24 December 2009

Happiest Christmas to All!

I've had a running chore list. Sometimes written, sometimes just swarming anxiously in my head. Every day it has included "update blog"

[incidentally, i know the rule that when you are quoting someone, you always put the punctuation marks on the inside of the quotation marks. For example, last night my baby brother said, "Mom - sometimes i think you are just a c-*-*-k tease." But what do you do when you are just quoting one term at the end of a sentence? For example, at least my little brother spelled "c**ktease". Put the period inside- it doesn't make any sense - the quote is not a sentence - it deserves not a period - and if it were in the middle of the sentence, it would have nothing other than the quotation marks. But that period looks quite lonely, and frankly incorrect, outside of the quote marks. Aaaahhh. I hate when I don't know or understand a grammar rule. Any help out there?]

[true story about my brother and my mother. crazy little brother. What are you thinking? plus, ada brooks can spell...i had to frantically distract her from the entire event with ice cream. I can hear the sounding out now...aaahhh]

[please note my switch from long parentheticals to long bracketed statements. I think it works better. I've been wrong before, though.]

This is my favorite time of the year. I SHOULD be blogging all about it. But I've no time, i tell you. And when I do have time, i should be doing something else. So, i'll simply leave you with today's, Christmas Eve's, to do list, but first, a brief Reason for the Season exegesis.

People, rightfully, get frustrated that Christians often seem to forget (and certainly those people who celebrate Christmas with no thought of the Christ or the Mass part of the word) that we have this holiday because of Jesus. Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger, who was, we believe, the Lord Incarnate. They get so frustrated at all the material goods that go into the holiday. It's not about gifts, they say. It's about God.
Okay, valid criticism. But a bit gnostic, if you ask me.
We don't have the gifts and the wine and the feasting and the pictures and the Christmas Cards that make us Cuss, because we've forgotten about God. We have them because of God. And it's not just the way we've chosen to celebrate Christ's birth. No, it's the way Scripture instructs us so to do.

["so to do" - one of the better phrases that litters the Book of Common Prayer, contained best in the Rite One Eucharist,
Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.
awesome i tell you. absolutely makes you feel like real church. So To Do just sounds holy.]

We feast. The Israelites feasted. Often with specific instructions. We carve the roast beast. Because God said so. What day should be bigger, please tell me, save perhaps Easter, than the coming of our Lord? Shouldn't there be gifts - and tons of them - to celebrate the greatest gift ever given?

For God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son.
And we try desperately to show that love, to celebrate that love, to give our gifts. We can never equal, but we are trying, ideally, to point to that.

So, reason for the season -kiss my tail. Yeah, He's the reason all right. The reason it should be as big as we can afford. The reason we should buy the nicest cut of beef we can, and fill our tree skirts with the nicest things for those we love.
He's the Reason for the Extravagance. Rejoice!

And a copy of the Forster Family Christmas Card. I'm tired just thinking about it. Even uploading it to the blog was unnecessarily complicated.

Christmas Eve Schedule:

Quick trip to buy mason jars and a few last minute stocking stuffers. (just had to delete and retype "stucking stoffers" - come to my house - it's CRAZY around here).

Put homemade pickles in mason jars.

Deliver around neighborhood. Hope dear friends that live outside a three mile radius forgive day-after-christmas-pickle delivery.

Cook sauce for tenderloin for supper.

Cook cranberry pound cake for christmas morning breakfast.

Cook grits for same breakfast.

Be thankful i cooked my christmas afternoon responsibilities yesterday and froze them.

Clean house furiously in preparation for christmas eve dinner guests. Be glad I'm not making all the sides as well as the meat and dessert.

Wrap furiously.

Remember to Thank God the Father for sending his Son, thank his Son for becoming incarnate, and thank the Holy Spirit for his whole holy role in the process.

Wonder about the theology of the incarnation.

Dress entire family for Christmas Eve Service. Be there at three thirty to ensure a seat. Try to keep children from climbing over balcony rails. Try to keep mother from killing me for making a stand about 2.75 year olds needing to come to church on christmas eve, even at HER church.

Rush home, put meat in oven, finish sauces for meat, whip up bread pudding (this better not be started after church....aaaah)

Wrap furiously.

Enjoy supper and not too much wine.

Because then... put together bicycles. And we don't want drunken bicycles. Incidentally, when i was seven, my bike from santa was missing a pedal. Not because of drunkenness (i don't think) But it did end the whole Santa myth once and for all.

Shhhhh.... Don't tell the kids they are getting bicycles. And little men for Ada Brooks.

Laugh with husband. Be thankful for christmas pjs. Crawl in bed, exhausted.

Hold off children in the morning for as long as possible.

Rejoice, rejoice!

Will take tons of christmas morning pictures and record many amusing anecdotes. There may even be video.

Happy Christmas to All and to All a frantic last day of advent! Rightfully so, I tell you. Rightfully so.

26 November 2009


perhaps we should rename the day Thankgivings Day. Because, really, we all have much (plural) about which to be thankful. (yes, punch me in the face for being such a dork)

I am thankful for bandaids.

For friends in medical training who call to advise about a blender injured finger.

For God creating fermentation.

My mama, who answered the phone no fewer than ten times over the past 48 hours, from her vacation in colorado, to answer my questions about family recipes that i've not quite committed to memory.

My daddy, who read to my children last night and tonight so i could have glass(es) of wine and put my tired feet up.

This man below, who told me this morning that he thought the cooking, "could have been more efficient." He repented, clearly, and gleefully did exactly as i hinted the rest of the day - including carving the pretty yummy orange-rosemary turkey that i had (in)efficiently prepared.
(i planned for us to sit down at 1 pm. first person sat down at 12:58 and last person, me, at 1:08. inefficient my ass. we can all tell i've not yet forgiven him his slip of the tongue...)

this kid, who napped from 11 until 1:30 today. he knew. he knew what his contribution should be. he knew, and he rose to the occasion.
go colLINS (that's how eason pronounces his name. come to my house. hear for yourself. it's the best thing ever)

this kid, who is just awesome. sure, he misbehaves, and is almost constantly being disciplined. but he loves all of us- truly - paul, me, ada brooks and collins - loves us. loves jesus, his grandparents, his godparents, his siblings' godparents, his sibling's godparents' little girl whose name he pluralizes, our dogs, our cat, others' dogs, random babysitters, and he is freakin' hysterical, most of the time. except when he's bad. but hey - he's two - and unsanctified... =)

and of course this kid. she's awesome. she wore an apron all day today and yesterday, mainly so, as she said, i wouldn't feel so alone. i heart her and her burgeoning self definition. i can honestly say that her personality today is informative to me about what her personality for the rest of the days will be. she's my favorite little girl in the world. and she's a great assistant cook. and a pretty good big sister. and she reads aloud to her brothers, making her the winner.

i'm also so very thankful for our dear friends. those that love us, put up with us, eat with us, and laugh with us. those that make me smile. those like these:

and many more, whose pictures i don't have handy.

Basically, God has gifted us with people. amazing people.

and bandaids and wine. bandaids and wine are key.

