Thursday, August 28, 2014

The End of a Very Important Countdown!

Since her birthday is the last of the six, the tension until that day builds in her heart until it is almost unbearable to her...and possibly to the rest of us as well. When the calendar said AUGUST Molly began getting fidgety, asking day after day, "How many more days until MY birthday?"

As August was hitting its stride, my Man's birthday was all that stood in the way of my baby's and it was at about that time when she no longer needed help counting down, the days were few enough that she could handle the count herself and so each morning...

 "Guess how many days!!"

This morning has arrived and the countdown is over...

She's finally, finally...


TODAY, this very day.

Happy Birthday Molly Joy!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Sounds of Sabbatical...

As we've traveled about hither and yon between Sonic and to Sweet Frogs and bookstores during our time away from home, we've discovered some new music that will forever be linked to this summer.

Often, if our trip is going to take longer than ten minutes, I'll pull out a book to read aloud as we go because school time is approaching and we really do need to exercise the ears and the "sitting and listening" muscles a bit to be ready. It doesn't hurt that those muscles get lots of help from the seat belts which is why I'm warming up to a captive audience in the car.

The book is called The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. and it is, so far, about a rooster named Chanticleer and his brood of hens. It is an allegory told through the lives of animals and is fantastically reviewed and highly esteemed by so so many readers...NONE of which happen to be part of my family, except for Molly who never fails to find a way to sit atop of her mother's graces. When I pull out the book Molly says, "Yeah! The chicken story!"

Another says, "KILL THE ROOSTER! Do you have to read to us? Pleeeeeassssseeeee, a different story!"

"Oh no here comes the dung cow again."

"Mom, I brought my own book to read."

I respond by saying, "Chapter 4, here we go..."

{I submit that my gang will soon come round to The Book of the Dun Cow of which one reviewer writes
Recently, I reread it and deeply appreciated the emotional depth of the characters and of their relationships, both with each other and with God (who appears in this book through the animals' prayers and through his messenger the Dun Cow}

After I'm done torturing them, or at the very moment when I pause to take a breath between paragraphs, my Man will hit play on one of the following CDs and there is a great sigh of relief from amongst the villagers. (Click on the album and song titles to see videos and see the albums on iTunes.)

by NeedtoBreathe

My Man's favorite song on this one is "Wasteland".

by MercyMe

Molly's favorite song is "Shake".

We like the song "Light a Fire"

My favorite album is Selah's new one called:

My favorite songs are the title song, "You Amaze Us" and "Soon and Very Soon" and the piano on the "The Old Rugged Cross" is pretty special too.

Finally, one of my favorite musicians, Andrew Peterson shares his music in a cute little corner of the internet called "The Rabbit Room" and it has a channel which plays his music and the music of some of his peers, all of whom I thoroughly enjoy and I tune it in every time I come into our home away from home as part of our background music. You can stream this channel from HERE.

My all time favorite Andrew Peterson song...

"It was harder than we'd dreamed but that's what the promise is for."
{Best line!}

That's what's pumping into our ears these days. 

Now I've gotta go, there's a rooster and a dun cow and an adorable dog to read about and I've a bunch of kids who need some ear filling of their own!!

{It's just 2.99 on Kindle right now if you want in on the fun!}

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kickin' Cranberry Chicken

I'm not usually one to laud the practice of filling the freezer with extra meals, because it seems I can't ever convince myself that there is time in my life to devote to the actual filling part of the whole process. Before we left for our trip however, it became necessary for me to be converted. We've passed the half-way mark of our time away (and of eating almost exclusively what we brought with us for dinner) and I'm here to tell ya that the lack of stress involved in feeding my pack of hungry eaters because of the front end work of bagging and tagging and freezing our meals is WORTH IT!!

As school starts and schedules fill and life returns to a more ambitious pace, what my family needs and maybe yours does too, is an easy fix-ahead and freeze-an-extra sorta dinner solution. As we prepared to be away a few weeks ago I scoured my collection of cookbooks to find easy freezing and portable in a flat freezer bag meals. Of the twenty or so that we brought with us, this cranberry chicken meal was easily the easiest and even the cranberry-shy among us gave it a happy thumbs up. 

Kickin' Cranberry Chicken

{printable HERE}

Here's what you'll need:

6 skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs or a combination of both cut into serving size portions.
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 cup Catalina dressing (Russian dressing will also work)

Here's what to do:

If you are preparing for your freezer:

With a permanent marker write the following on a gallon freezer bag: "Cranberry Chicken, date, thaw then bake @350 for 90 minutes". You really do want to do this first if you are making this to feed your freezer because after you put the chicken and sauce in the bag, it's much more difficult to write on the bag. 

