11 years of joy

Life continues to move at the speed

One day I had a pudgy little toddler who wanted to have birthday ham and the next I had an eleven year old who wanted to have all the carbs at the Chinese buffet.

If anyone has ever doubted that the way to a man-child's heart was through his stomach hasn't met my man-child who loves sushi, yeast rolls, egg drop soup, chow mien and fried rice.
I'm pretty sure this is the meal he gets most excited about all year long...


I think the only thing that could make this meal better for him is if they served "chicken on the pig" (what he used to call ribs when he was younger and it just sorta stuck) along with all of his other favorites.

He ate until he could eat no more.  

Well, except for cake.

Because what is a birthday without cake?
For this guy I'm pretty sure it would be empty.

Per request, tt was the Pioneer Woman's chocolate Nutella cake with Coco-whip frosting for the third time in a row.

While not the most aesthetically pleasing cake, he was happy.
Cause what's not to love about chocolate with a thick layer of Nutella and then whipped topping?

And once the "dessert stomach" was full, it was time for his gifts.

A mini-drone.

A Ninjago movie Lego set.

And a new lightsaber.

Add a bit of Pokemon to the mix and you'll have the things that make our eleven year old tick.

This boy brings the comedy relief to our family.  We would be hard pressed to get through a day without at least one chuckle instigated by his dry wit.  I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention his huge heart.  While he often irritates his several of his siblings just for the sake of doing so, he is the first to act when someone needs a reassuring hug or touch.  He is love and laughter rolled into one amazing package and I couldn't be happier to be the one he calls Mommy.

October 8, 217


an ethereal weekend


According to, ethereal is:

light, airy, or tenuous:
an ethereal world created through the poetic imagination.
extremely delicate or refined:
ethereal beauty.

heavenly or celestial:
gone to his ethereal home.
Following that logic, we had a weekend that was somewhat ethereal.

The time I have with these kids in my home is this case, thin.  I'm realizing more and more as we hit the tween years that I'm going to turn around and they'll be out on their own, this mad rush of parenting six kids over a 20 year span gone in the blink of an eye.

The time the mountains are in the splendor of fall colors is also a very narrow window.  Come too early and you'll see all green, come too late and the trees will be barren, with colorful leaves just a memory.

We may have arrived a bit on the early side this year, but we were here.

And that means Ian and I managed to tie together the short (and getting shorter every year) time with our kids in the home and a window of opportunity to catch some fall color in our beautiful NC mountains.

I call that a win.

After a short drive on the parkway, punctuated with repeated, "oohs" and "aaahs" and murmurs of "wow!" we found the beginning of the Nuwati Trail that would take us through parts of Grandfather Mountain State park up to a promised vista with amazing views.

Along the way we stopped to enjoy a meal.  Simple as it was, our time congregated on the rock overlooking a mountain stream made the highlight reel for several of the kids for the day.  Proof once again that it truly is the simple things...

We followed the trail through dense forested area and across rocky streams.

And then we finally scrambled to the top.  This is where the weekend became ethereal in a different way as we took in the seemingly delicate beauty all around us.

At first there wasn't even much talking.  It was as if all of us feared that our very breath would blow across the valley and cause the leaves to fall, therefore ruining the moment.

There was much reverence for the scenery we were all trying to find words to describe.

"It looks like a painting Mama!" and "That red tree over there is my favorite!" and "I hope the sun comes back out from behind the clouds because then it's gonna be like, WOAH!" and "We don't have to go yet, do we?" were comments on repeat.

And so we stayed.
I took a few minutes as we sat to focus on what a treasure each of the members of my family is...carefully considering their talents, passions and quirks.
My heart on a mountain...

The sun never did come back out from behind the clouds.
But that's okay.
We still were in awe of it all.

The way back was of course easier, but no one seemed to be in much of a hurry.

And my heart was warmed by our oldest two looking out for their littlest brother.  They occasionally grumble a bit about how so many siblings cuts into the resources, but their actions speak louder than words...they wouldn't have it any other way.

Time has flown by for sure in the 21 years since our first date (a picnic of take out burgers and malt milkshakes from Backyard Burger) and the 19 years since our engagement at this parkway overlook.  The reactions of our kids was varied as we explained to them why we pulled over when the view wasn't so grand because of fog.  Some rolled their eyes, some giggled and some insisted on taking about 1000 pictures.

We're reminded in so many ways right now that time is fleeting and that each day of life is a gift.  Therefore I'm deeply grateful for a weekend to claim some time for ourselves as a family.

Beech Mountain M8 Getaway, October 2017


Zoo day 10/16

North Carolina can be brutally hot and humid in the summer.  And our winters have been so unpredictable lately...seems like a good snow is hard to find.  

But we have two seasons of glorious here...spring and fall.

One Sunday last fall provided one of those blue sky beauty days and we decided to head to our state zoo to enjoy the outdoors.

Because we are members, and therefore frequent visitors, there is no pressure on any of our visits to observe each habitat.  That leaves plenty of time to explore Kids Zone.

Ian and I set the boundaries and then stood back for the next 45 minutes to watch them engrossed in their surroundings.

over the years they've found their own interests, but from time to time they still fall back into "that twin thing"
does a mama's heart good...

From there we took in the wonder of the animals "not from around here."

My little buddy still wearing his fake glasses taped for "nerd day" at school.
Cracks me up...

To our delight, many of the North American animals were up and active in the cooler temperatures.  We most enjoyed watching the bears as they typically just sleep in the hotter months.

But for some reason the real animals never hold a candle to the statues scattered throughout the park.

