Celebrating 8 years of "Caleb-ness" in our lives

Once upon a time there were two little boys who weren't fans of the camera.

Ky, Caleb, Darbs & Henry
 the infamous "red couch" at the White Swan Hotel, Guangzhou
november 2008

And then they grew up and became hams.

Caleb and Henry
hay bale tower, pumpkin farm in central NC
october 2016
Most kids get to celebrate birthdays.  Often with family and friends.  And some get to celebrate Forever Family days.  The really lucky ones get to celebrate Forever Family days with friends that are family.

The extra fun thing about this family is that we're tied to them not just once...  We traveled to the other side of the world with them on our first two adoption journeys and have shared those first days of shell shock together twice.

And while the oldest four consider their "China sibling" bonding a special gift, they are loving enough to share it with all the crew.

It's not just limited to the boys though...we parents have forged a tight bond as the Wonder twin powers activating would show.

While our families attend church together and we see each other somewhat frequently throughout the year, we have a special night in late October to celebrate when our boys became part of our lives and when we became even closer as families at the International Hotel in Guangzhou.

 Not sure exactly how it started, but we began going to a pumpkin patch/corn maze to have an evening of fun together.

To date we've visited several area farms and have our opinions of which has the best corn maze, which puts on the best hay ride, and which offers the best overall value for admission price.

We also can tell you that the blending of our two families provides the best entertainment no matter the farm.  Love the tradition.  Love the families.  Love these boys!

Caleb Lutao, you are a ray of sunshine in my world.  I'm forever grateful and humbled that one of my roles in life is to be your Mom.  May you never lose that spark of humor and that heart of gold...


Natalie makes Seven

A few years ago we were cruising along, quite content as a family of six.

Two boys, two girls, loads of activity and noise.  We were set.  Or so we thought...

And then came Natalie.  Our Xiǎo làmèi zi (spicy little girl) for sure rocked the boat a bit as she settled in to make us a family of seven.

But it was a rocking that we needed to shake us out of our comfort zone and back into life following His plan.

Gracious am I glad we chose the less beaten path!  This child adds zest, spunk and pizazz to our family that we were missing.

We just didn't realize it until after she became part of the fabric of who we are.

As my mother in love once told me, "For sure you changed Natalie's life, but even more importantly, she has changed yours and the M family is the better for it..."

This year our seventh family member turned seven.

And so we celebrated her with Lego friends (an amusement park set to recall the games she so loves to play when we go to Rehoboth Beach in the summer), a sleepover set for her doll (because she lights up when big sisters take time to play dolls with her), a Barbie and sisters set (what could be better than playing with the Barbie sisters with your sisters) and a from scratch strawberry cake that started to slump when it came out of the fridge.

Thankfully she was willing to overlook my lack of cake decorating skills.

Maybe the relighting candles provided just enough distraction for her to miss the landslide on the opposite side of the cake.

But what I really suspect is that she saw it and just didn't care.  Because when Nat knows that she's loved and adored, she's willing to overlook a lot of flaws and bask in the moment.

Keep on the sunny side of life my love.
You are my sunshine!


half of 16

As this little guy's birthday was approaching I kept commenting that while I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason, 8 seemed like such a milestone.  I mean, why the big deal?  We'd already crossed the "we no longer have kids able to show their age on one hand" and the double digits barriers.

Why was 8 bothering me so much?

And then it occurred to me it was because 8 is half of 16.

Oh. My. WORD!

This once upon a time baby boy is growing up right before my eyes!  I mean really, just look.

his first birthday with us...turning 3
funny thing is that each time today i asked him to flash me an 8, he started with 7 fingers...just like that day when he started with 2

And yet...

Last week I re-read an piece I had written for No Hands But Ours.  It was about co-sleeping and how even though sharing a bed with our pint size tornado was not restful (to say the least), we did it because we knew he needed physical proximity to us in order to heal emotionally.  I also mentioned that while it was hard at the time, we knew that one day we were going to miss the pitter patter of those little feet.  As I read the article, I realized that I no longer could even remember the most recent time he'd come to us in the middle of the night.  The last time had come and gone and I didn't even notice it.  So maybe that's why I was melancholy about him turning eight.

if only pictures included sound effects...