Cut partially thawed* chicken pieces into serving size portions and then place in the freezer zip top bag and set aside. (*NOTE: Some of those individually frozen chicken breasts that come in the mongo bag from the freezer section are huge. They realistically make two portions for an adult. I usually allow the chicken to partially thaw which is the ideal time to cut it because cutting a partially thawed piece of chicken is so very much easier than trying to slice into the gooey slipperiness that is a thawed chicken breast or thigh!) 

In a medium bowl combine the other three ingredients and stir well. 

Pour mixture into the freezer bag over the chicken portions.

Allow as much air as possible out of the bag and seal it.  

Lay the bag on a large plate or platter or even on a cookie sheet; anything that will fit in your freezer and allow your creation to freeze flat which both allows for quicker thawing and more efficient storage in your freezer (or cooler) once it has frozen. 

When you are ready to enjoy cranberry chicken for your dinner set your flat freezer bag in the fridge in the morning to thaw. If I need to hurry along the thawing process I'll sometimes set it on the counter top though I'm not sure the FDA would approve. Once your cranberry chicken has thawed, dump it into a sprayed casserole dish (9x13 works well).

Toss it into a 350 oven for 90 minutes. This dish comes with lots of yummy sauce that goes well over rice or mashed potatoes or even noodles.

If you are making this for dinner tonight...

Place chicken pieces in a sprayed casserole dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and stir well. Pour the mixture over the chicken in the casserole dish and bake at 350 for 90 minutes. This dish comes with lots of yummy sauce that goes well over rice or mashed potatoes or even noodles.

There was precious little of this dish left over when we enjoyed it on our travels, so I was glad to have doubled the recipe. If you are planning on feeding less than six, one recipe should serve you just fine. This is such a simple recipe to have in your back pocket and I plan on making two or three more recipes to have on hand for the upcoming fall. 

Here's to feeding your family AND your freezer!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Faithful-Every-Week-Church-Going Believers... I'm a FAN!

I have a healthy new respect for the faithful-every-week-church-going-folks this evening. I have learned this weekend how easy it could be to just decide not to go to church, just for this one Sunday. Oh yessir, I'd have missed having gone to church, but the reality of that feeling alone would not be enough to get me there.

For the past week, my time has been devoted to doing pretty much exactly what I have intended and have desired to do. I have spent time on my own and time with my gang and time with my Man. I have spent time each and every morning in my Bible and in deep thought about my spiritual condition and about life in general.

And yet... today [Saturday] wore on, I began to think of reason after reason why it might be okay for our family not to attend church tomorrow.  I have no other obligations or even penciled-in plans awaiting my attentions, I just don't really feel like making the effort, it's just one Sunday right? So, my mind is working overtime on reasons not to go. Please understand that every one of my reasons if spoken aloud would make the faithful-every-week church goer and their pastor's wife roll their eyes and possibly belly laugh.

Please also understand that this realization serves as a lesson to me.

On my last Sunday with our church family before going on sabbatical, one of our members confided to me that they were planning a bit of a sabbatical of their own.

"Really?" I said, "where will you be going? What will you be doing?"

"Oh, I'm not going anywhere, I just want to read the paper and drink my coffee for a few Sunday mornings."

You can imagine how this blessed my socks right off.

"Can't you do that on Saturday morning?" I asked, smiling, sort of, "Then you can come on Sunday mornings and support the men who will be preaching here?"

"Well, there is just something extra special about Sunday mornings with the paper and coffee."

"I wonder," said I, "just why it seems extra special particularly on Sunday mornings?"

I couldn't believe I was having this conversation. I know there are plenty of folks who might be tempted to do the same thing, planning to do the same thing even, but I was just a bit perplexed by the one who decided to share their plan with me out loud

Eventually I forgot about the whole incident until, after surviving a particularly harrowing grocery store visit this afternoon, I looked over stacks of grocery bags at my Man and said, "I have a whole new appreciation for faithful church folks who show up no matter what. I have learned today how easy it could be to just not go, just not show up, just stay in my pjs and drink my coffee and read my books about being a Christian and living within a community of believers..."

...I was now the person on the other side of the conversation, wasn't I?

"I know," he said, "it would be so so easy."

This evening I sat across the table from my Man as he did what so many folks do when they are in a new town, he searched online for a church for us to attend in the morning. Molly grew tired of waiting for her daddy's attention, she had plans for him this evening, and said, "Dad, I think you can just do this church thing on your own for us tomorrow, OK? Now come on, let's get going." She was not the first to make such a suggestion.

It was explained to her that yes, we could easily "have church" and do a good job of it on our own tomorrow but...we would worship best within a church body where worship is so sweet and where there is fellowship with other believers, and where we can be ministered to as we sit under the preaching of the Word.

In the morning, Lord willing, the Wright gang will "get going" as well. We'll fill a pew in a church somewhere because there's a God we need to praise and a man who has spent the greater part of his week working on a message, and not just any message, but a message of great import about a Savior who sacrificed all for me!

