-Mor!

After we got home, Miles opened a couple more presents...
 ...., and his new bear, Teddy Russell, joined the other Frank bears:  Zeke, Ishi-Lana, and Teddy Franklin Vee!
Zeke and Teddy Franklin Vee have lost their pants over the years.... not too unlike their owners.

It was a good 5th birthday, indeed.

All day it was a little sad to think about my baby turning 5!  I consoled myself with realizing that now all the kids' ages are prime numbers, and this will only be the case for 8 months of their whole lives.

As I was hanging streamers last night, I calculated how many kids' birthdays we'll have celebrated by the time Miles graduates -- the total is 72.  Then I calculated how many we've already had and discovered that we're exactly half-way -- this was #36!  That seems weird, and sad.  Things are going fast!

But for today I'll follow Milo's example, who was so excited and thrilled and thankful all day.
It is a good day.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When Colsen grows up...

So is 7 the age when most kids start seriously contemplating their futures?  It sure has been for Colsen.  Several times a week we hear the phrase, "When I grow up, I ____"

This week I decided to start jotting down some of the things he's said.  Here's a few of them:

"When I grow up...
Photo credit: Strider

...I want to be a mechanical engineer and a scientist. And work at a restaurant, and a gas station."

...I want to travel to all 50 states to taste pizza and then see which one is best.  (I’ll take my kids with me.)"

...I'm going to earn $35 and then take it all to a store to buy gum – all different kinds."

.... I'm going to start a car company.

.... I want to be an archaeologist.

... I'm going to take my kids to a different country every year.

...I'm going to start a gum factory and make all kinds, like pumpkin-pie gum and cinnamon-toast gum, but especially healthy ones like Mint-Alfalfa."

...I'm going to -- this will just be a hobby because I probably won't make a penny at it -- but I want to have a half-priced bakery for all the poor people.  They should still get to have good food even if they're poor!"

...I'm going to study zoology.  There are a lot of jobs for that, right?"

And my favorite one of the week:

"When I grow up, I want to love God like I mean it."

Meanwhile, Miles is starting to pick up on this theme.  This morning he told me, "I used to want to be a police when I grow up, but now I want to be a radio man (DJ)."

Can't wait to see which things come true!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Strider's Second Annual Super Bowl Party

I was sorely tempted to call this post "Strider's Second Annual Superbowl Soiree" simply for the alliteration....but that sounds too fancy for what it is.  It's a plain and simple party.

And it's still going on as I type this.  I've decided to retreat to the home office while the living room looks like this:
Boys, boys, and boys... sitting still for the picture.  This is not their norm.
Rayna wisely chose to go next-door where Wayne and Jo-Ellen were hosting another party.  That one was more balanced gender-wise, and had a lot of good food.  (So various members of our family also traipsed over for "drive-by" visits, too!)

Even though we had some food at our house...

.... the boys are bigger and hungrier than they were last year, so we got pretty cleaned out by half-time!  (There are some lonely celery sticks still out, and a pan of nachos that is not being touched "because it has avocado on it"... so no one is starving.)

The boys here played a couple indoor games...

.... but their favorite game to play was this, of course:

Miles and Colsen thinks it's pretty cool that the big boys are here.  (See Miles in the pic above and Colsen in the ones below)
We have a new football fan in the house
The actual game is pretty lame this year, but the boys are having fun anyway... probably mostly because they get to stay up late!  Party on!