Daniel at 6

These kids.

They are out of control...

...growing up right before my very eyes.

It seems that just a few days ago he was still a tiny tot.

Now he's over 3 1/2 feet tall (though still under 40 lbs... fruits and veggies remain his very favorite foods) and headed off to his first full week of kindergarten tomorrow.

And, as of yesterday, he's six.  SIX.

Thankfully while he got a hearty laugh that I couldn't believe he was so grown up, he still has his tender moments.  As he clutched his birthday gift and let me snap a few pictures, I gave a bewildered, "Buddy, how can you be getting so old..." comment.  He melted my heart with, "Don't worry Mommy, I'm still 5 1/2 until after we get home from church.  Then I'll turn 6.  So I'm still 5 1/2 for a lil' bit.  You can still hug me now when I'm 5."

If only a polite request truly made time slow down.

Don't get me wrong, I've loved each and every stage and age just as much, if not more, than the last.  But there is something about watching those preschool years slip into the past...

At any rate, the day was spent attending church, swimming at the pool, and being joined for dinner by friends that may as well be family.  No official party this year, but this kid soaks up his time at the center of the story and beamed as we sang Happy Birthday to him.  And the highlight of his evening?  Getting the first slice of his self selected strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.

As a new six year old, Daniel still loves his trains, cars and planes.  Thomas (Thomas the Tank Engine) Lightning McQueen (Cars) El Chupacabra and Dusty Crophopper (Planes) still make frequent trips with us everywhere we go.
My boy is also starting to show a more grown up side of car appreciation and can now correctly identify "Ca-air-ohs" (Cameros), "Gorvettes" (Corvettes), "Stingrays" (Mustangs), and Chargers from amazing distances.  In fact his love affair with muscle cars runs so deep right now that his main gift from us was a remote control yellow "Ca-air-oh" with black stripes that looks just like Bumblebee from Transformers.
Chocolate has become a sought after treat, but he still typically chooses any fruit over sweets (especially watermelon, cantaloupe or blueberries) and we actually have to tell him frequently at meals that he can't have any more tomatoes or cucumbers until he eats his protein.
Soccer is his game right now, but he seems to have an innate knack for most any sport and would like to give basketball and tennis a try.
He was ready to head off to school last fall though I'm so grateful we made the decision to have him at home one more year.  He and Natalie became the best of buddies and he got an extra year to develop more maturity.  He's been reading his way through the BOB book series and truly can't wait for the new challenges of kindergarten.
What makes Daniel though is his snuggle power.  This kid is one that thrives on the power of touch and frequently through his day will have what I call a Piglet moment when he comes over and either gives a spontaneous hug, kiss or "I love you,"  almost as if to "be sure of you."  I pray this aspect of his personality doesn't fade into memory as he gets a little older.

Daniel, at the age of six, you are so very loved.  I often marvel at the miracle you are, and the miracle God worked for you to be our peanut.  Each day with you is a treasure and I am the richer for them...

To the moon and back,


And he's off...

This year marks the beginning of a new era for my peanut.

His school career officially began Wednesday with his staggered entry kindergarten day.  He couldn't have been more ready or more excited.

That made one of us...

As the start of school began to loom ever closer, I found myself in utter disbelief.  How in the world could my snugglebug ~ the child who frequently stops mid play to make eye contact and tell me he loves me or to wrap his entire body around me in a huge hug ~ already be so old?

Never mind that he turns 6 on Sunday.

Wasn't this just yesterday?  When he was still 2?

June 23rd 2011.
The first day I held this piece of my heart in my arms...
And yet here I was.  Following my not so little guy into the school building.

The place he and I have called "the big kids's school" for so long.

And now here he was cheerfully waving goodbye from inside his classroom for the day.  One of "the big kids."


Because of his excitement and happiness, I managed to hold it together.  It was actually difficult not to be caught up in his enthusiasm.

Natalie wasn't caught up in that joy though.  She broke down and howled when we started to walk away from his class for the day.  The reminder that she'd be "a big kid" next year wasn't the comfort we thought it would be.  She wanted him, her playmate.  Thankfully the realization that she'd have me all to herself during the days brought a smile to her face.  That and the reminder that she'd have all her siblings home in a few more hours...

While I missed the little guy, I knew he was so ready...both intellectually and emotionally.  And I just couldn't wait for his report at the end of the day.

My heart did flip flops as I saw him walk down the hill from the school with his big sisters.  Again I found myself asking how in the world he could be such a big boy already.

As soon as he saw me, a huge grin appeared upon his face, he broke into a run toward me, and he happily announced, "Mommy, it was AWESOME!  And I didn't even have to go to the principal's office!"

(a bit of additional information here ~ his siblings have been coaching him on acceptable school behavior lately.  When he would walk by, bop one of them on the head and say, "Wa-bang!" they would gently inform him that if he did that in school he'd have to go see the principal.  So a trip to the office was on his mind.  Still though, it's a good goal, right?)

The rest of the walk home included a run-down of the day.  Highlights included the principal coming to read a book to the class, knowing all his shapes, colors, numbers and letters, and making new friends.  We also had to recalculate the "number of sleeps countdown" until Tuesday, the first day all kindergarten converges upon the school.

And last night we went to find out who his teacher would be.  Sweet blessing that it was the one he said he hoped it would be, and the assistant was the assistant in Caleb's kindergarten class (his teacher retired).  We love Ms. C and were greeted with hugs when we walked in.  He officially CAN'T wait until Tuesday.  And while I can, I feel blessed that he is in good hands.

And besides, seeing him start running to give me my afternoon hug?  That's gonna be a balm to my soul after missing him each day.

