Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kate the Great!

The sun has shown itself a time or two this week and the temperatures have finally grown warm enough to force me to undertake the task of swapping the children's winter clothes for their summer ones.

I do not enjoy this task of requiring the kids to try on every piece of their new season's wardrobe and then sorting and then unloading drawers and then reloading them and then sorting once more. I try to keep things in perspective by telling my self what a blessing all of these "formerly worn" clothes really are.

The kids are always excited to get a fresh batch of brightly colored summer clothes after a long winter of thick and restricting layers and I am always excited to get the task behind me.

No one, however, is more excited about summer clothes than Kate because summer to her equals FLIP FLOPS.  This year Kate's "pre-owned collection" included an interesting pair of shoes with which she fell head-over-heels in love. She wears them only inside. She wears them often. She wears them with everything. She wears them for all indoor tasks...

She steps on our toes with them because...

...they are about four sizes too big and...

...apparently they make her feel like she's ALL THAT!

Kate has been heavily blessed with clothes for summer, and she seems to be feeling the pressure to wear a large portion of her wardrobe daily so as not to leave even one piece of clothing out.  

As a result, I've been policing the children's dirty clothes hamper pretty aggressively. Four or five times a day, I ask, "Kate, why did you change clothes?" or "What are those shorts doing in the hamper?" Usually I'm answered with a grimace and an outstretched hand which proceeds to take the offending article of clothing and place it, neatly folded in the dresser drawer.  

A few days ago I found a shirt that Kate had only worn for about two hours wadded in the hamper. "Kaaaaaaattttttte! Come inside a minute!" 

"Yea Mom?"

"Why is that shirt that you just took off in the dirty clothes hamper?"

"Oh, its got water all over it---" 

I drew a deep breath to begin to calmly explain that water did not qualify a shirt for the dirty laundry, when she continued...

"and worm guts."

Well then.

Thank You LORD for laundry detergent, and hand-me-down play clothes that must be sorted. Thank You for Maytag and for shiny purple high tops...and...worms. And Thank You Lord for a little girl who makes this life on earth SUCH an ADVENTURE!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Preparing to "Get the Credit"

Easter preparations at the Wright Place have been in high gear. I think we're ready for the Big Day...

The eggs have been colored by a crack team of experts.

The Hot Cross Buns have been baked and are awaiting their Crosses...

Pedicures have been administered so that fresh toes are ready for new sandals in the morning...

Easter clothes are set out, awaiting the morning iron...

Baskets have all found nooks and crannies in which to hide.

And the Easter sermon appears to be all polished up and ready to be delivered.

Oh, I love Easter!!  
I love that no matter how much we try to "pretty it up" with ribbons and bows, with chocolate and jelly beans, with eggs and baskets and shiny new shoes and toenail polish, the harsh reality remains: my Savior died a gruesome death on a hideous cross so that my sins, which are much more hideous and gruesome than I'd ever care to admit, would be wiped clean, expunged from my record. Yet, I don't stand with a record that is merely blank, my record now reflects the righteousness of my Savior, Himself! I get credit for all of the good that He is! I get credit for His goodness! I get credit for His love! 
 I can't wait to sing of His resurrection, of His love, of His cross...

In an excellent book of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision is a prayer titled "Love Lustres at Calvary" from which the following excerpt is taken:

"Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell's worst that I might attain heaven's best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light."

I think that about says it all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Remember the Sabbath...

You might expect a post from the wife of a pastor, when she's being serious (which she generally tries to avoid), to perhaps advise, counsel, instruct or maybe suggest how to handle certain situations, events, or circumstances in a "proper Christian manner".

Well, friends, that's NOT gonna happen here. Doing so would imply that I HAVE A CLUE about how to handle certain situations, events, or circumstances when in fact (and as you will soon see) I HAVEN'T A CLUE most of the time.

Sure, sometimes, I remember to consult my Bible and to gain some guidance on a matter and get much direction therein. Other times I run to the Word to sooth my jittery soul after I've messed up royally. Still other instances exist when I know what Scripture says regarding a particular matter (and I even know where to find it in my Bible)  and frankly I choose to ignore it completely. This is never a good plan...take last Sunday for example...

