08 July 2014

Tomato Transitions

Reason Number Eleven I'm Never Allowed To Leave the House. 

Most people have, I think, thematic objects in their lives.  Things become representative of experiences and emotions.  A dog leash recalls all of those morning walks; a certain apron reminds us of burning the bread every single Sunday night for years; an outfit on a child brings up visits to a favorite restaurant.

I have this certain relationship with cans of tomatoes.

I cook a lot.  Canned tomatoes are a frequent ingredient - sauces, etc.  Since they are used a lot, I don't always just buy one.  You know the type of thing - right?  Might as well grab two, because you know you're going to need more.  Especially if they're a bit on sale.

With these cans of tomatoes, there is a patterin.  I buy two one week, three the next, and the pantry is over-full, and I become annoyed because why in the world did I think I needed all these tomatoes.  And then, for the next four weeks, I buy none, cleverly remembering my stockpile.  And then one Tuesday at 4:45 pm, I get all my stuff out for spaghetti, run to grab one of my ubiquitous tomato cans, and, in fact, they are all gone.  And I practice restraint and only say medium-level bad words and only to myself and the aquatic frogs which live on my counter.

14 April 2014

are coaches ever jealous?

Smoky Mountains, September 2013, "Let's all tie our jackets around our waists."

I'm not the athlete type.

I'm woeful in the physicality department.  I don't like to be out of breath; I'm decidedly not talented.  The best I can do is swim fairly quickly.  And by fairly quickly, I mean probably faster than the average adult.  Certainly never was fast enough to swim against people who, you know, swim. 

But, I do like sports a lot. I like watching them, screaming loudly (shocker), and keeping up with what's going on.  I kept stats at the local little league fields as my favorite high school job, and I briefly managed the basketball team at my high school.  I was - and am - an avid football fan.  I do know what a cornerback is. 

Lately, a telling sports analogy has been in the penumbra of the Forster household:

So, sometimes I'm talking to a grown-up, and I spell something, so that my third child won't know what I'm talking about. 

And sometimes, my first and second child just interpret for him. 

Great.  Thanks.  Love that. 

This week, for example, we're dealing with Collins's broken arm. 

We've been talking to him about the possibilities - surgery to add a wire or pins to help it heal- cast for 4-6 weeks, etc.  So, he knows.  We're not (and generally are against) keeping any truths from him. 

But, I try to not bring up trauma-causing things at inopportune times.  We try, as a rule, to discuss serious topics when it's appropriate.  But, grandmothers and friends have called over the last few days to check on him.  And, in the course of the conversations, a few times I've said, "well, on Tuesday, we'll find out if we need to have s-u-r-g-e-r-y."  Again, we're not trying to keep it from him.  I'm just not interested in stressing him out constantly.

This afternoon, I said the same thing, on the phone, to my mother.  As I said it, I was walking through the dining room, where all three kiddos were visiting at the table.   

Collins looked at his siblings.  They looked at him.  Without missing a beat, they, in unison, said, "Surgery.  She spelled surgery." 

It is not meant as a betrayal of me (as of course is my first instinct), but, rather, it signifies their loyalty to The Team first. 

They are a team. We are the coaches.  They love us, respect us, (imperfectly) follow our lead, but, when it comes down to it, they're protecting their quarterback, setting a pick for their forward, handing the baton off to their relay team members. 

This first either makes me mad or makes me sad.  But, it should do neither.  It should make me happy, proud, satisfied, calm.


They can - and naturally do - operate outside of me.  

Don't get me wrong - They are with me always.  They inadvertently follow me to the restroom for goodness sake. 

But, they know what it is to be vested in someone else's interests first.  Their identities are independent of mine. 

When it comes down to it, they'd never obey one another first.  They obey me first.  It doesn't occur to them to mind one another. (In fact, it is anathema). 

However, it is natural to work for one another, protect one another, fight with and for one another, criticize, help, love one another.

They are each other's teammates.  

I do wonder.  Are coaches ever jealous?  
One day, these dear ones will have another team.  It could be a team of one or a team of seven.  But, it will be separate, distinct, apart. 

And then Paul and I will not even be coaches - but just enthusiastic fans.  

Box seats, Monday morning tape reviewing, griping and/or rejoicing over a beer, three-term Presidents of the damn booster club.  
All of those things.  And more.

But, I'm never going to be a teammate.

And it is so very good for us - and for them - to learn it now.  

