Father's Day camping

As the days of school wound down and summer approached, Ian and I began to realize just how busy our summer was going to be.  We looked at our calendar filled with trips to visit friends and family, weekends our house was going to be full to the brim with folks we love, and plenty of dental, orthodontic, vision and other medical appointments and realized that if we wanted to get in at least one weekend of camping, that the first weekend of summer vacation was going to be it.

The only issue was that weekend just happened to include Father's Day...

Of course I am married to the guy who said, "A weekend in the woods with my family is WAY better than a tie for Father's Day!"  So I took him at his word and booked our tent site in Fancy Gap, VA.

We left home unsure of what the weather would bring as thunderstorms were forecast near the area.  We ended up blessed with a gorgeous weekend enjoying all the Fancy Gap area had to offer.

We explored the quaint town of Meadows of Dan, sampling our way through Nancy's Candy Company and trying on various hats in the Poor Farmer's Market.

Our location also provided the opportunity to spend time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, complete with a stop at  Mabry Mill,  a historic site that brought the days of Little House on the Prairie alive for Kylie.

Ian gave the kids a living history lesson on farming implements,

such a good lesson...and our kids were so attentive... that we were were asked if we were homeschoolers
and we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade as we watched the waterwheel turn while on site.

It was a blissful weekend with no technology distractions.  The kids fine tuned their "patty cake" games.

They dug in the dirt.

They helped with meals...while they played Yamslam.

And they played Yamslam some more...

if you don't know this game, think "yahtzee meets poker"'s awesome!
As for our campground...can't say enough good things about the Fancy Gap KOA.

(Yes, we realize it is "camping with a K," but at this point, we'd need a packmule to carry the food required to feed our kids for a backpack camping weekend cause they can't carry that weight just yet.  At least we're getting them acclimated to weekends in a tent...)

In addition to a really friendly staff (adoption friendly at that!) and super clean bathrooms, there was a pool, a fishing pond with paddle boats, and even a gem mining sluice way.

Our crew was totally not ready to head home at the end of our time.  Luckily Ian and I had one more little surprise up our sleeves.  There were two ways back home...the short way, and the way that wove across the mountains a bit and right by the Ayer's Cherry Orchard.

As they read signs and tried to guess our mystery destination, my favorite quote was, "Cherry orchard? We're going cherry picking?  I love picking cherries.  Well...I haven't been cherry picking before, but I think I'll love it!"

And when you can't quite reach the best cherries in the trees, it's a good thing to have a tall daddy who can serve as your ladder.

We came home rested, reconnected, and laden with sweet black cherries.  It was truly a Father's Day weekend for the memory books!


my dance partner

"No relationship is all sunshine, but once you've learned how to play in the rain, you've discovered the secret to surviving the passing storm together." ~ Unknown

July 17, 1999

Thankful for my dance partner, in both sunshine and rain, of 15 years.  My deepest sorrows have been more bearable, my greatest joys have been sweeter, and the thousands of ordinary moments have been happier for sharing them with you.  I thank God for the gift of you.  Happy anniversary!


a love letter from the kitchen

In May each year as I begin muttering to myself about needing to find 30 pounds of pork loin at a good price and wondering which market will have the best cost on sirloin rump roast, some people begin to think I may be a bit crazy.

Then I confirm my status with the details.  "I'm getting ready to head to a rustic camp to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 70 folks for the next five days..."

Oh yeah.  Now that I think about it...that does sound crazy.  

But Carolina Cross Connection is a ministry near and dear to my heart.  I'm too old to serve as a summer staff member and as a mom I can't really take a week to go as a camper.  But cooking during the staff training?  Home cooking is like a love letter from the kitchen.  I found my niche to give back to a ministry that helped shape who I am today.  

It's a big that I haven't taken on completely by myself.  Each of the years I've spent a week in the kitchen at Loy White I've had at least one person working by my side to help me maintain my sanity.  This year my partner in crime was my sister.  I did miss my sweet friend Melissa who has laughed by my side in the kitchen for the past several years, but there was something familiar about cooking side by side with a person who also learned to cook from Mama's example.  

We spent an average of ten hours a day in the kitchen, slicing, chopping, mixing, baking and roasting.  At times the conversation would flow without ceasing and at others there was no sound beyond the steady chop of a knife on the cutting board.  But that's okay, with sisters you don't always have to talk...sometimes "just being" is enough.

This year we also had the pleasure of help from our mini-sous chefs.  My niece, Maylin, and Ky would flit in and out of the kitchen from time to time.  Their biggest contribution to the weekend they spent at camp was baking Grandma's one egg shortcake recipe.  That shortcake is for sure a love letter to the summer staff from the kitchen.

It's exhausting, but I do somehow enjoy my time in the kitchen at Camp Loy White.  The only part that is super duper tough is saying goodbye to my kids at the end of the weekend.

when did my baby boy get so long?
And, with exception of us being separated for a few days, the kids love it too.  They get smothered with attention by a fine group of college students, and they get to spend a few days in a camp setting with their cousins.  This year I have very few pictures to show for our time, but this one from last summer sums up how our boys spend their time...getting dirty.

In the immediate days after I got home, when I was exhausted, my knees hurt from standing so long, and I just didn't feel like cooking a thing, I probably would have told you that 2014 was my last summer.  But now that a little time has passed, I find myself mentally tweaking recipes in my head and wondering how to make them work for a large crowd...


Wordless Wednesday {the couch was kryptonite}

post 2.8 mile hike


Wordless Wednesday {a day to recharge}

memorial day
down and back to our neighbor's place
topsail island, nc


lunch with Hannah

Several weeks ago Ian, the littles and I had a special lunch date.

Natalie for one could hardly believe her eyes when she saw who it was...after all, we did part ways with "our Hannah" in Changsha back in September.

We were blessed to share a meal with three-eighths of the Samuels family!

Just who are these folks?

Well, Hannah spent a crazy week with us as we not so gracefully transitioned from the M6 to the M7.  She helped us find amazing food (I still long to return to our little pink restaurant and have some vegetables), served as a 24 hour translator, and was an insight into a culture that we respect but have yet to understand.  In addition, she was resourceful and thoughtful and was an amazing blessing to our family.  To this day Natalie sees her picture and says, "That my Hannah?  She live in China with me.  I like her!"

And dad and eldest brother ~ Brian and Jeremy ~ of the family...well, they were part of Daniel's story before we were.  They knew him back in the time he was called Jamison, when his color was primarily blue before heart surgery and through his days of physical therapy to catch up on developmental milestones.  As the years have passed, Daniel can't quite seem to place them, but it is clear that he feels a connection on an instinctual level.

jeremy is the pied piper with kids!

This is a family (along with the other five members, an amazing mom, another cool brother and three sweet spirited younger sisters) that is near and dear to our hearts.  We're pretty sure that these are folks we'd love to be in community with on a regular basis.  There's just the issue of an ocean between us...

Anyway, Hannah and Jeremy are both in the states to take some classes for a season, and Brian came over with his oldest kids to help them get settled into their digs with friends.  During a brief time in NC to visit family, they managed to squeeze us in for a lunch date.  We were honored indeed.

We laughed and chatted and reconnected.  All too soon though they needed to get back on the road to help prepare for a big family dinner.

you really have to go now?

But we sure enjoyed our little piece of time with some amazing folks.  We got the scoop on the latest of what's going on up in their corner of the world.  It's exciting stuff y'all!  We'll be following their work at New Day North and if you like to see miracles happening in the lives of beautiful orphaned children, I suggest you do too!

Real time 5/07/14...better late than never, right?