Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Welcome to THE JUNGLE!

I've learned a lesson or two from what I've been calling "The Jungle Project".  The Jungle to which I refer is our pizza-slice-shaped yard.  The "crust" of the pizza being the street that gently curves around the front of our home with the "first-bite" piece of the pizza at the very back of the backyard.  Our little "slice of heaven" is situated on a hill that tilts down from the tip of the triangle to the lowest point at the street.  If you were to look out of the windows into the backyard, you would be looking at
(That mega-stump is what remains from last year's Jungle Project!)
You would also be looking at this...

Behold, "THE JUNGLE".  It was a problem.  It was ugly.  It was overgrown.  It ate baseballs...

It made mowing difficult (or so I'm told).  It generously shared poison ivy or oak or what ever it is that seeps through one's clothing and causes insanely itchy red welts.  IT HAD TO GO! 

My Man called in help, promising a decent lunch in return for what would be an amazing amount of work.  We welcomed Pappa, who always appears when there is hard work to do...
and Mr. Rick, who had previously been in The Jungle and showed up again anyway.

The crew quickly got down to business and with a chain saw or two...

made quick work of The Jungle.  
Soon progress could be noted.

Good Bye Jungle! 

Hello lesson.
In the pew this Sunday, I was thinking about that out-of-control Jungle and how its example so easily lends itself to my life.  Here's what I know...

I did not want The Jungle to be cut down.  I just didn't.  It has been there for a long time and I was used to it.  It wasn't bothering me.  I was comfy behind it's thick intertwined branches and vines.  I thought a better way to fix it was just to "tend to it" by cutting back the worst parts of it, those that hung out the furthest and stuck out the tallest.  My Man insisted that the entire fence line had to go, however, and since I wanted credit for submitting (does it count if you submit externally but not with the heart?? Probably not, considering the One keeping score.) I acquiesced.  

Isn't that how I am about the sin in my life?  I don't want to part with "Activity A" or "Thoughts on Subject Z" or "My Rights Regarding Episode #4".  I don't necessarily want to do anything about my disobedience in thought or deed, after all, it's not bothering me.  Those ponderings about "My Rights" and "My Thoughts" are what my mind wants to cozy up to when I am distressed or tired or have nothing more productive to think about.  Though I am used to thinking and doing these activities, sometimes I feel convicted about them.  When that happens, I'm willing to trim out the worst offenders, the ones that stick out the furthest, the things that might be visible to others if they were to catch me in a weak moment.  

Yet tending to my sin so that it looks prettier and more under control (who's control?) is really not sufficient.  My God insists that I turn completely from my sins, even the well tended ones.  He whispers in my ear that if my heart is full of Him and His Word, my mind can dwell on finer things.  He insists that I set my mind on things above where the finer things are, not here below in a world filled with sin's consequences (poison ivy, anyone?).  

Here's what else I know:  Sometimes, I need help getting rid of the Jungle in my life.  There's something to be said for having a friends and family on whom you can call when you are in poison up to your chin!  It is always difficult to ask for help, but wisdom lies in doing the tough things.  

You know what else?  I don't like the new view into my neighbor's yard.  I happen to know that my neighbor is not terribly thrilled with the new look either.  I feel a bit exposed these days when I venture out to the backyard, much like one feels when her hair has been cut way too short the day before a big event.  I can see a lot more of my neighbors now and they can certainly see more of me. What are they seeing?  Christ in me, the hope of glory? Or are they seeing ME, ME, ME the glorification of my rights, my issues, my selfish needs?  

My Man has been treating the remains of The Jungle with weed and root killer to ensure that The Jungle does not reappear.  Soon, he plans to do some planting along the fence line where The Jungle used to reign.  I am confident that whatever he plants will have been well-studied and its growth potential considered as well as its proclivity to foster the growth of poison ivy.  Seems he understood all along that in order foster beauty, the ugliness had to be totally removed lest it spring up and choke out the loveliness that the planter originally intended.  

Wonder where he learned that??

