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.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Water, water everywhere

You know what I love about the early years of homeschooling? It truly is the simplest things that capture a child's imagination and send him spinning into a world of associations and discovery. Give a five year-old a jar and instructions to catch a bug, and you have a week long unit study at your finger tips. 

For this reason alone, we are loving the Sonlight Core P 4/5 this year. The reading has been engaging and in just-right bites for the ages and personalities of my three learners. The topics hit right where their leanings are in this season. The whole guide can easily be set aside for whatever adventure we find more pressing, and yes, there is room for rabbit trails. Like this one, from week two, where the original idea was to try and water plants with solid and sieve-type containers:

But of course, if you give a kid some water, you'll end up discussing ice ...

And, eventually, steam, and rain, and the entire water cycle, and what floats and what doesn't, and how ocean water is salty but the water in the river isn't, and why salmon swim upstream, and ... and... and...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

40 minus 1

... and just like that, I was 39. 

Monday, October 21, 2013


Things have been hard here. Uncomfortably hard. Rock bottom hard.

There have been moments of looking around and wondering how in the heck things got so chaotic and difficult. Moments of trying to find peace, and missing it entirely.

And then, there are moments like this:

When you discover that what seemed like a crab apple tree in your new backyard is, in truth, a bearer of real apples. The eatingsaucingjuicing kind.

And suddenly, a flurry erupts. Children run for buckets and baskets and long rakes.

A cloud bursts, and there is joy spilling all over. And in that moment, you remember that this is just a season, just a moment of life, and that the good stuff will be back again. Soon.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nothing to fear

I remember the first time I was asked how I could possibly even consider homeschooling high school. Jo was right there beside me, all 48 pounds of her, with her bottom baby teeth missing and the cutest little bob of a hair cut. She had just mastered the art of skip counting by threes and I was pretty sure she was brilliant.

"What are you going to do about algebra?" the questioner hissed, as if at any moment my kindergartner was going to need to solve for x.

And I said I didn't know, because, well, I didn't. Homeschooling a high schooler sounded big and scary and potentially a little crazy and heck, I was just getting a handle on how to explain that there were different continents-- places you had to use a ship or an airplane to reach. How on earth was I going to teach my own children physics?

As it turned out, I really didn't have to worry too much. Just like parenting a large family-- you generally only take on one new family member at a time-- there were plenty of baby steps that led from singing about the Scientific Method all the way up to college French. Tiny little advances. Painless strides. And before I knew it, well ...

I was doing it.

Or rather, they were.

On most days, the truth is, I spend less time actively homeschooling my two older children at home than I do my combo set of preschoolers/kindergarten. Yes-- less time. Thanks to online classes, tutoring with dad and other experienced adults, self-directed learning, and student guides, I am only teaching two subjects to each of my olders-- with plenty of check-ins on other topics, of course. But actively teaching? No. 

That season of curling up on the couch and reading amazing stories has passed with these two. I am so, so thankful that I had it, and that I grabbed onto it with both hands and cherished it while it was here. Because, folks, the days are fleeting. One day you are making pipe cleaner models of Charlotte and her web, and the next you walk into a room where your daughter and son and writing an original song for their Music Theory class.

Yeah, it's about that fast.

So if you're reading this and you're the Momma of littles, or if you're staring down the barrel of 8th grade wondering if you've got what it takes, take heart. You can do this. It's not anything like what you imagine. Everyone's journey looks different but yes, it's possible. And it's worth it. And you know what? It's even enjoyable

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I am one of those Christians who doesn't think God is enraged when the questions come His way.

One of those Christians who thinks asking, like Mary, "How can this be?" is not an affront.

One of those Christians who wrestles and finds that somehow, God is closer and more dear because of the struggle rather than in spite of it.

But whenever I begin to slide into the place where I kick and scream, I am reminded, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."

Because so many bits of my life make absolutely no sense.

The rhymes don't quit stick. And the reason? Totally lacking.

And yet, I have no doubt that it's God who does the leading. It's God who has taken me-- us-- to those places where we scratch our heads and say, "Not my will, but Yours."

