Thursday, December 12, 2013

...In which we say goodbye to Mary Grace

I started blogging in this space back in 2006. Some days it seems like yesterday. Others, a lifetime ago. For most of my kids, it was a lifetime ago; I hit publish on this blog's very first post nearly a year before Oli was born. I was Momma then to Jo (9), Atticus (6), and Logan (4). Adoption wasn't yet on our radar.

When I started blogging, it was a (fairly) new thing, and the perfect outlet for a creatively stymied Momma to turn to when all of the thoughts and frustrations and dreams threatened to bubble over. Then there were the heartbreaking lost pregnancies, the anxiety of the adoption paper chase, the very real life that was lived day in and day out-- much of it chronicled here, in this place.

Relationships were born here. I met friends-- some of who I now count among my nearest and dearest, some of whom I have never even lad eyes on. I have prayed for others, been prayed for, shed tears, and rejoiced. All of it here.

BOOKS and BAIRNS. I named this blog after one of my great-grandfather's favorite sayings. His wife, my Papaw's Momma, was a shy wisp of an Irish girl who'd been transported to the US with four young'uns living and one kicking inside. That would be my Papaw. Stateside, she birthed five more babes. Her favorite things, her husband said, were "tha Bye-bul, tha books, and tha bairns."  I never met my great-grandmother, but that sounded about right when I began thinking over what I had to say to an audience who didn't know me.

My next job was to decide how transparent I wanted to be. I knew from the beginning that I would be raw, real, and utterly open in this place. But that kind of policy comes at a price. Knowing that I'd be sharing intimate details, how much of me did I really want out there? In the end, I chose to keep the username I had been using on the Sonlight forums as my blogging identity. I tagged my family members with names that fit their personalities. And I began.

So much has changed in my life and my family since then. So many doors have opened and closed, so many changes have settled upon us, shaping us, and making us who we are here, today, now. Sometimes I go back over my older entries and wonder at the person who wrote them. I think I would like her if I met her. But I certainly can't say that she and I are now the same.

You see, with the passing years, I've grown more and more uncomfortable with the cloak of anonymity I spread upon myself here. The reality I so dearly wanted to share, the open door I wanted to have with those who visited this place-- it's incomplete. The truth is, I am not Mary Grace. And while those who have read here since the beginning (or who've befriended me via email or other means) know this, many others don't. They see me as something I'm not. Somehow set apart. Somehow special. Somehow an authority.

Somehow, Mary Grace.

I wrestled with how to resolve this, and, after much prayer and consultation with my husband, I have decided to open a new blog. Rather than go back over years of BOOKS and BAIRNS and edit, or issue a sticky post that spelled out the details, I am moving. BOOKS and BAIRNS will remain here, open, as long as blogger allows it to do so. My email here (blog name @ gmail) will also be accessible, should you want to contact me. But, from now on, I will be sharing-- with my husband, from time to time-- at our new site, To Sow a Seed. You'll notice a few migrated posts from this blog, but otherwise, the content will be entirely new. And open. And under my real name.

To those who choose to follow us on this new adventure, I welcome you and ask that you be patient as we get our sea legs under us. We'd love to know you're "there"-- leave a comment or two and say hi. To those for whom their season of needing, reading, or enjoying BOOKS and BAIRNS has passed, I thank you. This place has been home in large part because of the people who inhabited this space-- and by that, I most certainly don't mean myself. I am grateful to have been Mary Grace. And now I look forward to being ... just me. :-)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cubbie Bear Crunch

Born out of one part inspiration and two parts desperation, this is the quick, yummy, hands-on teaching snack that my co-leader Benny and I served to our excited AWANA preschoolers the first club night this year. It would also work well to jazz up any bear-themed preschool unit and plain old boring day that needs chocolate. Because everything, in my world, is better with chocolate.

What you need:

Golden Grahams cereal
Teddy Grahams
mini marshmallows
mini chocolate chips
a large mixing bowl

The effect is multiplied when you bring the ingredients and allow the Cubbies to "make" the snack on their own. As you're adding ingredients, talk with them about the symbolism of each bit as it relates to Cubbies.

Marshmallows--clouds, because while God is everywhere, when we think of "heaven," we automatically think of clouds and Him.
Golden Grahams--the Bible, which we use to learn more about Him.
Chocolate--God's word, which is sweet and sustaining.
Teddy Grahams--Cubbie, because by listening to stories about him, we can learn more about God.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Right now

Homeschooling as a Lifetsyle Moment:
Grades 11, 8, 6, K, & PreK

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Toys, toys, toys!

The upside of moving is that I have finally, finally conquered the toy beast.

Between Seven's plastic allergy (and the tossing out that had to be done), purging, flooding, and just plain clearing out, I have been able to pare down to the barest of essentials when it comes to the items designated for play.

