Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Birthday Finale

Birthday season begins at The Wright Place with Kate's big day in March and continues on until the very last few days in August when we celebrate Molly's.  We celebrated Molly's second birthday as we do each and every single birthday, cake and ice cream for breakfast in PJs!  Last year we celebrated Molly's first birthday at the beach...
This year, we celebrated at home...

2010...some things just don't change!!

Molly enjoys watching "Mouse" on TV each morning as she "vakes up," so we invited Mickey and Minnie to celebrate with us this year.

Our gal loved her cake and ice cream almost as much as she enjoyed being sung to.  Molly has listened to and eventually joined in to each "Happy Birthday" song in honor of each member of our family this spring and summer and, well, she felt a certain sense of entitlement.  IT WAS FINALLY HER TURN.  On her Birthday Eve, she couldn't sleep and told her daddy, "I want my Happy DAY!" Happy Day is what she calls the "birthday song" and the next morning she informed us as she joined us in our bed, "It's my Happy Day!"  
Oh and did we sing!  We really let it sound from the rooftops and she just soaked it all in.  The song, hers after all these months of watching others in the spotlight, the cake with her favorite character, the gifts, 

(Minnie Mouse pink purse with white polka dots, I'm gonna see if I can borrow it!)

...and the balloons!
We could have saved our time and efforts on the birthday gifts.  The balloons were all she cared about for most of the day...
...the balloons and the Birthday Song, which she insisted that we gather round and sing to her each time someone wanted a piece of cake.  By the end of the weekend we had, as a group performed several renditions of her favorite song.  When her Grandma called and spoke to her the day after her birthday she said, "Gmawwww, sing Happy Day to ME." So, though Grandma had sung to her the day before, (as had Pappa, Mamma, Aunt Becky...I could go on and on) she sang again for all she was worth to which Molly said, "Try 'gain Gmawww." And on and on it went!  
I guess that's what we get for subjecting a two-year-old to five breakfast birthday parties before getting around to celebrating hers!  
Because really, isn't it all about her anyway??

This new two-year-old certainly thinks so!

"...Happy Birth-day toooooooooo YYYOOOOUUUUU!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pappa C's Mac 'N Cheese

Here it is!

The ultimate comfort food, known to cure sadness, headaches, morning sickness and especially that "after-church-didn't-I-eat-anything-for-breakfast?" kind of hunger.  This recipe involves everyday ingredients that, unfortunately for my best nutritional efforts, are usually in my fridge and cabinets.
First you need:
salted butter - the "realer" the better. 
 I've used margarine before and gotten OK results, but Pappa uses the real thing.  
Next you need:

Pappa uses self-rising flour, I have used all-purpose in the past.  Pappa's Mac is always better than mine, you decide.  All I'm saying is that, in a pinch, all-purpose flour will work but will not be the BEST.

Next, whatever kind of milk floats your boat, or your pasta, as the case may be.
With these three simple ingredients we are going to make a fancy sounding French sauce called béchamel.  (I don't say that word around these parts.  Makes my Man sweat a little bit to hear that we're eating French food!) Béchamel sauce is simply what is referred to in cookbooks as white sauce. White sauce can be adjusted to whatever thickness the recipe requires.  Pappa's béchamel sauce is thinnish.

First, melt 4 Tablespoons (1/2 of a stick) of butter in a sauce pan. 

 Add a generous tablespoon of the self-rising flour and stir to combine.  Allow the butter and flour to cook for a few minutes so that the flour flavor is cooked away.  

Finally, add 2 and 1/2 cups of milk, salt and pepper to taste, and whisk constantly (unless you have a two year old, then you should whisk then check on her then whisk a bit more then check on her, etc. which will save you from cleaning up any number of disasters) until the mixture comes to a boil.  Allow to boil for a minute or so then remove from heat and let cool just a little bit.

Meanwhile, on another burner, cook the macaroni noodles in a large pot of salted water until they are barely soft (they'll cook the rest of the way in the oven).  Strain them, and place in a 9x13 casserole dish.