After a very full weekend at church, spending time with friends and receiving excellent instruction from visiting speakers, I awoke at 7 o'clock on Sunday morning feeling like it would be wise to don my cross trainers instead of my Mary Jane's. I performed my usual style and fluff routine and then woke the kids. I'd prepared muffins a day or so earlier so that I'd have a breakfast I could hurl toward their bleary-eyed bed-rumpled heads without slowing my pace. While they ate, I headed to the basement and heated "Old Faithful" and began ironing two dresses, two shirts, and a pair of khaki pants.

We made it to church with a few minutes to spare and I set up my post in the nursery for the day. I'd arranged to pull a "double shift" with the babies so that I could wear more comfortable and less er...confining clothing than I usually do on Sundays. During my shift, a tired Molly was delivered to me no fewer than three times from her various places of learning and playing because of an inability to deal with life.  She was, as they say in the south, "flat exhausted" from the weekend and was refusing to join the stream of things peacefully. Each time, I calmed her as best as I could and sent her back to join the rest of her crew.

After worship service ended, I rushed upstairs and handed Molly to the dear soul who was to look after her for the rest of the day, handed car keys to Meg who was off like a shot to get a change of clothes for she and Kate. While waiting for her, I found my son who had just finished a successful change into his baseball get up and was ready for the next chapter in his day.

After collecting a freshly changed Meg and Kate from the church's restroom, we piled into the car, waved cheerily to our church family, and we left them in the dust.

Our first stop was to drop Cole at his scrimmage across town.  Happily this day, unlike the day before, we had him in the correct uniform and only arrived about 45 minutes behind schedule...(long winded preachers, what are you gonna do??).  I stopped to tell the coach's wife that I would return in a while to watch the game but that I had to drop my daughters off elsewhere.  She nodded understandingly and I was off once more.

Next, Meg and Kate were chauffeured to a neighboring town's Pizza Hut for the much awaited princess birthday party of a royal friend.  I explained to the hosting parents that I had to run but would return in a while because my son was currently playing in a ball game.  They nodded understandingly and again, I was off.

On my way back into town, I stopped and spent a minute with my Man as he grabbed a bite to eat at our usual after-church venue where we usually relax with friends over pizza and leisurely conversation.  I hurried my Man through his lunch and explained to our friends that we had to go because our kids were...yada yada yada. They nodded understandingly, and I was off with my man following behind in a seperate vehicle to the ball field to watch Cole in action.

We parked our respective cars and were walking toward the field just in time to see the two teams line up to shake hands, marking the end of the game. We asked Cole for a play-by-play of the game, which he was happy to relate, and loaded him into the family van. We told my Man "Bye!" as he was headed to a town 30 minutes away for a multi-church gathering that was set to begin in approximately 30 minutes.

I dropped Cole at home for food and a shower, and headed back to the next town to pick up the girls. I arrived in time to tell them to thank their host and hostess and to take them home again.  The entire time I was driving too and fro, I was attempting to listen to the sermon I'd messed earlier that morning which I downloaded onto my iPod when I'd made a quick stop at home for a change of clothes. I finally got to finish listening to it after I called the kind soul who had Molly to check on them.  Molly was sleeping and I was a bit jealous.  I decided to take a little rest myself, but I had to hurry because Kate had softball practice in an hour and I had to help her practice throwing the ball so that she'd stop throwing it like a girl.

I kept telling everyone, "It's not supposed to be this way, you know?? Not on SUNDAY!" This is one of those things the Bible is pretty specific about. This is one of those things that is WELL covered in Scripture.  This is one of those things that has its own COMMANDMENT, the fourth one to be specific: Exodus 20:8 exhorts, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."

