31 January 2011

mr. sandman

When my father has been in particularly frustrating periods of life - suffering from sickness, relationship upheaval, impossible children, amazingly terrible counsel-opposite, etc. - and he has inevitably been asked the question, "How are you doing?" (or some such other general well-being inquiry), he has responded, in the dry, sardonic tone of which he is the ultimate master, "just livin' a dream."


Mothers who choose to forego most or all work outside the home are constantly defending that choice. They (we?) choose to describe the days and hours spent at home in terms that are clearly meant to prove how terrible and worthy the plight of the stay-at-home-mom.

It doesn't take a minute to find fights about this in the blogosphere (oh, that word!) At Motherlode, the NYtimes parenting-centered blog, or other similarly-focused spots, you will often find these biting, awful conversations in the comments sections. Mothers who work full time are being judged for not nurturing their families, and mothers who stay at home are being judged for wasting their talents and liberatedness on cleaning-up various, lovely, baby-caused messes.

And, in return, as people are wont to do, each party is trying to make their plight seem more awful and oppressive; admirable and decent. Why? Well, that's a psychological question, a field in which I'm no expert, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that we all have martyr complexes, and if we can just feel like we're sacrificing everything, then we'll be truly good. You know, like Jesus or something.
And maybe also, sometimes, we do it because we want to bait the other person because we want to hear about how terrible their life is, so you know, we can feel better about ours.

But regardless of why we do it, we do. Get around a bunch of women. I dare you. Even the stable, non-dramatic types swirl around this debate like it's a monstrous whirlpool in some land of magical realism. If you have a full-time-out-of-house worker and a full-time-at-home mother, you'll inevitably get into a polite, southern-belle esque conversation about who has it worse.

And then there will be the really terrible, biting comments from the stay-at-home mother about not missing any of those moments, and the working mother, if she's bright, will furtively mention something about instilling the cold-hard fact that most people have to work for a living, and her daughters will more likely than not be among those people one day and it's really good for them to have a realistic example.

And the only person who is saved is the part-time worker, who can variously pretend to be experiencing the terrible worth of both sides of the fence.

Well, I'd like to take this moment to break the pattern. (Patterin, as my beautiful first child still mispronounces).

Last night, I had the privilege of hosting a bunch folks in my house for light supper and studying an amazing book on marriage and relationships. Then I curled up on my couch with a cup of sleepytime tea and let my husband rub my back while we watched an episode of Monk (instantly streaming, commercial free, on our Mac) which is one of the wittier television shows to air in my lifetime.

This morning, same husband woke me up to love on me before leaving me in bed with an amazing novel, which I proceeded to read, uninterrupted, for two hours, until my baby child called my name from his bed a couple of times, and I went to get him. He graced me with a kiss, and said "orange, please" (We seem to have won the victory over the word 'please' - thank you very much). The older two stirred, all requested fruit, we ate, I straightened up the kitchen, and we moved into the world of school.

First, Ada Bee gave me an oral report on how The Hobbit is going for her (she loves it and wants to vacation in the land of the Wilderland), then I gave her her latin, spelling, and grammar assignments, which she is in charge of ordering and completing before we can move on to history and math, our favorites. I set Eason up with some tracing work, and Collins and I played a game of building blocks. Eason has now started playing blocks with Collins, and I am writing about my dream, as well as getting some work for one of my part-time gigs done.

And yes, Collins pitched a fit about a banana, and Eason's feelings got hurt (for the 1000th time) that Ada gets to go to 'big school' and he has to do little school, and I discovered that Ada's handwriting on her last latin lesson was obviously sloppy and non-caring, which gives me shivers down my spine, because she struggles with not caring about doing a good job on things that she doesn't think worthy, and I'm constantly trying to help her get better about this (because, shockingly, I share this same besetting sin). And I have on sweat pants, and I've been on hold with the power company about changing names on utility bills for 30 minutes now, and there is a dirty chili pot in my sink that I really, really don't want to scrub.

But those are all tiny things.

Little, bitty tiny things.

