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. sweet, sweet sister in Christ
We have a special connection with this 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!**


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!"