And so as we walked we stopped time and time again for the crew to climb a rhino or pose with miniature elephants.

And even though they bickered plenty, we were reminded yet again that we've been blessed with an amazing set of kiddos.  This five minute march (minus one who was displeased over something one sibling had said moments before) made the entire day worthwhile, and made us look forward to see how the pack would embrace their littlest brother.

I think we'll keep 'em!


...nine will be just fine...

Time is spiraling somewhat out of control these days and I'm just doing my best to hang on.
Fortunately I have a padawan running around to help keep things safe at the M8 house.

Unfortunately this Jedi in training has no respect for what his getting older does to a Mama's heart...

Seriously though, he's a pretty terrific kid.  Yes, he can pitch a wicked fit like no body's business when he's overtired or his blood sugar is low (truly my son in this respect and he's not even genetically mine...) and he's just a teeeennnyy bit competitive (my mini-me).

BUT.  This kid throws himself into what he's doing with his whole heart.  He wears a sense of justice for the downtrodden on his sleeve.  He gives the BEST hugs per pound ratio that I've ever been smothered with.  He wishes for the world to know just how much Jesus loves them.  And he loves his family fiercely.

Eight was great.

And so I have no doubt that nine will be just fine.
(Though I'm having a hard time coming to terms with him being so close to double digits now).

For the month leading up to his birthday he was requesting the Pioneer Woman's "from scratch" chocolate cake with Nutella frosting, strawberries and homemade whipped cream.  And then two days before (after I had already bought all the ingredients for the chocolate cake) he switched gears on me and asked for a fruit cake.  Imagine my confusion as I thought he was asking for one of the brick cakes that gets traded at Christmas...I couldn't figure out when he had ever even seen one.  So upon questioning he said, "You know, like the ones in the fancy bakery shops.  But I want mine to be Star Wars."

Two things saved cake.
A "fruit pizza" Pinterest search and the fact I had already purchased some Lego mini-figures to decorate the other cake...

It certainly wasn't the most elaborate cake ever, but I think the combo of fruit (the boy hasn't met a fruit he doesn't like) and Star Wars left him pretty speechless.

Truly a cake for this fruit loving boy...

And then it was time to shower him with gifts.
A remote control BMW Ian doubled back to a store to purchase while we were in China.

A bird feeder for him to paint and then treat our backyard friends.

And Poe Dameron's X-wing fighter.

Grandma was here up until his birthday morning and when she took him for his shopping trip he carefully selected some Pokemon cards, an orange and grey watch, and his new light saber.  You know, a padawan can never be caught off guard!

Daniel Zhenyu, I love you to the Outer Rim and back.

ps ~ A few weeks ago, when you were still 8 and we were both counting down the days until you were 9, you beat me forever in our nightly "I love you to..." game.  I said I loved you to the horsehead Nebula and back and you quietly responded with, "I love you from my heart to your soul."  I'll never be able to top that one kiddo, but the Outer Rim was the furthest Star Wars place I could think of.


so long elementary school

So elusive. 
Lately I've come to see the passage of time much like a rubber band. Moving along, catching and stretching slowly and then suddenly snapping and rocketing at an alarming pace.

I've experienced hours that stretched into what seemed months and years that vanished more quickly than a collection of weeks.  

I feel the last six years were both eternal and instant at the same time.  August 2011 came at me like a freight train.  We were settling into our new home, there was a new toddler in the house, and I was preparing to send my eldest child to kindergarten.  

first (staggered entry) day of kindergarten
 august 29, 2011

We won't even go into the emotional mess I was that first day.
And it wasn't just me.
Her siblings weren't ready to let her go either.

So yeah, that fist day was rough.

Okay, week.

Alright, alright, month...

But somehow she and I and her siblings survived it.  And before any of us knew what had happened, there she was finishing kindergarten.

jumping for joy on the last day of kindergarten
june 7, 2012
And if I thought that first year went fast...
I had no idea how time would continue to roll over me like a bullet train once it reaches top speed.  The next year my "twins" headed to kindergarten, the next we welcomed Nat into the family and then year round swimming started, then the process to bring Nicholas home began, we once again took this beauty on a trip across the world (she's been back to her homeland five times now), and before long I found myself standing beside Ian watching our big girl file into chairs with her class for the "moving up ceremony."

Moving up as in GRADUATING from elementary school.

What the what?
How does this even happen?
Miraculously, even though I was prepared to be the emotional wreck mom, I managed to stay composed with just a couple of silent tears escaping when our principal addressed the parents and said something about how we felt that first day of kindergarten.  It was just that realization of how quickly it actually does go.

Our girl received her completion of elementary school certificate along with the rest of the graduating 5th graders and then two classes of us headed inside to watch the slide show of all the kids through the years.

This was a great opportunity to get some pictures with a few of the friends that made her elementary career grade a blast.

Then outside for a cake and lemonade reception...along with more pictures.

And how could we forget her amazing teacher and student teacher?  These two ladies made 5th grade stand out as her very favorite of the six years she spent in elementary.

It's hard to believe that she's finished with D elementary school.  But we look at her, how she's grown (um, hello I'm wearing wedge heel sandals in this picture) in both height and maturity and we realize it is time for her to embrace a new chapter of life.
She's ready.

Me however?
Well, I'm still holding on to memories of this very first day she and Lottie walked to kindergarten together.  Surely they are still those tiny little girls I remember in my mind?

first official day of kindergarten
sept 1, 2011
Or not.

last official day of 5th grade
june 8, 2017

At least I know that they'll be tackling middle school together.
That makes me embrace it a tiny little bit more...besides, I think she may be ready to spread her wings.