Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Another sweet, smiley baby girl is heavy on my heart this morning. She's just about Seven's age. She has doting older siblings. She has a devoted Momma who has rocked her through her bumps and bruises and sang to her as she's drifted off to sleep. She has big blue eyes and curiosity.

And, through no fault of her own, she is very, very close to losing it all.

See, this baby girl is a foster child. Being "foster" doesn't mean she's any less loved. Quite the opposite. This baby girl has absolutely been loved on without end since the moment she was slipped into her Momma's arms--which happened to be at the hospital, when her life was measured still in mere hours.

But here's the part that you can never forget--foster does not mean forever in the eyes of social workers, lawyers, the judges. 

Baby K is in danger of being ripped from the only home she has ever known. The hows and the whys don't matter. This is simply a case of legal mumbo jumbo taking precedent over what makes the most sense. This baby is not being returned to a biological mother or father who has worked hard to become a safe place. She is simply being shifted to an adoptive home where her biological sibling is no doubt a cherished addition to the family.

In other words, she is being taken from the siblings of her heart to grow up with the siblings of her genetic code. Which makes sense in many, many cases. But in this one?

Why? Why is this precious blessing being set up for hurt? Why is the system failing? Why has someone decided that Baby K is a piece of furniture that will look better in another room? 

I don't know. But my heart tells me this is wrong. My heart tells me that God is not being honored in this decision. I want to scream at VGAL who has dropped the ball, rage at the judge whose lapse in understanding seems so dire. And I am not even this baby's Momma. I'm just a bystander.

Every time I bend down to sweep Seven from the floor lately, I think of Baby K. I watch my little girl kick and squeal when Logan walks by, trying to get his attention, and I think of Baby K. I lower her into her crib, drowsy from milk and sleep, and I think of Baby K.

Dear Lord, I pray that this baby will not wake up one day to find her whole world gone. I pray that she will not wonder why her Momma suddenly let her go. That she won't long for the arms that have held her safe and secure. Instead, I pray that she will have the gift of taking all these things for granted. That someday, she will have a moment of thinking her Momma didn't even want her. That she will be blessed with thinking her older brothers are pains. That she will be so loved, and so sure of it, that she can be flippant about the things that right now hang in the balance. Please Lord. Please.

Please pray for Baby K. Pray for the judge to have wisdom. For the social worker to be haunted by this baby girl's case. Pray that the other family looks beyond the blessing of a new baby falling in their laps and casts their eyes to the happiness of this little one. Pray that God moves mountains. Because He can. If Seven is anything, she is proof that He can, and He will. Pray this miracle for Baby K, I beg you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Deja Vu

Dirty blond hair. 

Big blue eyes.

Off the charts for height and weight.

No teeth (at 9+ months).

A preference for people watching over getting into the fray.

Baby A:

Baby B:

One is Logan. One is Seven. And you know, it's a really good thing that technology has come so far in nine years, because photo quality might just be all that helps this foggy momma mind of mine differentiate between which baby is which twenty years from now. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Rubbabu Bubble Ball {Timberdoodle}

A couple of months back, on a rare sunny spring day in Western WA, I received my annual Timberdoodle catalog. Since I was walking alone (this day was rare in more ways than one, obviously), I casually flipped open the cover and started perusing the offerings. I'm a repeat Timberdoodle customer, and not just for homeschooling needs. Somehow, the folks at Timberdoodle and I just seem to think alike. The games they have line up with the interests of my children but aren't found on local store shelves. The building toys they carry are unique--and ones that I can't usually find elsewhere. And the homeschool stuff, well ... it's just cool stuff. Hands-on, often. And always, always fun.

Anyhow, I made it just a handful of pages into this particular catalog when I knew I had to call Benny. Which I did, of course.

"Have you gotten your Timberdoodle catalog yet?" I asked.

"I don't think so," was her answer. (Unlike me, Benny doesn't live and die by her mail delivery schedule. I can tell you that our mail arrives by 3 p.m. every day. I can tell you what size packages will end up on the porch, and which ones will fit in the box. And I can even tell you who made the delivery based on whether or not they folded items over one another to find them in or not.)

