Friday, June 13, 2014

Back Seat: Occupied


My facebook newsfeed has lit up recently with friends who are traveling to Ethiopia to meet/bring their children HOME. I am flooded with appreciation for the way God places orphans in families, for all I've learned about Him since He called us to adopt (pure gold!), and for the joy that it is to have my little ones with me every day.

Over a year ago now, while we were waiting (and WAITING) for "the call" to go and get our boys, I wrote THIS post: Empty Back Seat. Now, here we are - our whole lives whirring by - doing it together, Hill Family of 4.

I'm taking pause today to give thanks and beyond for the following, recognizing how much beauty there is in the present. Lifting up all the moms out there with hearts that are swollen today with the vision God has given them while they still have to wait, and THANK YOU Lord, for my sisters who today get to GO!



"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:17

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Things I love...

There just isn't time to sit down and document all the things I appreciate in a day. (I give up.) But here again, I blinked and before me are two older, amazing toddler people with sharp minds and hilarious personality. Here's a rambling list of all the little things that are common smile catalysts around this place, but may change by the time I next blink. Things Mommy loves:


I love...

...the beginning of our days: I hit my snooze once around 7:30 (on glorious mornings, twice!) and wait to be beckoned out of bed by this chorus. "Mommmy... MOMMM-yyyyyyyy.... MOOOMMMMMMM-yyyyyyy.... Up! Peeeeez...... UP! Peeeeeez." It's pretty sweet. ((Exception days go like this: Gabe gets us up between 6 and 6:30, or sometimes, if one twin is standing up in his crib, and the other would have as soon enjoyed a few more winks, I hear "MOMMM-yyyyyy," interrupted by the other twins' 'NO!" which normally ends in twin tears over this difference of opinion. Then I open the door, and tell you boys to try getting our day off to a better start.)
...prayer. During the day, you pray with Mommy before breakfast and lunch and for random things. You repeat the prayer Mommy begins, and then fill in with your own ideas (usually thanking God for each individual family member by name, and baby cows, choo-choo-trains, motorcycles and helmets.) Every night, the whole fam (of 8) is seated round the table, we hold hands to, "Pray?! Pray?!" (from your 2-year-old voices). Sometimes you boys make a quick charade of being undecided about how ready you are to hold brother's hand. We all pretend not to be amused while we wait for you to decide in your own time to hold hands after all, and Daddy begins to pray. Gabe lowers his head and squints his eyes, sometimes checking to make sure that's what everyone else is doing. Zeke unabashedly looks around, eyes wide open, not even apologizing if your peek meets his stare. (After all, aren't YOU supposed to be closing your eyes?)
...hearing you name each other. "Z-Z?" is normally what Gabe sounds like when he's calling Zeke. Oddly enough, Zeke calling Gabe also sounds a lot like "Z-Z?" -It's a strange consonnant that's pretty close to "Gt!" ...But also sounds like a fast, "Zete!" Maybe my vocalist friends can help me IPA it.
...cyclic conversation, mostly with Zeke. It goes like this: "Mo-mma! Momma!!" Yes, Zeke? "Mo-mo-mo!" Did you see a motorcyle? "No. Mo-mo-mo!" Does Daddy have a motorcycle? "Ya." Does- "'el-met! 'elmet!" Does Daddy wear a helmet? "Ya. 'Elmet!" That's good. That keeps him safe. "Ya. Momma?! Mo-mo-mo!" ...And we're off for round two of a very similar discussion.
...that Gabe walks around beatboxing the rhythm to his apparent theme song. It seems to follow him around most when he's playing outside.
...hearing, "Yes, ma'am." On an ordinary day in the middle of our ordinary lunch, I asked Gabe if he wanted a (I don't remember - insert food item here)... Seconds later, I stopped and realized he'd answered me, "Yeh-eh." (Translation: Yes ma'am.) I was shocked! We have modeled this for the boys many times, but never thought to make it an expectation yet - it seems so early! But Gabe has kept up the use of his finest manners, and Zeke has begun answering that way too. Of course no one else would know that's what the boys are saying, but it's the unprompted gesture of two tender little hearts that swept this mommy off her feet. Mommy LOVES...
...common toddler words. They're just cuter when your kids say 'em! "O-tay!" "No-uh-uh" (No thank you) "Outside?!" "Play?!" "Wa-wa?!" "Wa-won" (Wagon) "Hum?" (Help?)
...that we finish every meal-time with our version of the "clean-up" song. When I taught the twins, they didn't talk! So instead they sang, "A-ta, A-ta, eh, eh, eh, eh." And while I sing "Clean-up, clean-up, everybody everywhere," those are the words they sing to this day.
...that when Gabe is running around the room, he banks his turns - literally tucking one elbow, tilting and extending the other. Maybe he's got a natural feel for aviation. Regardless, it's impressive. 
...Echoes. You have to appreciate the days you hear your OWN words come out of your kids' mouth. To avoid an overly harsh sounding "No," I sometimes gesture to what the boys are getting into and say, "Att-at-at-at-at..." I don't know where I got this. It might be odd, but it's effective. I gained new perspective on the phrase, though, about 2 weeks ago when Zeke picked something else and asked me, "Ya?!" and I shook my head, no. He nodded confidently, wagged his little finger, and said, "Att-att-at-at-at. No-no-no-no-no."
...Twin reading. We were floored this week when Gabe pulled out "Brown Bear, Brown Bear," but unprompted, HE started reading it to us! It went precisely like this. "Ba-ti! Ba-ti! Wa, too, ahh?!" On every page. :)