Pour the white sauce over the pasta in the casserole dish.  Stir to evenly distribute.
Now for the star of the show...
No Molly! Not you...hold up that bag!
The CHEESE! Now, this part is important.  Pay attention because if Pappa Charles comes to visit you and you tell him you've got cheese for this dish and you have merely "Cheddar" and not "Sharp Cheddar" Pappa will give you this very scary look and head down to Kroger and commandeer some "Sharp Cheddar".  So please only Sharp Cheddar for this dish, you must promise.  I'm tellin' ya, that look of Pappa's is scary!
Swipe the bag of cheese from your two year old and sprinkle two cups of the SHARP cheddar over the macaroni and white sauce 

and stir gently as the cheese melts.

At this point you will have to try really hard not to break out a spoon and begin eating.   It's good this way, I'm told, but it tastes much better after it's baked.  Instead, add more SHARP cheddar to top the casserole dish and head to the oven.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly.  If you choose, you can turn on the broiler after baking and brown the cheese to the desired color (but really, why prolong the process??).

When it looks like this:

  and this...

...remove from oven and eat. Be careful not to burn your mouth.  You'll want to take a bite looooooonnnnggg before it's cool enough.  I always do!

Papa C's Mac 'N Cheese:

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1/2 stick of butter (4 TBSP)
1 (heaping) tablespoon self-rising flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups SHARP (only!) cheddar cheese, shredded plus more for topping
salt and pepper to taste


Friday, August 20, 2010

Meet Pappa & Weeta

Our children are blessed with an abundance of wonderful adults in their lives who encourage them, care for them, pray for them, and plainly love them.  From their first days on this earth, they have enjoyed the active presence of both sets of grandparents in their lives.  Grandparents who would travel hours and hours just to spend time with them when we lived far away and who continue to travel to this event and that one to see them in the various activities and sports in which the kids are active, now that we live closer to them.

The kids also have another set of special people who have invested uncountable hours and miles into their lives and hearts, we affectionately call this amazing couple "Pappa Charles and Weeta".

Pappa and Weeta adopted Darrin and I when we began serving in our first "grown-up church".  That is not to say that the church was filled only with grown-ups, but instead it was the first church that we served which counted on us actually having grown-up.  (I'm certain if you took a poll at that dear church regarding the status of our "grown-up-ness" upon our arrival in their fellowship, the results would be quite mixed.)
Weeta, whose real name is Juanita, is the church secretary at our former church, and has been for over thirty years.  Pappa Charles, well, he's simply the luckiest man I know to have married so well.

These dear folks took great pity on the green twenty-somethings that we were, far from home and family, and took us in as if we were their own.  When Cole and Megan were born, Pappa and Weeta  were right there, to see their fresh little faces.  When the children were too much for me and I needed a break, they were right there, calling and asking us to please go out on a date and bring the kids over.  When the kids were sick and we needed to go anywhere, they were right there taking care of them.  If too much time had passed between date nights, the phone would ring and a deep, deep voice on the other end of the line would say, "'Bout time for a date, don't you think?" Juanita would then stop by our home on one end of town and pick up the children on her way home from work, and take them to her home on the other side of town, where she and Pappa Charles would feed them supper, take care of them, and then bring them back to our house and put them in their own beds and wait there for us to come home often very late in the night.

When Sunday rolled around we enjoyed a standing invitation to dinner after church at Pappa and Weeta's house.  We'd race home, change clothes and take absolutely nothing with us but our appetites and our children and eat like royalty until we couldn't hold another ounce.  Then we'd retire to the living room and doze contentedly for a bit and then head home to get ready to do church all over again in the evening. We faithfully kept this up for almost six years.  It was difficult eating all of that food and wallowing in all of that love, but we were determined to remain strong.

It should be no surprise that when our little family was called to a church far, far north of our first "grown-up" church, leaving Pappa and Weeta was the most difficult fact to face.  They handled it with grace and we with many tears.  I'll never forget those last good-byes as we loaded the children into the car and moved away.