"You have to look at their complete preschool curriculum," I told her. "I'm not looking to buy a full preschool, but if I was, I'd so buy that."

I went on to list the science experiments, the puzzles, the cool smelly pencil. Later on, when Benny (finally!) checked her mail, she agreed. The Timberdoodle preschool curriculum is, well ... what you want in a preschool curriculum. Why? Because it's not a ton of workbooks and letter flashcards. It's real stuff. Fun stuff. Stuff that your child will beg you to play with, and not even know that he or she is learning.

If this tells you anything, Jo was recently with me at a conference where Timberdoodle had a booth. She lingered in the vending hall for a good portion of her free time, and kept coming back to Timberdoodle. What had caught my 13 year-old's attention to the point that she couldn't pull free?

The Rubbabu Bubble Ball

It's a ball. A squishy, velvety, oddly-shaped ball made from all baby-safe materials. The directions say you shouldn't allow your baby to teethe on it, but that's just a precaution against little teeth nicking a bit off of the natural foam and swallowing it. It's a green toy. 

It looks fun. It feels good in your hands. It's just ... tempting.

And Jo was hooked. She showed it to me no fewer than three times during the conference.

Jo: "I think we should get this ball."
Me: "Why?"
Jo: "Oli would love this. And so would Seven. It's a really cool ball."
Me: "We've got balls. We've got about fifty balls. I'm not buying another ball."

So I didn't buy it. Instead, I bought a couple of other things (which I'll review here next week). I forgot about the ball.

But when it popped up as a review opportunity, I figured sure, why not? Try the ball.

Jo was right. We needed this ball.

That's a silly looking statement. "We needed this ball." I mean, people need air and water. And on a lower rung, people need books and music and creature comforts. Do they really need a ball?

Well, yes. If they're children, they do.

Balls teach little ones so very, very much. As adults, we tend to forget what amazing learning toys balls are. We have balls lying around, and we note our toddler's fascination with them, but we don't really zero in on the process that is taking place when a child rolls a ball, or catches a ball, watches a ball move away, or drops a ball, or feels the weight of a ball in his or her hand.

It's science, folks. Exploration, discovery, innovation. Science. In sphere form. 

Babies need balls. Toddlers need balls. Kids need balls.

This ball is not only cool to look at, but it adds new layers to simple ball fun. Because of the funky, bubbly shape, it rolls and weaves in all directions when dropped or rolled. Oli, especially, is intrigued by this defying of normal motion. Seven, new to the whole "ball thing" is captivated by how she has to really work to get at it when it's dropped from her hands. She's also delighting in exploring its delicious little velvety coating. And the bumps? So, so pleasing to little hands.

By the way, this ball has seen action from all of my kids. Yeah ... the 13 year-old likes to squish it like a stress ball while she's reading. I guess her motives weren't entirely altruistic after all. :-)

This ball is part of Timberdoodle's baby curriculum, one of those complete sets I was discussing with Benny. In addition to a whole slew of age-appropriate materials (like a peanut ball!), this set comes with a planning folder. No, this isn't a Teacher's Manual for babies. The people at Timberdoodle have no interest in creating baby geniuses via set instructional hours and whatnot. Instead, they give parents information on the tools/toys that are in their set, as well as a multitude of ways to engage in them with their little one. I am no fan of "baby school." I would tell you if this set was "baby school." It's not. It's just good, quality stuff to play with alongside your baby. That's my heart for parenting little ones, and it's Timberdoodle's heart, too.

So go ahead. Try the ball. Seriously. You won't be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A great many things

There is much to be said for parenting a single stage of childhood. There are no diapers to change during chemistry experiments. No toddlers losing prized mp3 players. No nap times to consider when booking sports lessons.

Look who's (bear) walking

These are just a handful of the things I worried about when we began the slow peeling back in our hearts that would eventually lead to adding to what seemed like our already complete family. Three children (a nice, manageable number) born in just four and a half years allowed us the luxury of not stretching much beyond our current comfort zone. No one was too far ahead of anyone else. No one was too far behind anyone else. It was very neat and perfect, although I admit that at the time, I wasn't quite as appreciative of this fact. One weaned, it seemed, just in time for another to be born. I changed bulky over night diapers for no less than seven years solid. And Bob the Cucumber and Larry the Tomato were like live-in relations who just never got the hint and moved out.