25 November 2009

this is not my turkey. my turkey is still in the refrigerator.

i had this brilliant idea that for my children and their children i was going to blog, with pictures, through making thanksgiving dinner this year. they'd have a nice keepsake, some advice, and some antiquated practices at which to laugh.

it would be fun.

but yesterday, when i started with a pumpkin cream cheese pie, it all fell apart.

i learned recently that my mother in law loves pumpkin pie. i don't like pumpkin or pecan pies. i'm unamerican. but you have to have at least one at thanksgiving. i had been doing pecan. but i've switched. now we're doing pumpkin. paul's mother said so.

so anyway.

i started making the pumpkin pie. i had the brilliant idea that i would use my immersion blender.
this model.

i was about to mix the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla. but first i gave a safety lesson.

hey kids - the immersion blender can only hurt you if you put your finger near the blades like this.
*i put my finger near the blade*
a chunk of my finger flew off into oblivion.

i know - too much imagery. but it's true. the pad of my left pointer finger is now gone. i have no finger prints. i could go on a one fingered crime spree.

but i've no time, because i have to be on a nine fingered cooking spree.

so, because of that, my cooking has not left a lot time for commentary and lovely picturesque photos of whole food ingredient spreads.

Pause. take a minute to relish my idiocy. or idiodacy as our recent president used to say. i blended my finger during a safety lesson for my two year old.

But, if only i had the time/energy/wasn't too maimed for my hands to appear on camera, then i would be writing and photographing through the spread.

but, i can at least report.

i have made the pumpkin cream cheese pie (in Come On In, one of my favorite cookbooks),

the apple cake (my mother's recipe, and one i requested for many birthday cakes. because i was the dorky kid requesting apple cake for birthday cake....),

a broccoli gruyere gratin, a recipe out of Real Simple this month. I usually do asparagus casserole, but paul hates it (it has in it one of the four things he doesn't like to eat: brown rice, squash, blue cheese, and..... canned asparagus). I needed a green vegetable cheesy dish and chose this one. I'll report how it turns out.,

a new potatoes in cream sauce recipe of my great grandmother's. it looks super yummy. i've never had it, but tasted the cream sauce and it was great. will report back.,

sweet potato casserole. this is ada's idea of heaven. " 'cause of the marshmallows, Mama. same reason i love hot chocolate." hard to argue with that.

cranberry sauce. not my favorite, but a staple. it's also one of those things to which i'm befuddled that there is a canned alternative. it's surprisingly simple and surpassingly superior. (go alliteration!)

i've also prepped for many of the dishes i'll make in the morning -

made the cornbread for the cornbread dressing, peeled and chopped the carrots to glaze, blanched the green beans and caramelized the onions for the green bean dish (which has blue cheese in it. i cannot help that three of the four things paul hates, i happen to adore...)

i think i did some other things, but my brain feels like my left pointer finger looks.

this thanksgiving i am thankful for.... my daughter and her dear godfather, they trimmed the green beans and peeled the sweet potatoes - AND did the awesomely fun job of crumbling the cornbread for the dressing - at least forty minutes of work i didn't have to do. And my husband who took all three children to the zoo and to sams for lunch.... Go Team!

(tomorrow! i love you tomorrow! you're only a day away!)

I'll do the turkey, finish the dressing, make corn casserole, finish green bean salad, glaze some carrots, make gravy, whip up a chocolate chess pie, and welcome Paul's family for lunch and some stragglers for supper.

Yay for food, holidays, tradition, chefdom, gas stoves, helpers, wustof knives, laughter, aprons, taco bell for supper, and wine.

yay for wine.

oh, and for bandaids.

typing with nine fingers.... oh the new skills i am mastering.

19 November 2009

catching up.

[I'm behind. I'm aware. This is why my children don't have baby books. Because I cannot even keep up with an online version of a baby book....

Also, because baby books seem silly to me. This is in large part due to the fact that babies don't hold the same level of fantastical magic over me that they do for most people, especially those that are maternally inclined. I much prefer a talking child. I've said this before and I'll say it again - the babies in my house are lucky to have Paul around. Someone to like them. (we all know i actually do like my babies - i just don't go koo koo for coco puffs about them, like i'm apt to do about a witty two year old...)

and now to the business of actually catching up]

We are in full-time fall mode. I thrive in this season. I want to actually dance. The other day, before house was awake, I went on a walk. I actually caught myself skipping down Kings Highway, a very populated street in Fondren. (please don't think I regularly get up and walk before the house gets up...I don't...I am, actually, often the last to roll out of bed - usually because all other four Forsters are demanding that I do)

We do a lot of outside time - sometimes at the park, sometimes the zoo, sometimes the science museum trails, but a lot of the time, just in our little old back yard.

I get to pull out old fall favorite meals - chili, red beans and rice, chicken pot pie, roast. And we all know that food is what matters most.

And it's even been cold enough for hot chocolate, hot tea, sweatshirts and sleeping in real pajamas.

The leaves have really been falling - which is awesome for the kids and me to play in, but terrible for Paul and his mowing, but, you know, life is hard for all of us at some point.

Things I'd like to write in depth about, but supper is calling:

1) Our thanksgiving menu plans - i'm thinking of taking pictures and actually food-blogging all the way through the holiday (I do the entire dinner from scratch, pretty much alone, every year - it is my fourth baby and minds very well)

2) Our friends, Alexander's and Josh's, recent nuptials at the beach - i promise to write and post pictures. Definitely beautiful - and pretty much perfect.

3) The recent loss of a dear friend's mother to cancer. What this means for our view of God's providence and how incredibly hard it is to live that out in the face of things that seem only to be terrible.

4) Adventures in Christmas Shopping at the Forsters (I found little men!!)

5) Pink, painted, naked bums of Eason.

6) Eason as a turkey at his Thanksgiving Feast.

7) My tone deaf daughter and how thrilled she makes my soul. Especially when she sings.

8) How the way in which you dole out an apple as a snack to your children indicates almost exactly what kind of parent you are...

9) The church calendar and how incredibly valuable it can be to family and church life.

But - alas - shrimp and potato soup to concoct before we head to the fondren district for shopping (ha), wine-ing, snacking, fighting with a boy or two to keep them in the stroller -

(Don't you wish someone would paint your bum pink? Just once before you die? I mean, really, what are the chances?)

04 November 2009

fairly wonderful!

For those out there in the ethereal masses who don't know, the fair is to my family what Christmas is to many others.

I have been to the Mississippi State Fair every year since I was either zero or one, we don't know for sure. I have been down the big yellow slide every year since I was one. I love it. I thrive on it. If i ever write a book, there will be a large chapter about the fair. And I'm sure people will want to read it.

Being a child at the fair is almost as great as being a junior high kid at the fair (hoping to sit by the boy you like on a scary ride). Which is almost as great as bringing home your boyfriend from college to go to the fair (and kissing at the top of the ferris wheel). Which is almost as great as being a parent of young children at the fair. Which, according to my parents, is almost as great as being a grandparent at the fair.

We love it. Every minute of it. And this year was no different. Our first fair date was rained out, so we had to postpone. But we went, on the last Sunday of the fair. Mama, Daddy, Little Brother Cliff, Paul, Me, All three Kiddos.

We have a fair routine.

We park fairly far away, and walk down the hill on Amite Street, always taking a great pic of the view. We park, up to 20 minute walk away, because we are cheap and we don't want to pay for parking.