All in all, I am, without one bit of sarcasm, living a dream. My dream. Not really anyone else's, probably, and that's fine. My life is not terrible, and it is every bit worthy, but in the same way that all of our lives are worthy. My children are happy and healthy, my husband and I really like each other, all of our various parental units love us and the children and continually bless us with their generosity - especially of their time and encouragement. I have a church. I have dear sweet girlfriends. And guy friends. I have a community. I have a job - one big one in the home, and a couple of smaller ones outside the home.

And I get to lie in bed on a Monday morning and read decent fiction. So, next time you hear me engaged in one of these deplorable martyr contests (because no one is immune), remind me.

Living a dream, I tell ya. Living a dream.

25 January 2011


I got off a plane exactly 2 hours and 18 minutes ago.

Suffice it to say, I'm not at my blogging best, but... My children are in fed, teeth brushed, and in bed (and their beloved grandmother delivered them to me bathed, which means that she is the best person on the planet right now).

I have a lot to say about traveling, friendship, money, children, marriages, food, government, security (or its farse), great fiction, and a whole host of other things, but...

Right now what I need to do is make my grocery list for tomorrow. If my feet weren't throbbing so profusely, I'd hop up and take a picture of my empty refrigerator, so we could all have a good laugh. Instead, I'll insert a picture I can copy and paste...

This is what Paul looked like when he opened our refrigerator earlier tonight.

Oh well. C'est la vie. I'll Kroger and maybe even Sams it tomorrow.

And while I'm making a list, I might as well go ahead and type up my menu for the week.

Supper: Mac & Cheese (from a box! never seen five happier people), Sauteed Green Beans

Lunch: Turkey Sandwiches all around
Supper: Subway at Church. Yes, this means most of us will have two turkey sandwiches in one day. Bite me.

Lunch: Perhaps more turkey sandwiches....
Supper: Roasted Chicken, Mashed Taters, Big Green Salad, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lunch: Leftover Shicken... Do with it what you please.
Supper: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw

Lunch: It's supposed to be beautimus! I'm hoping for an early picnic for the men folk in my life. Ada Bee and I'll be at an all-girls birthday celebration!
Supper: Grown Up Supper Night. Pulled Pork Nachos (I'm on a pulled pork nacho kick...). Mac & Cheese Soup (yep). Glazed Chicken and Pears, Fettucine Alfredo, Green Salad. Broiled Banana Splits for dessert. There may be a sorbet added to the menu. Depends on how festive I feel...

Lunch: Who knows.
Supper: We have a slew of folks coming here for book study on Sunday evening. I'm responsible for "a light supper" - I'm going to have a big ol' pot o chili and some corn bread. And then ask a couple of folks to bring rotel and dessert. It's good to have help.

Lunch: Chili Dogs for the whole crew! I shall be popular.
Supper: Bean Burritos. Clearly.

Lunch: Coveted Leftover Burritos
Supper: To My Mother's. Chicken Romano. The recipe for which I need to post. Someone remind me. It's an ol' family favorite take on Chicken Parmesan.

I'm thinking I'm going to have a new food schedule. For the last year or so, I've been on a Friday to Friday schedule, but I'm going to try a Wednesday to Wednesday schedule. Shopping and putting away groceries on Friday tends to put a damper on my weekend and mean that anything I'd like to do before the weekend - for dinner parties and such - I cannot prepare for on Thursday. So, I'm going to try another route. We'll see. I'll report.

17 January 2011

Food 1/18/11 - 1/24/11

Lunch: Leftovers - Shrimp Pasta, Pot Roast, Whatever you can find, people.
Supper: Smorgasbord of things I didn't make last week (Pulled Pork Nachos - we ended up eating leftovers) and some Chicken Enchiladas a dear friend is bringing.

Lunch: Sandwiches
Supper: To Mama's for Pork Tenderloin and Sweet Potatoes. I am contributing biscuit bread and poached pears.

Lunch: Biscuit Bread Paninis - you ain't ever had anything so good.
Supper: Pizza at Church

Lunch: McDonalds. Yep. I'm meeting my mother in law in Magee to hand off the children to her, and we're lunching at Mackeedees. If you think this is uncharacteristic of me, you should me my mother in law.
Supper: Shrimp and Potato Soup and Burgers on the Grill; I'm also hoping to do sweet potato fries -depends on my level of energy.