Who in the world am I to decide that I'd rather have coffee?

Need more convincing? Click play below and turn your volume way up...

"YOU stand alone, I stand amazed..."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Involving the Owner's Manual, the Bathroom Scales, and a few very unSabbatical Moments...

Greetings from the margin!

The Wright gang is doing well as we near the halfway mark of my Man's sabbatical. We find ourselves in a locale with no internet which has been, as one of our favorite TV characters likes to say, a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because...less ringing and dinging and... just, less. A curse because when you want to look up something nifty an a food blog, like how to make those spectacular muffins that your teenagers loved,'re sunk.

The first week of sabbatical was spent preparing for the next three weeks and can I just say that it may well take us all three weeks to recover from the last few days of that first week! The night before we bid our home adieu we spent more than a few stress-filled hours loading our van.

Just as the last few items were carried down the stairs to the garage we noticed that our van was sitting a bit low to the ground. This was concerning but we thought that it would probably be ok until we remembered that we still had to add six bodies into that van in the morning, four of which weighed well over one hundred pounds! Children were summoned and seated in the van and it became clear that some tough decisions had to be made.

The next few hours involved the owner's manual for our van (to look up the maximum load allowable), our bathroom scales, four concerned-for-their-stuff children who had to be continually shooed from the garage, and two nervy adults who worked as hard maintaining patience with one another as they did determining exactly which items were absolutely necessary to our existence during the next three weeks.

We'd never been gone for three weeks before.

My Man has a t-shirt that has a quote from Erasmus:

"When I have a little money I buy books; and if I have any left I buy food and clothes."

That quote pretty much summed up our problem. I had prepared and frozen enough meals to feed us for 21 dinners and lots of lunches and many breakfasts.

We were sporting one large cooler and two medium coolers full of gallon zip bags which had been filled, labeled, and frozen flat in preparation for our time away. In addition to the three coolers, we'd filled two large Thirty One utility bags full of non-frozen food stuffs including canned goods, bread, rice, etc.  We were prepared to eat out only minimally...too well prepared as it turned out.

To make matters worse, as the weeks counted down to this day, this very day that we would leave many of us Wright's had been preparing in our minds stacks and stacks of books that would travel with us. I had two bags full plus my computer and some other things and my Man was attempting to carry on three bags full. Cole and Meg both had backpacks loaded with chosen books and the little girls were bringing along only the books that we forced them to.

{My stacks...before the purge.}

After much load shifting and the weighing of our children, our books, our dry goods bags, and our coolers, we came to the sad conclusion that we were going to have to significantly lighten our load.

The children were asked to pare down their "carry on" backpacks.  We'd only brought along a few outfits of clothing each so unloading suitcases was not a possible option and when I suggested that we only take one outfit each in order to spare some of our books, I was swiftly and soundly and unamimously out voted.  My Man and I each unloaded some books and then we unloaded the 50 pounds worth (or so said the bathroom scales) of dry goods figuring to purchase them at our destination.

I am happy to announce that we safely reached our destination safely and happily and our vehicle seems no worse for the wear. What did remain after the pairing down of our load was the deep feeling of gratitude we feel for our church family for caring enough to allow us this time away. We feel cherished and cared for and we carry with us the responsibly of returning home rested and renewed and ready to serve.

{Kate en route.}

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Keeping Ourselves Company

Molly joined me in the kitchen yesterday morning, wiping the sleep from her eyes and looking about for breakfast options. 

“Is today Daddy’s day off?” She knows that Mondays usually are, but she asks weekly to make sure.


“Oh good! We should have a family day and go shopping and get me a new backpack.” 

Her Daddy had tried to convince her a few days ago that she needed a new one because her beloved Princess Sophia backpack had a tear in it. She had remained unconvinced.

“So you think you need a new one now, I guess?”

“Well,” she answered, “It wasn’t my idea, DADDY said so.”

“I’m not sure what Daddy is planning on doing today. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have a family day.”

Wait!” said she, “Does Daddy have to go to work tomorrow?”

“No, remember, he’s on sabbatical. Come look at the calendar. Here is today and here is the day Daddy returns to work. Let’s count the days between.” And so we counted.

“That’s a lot of days,” she said jumping up and down and clapping. “Does Pastor J have that many days off?”

“No. He’ll be at work while Daddy is not there.”

“Ok then,” she pondered, “here’s what we should do: we’ll all go up to Pastor J’s house and keep Mrs. D_____ and O____ and dear little M______ company while he’s at work!”

When her daddy returned home later in the morning I asked Molly to share her plans with him. And she did with much animation.

“Molly, that’s some kind of plan, but I don’t think Mrs. D_____ needs all six of us in her home this month to keep her company. Our plan is to keep our own selves company for a while.”

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