We head straight for the petting zoo. Because it is free and just inside the gates - a great meeting place for the stragglers in our party. We look at things like Zebus. These are just Asian cattle, but "zebu" sounds so exotic, we are all amazed. The children beg to feed the animals. One of their parents or grandparents gives in because, well, it's the fair. (And if you say yes to this 25cent expense, you can later say "aww - we cannot ride the elephant (7$) - remember - we bought that animal food back in the petting zoo")

And then we head up the midway - get a free biscuit from Lester Spell, who has served as the commissioner of agriculture in MS since I had to ride in the backseat of cars. He gives away the best biscuits ever. He is my hero. As we munch on the biscuit, we start walking. We use the biscuit as a distraction as we walk past all of the fair games. We were never allowed to play and we aren't starting now!

And then we ride. (Eason and me on my favorite ride ever, The Orient Express - a dragon roller coaster that makes my heart sing with joy. And his too - see arms upraised.) (Ada on Bee - she is a cautious child, and this is about as exciting as it gets), (Paul and Eason on the merry go round - they don't look alike at all, i swear),

While Eason and I were in line for the dragon roller coaster, two different sets of children, approximately age 8, tried to cut in line. At their mother's behest. Hell in a Handbasket, I tell you - we're on our way. I mean - can you imagine - teaching your children to cut in line for a ride. In front of a two year old? One time i just poked my hip out, making it too awkward for them. The other time, the mother actually asked me if they could cut, and I, as politely and firmly as i could said, "Actually, we've been waiting in line for about 20 minutes..." (i don't do firm, polite very well - my usual mode is to be a pushover, and cuss about it later), and she said "Oh, well, they're kids and..." and I said "Well, so is he..." (pointing to Eason) and she said "hmmph" and walked off.

Who tries to bully mothers and two year olds so her eight year olds can cut in line? Who teaches their children such moral bankruptcy? I wish I would have had the woman-testicles to tell her exactly what she was doing to them. But, I am proud that I didn't let them get away with it.
Baby Steps.


And then we eat, making everything, even rude, soulless fair goers, all better. Mama always ALWAYS gets roasted corn, we always all get Penns chicken on a stick (which we could get 365 days a year, but never do), and sometimes we get dessert, as seen above. I like the pineapple soft serve, but i forewent it this year because it was slightly chilly out.

Collins also managed to eat the fair. That was a feat necessitating modesty and hygiene never to be surpassed.

And then, then, ladies and gentlemen, we always ride the big yellow slide. Some poor s.o.b. has to sit at the bottom and take pictures. But not this Mama. I've never missed a year and I won't start now.
I just love it.

This year, after Eason stood up, he said "I have to do it again. Please" in the most sincere, desperate, sweet voice he's ever used. My mother immediately gave in, bought more tickets, and a lucky few got to go twice.

The fair is awesome. Not objectively, really - it's dirty, expensive, and full of unattractive, often rude (see above) people. But, it's also full of families who are like ours - just like us in that they are making memories.

Memories so strong that my parents, who are no longer married, come together, laugh, and take their grandchildren to do the things that have made their children smile for over two decades. The fair is awesome, because not even Christmas can do that around here.

14 October 2009

christmas list greatness

I know it's october. And I'm against the premature celebration of holidays. Not to mention that I have a whole list of fall celebrations before we can think about christmas -
starting with the fair this weekend, then halloween, wedding of a best friend, multiple fall festivals going all the way through Thanksgiving.

Now hear this: The Day after Thanksgiving is the Proper Time to begin The Month Long Ish Celebration of the Advent and Christmas Seasons.

I'm sure I'll be opining more on exactly how one should celebrate holidays since they are pretty much the best things ever.

So, we are not in Christmas Mode.

But - Christmas is a big deal around here.

It takes much preparation, and I don't know if you know, but there are a lot of people around here, most of whom are not capable of assisting very much in preparing. So while celebrating (christmas music, decorations, desserts, etc.) is strictly forbidden until the aforementioned DAT, preparing, if the month of December is not to be ruinous, must start earlier.

With Paul in school and me being at home growing these urchins, we aren't exactly rolling in cash - So, I've got to get lists established and begin bargain hunting/assisting grandparents in picking out various items/slowly breaking it to my children that we are not getting live animals...

And today was list establishing day.

One of my favorite days ever. ever. ever. ever. It just gets better every year. My children are funny and Christmas Lists are awesome. And the combination is almost unbearably giddyness producing.

This afternoon, after rest time and before supper time, the two talking ones and I sat on the couch, me with red pen in hand (seasonal colors, clearly), and we visited, for about an hour, about their hearts' deepest, yet realistic, desires.

Rejected Items:

a kitten (this is the third year for ada brooks to request a kitten - and the third year to be rejected. I had to promise all sorts of things to Paul for us to get our one cat, Staples. Paul hates cats. Something about the cats in his childhood. We have a one cat rule.)

a kitten (rejected twice because showed up on both kids' lists. Eason is a copycat. cat. hee hee. love a good accidental pun.)

a pink pony (she said it with a smile. gotta love emerging wit in children)

a design your own soccer ball (i don't have a moral or logistical objection - just a disbelief that she actually wants one. she acquiesced, saying, "well, it just looked cool in the catalog - and you know how i love to design my own things")

a milkshake (from eason, clearly - i will make him a milkshake, but it will not be in his stocking. getting him to differentiate between perishable and nonperishable desires is a problem)

The Final Lists:

Ada Brooks:
  1. A Bicycle because, "don't you think it's time for me to ride a bike?"
  2. A Basket for said bicycle (all her idea - making her mother glow with pride)
  3. Play men so she can "design her own" food based action shots like ones seen below. She saw these photos, felt an immediate calling, gathered granola bars for a rock climbing scene and was devastated that we had no men suitable for rock climbers.

  4. Any Games "other than Sorry, because she already owns Sorry," if you didn't know.
  5. Sleeping Bag for camping out in the den (which will last until 830 pm...)
  6. Fake Flowers
  7. Tape
  8. Pipe Cleaners
  9. A Photo of our Whole Family for her room (I would have teared up had I not still been laughing so hard at the earnest desire for men to make foodphotoscapes out of.)
  10. Books - "as many as I can get - I bet Papa will get me books" (perceptive little urchin she is)
  11. This interactive map.
  12. This at home planetarium.
  13. One of these (something I highly encouraged make the final list...)
  14. Fake food for her kitchen. Food is a theme.

Eason's list:

  1. Bicycle, "So i can ride my bike wif ada"
  2. Sleeping Bag, "So i can camp out in the den wif ada"
  3. A Yellow Blanket
  4. Yellow Tennis Shoes "Like Ada's Pink ones, but, yellow"
  5. A yellow cup to drink out of
  6. "Some bad guys and some good guys - maybe monkey bad guys" (no, i've no insight here)
  7. A yellow car
  8. A train - "it does not have to be yellow, it could be blue or red or green"
  9. "Some over fings like ada"

I love my children - if you haven't guessed that - and listening to them is always a joy - but especially listening to their fairly non-materialistic material desires - if that is a possible description. It's just so wonderful to know what they want, to be on their team about it, and to get to look forward to it and be excited about reindeer and stockings and the singing christmas tree and mulled wine (okay, the mulled wine is for me, although, if i'd let him, eason would join in wholeheartedly.)

Back to Fall Time - but sale shopping and tiny-play-men-to-go-on-food hunting has begun.

put on your own damn jacket

Paul heard an interesting quote this week - "The only thing we used to expect from our children was obedience. Now we expect everything but obedience."

