Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Filled with Light

Wishing you a Christmas filled with His light...

In HIM was life, and the life was the light of all men.
~John 1:4~

Merry Christmas
The Wright Place

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ain't Nobody Got Time for Grouchy!

{A post from the archives...December 2011. }

It's getting down to that make-or-break time in December when it seems that the stress level for many of us gets turned up just a smidge with each and every passing hour. I know that as the clock ticks and pressure builds, my attitude seems to suffer. When my attitude is less than what it should be, others around me suffer too. I never seem to realize what I'm doing in time to stop myself. I do, however, realize it when I experience someone else's grouchiness. I notice the grouchiness of others even more when I see someone being less than gracious to my kids or my Man. I am also very quick to notice when complete strangers are rude to one another.

Sometimes, it just feels good to be a bit snippy doesn't it? Some things just feel better to have been aired. Sometimes it can even be refreshing to say the very first thing that comes to mind when someone says or does something that really melts your butter. It's kind of like a little pressure release valve to just spell it out for some poor soul who doesn't have a clue that they've not been performing according to expectations.

I'm a good one for coming up with a quick, cutting remark. Oh, the conversations I have with folks in my head are so witty and intelligent and self-serving Every so often a line or two from my mental conversation bubbles up and before I realize it, my ears are hearing what only my brain was intended to. Most of the time, it feels really good to be heard and maybe to shock a person or two with my rapier wit...that is until quietness falls at day's end and I lay my head on the pillow and realize just what I've done.

As Christians, we never have the luxury of being unkind. 

My pastor says that from the pulpit sometimes. It's one of those phrases that sounds nice and tidy while I'm sitting in the pew but then sounds a much different note when I feel like being unkind to the pastor or anyone else who might have hurt my feelings. I rationalize that when I've spouted back to someone, I'm teaching them a lesson that they need to learn. I'm teaching them not to treat ME that way ever again! I'm teaching them that I'm as willing as they are to be offensive. Oh, and what about those who are often standing beside me when the urge to let loose strikes, what have I just taught them?

There are times too, like in the middle of December when you still don't have all of your decorations up, your Christmas cards are mocking you from your desk waiting to be addressed, you have a deadline or two ringing constantly in your brain, cookies to bake, and warm glowing family memories to make with your kids sitting round the fire...times when, through no fault of your own or anyone else's, you just feel snarky and feel you have the "right" to ease a little pressure by grouching at those whom you know won't grouch back.

There are those who won't grouch back you know...young children, your husband or wife, the cashier at the store, your best friend, the slow-moving senior adult in line ahead of you at the store who takes four months to count out correct change, your mom...ok, maybe not your mom but you get my point. What good does it do to get my nose all bent out of shape and get all dark and sour inside while on the outside I'm trying to roll snickerdoodles with my kids so that they can then go out into their worlds and spread Christmas cheer...the very opposite of what I've been spreading!

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say in my very long and rambling kind of way is...
Be Nice!
Before spouting off at someone, even if you are right, think about how it will make that person's rest-of-the-day. Will they look back on their encounter with you as a heart-filling or a heart-rending one? Will what you've said, or how you've said it have been a blessing to their day? 

Smile a bit, too while you're at it. It might be the only happy thing that the tired cashier gets to see all day! I saw an older lady lip synching Christmas carols in the mall the other day, hands waving to the beat as she marched from one store into another. It thrilled my heart which was good, 'cause I ran into an older man later that day who didn't thrill my heart at all...

For the remainder of December, when you feel like giving some soul a piece of your mind, whether deserved or not, consider simply giving that person Peace. Just peace. The peace of a quiet smile. The peace of not returning a harsh word. The peace of a gentle look instead of "the big eyes".  Peace. His Peace. Certainly not mine. 

Peace on Earth and...

                             ....GOODwill to men
                                                          ... and women
                                                                        ...and children...especially to three year olds...

                                                           ...and cashiers

                                        ...and senior adults

                ...and pastors...{and their short-tempered wives}




I'm pretty sure there's no end to those needing peace...
...peace and snickerdoodles! 
I'm on it! 
Join me won't you?
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
John 14:27

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feelin' the Burn

This morning I heated the cream before I added it to my coffee, just because...just because I needed to begin the day with a little warm happy moment in case today careened out of control... yesterday.