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 
~Philippians 4:8~

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summertime Promises

Summer.  For some, the arrival of summer means the relaxing of schedules, the easing of commitments, the slowing down-if only a little- of the regular pace of life.  Our family activity level does just the opposite.  As the sun begins to shine its summer rays on us, baseball is still in full swing, swimming lessons have begun, an exciting family wedding is on the horizon, my bible school preparations are should be in progress and...I'll stop there.

Each of us who can read has a pile of books waiting for our attention and we've signed up for reading programs at no fewer than three bookstores and one library.  Two of us have blogs that need tending and two of us have learned to Tweet on Twitter!  Theater camp, basketball camp, vacation bible school, softball camp, zoo camp, and football practice await us in the coming weeks.

As the sand left in my hour glass is emptying and my laundry basket is terribly full, I'm signing off early with promises of blogs to come.  Blogs about:
  • the "jungle" project (alternatively titled Poison Ivy Anyone?) 
  • a boy learning responsibility for living things in his care
  • lessons on a scooter
  • introductions to dear friends
  • a recipe for a classic
  • disassembling a sentimental piece of furniture
  • a sentimental movie
  • baseball championship highlights
  • a man, a fridge and a plan
Thanks for checking in on us!!  Have a super summer weekend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Father's WEEK

I've changed Father's Day to Father's Week here at the Wright Place for the simple reason that I didn't get a Father's Day post published on Sunday.  Instead, I spent time with the Father of my kiddos.  The day before Father's Day was spent with both of our fathers on the ball field watching a Little League game and sweating.  Sweat and baseball, I can't think of a more fitting way to spend Father's Day weekend.

It seems that every year by the time Father's Day arrives, summer is at a fevered pitch and the celebrating of my Man as a father is given, at most, a passing nod.  He deserves better.  He's a great Daddy.  I've loved him for what seems like forever, but on the day my Man became a Father, my love for him deepened exponentially.  To see a man, my Man, "doing the dad things" was to see him truly in his element.  On that day...
...this day...
my Man began taking care of our family and he has been doing so for over a decade now.  I am all the crazier about him as I have watched him grow as a Daddy. 
 As the years have gone by, my Man wasn't the only thing growing.  Our family, of course has grown a bit too, and each time I see this...

(Darrin dressing Megan in the first outfit he had ever purchased for her.)
...my heart beats a few beats fonder.

As babies number three and four joined us, his experience as a dad only made him more fun to watch.  He was an "old hand" at C-sections and was the first of us to hold each scrunched-up, gooey little life.
Hello Kate!

Molly weighing in!

What's wonderful is that when we got home from the hospital each time, Darrin worked just as hard as I did taking care of our family--most times, harder.  He didn't just leave it all to me, thank goodness! 



"A woman can tell a lot about a guy by the kind of dad he is.  When I see you being a parent, many of the things I appreciate most about you...your patience, your kindness, your fun sense of humor...show up so clearly.  You obviously love being a dad, and I love that about you.  You are a wonderful man and an amazing father who really deserves this day week..."
~Quoted from my Man's Father's Day card~

We all love you so!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh My, Oh My, It's Frozen Pie!

Tomorrow is YARD WORK DAY here at The Wright Place!  My Man has promised food to the brave souls who would dare to assist him in taming the jungle that has overtaken our backyard.  As the temperatures promise to be in the 80s tomorrow, I thought a frozen pie or two would be in order.

I found the following recipe in a nifty new cookbook I snatched up at a used bookstore recently.
It's called Sweety Pies
(Click on the title for more information from Amazon.com)
I just love the subtitle...
Author Patty Pinner says, "What a woman cooks is a window into her womanly personality--what she thinks, how she behaves, how she feels about herself and the people she cooks for."  Ms. Pinner introduces us to a number of ladies in her life, characters all, and with each introduction and story you get PIE!  It's a beautiful book.  You gotta love the used bookstore!  I snagged my copy for about 1/3 of the cover price which, of course, makes my copy of Sweety Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, with Pie that much more beautiful.