I think it a bit odd when I read that fourth commandment that I'm being warned ahead of time to remember something. We are usually told to remember something that has already happened.  Yet it says, remember the Sabbath day. Perhaps God knew what my last Sunday was going to look like and wants me to remember it well.  Oh, I remember it alright. To my mind, the one that is still recovering from last Sunday and all of its fallout, "Remember the Sabbath" sounds much like "Remember the Alamo!", the battle cry used by Sam Houston to bring to memory the Texan defeat at the hands of Mexican forces. Houston wanted to remind his soldiers of earlier defeat, to inspire them to future victory. I'd like "Remember the Sabbath!!" to make my heart beat toward a future victory as well!
"Remember the Sabbath!"
Translation: "Gretchen, remember the mess that was last Sunday. Remember how you got into such a crazy overcommitted schedule. Remember how tired and cranky your family was on Monday...and Tuesday...and...Remember what it's supposed to be. Remember what it's NOT supposed to be.

...Don't forget to remember... so that you can keep it holy."

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Finally the Weekend!

We hope you enjoy it to the fullest!!


and "Mercy!!"

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." 
~Psalm 23:6

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It was a testing TEST!!

We survived testing day. Well, for all we know, we survived. The results won't arrive for weeks and that is a blessing because frankly we're too tired to care how we did right now!!  Cole and Meg sat for their annual standardized test yesterday and Kate and Molly logged some significant time in the nursery while I helped to administer the test to the group of ten first graders.

Administering a standardized test to a group of TEN first graders, most of whom have never taken such a test in their lives, was quite an experience. I had the advantage of knowing what to expect because I'd given the same test to last year's crop of homeschooled first graders, but there were fewer than ten of 'em and that made quite a difference.

Most of the children in our group were nervous and excited and had no idea what would be expected of them.  One asked half-way through the first Language Arts test if it was going to be time to play with the toys soon. I really hated telling her that toys wouldn't be involved in her testing experience today. Truth be told, but for a 30 minute or so break for lunch and as many stretch and wiggle breaks as we dared to build into the schedule, these first graders would not be involved with anything but their number two pencils and their test booklets for the next 6 hours.

In the public school system, (at least when I was a student) standardized tests are given over a number of days with students working on certain sections of the test for a few hours each day.  The tests in public schools are administered by the same teacher who has been teaching the students all year and in the same school room that the students have called their home away from home all year.

The logistics involved in the testing of homeschoolers does not allow for a similar testing atmosphere.

Testing for homeschoolers involves the following:
  • Registering for the test in January or February and sending $30/per test for the privilege.
  • Waking up early enough to remember to find your number two pencils and a self-addressed stamped envelope to hand in at the door and maybe brush your teeth and get dressed.
  • Hoping your mother/teacher packed your lunch and has it ready for you.
  • Leaving your home/school in a rush so that you have plenty of time to locate the testing site (which to many of the first-graders was a completely foreign building to them).
  • Entering a room full of other wide-eyed anxious kids, bursting with energy, waiting to be called to join the rest of your grade-mates and led off to a room with a woman or women you may or may not be familiar with (trained homeschooling moms who volunteer to be "testers" of kids who don't belong to them so that other moms are available to be "testers" of kids who do!).
  • Sitting at a table with other children you may or may not know and being given a strange series of directions about the importance of "completely filling in your bubbles".
  • Remaining at that same table hour after hour while focusing on doing your best because somehow your teacher/mom has communicated to you that doing a good job on this test thing is I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T and you really really want to make your teacher/mother proud.
  • Finally finishing the test and being released back to your mom/teacher who then grills you about all of the content on the test and asks you 17 or so times if you think you did well while she finishes your lunch that you were unable to finish earlier in the day because you were too nervous to eat.
You can understand the hesitation on the part of most of us homeschooling moms/teachers to put our kids/students through this process more than one day per year!

The first graders were a great group of kids who wanted to do their very best. One even reported "I am really wanting to make 100% on this!"  After the first 45 minutes or so the children had had enough and were ready for lunch. Unfortunately it was still well before 10 am and we had a long way to go. It was about then that we took our first of what would be many breaks. During this break, I attempted to impress the kids with a few short nonsense poems I had in my memory and was then bested by two little girls who had memorized a twelve stanza poem (4 lines per stanza that is!) back in December and proceeded to trot it out for us here in April!!!