Now I straddle a couple of stages, and no, it's nowhere near as neat and tidy as life would have been had we taken our cues from those seemingly wiser than us and just quit already. We tag-team things like Karate Awards Night for Atticus and Logan (it was my turn to go last week), and other things we parade to en masse, taking up an entire table during a fellowship dinner and fellowshipping with ... well, ourselves. (Note to AWANA leaders: tables that only seat 8 may not cut it ...) My older kids miss out on some things, like events that only happen from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., because that's prime napping time and woe unto him who thinks I'm giving that up lightly. My younger kids have never been to a library story hour.

Jo taking a break from cleaning rabbit cages to play with Seven

Sometimes I look at all of this and wonder if the pros outweigh the cons. I ask myself what the conversation will be like, twenty years from now, when they all gather in someone's living room without Mr. Blandings and I. I imagine Jo will be hosting, because she is Jo, and she likes to host things, and it will allow her to set the ground rules anyway which is very convenient when you have a somewhat Type A personality and many younger siblings. I imagine Logan will be late, and Atticus will be flustered, and Oli will watch with rapt awe, and Mani will simply bask in being somewhat difficult, but really meaning well. Bee will be there, but she will be quiet and sweet and remind everyone not to talk to loudly or get too carried away. And of course, there will be Seven, who will be deliciously independent and fawned over, and yet not at all able to understand why everyone finds her so darn funny.

Who? Moi?

So what will they say? What will my children make of this life they didn't choose when they're old enough to have some hindsight? The homeschooling? The missions-based, evangelical Christianity? The stay-at-home mom submitting to the head-of-household dad? The international focus? The Bible As Authority upbringing? The mix of children, biological and adopted? The cultures represented? The frugality? The make-do attitude? The span of ages? 

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

I think it's love.

In truth, I have no idea what they'll say. I have my guesses (Atticus will insist that he had it the hardest, I guarantee it; Mani will be the rockstar baby brother, I guarantee that, too) but only time will tell. Until then, I get to enjoy this sprawling, chaotic brew of family bubbling over.

Big kids. Little kids. And the melding of the two. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I realized as I was unloading my camera last night that I had somehow missed posting a milestone. Yup--Manolin has left behind his toddler days and is cruising right along into his preschool years. The past three years have been a sheer joy with this little man. I can't wait to see him make those huge strides that 3-6 bring!

Monday, June 6, 2011


"Your little brother is retarded."

"Huh? Which one?"

"The really short one."


"No, no. The other one. The one that doesn't grow. My mom said he's retarded."

"Oh, Oli. He has special needs."

"He's retarded."

"You keep saying that. Is it supposed to mean something to me?"

"Duh. Your. brother. is. retarded."

"Maybe. But at least he's not rude."

"Well I'm not coming down here to play with any retarded kids."

"That's alright. I think we'd rather play with Oli anyhow. You should probably go and find some really smart kids to play with. Kids who value intelligence over, say, manners, huh?"

Jo, you make this momma proud. And to think ... I worried what having a special needs child might mean to my other, neurotypical kids. Turns out that what it means is compassion, day in, day out. Compassion and love.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The price of obedience

This morning, Mr. Blandings and I were counting the cost of moving our family to the mission field full-time. No, we weren't talking about the lack of Netflix in SE Asia or the fact that Seven will probably be a preschooler by the time she "meets" most of her extended family in a way she can actually remember. We were talking about the actual cost.

The money.

We need to raise $5,000 per month to support our ministries (plural) and our family. So far, we have 10% of that committed. Some days the number seems so huge that I fear I'll be 40 before I put my feet on Nepali soil. Others, I know that my God is big enough to bring in twice that completely unsolicited.

We prayed this morning, as we do every day, for God to bring in the money. Then I kind of forgot about it. (It's Mani's birthday, after all!) But this afternoon, as I got a second to sit down and check in on the cyber world, I read this post and was inspired to calculate our needs.

We need 90 families to commit $50/month to reach our goal.

Or 225 families to commit $20/month.