He and I both liked it (we're big on obedience around here - or, rather, we try to be and fail miserably many, many a day), but I got to thinking - it's not really true.

We expect them to grow up, never having to obey, and turn out to be well-adjusted adults with proper boundaries, successful relationship skills, etc. So in that sense, i guess we do expect everything.

But we don't expect them to do things for themselves. I mean - my mother still makes haircut appointments for my 19 1/2 year old college sophomore brother. There are many reasons for this development - and i'm sure i'm not even right about all of them - and i'm not a psychologist or sociologist, so i'll not opine on that topic. But if you'd like to argue that our expectations of children taking care of themselves have not dramatically dropped, call me - we'll talk - i used to teach preschoolers.

I know i've been on a kick about child-rearing and educating lately - what can i say - it's my full time job.
So... Tip of the week (hee hee... me.. qualified to give tips! i love the comedy):
Please encourage your children to be as self sufficient as possible.

It will make your life easier, their lives easier, any caretakers' (especially three year old preschool teachers') lives easier.

Self-sufficient how, you ask? Well, children can do many things that we don't give them credit for or expect from them. I think because it's easier a lot of times for us to do it rather than help them/teach them/help remedy their ultimate failures. (See Pictures for Examples of "Failures from When Ada Brooks Was Three" - Fall 2007 was an amusing and exhausting time around here...)

(resulting from "Ada Bee - it's time for school - and it's a little bit cooler outside today - not quite summer weather anymore - starting to be fall time...")

(resulting from - "Ada - Take off your Tutu and Put on Pajamas, please - it's time for bed")

This is kind of abstract, so, a concrete example - Dressing Oneself:

Paul and I are in an epic battle to get Eason to dress himself. Why? Because Collins cannot really be expected to dress himself...and we've enough on our plates. And because Eason is perfectly capable of doing it.

And because we have fought these battles with Ada Brooks and I could not be more glad. Just yesterday evening, I said to her "hey - go hop in the shower" and thirty minutes later, I spotted her out of the corner of my eye, in pajamas, brushing her wet, freshly clean hair. That doesn't just happen - it has taken MANY frustrating bath time experiences - many of which have ended in me saying, "come on - get back in the bath - your hair is still dry for goodness sakes"

But now, my life is monumentally easier than it could be - i could be bathing three children instead of two - and really, i want to be dressing one child instead of two -

BUT - My life would be easier, in the short run, if i would just dress Eason. I could walk to his room, pick out bottom half, top half, hold them up, he could step in, put arms through holes and we'd be finished. 40 seconds, tops. So, I get why it is tempting - and on sunday mornings and any other stressful/aesthetically important times, I certainly dress the boy - I'm not running a military operation over here or anything.

But most mornings, the dressing of Eason takes 43 hours. Okay, maybe 14 minutes, but it seems interminable. First, Ada, Paul or I have to coach him through picking out clothes. This is not for the sake of style - more because Eason would forego underwear, a shirt, or pants on any given day, so we have to remind him that there are, in fact, three different necessary parts to being considered "dressed". Then, I have to encourage him in the putting on underwear process. I know underwear donning can be difficult. Especially for pregnant people and two-and-a-half year olds. But, it must be done. And it can be done. So, Eas, if you have to, sit down on the edge of your bed, hold them so the tag is in the back, and put in one leg at a time.

(It's at this point I start to wonder if I'm really making a stand on the dressing thing for my own amusement. Watching his little Michael Jordan Tongue Concentration Move is fairly awesome.) He's pretty much got the shirt thing down, so that's fairly easy. But we repeat the same underwear difficulty with the pants.

And then the shoes - heavens - but, if we can find them, he can get them on.

So mainly it's just the underwear and pants. They are hard. But we're getting better. And he whines and gets frustrated, because, like most men, he'd rather not spend a significant portion of his life dressing. He knows I could put the underwear on him in 3.1 seconds. And the pants in 1.6 (they're looser). But, more and more often, I'm able to say, "Eas - go put some underwear on." (I say this a lot- because he's inexplicably naked a lot...) and he'll reappear with underwear actually on.

I am winning the epic battle. I think. I hope. I pray.

You may think this is ridiculous. And you have the right to do that, I guess...

BUT - let me take you, for a moment, to a far away place in a distant land.
Well, just to a three year old preschool room. Your child's class lines up to go outside. It's 54 degrees. There are ten students. There are two teachers. We're talking ideal proportions here - many times it's more like 20 students and one teacher. It's jacket putting on time. Which is easier, do you think? "Susie, Bobby, etc., come here so I can help you put your jackets on" or "Susie, Bobby, please put your jackets on."

So - fight the epic battles! Whether its dressing themselves, putting away their folded clothes, actually folding their clothes (one i've not yet made a habit for Ada Brooks, but it's on the short list of goals), peeling their own bananas, helping pack their lunches, making their beds, setting the table. Fight them! For your own good, for their good, and for the good of preschool teachers everywhere.

09 October 2009

i love my men

Ada Brooks goes to a two-day a week program for people in the Jackson area who are classically homeschooling their children. She does ballet, tap, gymnastics, art, music, P.E., lego building, memory work, etc. If you're interested, its called Jackson Classical, and their website is here.

Anyway, while she's gone, I get to spend good time with the boys. Reading to them, looking at pictures, playing, just visiting. This morning, I've been logging some missed computer time and while I was sitting at the computer, Eason was dressing up in various things from the dress up box and coming in to model and discuss his fashion choices.

He came out, informed me that I needed a hat, and presented me with a solution.

It's been a long time since I've put on a boy's cap, but it makes me feel romantic and nostalgic for days of courtship and flirting gone by. Makes me love my husband, whose hat it is, and my son who brought it to me. And my baby who thinks i look hysterical in it.

excellence, we hope.

I've written about why we're not settling for what people keep telling us would be "fine" for our children. And why traditional options open to us are not approaching the limit of excellence. And reiterated that I understand education decisions to be a matter of individual conscience - not something about which anyone can proclaim what is best for each family and each child.

So, what to do.

This is a decision reached over about nine months of intense investigation - which involved talking to many a family, visiting many a school, reading many an article and a short stack of books.

We've decided to classically educate. We think that this is something, like most forms of education, that can be done in a school or at home. We'd prefer to send the children to school, especially as they get older, for a variety of reasons. But right now there is not a reputable classical school available to us where we are - and with Paul in school and me at home with the younger two, we could not really afford to pay private school tuition. So, for now, we're doing it at home.

Which is hard. But not weird or scary. Our kids get out, meet people, love each other, have friends, are funny and hopefully kind, loving, generous and peaceable. We'll be reevaluating constantly on all of those topics. Especially the good sense of humor one - because what would we do with boring children. Run screaming out the door.

The classical education model has been adopted by people of all faiths and by people of no faith. Our faith does play a big part in our education - mainly because we believe God created the earth and is its sovereign. But when it comes to explaining our education decision, it's fairly irrelevant.

So what is it?
It is a belief that children's brains learn different ways as they develop. And a belief that subjects, especially history and literature, are ultimately tied together.