Everything began well enough. We were up, dressed, school started, piano lesson underway, ham and beans in a pot simmering with in plenty of time to make a cozy dinner, multiplication tables humming along swimmingly and then it was time to take on lunch. Lunch is cryptonite to me. Love to eat it, hate to stop the momentum of the day to fix it and clean up after it.

Lunch, nonetheless, is helpful when it comes to keeping my students happy and able to concentrate. I had in my cabinets and freezer sufficient ingredients to make Kate's favorite Stuffed Spud Soup and I put it together in the pot, turned on the burner, set a timer, and left the room to read Little House in the Big Woods to Molly. The timer buzzed, Molly and I continued to read, and the soup continued to cook and cook and then smolder and by the time the acrid scent reached my nostrils it was too late. I dumped Molly unceremoniously to the floor and did the slow-motion scramble to the kitchen.

Kate, not wishing to admit her mother's defeat beat me to the kitchen and had begun dipping the soup into six bowls which only served to cause the bitter burnt smell to escape into the whole house. Determined, Kate sat down to her soup, sprinkled cheese on top and plunged her spoon into the bowl. After a few bites, even Kate gave up. "Please make us more," she asked, blue eyes doing their best to convince.

I sent her to the pantry to get what we needed, my gut tightening as I considered the ingredients I'd just wasted. To clear away the mess, I placed a bowl in the sink only to hear a tell-tale ting as the bowl broke. I tossed the pieces into the trash and dumped the burnt soup down the disposal trying not to breath in the odor. Thinking how very thankful I was for the disposal that could make this culinary catastrophe disappear, I flipped the switch and a horrible crunch let me know that a piece or two of my broken bowl had fallen into the disposal.

I flipped the switch off quickly and removed the pieces from the murky depths. I turned it back on once more and heard more grinding just before the machine's motor stopped all on its own. Because of another disposal incident I knew that there was a reset button at the machine's bottom which I pressed. The motor came to life once more only to turn itself off again. When I reached for the reset button this time, the canister in the cabinet was warm to the touch and was beginning to out pace the soup with its burning smell.

I called the number on the side of the disposal and talked to a lady whose voice I could barely discern but whose instructions, which involved a quarter inch allen wrench and a little elbow grease, I followed to the letter. After twisting the wrench left and right and feeling the mechanism give a bit and then move freely, I tested out my favorite kitchen appliance and it worked like a charm.

I dumped more soup down the drain and came head on with the burnt thick crusty solid bottom of the pot. Just then, Kate came back into the kitchen and asked how the soup do-over was coming along. I explained that there would be no potato soup for lunch.

She was NOT happy. That made TWO of us.

We'd have to have peanut butter and jelly instead and then sent her to the pantry once more to collect the necessary staples. She reappeared with the peanut butter in one hand and the jelly in the other. I sent her from the kitchen until I could get sandwiches made and hit reset on my nerves.

Then I realized we were out of bread.

I looked sadly at the ham and beans that were bubbling away for dinner. Lunch was ready.

My main goal for the day was to bake cookies for my Wednesday night class at church full of third through sixth graders and bake I did. I colored the dough a tie-dyed green color and put the Christmas tree cookie cutter to work. They baked, they puffed, they were lovely, they did not burn. I put them on the cooling racks and started dinner...again.

Just as I was getting the chopped onions into the oil to begin cooking in the newly cleaned (after a four hour scrub) pot, a visitor dropped by to pick up a package.

One line of conversation led to another and soon the scent of onions came wafting through the house. I asked Kate to go to the kitchen and turn off the burner. When my guest had gone I returned to the kitchen to find in the bottom of my newly cleaned pot blackened bits of ash that had been onions.

I cleaned the pot and began dinner preparation once more.

I made it to church without further incident except that I'd almost forgotten my lovely Christmas tree cookies which I tossed carefully into a container and headed out the door. The evening at church was soothing the nervy failures of the day. It came time to pass out the cookies to my students one of whom is Kate who had been looking forward to the snack all afternoon.

I had passed the bowl along to nearly half of the kids when I heard Kate's voice..."Um, Mom...these smell like onions."

And they really did. They'd been cooling right beside of the burning onions.

Yes. Really.

I'd have cried right then and there but the sight of those kids trying not to hurt my feelings by  attempting to eat those beautiful sulfurous-smelling cookies melted my heart. I told them to trash the cookies. Some did. Some powered through, bless 'em.

