not your average picnic at the park

As of today September is more than half way over.  Gracious the first few weeks of school both fly by and last forever. Our afternoons are filled with reading, riding bikes in the cul de sac (now that the weather is getting cooler), soccer and swimming practices and more games of Uno than I ever played as a kid.  Right now though the little one is quietly napping upstairs and while the apple zucchini bread is baking, I'll venture back into our fast paced but delightful summer.

The third weekend of summer vacation (last weekend in June) found us on a journey to our nation's capital. We told the kids that we'd be headed up to visit with Uncle Josh and his girlfriend Bethany for most of the weekend, but that first day we were headed to a park.  Ian and I were a bit vague about our plans for that first evening and the kids were a bit mystified when after nearly five hours of driving we showed up (early for once) at playground not much different than the one here in our neighborhood.

They shrugged their shoulders and began to play, confused about driving so far to a playground but happy to be out of the van and stretching their legs.

And then one by one, families that we know and love began to show up...

First to arrive was Darcy's "China sister" E.  Nearly two years in age separate these two, but aside from the size difference, you'd never know it.  They love each other dearly and it took just seconds for them to rejoice in seeing one another unexpectedly.

Shortly after E arrived, the kids were thrilled to see our precious friend Hannah (the Hannah who walked alongside us last year the week we met Natalie) and her amazing brother Jeremy.  Daniel and Jeremy go back to the days just after our peanut had his heart surgery when Jeremy would play with him at the foster home.

Not too much longer after that, the Fabulous F family of 14 poured out of their van.

Both Darcy and Daniel claim one of the F boys, Kevin, as their China brother...we met the F family in China when we adopted Darcy (and they adopted Kevin) but he and Daniel lived at New Day together for a time.

And then the party got started...

I'm not sure how many large pizzas were consumed that evening, but it was a LOT.

Even I got a fun surprise as Meredith (a former New Day intern and now sibling of a ND graduate ) showed up just days before her trip to Rwanda with Noonday Style for Justice to join our evening of fellowship.

It was a simple meal of pizza, chips and Kool-Aid pouches for the kids.

A LOT of pizza.  Like around 16 larges...

Oh.  And Popsicles.  Who can forget...or resist...that brightly colored summer treat?

We ate pizza, potato chips and Popsicles.  The grown-ups caught up on months that we'd been apart while the children chased fireflies. And then all too soon it was time to part ways.  The evening was short, but what a blessing to slow down for one evening and focus on friendships that run deep.

Hannah gave each family the chance to be photographed together which is a rare treat.  While the seven of us spend a lot of time together, there are very few pictures to prove it.
It never ceases to amaze me how relationships anchored in the love of our Heavenly Father carry on despite distance.  We are so thankful for these special families in our lives!


Ky at 8 1/2


It nearly takes my breath away that today you are 8 1/2.  So close to 9.  And 9 is really, really close to 10 which takes us into double digits...

But before you ask for the keys to the car and drive away to college, let's hit the pause button for a second to document a bit of who you are today, shall we?

You are now a self proclaimed "swimnast."  Two years ago you cried on the starting blocks, but this summer something clicked and you just took off.  After a great summer season, you asked us if you could give year round swimming a try.  And the fire in your eyes told us you were serious.  Now you are officially a Marlin and I can't wait to see you go!

Reading is another one of your passions right now.  Countless times you've been "missing" and we've found you lost in another time and place, nose buried deep in a book.  Historical fiction like Little House on the Prairie and American Girl series are you top choices right now.  One thing for sure, we never have to ask you to do your daily reading; rather we frequently have to ask you to stop...

It has been so much fun to watch you grow up.  Gone is the quiet, reserved, ultra shy pre-schooler.  In her place is a gregarious, often dramatic, spirited big girl.  It happened almost overnight this past spring, as if someone simply turned on your animation switch.

You've always been the one that your younger siblings have looked up to, but lately you have taken full command of that role.  You are the rallying point, the mood ring, and the trend setter for the four younger M kids.  And you LOVE it!

Speaking of little M kids...last week we had three little friends with us for two days.  You enjoyed the  five year old twins, but you were totally taken with the active, joyful, adorable 18 month old.  So taken that you actually asked if we could go back to China for a wee one that same age.  No matter that you've been vocal of late that we should stay the M7, if you could have a toddler brother, you'd be on a plane tomorrow.

Something else endearing about you at this time is your sense of fairness.  It runs from as child-like quite mature, often jumping between the two in a matter of minutes.  One minute you're concerned about which M kid got the most ice cream in their bowl and the next you voice your heartbreak that there are children going to bed that night without parents of their very own to tuck them in.  You have your sights set on being an emergency room vet, but it wouldn't surprise me if social work was in your future.