In the years that have followed, Pappa and Weeta have stayed faithfully involved in the kids' lives and have welcomed Kate and Molly (our Yankee children) as two more of their own.  Packages arrive from the south on a regular basis celebrating birthdays, holidays, back-to-school time, and many packages arrive just because.  When the kids are spotted in adorable new outfits, it is most often a result of receiving a  "Weeta" original in one of those care packages.

I once overheard Cole talking with another child about grandparents.  Cole was saying that he had a Grandma and Grandpa, a Mamma and Pappa (pronounced Mammaw & Pappaw), and a Pappa and a Weeta. The other child asked who Pappa and Weeta were to which Cole responded, "You mean you don't have a Pappa and a Weeta?" He felt so sorry for the other kid.  He thought everybody had a Pappa and Weeta.  Everyone should be so blessed!

One very new little guy who arrived in February is enjoying the blessings of Pappa and Weeta these days. His name is Noah and he is Weeta and Pappa's first grandbabby that can be traced on an official family tree.  Cole and Meg like to think that they got Pappa and Weeta ready for Noah and they think that they did a wonderful job.

Pappa and Weeta don't only send packages north on a regular basis, they also appear in person a few times each year (they were present for every one of Cole's first 10 birthdays).  They come bearing all sorts of wonderful things from the south including but not limited to: pecans by the gallon, huge tomatoes by the box, homemade cheese straws, lots of strawberries red and sweet long before they are in season here, and bags full of coins for the kids to divide amongst themselves.

With each visit I make it a point to get out of Pappa's way in the kitchen just long enough for him to make my favorite, favorite, favorite dish because though I have the recipe and I try often, I am unable to achieve the perfection with which Pappa makes his masterpiece.  Pappa and Weeta came to visit a few months ago and this time when Pappa entered "Kitchen Stadium" I was granted permission to take pictures (or rather I announced that I was going to take pictures, Pappa doesn't like pictures).

So, in the next post, I will share with you, Dear Reader, the recipe, the pictures, and the culinary joy that results when Pappa Charles comes to town!

Monday, August 16, 2010


As Molly approaches her second birthday a cute little backwards phrase has entered her vocabulary.  "All-My-Byself" peppers nearly every sentence our little girl utters.  Her independent spirit, like that of her siblings at the same age and stage, has gotten her into a scrape or two.
I can get into Mommy's make-up "all-my-byself".

I can drink Kate's milk "all-my-byself".

On a steamy day in August, I can get ready to go "all-my-byself".

I can inch my way down the slip 'n slide "all-my-byself".

I can sneak a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie "all-my-byself".

I can put on Cole's shoulder pads (but thankfully not make it down the stairs) "all-my-byself"!

All of this newly displayed independence is as difficult to keep up with as it is contagious.  I am finding that I too, want to do more than a few things "all-my-byself".  Things like eat a huge bowl of ice cream, go to the potty, take a nap, make a telephone call, and if no one is looking, I'd like to try out Cole's shoulder pads too!

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's That Time Again

I've missed a few self-imposed blogging deadlines this week on behalf of a worthy cause, or rather, three worthy causes.  I've been doing "school work".  Two or three days ago you could have located me under a large stack of curriculum catalogues.

These are just a few of the catalogues from which I select what we will study this year in school.  The catalogues are such a large part of our existence as home schoolers and such prominent citizens of our bookshelves, that it often surprises me that non-home schoolers are often unaware of their existence evidenced by the popular question: "Where do you get what you teach?" It is the number one question about school that I am asked.  
It would probably also surprise you to learn that my sister, who also home schools her children, uses a completely different set of catalogues from which to order her materials.  There are hundreds of curriculum catalogues sporting hundreds or curriculum choices each.  If, for some reason I can find nothing to suit my little class from the massive numbers of options listed on the various catalogue pages, I can visit the local board of education which will provide me with text books free of charge from the public school system. 

The most difficult task isn't finding things to teach the children, it is instead narrowing down all of the wonderful choices.  

This year I'm stepping a toe or two off my usual beaten path of curriculum choice which has my older students a bit curious and we're adding a kindergarten student which has the teacher a bit nervous.
Nevertheless, the task is done and the textbooks and readers and poetry books are trickling in from this company and that.  We still await a 24-pound box from Washington state where one of our favorite home educating companies, Timberdoodle, is based and I may have one more Amazon.com order to place if my teaching assistant thinks we need the extra material...