And so this morning, I heated the cream for my coffee and thanked the Lord for the mercies of this new morning. Then I heated some more cream and enjoyed some more coffee, realizing that if today was half as harrowing as yesterday I'd need at least two cups to get it started.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Breakfast Blues

I have a child whose day is highly affected by breakfast. 

Each morning as children awake and come skipping, hopping, dragging, and dropping into the kitchen a debriefing of what Molly calls "The Breakfast Options" takes place. If the options are the same for more than say, three consecutive mornings, my special breakfast child is a teensy bit offended. 

Sigh..."Uh Mom, is there ANYTHING ELSE? We've had [cereal, yogurt, oatmeal] for the last forever."

Because I've been at this mom thing for a year or two, I know better than to attempt a first-thing-in-the-morning speech about how this child should be thankful that there is any breakfast at ALL and that hundreds of thousands of kids around the world and even in our own country, state, and city do not even eat breakfast DAILY. Such a speech at such an hour of the day will go unheard and only serve to deepen the grumpy within.

Knowing that I have a child with highly sensitive breakfast standards sends me frequently to my library's well-stocked cookbook shelves searching for new and exciting breakfast choices. Muffins are always a favorite, unless the recipe makes too many muffins thus causing the dreaded breakfast boredom. 

The classic eggy breakfast casserole is also a favorite, but rarely do I think ahead far enough to make that work on a regular basis. The ultimate way to begin the day is with The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls but they do take a bit of doing so they only appear in limited batches.   

That leaves quick breads and baked oatmeals and breakfast cookies, all very acceptable for breakfasting and always a super way to add variety into the lives of the humdrum breakfasters who reside in my home and share my last name.

Our very favorite breakfast bread is an odd loaf whose recipe I discovered in a set of recipe cards that I received in the mail. It's cake-y and has a crumbly top and a rich yellow crumb, and with hot cup of coffee or some orange juice, our Vineyard Breakfast Bread is a winner.

Vineyard Breakfast Bread
{Printable Recipe HERE}

Here's what you'll need:

1 stick of butter or margarine softened
2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like) almond extract (vanilla will do if you are not an almond fan)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal 
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl add butter and confectioners sugar. 

Mix well. Add eggs one at a time, scraping mixer bowl after each addition. 

Add almond extract if you can get your kitchen staff to part with it...

In a separate bowl. Whisk together corn meal and flour and baking powder.

 Add the dry ingredients about 3/4 cup at a time to the batter and mix well scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl often.

Place batter (it will be thick) in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. 

At the end of 50 minutes, turn off the oven and let the loaf remain inside for at least an hour. I usually turn off the oven and go to bed and pull the loaf from the cool oven the next morning. 

When ready to eat, remove from the loaf pan and cut with a serrated knife (a knife with teeth). The top of the bread will be super crispy and a little glossy and as such will crumble as you cut it. 

Don't fight the crumble, simply eat it yourself before your family gets into the kitchen! Bakers prerogative! AND if you happen to notice a slightly darker color in the center of the slices as you reach mid loaf, consider yourself a master...that is treasure, just a hint of moistness that really is the very best part of the bread.

Be sure to serve with a steamy cup of tea or coffee and then sit back and bask in the glow of your breakfast loving kid who is as generous with breakfast praise as with breakfast blues!

The last time I made Vineyard Breakfast bread, two of the kids commented before going to bed that it had been such a long time since I'd made breakfast bread and that they could not wait until morning to eat it. Early the next morning I was awakened by the sound of the oven door opening and closing. One of the kids, up early was making the first run at breakfast, later that day another Wright kid posted this picture on Instagram...

Sooooo if you know someone who loves food, consider starting their day with this part breakfast-part dessert every now and then. They'll thank you for it and they might even take a picture before hiding it from you! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Christmas beginnings...

It is the week of Thanksgiving and our Christmas tree is up and lit and has been so for over a week. From it hangs only one ornament but others will follow soon enough. I do feel a little like I'm cheating Thanksgiving out of some of its autumn glory but last year and for many other years, our Christmas tree only saw the fleeting light of day. 

Last year we were well into December, as in nearing the twenties of the month, before our tree was raised for celebration. Other forms of our usual celebration were cast aside last year as well. Our Advent celebrations which normally happen at least a few times a week during December were, all but our single advent evening, nonexistent. 


Friends, we have arrived at NEXT CHRISTMAS and I'm on a mission. At my mission's core is simplicity. 

Simplicity for the sake of the sacred.