K-Boo, you bring a zest to life that is all your own.  May the second half of eight be just as sweet as the first!

All my love,


DQ at 7 1/2

My sweet DQ,

Today was a pink sprinkled doughnut milestone of a day for you.

Today marked the halfway point until your eighth birthday.

Baby girl, (...though I guess I can't really call you that anymore, can I?  How about I'll stop on March 9th next year when you turn eight?  Silly as the request sounds, you are so easy going and agreeable that I'm sure you won't mind...) I know that 7 1/2 isn't really that old, but time just marches along faster and faster every day and the next thing we both know you'll be 17 1/2.

you're such a good sport, you even tolerate the bunny ear phase your little brother seems stuck in

Because this growing up thing happens so very fast, let's stop and take a moment to document who you are today.  While predictable in your food preferences, not too spicy, no dips or condiments, you are the wild card in activity choices.  It wouldn't surprise me to find you holed off in your room deeply engrossed in a book or with a Wii remote in your hand, practicing your archery skills or your dance moves.  One day you may spend hours playing with dolls alongside your sisters, the next you're involved in a high spirited hide and seek game with your brothers.  I suppose being "the very middle" of the kids has something to with it.  And I'll mention that you have stated you'd like to remain the middle child and you've given the creative solution that two siblings be added, one older and one younger than you if the family were to expand.

This week you start music lessons.  While I still hope that one day you'll decide to pursue some type of dance ~ because you seem to "feel music" ~ I think this will be a good fit for you and I can't wait to see you rock out that sparkly, dark pink guitar.

I also must mention your sweet heart.  Sure you've got a streak of sour...don't we all?...but you are very attune to the feelings and plight of others.  Ever since you spoke English fluently enough and started joining in at bedtime prayers, you have said a prayer for the heart of your "China brother" to heal.  Every night.  Without fail.  You also donated most of your piggy bank toward surgery costs for some of the precious babies at New Day and you pray for them to have forever families nightly as well.

You are a toddler whisperer.  The tiny siblings of several of our friends break into huge smiles and shout your name when they see you.  I suspect you'll have a lucrative baby sitting business going in a few years if that's what you decide to do to earn a few dollars.

You're the social butterfly of the family, forever with a play date on the calendar, often making decisions about activity choices based on who will be there rather than the activity itself.

When it all comes down to it, there's not much that I love seeing more than that sweet (right now toothless on top) smile of yours.  Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives!

Always my love,


A diva, a soccer tournament, and just plain fun

This summer.

It went by so fast.

So very fast.

I can hardly believe that school has already started.  And that I have a third grader, two second graders and a kindergartener.  (gasp!)

Now that it is a little quieter around here...for a few hours a day anyway...I've got to do a push to catch up on what kept me away from my trusty little Mac most of the summer.

So.  We kicked off summer by heading to Fancy Gap, VA for a camping trip over Father's Day weekend.  The kids and I were home from Sunday night until Thursday when we headed down to Mama's after swim practice.

Our purpose was three-fold.  A 5K obstacle run, a state soccer tournament, and some time to hang out with cousins sandwiching both events.

Shortly after Easter I decided it was time to get running again.  But after going though the training last fall and not completing a race, I knew myself well enough to know that if I didn't register for something I'd probably stop when sleep began to seem more inviting than my early morning jogs.  The weekend I wanted to run presented two options, one here and one down near Mom's.  Making the drive down for a weekend sounded like a good excuse to let the kids enjoy a few days with their cousins, and I managed to talk a dear friend from the area to run with me.

Sadly I have no pictures from the Diva Dash beyond this of my shirt and bib.
 Amanda and I didn't set any time records, but we completed all the obstacles and even got to catch up a bit when I wasn't sucking wind as we ran.  It was mighty hot that day, but I enjoyed the challenge and hope to do another obstacle run in the near future.

It also happened to work out that Caleb's soccer team was participating in the State Powerade Games that weekend.  So Saturday morning I headed to the Diva Dash and Ian carted Caleb off to join the Big Dogs for their first game of the tournament.

He played well and they won the first game.

But by the second, when I arrived "fresh" from the Diva Dash, the boys struggled to stay standing in the oppressive humidity.

Did I mention it was HOT?

In the end, after four games over the weekend, they were exhausted and had played their little hearts out.

But there was still enough energy to stand and collect their bronze medals.

actually we later found out that the gold medal team (who had squeaked out a win against us) was disqualified due to over age players.  (i remember commenting that day at how big some of those kids were)  so we actually should have come home with the silver medal.
The boys didn't care that bronze meant third place.  To them a medal was a medal and they were ecstatic.