Lunch: Whatever looks yummy when we land in Washington, D.C., our nations capitol, at 1 pm!
Supper: Late-ish reservations at this restaurant, by recommendation of a good friend.

Lunch: I don't know- we'll surprise ourselves!
Supper: Rubber Chicken Banquet for Paul to receive his 'Transportation Engineering Student of the Year" award. We'll probably starve ourselves there and get junk food back in the hotel.

Lunch: I'm positive we'll be meeting friends for lunch/brunch somewhere after Church.
Supper: I'm thinking we'll again go out for supper.

Next week, I'll be sure to write about all the yummy DC food we get to eat. My friend Rachel says DC isn't really a "food city" - but it's still a city, right, so maybe it will at least be something exciting. It doesn't really matter, though, because we are going, mostly on someone esle's dime, to eat food and sleep late for four days.

Four days, I tell you.

No children. No curfew. No dogs. No cats. No Bluefred.

Two nights in a great hotel, two nights with friends.

Counting breakfasts, we'll be gone for 13 meals. 13 meals of no dishes. Well, I'm hoping to cook for my friends one of the nights we stay with them. So some dishes. But just a few. So exciting! So thrilling!

By the time we get back, we'll be big-time missing our little people, but until then...
=) =)
=) =) =)

13 January 2011

not that cute

Two Junes ago, this baby made an entrance into this world. His entrance was not short and awful like his sisters, or long and not too terrible like his brother's.

No, Collins came into the world like he's done most things: as easily and amenably as a baby generally can.
I think there were about 30 minutes of genuine unpleasantness (not that the 5 hours before were my idea of a party, but...), and then it was over - and really over- not only-just-beginning like after his sister was born.

And then he did what he was told. He nursed, he smiled, he slept, he occasionally cooed, but never in church.

At his four month check up, we discovered that he wasn't getting enough calories at all. His sister had not been either. But she had let us know. Every moment of every day. Not Collins. If Mama wanted him to starve, well, then that's what he would do.

And he is bald and blue eyed and chubby cheeked. And has spent the first 18 months of life generally just toddling around behind his favorite two people in the world. He is a prop in their plays, and only cries when something is genuinely wrong.

In Psalm 22, David talks about coming to trust God while still on his mother's breast. We all used to laugh and say that perhaps Collins had that in common with David.

Used to being the operative words there.

I now see that God was overly mercifulto me. Eason, when Collins was born, was still really in the throws of being a 2 year old, and needing all of the sanctifying work that that requires. And God knew that I could not continue staying on top of that Eason situation, and at the same time deal with a fussy or demanding baby. Someone would have suffered. Or, rather more likely, all three of us would have suffered. And definitely Paul and Ada as well.

Well, Collins has turned a corner. Usually when we say a child has turned a corner, we mean that he or she has gotten over some issue in behavior or has begun the ascent toward some achievement that otherwise seemed impossible.

But really? What is a turning of a corner? Just a change of direction, right? You can turn the corner from not-so-hot to rocking-my-socks-off, but you could also do the opposite, right?

Well, if you can, my sweet, cute, compliant child has done just that.

18 months is a hard age to parent - but it's an even harder age to be. You want to talk clearly, but you struggle to be understood. You are too little and too uncoordinated to be in full control of your movement - you fall a lot, cannot unscrew tops of things (thankgoodness, since Collins's favorite noise maker is a bottle of aspirin he keeps finding), cannot draw what you want to draw, but you, dadgummit, want to draw things because that's what Ada Bee and Eason are doing.

Life is hard, and you've no way of knowing it's going to get better.

And due to this frustration - and that the devil tempted eve and she gave the fruit to adam - you just might have a bad attitude - and great behavior doesn't usually come out of bad attitudes.

My sweet, easy baby has turned a corner alright - a corner into willful, angry, frustrated and opinionated toddler land.

