Friday

Year End Wrap Up

Obviously we've been a little busy, but after a day of naps, stomach bug and more rest I'm ready to update this blog with some photos. We sent two suitcases with John and it feels good to know that yes, we're one step closer to going. In the last month we've tied up a lot of details, like packing and cleaning the house, selling the house, spending a lot of time (but not enough) with family.

I'm realizing that it won't feel real until we're in Jerusalem. Even with all the change, it's hard to believe we'll be halfway around the world in six and a half weeks. But I'll get there... literally and figuratively. Ha!

Practicing her dreidel skills. Next year it will be pei instead of sham.

Blake Family Tradition requires Tom to try to be taller than his brothers in family photos. He is jumping in this photo. And Harrison's doing a pretty good job giving him a run for his money.

Mima reading about the meaning of Christmas and the ramifications of Jesus coming. Baruch Haba B'Shem Adonai.

Christmas with the Franzes. Considerably smaller, but just as cute.

 Can you tell Cassidy is excited about moving? That's her new carry-on from Rachey and EJ. She named it RJ, for Rachey & EJ. Conveniently it's the abbreviation for Remember Jerusalem, as well. Some things were meant to be.

 Cousin Lovin'. There's not much more that can be said.

And some serious Christmas dancing. Enjoy!

A few more days and Tom will be in Israel. We're praying things go well with his travel, meeting various people throughout the country, and home-hunting. Love to you all, near and far.

Saturday

Grace Before Meals...at preschool

Here's a cute video from Cassidy's Thanksgiving feast at preschool. I love hearing her sing, but as I watch this I can't help but look past her to the little boy on the other side of the table. His name is Joshua and he reminds me so much of our little Wy-guy. It's this strange physical reminder that Wyatt is gone. Yet Cassidy is such a joy and we're blessed she's in this class with Noah. They love each other so much.
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Monday

On the road

Some of the best conversations happen over the open road. This last week I got to ride with little Hadassah in the back of the van, and she gabbed my ear off. She knew she had a captive audience. She had been talking for a while before I decided I should get my camera out. And she didn't stop once I turned it off. Sorry it's not much to look at, but her little voice is so enjoyable.
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Her vocab is a little limited (she's only 18 months) but she's quite the mimicker. She kept talking about her shoes (shocker!) and we couldn't find them. And then we did.
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Little Miss Cassidy spent the week exploring silly puddy and all it's fun possibilities. I couldn't resist getting it on camera -- watch how she helps roll the puddy with her mouth.
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Birthday without the Boy

A few weeks ago I asked Cassidy what she wanted to do for Wyatt's birthday. It's become our family tradition to get books for the boys' birthdays, both earthly and heavenly. We wrap them up and put them on the dining room table, like we used to when Wyatt was still here. It's a nice, simple tradition, that always reminds me of the birthday morning when they both woke up and Wyatt said, "Look Cassie! Balloons!" He said it over and over, I could hear the excitement in his voice as I laid in bed.

Waiting for her response I could see the wheels spinning in her little mind, trying to think of something we could do, something extraordinary (and more fun than going to the grave). Then, as though it was the most brilliant idea ever, she said, "Let's go to Chuck E. Cheese!"

About two months ago Tom took her there on a special date night and she loved it. So much so, that when her teacher asked the class what their favorite thing was, she answered "Chuck E. Cheese". When she told me that's what she wanted to do for Wyatt's birthday I tucked it away, not revealing that I also thought this was a good idea. When November 4th rolled around she was surprised to find out that we were going to see the big mouse, with Maasen (double bonus).

She played almost every game but only once. After she accomplished that she was ready to go. It was sad to be there without the boys, and the curiosity will always be there about how the three of them would interact as siblings. But celebrating Wyatt's life at Chuck E. Cheese, without him, reminds me of one thing -- Cassidy keeps our hearts full of love and laughter.

Friday

A few words

...about my husband. People send cards to women, but very often to men. I don't know why this is, and admit I might be guilty of it myself. On days of remembrance this seems especially true. That being said, today I want to tell you about the man Tom Blake is. Or at least who he has been the last 6 years. I think Tom's smile changed the day Wyatt was born:
People told him they were curious to see him as a father. As an adventurer I think some were skeptical he would settle down and parent, responsibly. He did go on a canoe trip 5 days before Wyatt arrived. But as soon as that little boy appeared Tom has been a compassionate, tender,wise and hilarious father. And though the memories and photographs still sting, I am grateful for November 4th, 2005, and the way it changed our lives forever.