So I guess it's official...I've got four grade schoolers...all with awesome teachers...all off to an amazing start!

Ky ~ 8 years, 3rd grade
Daniel ~ ALMOST 6, kindergarten
DQ ~ 7 years, 2nd grade
Caleb ~ 7 1/2, 2nd grade


Father's Day camping

As the days of school wound down and summer approached, Ian and I began to realize just how busy our summer was going to be.  We looked at our calendar filled with trips to visit friends and family, weekends our house was going to be full to the brim with folks we love, and plenty of dental, orthodontic, vision and other medical appointments and realized that if we wanted to get in at least one weekend of camping, that the first weekend of summer vacation was going to be it.

The only issue was that weekend just happened to include Father's Day...

Of course I am married to the guy who said, "A weekend in the woods with my family is WAY better than a tie for Father's Day!"  So I took him at his word and booked our tent site in Fancy Gap, VA.

We left home unsure of what the weather would bring as thunderstorms were forecast near the area.  We ended up blessed with a gorgeous weekend enjoying all the Fancy Gap area had to offer.

We explored the quaint town of Meadows of Dan, sampling our way through Nancy's Candy Company and trying on various hats in the Poor Farmer's Market.

Our location also provided the opportunity to spend time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, complete with a stop at  Mabry Mill,  a historic site that brought the days of Little House on the Prairie alive for Kylie.

Ian gave the kids a living history lesson on farming implements,

such a good lesson...and our kids were so attentive... that we were were asked if we were homeschoolers
and we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade as we watched the waterwheel turn while on site.

It was a blissful weekend with no technology distractions.  The kids fine tuned their "patty cake" games.

They dug in the dirt.

They helped with meals...while they played Yamslam.

And they played Yamslam some more...

if you don't know this game, think "yahtzee meets poker"'s awesome!
As for our campground...can't say enough good things about the Fancy Gap KOA.

(Yes, we realize it is "camping with a K," but at this point, we'd need a packmule to carry the food required to feed our kids for a backpack camping weekend cause they can't carry that weight just yet.  At least we're getting them acclimated to weekends in a tent...)

In addition to a really friendly staff (adoption friendly at that!) and super clean bathrooms, there was a pool, a fishing pond with paddle boats, and even a gem mining sluice way.

Our crew was totally not ready to head home at the end of our time.  Luckily Ian and I had one more little surprise up our sleeves.  There were two ways back home...the short way, and the way that wove across the mountains a bit and right by the Ayer's Cherry Orchard.

As they read signs and tried to guess our mystery destination, my favorite quote was, "Cherry orchard? We're going cherry picking?  I love picking cherries.  Well...I haven't been cherry picking before, but I think I'll love it!"

And when you can't quite reach the best cherries in the trees, it's a good thing to have a tall daddy who can serve as your ladder.

We came home rested, reconnected, and laden with sweet black cherries.  It was truly a Father's Day weekend for the memory books!


my dance partner

"No relationship is all sunshine, but once you've learned how to play in the rain, you've discovered the secret to surviving the passing storm together." ~ Unknown

July 17, 1999

Thankful for my dance partner, in both sunshine and rain, of 15 years.  My deepest sorrows have been more bearable, my greatest joys have been sweeter, and the thousands of ordinary moments have been happier for sharing them with you.  I thank God for the gift of you.  Happy anniversary!


a love letter from the kitchen

In May each year as I begin muttering to myself about needing to find 30 pounds of pork loin at a good price and wondering which market will have the best cost on sirloin rump roast, some people begin to think I may be a bit crazy.

Then I confirm my status with the details.  "I'm getting ready to head to a rustic camp to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 70 folks for the next five days..."

Oh yeah.  Now that I think about it...that does sound crazy.  

But Carolina Cross Connection is a ministry near and dear to my heart.  I'm too old to serve as a summer staff member and as a mom I can't really take a week to go as a camper.  But cooking during the staff training?  Home cooking is like a love letter from the kitchen.  I found my niche to give back to a ministry that helped shape who I am today.  

It's a big that I haven't taken on completely by myself.  Each of the years I've spent a week in the kitchen at Loy White I've had at least one person working by my side to help me maintain my sanity.  This year my partner in crime was my sister.  I did miss my sweet friend Melissa who has laughed by my side in the kitchen for the past several years, but there was something familiar about cooking side by side with a person who also learned to cook from Mama's example.  

We spent an average of ten hours a day in the kitchen, slicing, chopping, mixing, baking and roasting.  At times the conversation would flow without ceasing and at others there was no sound beyond the steady chop of a knife on the cutting board.  But that's okay, with sisters you don't always have to talk...sometimes "just being" is enough.

This year we also had the pleasure of help from our mini-sous chefs.  My niece, Maylin, and Ky would flit in and out of the kitchen from time to time.  Their biggest contribution to the weekend they spent at camp was baking Grandma's one egg shortcake recipe.  That shortcake is for sure a love letter to the summer staff from the kitchen.

It's exhausting, but I do somehow enjoy my time in the kitchen at Camp Loy White.  The only part that is super duper tough is saying goodbye to my kids at the end of the weekend.

when did my baby boy get so long?
And, with exception of us being separated for a few days, the kids love it too.  They get smothered with attention by a fine group of college students, and they get to spend a few days in a camp setting with their cousins.  This year I have very few pictures to show for our time, but this one from last summer sums up how our boys spend their time...getting dirty.

In the immediate days after I got home, when I was exhausted, my knees hurt from standing so long, and I just didn't feel like cooking a thing, I probably would have told you that 2014 was my last summer.  But now that a little time has passed, I find myself mentally tweaking recipes in my head and wondering how to make them work for a large crowd...