Take this conversation we had this morning (and have had 4 of the last 8 mornings an almost identical one):

Collins, holding box of wheat thins: Cacker?
Me: Say please.
Collins: Cacker?
Me: Collins - I'd love to give you a cracker - but you must say please first
Collins, pointing: Fish
Me: That is a fish.
Collins: Cracker?
Me: Say Please
Collins, pointing out window: MaeMae
Me: Sadie Macon is not here right now, but that is her name
Collins: Will
Me: Will is Sadie Macon's daddy - that's right.
Collins: Cracker?
Me: As soon as you say please, you may have a cracker
Collins, pointing: Pants
Me: Those are your pants. Look, I have pants, too (his father's sweat pants, but they're still pants, dernit)
Collins: Cacker?
Me: Say "Cracker Please", Collins
Collins: NO!!!!
Me: We are not going to be ugly
Collins then walks to the nearest soft surface, this time a chair, and hits it as hard as he can.
Me: No, Collins! You are not going to be ugly.

And round and round we go.

Some people in my life lately have seen this or something like it in the last three weeks and said, "Aww - ann lowrey - but he's so cute - give him a cracker" or, how about this one, "Come here Collins - you're so cute, I'll give you a cracker."

(Yes, murderous intent goes through my brain, and I have to repent..)

(Of course, these are the same folks who rightfully lament America's almost entirely surly teenagers.... If you let your 18 month old be surly, guess what he or she will turn into, most assuredly. Guess. Just guess. Three guesses. First two don't count.)

But let's be honest. These people are wrong. Surly is the opposite of cute. No baby is that cute.
Not even yours. Really. I promise.
And Collins isn't even the cutest baby out there, so he's definitely not that cute.

20 minutes later, after he's been away toddling (and probably stewing) for a while, Collins walked up in the midst of a math lesson, and handed me the wheat thin box, and very proudly said, "Cacker, pease, Mama"

And yes, I ooh and aah and tell him how that's the way to ask for things and how sweet it is and how proud I am, and I lovingly produce a cracker. Or three.

And I start to think, perhaps we'll turn another corner again one day.... I'll let you know. Until then, I'll hold on tight, trust that God will continue to show us grace and peace and mercy beyond what we deserve, and try to keep laughing.

10 January 2011

Food 1/10/11 through 1/17/11

Lunch - Turkey sandwiches for the kids; leftover chicken casserole for the grownups.
Supper - Bean Burritos. It's been too long, my friends. Maybe six weeks. We've never gone this long before, and it's starting to feel like we live in someone else's kitchen.

Lunch - We'll fight over left over bean burritos, but there should be enough to go around.
Supper - Taking Chicken Pot Pie to Mama's house for supper. I love chicken pot pie.

Lunch - Chicken Pot Pie
Supper - BBQ pork sandwiches at church.

Lunch - Chicken Noodle Soup - the good stuff
Supper - Big green salad with pulled pork nachos. Anyone remember those at Ole Miss Football games? Worth every cent of the 12 dollars or some other ridiculous price tag.

Lunch - Refrigerator Raid. There's always bread and cheese if there's nothing in there for us.
Supper - To a best friend's birthday dinner.

Lunch - Sam's Club Pizza? Or if there's stuff left to be eaten in the fridge, that.
Supper - Having some dear folks here for grown up supper. I'm going to do Shrimp Pasta in Cream Sauce. And some Roasted Pepper Soup. And I'm hoping to find some good asparagus to roast. And you know, salad and bread, blah blah blah.

Lunch - Beef Pot Roast, Roasted Broccoli, Mashed Taters, Cookies of some sort - church potluck
Supper - Leftovers/Finger food - we're in a book study that meets every other sunday evening, and there will be finger food there. We'll fill up on leftovers if we need to when we get home.

What are you eating these days? What should I add to the menu over the next couple of months?

Food 1/1/11 through 1/9/11 - a week of being fed by others

My entire December was insane, as I've referenced. The greatest kind of insanity. I did still cook supper most nights - but i certainly didn't make time to keep track of our menus via blogland like I had been for the months previous.

So, today, back on the bandwagon indeed.

Be patient. I'm going to see if I can remember all the food we've had thus far this year.
I may can do it.

Saturday, January 1: My dad got married! We had open faced tomato sandwiches, champagne, and then went to an italian place for lunch where we had toasted ravioli, bruschetta, lobster fettucine, basic italian salad, meaty rigatoni, chicken marsala, mashed potatoes, wilted spinach, apple tart, tiramisu.