I wondered greatly what God was doing when I saw those two pink lines. A baby? Now? As our fundraising is finally ramping up? A baby? Really? I'm almost 40 for Pete's sake.

It made no sense. It simply flew in the face of what everyone-- most especially Mr. Blandings and me-- expected God to be doing in our lives right then.

And yet ...

It is this little person, this little soul, this little flash of sunlight from the Lord, that has made some of the darkest moments bright here since his birth. It is this little man who has reminded me, again and again, that God's ways are higher, and better, and more perfect than anything I could have planned.

And I am grateful.

Monday, September 23, 2013


I have always considered myself a truly rotten hostess. The bar was set pretty high for me at a young age, what with my mom and grandmother being the world's most comfortable, most accommodating, most "always another spot at the table" kind of women. I have fabulous memories of wandering the family room while my mom served coffee to folks who had just popped by, and even better memories of 50 people milling around my Mamaw's house waiting for the Thanksgiving turkeys (yes, plural)  to come out of the oven.

Those ladies made it seem effortless, this whole "hospitality" thing. They enjoyed it. And they didn't seem to stress over the idea of welcoming 2 or 20 people into their home on a moment's notice.

Of course, neither of them had ever seen Martha Stewart's idea of casual entertaining, either.

Part of the plan in moving to this house was to be able to invite interested families over to hear more about the work in Nepal. The two minute synopsis delivered in the church hallway with a hungry toddler asking for lunch is great and all, but really lacks the full depth of intimacy, know what I mean? We had known for a while that we'd have more of an impact if we could talk-- really talk-- to people about the need, the call, and the plan. But our old house lacked any real gathering area and barely fit my own family around the dining room table, let alone a few more.

So we moved here. And we threw open the doors. And voila--I confronted my worst fears and became a reluctant, regular hostess.

Up until now, I've really stressed over having people over. I mean, the Martha Stewart comment is funny and all, but yeah ... I seriously have always looked at my surroundings and figured that no one would really want to spend an entire evening eating off the plates Logan chipped getting out of the dishwasher, or sitting near the pillows Oli uses as blocks half the day. 

And before you ask, no, I don't judge other people's houses that way. Not at all. It's a total double standard, and I know it. But I've never been able to shake it.

Well, until now.

Out of necessity, I've embraced the life that my grandmother and mom lived with such ease. And yes, the more I do it, the easier it's becoming. In seven weeks of living here, we've had 9 families come through-- not counting Benny's people because really, I'd invite them over in my pjs for breakfast any old day.

Aside from the fact that this introvert is being dragged, kicking and screaming, from her happy shell, it hasn't been bad. In case there are any other reluctant hostesses out there, I offer these tips for cutting down on the stress and upping the "I can do this" factor.

1. Have the right tools. No, you don't need special stuff, but I quickly figured out that a few investments paid off. A thermal coffee carafe. A glass beverage dispenser. A Costco pack of napkins, paper cups. Sharpies (for labeling said cups). And an entire extra set of Ikea dishes and silverware on the cheap.

2. Make a hosting checklist. In the past, I kept a running checklist of the stuff that needed to get done before the place was presentable, and it was all jumbled in my mind with food prep and anything else that I wanted to accomplish. Simply typing up a basic list (clean main bathroom, vacuum main areas, scoop dog poop in back yard, etc.), laminating it, and posting it has been a lifesaver. The kids pick a job and do it, freeing me from handing out duties, worrying over it getting done, or, worse yet, frantically scrubbing a toilet as someone rings my doorbell.

3. Keep it up. The house, that is. Hosting people has been a huge incentive to make sure that the little stuff doesn't become big stuff. I always fought to keep my kitchen counters clear. No more. Knowing that someone is likely to be hitting the door in 24 hours or less is a big reason to take the time to not let that stack of papers get too cozy on the corner. 

4. Make a hospitality menu. We quickly figured out a handful of sure-fire meals to rotate through, along with some tried-and-true but still yummy desserts. I printed these off, stuck them in the front of my main recipe binder, and use these as my go-to to keep things simple. Hint: one of the best meals we've found is a taco bar that uses my crockpot to make the main filling. Can it get an easier?