What is the strategy?
The method for classically educating is based on the trivium - which is best flushed out by Dorothy Sayers in the essay titled The Lost Tools of Learning. But, to summarize, the trivium is a tri-fold stage of learning from primary school age through high school age. From the time a child is four to five, they are very engaged with and able to learn and memorize the grammar of things - the basics, the rules, the math facts, the dates, etc. This stage ends around 10-12 and the child becomes more engaged with argument - He or she wants to understand the why of things - and how they all fit together - literary criticism begins, historical decisions begin to be examined, not just learned. And then around 14-15, the child begins to learn to express himself or herself. Writing and speaking are emphasized - specifically engaging in debate.

So, you take these three stages of learning to heart and base your education around them.

The method we'll be using at home comes almost straight out of one of the best books about education of all time. The Well Trained Mind. I recommend that anyone with children buy it. Or if you're just interested in education. Or if you enjoy well written nonfiction. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, her mother, are brilliant, strong women after whom I'd model my methods any day. Their humor and joy at educating comes across on almost every page of the book.

To kind of summarize:
A truly classically educated child learns the history and literature of the whole world chronologically, repeating it in each stage.
So, in first, fifth and ninth grades, the child studies the ancients - the stories and writings of the ancients.
In second, sixth, and tenth grades, the child studies the middle ages - up through the rise of the renaissance.
In third, seventh, and eleventh grades, the child studies the early modern period. This starts with the renaissance and goes roughly through the civil war.
In fourth, eight, and twelfth grades, the child studies the modern period, which starts with the war and goes through today.
Science is done on a four year cycle as well, but not in a time system way, although the types of science do correspond with what the people who you're studying in history knew at the time -
1,5,9: Biology;
2,6,10: Earth Science;
3,7,11: Chemistry;
4,8,12: Physics/Computer Science

The math method is not as different from what one normally would do. In fact, we're using Saxon math, which is something utilized by many traditional public and private schools.

A better summary than I've written is available here - written by Susan Wise Bauer.

This is where we are - this is what we think the path to excellence for our children is. There are classical schools popping up all over the place, and we hope our children can attend one of them one day. But if not, we'll labor on - doing our best to equip them with as much knowledge as we can.
And we'll continue to reevaluate, all the time knowing that we could be wrong. Not just about what is an excellent path, but even about what is best for our children. We're fallible people. Shocking, I know.


I'm cheating. I'm supposed to be doing a ton of things - laundry, organizing Ada's first 6 weeks of school portfolio, loving on my boys, keeping Eason from killing himself or destroying property, and if I'm blogging, I'm supposed to be writing about why we're classically educating our children, even if that means doing it at home (although we're hoping it won't).

But, instead, I'm going to give my all important, should change the world, opinion on the Nobel Peace Prize.

If you're not living in a shell, you know that our dear President, Barack Obama, was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

I like Obama. I often disagree with him, but I like him.

I think he could do great things. Not sure he will, but I think he could.

I think some of those great things could definitely be peace related. He could further peace on earth. He has the skill set to accomplish some level of peace - even in situations that others have failed to solve.

I think he has a mind to bring about peace - that peace is important to him.

All of these opinions would make you think that I'd be in support of a Nobel for the man.

But, apparently, the Nobel committee overlooked one tiny factor... He ain't done nothin' yet.

I mean- he's done some things - but not very many of note - well, because he's less than a fifth of the way through his (first) term as president - and America is not exactly in its best condition. He's fighting a recession at home, a divided country, and, well, he's wrong on a lot of issues. So it's not that I think we should string him up for having done very little to date.

But the man does not deserve the Nobel. It would like awarding an Olympic gold to one as soon as he or she qualifies for the games. Is it a potential prize? Giving it to him, and him accepting, is a mockery of the prize and shows the unhealthy , unrealistic worship of our President extends even to the Scandinavian hills. (Do they have hills in Scandinavia?)

So, Mr. President, if you're one of the 7 people that read my blog, please decline. For the sake of the prize, our country, your reputation as sound-minded, your political future, and for the sake of my blood pressure, please turn them down.

Mr. Speechwriter for the President, write an amazingly humble, political speech for him. Think of the brilliance!

"Don't give it to me yet, guys. Wait a few years - then hopefully, with the help of Congress, the American people and citizens of the world, I'll deserve it. But I don't deserve it yet."

Political Science students will study it for years as an amazingly brilliant move. I'll write another blog post about it.

Please, Mr. Obama, do something smart.

06 October 2009

before we go any further... Part 2.37

As I prepared to write my next installment in my explanation of our education plan for our loverly offspring, I reread what I have written so far.

And I feel the need to point out that while I sound very definite, I am only definite from my own point of view. And I'm aware that that is a confusing sentence. Paul and I are very convinced and convicted and passionate - and any number of other strong adjectives - that we've embarked on the best path for Ada Brooks and us. And we're pretty close to convinced that this will be the best path for all of our children.

But I'm far from believing that stating what I believe to be the best method of education is like stating that 2 + 2 = 4. (Barring all philosophical debates about whether you can actually state that 2 +2=4 - you can - hush). Or even that education is like most ethical decisions - murder = bad. It's not - it falls into those ethical debates that Paul and Peter encounter in the early church. Eating pork for you may be bad, but for me it's just dandy - each according to his own conscience.

We think we're right that classically educating Ada Brooks is the best we can do for her. We think we're right that we should do what is best for her educationally. And we think classical education is worthy and should be investigated and utilized by more people than currently do. But, there are many forms of education - public, private, parochial, home - and many philosophies behind those - montessori, classical, "un", traditional - and I'd argue that some are better than others, but i'd also argue that there are plenty of combinations that can and do work - and that no prescription about education system or philosophy could ever be made to apply across the board.

So, before I move into full explanation of the plan, I just wanted to make clear that it's not that I think we're right. period. It's that I think we're right for us. It's that I think we've done our due diligence in reading, investigating, praying, thinking, talking, writing, meditating and seeking guidance. We're acting according to our conscience. And our conscience has led us in a perfectly legitimate and even excellent direction.

Later: In what direction is that, exactly, you crazy lady?

04 October 2009

don't we have available to us much more than "fine"?

(side note: most females of our glorious species will know what I'm talking about when I express how frustrating it is when you walk out of your room, dressed up for one of those rare occasions (or at least rare in my life) that demands actual mascera and perhaps a doing of the hair and maybe even a new dress and you wait for a response, get none, so ask, "How do i look?" and your husband says "fine" - rrrraaaahhhhh - this is why "fine" is not an okay thing to desire for your children.)

When Bee got to be four and started to really want to learn things, it hit Paul and me square in the face that we were actually responsible for ensuring that she gets the best education that she can get. Not a fine one, but the best one. I would like to point out that we are aware, and very often reminded by our fallible children, that we cannot and should not attempt to control every aspect of our child's lives now or when they are adults. But to say we cannot control everything and so to settle for a less than great education - say a 'fine' education - is a cop out. bull butter is what it is. It is thinly veiled laziness.

Paul and I both got what are lauded as 'great educations' - because, relative to other traditional forms of education available in the areas in which we were raised, they were great. Paul went to a five star or four flag or level six or whatever rating of public schools there are - basically, they rank the public schools in our state and he went to one of the few that receives the highest ranking.

When Paul graduated from high school, he could not do calculus and what was billed as a 'precalculus' class left him so unprepared for college level calculus that my brilliant scientist husband made a C in calculus at Ole Miss, which is not the bastion of high math standards.

When Paul graduated from high school, he had never read anything by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, not to mention Melville, Nabokov, Dostoevsky, Joyce. And if you think his education was lacking dead white males because of some broader, global viewpoint, think again.

