mulching day

Some Saturdays we go to the zoo.
Some Saturdays we check out local museums.
And some Saturdays we get out the rakes and shovels and mulch.

I had no idea what to expect when we ordered 10 yards of mulch.  But once that pile was delivered I'll admit to dreading the weekend to spread it.

Thankfully our crew decided to pitch in.
Crazy kids even declared it was fun.

And before we knew it, we had that 10 yards of mulch spread out in our yards (front and back).
What a blessing that someone brought us KFC for dinner that night...

March 28, 2015
Working together as a family it was a tiring, fun, rewarding day.
Not sure I can say that I'm looking forward for mulch day 2016 just yet though...


state fair

Mid-October brings a night our family looks forward to all year...

...State fair night!

The first year we went we developed a 'go big or go home' attitude about the fair.  Throughout the year there are plenty of opportunities to tell the kids no to kiddie rides, extra treats and staying up late.  State fair night is NOT one of those times.

Well, unless you are too tall for the kiddie ride.
(someone tell me when that happened?)

We really enjoy the rides and the food and visiting the animal barns, but one of the highlights of fair night is that it means it is time for a visit from 'Cousin Jordan.'

(Who used to be known as 'Cousin Jor-deen' but apparently my kids have grown up enough to pronounce his name correctly now and no longer think the babyish way of saying his name is adorable.  Enough about that.  I can't talk about this growing up thing any longer.)

Jordan began coming to visit our family during his fall breaks from college back in 2008 and in 2011 he shifted that visit back a week to coincide with the fair.  One of our favorite peeps on the planet combined with one of our favorite nights of the year?  Talk about a win-win!

this year it wasn't just 'Cousin Jordan' though...we were introduced to Stephanie.
and we loved her!
(aren't they just the cutest couple?  since this pic was taken they are now engaged!)
Nat rode the little kid 4x4 trucks solo this year.

It's that growing up thing again.  I can't even talk about it.

She didn't seem too phased about having to ride by herself though.  Because while the big kids were riding the Monster trucks...

...she got a little bit of "'Cousin Jordan' all to myself" time.  And that made one little girl quite happy.

As we exited Kiddie-land in search of dinner, we spotted a M7 sized grocery cart.

After demolishing several foot-long corndogs and some 'BBQ sundaes' (no ice cream involved...just pulled pork topped with baked beans and then coleslaw) from the Pik 'N Pig, we headed to the midway to ride some of the bigger rides.  Because that 'growing up thing.' Again.

Genesis proved not to be our very favorite.  Stephanie and I took one for the team on this one as Jordan and Ian kept their feet firmly on the ground and laughed at us.  I mean took pictures.

As it turns out the high swings and Tilt-a-Whirl were much more our speed.

Despite our BBQ, corn dogs, Carolina crab bites, cotton candy and deep fried Reese's Cups, there was still something we were chasing down.  We scouted the main food drag carefully before finally breaking down and asking directions to locate the deep fried JalapeƱo Pimento Cheese and Bacon hushpuppies with Siracha Bang Bang dipping sauce.

Um.  YUM!

Next came fireworks.

This year we managed to miss the giant pumpkin.  Who knew that they closed the building when the fireworks started?  We tried.  With several guards at several doors.  Jordan and Stephanie even went to plead our case explaining that we have an annual tradition of taking our picture in front of the blue ribbon pumpkin.  No luck.  Apparently the prize winning fruits and veggies are locked up as tight as Fort Knox.

So I drowned by sorrows with a funnel cake.
It was after all my half-birthday.  If the kids get donuts then I get a funnel cake.

Or...we split the funnel cake among nine.  When that happens you don't get much.  In fact your portion may be so small that the last ones to the party may decide licking the powdered sugar off the plate is worth the effort.

 And then it was time for a few more rides.  One favorite of the evening was the old school Scrambler.  We rode it several times in a row, scrambling our brains for sure!

One tradition we didn't miss was ending the night on the Ferris Wheel.

It's just what we do...

Stephanie, we hope you realize that when you said yes to Jordan that you said to our family!  At least one night in October anyway...

We're already planning strategies to make sure we're able to hit those hushpuppies at least twice next time!


getting our game on for Halloween

The family that games together...

As Halloween approached this year, I kept trying to figure out a family theme.  And one night at dinner it just hit me...we could be a PacMan family.  Figuring the at least a few of the kids would shoot me down, I offered my suggestion.  Much to my surprise they agreed...even if they didn't know exactly what PacMan was.  And I figure we don't have many more miles on the "let's dress for Halloween as a family" bus.

So after many a search on Pinterest we settled on our plan and Ian got to work creating our costumes.

Starting with the Mr. and Ms. of course...

And then we had five little ghosts.  At first there were only going to be four as Ky was going to continue her tradition of creating a two person costume with Darby.  But then she didn't want to be left out of the family theme, so they were both ghosts.  Our next thought to keep the M7 as true to PacMan as possible was to make Daniel a walking cornucopia of fruit ~ cherries, strawberry, orange, apple, melon ~ but then he didn't want to be different.