Yes, I had one bite of each thing (and about 8 of the toasted ravioli), and yes, I'm still full.

For supper that night, we were once again treated by daddy and his bride Carrie - this time with catered, cocktail party type heavy hors d'oeuvres (will there come a day when I don't have to google "hors d'oeuvres" to confirm spelling? ever? Will there? Beuler? Beuler?). I don't even know what all I ate.

Sunday, January 2: Church, then mexican food out with my darling little brother (who calls me middle aged, which is not funny) and his sweet girlfriend (who knows not to say such things). I had bean burritos. Don't I always? Then leftover cocktail party heavy hors d'oeuvres (looked it up again) for supper with a big crew of church folks here.

Monday, January 3: Went to friends' house for supper. Didn't have to bring a thing. Not a thing. Nothing. Didn't chop an onion, peel a head of garlic, or even measure anything all day. They served us yummy jambalaya, roasted veggies, some great bread, and chocolate iced sheet cake brownies. I made that last part up, but we couldnt decide exactly what they were. But they were good. Very, very good.

Tuesday, January 4th: Went to my ma's house. Didn't have to bring a thing. Not a thing. Nothing. But I did get put to work once I got there, which is great. I love to work in my mother's kitchen. We had black bean soup and a big, great, yummy green salad.

Wednesday, January 5th: Pizza at church. As it should be.

Thursday, January 6th: We had a bunch of friends here to burn Christmas trees!

It was Epiphany (the church holiday for celebrating the revealing of Christ to the world, most traditionally, with the visitation of the magi to the young Jesus). So, the kids made paper crowns for all the kids coming, and most of them sported them - in honor of the wisemen (and women? perhaps at least a harem?) who visited Jesus.

We ate red beans and rice, and everyone who came brought something to contribute to the meal. I wasn't happy with my red beans - I did them in the crockpot - not enough flavor. Oh well, life goes on. But we had a great time playing in the fire-lit back yard.

Friday, January 7th: Paul and I went to a party celebrating the recent marriage of the priest who married us, Ollie, to his beautiful young bride, Ellie. We had a good time visiting with friends, though didn't eat enough. We went to bed hungry, and felt as though that made up for the wine we drank.

Here are Ollie and Ada Brooks at our rehearsal dinner. Two of the cutest people I know.

Saturday, January 8th: we AGAIN were hosted by friends for supper (We are very blessed indeed). This time we were served traditional, but surprisingly satisfying spinach artichoke dip. There's a reason someone invented that stuff. Then chicken, sundried tomato, cream sauce, bowtiepasta. Then cheesecake with lemon curd for dessert. All great. I brought the salad. Which was really very good, if I do say so myself. Baby spinach, Jarlsberg cheese, Orange and Yellow bells, shaved purple onion, ranch.

Sunday, January 9th: Because of the icy roads in Jackson, church was canceled. We had folks here for singing and prayer and then had a lunch-amalgamation of whatever everyone could come up with to eat. It included: Blackbeans, sausage and rice, salad, sausage and potatoes, chicken casserole, more rice, two different cheesecakeish desserts, chocolate chess pie, deviled eggs, blackeyed peas, and maybe some other things I'm forgetting.
For supper, we had leftovers, yummy beer bread and a bite or two of roasted chicken.

my husband bought a brew kettle: back to normalcy

Today is what all my Mondays should look like, please.

Last week, Paul Forster kindly, but firmly, requested that I clean out the freezer(s). They are full, and it is frustrating for all of us to have to balance peas on roast on our heads just to get the vanilla ice cream out.

So, Friday, I grabbed two chickens out of the freezer - chickens I had bought on clearance - 50 cents a pound - yay for cheap food here in America.

Yesterday evening, I put said chickens in to roast. Paul and our friend Will picked at them around supper time (hard to turn down a freshly roasted chicken), but they were mostly in tact this morning.

I picked them apart. Talk about a labor of love. Greasy hands and it takes forever. But, it's the good kind of work. Not like laundry, which is work from the devil.

As I was picking them apart, I had an epiphany! (wonder how our word epiphany specifically evolved from the ecclesiastical usage?)