As a husband Tom continually tells me how great I am at mothering; he thanks me for what I do. When he was in the middle of full-time painting he would come home exhausted to the beautiful screams of Wyatt and Cassie, "PAPA!" He would immediately chase them into the bedroom and bounce and wrestle with them on the bed. He is never too busy to play, especially with his kids. And though it hurts his heart a bit he still bounces and wrestles with Cassidy.

And he teaches too. He used the holidays to show the children about G-d and His Word and how it should impact our hearts and our lives. Wyatt knew about the importance of the Word and when Tom would get passionate about a topic with friends Wyatt would run to his room and get his Bible so he could participate. Tom read to Wyatt and Cassidy the night Wyatt went with Jesus. Wyatt was primed to encounter the L-rd because of the way Tom fathered him.

In the last two years Tom has continued to be my rock and my safe place. Because of the way he's endured this pain I've been able to see the L-rd as a loving and safe place once again. Instead of getting angry he turned to the only place that held truth and in turn G-d has rewarded him with an open door to develop his gifting as a teacher. A while ago he told me that he doesn't feel like he's received healing, but rather the Word of God and studying has brought him hope. It feels right; the scars are still there, closed but still present, and some days they hurt more than others. On a day like today we weep for the separation but rejoice in the little life we shared together. Our firstborn, Wyatt William.

Thank you, Thomas, for being Wyatt's Buddy Best Friend.

Thursday

It's Sukkah Time, Ya'll

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a gentile, but there is something inside me (can we say, Holy Spirit?) that loves the festivals. Especially the ones in Autumn. Take Sukkot: the leaves are changing and falling, we've had our windows open for weeks and it's time to eat! This year I'm engaging in the Feast of Tabernacles at a different level.

Cassidy and I ate lunch in the sukkah today. I brought the iTouch and played some Paul Wilbur, and we ate and talked and danced. It was marvelous. I shared with her how exciting it is to prepare for the Real Deal, when Jesus returns and we get to eat a rich, delicious meal with the Messiah, and our boys. As we wait for that time I can feel the anticipation grow in my chest. It's not just a story I tell her, or myself, but it's true. Part of the portion for this week is Zechariah 14:1-21 which tells of His return. He will stand on the Mount of Olives and He will be the physical Light of the World. It's a powerful passage and I recommend you read it. Perhaps read it in the sukkah, knowing that one day we'll all build booths to eat and rejoice in together.

Ours is a bit sparse, but every year it gets better and this year I am especially excited about the Japanese Maple branches on the top and the decoration Cassidy and I made together for the front.


In Hebrew it says Moadim L'Simcha, Times of Joy. This is a time when we no longer dwell on our sin and shame but rejoice that He has redeemed us. One day we will be united with Him, and those that have gone before us, for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. I pray you won't miss it.

If you're interested in the portion readings, I post them weekly on www.remember-jerusalem.org on the left sidebar. We are finishing out the year so next week starts a whole new cycle. Join us, and people all over the world, who study the same portion of scripture every week, like Jesus did!

Monday

Look out PBS

video
Maybe this is how Mr. Rogers got started.

Wednesday

Cassidy's Camera Time

Cassidy took the camera for a few moments and photographed points of interest. In her words...
"I wanted to do the chair because I just like taking pictures and I just wanted to take a
picture of the rocking chair, that's why."

"Your pants, um skirt. Your skirt, I just took a picture of. That's just why."

"The doggie I did for, I like it. I did it because I really like. Dogs are fun. Smile."

"I did it because I just thought about taking it, that's why."
 
"I did it because I like flowers and flowers are pretty. I just love flowers. Smile, spell smile."

"I like tigers and I just wanted to do tigers. So I just took a picture of it."
And here she is, the artist herself. Pretty good self portrait. "I like smiling."

She kept telling me to write the word "smile" at the end; I'm not sure what that's about. But this is how she sees her life. If only I could be a fly on the wall at school...

Tuesday

Butterfly Time

Last summer Big Cassie gave little Cassie a chrysalis that was getting ready to become a Monarch butterfly. As I remember it was actually for Wyatt and Cassidy, since he would love the orange color, but he wasn't around to see it emerge.

Sidenote: Just recently, because of the Gospel Portion, I shared with Little Cassie about how the butterfly represents resurrection. I showed her the picture of Lazarus in her Bible, when he is all wrapped up. It was the perfect illustration of the caterpillar being "wrapped up" and then emerging as a butterfly into new life, like Lazarus did, and like Wyatt and Zeke.

