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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. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Girls' room {big family, small house}

After showing off the boys' room (the master bedroom), a couple of folks actually emailed asking to see what the room Jo and Seven share looks like. Since there are only two people sharing it, it hadn't occurred to me that it was worth showcasing-- not much to learn for big families here!

But, to satisfy curiosity (and disprove that cordwood stacking theory) I present: The Girls' Room.


This shot is looking into the girls' room from the hall. This room, as you can tell, is actually painted colors. Because they are girls. And they care. And there are only two of them, so personalizing is much easier.

That's Jo's bed on the left. Yes, she keeps her bed that neat always. She's actually training Seven to do the same. I kind of love it. 


The sliding closet doors drove us all nuts, so we took them down and covered the closet with a curtain made of a full-sized sheet. Jo has two that she rotates. This one is short and bugs me, but hey, it's not my room.

The ribbons over the closet are Jo's from her 4H days. 



And this is Seven's little space. It's still in transition from her crib days, but since we're moving, I have just let it slide. 

So there you go. Two girls in one room. Easy Peasey.

Friday, July 19, 2013

American Lit made easy



One of my degrees is in English. One of Mr. Blandings' degrees is in English. Together, we have endured many an hour of sometimes fascinating, sometimes shamefully dull instruction in the name of understanding literature.

Which is, of course, why we swore that when it came to introducing our children to those works considered classics (deservedly or not), we'd find a better way.

For the most part, in our home, this has looked like some event or conversation reminding either Mr. Blandings or me of a character, an author, a nearly-forgotten line of a poem. From there comes an impromptu synopsis of the work, a discussion on theme, a library hold, and plenty of dialogue.

It's messy, but it works. In this manner, Atticus has tackled titles ranging from Animal Farm to Ender's Game, and Jo has found herself smitten with everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Last summer, sensing that a bit of organization might not be remiss in light of a new baby on the way, I took a different spin on our normal slapdash romp through the catalog of Books You Really Ought to Have Read and assembled a list. The criteria? All American literature. All in chronological order. And all written by authors whose lives and works lent themselves to interesting character study.

Jo used this framework as something of an outline for her literature study this past year and, can I just say, it was a hit? Not only did she enjoy the books and learning more about the writers, but Mr. Blandings and I were delighted to share some of the truly great bits of past fiction and poetry with our daughter. Conversation-- the key element of this plan-- was plentiful. As a matter of fact, I offer this disclaimer: while this curricula was written specifically to be handed over to a teen, if you cannot participate fully in the discussion of character, morals, themes, allegory, etc., do not pass go. Consider, at the bare minimum, researching the links and familiarizing yourself with what your high schooler will be learning. Even better, read along with your child. After all, great books become even more great when they are shared.


Below you’ll find a timeline of major American authors and movements in the literary world with which you should make yourself familiar this year. Your instructions are to use the iPad to locate the brief biographies noted here, write up a paragraph for your binder summarizing the biography, and to read the works mentioned. No author should take more than two weeks (including reading the book), but if you find that you’d like to dig deeper into the work of a particular author, we can certainly discuss. (Mom and Dad can suggest titles.) You will, in that instance, be given extra time. 

After reading, you will have two follow ups required. The first is a discussion Mom & Dad on the book. Bring at least three questions and a whole lot of knowledge of the book. Prepare for a lively conversation; as you know, we take no prisoners when it comes to literature! 

For the second, you may choose from the following options or, alternately, create a project of your own choosing:
  • Write an alternate ending to the story that puts the characters where you would rather see them end up.
  • Write a brief summary of the historical time period where the story is taking place (ie, Victorian England, WWII, etc.) noting key events.
  • Write a character sketch of your favorite (or least favorite) person in the book, describing how the character grows or progresses.
  • Compare the book to another that you’ve read that may be similar in style or just remind you of this one.
  • Sum up the plotline in a poem.
  • Write a news article about the main climax of the story.
  • Write an obituary/eulogy for the main character in the book.
  • Put together a book report that hits the high points of the story for someone that may or may not have read it.
  • Write an essay persuading someone that this is the best or worst book ever written.

Remember--you have TWO WEEKS to do this unless you have chosen to do extra work and have gotten that cleared by Mom. If you need to read in the evenings or weekends, I expect that you will budget your time to do so. Let me know if you are getting bogged down. Do not wait until it’s critical! And--have FUN! American Literature is amazing, and your dad and I have been waiting to share many of these stories with you since you were old enough to read!