5. Pick a time, and make that the time. I have purposefully asked everyone coming by if 4 p.m. is an o.k. arrival time on a weekend. Weeknights has been 5 p.m. Why? I know that those are doable schedule-wise for us, and I don't have to stress out over mixing up the time, because it's always the same.

6. Make it fun. This is the biggest tip I can possibly offer you. In the past, I admit that entertaining was zero fun for my kids. I stressed out over the even for days, tried to do everything myself, and was probably a Wicked Witch the entire day leading up to the arrival of our friends. Reading several books on hospitality helped me to see this as damaging, and I was convicted that I was putting effort into a show of false appearances. Ouch. Stepping back, letting go, and just being real has made this entire process-- dare I say it-- enjoyable. For all of us. Go figure!

I never in a million years dreamed that I would be in a place where having three events in my home in three days would seem not only reasonable, but actually fun. Yet, that's where I am sitting right now. God has changed my heart, given me new eyes, and allowed me to take the blessings He's given me and use them to bless others. Who knew I'd actually enjoy it?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I am knitting a baby bib right now.

A very simple, very straight-forward, very you-don't-have-to-even-read-a-pattern baby bib.

In easy care, no fuss cotton.

Which says a lot about where I am right now, because normally, knitting is-- for me-- all about the process. It's about the materials (I love the sensory feedback of different fibers), the colors, the new experiences that lead to a finished product I can hold in my hand and muse over.

Right now, I don't need any of that. Right now, I am knitting for the familiarity, for the the reinforcement of the rhythm, for the comfort of place. 

Right now, I am knitting as therapy.

Three weeks ago now, I had just unpacked the very last box due to be opened. We had settled in, inasmuch as we plan on doing here. We had held two full days of school in a room perfectly designed to corral both Oliver and Reuven, to engage Seven, to keep Mani exploring, and to house the resources needed by Jo, Atticus, and Logan. We had shelved our old friends, our books. We had created little corners here and there throughout the house for purposeful play. We had set up home, and we were growing familiar with all that was once so completely foreign and new.

And then, there was a storm. Oh, I admit-- I loved that storm. It was sudden and wild and violent and all the things that make weather so clearly a reflection of how small we are on God's great planet. There was lightning-- lightning! So rare for these parts as to actually terrify Oli. There were long rolls of thunder that simply flowed into one another, creating a growling, angry sky. Rain pounded--pelted-- from the a prematurely black sky. The rhythm beat on the roof was crazy and new to me, but I had no point of reference. Was this how it always sounds here, in this big, echoing house? We stood at the wide back windows and watched as the yard began to grow a garden of puddles, which blossomed into ponds.

It passed, as these things usually do, just as suddenly as it began. The sun shone through parting clouds and I felt myself sigh. 

It was that exact moment that Mr. Blandings decided to check the basement. Just my saying that tells you what happened next. Shouts and shrieks and screams for boots, flashlights, help.

My bare feet hit a soggy carpet. Moments later, rising water lapped at my ankles. As I watched, inches of dark wetness crept towards our sweet school oasis. I remember choking back sobs, grabbing the hem of my skirt and knotting it at my knees. I remember splashing towards the door to that room, an-already floating Woody doll bumping past. I remember seeing Oli's sandpaper letter cards go under. I remember the wooden counting pegs becoming boats. 

I remember asking God why, why, why.

We survived all this, of course. We threw away the Lauri puzzles and book shelves and the Kingfisher Encyclopedia and the Little Golden Books. We cried over the cherished things that were lost, and the sense of safety that was stripped from us. People-- good people, the best kind of people-- stepped up and replaced Magic School Bus books and wooden toy food and even those sandpaper letters. 

We are moving on. Shaken, but moving on nonetheless. 

Everything-- my sense of peace, my comfort level, my known quantities-- have, once again, been thrown into a hopper and spit out scrambled.

And so I knit. Quietly, with an empty mind. My hands do the work, my mind does the wandering. I seek the face of God. I seek the strength to continue encouraging and inspiring the host of faces who look to me. I seek the assurance that He will not strip us down to the places we cannot bear, or deal with us too harshly when our faith falters in the dark moments.