Actually, for all Caleb was concerned, they could have not medaled at all and he still would have considered the weekend AWESOME.  Because a soccer tournament in Grandma's town meant a weekend with his cousin.

And off the field there was plenty of time for us all to catch up with folks we don't see often enough...

The athletic events may have brought us to town, but time with family made the trip worthwhile!

We spent time playing games ~ like dominos ~ together,

having sleepovers on bedroom floors,

enjoying campfires with hot dogs,

and s'mores,

letting loose with a little light-saber action,

and swimming in the pool...


...and lots...

...of time in and around the pool...

...followed with a few quick photo shoots of seven of the cutest cousins around.

It was a great second weekend to the summer!


The power of a year

This morning I pulled one of my favorite comfy dresses out of the closet and reflected how differently I felt when I slipped into it on this very same day last year.

On September 2, 2013, I dressed with a sense of urgency, nervousness, and complete wonder for what the day would have in store.  I remember so clearly because it was the day we met Natalie.

And it didn't go exactly as we had hoped...
(Recap of that day, not so Picture Perfect)

we quickly learned just how strong...both in will and physical stature...she was
and just how much she didn't like either one of us...
But that day seems so far away now.

After a year of time...a year of trust building...a year of good days and some not so good days...I stand amazed at how she has become woven into the fabric of our family.  

As if she's always been if she's always been mine.

So today when I purposefully reached for that same dress, I smiled knowing that she'd catch the significance of it as she's often commented when I've worn it that I was wearing it the day we met.

And knowing that today I'd hear the pitter patter of her chubby feet hitting the floor followed closely by  her raspy morning voice saying, "Hi Mommy, I love you!"


Daniel at 6

These kids.

They are out of control...

...growing up right before my very eyes.

It seems that just a few days ago he was still a tiny tot.

Now he's over 3 1/2 feet tall (though still under 40 lbs... fruits and veggies remain his very favorite foods) and headed off to his first full week of kindergarten tomorrow.

And, as of yesterday, he's six.  SIX.

Thankfully while he got a hearty laugh that I couldn't believe he was so grown up, he still has his tender moments.  As he clutched his birthday gift and let me snap a few pictures, I gave a bewildered, "Buddy, how can you be getting so old..." comment.  He melted my heart with, "Don't worry Mommy, I'm still 5 1/2 until after we get home from church.  Then I'll turn 6.  So I'm still 5 1/2 for a lil' bit.  You can still hug me now when I'm 5."

If only a polite request truly made time slow down.

Don't get me wrong, I've loved each and every stage and age just as much, if not more, than the last.  But there is something about watching those preschool years slip into the past...

At any rate, the day was spent attending church, swimming at the pool, and being joined for dinner by friends that may as well be family.  No official party this year, but this kid soaks up his time at the center of the story and beamed as we sang Happy Birthday to him.  And the highlight of his evening?  Getting the first slice of his self selected strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.

As a new six year old, Daniel still loves his trains, cars and planes.  Thomas (Thomas the Tank Engine) Lightning McQueen (Cars) El Chupacabra and Dusty Crophopper (Planes) still make frequent trips with us everywhere we go.
My boy is also starting to show a more grown up side of car appreciation and can now correctly identify "Ca-air-ohs" (Cameros), "Gorvettes" (Corvettes), "Stingrays" (Mustangs), and Chargers from amazing distances.  In fact his love affair with muscle cars runs so deep right now that his main gift from us was a remote control yellow "Ca-air-oh" with black stripes that looks just like Bumblebee from Transformers.
Chocolate has become a sought after treat, but he still typically chooses any fruit over sweets (especially watermelon, cantaloupe or blueberries) and we actually have to tell him frequently at meals that he can't have any more tomatoes or cucumbers until he eats his protein.
Soccer is his game right now, but he seems to have an innate knack for most any sport and would like to give basketball and tennis a try.
He was ready to head off to school last fall though I'm so grateful we made the decision to have him at home one more year.  He and Natalie became the best of buddies and he got an extra year to develop more maturity.  He's been reading his way through the BOB book series and truly can't wait for the new challenges of kindergarten.
What makes Daniel though is his snuggle power.  This kid is one that thrives on the power of touch and frequently through his day will have what I call a Piglet moment when he comes over and either gives a spontaneous hug, kiss or "I love you,"  almost as if to "be sure of you."  I pray this aspect of his personality doesn't fade into memory as he gets a little older.

Daniel, at the age of six, you are so very loved.  I often marvel at the miracle you are, and the miracle God worked for you to be our peanut.  Each day with you is a treasure and I am the richer for them...

To the moon and back,