Or God to sway an ultra-wealthy Christian with a heart for the 10/40 window to just write us a check for a million. 

Any of those will do.

I wonder which route He'll take? 

(And by the way, if you are one of the people who God has given a heart for the people of Nepal, please read this. Keep praying! Satan is working hard to shut the door on the Truth and keep folks in the dark. I guess He hasn't read the end of the Book, huh?)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dear Sister,

I could tell as I trailed you through the halls of the YMCA that you are expecting--and soon. Your ankles have that slightly puffy, overburdened look, your back that deep, uncomfortable sway that suggests a woman unused to carrying such weight. Seeing the full bloom of your belly only confirmed what I already knew. 

You looked, to me, radiant.

But then your cell phone rang. Flustered, you shuffled through your very cute, very pink workout bag until you found the offending device. Your exasperated answer echoed through the locker room. I'll never know who was on the other end of the line, but clearly, it was someone with whom you share an intimacy. In the confines of the locker room, it was impossible not to eavesdrop, not to feel as if I was an invested member of the give and take that took place.

"Yes, I am still pregnant," you told the other party, and my gut began to squirm. See, I knew what was coming. And yet, I could not walk away.

I know that your aches and pains are real. I know that you are uncomfortable, that you're not sleeping well, that you pee all the time, that you can barely fit behind the steering wheel of your car. You have every reason to be done with the season you find yourself in.

But I hate that you hate it.

For twenty minutes, I listened to you lay out your litany of ills. Maternity clothes that barely fit. Indigestion that keeps you away from your favorite Mexican restaurant. Toenails that you can't reach to paint the lovely shade of pink that you like to see peeking up at you from your flip flops in the summer months.

I heard it all, and I sympathized. 

But you know what I didn't hear?

The miracle of feeling your baby writhe, confined so tight in your womb that he or she could barely wriggle. The beauty of sitting on the cusp of an expanded family. The glorious knowledge that God has used you to bring about one of His most awesome gifts. The anxious, gleeful anticipation of waiting to meet someone whose lungs have yet to even draw breath.

I didn't hear any of that, and it pains me.

As a woman who longed for so many years to walk in those stretched out, swollen shoes of pregnancy, I am keenly aware of the blessing wrapped in a burden that is late pregnancy. The physical signs of impending birth are, to me, so poignant that I admit, I find very little to complain about. Knowing as I do the emptiness of arms unfilled, I sometimes have to step away from women who curse their own blessed state so that I don't shake them. It's true. 

There is much to be burdened by, yes. But sister, there is even more to be blessed by.

As I sat on the opposite end of the locker room bench, listening to you describe your body as "massive" and "disgusting," listening to you announce how you couldn't "wait for this to be over," my mind went back years and years, to an experience I've all but forgotten. An experience with another expectant mother who had no idea that she was just hours away from meeting her baby. We had lunch, both of us pregnant, both of us nearing the end of the race. While we ate, my friend listed off the things she couldn't wait to do without a baby growing inside of her. Drink a beer. Be intimate with her husband. Ride her bike. Ditch the maternity panties. Wear her favorite jeans.

Three hours later, at a routine check-up, she learned that her baby had died. She delivered a still little girl that night, and went home to a place where all of those things--the beer, the bike, the jeans-- seemed empty and useless.

She would have given anything to have that baby back, safe, inside of her. She told me later--and I admit, I still didn't get it for years--that she would do anything, anything to be that uncomfortable and full again.

Of course, I learned that lesson on my own, the hard way. The pain, the inconvenience, the struggle, the discomfort, the agony, even ... It is not something to be wished away. It is something to be cherished. Truthfully.

I know you probably won't understand this. You probably think I am overly sentimental, a worshiper of birth, a woman who has lost her inner compass thanks to her years waiting without hope. And you know, I guess I hope that you can stay that way. I hope that you never look back on these moments have regret. I hope that you can move forward without missing a beat, can think on your pregnancy as a mere blip on the road to your new little one.

But just in case you can't, please--do yourself one small favor. Take a picture. Write something down. Anything. Make some small memory of the beautiful season you are currently living in. Hold onto it. Be blessed by it. Because truly, it is a gift that not everyone is handed. Of that, I am certain.

Mary Grace