The stars have aligned, I thought!
Aligned, I tell you!

First star: my husband bought a brew kettle.

Wait for it.

What is a brew kettle?

Oh, it's just a 5 gallon stock pot. But beer-brewing-equipment companies market them as 'brew kettles' so that piggish men who are insecure in their masculinity won't feel too girlie buying cooking equipment. My husband isn't piggish, but he is about to start brewing his own beer.

I've never had the privilege of owning such a big pot. But now I co-own one, with Paul, who is glad to share.

Second star: I remembered the 3 or 4 chicken carcasses in the freezer. Yes, carcasses. My culinary hero, Nigella Lawson, says when you roast a chicken, if you don't have time to make broth right then, you should throw the skin and bones into the freezer for future broth making.

Third star: It's really cold outside and my children really wanted to play with play dough.

Fourth star: My daughter had a really good attitude about her school work this morning, and got it all done in record time.

I sat the kids - all three! - down at the kitchen table with 24 different colors of playdough.

I got the brew kettle out of it's packaging.

Here is a picture of Big Brew next to my regular stock pot. 20 quarts vs. 8 quarts. You can see how BB is making a difference in my life. This translates to "Will hold 6 chicken carcasses instead of 2". Which translates to more freezer clean-outage, which makes everyone happy.

So, I started throwing in decimated chickens.

2 fresh ones from yesterday.

3 frozen ones from a couple of months ago.

And then the truly freeing part of chicken stock making.

I started tossing in the following:

Some celery stalks, with leaves, broken in half....
A couple of heads of garlic, unpeeled, chopped in half
A big ol' onion, unpeeled, quartered
Five carrots, unpeeled, broken in half. Stressed? Go break a carrot.
12 or so bay leaves
4 large sprigs rosemary
A healthy Tablespoon of whole black peppercorns

Added enough water to cover everything. Turned it on. Walked away.

(Came back to check on it periodically for the next 2 hours).

It's simmering away on the stove. The smell alone will warm you up.

I should end up with 10 or so quarts of really yummy, rich chicken broth.

What will I do?

2-3 quarts are going to make an awesome pot of chicken noodle soup sometime this week - for us to eat for warm lunch and for me to take to some friends.

1 quart will be used in the chicken pot pie I'm making for supper tomorrow night.

(The pulled apart roasted chickens will be split between those two dishes).

Now, what will I do with the remaining 6-7 quarts of broth?

Fill the freezer up, of course. It's looking kind of empty.

(I also may make a couple of surprise chicken broth deliveries this week - Jackson friends - who needs a few cups o' the good stuff? Email me. Call me. Text me. Facebook me. I am technologically available to you, and I have stock to give away).

As I stir Big Brew, I just feel like it's all in sync. The holidays are over, and we're back to normal.

Now, to laundry, dedgomit.

09 January 2011

a charge of disappointment

My little family and I had the privilege of eating at friends' houses two different nights in the past week. Super, duper casual get-togethers, which are by far the best kind. Yoga pants, jeans and tee shirts abounded. Jambalaya and roasted veggies one night, chicken bow tie cream pasta and a salad the other night. Both really super, yummy meals.

Being hosted is just a grand ol' gift to receive (and really to give, as well, as a friend recently pointed out). I'm going to write more about this whole host/guest thing soon - I get to do the host thing a lot and the guest thing sometimes, and they are treasures. And sometimes obstacle courses.

But before I get to that, I wanted to share a moment - for all eight of my readers out there - but more for my children, you know, when they're 20 and allowed to read this.

Dear Ada Bee, Eason and Collins:

(If, heavens, there ends up one day being another one of you, dear him or her too)

Last night, we went to some friends' house. They are dear friends of ours and their children dear friends of yours. And we were blessed that some other favorite friends got to come as well.

These people make us laugh, laugh at us, and occasionally even help us recognize problems in our lives. They feed us, eat our food, and pray with and for us.

The key, for this moment, is that they all worship with us on Sunday mornings.

We were sitting around. On the floor. Playing with tired babies. Drinking wine. The idea of getting all 43 children dressed and ready for church this morning was not on our top ten list of fun things to do.

One or two of us saw an email. (these darn brilliant phones).