My parents paid a lot of money for me to get what is billed as a 'world class' education. And as far as equipping me to compete with and usually have an advantage over other people from our great state, and probably most from around the country, my school did a good job. But I cannot name the Presidents of the United States, have no idea when the Spanish American War took place (was it over Mexico?), can not even come close to telling you when the Byzantine Empire existed.

I am convinced that these are flaws of the current american education philosophy, not that Paul and I attended mediocre institutions, because, well, we didn't. It also cannot be blamed on us having parents who were not engaged, because they were. In fact, the only reason I write competently is that my Daddy beat the principles of writing into my head. And heavens, Paul's mother had him doing book reports whenever he was out of school for an extended break - like summer and Christmas.

Americans have come to educate our children in a disjointed manner - thinking of each individual subject to be mastered as something that can be taught apart from all others. I can remember being confused about whether Thoreau was supposed to be a person to know for English class or for History class.

In teaching history, this is a most glaring flaw. We actually don't teach chronologically - we have this idea that younger children cannot understand that which happened a long time ago, so we teach social studies - we talk about neighborhoods and families and communities and cities - and then, when they get to middle school, we teach geography and culture. And then, just when their brains have lost the amazing ability to remember facts and dates easily, we begin teaching history - but instead of teaching it in order, we teach it by region - usually starting with American (as though we can possibly be understood without understanding the Brits). And then teaching "World History" (As if there is some other kind) and often ending with "European History" (is Europe not a pretty important part of the World and thus included in World History?) and perhaps for the advanced student, we teach US Government. [Which is great, but what is often covered in that class is a more basic understanding of how the branches interact, not what would be ideally a indepth look at the law making process, stressing the constitutional law that has evolved since our country's inception.]

I know I sound mighty critical - and I am - but it's not of people, but of the system. There are champions of education in the private and public sphere that are much smarter than and care more than I do. I certainly don't believe there are just a bunch of meanies or stupidheads out there who if they just cared or if they just knew, they'd do different. I mean, really, why would we worry about our system when we're the richest country in the world. We wouldn't. But we should- we consistently slide in international rankings of education.
Have you ever read short stories or novels written in America in the 19th or early 20th century - like Little Women and such - and marveled at what the children are learning?

That's because the standards for education used to be much higher.

And we could discuss why they've slipped, but that would take so much more energy than I have.

so, post 1: why "fine" is not an acceptable goal here at the Forster home. And post 2: why the traditional avenues available to us are that very thing - fine - not great, not excellent, but fine.
Part 3: What is excellent and how do we get there?

03 October 2009

fine? really?

I've been meaning to write a post on our Education Plan for Miss Bee (and the other urchins) for a while now, but it is an endeavor. I've blogged a bit about education before - here.
That was last May. Since then, I've had a slew of conversations with people close to us - and strangers - about our decision to homeschool our daughter, for now.

These have been like many conversations about parenting - mostly awesome, on occasion fairly frustrating.

If i tried to outline all of the issues these conversations have covered, I'd be exhausted.

But the main thing I've encountered is the idea of "fine-ness" As in - "oh, she'd be fine if you did x" or "x would be just fine for your children." or "I know it's not idea, but its fine, don't you think?"

And the vast majority of the time, I agree. X, whatever x is, would be fine for my children. They'd be fine.

Fine? Really? Seriously?

Are many of us women - educated, capable women - who could go on and do many 'successful' things - are we really opting out (a term coined by Lisa Belkin a few years ago in this article for the nytimes magazine) - leaving the rat race - choosing to be at home, either part or full time - are we really opting out so that our children can experience what is FINE?

I'm not. If I were doing what is fine for my children, I'd be not at home full time - I promise. I'd be in law school, or finished with law school, or in school to be a counselor, or maybe teaching school, or in a PhD program somewhere. If i wanted what was fine for them, dear heavens, I'd pick something more along the lines of what is exciting for me -

It's not that being at home isn't stimulating. Or fun. Or what I'm convinced that I should be doing right now.

It's that if my standard for my children was 'fine' - then I could be spending some more time outside the home doing what I loved to do before the babies came along.

If all I wanted was "fine" nutrition and "fine" moral development and, of special import to this post, "fine" education, then you'd better believe I'd have more time to read, write, think, make money.

Of course Miss Bee would be fine picking among the many private and public school options in the Jackson Metropolitan Area.

But, if you've not gathered it so far, fine is not the goal at our house. Perhaps it should be (she says in a patronizing, pretending to entertain the other side of the argument for two seconds), but its not. Fine is not the goal. Not the penultimate.

Later today or early tomorrow, we'll have the second installment in an as yet undetermined number of parts series about what we do want for our children. And why that's led us down this crazy path of homeschooling.

29 September 2009

does it make me a bad mother...

...that I'm not really that fond of my children before they start smiling at me?

It's not, of course, that I don't love them. I do. And the miracle of life is all-present in those first few precious weeks of life. But, that ball of neediness just doesn't make my heart sing.

Perhaps this aversion to the beginning time - the first weeks - comes from Ada Brooks who was, possibly, possessed for the first six weeks of life. She was reminding us all of Linda Blaire. Poor baby - i don't think she was getting enough to eat, and of what she was getting, she was spitting up a good percentage. But then I gave her a bottle and she slept for six hours and we canceled the call to the exorcist.

Some parents love this stage. This period of newness. And on very few occasions, I can see why. Paul likes this stage. "He's just so little," he says.

But what I love is a baby who smiles. Who coos. Who almost laughs. This is when I start to believe that this little ball of cells is going to one day have amazing conversations with me.

One day, when I'm talking to my baby, he just smiles back at me. And in that smile, I see his God-createdness. That smile doesn't happen on accident. That smile points to the potential for glorification. (And then he screams at you, clearly mad, and that reminds of the need for sanctification)

As great as the first, true, non-accidental smile is, it's nothing compared to the constant smiles. Collins is now smiling at me, the dog, Paul, Ada Brooks, Eason - He actually likes us. He wants to be our friend.

And, boy, let me tell you - we are all covetous of his friendship. Even Eason, who's been fairly (and blessedly) apathetic to the little guy, cannot get enough Collins time.

It is an amazing thing - to be given the unconditional love of a baby. Not the unconditional neediness - that doesn't do much for me (see above). But genuine delight. It's probably a bit narcissistic, but it doesn't just inspire happiness in me. It inspires a desire for the best for this little person.

When that little screaming ball of joy is looking up at me in the hospital bed, I'm amazed. Amazed at the miracle that is knitting together a baby in a womb. And I'm motivated, like a Mama Bear with her cubs, to never let any harm come to my child.

But, when he starts to smile at me - to listen to my words - then I start to imagine educating him, instilling good music taste, making birthday dinner for him when he's nine.

It is then, when those smiles start coming, that I look to the future - a future of happiness, discipline, formation. It is then I start to hope for a life worth living for little Isaac Collins.

18 September 2009

cheers to the goo!

Paul has this lovely plastic container that is divided into three compartments. In each compartment there is a different color of goo. You turn it upside down and the different colors of goo go down through holes at different speeds. You know - like a gooey hour glass thing. I've always hated this gooey thing. It's hideous. That is beside the point, I guess. And when the goo goes down, air bubbles come up into the goo.

Eason just brought it to me and said, "Look at the champagne!"

Funny children are such a blessing.