When I turned to page 105, I met Miss Mattie Clyde Parker and her Frozen Citrus Pie.  Come on, let me make the introductions... (recipe located at the end of the post).

First place a can of sweetened condensed milk in the freezer, it needs to chill a bit.  While you are in the freezer (well not in the freezer actually, but putting the evaporated milk in...) get out a can of frozen orange juice concentrate, 
or frozen lemonade concentrate or any frozen citrus concentrate
 (Cool huh? I enjoy having options.)
Let the juice set out, it needs to warm up a bit.

Next, the crust.  It's of the typical graham cracker sort.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs mixed with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup melted butter.
Press into a 9-inch pie plate.  Chill in freezer while you make the filling. This pie plate was my Grandma's, it has had quite a career.

In a medium sized bowl combine an 8 ounce container of Cool Whip,

the chilled 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, and 

...HALF of the 12 Oz can of frozen juice concentrate.

Fold those ingredients together until filling is smooth and creamy, not runny.  Pour into chilled crust (after you remove it from the freezer.  It would be difficult to fill a pie crust while in a freezer (the pie crust of course, not you--in the freezer, that is)).

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.  Freeze for several hours or overnight.

We made two of these lovelies, a lemon and an orange. You will need to remove the pie from the freezer about ten minutes before you wish to serve it so that it can soften.  I know this because, we decided to use about 2/3 of the lemon pie to celebrate a baseball victory after tonight's game.  It was delish! (The pie, that is, the game wasn't bad either!) The orange one and 1/3 of the lemon one await tomorrow's Heroes of the Jungle!

"Miss Mattie Clyde Parker's Frozen Citrus Pie"
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1-8 oz. container Cool Whip
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
1-6 oz. (or 1/2 of a 12 oz.) can frozen citrus concentrate (any flavor), thawed


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Wright Place-Unplugged

Yesterday our power went out.  Yesterday our power was out for about 5 hours.  Yesterday was one of THE BEST days.  Really.  Except that I didn't get a shower and do my hair before the power went out.  Otherwise, things worked out beautifully.

Yesterday, the first day of our summer that didn't involve us being "on vacation", was our first normal day of summer.  We said good-bye to Daddy as he returned to the office and said HELLO to the softer side of our summer.  And then the power went out.

When the power goes out, the washer and dryer are also out of business--bummer.  The microwave goes on strike too and takes the oven and stove with it--all's the pity.  The telephones do not DO power outages, neither does the internet router--boohoo.  My cell phone was on its last wisp of battery life and was of little use as well--oops.  The television was just an empty black square on the mantle...staring at us unblinkingly.

A tree was down on a line and twenty homes on our "circuit" were without electricity.  I don't know who or what caused that tree to tumble, but I'd like to thank 'em.  I can't remember when the children have played so well...TOGETHER.  There were the usual spats and squabbles, but with little alternative activity available, they found common ground soon enough.  After a lengthly stay in the stuffy upstairs, I heard the troops marching down.  Moments later they had not sought me out in the kitchen, so I peeked in on them.

I was thrilled to see toys without cords or battery chargers scattered throughout the living room.  I was delighted to hear giggling that did not involve a tween focused TV show or America's Funniest Home Videos.  I was also very excited that my camera battery promised more life than my cell phone battery which meant that I could "play" too.
I was the war correspondent in Battle NERF!

That's a lot of fire power.  What must the enemy look like?

She looks vicious but outnumbered, until...

...backup arrives! 
Backup takes her job seriously.

Suction-cup-tipped darts fly.  

The opposition has decided to bring in the big guns. 

That is the Vulcan EBF 25.  It thinks it's a Gatling gun and shoots 3 darts per second.

It's no match for the other side's secret weapon...

She does permanent damage and can consume about three darts per minute!
However, she requires significant amounts of recharging!

Power has since been restored to our home but we're still picking darts out of the curtains
...and the bookshelves
...and the couch cushions
...and the fire place
...and Molly's teeth!