It will be a difficult mission because there is so much good and gallant that can be accomplished in the name of Christmas. Cookies baked together sounds great until the stress of getting them boxed and delivered puts us all at odds with one another.  Christmas cards sent to everyone who ever knew of us are such a nice touch until you find yourself hurling toward the post office for the seventeenth time trying to beat the mailing deadline with 6 more cards you decided to send.  

Before too long at all, the cozy Christmas home of my dreams with carols humming softly in the background becomes a cold undecorated factory with an out-of-control boss lady screaming instructions to weary laborers who secretly roll their eyes and wonder if everyone's Christmas looks like this.


High priority this year shines on our Advent celebration, both as a family AND as members of a faith family with whom we celebrate. I have two new resources to bolster our efforts this year and I'm eager to begin.

First is Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift which is filled with the beauty of her writing and the glory of our Savior. 

Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles by mother-daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson is a simple straight forward advent guide that is perfect for children and their adults.

So yes, our tree is up and the mantle is decorated. I am not bemoaning the approach of Christmas. I am not dreading it. I am leaning in to the preparation, the eagerness, and the wonder of it all. We've much to anticipate...let's be about the business of the Baby and His arrival because...

It is possible for you to miss it.
To brush past it, to rush through it, to not see how it comes for you up over the edges of everything, quiet and unassuming and miraculous--how every page of he Word has been writing it, reaching for you, coming for you. And you could wake on Christmas only to grasp that you never took the whole of the Gift, the wide expanse of grace.
~Ann Voskamp The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas

Another resource-filled Advent post to consider at The Art of Simple... 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Book All Children (and Richie Incognito) Should Read

Bookshelf space in our home is at a high premium especially for children's books.

Our life is full of books.

Our school curriculum revolves around books and requires a hefty amount of reading aloud as well as individual reading.

Normal conversations around our home begin, "Hey Dad! I finished my book today!" or "What are you enjoying reading lately?" and often "Do you have time to read to me before bedtime? Pleeeeeeezzzzeeee?"

We are faithful, fine-paying library patrons and lately we've taken to ordering more and more school books and "for fun" book to read on e-readers, a large factor being a lack of shelf space.

Earlier today, Kate and Molly and I finished a book that earned its place on the shelf with my favorite childhood books. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes sits now beside my 30 year old Ballet Shoes series by Noel Streatfeild and the Betsy-Tacy books by Maude Hart Lovelace.

 I didn't read The Hundred Dresses as a child, neither did I read it to Cole and Meg when they were younger though I think Meg may have enjoyed it on her own.

I feel strongly, that every child should read it or have it read to them.

The Hundred Dresses is a story mostly about three little girls, two of whom are best friends and the third who is delicately, slightly, demurely but absolutely ridiculed by the two friends. That the story is told from the point of view of the cute little bullies causes the story to communicate on a deeper level than that of a story told from the prospective of ridiculed.

At a slight 78 pages of large print this book is neither uncomfortable in its plot, nor uncomfortably stressing as a result of its theme. The author beautifully tells a story about these three girls and how very much their lives affected and instructed one another's.

Published in 1944, and not as a response to headlines of recent days, this book is filled with beautiful watercolor paintings and a simple straightforward message for children and adults alike. If it can be said that there exists a beautiful book about bullying, this is it.

The Hundred Dresses is a book that can easily be read aloud to children as young as Molly (5) in three sittings or can be read on one's own in much shorter time for older children. I think though that the optimal way to enjoy this book is aloud to as many children as you can get in a room so that it can be talked about and learned from together.

Click here for the link and here for more information about this lovely read.

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled, ‘This could change your life.’”
-Helen Exley

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When You're Hot You're Hot

The girls had been playing upstairs so pleasantly and for such a long time that we'd let them stay up way past their bedtime. The activity that had captured them this evening was a coloring book of sorts with stencils with which they were tracing clothes on the pre-printed silhouettes of bodies.

Every 10 minutes or so one of the girls would come down the stairs, page in hand and ask how we liked the outfit she'd created, proud of her creativity and color choice. Between fashion pages, my Man and Cole and I enjoyed watching a football game and reading on the couch.

It was one of those evenings that happens what seems like once a year. Everybody was doing exactly what they wanted to be doing while getting along with one another and it had lasted for more than 7 minutes. Perfect.


{You knew this was coming didn't ya?}

"Mom, Dad!! Look at my girl, she looks HOT! " said the FIVE-year-old.