Although we didn't make it to the Monarch Watch event this weekend Big Cassie brought us a chrysalis again. We strung it up on the stick and watched it dangle, as it gave us a sneak preview of its contents.
  Last night I was certain the little butterfly would come out, and sure enough when I walked into the kitchen this morning it was clinging to the string, it's wings not full size and it's body spotted and fat.

  Slowly throughout the day it grew and stretched and hopped about. Finally this afternoon we felt it was ready to go outside. I opened the front door and it flew away, up into the treetops and Cassidy said, "It's beautiful." It truly is. Thanks for sharing, Big Cass.
And since BC requested it, here's the video of Cassidy and her butterfly last year. I am so glad I caught this on film.
Something else that's beautiful: how much Cassidy loves this guy. Thanks for sharing him, Big Cass.

Friday

Hate to hassle you all, but we're getting ready to send out an e-mail newsletter for Remember Jerusalem (it's super cool) and I don't want to send it to everyone on my contact list. Well, really I do, but I don't feel right about sending you e-mails if you really don't want to read them. I know how In-Boxes fill up. So please, if you're interested contact me at leah@remember-jerusalem.org. And for those of you that did send a response already, THANK YOU!

Tuesday

First Day of School

Life is filled with sweet moments, and this one was bittersweet. Cassidy went to her first day of Pre-School today and I cried. I remember leaving my mom to go to school. She was my best friend and I didn't want to go without her, and even up through the years it always made me a little sad to know she was home by herself. What would she do without me?! Well Cassidy didn't have any of that worry; she was giddy with excitement about the first day of school, and Miss Anne, and the playground.

But this is the same school that Wyatt was supposed to attend last year and not having those memories with him is sad. I can imagine how excited he would be for her, I can hear his little voice, "Cassie you get to go to school like me!" And he would tell her all about the playground and teachers and activities. This morning at breakfast we talked about school, about making friends and obeying Miss Anne. And about how proud Wyatt is of her for being brave and smart. She was filled with anticipation for the adventure. Can't you tell?

She is in class with Noah; there are four girls and five boys, and she's already making friends. Miss Anne has a sweet spirit and we are thankful she is their teacher. I am excited for Cassie to have some structed learning time and interaction with lots of little kids. The yellow room has animals and play-dough and lots of toys so I know she will have a lot of fun with Noah and the other kids.
While the kids were in school Lauren and I got coffee and Tom had breakfast with his mom. At 11:30 we showed up at school and all the kids were outside playing. Cass would have stayed all day if we let her, but when it was time to go she gave Miss Anne a hug and grabbed her little yellow bag and headed out. When Tom asked her what she did at school the first thing she mentioned was the snack. That's my girl!
These two will have a great time in the yellow room and will learn so much about being big kids. I know they will have a good influence on each other and the other kids. They will enjoy every minute of Pre-school, but let's be honest, I'm glad she's home now...

Wednesday

Remember Jerusalem

Hey everyone! We are officially going for it -- our dream of going to Israel is becoming a reality. We sent out letters to everyone we have addresses for, so if you didn't get one and want one e-mail me at leah@remember-jerusalem.org. If you want e-mail updates and newsletters, e-mail me too.

And please check out our website: www.remember-jerusalem.org

Blessings and Shalom!

Saturday

Grocery Shopping with Cassidy

Turn up your volume...
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 This is what happens when the Boss is rocking over the loud speakers and I'm taking too long to pick out deoderant.

Wednesday

Mama's Birthday

Tomorrow is my Mama's birthday. This photo was taken two years ago on her birthday.
At that time we were still adjusting to the absence of Aunt Ann, my mom's only sibling, her best friend and really the only aunt I've known. The kids called her Great Auntie Ann. Ezekiel was a wonderful little gift that we found out about shortly after Ann went to the L-rd. I secretly hoped he would be born on her birthday, August 24th, but I was just as thrilled that he came on Lauren's birthday. I know my mom was happy to have him here for her birthday.

As the mother of four she spends a lot of time nurturing us, taking care of every little need, encouraging and praying for us. She packed our lunches every day and came to every event we ever had -- school plays, softball, baseball, basketball and football games, drill team performances, recitals, musicals. She's been married to the same wonderful man for over 40 years and has modeled service and love every day. I am blessed to call her Mama. I still call her on bad days, or when I'm sick, or a need a break. We cry together and laugh together. I think she used my age as an excuse to keep me out of kindergarten for a year so we could hang out more. I'm glad she did.