...Twin SINGING! It was amazing and unexpected when you started filling in words at the ends of phrases during your ni-night lullabies, but now you are singing along with us on most of our songs. "Da Lord (is my shepherd), I'll "Wat" (with Him) always! Always, always, I'll wat, always." "If you were a boat my darlin', a boat my darlin', I'd be the wind at your Bok!" "Amen, Amen, Amen..." (+ clapping).... The list goes on, but I love it.
...how you can dub over the facial expressions Zeke is making and he'll keep his facials going to match your story.
...Time out. Sounds strange as a "Mommy love," item, but this is how it goes. "Z/G, was that a good choice?" (Shake of the head, no.) "Ok, time out." (And you go sit your cute little self down for the next 45 seconds, quietly assuming responsibility.) "Ok, stand up!" (You bounce to your feet, when necessary, you go give your brother a "Sorry" and a hug, we talk about how bad choices have been forgiven by God, and you bounce off to play!) It's precious to see you boys take ownership for the things you know in your heart are wrong, and sit yourselves down in the sweetest pitiful posture I've ever seen. It's taught Mommy so much about the joy of redemption, and I value the reminder in our daily routine!

Friday, May 16, 2014

10 Years Today

May 16, 2014

 
On this day 10 years ago I started dating Cary Hill. We were 17. He made a very gallant gesture of asking me out on a sunny Sunday afternoon. (There were crutches and bare-feet and gravel...) We didn't know for sure on that day - but kind of did - that the joy of being together would only increase with time. Once we realized we were running after the same things in this life, we'd never want to do it apart.

 Last night we stole a couple of hours away to celebrate all God has done in the past 10 years (THANKS P&A!),  revisit some of our favorite dating spots, continue an old photo tradition, and then to play in the rain. (We'll opt for more sophisticated dates someday- give us 10 more years.)


 
Year 10! Having just as much fun celebrating at the VT Pylons as we did...

   
Year 5
 
  
and Year 4

 
and Year 3

 and Year 2

 
and Year 1





Cary, what a blessing it has been to walk beside you, to love you and be loved by you these past 10 years. I could never have imagined the joy God had in store for us.

 Here's to many more...



Monday, April 28, 2014

26 months

Mighty Men... We are long overdue for an update, and there's so much to say. You are 26 months strong, wise, and FUN! You're walking (running, galloping...), talking (both traditional lingo and non), and budding with personality! These days you are best buds, filling the days with interactive play. Take a look at all God is doing in you these days...

Foods
-You are great eaters. We still start every day with half a banana, yogurt, and something hearty. After that, you eat whatever Mom and Dad eat for lunch and dinner. (And lots of it!)
-Sweets are still a no-go. You had your first cupcake at your birthday party, but we still stick to the good stuff most of the time.