1823: Clement Clarke Moore, (http://www.nightbeforechristmas.biz/moore.htm) "A Visit from St. Nicholas." (http://www.bartleby.com/248/27.html) For an article discussing the controversy over whether Moore really wrote this poem, go to http://www.common-place.org/vol-01/no-02/moore/index.shtml)


1827: Edgar Allen Poe (http://poestories.com/biography.php) “Tamerlane” (http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-tamer.htm)



1850: Nathaniel Hawthorne (http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/) The Scarlet Letter

1854: Henry David Thoreau (http://transcendentalism.tamu.edu/authors/thoreau/) Walden


1865: Mark Twain (http://www.cmgww.com/historic/twain/about/bio.htm) "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" 
1884: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
***This author should take three weeks***


1904: Jack London (http://www.jacklondons.net/shortbio.html)The Sea-Wolf (Call of the Wild was published in 1903)
**If you would like to read more, this author may take three weeks**

1920: Robert Frost (http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/192“The Road Not Taken” (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536#about)


1922: T. S. Eliot (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Du-Fi/Eliot-T-S.html#b), listen to Eliot read one of his best-known works at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAO3QTU4PzY , The Waste Land


1926: Ernest Hemingway, (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhemingway.htm) **just the main article**, hear him speak at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fE04BmNmgAI The Old Man and the Sea

1927: Willa Cather (http://www.online-literature.com/willa-cather/), Death Comes for the Archbishop 

1945: Tennessee Williams (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Williams), The Glass Menagerie


1960: Harper Lee (http://www.harperlee.com/bio.htm), To Kill a Mockingbird



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Transition

We headed home a little later than I anticipated last night. A fun outing to the pool had run longer than expected (who's going to cut that short on an 87 degree day?) and I was racing the clock to get home in time to throw plates on the table and yank dinner from the crock pot. My mind scrolled over the menu ("Pot roast, potatoes, carrots--ready to serve. Salad--needs to be picked from garden.") and stalled out when I realized I had no time to make bread. I briefly considered stopping to buy some and quickly nixed the idea. Reuven and Seven were asleep in their carseats, Mani was grouchy and overtired, and I had neither of my teens with me to either mind the van full of littles or run into the store.






So I headed home and figured, "Eh. No biggie. Pot roast without bread is just as good."

Fast forward an hour later. Oli and Mani had just finished setting the table when Jo and Atticus walked in, tired from their day's labor of volunteering at a CC practicum run by a friend. (And no, we're not enrolling in CC.) Jo found me in the kitchen, hugged me hello, and reached into the darling slouchy bag made for her by one of my dear friends. Out came a huge loaf of that fabulous artisan bread-- the kind that has a thick, crusty exterior and a springy, great-for-dipping interior. She placed it on the counter and explained that the leaders of the practicum had an overabundance of bread at the community lunch that day and had asked if my kids would like to take a loaf home in exchange for their volunteer work that day.



I started laughing so hard that I almost cried, and Jo knew. It was another one of those moments-- those instances where God shows up so clearly, so abundantly, that you have to just smile and say thanks and marvel at what love He has for us, that He should care even about such small things.

We've had those a lot lately. 

Over-the-top blessings. Things that we don't need, necessarily, but that God offers up as a tangible sign that He is listening. He hears us. And He cares.



So much of 2013 has been about loss and limbo and learning to live within new, uncomfortable parameters. So much of our energy has gone into keeping the day to day afloat. And yet, here is God, offering up this small (and large) things, pressing a hand to our weary heads and promising, "Keep on, because the good is coming."

And it is coming. 

I hinted that Mr Blandings had a new job, and he does. God opened a door beyond our expectation that has allowed us to stay here, in our happy little community, among those who believe in us and our crazy calling and love each and every Blanding, no matter how big or small. 

Beyond that, He has shown us, in His amazing grace, that His plan for us is finally coming to fruition. In a few weeks' time, we will be moving to a larger home that will allow us to host friends and acquaintances interested in partnering with us in our work in Nepal. The how and why for this move is nothing but God's providence-- how often does one receive a phone call stating, "Ummmm ... we are moving out of state for a year for work and are leaving our mostly furnished home here empty. We feel like we are supposed to offer it to you ..."

Not often, right?

So we're moving. Our house will go on the market soon. We have been purging belongings both large and small. Books. Furniture. Clothes. Anything doesn't have sentimental value and that won't make the leap with us.

By "the leap" I mean the move to Nepal. Because the whole, big picture of this move is this: we are moving into the Nepal As Reality Phase. We are at 40% of our monthly support. We have approximately six months to a year to secure support for the rest. And when that time comes, we're doing it. We're going. 

The next months will be ones of more transition for our family, but this is the kind of transition our hearts have desired for so long now that it is a turmoil we are actually welcoming. We will be actively seeking families and individuals who feel as passionately as we do about spreading the Gospel to the unreached in Nepal. We will be asking people to pray for those who have never heard the name of Jesus. We will be doing that uncomfortable act of asking people to consider supporting us financially. 

Please, please pray for us as we make this leap. The new theme of this year: Nepal 2014 or bust.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Who you callin' "baby"?!?

Reuven is six months old. Six months and change, actually. 

I have to remind myself of this daily ("He's only six months old!") because the truth is, this boy wants to grow up.

And by growing up, I mean, this boy wants to go.