And it said that church might be canceled today due to icy roads.

And our friend Will led the charge of disappointment. He didn't want to get up and get his child dressed anymore than the rest of us, but dedgomit, he wanted to worship. He'd go through ice and snow and all sorts of other pains in the behind so that he could be with his fellow parishioners singing the praises of our God and King. Cancel church! Never!

We got in the car, little ones, and told you that church might be canceled. And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the backseat.

My dear little people, know what a gift you have. Know that weekly worship with people you love is amazing. Know that not wanting an excuse not to go to church is fantastic. Know that having friends that want to worship with you is a blessing.
Awesome, even. You are blessed, and your father and I are blessed.

And now I must wake you all, get you polished up (or at least dusted off), in the car, and off to church, which has not been canceled, because the ice has held off - and yes, a not-so-little-part of me believes that it held off because of a little bit of moaning that went on in central mississippi last night.

Amen! Hallelujah! Adios!

05 January 2011

I think he knows.

I understand why some people purposefully choose to have one child only. I'm glad I have a brood, but everytime I get to spend good, quality one-on-one time with any of mine, I think, "ah - this is what it would be like all the time. No bickering, and lots of awesome conversations with little people"

(I know I know - I'd miss out on so much of the quality time they get to spend together - playing, loving, and yes, even the lessons about conflict they are learning every second of every day, but every now and then one just sounds....)

So, today, I had three good hours with just my first born.

She and I have very, very similar personalities - well, not really personalities - she's more dramatic - both on the positive and negative ends - but very similar brains - a brain I inherited directly from my father.

(Daddy and) Ada and I think the same way and speak the same way. And, while on occasion, it can be infuriating, most of the time, it means we have these awesome conversations.

So, Bee and I ran errands and visited. No interruptions. Delivered Christmas pickles and went to WalMart and got gas, etc.

My father gave her Island of the Blue Dolphins for Christmas. This is a childhood classic - I read it in 5th grade or something - and remember it pretty well. I think it's where I first read the word "abelone", which I mispronounced for 15 some-odd years. I'm also pretty sure it started the

"What are you going to be when you grow up?"
"a Marine biologist"

trend. Do you know how many of those 11 year olds who said "Marine Biologist" are actually marine biologists?
I didn't think so.

Well, Ada finished the book yesterday. And loved it. Every second of it.

So, I started talking to her about it.

Well, at the end of the book, the main character, who has lived alone for years, and is now a young adult (ada bee estimates 20 - i have no idea), has to leave her island home and go away with more civilized people. She doesn't really want to be part of their world - wear civilized clothes, etc. Ada Brooks and I debated what she should have done, what the civilized people should have done, etc. etc.

She thinks that grownups should be able to live the way they want to as long as they aren't hurting anyone. Little Ron Paul constituent on my hands. I tend to agree, though of course my old age

(my little brother has started calling me middle-aged. Kiss my a.double.s, Paul Eason)

makes me tend a little more toward the "but you need to be in respectable society and follow, generally, the mores thereof" end of the things. Which Ada understands, but isn't there yet.

So we have this great talk in which I think,"yeah - I like you."

And, so we left the blue dolphins conversation, and we're rocking along, kind of quiet, and she says:

Ada: What if we went to that church (that she sees out the window).
Me: Well, we'd miss this and this and this about Immanuel. (Where we go to church now)
Ada: And we'd miss our long and exciting sermons.
Me: Are you being sarcastic?

Ada: No. I like a long sermon - more time to color. And ours are exciting.
Me: Exciting? I like our sermons most of the time too. I've never picked the adjective "exciting", but I'm glad you think so.

Ada: It's beginning to look a lot like Advent[a recent sermon title of ours]???? Mama - what could be more exciting than that?"

Me: You should tell Steven they're exciting - especially when you like a specific one. (Steven Wedgeworth, our interim pastor and most-time preacher, specifically preacher of the Advent sermon she referenced)

Ada: I guess, but, I think he knows.

(Clearly, conversation ensues about encouragement not always being about things people don't already recognize in themselves....)

My morning as mother to an only child came to and end with a smile. We picked up her brothers, and they all giggled and threw hands around necks, and we were glad they have siblings. But for that moment, it was pretty amazing.