While she makes up her mind, I'm busy getting pumped up for the year by reading...
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, which is causing me to look differently at a few things we've been doing in our school and a few things we've not been doing.  This book has been my textbook which is super because one of my favorite things about teaching our kids at home (a question no one ever asks, for some reason...) is that I get to be a student too.  I've learned so much in the last five years that this time through school I actually have a chance to graduate fourth or fifth in my class!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Twenty-Nine Hours

Twenty-nine hours.

My Grandma would say that I could stand on my head that long.  She says that when she hears me complaining about how long something is taking, has taken, or is going to take. Twenty-nine hours is how long the power to our home has been out from yesterday's "severe weather event".  I know this because the clock in my kitchen that I consult no fewer than six hundred, forty-two times a day, has mocked me today as it remained firmly fixed at 4:15.

Yes, I could probably stand on my head for twenty-nine hours, but I haven't been standing on my head.  I've been fixing meals on a gas grill in very humid conditions, keeping a Mickey-Mouse-addicted-almost-two-year-old from getting the shakes from TV withdraw, taking an anxious five-year-old to the doctor for booster shots, finding a non-electric piano for a ten-year-old's practice, taking an eager eleven-year-old to the doctor for his (hear a lowered tough guy voice) Football Physical, and roaming a church in the early morning hours looking for a place to plug in a curling iron that is remotely in the vicinity of a mirror (which, is of course in the men's bathroom?!?).

I've called the power company 367 a few times during these twenty-nine hours and the automated phone lady and I are getting quite cozy.  She is a sturdy rock in my current storm.  She's there every single time I call.  She asks me the same questions, I give her the same answers.  She has an issue or two with me, however.  She thinks I'm too needy, calling her all the time like I do and she feels that I have trust issues because though she keeps informing me that my power will be restored by midnight on Saturday, I simply refuse to believe her.  

Perhaps that is why when I called this evening, a male voice was there to take my call.  This guy, calmly and in a very level tone, informed me that it would not be Saturday at midnight when my power would return.  It would instead be midnight on Sunday, and then he said, "Thank you for calling."  To which I thought, "Sure, no problem, I've got nothing else to do!! I just paused on my way to find a rock with which I am preparing to wash the laundry." (Because don't we all know that my laundry was a wee piled up before the power went off, and soon, well, it's gonna get ugly!)

So here I sit in the dark whining over a "hijacked" internet signal on a computer whose battery life is slowly ebbing, and I realize that even the most privileged among us have a bad day or two...or three...

I also know that things usually look better...
...after a nice long NAP!
So...off to bed I go!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dear Hubby...About Your Lunch

Dear Hubby,
Thanks for coming home for lunch today so that I could go to my appointment.  The children, have already eaten.  Unfortunately, when I left the kitchen to make last minute preparations, Molly made a return visit.  I too, returned to the kitchen remembering that I wanted to have your deluxe PB&J ready for your lunch only to find Molly elbow-deep in the bread bag with three slices of bread surrounding her on the counter top, EACH WITH ONE OR TWO BITES OUT OF THEM!
This left me in a bit of a quandary.  You see, earlier this morning, I discovered that a loaf of bread in the pantry was well beyond the expiration date and had to be thrown away in its entirety. You know how I hated that.  Two dollars and fifty cents right into the trash!  With that irritation fresh in my mind, I was left to decide whether to use Molly’s second-hand bread for your sandwich or throw those pieces away with the other ENTIRE loaf.  The wife in me who appreciates your leadership in our home wanted to show you due respect with fresh, un-chewed slices of bread.  However, the wife in me who appreciates the work you do to earn your paycheck wanted to make the new loaf of bread last as long as possible.  
You see my dilemma. 
Here’s your sandwich. 
You really do have my respect.  

Your Loving-yet-penny-pinching,
(who would have eaten the pre-chewed bread herself if she hadn’t already eaten before the above mentioned incident.  Honest.) 

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