Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Begin the begin

This is the letter we'll be sending out to some of our nearest and dearest this week:

Dear Friends and Family,

Throughout the past 15 years, our family has enjoyed numerous adventures. We’ve experienced the nomadic existence of a journalist, living in multiple states before settling in Washington nearly 9 years ago. We’ve welcomed children biologically and through adoption-- sometimes for even just a few days as a foster family. We’ve run the educational gamut: Christian preschool, homeschooling, and special needs public schooling. We’ve had cats, dogs, fish, (too many) rabbits, and even lambs who slept in our bathtub. We’ve driven cross-country in a well-loved Volvo station wagon. We’ve even been offered a reality show to showcase our slightly off-beat family. (No, we’re not kidding.)

A lot of people have called us crazy. We’re writing you today to confirm that fact. We are, in fact, crazy. To quote the Apostle Paul: If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you (2 Corinthians 5:13). In other words, the Blandings do a lot of nutty things ... like being foster parents ... like founding a nonprofit ... like getting our hands dirty in places like Mexico, Haiti, and Burma ... but we do it all because we feel called to do so by a God whom we both love and fear.

With this in mind, we are writing to invite you to join us on our next great, crazy adventure. For several years, Mr. Blandings has been traveling through Southeast Asia, ministering to and encouraging national pastors as they seek to bring the Word of God to their people. Our nonprofit, The Global Missionary, has been raising funds for those efforts. Thus far, we have been privileged to build churches, supply Bibles, train pastors, support orphaned children, and meet the practical needs of people in some areas of the world that are considered most hostile to the Gospel. Now we are taking a bigger step of faith--some would say a crazy step of faith--and working to move our entire family to live and serve among the Hindus and Buddhists of Nepal.

If you’re on The Global Missionary’s mailing list, you already know that we have partnered with Reach Nepal--a group of Nepali Christians--to take over the financial concerns of Abba House Children’s Home and the Nepal Baptist Theological Seminary in Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Nepal. While these are vital ministries and we look forward to being involved in them in a more hands-on fashion, our main call involves discipling and providing encouragement and ongoing training for the seminary graduates as they sew seeds in villages and small towns throughout the Nepali countryside. We plan on being based in Lalitpur, with Christopher traveling regularly into the rural areas to work with pastors and graduates of the seminary.

The first stage of this journey requires us to spend a year in Thailand. During that time, Mr. Blandings will work directly with others who do similar work among other people groups, receiving their guidance and taking their materials and using them to piece together a training plan for the Nepali nationals. Meanwhile, the rest of the family will have a chance to transition to life in Asia. We’ll be leaving behind many of the niceties of Western life, but Thailand still offers a stunning array of Americanized goodies. In other words, you can still send us Starbucks gift certificates if you feel moved to do so!

We are all looking forward to this amazing adventure. The idea of being united at long last with our Nepali daughter, Bee, as well as serving God full-time, has us wishing we could leave tomorrow! But, of course, there are several things that must happen before we can buy our plane tickets and set off for Asia.

First and foremost, as field missionaries, we must raise support for our work. At this time, we have calculated that our living and ministry expenses will require approximately $5,000 US per month. If you feel led to partner with us in this calling and would like more information on our expected expenditures, we’d be happy to provide you with that information. While we will most certainly be looking to work with churches and groups, it is our heartfelt desire to engage as many families and individuals as possible in supporting this work. It’s one thing to have a financial director at a church cut a monthly check from the tithes and offerings of the congregants, but it’s another thing altogether to have people actively supporting and praying for the needs and works of a ministry!

We are praying that God brings forward a small army of believers focused on sharing the Gospel in Nepal. For our part, we’ll be engaging our supporters with more than just the typical newsletter updates. People who commit to supporting us will receive an information packet filled with details about the people and culture of Nepal. We want this ministry to be yours as much as it’s ours. After all, isn’t that what the word “partner” really implies?

The entire Blandings family thanks you for your support and encouragement throughout the years. No matter where we’ve landed geographically, we’ve always known and felt the love of the beautiful individuals and families that God has placed in our lives. We know that Thailand and, eventually, Nepal, will be no different ... no matter how crazy we are.

With many blessings,
The Blandings family
Us, minus Bee

Mr. Blandings and Mary Grace
Bee, Jo, Atticus, Logan, Oliver, Manolin, and Seven

For more information:

Chiang Mai, Thailand:
Lalitpur, Nepal:,_Nepal

Monday, April 18, 2011

HOMEschooling, HOMEmaking: Let's Do Lunch

I had such a good thing going with lunches. Really, I did. I didn't even appreciate it. The good times are always like that, aren't they?

Lunches were so easy because of one little word: leftovers. Every night, I simply set aside the leftovers from the supper I'd created. The next day, out came the tubs and bowls of good stuff. The microwave did its duty. And voila ... lunch!