These moments, they do happen. Why was my sweet little Molly using the word HOT in such context? This is not how we communicate an appreciation of beauty in our home. Where did Molly learn to use the phrase. What have I exposed her to? Can't she just stay little for a bit longer?

What kind of a mother am I? What kind of a family are we?

With deep curiosity and a heathy measure of nervousness I asked, "Molly, what do you mean by HOT?"

"I mean," she said with conviction, "she looks like she's just been burnt !"

She held her fashion page out for me to inspect and indeed, as I studied, I found myself in complete agreement. The poor girl did look burnt as she'd been colored about the face in various hues of red and orange and pink.

{Sound of muffled snickering from the other end of the couch...}

"Crisis" averted...for now.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Magically Delicious!

I could hear her feet approaching. I looked at the clock, it was time to get up and face the thirty degree morning. Before I could get my reluctant feet on the floor though, she climbed in on her daddy's side and maneuvered over him and snuggled in between us. She propped an extra pillow under her and turned the TV to one of her favorite morning cartoons. Grabbing my hand and holding it close to her, she got lost in her show and I drifted back into my pillow. Not a bad way to begin a Monday morning.

Until her belly started growling.

"Mamma, can I have my Lucky Charms for breakfast?"

"Well, don't you think we should finish some of the other cereals first, we have too many opened boxes in the cabinet already."

"Mooooommmmmm, Lucky Charms are so healthy. They have marshmallows and marshmallows have protein!"

Oh good grief!

Happy Monday!

Monday, October 28, 2013

What Good Wives Don't Do...

We'd had another loooooooonnnnnnggggg Wednesday. My Man and I were sorta cuddled up on the couch decompressing after shooing the older kids off to bed. I was reviewing school plans for the following day and Darrin was alternatively texting a friend and attempting to read an article that he'd found in his Twitter feed. We'd turned the TV on for noise. You'd think we'd had enough noise for the day, but no, we were needing to fill our ears with pointless drama just to make our evening complete.

Soon, we'd provide our own pointless drama.

"Ahhhkkk," said my Man, disgusted and tapping his smart phone to no avail.

"What's wrong?"

"I lost this article I was reading through Twitter."

"Just go to Safari, maybe it's there."

My Man did not take my suggestion. He continued his Twitter torture.

"Really, honey, try going to the Safari app, it'll probably be there."

Again, he ignored me and continued on with Twitter.

"If you go to Safari, you'll get there faster."

Hufffffff. "I want to try this my way, OK?"

Hufffffffffffffffffff. Scooting to less cozy spot on couch. "You couldn't just appease me and do it my way?"

"Sure I could, but I'm gonna do it my way." Finds elusive article. Reads article. Turns my way.

"I'm off to bed. So beat. Long day." Leans in for good night kiss...receives instead THE LOOK.

"What on earth is the matter?"

Explanation of the issue and allllllllll related issues follows.

The sorting out of the matter took upwards of an hour. An hour that neither of us had the energy for. Truely it was worth digging down deep to discuss all of the finer points because it was of life changing import...cause you know it was over TWITTER and SMART phones and at that moment it involved two worn out tired sinners who really should have been grown up enough not to get into a fight that looked like something we'd refereed earlier in the day between OUR CHILDREN!

"Mom! He won't let me butter my own bread."

"She's doing it all wrong!"

"I know how to butter bread."

"She's not doing it right."

My Way. His Way. His Way. Your Way.

Really, the bread and butter fight made more sense, if only a little. (Who doesn't enjoy a nice clean, unplundered-by-the-plastic-knife-of-a-five-year-old tub o'butter? I fear I'll never know what that looks like!)

Later I wondered why oh WHY had I not just let it alone. Why did I need to even care which button my Man pressed on his very own phone? WHY did I persist way beyond the point of reason? Next time I'll do it better. Next time I'll just let it be even if I possess the very assistance he needs, I'll let him figure all of these new apps and screens and updates and bells and whistles out for himself. It is the best way to learn things...

Tonight the scene on our couch began to repeat itself...except it was no longer Wednesday night, it was Saturday night and we were not seated on the couch, we were at the table in the dining room working. OK, one of us was working. The other of us was trying not to get caught taking pictures.

"Ahhhhhhhkkkkkgggggg!" Click, click, snap, clop.

"What's wrong?"

With headphones in ears, "this sermon I'm listening to won't work." Clack, click, clop.

"Would you like help? (See what I did there?) Or can you handle your technology tonight on your own?"
Grinning..."I think I can handle this."