During another break, a lovely young student showed us a ballet routine complete with a graceful finish. On still another break a little guy showed us some of his martial arts maneuvers. Most of the children endured their abnormal circumstances with manners and grace most adults couldn't muster even as they grew more and more exhausted as the day wore on. These kids were talent and brains and charisma all over the place. 

Most of the questions on the test were asked aloud by the other mom/teacher/tester and the children filled in their bubbles and we made sure with each and every question that the kids were filling out the question that corresponded with the number we were working on.  We watched many correct answers as they were filled in, we watched wrong answers occur, we watched with grins as the students were asked to measure a clown's bow tie to the nearest inch and used their fingers, pencils, and extra paper in many creative ways to get it right.  We watched each child deal with boredom, stress, irritation, excitement and confidence in his or her own unique manner. 

On one of our last "shake the wiggles out" breaks, one of the students asked me, "Do you know what my very favorite subject is?"

"What is it?" I asked.

"History!" she said happily.

"Ohhh, I like history too.  What are you studying right now in history?"

"Rome," she said as her weary eyes lit. "Did you know..." at that she was interrupted by one of her peers who said, "Have you ever heard about the Colosseum? They used to let animals kill bad guys there."

I looked to find a group of very young students gathered round all waiting to talk about ancient Rome. Unfortunately, I had to break up the little think tank so that these bright children could return to a test that sorely under-represented the vast amounts of poetry, dance, history, martial arts, social skills and who knows what else that had a firm place in their collective brains.

Luke 20:25 tells us that Jesus instructs us to, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" which is mostly how I've begun to view this whole tiresome process of annual standardized tests. Our state requires the test results from parent/teachers, and so we render them. The weightier matter is in that second part of Jesus' instruction "...and [render] to God the things that are God's." It is on that point where I am frequently stopped short. What exactly am I rendering "unto God" in the educating of my children, because they certainly fall into the category of "the things that are God's" don't they? And what is the test for that? Will there be time for lunch? And I wonder how I'm doing at filling in all of the bubbles? Will my teacher be pleased with me? How long does this test last?  Will it be graded on a curve? And when will I know the results?

     Has anyone seen my No. 2 pencil????

Monday, April 11, 2011


A quick note to say...
"The Wright Academy" is testing today...
(sitting with about 60 of our peers for the annual standardized test...)

Your prayers much appreciated!!
The Teacher

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Too Many Cooks??

I've got a beautiful roast in the fridge. I had been looking forward to the taste of it all day. Unfortunately, I'd also been forgetting to get it into the oven all afternoon. At about three o'clock I scooted into the kitchen and grabbed my cookbook and discovered that for a three pound roast, I could possibly have a yummy dinner on the table in about 3 hours.  I read through the entire recipe, grabbed that lovely hunk of meat from the top shelf of the fridge, and discovered that my roast was well over four pounds in weight. Good for the family, bad for getting a tender juicy roast on the table before o'dark thirty.

"Can we have fettucini?" Kate wanted to know.
"Sure," said I, "go get the fettucini noodles off of the pantry shelf."
(minutes pass...)
"No noodles Mom!"
"Okay, bring me up some cream of chicken soup and we'll have chicken spaghetti."
"Mom, there is no cream of chicken soup down here either, we do have spaghetti noodles."
(silence while I grumble internally remembering the large grocery receipt I'd just tallied 4 days ago.)
"Bring up the spaghetti noodles, we'll figure something out."

Kate was dying to help me with dinner, so we grabbed her favorite cookbook Mad Hungry, and mine, Family Feasts for $75 a Week and decided on Spaghetti Carbonara, a recipe which resides in both.

The recipes were a bit different from one another, so we decided to use what we liked from each and began...

Often, when Kate and I cook together she says something like, "Hey Mom let's pretend that you're the Mom and I'm the Daughter and we do a cooking show together." Most of the time I say, "Sure!" and she opens the show...