But as I shared nearly a year ago (has it been that long already?), those days are long gone. We've moved into a new era of lunching here at Casa Blandings ... one that I'm not always thrilled with, but one that is making do, at least.

Our new "plan" often feels a whole lot less "planned" than I'd like. About half the time, Jo is in charge of lunch. She loves it. I'm all in favor of this--except, I admit, when she makes something that I'm not too fond of and I have to eat it anyhow. Takes me right back to the days of Not Being the Mom. Now thankfully, Jo has no idea how to make some of the yuckier, 70s cream-of-XYZ nightmares that still populate my personal cooking list of Thou Shalt Not. But still. Every once in a while I find myself choking down yet another grilled quesadilla and cringing--hopefully just on the inside, so that she doesn't feel underappreciated.

The rest of the time, I've taken to relying on a pretty well stocked fridge and pantry to get us through. Lots of nibbly type foods, some salads, platters of cut veggiesm fruits, and nuts. The menu ideas that I listed last year are still very much in rotation, and yes, I finally dove in and bit the bento bullet. While I'm only just now amassing the "fun" stuff to accessorize or DIY bento noshes, I admit that delving into the more creative end of serving up lunch has brought a little bit of sunshine to our otherwise dull routine. I recently entered the world of silicone baking cups and fruit kabobs on little animal picks. As if I need another obscure obsession. 

Bento-style Taco salad
I'd been feeling pretty uninspired by the whole thing recently, though. I've gotten breakfast back under control (it had become pretty much a seek-and-find meal for a couple of months after Seven joined us), and dinner is a snap thanks to meal planning and whatnot. But lunch? It's a no man's land pitstop of a meal. Dare I say--boring?

And then I saw this blog, and boy, did I feel ashamed of myself. Check out this momma's lunch repertoire! This is a woman who does lunch. I have no idea what the rest of her life looks like, but I can guarantee that her girls are going to remember that Momma loved them enough to invest time into sweet little creations ... just for them ... every day. 

Probably not now. But you know ... someday they'll remember. Like when they have kids of their own, right?

So I'm now officially back on the hunt for more lunch ideas to stir into the Blandings pot. Stuff that both Jo and I can make in a relatively short time--like the taco salad above, which takes all of five minutes thanks to pre-browning the ground turkey, mixing in black beans, seasoning, then freezing it in batches of 3/4 lb. 

More pasta salads, more pre-cut veggies, more dips. More variety.

Less quesadillas. 

Can I get an amen?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: CuteyBaby diapers

I am a sucker for cute diapers. For some reason, prints just put me over the top when it comes to diapering. Sure, a diaper can be completely reliable, a perfect fit, the whole she-bang ... and be plain old boring white. 

It can happen. I'm not saying it can't.

But I am saying that when all of that happens and there's a cute little print sprinkled all over my baby's bum, well--all the better, right?

If you're looking for the kind of prints that will leave you ooohing and ahhhhing at changing time, CuteyBaby has you covered. I'm not sure this company has any plain dipes, to be honest. Flowers. Dots. Cars. Airplanes. Gingham. Sock Monkeys. It makes a fluffy Momma swoon, I tell you.

I picked up my CuteyBaby diaper at my local Albertson's grocery store. Yes, at the grocery store. CuteyBaby has been testing out retail options previously uncharted by cloth diaper companies. Instead of stocking primarily in dedicated boutiques or offering dipes only online, CuteyBaby is trying to break into the mainstream by getting their products on the shelf right next to the Huggies and Pampers.

Now, Albertson's isn't my favorite grocery chain. Our local store is always a little seedy, and on top of that, they seem to charge more for just about everything across the board. But when I heard that CuteyBaby was on their shelves, I thought I'd support the effort and check them out.

Sock Monkeys!

I came away with what is hands-down my cutest diaper. Yeah, I got the sock monkey print. It's not girly, but Seven is more than precious in it and Logan, especially, gets the biggest grin ever seeing it on her little bottom!

My cutey baby, in her CuteyBaby

O.k., so it's cute. That's great, Mary Grace. But how does the diaper actually stack up?

I've been using this diaper for a little over a month now, and I think I can finally make an educated statement about it. It took me a little while to get a feel for this one, so I held off on reviewing it for fear of not quite expressing myself correctly. I feel pretty confident at this point, though, so here goes:

1. This system is completely unique. While it's touted as a wrap and insert system, I find that I can't use it that way for one main reason: the design of the "pocket" makes it almost impossible for the microfleece of the wrap not to come in contact with the wet stuff. Look below and you'll see what I mean.

Yes, that's a hole, essentially, in the middle of the cover. You stuff the insert inside, tuck the edges under the elastic, and put it on the baby. In theory, when you're ready to change your little one, you simply shake out the insert and slide another one in. My experience, however, has been that the elastic and microfleece are almost always damp. See how low the  microfleece comes on the front of the dipe? I just don't feel o.k. putting that back on Seven when it's clearly been in contact with pee. As a result, I use the diaper as a basic pocket. Which isn't a big deal, except ...