17 September 2009

Smell No Evil?

(The letter combination "ea" in phonics is tricky. Sneaky is what Ada Brooks calls it. Why? Because ea can say long e (eat), short e (bread), or even, and get ready for it, you didn't even know the third one because you don't have to think about reading anymore- you just do it. Ready? long a - as in great, break, steak.)

Yes, I did just start a blog post with a long parenthetical. Blogging is a relatively new genre, so there are no MLA rules yet, not to mention, "I do what I want." (yes, i did just reference south park, a show i've never watched even an episode of, but, the culture imbues what it will, now doesn't it?) (And yes, there was a hint of snobbery in my 'never watched southpark' comment - I'm working on it - i promise...)

Ada Brooks was studying the "ea" letter combination today. She was reading down a list of words that had examples of all three potential sounds in it - and she was supposed to be practicing testing one sound, realizing it doesn't work, so trying a new one. Example: deaf. There is no word pronounced "deef," so Ada was supposed to try out the short e and realize, "ah - clearly they meant "def" not "deef" - but - my sweet child didn't know the word deaf.

Probably because we are homeschooling her, don't ya think? All other five year olds know that word, I'm almost positive. Throwing my hands up and calling the public school to register her right now.

So Paul, who gets to help teach Ada Brooks on Thursday mornings because he is out of school, explained to her what deaf meant.

Canceling phone call to local public school.

And she said "oh - yeah - i get it - like blind ears"

Exactly, Ada Bee - blind ears.

It got me thinking though - we happen to have a word for blind ears - deaf - with the short e sound of the tricky letter combo ea -
But we don't have a word for blindness of many other things.

Like Social Blindness. You know - those people - who, for various reasons, don't know what to do in common social situations. You're looking at them thinking, "that was the end of the conversation - please just walk away" or "no, poor dear, its not a good time to bring up that topic" or "no one ever wants you to tell us what you just noticed while sitting on a commode"

Things like that.

Or Empathy Blindness. Those people who, for various reasons, don't empathize with anyone. And you listen to them and wonder what it must be like to really not get that everyone doesn't experience life in the same way that they do. And you want to say, "yes, i understand that's your position, but she is from another country, and that means she has a different perspective, you unfortunate soul, you."

Or at least that's what I want to say.

Or just simple Nose Blindness. My sweet husband must be legally nose-blind. He cannot smell or taste very well at all.

I was thinking if we had names for these, we might do a better job empathizing ourselves.

We don't blame the blind man for running into things.
(Let's all take a moment to laugh about Maggie Lizer on Arrested Development - and if you've never watched The Best Television Sitcom of All Time, then please rectify soon. To assist in your enjoyable recall moment, I've included a photo:


We aren't angry at the deaf man not hearing us when we say 'excuse me'

But we sure are irritated at our encounters with the Socially Blind, the Empathy Blind, and for me who tries to make yummy meals and gets no comment because my husband CANNOT TASTE ANYTHING, the Nose Blind.

I have a dear friend whose mother always tells her to judge people by what they know. Meaning that we should hold people who've been taught well, loved much, etc. to a much higher standard than we hold those who haven't been afforded such advantages. (Or who didn't breathe properly until his wife made him have his septum fixed at the age of 22)

I think this idea that some people are as blind to social cues and compassion as maggie lizer was to the book flying at her head (actually, she wasn't blind really, so that harms the analogy, but bear with me...) is the same as recognizing that judging people by what they know is fair (and freeing) way to go about life.

So, for the little boy who grew up homeschooled with the denim-jumper-wearing-mom out on the farm somewhere, we can cringe at his awkward moments, but lets not be mad. Or at the poor soul whose father criticized everything he ever did, never once understanding him as a child, we should gently try to teach some empathy, but not forever write him off as unkind.

And maybe, just maybe, I should let it roll off my back when Paul doesn't taste a difference between Chocolate Chess Pie and Chocolate Almond Chess Pie. Or even be thankful that he doesn't taste the difference between Perfectly Toasted Bread and Toasted Bread Left In The Oven 43 Seconds Too Long.

I know that I remain blind to much.

( Wait....maybe, today, I actually have reached the pinnacle of omniscience and really sheer perfection... nah - not quite there. Dammit. )

I just hope that people will understand many of my imperfections as blindness, rather than willful wrongheadedness.

Also, Paul would like to make a motion that we call Merriam-Webster and see if they'll change the definition of "deaf" to "you know, like blind ears."

11 September 2009

nine eleven

A lot of people are reflecting today - 8 years after a day that changed the world. Reflecting on our country, what it means to be an American, reflecting on what it means to be a patriot -

Well, 8 years ago, I was a patriot.

A Jackson Prep Patriot.

Yes, I was a senior in highschool. My class schedule was as follows:

1st period: Coach Crosby's Financial Management, in which I was learning how if I will only give up a lot of money now, I'll have a lot of money later.

2nd period: Mrs. Jenkin's AP Calculus class in which I was being the biggest dork in the history of the world and loving every minute of it. I was also trying to draw the fine line between helping my friends with their homework and doing it for them. I failed.

3rd period: Coach Brewer's study hall. I was forming a lifelong friendship with my dearest Mel - and building up courage to sneak out one day and go to Dairy Queen. Never felt so naughty.

4th period: Mrs. Orr's AP government class in which I was first appreciating devouring supreme court decisions and learning that there was more than one perspective on life.

5th period: Mrs. Flint's Speech and Debate class in which I was making a mockery of an expensive education.

6th period: Mrs. Roberts's English Class in which I was learning to actually write and basking in the glory of actually investing oneself in summer reading journals. See dork reference above.

Yes, my senior year in high school was the first year I can truly say I loved to learn. I became an academic fiend - late in life, really - I do hope my children are academic fiends long before then - not from a success stand point, but just so their growing up will be filled with wonder in education, not just outside of education.

I was dating a very funny boy who was constant entertainment.

My little brothers were 11 and 13.

I drove a green 1996 mazda 626.

It was 2001 and life was grand. I went to pep rally's, wrote papers, stayed up too late doing calculus problems and laughing with my friends, ate my mom's chocolate chip cookies, spent the night at mel's house on weeknights, and generally had the most carefree life a girl can have.

So, eight years later my class schedule is as follows:

First Period: Math - in which I teach time-telling, fractions, weight, volume and how not to be such a know-it-all

Second Period: Language - in which I teach how to comprehend what you are reading outloud (a skill I have trouble teaching since I'm pretty bad at it), and that penmanship is important no matter if you'll one day do most of your writing on a computer...

Third Period: Miscellany - in which I teach how to measure flour, the capitols of states, the books of the Bible, the catechism, the presidents, how the branches of government work, how to be a nice sister, what the prophets were trying to teach Israel, how the old testament prefigures the new testament, and wish i knew how to determine age-appropriate lessons.

Fourth Period: Lunch - in which I prepare Lunch.....

Fifth Period: Nap Time - in which I lesson plan, eat my own lunch, nurse an infant, make grocery lists, start supper preparations, fold clothes, do a little yoga, sneak in some hulu and lime sherbert, read cookbooks, blog or fall asleep thinking of my never-ending to do list.

Sixth Period: Afternoon Time - in which I try to make it to five oclock without Eason falling from a surface above 2.5 ft off the ground, without Ada Brooks asking an unanswerable question and without pouring myself a glass of wine.