I knit for therapy. And He is there. 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.
1 Peter 4:12

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I can still taste the longing.

The want tinged with bitterness.

The betrayal every. single. month.

I can still feel the peace.

The reluctant letting go.

The opening of my hands.

I can still remember the refusal to admit it.

The terror/awe/fear/delight.

The sheer joy.

And here she is, now, today. Three years old. Every inch of her a miracle-- just like every other child who has ever been conceived, no matter the circumstances.

But this miracle? This one is ours. This one was gifted to our family even after words failed and hearts were made whole again.

This one sits at my table and sings "Amazing Grace." This one is the pickiest dresser ever. This one dances all day, every day.

This one is Seven, and it's her birthday. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for bringing her to us. And thank you to every loyal reader who remembers the days of brokenness and prayer and who walked alongside me. Celebrate with us!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chicken stew and cornmeal dumplings {everyone@thetable}

With Reuven now an entity in his own right at our  (admittedly overflowing) 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.

Chicken stew with cornmeal dumplings
(adapted from Diabetic Living Online)

2 lbs chick thighs
1 bag baby carrots
2 sticks celery, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cups chicken stock

1. In a large pot, add chicken. Cook thoroughly, debone. Discard water unless you used stock for this step. If so, retain 2 cups. 

2. In same pot, combine stock, carrots, celery, corn, onion, garlic, rosemary, and pepper. Add chicken. Bring to a boil and let simmer until carrots are almost tender.

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
4 egg whies
4 TBS milk
4 TBS vegetable oil

3. Combine above ingredients in mixer and beat until smooth. Using a spoon, drop Cornmeal Dumplings dough into equal-sized mounds on top of hot chicken mixture. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean. Serve.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Making home

Our lives are in boxes. Small boxes, big boxes. Sealed cardboard containers full of both the important (baby books) and mundane (cheese grater). The things that make a life a life.

Our days are currently spent opening boxes and finding homes for the essentials. We've purposed to keep some boxes sealed-- the idea being that at the end of our stay here, we may find ourselves less inclined to label these unopened time capsules "must haves" and be more likely to part with them as we book plane tickets to Nepal. Still, the supply of boxes that must be opened and sorted seems endless. 

Even pared down, even after ruthlessly purging, even after having sent bags upon bags to Goodwill, friends, and neighbors ...

We have a lot of stuff.

So we open boxes. Put towels in drawers. Hang photos on walls.  Stack puzzles on shelves.

We make home.

The first few days here, in this cavernous, mid-century home, I felt like an intruder. A visitor comes and goes. But an intruder takes away from the space, violates it. Seeing my sewing machine claim real estate, sitting at my humble kitchen table ... all of it was wrong and unknown and somehow seemed an affront to this house, in this neighborhood, in this city. 

This is not a place we would have chosen to land. The house is more than double the size of our previous one. The style of it is all wrong for us. Our neighbors are all elderly. No one gardens anything but flowers. Well-manicured flowers. The kind that bloom with the sole purpose of being immediately cut and plunked in a vase on a coffee table.

Have I ever mentioned that we don't actually own a coffee table?

But I digress. 

Here I am, adding bits of me--of us-- to this place. Claiming it, one step at a time. Finding my footing. Embracing the here and now. Letting the foreign, unsettledness of it fade and a new ease with my norm seat itself.

This morning, as we sat at breakfast, eagle-eyed Logan peered out the open French doors. In a shot, he was up, pushing the littles along with him, shouting for Seven to grab her magnifying glass. I admit that I was irritated. There is so much to get done today, I grinched. Can't we just get through breakfast so that you guys can go off and play and I can maybe, just maybe, get this kitchen totally set right?

But the kids were too fast for me, and before I could open my mouth to berate them ("You didn't ask to be excused!") I was hearing squeals of delight. Mani came racing back in, face already flushed, voice high and thin in his excitement.

"Spiders! Four spiders making webs right out there!"