Each dart found today reminds us of the fun from the day before!
The day the lights went out!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bookstore Heaven

We are in the "stay-cation" portion of our summer vacation.  Week one was happily spent in sand and pools while week two finds us adventuring in the region close to our home.  As we travelled to one of our favorite haunts a few towns away, we took a small detour because my Man mentioned that the new Barnes and Noble in that area should be close to being completed.
"Don't wreck or anything," he said, "but if you can see off in that clearing, that's where they are building it."  (I would like to comment at this point that it's been well over a decade since I've logged any fender benders so, I'm not sure why the warning about wrecking was included, but in the excitement of a new bookstore, I let it slide without comment.  I guess this counts as the comment ;-)).

We decided to exit (without wrecking) and check things out.  As the silver bullet climbed the hill and made the turn into what we assumed would be a bookstore parking lot, we saw instead an entire shopping center with very unique stores and restaurants, each of which, seemed enormous in their size and scope.  The Barnes and Noble that initially drew us to this location stood in the center of it all.  We piled from the car in eager anticipation...

Know this...we Wrights take our bookstores very seriously.  They must meet some very high standards to be put on our LIST.  Our list of bookstores is long, but the list of bookstores that we load the children into the car and drive more than 40 miles to visit is short and sweet!  Stores must have a descent religion section to keep my Man interested.  The mystery section must be current and overflowing with titles for me.  A cooking section that has at least a few new titles is always a plus, but not mandatory.  My favorite section is the fiction/literature section, and this section varies from store to store, but the wider the range of books available in this section, the better!

The very most vital section in any bookstore for us is the children's section, but not for the reasons you may assume.  We don't value the kids' section over all the others because we need a good selection for the creation of well-rounded readers (we go to the library for that!).  We need a good children's section so that the children will be properly entertained while the adults take turns looking for books!  One of us looks in "our section" while the other oversees the kids and then we trade places.  The better the kid's section in the bookstore, the more peaceful the person on kid duty remains and the more we enjoy the bookstore as a family.  That's how we roll!

Upon entering the new Barnes & Noble we were a bit impressed with the overall size of the store.  The kids made a beeline to the children's section, which in most B&Ns is a treat. Entering the children's section of this particular B&N left my little crew of book lovers speechless!

The above picture shows merely one half of the kid's section.  The other half was anchored by what our girls refer to as the "stage area" which all B&Ns have, but not quite to this level of grandeur...

This children's section ROCKED! Half of it was filled with toys and games, the other half stocked to the brim with good books.  Child-size tables and chairs were scattered throughout invitingly.

 B&N is deep into its Summer Reading Program, as are all bookstores and libraries worth their while, and the displays showed as much.

This is the new John Grisham for kids.  Cole finished it at the beach and said that it was excellent and did I think that the Grisham books written for adults were too old for him--um YES!  This book is, of course, the first in a series, so we will be eagerly awaiting its release in months to come.

The toys that lined the ample shelves were of the high quality, high creativity sort.

My sisters and I had something like this when we were little, except Barbie was the "scientist" in our set.
Back on the side with the books, we found some familiar friends...

"Mouse" was there, as was Curious George, Pooh Bear was up in a tree across the room, and the Cat in the Hat looked down on us from the wall.

This children's section had its very own cookbook section.  These "Princess" books are on my short-list for purchase soon!  I've been stalking them for a few months now.  New ones keep appearing on bookstore shelves all over.  There are loads of cute food ideas between these covers!

As we were taking in all of the wonders that were, I noticed a young man with a green apron walking around carrying a tray on which a dozen or so of these...

...were arranged.  Behold! A sample of a Vanilla Bean Frappiccino with a splash of cherry flavoring! Oh MY!  It's a good thing I enjoyed my first sip because I was all too soon asked to hand it over...

...and it's hard to say "no" to that cute little sun-speckled nose! One wonders sometimes if free samples are really lucrative for the establishment offering them...

Wonder no more.

Mmmm mmmm mmmmm.

I would love to give you a report on the literature section, or the cookbook section, or even the religion section but I can't!  Seems we never really made it out of the children's section!!

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