Crisis averted!

It was touch and go there for a moment, folks!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Eleven Kinds of Crazy

"Molly, I brought your magazine, would you like me to hand it to you for the trip?"

"No, Mom, I'm already occupied back here."

We had piled into the family van to accompany my Man as he made a hospital visit late in the afternoon. He had been out of town for the weekend and we were riding along to make up for lost time. The plan was for my Man to make the visit and for the rest of us to wait for him in the car. Knowing the visit would be a lengthy one, we loaded up on activities (read: lots of books) to keep us occupied while we waited.

Outside of the facility we bid our fellow a fine farewell and settled into our reading material. Shortly a  voice in the back expressed an urgent need for a bathroom so, putting the van in drive, we drove straight to  happened upon the local donut shop where many pressing needs were met. As we scarfed down a half a dozen donuts we returned to the parking lot of the medical facility and recommenced our wait.

It was at about this time that Curious George almost became our undoing. Molly, deep into her kindergarten literature studies, has fallen in love with the ornery little monkey and the library's copy of the book came with not one but TWO audio CDs of the story which, under normal circumstances are quite charming.

Normal circumstances do not, however, include a car full of children coming off of a pumpkin cheese cake donut high, nor do they include two teenaged students who are trying to complete their assigned reading of Jane Eyre.  Eventually, Curious George became too much for the Jane Eyre crowd and they decided that a parking bumper in the lot outside of the car was preferable to the monkey noises coming from within.

Our waiting time counted upwards of an hour and when my Man returned to us, it seemed he had experienced as much adventure inside as we'd had outside. On the road again, we compared stories and shared a donut and continued onward to get a treat (read: slushies) at the nearby Sonic. There's nothing like placing an order for six cagey characters who've been cooped up for way too long.

It went something like this...

Darrin: OK, kids, be thinking about what you want.

From the back and simultaneously: I want a mango strawberry slushie. I want a peach vanilla. I'm gonna give raspberry another chance. Get me a strawberry with raspberry and make it a LARGE.

Darrin: Molly, you are not getting a large. (To the drive-thru speaker) Yes ma'am we're ready to order. I'd like a ...

Kate: Dad, I need to change my order.

Molly: Strawberry...large? Strawberry with mango...raspberry. Large.

Darrin: No large, Molly.

Me: I'll have a diet Coke with cranberry.

Darrin: Large?

Me: No, extra large...have 'em put it in a bucket please.

Kate: Strawberry with mango...medium. That's it...or not...make it mango with strawberry or strawberry, I think. with strawberry for sure.

Ordered and twitching, we stopped at a store to check out some fall clothes for yours truly.

With four kids and slushies... and me and my bucket. Who'd been sitting in a car for almost 2 hours. As dinnertime approached.

The crazy only you'd imagine.

At one point, I had become  smitten with a polka dotted sweater that I felt particularly spoke to my inner being. It needed non-baggy pants to go under it and so I was led (by my teenager) to the rack holding "modern skinny" corduroy pants.

With a shaking hand (and a hubby whispering in the background "those are gonna make you mad") I grabbed the biggest number that the rack had to offer and headed, with great trepidation, to the fitting room. There I discovered two things: first, that although the cords zipped and buttoned successfully they made me look neither modern nor skinny. In fact, there was a real danger of me starting a fire as I walked from the fitting room to model the ensemble.

Second, I was reminded that words intended for  praise can instead turn into quite the opposite even with the purist motive. As I walked from the fitting room clad in the sweater and cords my daughter said, "Wow Mom! They amazing! I'm shocked." We'd had a similar experience in a fitting room years earlier but that was when she was lots younger and cuter and when I too was lots younger and very tender and she'd loudly said, "I'm surprised those fit Mom, I'm surprised anything in this store fits you cause, you're FAT!"

Really, though, I'm over it. Honest.

I parted company with the cords and the sweater, and turned my sights on some "safer" selections and left the store with my family and my self esteem mostly intact. Mostly.

We returned to our home after a visit to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner where we polished off no less than 6 baskets of chips and three helpings of salsa and consumed our spicy entrees with sheer delight. We'd laughed, we'd fussed, we'd slushied, we'd shopped, we'd visited, and we'd read and had even been entertained for a while by a curious monkey.

Our day was eleven kinds of crazy and it won't even stand out in our collective memory as even close to the craziest. Could it be that crazy days like this one are becoming our normal way of life??