03 January 2011

Stopping by woods....

I got a pointed (read: slightly testy) email from a friend this morning concerned (read: moaning) about my lack of blogging as of late.

I love this friend (read: she was right), so rather than resentfully stay away from my computer for yet another week (read: act like a child), and because I have really missed writing, I thought I would update and defend all in one fell swoop. Two birds.

So, why have I been away from words?

Paul says it's been 35 days since he's seen me stop moving. I think he might be correct on that.

We had thanksgiving, which I half-chronicled here, but got so busy didn't even give a final report, and as soon as the dishes were washed from Thanksgiving (which did take approximately 4 days), we began Christmasing in earnest.

I love feasting, holidaying, festiving, cooking, loving, preparing, but I believe I've over-Christmased this year. If that's possible. Can one over-celebrate the birth of Christ?

We made advent chains.
We had a disastrous christmas tree decorating - because - well - I wasn't involved.

We made lists - of gifts to give and gifts we'd be delighted to receive.
We made pickles.
We even made homemade 'real gifts' for people this year.
We shopped. Mostly on Amazon. Amazon is amazing. See that word play there?
We made gingerbread houses.

With friends.
We took Christmas card photos.
Some resulted in pain
But most resulted in laughter.

We ordered Christmas cards. We learned not to cuss when they came in late.
We addressed Christmas cards. Or 80 percent of them...
We reminisced about Christmases past.

We had dinners.
We laughed at my mother, who got tired and funny, and topped her tree with fake hair.

We went to dinners.
We even had lunches and breakfasts.
We had the end of a school semester - and all with which that comes - exams for Paul, projects for Paul, tutoring for Paul, school programs for Ada Brooks, Eason and me, and on and on and on.
We bestowed gifts.

We opened gifts,and for them, were very thankful.

We had a church christmas party.
We had play dates.
We sang songs. Lots of them.

We picked folks up at the airport.
We celebrated engagements from afar.
We had a children's church christmas program and party.

Ada Brooks narrated her school play.
Eason was Joseph in his.

Which seemed like the sweetest, most innocent moment ever.

Until he had an affair with the Angel, ignoring Mary and Baby Jesus.

Collins sat by the wayside and was overwhelmed by it all.
We went and saw a singing tree. Had chili first.

And a Bethlehem tree.

And we built a tree house. By we, I mean, Paul and his support team of awesome peopleness.

And we worshipped.
And we museumed - boy did we museum.

We had old friends for a new years eve celebration. 5 courses for 14 people.

We weddinged my dad and his new bride, Carrie, who is a doll.
For which I made open faced tomato sandwiches, the best thing ever.

Can you tell turning nouns into verbs is my theme of the morning? Christmasing? Museuming? Weddinging?

And now, the 12 days of Christmas are coming to an end, and we are going to burn the Christmas tree in a blaze of glory.

And sleep. For a long time.

There is nothing on my calendar for 5 of the next 11 days. Nothing. No nothing. This is a record, and I've never been so thrilled.

But, it is the good kind. The kind of exhaustion that makes you know you're doing alright. Anyone as tired as I am has accomplished something over the last month. Right?

Giving your family a sense of place is a constant work. You cannot up and create it one day, or even one year. My job, speaking relative to my family and my community, is to create a sense of place - a sense of belonging - a sense of grace.
God grants us the gifts with which to do this, but we must do it. We cannot sit around being thankful for good food, and not preparing and eating it together. We cannot love music and not sing - and listen to others sing. We cannot be in awe at our children and not play with them. We cannot say we're excited about the birth of Christ and then not lavish gifts upon one another in His name.
We cannot speak with our lips and not do with our time.

To be part of the great feast, the great redemption that God has for us, we must feast and redeem.

We cannot talk about the gospel and not do the gospel. It shan't work. Not only shan't it work, but we made promises. Baptismal promises. In my case, confirmational promises. I promised, with God's help, to do what the Gospel requires.

So, I'm exhausted. But the sense of place around here feels a bit more cemented. We're getting there.

We have promises - big promises - to keep. And that means miles to go before we sleep.

[Though, over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to nap a lot.]