(Also, we've now had a talk about when I spell something, I meant it to be in code, dadgumit.)

28 March 2014

Two November Babies

My November Baby. To see beautiful John Pearson, head over to his parents' blog at chroniclesofclay. 

There is this wonderful little family, the Clays.  I don't know personally know them - but we have a slew of friends in common.  They have a baby.  He was born on November 6, 2013.  His name is John Pearson.  He came here with a poorly formed heart. 

Here is this other little family.  We have a baby.  She was born on November 6, 2013.  Her name is Elsa Gray.  Her pediatrician describes her as in perfect health. 

Because of the world of the internet, I've been watching John Pearson and praying for him.  I suspect he's been even dearer to me because of their shared birthday.  The mutual friend network of Facebook allows for much connectivity, and I've gotten to watch his parents do amazing things by sharing their journey.  They are those people who just ooze grace - who are a testimony to the good.  They are kind, calm, joyful, peaceful, humble and loving.  Most of all, they are grateful to God. 
And this morning, their baby died.

I have been crying a lot this morning - since learning of John Pearson's passing.  See - it's not fair.  Of course it's not fair.  The world is broken.  Broken, indeed.  But, we never remember that.  It's too hard to remember that there is tragedy - always - around every corner.  That every person we meet has something over which their heart is truly grieved.  

And so, we focus on our petty grievances.  They are, see, more tolerable to our hearts.  But, in the end, more erosive.  Because, no one thanks God for broken wine glasses or the (third) cup of knocked over milk. 

I have not just one, but four children without any whiff of a health problem.  Our biggest issue is the occasional seasonal allergy and the inclination towards (self-inflicted) concussions.
And, let me tell you, I have a list of complaints a mile long.  If you spend any time with me, I'll list them for you.  They fuss, they whine, they just won't be quiet.  They are so messy.  The baby won't sleep all night.  And on and on I go.  Round and round  - I never stop.

I've known for a while that gratitude is the only worldly solution for confronting brokenness with any amount of health or honesty.  But, of course, to know something is not to practice it.  Knowing you should give thanks is like knowing how to drive a stick shift.  You can know it all the day long, and you'll still stall at the first stop sign.

First, give thanks.  Because, see, as broken as it all is, it's wonderful.  The Clays this morning started there and ended there.  And I'm sure they'll be lots of other places along the way as well.  But, first they are grateful for the five months that they had with their son, and then they are grateful that God has healed him and taken him home to heaven.  With shattered hearts, they give thanks. 

To some, this may sound trite.  To others, nonsensical.

But, see, it's the only way.  And if we aren't motivated toward gratitude by people like the Clays, we're missing the point.  If they can start and end with gratitude in the hours following their son's death, we can certainly give thanks amongst the piles of dirty laundry. 

I've heard from many that John Pearson's life has touched them.  He has touched the Forsters.  I only hope the lessons that the Clays have reminded us of will last - that we'll do what we know we need to do:  start and end with the acknowledgement that we are all interminably blessed.

I highly encourage any and all to read about the Clays here:  chroniclesofclay.com.

Kiss your children, thank your Creator, and pray for this sweet family.  

At the end of the Eucharist service in the Book of Common Prayer, the celebrant says, 'Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord.'

And the congregation responds, "Thanks be to God." 

30 December 2013

Finding your Clean Sink


As I've turned into an old woman (which I clearly am), I've discovered patterins (not a typo, just quoting my child) in my world and in the world of those around me.  One of the ones I continue to see is that when life is insane, the way out of that external insanity and the way to hold on to some inner peace - is to find your regulating activity that makes it all better. 

For some, this is exercise.  The world may be falling down around a person, but if he can get in his morning run, he can begin to regain control or, at the least, not lose his mind to the crumbling columns.   For some, this is folded laundry.  For some, a regular reading quiet time.  For some, it is prayer and meditation. 

There is a woman on the internet - the fly lady, I believe - who says that if you'll just go to bed every night with a clean sink, you'll be able to begin to form new habits that will save you from chaos.  There is something to that - there has to be an external reality to make us all feel better.

There are three things I do when I need to regain control:

1) Pray a rosary.
2) Purge / fill my calendar.
3)  Plan my meals. 

26 December 2013

2013 Year-in-Review

Christmas Card Photo- Courtesy of the talented Ragan Oswalt.  An amusing and blessedly brief experience. 