I handed Reuven off to Jo (whose interest in spiders falls somewhere between "pour bleach in my eyes" and "I could vomit right now") and followed Mani out to the deck. As advertised, four small spiders were working industriously to fill in the frames of perfect, empty webs. Each went about his or her work, oblivious to all of the eyes observing, not to mention the exclamations.

"Look at how fast they work!"

"I can see his spinnerets!"

"How do they measure it all so perfectly?"

It was Seven who finally tugged me down to peer through her oversized magnifying glass and fully appreciate the beauty of the find. She waxed poetic on the sheer joy the spider must have in making something so fabulous. Then, thoughtfully, she puckered her sweet little lips and asked the most obvious question, as only an almost-three year-old can.

"Why do the spiders make the webs, Momma?"

And I had to answer her with the only truth I know, the only thing I have to cling to right now amidst these boxes and upturned schedules.

"It's their home, baby. They make them because it's their home."

"Oh!" she clapped, going up on her tip toes and shivering with that contagious, little girl joy. "They make them for their families!"

And this is how God used four spiders, an interrupted breakfast, and a precocious preschooler to remind me that while my eyes are cast ahead, following a greater, long-term goal, I must do this thing here, before me with as much enthusiasm. Why? Because it is my home. And it is for my family.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Yes, we're in

Things have been a little ....





But we're here, in our new home-for-now. Welcome to Whale House!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A decade, give or take

Packing up, moving on.

I remember the first time I walked over the threshold of this house. 

It was a rainy, grey November afternoon. Newcomers to western Washington, we still hadn't figured out that rainboots are not just a fashion statement, but a requirement to make it through the cooler months in this climate. My feet were just beginning to feel damp in my tennis shoes, and Jo was already complaining about her squishy socks, which would not have been wet had she been able to resist the growing puddles at the curb. Logan was a six month-old nursling (younger than Reuven is now!) tucked into a ridiculously uncomfortable front-pack baby carrier that I had zipped into my fashionably large winter coat. Atticus was holding my hand, just 2 and a half years old and entirely unsure what this whole cross-country relocation had done to his life.

We all clustered under the long covered walkway leading toward the front door: five of us Blandings', and one very OCD realtor. From the outside, the townhouse was nondescript. Just another bit of new construction tucked into yet another Seattle suburb. When the door swung open and we all walked in, though, we knew.

This was our house. This one. This one right here.

I could see myself standing at that stove, making breakfast in my wool socks. I could see Jo twirling in the family room. I could see Atticus stacking blocks on the steps. I could see Logan taking his first halting, army crawl explorations through the dining room. I could see Mr. Blandings leading Bible study under the cherry tree out back.

The funny thing is that we went back and forth on this place versus another for a full 24 hours. Second-guessing our first impression, we wanted to be sure. We planned on living in this house a full two years, after all. It had to be just right.

A decade later (give or take) I can tell you that it was just right. This place has been all I dreamed of, and more. Not only did Jo twirl her way around this family room countless times, but now I have watched Seven do it, too. Atticus built fabulous Lincoln Log houses on the landing, and eventually taught Oli and Mani to do the same. And not only did Logan learn to crawl here, but a whole line of other babies have, too. Right on down to little Reuven.

I canned my first blackberry jam in this kitchen. Learned to sew in this dining room. Cried through the beginning cramps of impending loss in the upstairs bathroom. Laughed over our first broken-by-a-kid window in the family room. Opened the front door and saw Mani for the first time. Stood at the opened sliding glass door and listened to my husband pray with his grandfather one last time before that wonderful old gentleman passed.

It has been a good house. No, it has been a great house. At times it has felt like less than I wanted (sadly, I can covet as well as the next girl), at times it has felt too small or too simple, too urban, too far from the good stuff ... but it has never stopped feeling like home. Even right now, just three days before a truck pulls up to take our earthly belongings to a new space, a new place to grown and live and laugh. 

I am glad I did not know what abundant life would be lived inside these walls when I first felt my soggy tennis shoes hit the brand-new, blue grey carpet. I am glad that I did not know the joys or the pains that awaited me. Life truly is better lived in the moment, and I am grateful that I got to spend those moments here, in this place that my older children will always recall as their growing up place.