So five ghosts it was.  Guess that works though, Inky, Blinky, Pinky & Clyde from PacMan and then Sue from Ms. PacMan.

To help get us ready for the long walk ahead we had a quick game of PacMan tag.  I lost.
I'll blame it on the fact that there was no maze for the ghosts to follow and they forgot to leave me some power pellets.

Also for the record we (and by we I mean I) offered for Ian to make Henry a ghost costume as well.  But the force is strong in that one and he stayed true to his first thought for Halloween.

We walked through D & H's neighborhood for almost two hours, collecting mass amounts of candy.

And receiving many, many compliments on our costumes.  Mostly from the 30 and older crowd, but whatever.  Kids seemed to think that ghosts were cool even if they didn't know what they were from.

And then it was time for the infamous "candy sort and swap."  Those seven kids made out like bandits!  I think we'll still be noshing off their Halloween candy well into the summer.


carving creations

On the 26th of October we celebrated seven years of having Caleb in the family by going to a pumpkin farm.  Admission to the farm got each person one orange squash souvenir.  And while we didn't find time to carve said souvenirs until Friday the 30th...

It's been interesting over the years how each kid has pretty much learned to deal with the slime.

Where there once were disgusted faces and shrieks of horror there are now smiles and giggles.

Even this guy who used to nearly cry and then pass his pumpkin to his big sister for her to gut.

It's also one amazing time saver that now our biggest crowd can be trusted with a paring knife and the littler ones use the pumpkin carving tools.

That leaves Ian and I time to work on our own creations.

M7 pumpkin carving 2015 results...
PACMAN and ghosts, an owl, SWIM, a pokeball, R2D2, a fairy and VT.

Not bad for an evening's work.

pumpkins belonging to:
me, DQ, Ky, Caleb, D, Nat, & Ian


{not a} seven year itch

When you start typing seven year into Google, the first suggestion is 'seven year itch.'  According to Wikipedia [the seven-year itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven]...

But I beg to differ.

Yes, it took me a while to begin to figure out what having a boy meant.  Yes, there are days that I wonder what in the world he's thinking.  (So does he for that matter).

But this kid... Man I love him just a little bit more every day.

On October day early here in the US, but adjust for time differences and I guess it was almost exact in Wuhan...we got together with his 'China brother's' family to celebrate seven years of them being part of our families.  


Back then these two were toddlers.  

We've visited several pumpkin farms over the years.  One we simply outgrew and another was damaged in the early fall monsoons.  So this year we tried a new farm.  

There was plenty to do from watching pig races to spinning swings...

...giant slides to king of the straw hill...

...giant jumping pillows to hamster wheel races...

...and hay rides to the pumpkin patch.

Included in our admission was one pumpkin per person.

So we searched.

And we hunted.

And we each came up with the perfect pumpkin.

What a great afternoon of celebration.  Happy seven years of being part of our family to Caleb LuTao!


a recipe for memories

When the Costco run includes 4 pounds of butter, 10 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of sugar, 24 eggs, 200 pretzel rods, 6 pounds of almond bark and nearly 2 pounds of sprinkles, it can only signify one thing...

It is the M7 annual Christmas cookie bake-a-thon!

Things sure have changed since the first one back in 2009.  Like check out these babies...

Back then there were only two little ones.  And we made just one kind of cookie, the 'Just like Starbucks Molasses' (that should be renamed 'Better than...').  And only a double batch of that.

Six years later with five kids at home, we kick into full production mode and measure, mix and stir with all the table space we have.

In a span of just over an hour, our kids knocked out double batches of Crispy Butterscotch Island Cookies, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Peppermint Snowballs and a quadruple batch of molasses cookies.

Yes, I said 'our kids'.  With their ages now ranging from 6 to 9, they are capable of doing just about every part of mixing up a batch of dough on their own.  Ian essentially serves as the job foreman, double checking if recipes call for tablespoons or teaspoons and overseeing hand mixer safety.  My role is more like that of general contractor, I'm checking in to make sure everything is going to plan and providing materials (taking used mixing beaters and measuring cups/spoons and returning them after a quick washing).

the carnage

Then when the batters are all mixed and ready for baking, the oven goes on (this year from 2pm until nearly midnight and we still had to finish the next day) and the sprinkles come out.  Nearly 200 pretzel rods were liberally covered with chocolate or vanilla coating and then sprinkled like only elementary age kids can sprinkle.

this pretzel goodness frequently interrupted for hand washing...

And what did we do with 45 dozen cookies and 200 pretzel rods?  Why we shared them of course!  We took some to neighbors.  The kids made goody bags for their classroom teachers.  They delivered to the art, music, PE, drama, dance, & science teachers.  They gave to the AG teachers and the counselor.  M7 cookies were given to the principal, assistant principal and secretary.  We even shared the sugary love with our crossing guard.  We mailed some to friends not so close, took some to Grandma's house and made sure that Santa got to taste those molasses cookies.

Yes, it's a lot of sugar.  And a lot of butter.  And flour.  And eggs.  And sprinkles...we can't forget the sprinkles!

But it is what we do.  And now that the cookies are finally gone, I guess we'll start looking forward to the 2016 M7 cookie bake-a-thon.