The L-rd has said that she has His heart, that she loves her children and grandchildren deeply and He loves that about her. I love that about her too.

Happy Birthday, Mama! You're my favorite mama.

Sunday

August 14th

Today is Zeke's 2nd birthday. This is the present the L-rd gave me:
This is the Gerber daisy I got for Mother's Day, just before Wyatt went to Heaven. It over-wintered just fine, it remained leafy and green. When I put it out on the front porch this summer some critter ate it down to almost nothing. I was very upset that this plant might not make it. By the grace of G-d and His nurturing it survived. I have been waiting for a few weeks, watching three blooms develop and then this one started to get taller than the others. Never did I imagine that it would fully bloom today. But that is the way of the Creator. It's a little something special only He could do. I am thankful.

Thursday

Friends

If you read Lauren's blog then you already know that the famous JBlakes were in town. It was a weekend-long extravaganza, and we wish it never ended. But they went back to Frisco and we're left with some good memories. On Tuesday we went to Pump It Up, thanks to Mimi's groupon skills. This is the first time Cassidy has been to an inflatable jump place since the "incident" and I'm thankful it's over and she's fine. She was a little skiddish, but not in the moonwalk (although I was watching like a hawk). She didn't really enjoy going solo down the slides. There were several instances when Uncle Paul or Harrison had to rescue her. I used this as opportunity to talk about needing rescuing, so it worked out, but at the time it was a bit of a hassle. With that said, here is Uncle Paul saving little Cass while taking Dassah down. What a guy.
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Tuesday

Upon Completion

We are nearing the finish line with Tom's thesis on the New Covenant and it is wonderful. I love that he put together articulately so many things we've journeyed through in the last few years. I hope you all look forward to reading it, because it's worth it!

AND... we are also getting ready to launch our new blog for our ministry, Remember Jerusalem. Perhaps you haven't heard (and if you haven't you might want to check your connections, since news typically travels FAST) but we are planning on spending some time in Israel to become equipped for what the L-rd wants for us. "Some time" means a year, methinks, perhaps a little longer. Whatever it turns out to be we are thrilled to be moving into this new season. The L-rd is faithful and the idea of us partnering as Gentiles with Jews lights a fire within both of us. We are in the final stages of setting up our non-profit ministry and could really use some serious prayer that this moves quickly and according to G-d's plan. It seems a little out there, but we are still praying about leaving this fall, perhaps September/October. If it doesn't happen by then we know that January is our launching time. Again, we need one small push in the direction of finalization and then we're full speed ahead.

I know, lots of you are thinking, "Oh my goodness! When did this happen?" Well, rest assured there will be more details, here and on the new blog, so check back. We will keep it very updated on our lives and our learnings. We are excited about what G-d is doing; it's a dramatic move on His part and it renews our hope every day. Thank you for your prayers for our lives. We know He is at work in part because of your intercession.

Now go enjoy the heat. Unless you live in one of those cool places...Don't worry, we're sweating for you.

Wednesday

Swimmy, swammy, swummy

We are swimming a lot, specifically at Gigi and Papo's and Keith and Jeremy's. Little is doing an amazing job, advancing every time we go. Keith's is particularly great because a good portion of the actual pool is shallow enough that she can stand in it. This perpetuates her wanting to go without her vest, and to even go under on her own quite a bit. I am proud of her courage and excitement. Now we will tackle actual swimming.

You would think after that first paragraph this would be a post with pictures and video of Cassidy in the pool. It isn't (sorry, Maasen). Usually I am in the water with her so I don't have my camera handy. One day I will capture it. What really needs to be shared is the things the grown-ups are doing in the pool. I wish I had footage of Sam and EJ going off the diving board in the shapes of letters, but I don't. What I do have is evidence of fully grown men and women riding an inflatable children's turtle (or "tadah", as Eliana calls it).

After a fun night of Israeli folk dancing we decided to jump in the pool. Some people (Kait and Bailey) didn't have suits and sat out until it became too tempting. And Kait, so brave, gave in to the urge to join us in the pool, and hopped onto Snappy the Turtle. How long could she last, she wondered. Less than a minute, Bailey speculated. Turned out it was 46 seconds, but Kait went in smiling.
Right before she got bucked

Tom took on the turtle, too. And lost.
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And this is Keith's second attempt that night. The first time he
 immediately toppled over the turtle's head and into the water.