Reuven is lightyears ahead in terms of most of my babies at this age. He is big physically (so my aching back reminds me every day). At 20 lbs., he has effectively doubled his 10 lbs., 3 oz. birthweight. He's also tall, and rock solid. He lost that "newborn feel" by about 8 weeks old and has been "baby" ever since then. Sadly, I feel him catapulting himself to "toddler" now that the first half of his first year is over.


Want to make him mad? Remove him from the fray. Reuven will gladly hang tough for just about any household chore or sibling interaction. But if the activity requires either Jo or me to slough off the ergo, well ... you get the point. 



One area where Reuven still feels "little-little" is in his sleeping habits. He is still not in any real hurry to develop a rhythm of sleep. He sleeps in the ginormous contraption that is our queen-sized bed hitched to his side-carred crib. He sleeps quite happily through the night, waking up once or maybe twice to dreamily nurse, caress my face, and then slip back into sound sleep. But naps are still random, short, and otherwise not worth planning a day around. I don't mind-- I'm up and running anyhow-- but I do ask myself: if he's this congenial with no real nap schedule, how much more pleasant would he be with adequate rest in the daytime?




Now back to that go. Reuven army crawls. Reuven gets on his hands and knees and rocks. Reuven can almost pull himself to standing on the side of our couch. Reuven is toying with the notion of bear walking. 

While he's happy to be worn, Reuven is usually on the floor at this point, exploring this, getting into that, finding his way to overcome whatever obstacles present themselves. I miss having a baby constantly on my hip. Sigh.

This is my six month-old, people. Where did my baby go?!?!?



Guess who's a daddy's boy? Guess who strains out of my arms the minute the dogs bark to signal that the work day is over and the man of the house is on the doorstep? Two in a row, people! Not fair!


But yes, I do get snuggle time. In the evening. As everyone else in the house is growing still, and the lights are dim, and it's just the three of us settling in. This moment-- the one pictured above-- this is what I think of when people tell me that they have no time or room or heart for another baby. I get that. I understand that people feel that way. But me? I just can't think of anything but how it feels to have a small head resting just under my chin, and the weight of a sleeping body on my chest. This is the good stuff. This is what it's all about.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jehovah-Jireh

The Lord has, as always, provided.

I received word this morning that Mr. Blandings has been offered a new position.

With higher pay.

Because this is our God--

He is not only the One who calls home servants, who leads us through deserts, who refines His children. He is the God who gives abundantly, the God who defines the word "lavish," the One who meets us in our need, places His hand on our weary heads and whispers, "Be still."

Of course, there is more to this story. The Blandings family is falling headlong into a season of promise. I can't wait to share it with you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The dull ache

The pain of losing my grandfather isn't quite so breathtaking now. I knew this would happen-- expected it-- and yet, it makes me feel a bit like a traitor.

How can it have only been 4 months, and already, you are forgetting?

Then I remind myself, I am not so much forgetting as remembering. Remembering to live. Remembering to embrace today. Remembering that I was blessed to ever have my small white leather sandals standing atop his heavy, black, all-season work boots while we danced in the barn.

 I still measure the journey of the last few months by the milestone of his passing. I suspect that February 18 will always be "the day Papaw died." I just don't know how I will ever forget that. But then again, maybe. Maybe some day it will just be a vague, "He passed in February" or, "It was late winter. Not yet early spring." I don't know if I should hope for this or if I should pray that the date stands there, stark. A memorial in its own right.

Today, as I was scrolling through photos on my computer, I saw this image: 



And again, washing over me like a flood were the memories.

This was the last day I saw him alive. 
This was the day I drove my Mamaw's van for the first time. (She had never, ever let me drive one of her vehicles before.)
This was the day I fed him a quarter of a piece of chicken-fried steak and two bites of rice pudding.
This was the day I called back home and cried because I had missed Logan's first molar coming out.
This was the day I slipped my phone number to the nurse at the front desk. "I know you have local numbers to call for emergencies. But please ... please ... if he ever asks for me ... please?"
This was the day I read to him from the book of Matthew.
This was the day he almost remembered my name. Almost.
This was the day I walked to the van, but lingered, standing in the heat of the Kentucky sun, watching the shadows move in his room as the nurses helped him into bed, and I hated myself for not being the  one to do this-- this simple thing for the man who had carried me as a red-cheeked infant.
This was the day I wished had never happened, but never wanted to end.

On the other side of this loss now, I weigh the freedom that I know my Papaw enjoys as one who professed Christ. I can't for a moment want him back, of course. Back to what? To the shell that betrayed him in his old age? To the failing mind, the hands that refused to cooperate? Back to the strangers that were once the dearest of beloved family members?

No. I don't want him back. I want him to bask in his reward. I want him to once again feel whole, to walk alongside Jesus, and to know what it is to worship fully. I guess that's the work of the healing I've felt for the past quarter of a year. I no longer want him back. But I do miss him. Oh, my heart-- how I miss him.

And I expect I always will.