"Hello everyone and welcome to Mad Hungry, I'm ...(Mom, what's her name again?) Lucinda Scala Quinn and this is my Mom.  Today we're going to show you ...." and on she goes. She's a consummate professional which is probably the result of watching the actual Mad Hungry show with me as often as we can arrange the school schedule around it. (To find out more about Mad Hungry, click here.)

Today, however, someone else had a different TV show in mind...
"The Apprentice!"

This is the first time we've let Molly do more than just toss some pasta into the water.  She insisted on being involved in everything and dragged another stool over to join in.

First, they cooked the spaghetti (one pound).

Then, the good stuff, one half pound of bacon... 

...cut into 1/2 inch pieces

This step only took us 20 minutes. Please note, if you are working with less than three chefs, it could take you as long as 3 minutes!!

Next, fry the bacon. All chefs less than 3 and a half feet in height were, of course, taken off of their stools for this step, but please don't assume that they were not involved.  I like to use one of those handy dandy "spatter screens" when frying bacon to keep as much of the bacon grease in the pan and off of the stove top as possible.  First, however, I had to rescue mine from The Apprentice who decided to use it at that very moment to "Look for cwews (clues)."

After "Sherlock" was finished with her search, we recommenced the frying of the bacon.

Next, we decided to add a clove of garlic to the frying bacon to add some zip. The clove of garlic proved to be a tough nut to crack for Chef Kate...

Not wanting to injure our precious hands or break any fingernails, we did the only thing we could think of..."HEY BIG STRONG MAN, yoooooo hooooooo, calling all big strong men....."

One clove of crushed garlic at your service and
added to the bacon.

Meanwhile to a separate bowl, Chef Kate cracked and added two eggs...
...and then cracked one more and let The Apprentice pour it into the bowl. (Total: 3 eggs)

To that, The Apprentice added about 3/4 to 1 cup of parmesan cheese...

 ...and quite a bit of pepper.
And then something happened to our TV show... someone changed the channel from "The Apprentice" to "The Last Chef Standing". 

Kate handed off her chef's hat with all confidence that Molly could "take it from here" and off she flew to parts unknown, probably to train the "Next Food Network Star."

 When the bacon finished cooking, I removed the clove of garlic and Chef Molly handed over her egg and cheese mixture and the cooked and drained spaghetti which I added to the hot bacon pan. 

(The natural urge of most of us would be to drain the grease from the bacon before adding the noodles and the eggs and cheese mixture, however, in this case, the bacon drippings play a vital role in the taste and consistency of this dish. Trust me. You can always run extra laps tomorrow!!)
 Stir to combine and allow to heat until hot throughout so that the eggs are cooked.
Be sure to serve hot!
(Ours was ready well before we were ready for dinner. 
We kept it hot in a 225 degree oven covered in the pan in which it was prepared.)

Our compliments to the Chef and to the two cookbook authors
 from whom we learned this recipe.  

To visit the cooking sites or learn more about the cookbooks used, please explore the links below...

Click on Cookbook to get more info at
Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill
Note: For those of us who like the taste of TASTE, I prefer the Family Feasts version which includes chopped onion (I use 1/2 cup) and minced garlic (2 cloves) which is sauteed in the bacon grease after the bacon is removed from the pan. Simply add the onion/garlic/bacon drippings to the drained hot pasta and add the egg/cheese mix and stir well.

The recipe included in Mad Hungry (below), is perfect for those who shy away from onions.
Click on the picture of the cookbook for more information from
Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys (Hardcover)

And for the "Mommy-Kate-Molly" combo version:
(Click here for printable recipe.)

1 pound of spaghetti
1/2 pound of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup of parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and keep hot by returning it to cooking pot. While pasta cooks, fry bacon and add crushed garlic clove to pan.  In a separate bowl, combine 3 beaten eggs and 3/4 to 1 cup parmesan cheese.  After bacon has finished cooking, remove garlic clove and add cooked pasta and egg mixture. Stir to combine and heat thoroughly to cook egg. Serve hot with a nice salad and enjoy!!

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