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10.20.2014

a big girl now

Oh my sweet Natalie...today you turned five.


FIVE?

Mercy.

Little one, much as I don't want to admit it, you have grown so much since your birthday last year.   Of course not all of your growth has been measurable with a ruler...


 While you have gotten nearly four inches taller since this time last year, the most noticeable difference in you is just how much you've come alive.  In the very beginning of your time with us we quickly realized you were a force to be reckoned with.  But at that time it showed mostly when you were upset.  After a brief burst of your vibrant personality immediately upon arrival home, you were most frequently quiet and reserved.  In fact for a little while I wondered if you were ever going to begin to let your guard down and show us your spunky side again.

I need not have worried.


Cause once you crossed that 'language is holding me back' hurdle, there was no turning back.  I even kinda remember the day it happened.  I had taken you to the restroom at church (halfway through the message of course) and while you were in the stall you started jibbering at me in Mandarin.  And you went on and on and when you finally stopped there was a pause as if you expected me to answer.  So I roll in with, "You know sweetie, Mommy doesn't understand you when you speak in Chinese."
Your response?
(giggle) "Oh yeah." (giggle)  "I forgot..."  (giggle, giggle, giggle)

And from then on you rolled in English.  It was amazing.

YOU are amazing!

One thing that is absolutely precious about you is that while you are a spicy lil' bit with lots of pizzaz, you still get tongue tied about being the center of attention.  Your expression when we brought out the cake and all sang to you mirrored the one you gave last year on this day when you received your first ever birthday present...almost as if you couldn't believe so much of a fuss was being made over you.


Believe it or not little one (note that I didn't call you baby girl, now that you are five I have to give up the baby part, but you still are the littlest around here) the fuss and fanfare was all for you.  We stopped what we were doing to focus on you because we all adore you.  You came into this family and filled a spot we hadn't realized was empty until your fullness showed us just how much vitality we had been lacking.

it was a Frozen birthday with you receiving an Elsa dress from us, an Elsa doll from Grandma S, and Elsa shoes from Grandma M.  your little Frozen heart was thrilled!
 May the thrill of chocolate AND strawberry cake always excite you the way it did tonight.


Thank you my dearest Natalie for living life out loud.  You teach me daily that each and every moment 
is one to be savored.  That I am blessed to be your mommy is not lost on me.

With all that I am, I love you!

10.15.2014

10.08.2014

Hey Caleb...eight is great!

My boy.

Could five years really have passed since the first birthday we celebrated with you, the day you turned three?

October 8, 2009.  Your third birthday.
A quick glance at pictures says that indeed much time has passed (I gasp a bit when I see the physical evidence of how much you've grown) and yet in other ways you are still very much the same.


The ability to make us laugh.  Back then it was mostly with facial expression.  Today it is with your dry sense of humor and pure wit.  If any of your fanciful career choice ideas don't pan out, may I suggest to you making people laugh for a living?  I seriously have not yet experienced a day that you haven't been able to coax at least a chuckle out of someone...often when they think they are in no mood for a smile.  Your big sister even said tonight that her favorite thing about you is your sense of humor and how you are able to brighten our family with laughter.To lighten moods is a gift that you have been given and I hope you always share that with others!


A generous soul.  Nothing has been to prized or special to you that it hasn't been considered as a gift for someone else to lighten their heart or help them out.  Favorite toys have been freely shared, your most loved panda has been offered to soothe other children, and your piggy bank has been emptied time and again for various causes.  I am quite convinced that you would give the shirt off your back to someone in need and I deeply admire the true generosity in your heart.


The desire to be part of a really big family.  Just about the time you learned to talk was when you started voicing your opinion about the number of siblings you wanted.  Seriously.  I still remember the first time you specifically told Daddy and I that you wanted to have five brothers and five sisters.  We were driving around the Grand Loop in Yellowstone National Park when you held up your right hand and told us this was you sisters and then your left to show us how many brothers you felt you needed too.  You were still two years old.  And today when asked, the magic number of eleven is what you come up with for the number of M kids.  Don't know why or where that came from, but in your mind it seems to have been set.  I also love that anytime in public we come across a mega family that you smile and say, "They are even more blessed than us!"  May one day you have a mega family of your own.

Your love of carbs and all foods Chinese.  The day we met you we were handed a bag with some yogurt drinks and five bags of potato chips.  Guess that was my signal that you and I were going to have food struggles.  While you've added carrots, oven roasted cauliflower, "split ham soup" (with it's magic ability to turn green at serving time...one day I'll come clean with you and confess it is actually split pea soup) and green beans ~ with Asian sauce ~ to your vegetable list, you still are a carb junkie.  When asked what you wanted for your birthday meal, you came up with "those crunchy things with the brown sauce."  After several days of further questioning for details, you finally gave a sigh, shrugged your shoulders and gave a dry, "Okay then.  You obviously aren't getting me.  How about we just have dumplings?"  Until you remembered dim sum.  The chance to have jiaozi (dumplings), baozi (steamed buns), AND noodles all at one meal?  The perfect solution for my carbohydrate craving Chinese-American son!



You're a snuggler.  Well, maybe not quite as much as you were when you were little.  And not quite as much these days as I would like.  But you did sprawl across my lap just on Monday to read a few books to me.  And if I come lay down on your bed to chat before you fall asleep, you are likely to lay your head on my shoulder and bare your soul.