We had to get Little to bed before the fun was over, but I heard Kait and Cristina rode Snappy at the same time. Keith made a wise investment in that there toy. Thanks for having us over, boys!

Monday

To prove I'm back to posting

Last week's post wasn't a tease, I really am here to stay. A little bit more of the randomness of summer, but all points worth sharing.
Matt and his missus rocking Jack's little sister's scooter

Because sweat is gross

Summer reading for Keith and the girls

Date night

Happy Birthday, Mira!

Little kids bowling is hilarious...
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Wednesday


Go USA! In the last few weeks we've watched the United States women's soccer team take on some fierce competition and now... we're in the finals! Going over to Susan's to watch the tournament is a highlight for our whole family. Keith and the Andersons round out the group and we usually get to celebrate the victories with some yummy, yet random meals. Thanks Susan (and MDBs) for opening your homes to us so we can cheer on the girls. Looking forward to Sunday's game against Japan.
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Sunday

What did Mama Tomato say to her slow-poke child?

I apologize for the absence. May ran away, as I figured it would and then June went in a similar, dramatic and busy way. So I will give you snippets of what has been going on in the Tblake household, not necessarily in any particular order.

We grew one of Cassie's favorite vegetables in our front yard.


We travelled to Baltimore with Kait and Jessica.
At the end of May we loaded up the van and took a great road trip out East for a refreshing convention. Tikkun International is an organization focused on bringing together Jews and Gentiles that love Jesus. They are a breath of fresh air for us and the conference itself was a time of renewal and excitement. We drove 19 hours to get to Baltimore and it was worth it. We also spent some wonderful time hanging out with Kait and Jessica, two incredible women. Thanks, ladies, for making the drive so much easier!
Cassidy and I added some new states to our growing list of adventures.


This might be the highlight of the trip for Cassidy -- a fridge just her size, like Maasen's!

We stayed at the same hotel as the Oscar Mayer weiner-mobile.



I spent some special time with my beautiful and hilarious neices.



And some fun time with my nephew, and his muscles

She loves to love on her papa,
even rubbing his shoulders to help him relax.

Now this feels good.

That's us: Wild and Wonderful

'
Who doesn't love a good Pixar movie with a friend?

When we got home Cass had a strange fever, but
thankfully it didn't turn into vomiting, like it did in May.
I suppose I forgot to tell you about the flu that went around in May. The leader of Tikkun Int'l came in town to speak to our congregation in the middle of May, but right before he arrived Dassah and Noah got sick. Then Lauren got sick, and her parents, and Cassidy. It was like dominoes. Just when one got better another one started throwing up. Cassidy was a trooper, even though she kept waking up and vomiting. Thankfully it only lasted 24 hours or so, but it sure reminded us that sometimes being a close family can get you into a mess.
And I got a new computer!
Tom surprised me with an early birthday present, that is actually birthday, mother's day, and anniversary all rolled into one. I am VERY thankful for this computer. Now I have an "a" key, the right and left clicks work, and I don't have to be plugged in all the time. Thanks to Eric it's incredibly fast and super clean. A month later I still turn it on and smile. Having something this nice is a bit overwhelming, and I am so thankful.
Gazania. It's really called a gazania.
And here enters the drama of gardening without a dog. We never had trouble with critters when Yuma was around, but now that she's off to new adventures in Missouri we have animals eating everything. Nibbling our strawberries, digging in our newly potted plants, and snapping the heads off our flowers. No kidding, just like Little Bunny Foo-Foo, some animal comes around and pops the heads off of my flowers. Doesn't eat them or anything practical, just snaps them off. I had to take this picture to remember how beautiful these flowers are. This was early June, and since then the flowers have expanded and survived, but the varmits still dig in the pot occassionally.
Artist in the making.
Big Cassie has been so great to encourage Cassidy to do more artistic things and she has started to embrace this side of herself. She gets up almost every morning and colors or paints by herself. She got these neat stained glass window pages from Lily and Mira for her birthday and I think in two weeks she colored every page. It's fun to see her mind process through how things should look: the difference between eyes and ears, how Tom and I look different, even practicing letters, shapes and numbers. She is growing up and changing so much.

Hope this whets your whistles. Things of more depth are sure to come. (Please forgive me if there are typos in the post, I'm still getting used to this fancy keyboard.)