"Gretchen! Those modern skinny things aren't made for real women!"
~wise friend of Gretchen~

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'll Scratch Your Back...

Learning to read is a difficult task. The further into the process a young reader progresses, the more difficult it grows. The words become longer, the vowels get a little squirrely, punctuation marks appear and must be heeded and then come all of those capital letters and words that sound nothing like the sum of their parts. It's enough to drive a five-year-old back to her recently forsaken naps.

As Molly gets into the more tedious portion of her reading lesson each day, her little hand works its way around to her back, just at her waist where she will begin to tug at the hem of her shirt. 

Often I am more focused on the page than on the student and I miss this signal, for that's exactly what it is. She is making sure that I know that the reading is getting more difficult and please, will I scratch her back to assist her in completing the challenge.

Often I place her hand back on her book and place her finger under the word with which she struggles and tell her to keep working. There are days though when it just seems best to give a little scratch and ease her work, not everyday mind you, I won't be there when she's in college doing research to scratch her back and make it all better, but today, and maybe next week, I'm happy to lend a hand.

When I begin scratching that little back, the words being sounded out begin flowing freer and more fluently. The voice that was weary under the weight of the task becomes light and eager in its doing. 

I suspect that we're all a little like Molly. We face our own sorts of challenges, all having goals toward which we strive. Some days, we motor along just fine in the direction of success, enjoying the sights and sounds along the way. On such wonderful days learning to read is a breeze. Every word sounds out just like it should and the story makes complete sense.

Other days are full of heartache, unwelcome surprises, and nasty words hurled about that whether aimed at you or not, achieve their mark with unfortunate accuracy and stick like tar to your soul, oozing into your long term memory.

Tough, miserable days come like the box cars on a freight train, day after day pulling a heavy load of discontent and discouragement that travel with such speed with such noise that the sights and sounds on the way to reaching our dreams all but fade beneath the clatter and bang of boxcar after boxcar after boxcar of defeat. On days like these, the sounding out is difficult, all of the "special words" have appeared on the page. The ones that break the rules that I've been learning and practicing but that today no longer hold true. The words and the stories just don't make sense to me and my hand begins to creep around to my back...

Three hundred and fifty reading lessons into my teaching experience and I remain amazed at what a little bit of encouragement, sincerely given, can accomplish. Three hundred and fifty reading lessons into my teaching experience have also shown me the vicious power of impatience and fault-finding and pride. 

As the reading teacher, I have a choice. As a child of the King, I have a command...

{Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29}
That tomorrow I would choose to give a little scratch of edification when the words don't sound out easy for those in my home and to friends with whom I worship and to every tar-splattered soul God sends across my path whether they cross it well or whether they stumble over that long "e" sound again.

Join me won't you?
 I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine. 
Sound good?

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."
~Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When Molly Prays...

"Lord Father..."

I hear that unusual combination of words when Molly prays. Over the last few years the blessing has been all mine as I've gotten to listen to the growing prayers of my growing girl. Many times as Molly prays, I am humbled by all of the needs and ailments of our families, both by blood and by faith, of which she is aware and about which she fervently prays.

My grandma, her Granny, has been a permanent subject of Molly's prayers and remains on Molly's list even posthumously. "Lord Father," she prayed tonight, "Lord Father, please help Granny be safe on her trip to heaven." For a family friend who passed away this summer Molly asked God to "help her have fun in heaven."

Like most 5 year olds, Molly's life includes its share of bumps and bruises, and scratches and scrapes all of which she celebrates because, I suspect, it gives her a chance to be the subject of her very own prayers.

This summer on vacation, she swam and played so hard at the pool that she wore painful blisters on the bottoms of her toes. The prayers for those toes communicated that nothing was too small to merit a place on Molly's prayer list.

Molly's "Pappa," my Man's father, recently underwent back surgery and she is on the case praying for Pappa at every opportunity whether it be a meal time or at bed time, and I suspect during Sunday School prayer time.

Tonight, after praying about Granny's trip to heaven, Molly continued...

"Lord Father, thank you for giving us the Bible so we can know about you. I'm very impressed about that. And Lord Father, please be with Pappa and help his back to get better. And thank you again for the Bible, I'm so impressed about that. Ahh-men."

"Prayer is not a hard requirement - it is the natural duty of a creature to its creator, the simplest homage that human need can pay to divine liberality". 
~Charles H. Spurgeon~

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