I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, a homeowner. I am an academic fiend.

I am married to a very funny man who is constant entertainment (not the same one I was dating back then, but I clearly had a type)

I drive a 2005 Black Dodge Caravan (should have known it was coming when I thought calculus was so fun).

My little brothers are 19 and 21.

It is 2009 and life is grand. I go to the park, zoo, science museum, read books, stay up too late debating theological problems and laughing with my friends, eat my own chocolate chip cookies, spent the night in bed with my husband each night, and generally have a very, very full life.

So, we can reflect on the life of America and patriotism, but really it is the day in and day out lives that matter.

A lot has changed in eight years- babies, marriages, friends, beliefs, values - I was a patriot then and I'm a patriot now - after all, I say the pledge every morning.

09 September 2009

we love the cabin

we spent last Sunday afternoon at The Cabin.

The Cabin, as the more brilliant might suspect, is a cabin. When I decided to go to Ole Miss instead of 'some super expensive ivyleague job' (as my dad referred to it), Daddy bought a few acres on a lake about 30 minutes from Jackson. He was planning to build a ramshackle, tiny place out of which he could 'rough it' and bass fish. He didn't realize that the development in which be bought had covenants. You don't have to build on your land, but if you do, it cannot be ramshackle. So, we got a cabin i much prefer - 12oo or so square feet, a/c, washer/dryer, princess beds (my request), a pool table, a big television with real tv, great sound, books we've not read in years, a big open great room, and concrete floors. we love it.

(Everyone knows what a princess bed is, right? It's a bed built into a wall. No, this is not an official architectural or decorating term - it is the term I named them when I fell in love with them as a child. I love princess beds. They are so romantic. Apparently, I've just learned, they are actually called "Dutch Beds" I prefer princess beds.)

(See example above - this is not a bed at our cabin, but a princess bed you can find my googling 'dutch bed' Do not google princess bed - you will be dismayed at what goes on in our country)

Of course, best of all, is its location. on 4ish acres on an awesome fishing lake. Watching my children fish makes my life. And swinging in the swing makes my life better. (funny story about swinging in the swing - maybe i'll tell it sometime).

Anyway - our time at the cabin:

Eason swinging in the awesome red, wooden swing.

Chubby hand trying to reel.
I think this might make a good ad for whomever makes this reel.

Blurry Pic of Ada Brooks on a hike around the lake.

She looks like such a girl fishing... =)

"I'm going to pull the boat so far, Mama"
are you really, eas?
five minutes later....
"Mama - will you help me pull the boat so far?"

Eason says boat in a faint australian accent. It's fairly amazing.

Eason, Paul and my little brother Cliff went out in the boat fishing. 30 seconds later it started to rain. This is the result. I loved it. I loved my pitiful, wet husband even more...

This is what I do at the cabin. Inspect Collins's head and get photographed by my camera obsessed daughter. I love her, even though she has no concept of 'flattering'

Eason got new 'cabin shoes' - He's in love with them.

'specially in love with taking them off and putting them on.

or just staring lovingly at them in the hammock.

31 August 2009

What's appropriate about it?

We (the ubiquitous we) overuse phrases. Especially ones that surface in pop psychology. Especially those pop psychology terms that have to do with parenting.

Well, I take issue (shocking, i know) with one I've been hearing a lot.

Age Appropriate Behavior.
I'd like to change it to...

Age Expected Behavior.
(Wonder how i go about changing the national language surrounding certain issues? Call the New York Times?)

There are lots of behaviors that are, in fact, age appropriate. Like a five year old playing house with her dolls. Or a two year old crashing trains into each other. Or a twenty five year old having a glass of wine at the end of a long day of dealing with age-appropriate behaviors.

But then there are the others. These are the behaviors that are, in fact, not appropriate for any aged person to exhibit. Like a five year old slinging her watercolor water all over the kitchen table. Or a two year old throwing himself in the floor at Kroger because you won't buy the mnms. Or a twenty five year old having six vodka tonics at the end of a long day of dealing with various behaviors.

These behaviors are not appropriate. Appropriate is a normative term. It denotes value. The value that it describes is that something is 'okay' - something that is not to be corrected. The ol' Merriam Webster says it means 'especially suitable or compatible' and that the most appropriate synonym is 'fitting.'

My mother nods approval at appropriate dress.
My father edits sentences so that they use appropriate language.
My husband teaches appropriate finger position on a flute.
I (try to) serve meals with appropriate balance of food groups, spices, etc.

We celebrate the appropriate. We encourage it. We cultivate it.

I have been noticing this because people keep telling me that my son's behavior is 'age appropriate.'

I appreciate the desire to give him some leeway - and i appreciate the motivation behind telling me this - which is, i think and hope, wanting me not to worry that I have a child on my hands who will, in fact, be crying when his sister leaves him when he's 20. Or saying "no" to every question asked of him when he's mad on his 13th birthday. Or climbing to the tops of water towers at 16. (okay, so the latter is definitely possible).

I do hope he 'grows out of' many of these behaviors. But, after being around a lot of children most of the day every day for the past year, I am here to tell you that if a parent waits for a child to grow out of 'age-appropriate' behavior, he or she may wait a while.


Because as parents, we are supposed to grow our children.

Grow is both a transitive and an intransitive verb. Which means that, yes, a tomato plant grows. But a person also can grow a tomato plant. Grow can very well take a direct object. And when it does, says M-W, it means 'to promote the development of'.

When one looks at a weak, fruitless seedling tomato plant, one does not say to himself, "i hope that plant grows out of that." No, we say, "What can I do to grow that plant into a fruitbearing, strong, mature state?"

So, I'd like to change the phrase to Age Expected. Because we expect our two year old to throw tantrums, but we don't celebrate it, cultivate it, teach it. And we are not supposed to condone it.

We don't lose sleep, because, it is, in fact, expected that at this age, he'll misbehave in many different ways. We expect it. But we expect it to change. And, this is key, we expect to be instrumental in that change. Because if you don't water a tomato plant, it will not grow.

If you don't correct a child, he will not grow.

You cannot pray him out of it, hope him out of it, or stick your head in the sand and wait him out of it. You can try all those things, but unless you are incredibly lucky, they won't work.

You must grow him - lovingly, tenderly, and most of all, intentionally - out of these behaviors.

So, I'm glad for those friends, family and strangers in Kroger who keep telling me that it is "age appropriate" for my child to act a fool. Because I think what most of them mean is that what he is doing is expected at this point along the journey.

But as I look around, I cannot help but wonder if many of the behavior problems we see at all ages these days have something to do with this normative term creeping in. If you say something is appropriate, and you define appropriate with its most oft-used and correct definition, you might start to believe that throwing banana slices across your highchair tray to try to land them in the measuring-cup-drawer is something we should cheer, or at the very least just ignore and clean up, rather than something at which we should smile out of the corner of our mouths and then correct - perhaps by redirecting our children to throw pennies at a jar on the kitchen floor.

Or when he jumps up on the shelves-in-progress in your den wearing nothing but his newborn brother's hat, you'll laugh, take a picture, and then say "You are NOT allowed to climb on the furniture, even before its finished being built."

I want my children to be appropriate. I expect them to fail at many turns, just like I do every day. They are not a complete work, just as I am not.

I hope I am learning to say, "Sweetheart, that is not appropriate," knowing all the while that it's perfectly expected.