I can't tell you how much happier I am now that nothing in my house is shaped like a miniature electric guitar that lights up and plays show tunes when you push its buttons, or has Dora's face emblazoned on it, or screams at me from the shelves of Fred Meyer to buy Just One More! to add to the collection of fifty others littering the floor of my living room.

We still have Legos. And teeny tiny little wood doll house pieces. But we have been selective-- purposeful-- in what we've let into our home. And y'all, it has been so freeing. Not seeing a mound of seldom-used junk cluttering up the house and, in truth, my kids' imaginations ... it's just priceless.

There is hope, folks. There is hope.
Here are a couple of posts that have encouraged me in regards to the choices we've made as a family:

A mom who took her girls' toys away a year ago talks about the effect this has had on their lives.

Thoughts on less toys by a minimalist.

And, in case you're curious, a tour of our toy shelves:

These, plus a toy kitchen, dollhouse, and accessories, are what made the cut-- not counting puzzles and board games. How about you? What are your kids playing with these days?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Ten years ago, we bought a dog. After a year of no family pet, we were ready to dive back into the world of four-legged family members. Well, Mr. Blandings was. Truth be told, I was not that much in favor of a new creature mucking up the carpet and needing to be fed. But I've always thought that pets are good for kids and heck, I grew up with a dog, so ...

So we bought a dog.

The breed was somewhat incidental as far as I was concerned. I had always thought I'd go for a golden retriever, but (laugh with me now) I preferred something a little less hairy. We tossed around options, did some research, polled some friends and, in the end, went with a German Shepherd from a very fine breeder.

The dog was expensive. I remember at the time thinking, "Mutts can be awesome dogs. And they're practically free." 

Little did I know that that money was some of the best I would ever spend.

Gabe, as we called him, grew (and grew and grew) into a fine dog. From the beginning, he patrolled and herded and kept my kids close. He never tired of fetching balls, running laps, watching over preschoolers as they raced trucks, or acting as a pillow during movie time. He was a dress-up toy during their early years, and a patient ear during the turmoil of early puberty. He went on hikes, loved camping, ate more than his fair share of cheerios, and even found himself featured in a kids' film or two.

He was the background noise to my older kids' growing up years. 

And now he's gone.

I've never been especially sentimental about animals. Growing up around farmers will do that to you. An animal serves a purpose, does a job, or is a product. There's little romance in knowing the name of the bacon you'll eat next winter. Even family dogs failed to make it much beyond the level of hired hand in my house as a kid, and as a mother busy with small children I have little room and compassion for anything that doesn't have give back, if you know what I mean.

But Gabe? Gabe gave back. Oh, I was a cruddy enough dog owner. I hated his hair all over the floor and lamented my twice-daily vacuum routine in our common areas. I was impatient with his need to have his nose in everything and be aware of every little coming and going in the house. I was never fond of the massive mounds of poo he produced, either.

But I loved that dog. Never as much as he deserved, though.

Gabe's health failed drastically over the last weeks of his life, and I found myself with the chance to, in some small way, repay him for his kindness to the people I love. I helped him stand when his legs refused to lift his weight, helped him stretch when his back was too sore to accommodate. I don't begrudge a moment of that time spent with him, but it did have the sad effect of leaving a huge hole in my days. Like Logan, who has found himself wandering aimlessly, waiting for his friend, I find myself looking for Gabe every time I open the front door. 

He was a good dog. A great dog. A good friend.

We miss him. 

Monday, October 28, 2013


In further pursuit of fiber as therapy, I cast on a project I had long aspired to create for a babe of my own: the classic Pebble.  Since the pattern is written for a newborn-three month size, I tinkered and tweaked and set about knitting up a vest for my 24-month-size Reuven.

I overshot more than a hair, as you can see. 

Mani can actually fit it, though it's on the snug side. So, for now, Seven gets to twirl and dream in a very blue Pebble meant for her baby brother!

(Buttons by One of a Kind Ceramics. Ravelry notes here.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Orzo with Cheese & Broccoli {everyone@thetable}

With Reuven now an entity in his own right at our table, I am loving watching him dive in to new flavors and textures. I am a big proponent of not "dumbing down" food for children.  Their palates deserve to be delighted just as much as ours. Here's a favorite recipe from the Blandings kitchen needs only a few quick dices with a butterknife to be served to everyone at the table, from Daddy to babe. Bonus round for the homeschoolers among us: this is fast and easy enough to make it into lunch rotation, even if your 11 year-old handles lunch prep some days.

Orzo with Cheese & Broccoli
adapted from Skinnytaste

3 cup orzo
2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
3 Tablespoon butter
 approx. 1/2 cup milk
Add orzo to a large pot of salted boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes then add broccoli and cook for 2-4 more minutes, or until orzo is not quite done. Drain and then return to the pot. Add cheeses, butter, and milk.  Stir. Add more milk until you reach your preferred consistency.
We've found that the cheese amounts can be tinkered with once you get a feel for the recipe. Some days, it's all about the gooey cheddar. Other days, it's more about the orzo. YMMV.