2. You buy CuteyBaby diapers as a sized cover (S, M, L) with separate inserts. Covers in my area retail for $13.99. Microfibre inserts are a pack of 2 for about $10. That's $23.99. If you're using the system as advertised, then you're getting 2 diapers at just $12 a piece. Not bad! BUT ... if, like me, you're using it as a stand-alone pocket, then you'd need another cover. That brings your total to a little over $18 per diaper. Ouch! For that kind of money, you can get some really swanky stuff, kwim?

3. Quality-wise, the  CuteyBaby cover is definitely not an $18 diaper. The PUL on the wrap is thinner than all of my other diapers, and the hook and loop closures seem much less sturdy than what I'm used to. It's adorable--but it feels a lot like the bG flip covers, if you're familiar with those. Not substantial is what I'd call it. The insert, however, is simply amazing. This is one thirsty diaper! Multiple layers make this thing bulkier than some other dipes, yes ... but it holds enough that I've taken to using the insert to stuff my bG 4.0s for nighttime. Not bad, huh?

4. The CuteyBaby has one neat little design function that I'm loving--wing velcro! A small square sewn into the wings sticks to the inside of the flaps as you secure the diaper, guaranteeing a tight fit. How come everyone doesn't do this?!

Look, Momma! No droopy tabs!

5. So far, leaking has been minimal. I've had some wicking, which looks like it relates to the thinner elastic on the leg areas or perhaps with the thinner PUL. Seven is in a large at 22 lbs., and still has LOTS of room to grow. The fit is not tight, but more than adequate. I could have probably put her in a medium, but she was so close to the weight limit that I couldn't justify it. Now that I realize the price factor, I'm glad I didn't.

Overall, I've been pleased with our CuteyBaby experience. If the diaper worked for us as advertised, I'd be even happier because my wallet would feel less pinch. :-) As it stands, it's a good diaper. With a little work, it could be awesome. I'm betting that the folks at CuteyBaby will keep perfecting their product. Hopefully, they'll stay with the adorable prints while they tinker.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A little something about Bee

Bee, 14

Last week, my beloved husband returned from a three week jaunt through Asia. The focus of the trip was preparation for our move to full-time missions work. The added bonus was time with Bee.

The rest of us stayed home. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Seven managed to terrify me with one of the scariest infant illnesses I've ever encountered. My best friend, Benny, gave birth to her second daughter. We ditched the majority of our regularly scheduled schoolwork in favor of some fun unit studies and science days. I was harassed by Oli's birthfather to the point of seeking legal advice on a restraining order.

You know, the usual.

While all of this was going on, Mr. Blandings spent time with Bee. He walked her to her annual exams (a very big deal in Nepal). He took her shopping for a new watch. He delivered the 3.5 lb. bag of peanut M&Ms her crazy American mom sent. He took her to play Laser Tag. They watched movies, joked with one another, ate tandoori chicken pizza at their favorite local place. There were good morning hugs, goodnight kisses, and laughter in between.

And then, when the time was up, he left.

And this is where the smile fades, and the story turns sad. At 14, Bee has spent many, many years as an orphan. To the Nepali government, the people who pass her by on the street, the shopkeepers who see her picking up snacks after school, this is all she is. She has no mother, no father. She is defined not by who she is, how she conducts herself, or what interests she has. No. She is an orphan. What more would anyone want to know?

Bee is used to this kind of brush-off. She has no expectation of being treated as anyone with any real worth. She knows not to look people in the eye, not to ask for more than the bare necessities. The only places where she is valued are at the wonderful children's home where she lives, the church she attends, and the Christian school we pay for her to attend. Everywhere else, wherever she goes, she is nothing. Less than nothing. After all, she lacks the one thing that would make her special, would give her standing: a family.

A few meager days a year, she has that standing. She can go out in public, her Dad at her side, and people will smile in her direction. They wonder at the image of the lanky Westerner alongside the slim Nepali girl. They hear him call her mero chori ("my daughter") and pause, but then accept it as fact. She is something, someone. She has a family.

It's becoming more and more evident that there's no way that the US government will allow Bee to enter this country. An act of God could always intervene, of course, and we're not ever going to discount that. But short of Bee coming to the mountain, it's clear that the mountain is going to have to go to Bee.

Which is fine. Because frankly, it's time for the mountain to move. Mr. Blandings came back with all the information we needed to start the next phase of our journey to the mission field. We are now actively raising support and making plans for our transition into full-time ministry to the people of Nepal.

So, God willing, Bee won't be "just any orphan" all that much longer. Instead, she'll go to sleep at night in a room with her sisters. She'll be pestered by baby brothers wanting stories. She'll roll her eyes at the myriad ways Atticus and Logan come up with to smack one another with sticks. She'll grow tired of Mr. Blandings and I telling her how much we love her.

In short, she'll be a sister. A daughter. A Blandings. Forever.