A desire to share God's love.  Time and again through the years you have expressed the desire to go spread the news of Jesus and his love to others.  And while many nights you struggle to stay awake when it is time for prayers, you often voice your desire to teach others that God loves them.

your heart is that all would know they are children of the king
It's a strange place for me to be...wanting to pause time to soak up your little boy days and yet wanting to move into the future to see the mark you leave on this world.  You are an amazing example of the handiwork of our creator and I am still humbled that I have the joy of being your mother.

I love you sweet boy.

Today and always,
Mommy

9.24.2014

tour party of 22?

In my mind this day in our nation's capital was "just yesterday." 

In reality, in three days it will have been three months...

Guess my life must be really fun because time sure does fly!

So the day after our pizza picnic in the park with some of our beloved "China family," we headed in for Natalie's first visit to DC.  While our crew is pretty good at staying close, subways make me slightly nervous...not much time to get on or off a train when it gets crowded...and so we reviewed the plan of what to do if we were to get separated from one another.  (this will be important later) I also had a moment of clarity and wrote my cell phone number in Sharpie on each of their arms.  (I usually tattoo my little ones with these temporary tats for peace of mind when we are out in big crowds ~ state fair, Disney, DC ~ but this time had accidentally left the tattoos back in NC).


I love catching the museums and wandering around the National Mall, but the highlight of the day for several of my kids may have been our metro in to the city.  Something about riding a train underground...

Despite their reluctance to get off the metro, everyone was excited as we ascended the top of the escalator at the Smithsonian stop and stepped into the bright sunshine of the day.  Immediately the castle caught their attention and while we tried to gently tell them it wasn't going to be what they expected on the inside, they insisted that we check it out.

glad we to a pic before we went in...they weren't quite so smiley after realizing it was a museum about the museums
It was a sunny, late June day and unfortunately, it didn't take long for the heat to zap all energy and excitement out of our crowd.

really mommy, we don't care about the capital building...and there is NO WAY you can make us walk down there!
Thankfully the Air and Space museum never fails to cause amazement and wonder...and blasts of arctic air conditioning.  All five, but especially the boys, were in total awe that three men returned from the moon in this command module.

our future astronauts at full attention as daddy reads information about Apollo 11
Checking out Skylab Orbital Workshop (complete with a mannequin eating lunch) suddenly had my crew remembering they were ready for lunch.  Thankfully our space program didn't crash like the blood sugar levels of the M7 kiddos that day...


After searching for what seemed like FOREVER for a decent place to have lunch downtown, we were finally given a tip by a local to a food court.  Moe's for the kids and a Mediterranean salad for Ian and I found us all refreshed and ready for the second half of our adventure.

And while not much could top a late morning at the Air & Space, meeting up with the Fabulous F fourteen and Uncle Josh to take on the American History museum did the trick.

with these guys is when our family of seven seems very, very small...
What does it look like when a tour party of 22 hits a crowded, multi-level museum together?

It looks a little chaotic.  Kids (there were seventeen) everywhere.  You count a lot.

And just when you get lulled into complacency that they're all keeping up...

kylie and kimmie...these two just melt my heart with their sweetness

...your party steps off the elevators (yes...elevators...with strollers added to the mix, even we frequent visitors to China couldn't all squeeze onto one) on the second floor and after the two elevator parties meet up you realize one kid out of the seventeen is missing.  Insert about thirty seconds of panic...

But flashback to reviewing the separation plan before we stepped onto the metro the first time.  Apparently at least one of our kids was really listening.  Before Ian and I got back onto the elevator in a panic, we had the presence of mind to take five steps over to the balcony that overlooked the entry hall where we had last done a count.  There stood our missing child, very calmly talking to a security guard.  We called said child's name and told them to stay there, that we were on the way down.  When we stepped off the elevator on the first floor (though I had briefly considered jumping off the balcony to get their quicker) the guard told us we should be proud of our child as the child had sought him out, told him that they had gotten separated from their family, and was showing the guard my number written on their arm.

Needless to say we started counting every minute after that.

I share this part of the story to remind us all that having an emergency plan when out and about is a must.  I'm so thankful God prompted me to do so before we really got started that morning.  Our child was rather calm and collected during the entire three-ish minutes we were separated, but if a plan hadn't been reviewed, it could have been a different story.

We spent about two hours together, browsing the American Stories exhibit, Dorothy's ruby red slippers, Apollo Ono's speed skates and Miss Piggy were the big hits there, admiring the inaugural ball dresses of our first ladies, and giving a quick history lesson at the Woolworth lunch counter.  We finished up by walking through the Star Spangled Banner display.

And then all too soon it was time for our families to part ways.

The kids were totally bummed.

caleb and quan...these two would be serious adorable trouble if they lived closer together...

And to be honest, so was I.

laine...my sweet, sweet sister in Christ
We have a special connection with this family...one that transcends the huge amounts of time that pass between our treasured visits.  We are so very thankful God saw fit to weave our families together at the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou in February of 2010!

**Can't believe they are going to be a family of sixteen the next time we see them.  Yes, they are stepping out in faith to bring home twin girls with moderate CP.  They are currently selling a cookbook that is a compilation of favorite recipes of folks from their church.  I have a copy and have used several recipes already.  If you'd like to help, check out this link.  You couldn't be donating to a more amazing family!**

9.16.2014

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!

9.10.2014

Ky at 8 1/2

K-Boo,

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,
Mommy

9.09.2014

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,
Mommy