Two thousand thirteen has been a very full year for the Forsters.  We have new ventures, new jobs, and new people to report!  As with all newness, there have been some growing pains, but we remain humbled at God's rich blessings upon us, even and especially through hard experiences.  We look forward to two thousand fourteen being a time of rest and restoration, growth and good things.

Notice the grip - it's fairly strong.  Mountains trip in September. 

Paul William began working for the city of Jackson some years back - first as an engineering intern and then as a civil engineer in the water-sewer division.  He cut his engineering teeth there, and those who know Jackson and its infrastructure state will know that it is an interesting place to begin a career.  Paul had many coworkers whom he loved and respected, and we were thankful for the opportunity to be part of the solutions in our hometown.  However, earlier this fall, he was asked to assume the position of City Engineer for the city of Flowood, a small Jackson suburb.  Paul is enjoying his new gig - his duties have broadened much, and he is excited to spend more time at home with us - a prize he values almost as much as we do.  We remain proud Jackson residents and hope to continue to work as citizens to better our town.  Paul continues to brew beer and work on repairing the ruins of the 1930s home in which we live.

Mountains in September.  Hands full.  Full of good things. 
I have had a year - boy howdy.  I continue to teach Latin to about 30 kids, ages 9-15, and I love that. I am also still homeschooling the kids, which is, in a word, full.  Paul and I are also involved in a new, exciting venture - we're among the founders of a new school in the Jackson area.  The school is called St. Augustine School, and you can read about it here.  It will open in August of 2014, Lord-willing, and we are working a lot to make that happen.  I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors and will serve as the interim Dean of the Lower School during its first year.  The three bigger kids will all be enrolled there, and we're excited to see how the school can bless the community around us.

The biggest event in my life this year is the arrival of Elsa Gray Forster, whom we affectionately (and with much hubris, I'm sure) call "the caboose."
Baby Coming!  Mother's Day Announcement. 

My pregnancy with EGF was rough to say the least - I suffered from acute morning sickness, gestational diabetes, and a few other various and sundry complications.
A beautiful glimpse into the womb. 

But, she is here, all is well, as they say in the telegrams from the hospital, "Mother and Baby are fine."  I am glowing, these days, I'm told, with what we call the Post Partum Glow.  Now that food tastes good, I'm excited to be back to cooking for us and others, and occasionally even entertaining. 

The big kids.  December 2013. 

Easter 2013.  Goofy they are. 

Oh, what a daughter she is. 

Ada Brooks is so old - she's pretty much driving.  Not really, but she is nine and a half!  The last year of her first decade has been great.  She reads and she crafts and she plays American Girl Dolls.  She competes on our co-op's math olympiad team, enjoys painting her fingernails, and working through Latin translations.  If you're getting a picture of a girly little nerd, you've got the right idea.  During the summer, she swims for the Briarwood Dolphins, a local summer swim team, which is great for her.  She's not a bad swimmer, no Michael Phelps either, which makes for a relaxing sport.
At a meet on her 9th  birthday!  
At the city swim meet, reading Island of the Blue Dolphins between events. 

Ada is enjoying her baby sister and serves our family in so many ways, the newest being her uncanny ability to speed-straighten the house, as long as we've got loud music blasting.

Ever elevated - when he's missing, we just look up. 

Eason McNie is six and a half and is full of life.  Vivacious seems a feminine word, but if it could be applied, it should.  He never stops moving, never stops expressing, never stops being in relationship with someone.  Eas loves to climb and loves playing with his little brother most of all.

Typical EC Brother action.  

Ferris Wheel at the Fair.  Sit on your bottom!  On your bottom!  Now! 

They have a club - called the EC Brothers, which amuses us all to no end.  There are passwords and forts and even secret ninja moves.  One is called the Baby Tornado.  Ask for a demonstration next time you see him. You will not regret it.  Eason is a math guy - he craves mathematical challenges and, yes, tries to usurp his sister and father as nerdiest members of the Forster house. You know a house is full of nerd-dom when I don't come close to making the top three.  He has a scholarly strain, but is more Tom Sawyer than anything else.  With a perpetually grimy face, rocks in his pockets, and crickets in jars on his bed, he makes me tired and happy.  Tired and happy all the day long.

At a friend's puttputt birthday. Such concentration.

Isaac Collins is four and a half, and is benefiting much from not being the littlest anymore.  He's a helper and wants to be included in everything.  He's attempting to conquer his whining habit, and seems to actually be making progress.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Collins is introverted and introspective and hysterical.
No words.  