But last night after folding some laundry and catching up a bit with Ian, I headed upstairs for bed.  Upon entering the boys room to kiss their sweet faces as they slept (as I do every night), I noticed that D's bed was empty.  So I was not surprised after stopping by the girls' room to find him in our bed.  He stirred as I walked by the bed and when I asked if he had experienced a bad dream, he shook his head and said, "No, I was just lonely.  I wanted to be close to you and Daddy tonight."  So I'll hold onto that little gift to me on the eve of his birthday...if it's the last time, at least I know when it came.

managing to smile and act excited when he thought he'd gotten a box of cereal for his birthday
the lego sets were inside...
I guess it goes without saying that he's still a snuggle bug.  Running laps around us one minute, crawling up into our laps or coming close for a "run by kiss and hugging" the next.  He is football crazy, but still yells "Mommy!" from the other side of the street and runs as soon as the crossing guard lets him across the street to get a hug after school.  He's given swimming, soccer and basketball a season or two but is now moving on to test the waters with flag football.  (He wanted tackle, but at not yet 50 pounds, we didn't think contact football was in his best interest...the kid still wears sizes 3 & 4T shorts)  His goal is to try every sport and then decide which one he wants to focus on.  Fine with me because I don't see his most far fetched dreams of getting to luge or do skeleton as central NC doesn't exactly have the climate for extreme winter sports.

Legos, marble tracks, Wedgits, blocks, name a building system...he'll take you up on creating with it.  Just this morning he made an X-wing fighter while he waited for his breakfast (waffles sprinkled with chocolate chips and rainbow Jimmies).

Armed with that knowledge we knew the mini Star Wars sets were going to be a hit.

Did I mention football?  Totally his current jam.  His heart lies with two teams.  The Virginia Tech Hokies and the Carolina Panthers.  The expression on his face when he opened his new Newton jersey (his old hand-me-down Dehlome had the numbers starting to peel off) made the hunt of finding one a very satisfying experience.

Birthday dinner choice?  After trying to make a decision to please everyone else, he finally admitted that he really just wanted to have chicken tenders and fries, but wanted to try somewhere new.  So we headed off to Bad Daddy's Burger Bar where he got a birthday hat and enjoyed a glass of root beer with his meal.

And the cake.  This year he wanted a Nutella cake.  After putting out a plea for favorite recipes, we had several types of cakes to choose from and one with Nutella AND strawberries won his heart.

Thank you Pioneer Woman for creating something so amazingly delicious.  And thank you Grandpa M for pointing out the relighting candles when we were in Rehoboth with you.  They may have brought about a few giggles...

my hand to keep him from flopping into the relighting candles...he was flopping around in fits of laughter
and beloved "blank"...the boy has been our only "Linus"

Daniel Zhenyu, you truly are our little universe shaker.  You live life OUT LOUD, and while you get upset with all of us at times, you are fiercely loyal to your family.  Even your little brother across the world doesn't get left out and you often can be heard saying, "I miss Nicholas, I wish he was here with us!"  I look forward to seeing what this year holds for you, just do me a little favor if you will.  Slow down on this growing up thing.  A Mama's heart can only take so much at one time...
All my love,


Back to School

Last night the sun set for our family on summer 2016.

Strangely enough, I may have been the only one blinking back the tears.  Not sure if it was because I'm realizing how fast time is had her LAST first day of elementary school today...or if it was the thought of 5 lunches per day times 180, but I was getting emotional.

The kids?


not sure d elementary can contain all five...good thing some are out in the modular units! 

We found out Thursday who their teachers were going to be.  Several got exactly who they hoped they would...and who I wanted them to have for that matter.

Between teacher assignments and the friends they saw on their class lists, they were ready.

our walking buddies, lottie and corrie.  we've been walking to school together since ky and lot were in kindergarten...
today they walked to their LAST first day of elementary together

So what else was I to do but embrace their enthusiasm?

Even if it meant packing the first five of nine hundred lunches.   NINE HUNDRED!

That part I'm still not quite enthusiastic about.  Must have been trying to suppress the thought this morning.  I had gotten up early and was enjoying my coffee and a little time to pray over the new year.  It felt like I had so much leisure time and still a while to go before starting wake ups when I realized that I had totally forgotten lunches.  Nothing like a little five alarm fire to kick off the first day...

I had a busy day...walking around a lake with a friend, lunch with Ian, a Costco run (without kids!), special dinner thankfully time passed quickly until I got to see their smiling faces this afternoon.

All three girls offered that the worst part of their day was dismissal.  The boys were a little more reserved, but said that it was a good day and that they couldn't wait to go back tomorrow.

And so you have it, looks like 2016-2017 is going to go down as a great year on the books for the M family.

Thankfully there won't be a repeat of getting all the supplies to school...

this was the stuff left AFTER their backpacks were loaded!

The comment above that we've been walking to school together since Lot and Ky were in kindergarten?  