He loves his brother and sisters and especially loves his role in the aforementioned EC Brothers.  He's a swimmer by nature - one of those weird kids you hear about - I didn't do it, but I wish now I had thrown him in at 12 months of age.  I believe he would have just swum across the pool.
Summer 2013.  One  of 17 pairs of goggles.  

He's putting letters together into words, but we don't ramp up the learning-to-read around here until five, so his spring and summer will bring new studies and the beginning of more official academics.
With his "godsister" at the St. Patrick's Parade. 

Like his Mama, he loves to be with people, as long as those people are few in number and quiet in affect.

Newborn Pics - 11/10/13.  Ragan Oswalt Photography.  Sweet Baby Girl! 

Elsa Gray is the newest Forster.  Though her life in the womb was fraught, her life outside it seems to be right wonderful.  She's calm and generally happy. And of course beautiful, if I can still say that as her Mama.  She already has many nicknames - EG, ElsaGee, Gray, and Bucket (the last one is for when she's being opinionated and vocal, which is fairly often, actually...).  We want to keep her.  I think we will.  Especially since she's learned to smile - on purpose - and at people.

We Forsters remain ever thankful for our parents, the kiddos' grandparents.  They are a support network for us, amusements, loves, and a great means of grace.

At grandparents' one night after baths. Looking at their favorite coffee table book of baby animals.

In July, I lost my last remaining grandparent - a man unequaled in stature.  Paul Burrow Eason led a life of legend - small legend - the kind we're called to strive after, and we remain grieved at his passing.
Big Paul in the middle there, last Christmas, bemused, amused, and humoring those around him.  Brooks, Carrie and Mollie the Dog flank him. 

But, he gave the world 91 years, and it seems quite selfish to ask for more.

We are also exceedingly blessed by friends and neighbors who come in our lives and are walking along beside us through times when we need to be served and times when we can be of service.  After Elsa Gray was born, we didn't fix or purchase a meal out for weeks and weeks.  What a testament to community!

Mountains September 2013.

Paul and I are coming up on eight years married, and I don't know that we could be any happier - even in the middle of the night with someone kicking us in the face or spitting up on someone's pillow.
As Prince William and Princess Kate for halloween. 

What a lovely life we lead, and on our knees in gratitude we are. 

Christmas blessings in 2013 and cheers to a merry new year in 2014!

Ann Lowrey

23 November 2013

The Countdown

There are two things people ask when looking at our Thanksgiving plans.  Why? and How?
The why is a complicated answer, and mayhaps I'll get to it soon.  But the how is much more straightforward, and I have to write it out anyway, so no reason not to go ahead and do that here.  Also, it will help me next year as it's always easier to edit than it is to write from scratch.

The two keys to the how, I've found, are clear plans and lots of help.  As my helpers have gotten more able, our feast has gotten more complex.  We surely love the week of Thanksgiving - even Paul, who doesn't generally love things he deems to be less than necessary, has learned to love it.

So, the countdown involves times, days, and names of doers.  

Usually, this countdown is on notebook paper or notecards, but this year, I shall be official.

18 November 2013

How often do infant turkeys eat?

Paul and I were married in April of 2006.  That fall, I decided I wanted us to host Thanksgiving.  We haven't looked back.
This is Thanksgiving numero ocho.  I haven't missed hostessing one yet.  I have a bit of pride in that fact - both the good kind of pride and the kind to keep an eye on - but this year, there is this small speed bump.

Her name is Elsa Gray Forster.  She's 12 days old. 

I am a calendar girl.  I don't know if I had something approximating the Best Day Ever when they covered calendars in first grade, or if it was watching my mother write in red pen and white-out mistakes when things were wrong on her paper calendars every day of every month of every year of my life, or if it's just part of being a J on the Meyers-Briggs, but I love a calendar like white on rice.  (Butchering of similes abounds in my world.  I was the child who readily pronounced "I can read you like the back of my hand," and "I know him like a book," with all amount of confidence.  I treat similes like e. e. cummings treated parentheses.)

So, Paul and I discovered in February that we were unexepectedly (as is Forster tradition) expecting.  And the first thing I did, naturally, was retreat to my calendar. Such comfort in 30 little square boxes.  Such comfort indeed. (I'd say I have a problem, but I think it's more of a solution....)

And I saw that due date, proverbially circled in gold, 2.5 weeks before Turkey Day.  And I quivered and shook and even quavered a bit.  Whatever shall we do.