So here they are on their first day back in 2011...


15 hours of magic in the kingdom

Monday, December 14, 2015

Our Monday started early.  After all, Extra Magic Hours opened the Magic Kingdom to us at 8am.  Our goal was to make rope drop in the front row for a prime view of Mickey and friends as they arrived on the Walt Disney World Railroad.  
We didn't quite make it,  but were going through security at that time and got to see the action from a distance...does it count?

One quick photo to start the day and then we were off...

We were people on a mission to head toward New Fantasyland, but you're never in a too much of a hurry to have a quick conversation with Goofy at the edge of Town Square.

We had kids 'helping navigate' in two ways.  

One somewhat successful by map...though frequently the map would get turned upside down.

And one who constantly tried the 'follow me even though I have no idea where I'm headed' method.

And then of course the obligatory castle photo.

The crowds were so light that there were several other photos I wanted to get, but the crew would have no further part of that.  They were ready to GO!

I had done enough reading to know that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was the place to hit before the crowds caused the line to grow, so it was Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho for us!  Awesome coaster...easily in my top three ride list at Disney.

And for those that wondered if Mom still had her love of thrill rides...

(my prediction?  she'll be a 'hands up' coaster junkie well into her 90s)
...well, I'm glad Disney takes photos mid-ride!

From there we walked right into Maurice & Belle's cottage and experienced our first bit of princess magic.  Nat was utterly spellbound.

Caleb may have been as well, but he was too busy playing the role of Beast dancing with Belle for us to verify.  He was a bit giggly though which implies that our hunches were correct...

Even the big girls who proclaimed being 'too old to like the princesses' were happy to stop for a photo with Belle.

We also learned that just because you are older doesn't mean you can't enjoy a good carousel ride.

Of course what venture into Fantasyland would be complete without getting the most loved...or hated...Disney song of all stuck in your head?  It's a Small World remains one of my very favorite rides, there's just something about knowing this was Disney in the beginning.

By this point our granola bar breakfasts had worn off, so we decided to take advantage of our free dining plan to get a mid-morning pick me up.  I'm pretty sure a waffle has never tasted so good.  We sat and enjoyed made to order waffles spread with a thick layer of Nutella and then smothered with strawberries and bananas within view of Cinderella's castle.

If only all snack days were so good...

As we headed toward Frontierland we happened upon a chance to meet Tiana.  Chocolate was hurriedly wiped off of faces could smile our best.  My favorite part of the interaction was when one of the crew asked, "So do you like kissing frogs?"

And then we were off to Big Thunder Mountain.  Several members of the family declared this their favorite ride at Disney.  I lost track of how many times we ended up riding.  My only regret about this coaster is that there are no hidden cameras to catch you in action.

Lunch at Columbia Harbor House refueled us all and then a few character meet and greets we next on the agenda.

And this seems like a good time for a little comparison from our last trip to Disney in March of 2012.





taken on DQs 5th birthday...Caleb was asleep in the stroller when I took these three back

I die.

After we got our fill of meeting princesses for the day, we headed on over to Splash Mountain to cool off a bit.  Daniel was SO EXCITED as he had been turned away from this one at launch time on our last visit because he was right at 40 inches back then.

As you can see, some of us enjoyed the thrill more than others.  Mom proves that even Grandmas LOVE Disney World!

Well, she did.  Until she was drenched on Splash Mountain.  I mean, water was dripping from her pants for an hour.  Thankfully she was a much better sport than I was when I got a second shower for the day on Pirates of the Caribbean.  Mom, Ky and I got so wet on that one that Kylie and I have vowed never to ride it again.

Nothing that a Dole Whip, a Jungle Cruise, Flying Carpets and the Enchanted Tiki Room couldn't fix though.

For dinner we decided to get off our feet for a while and so after heading back to New Fantasyland to ride Dumbo and the Barnstormer we took the Railroad back to the entrance and then a boat to the Wilderness Lodge to enjoy Roaring Fork cafe.  Bonus is that they have the largest Christmas tree I've ever seen in the lobby.

One of our kids may have reported their favorite part of the day was riding the boat across the lagoon between the MK and the Lodge, so I'm glad we took the extra time for a meal.  Besides, a bit of sitting down was welcome at that point...

Upon our return to the Magic Kingdom we caught the end of the Electrical Parade, viewed Wishes and of course, what's a day in Disney without hanging with the mouse?

All in all we logged 15 hours of magic.  Not bad for a group ranging from 6 to 70+...
And we were just getting geared up for the rest of the week!