Teeth
-Gabe finally has 4 top and bottom teeth, with two more top teeth that recently cut through, and all 4 molars leaving only two mystery spots on the bottom. Of course, we know Zeke has long had all of his teeth in... Grandad Clayton calls him "Womper-Chomper."
-Even better than seeing all those pearly whites every day is the huge variety of smiles we see on a daily basis. Smirks, "cheese!" pouts, you name it... The cutest expressions I've seen in my life are appearing around here every day.
(Hair)
While we're talking about teeth, can I pause to note that I have figured out the right regimen for taking care of your hair? Look how beautiful handsome!! This also gives me an excuse to share more pictures: Z's curls from behind (amazing), and finally a non-blurred shot that captures G's hair (yes - you had to be asleep to catch that!)
Songs
I might be MOST excited about the music that's pouring out of you. (At the moment, Gabe is behind me humming the middle of "Twinkle, Twinkle" - perfectly on pitch. Yessss!) We love to sing...
-"If You're Happy and You Know It"
-"I'm in the Lord's Army"
-"Amen"
-"Jesus Loves Me" (Knock, Knock, Rattle, Rattle)
-John McCutcheon's "Kindergarten Song"
-(You both love the Mozart theme to) "Twinkle, Twinkle," and the "A, B, C" song. Gabe sings the melody randomly when he's making songs up, too.
-Our favorite is that you now participate in singing our favorite songs, ("Let it Go,""Love is an Open Door" - Zeke loves to do the "-with you-" echoes) and best of all; "The Boat Song." Here's a melt-my-heart audio clip Daddy took the first night you started singing with me, Gabe. (You were on his lap, and while mommy's singing across the room, you're filling in the words at the end of each phrase.)

Words
-You can say ANYTHING! The longest word you say every day is "Mo-mo-mo." (Motorcycle.) Since the weather warmed up and Daddy got his bike out, it's the talk of the house every day.
-You have your own version of almost every common phrase. Even though you can say "Thank-you," perfectly clear, these days you both chirp, "Thank-en!"
"Pweez!" comes out nice and clear, you're good about "Yes ma'am," and "Yes, sir." But no thank you comes out, "No-uh-uh..." And combination phrases, like "Milk, please," turn to "eh-ehhhhh." It's all about the inflection around here.
-(Speaking of inflection...) My favorite thing to hear (and I hear it alot!) is, "Hi-i-i-i!" The sweetest, pure and innocent up-down tones of a greeting a person could hope for.
-You are both counting to 5 consistently, Gabe counts "3,4,5!" before running or jumping or sliding... 
-You love to sing (and have Mommy sign) the "A, B, C's." You recognize your letters, G and Z.



Movin' and Groovin'
-30 lbs each! At your 2 year appointment you came in the 78th percentile for height!
-Zeke's first steps were in December, and while he was toddling and still crawling just a little bit in January, by your birthday the waiting game was over.
-NOW Z you are always on your feet. When we pull in any parking lot, you start shouting, "Wak! Wak!" to be sure I won't try to carry you. You are a big boy, and you love to walk! You also love to run - particularly when we're in your room and you can chase Gabe in circles. Our favorite addition to your movement lately is the elbows. For some reason, you recently started flapping your elbows as you toddle excitedly. It kind of resembles the walk of a hurried old man, but maybe because you're ALWAYS smiling as you go, it works for you.
-Gabe's walk is old news, and his run has turned from a bouncy bubbly toddle to a big boy stride.
-Gabe runs and gets serious air when he's jumping. But the latest, is the "gallop." We were playing outside one evening when I showed Gabe how to gallop like a horse. He spent the next three days galloping EVERYWHERE. Got him out of his crib, feet hit the floor: gallop. Gabe, come get in your highchair! Gallop. Gabe, you look sleepy. Want to come rock? Sleepy gallop.
-You boys ask for, "Outside!? Outside??" every day. The uneven surfaces have strengthened your stride! Your Dad is SO happy that your love of the great outdoors was as instant as he'd hoped.
-"Duck, Duck, GOO!" - Your new favorite game that begins anytime someone is sitting on the floor. One of you runs up to pat their head with a suspenseful "Duck... GOO!" and then you BOTH run and expect to be chased.
-(All that action will wear two cute lil guys out! You are napping from 1-3 or 3:30 these days.)


Faves
-Bedtime is just super fun. There's so much routine... Climbing on Daddy's back while he does push ups, tickling of toes when we take off socks, carrying dirty clothes to the closet, getting your Bibles down off the shelf, sitting in laps to read, turning on our night light, "Tu-ttle," singing, rocking, and praying together at the end of another great day.
-While I'm often saying things like, "Boys, go play!" I love that right now you always want to be where I am. If I'm making dinner, you're asking to be "Up, up!" -You are super kitchen helpers, but when I tell you Mommy doesn't need help, you sit on the kitchen floor playing with canned soups and chip clips. When I'm (writing a blog post) you want to be right in my lap, in on the action, or pulling me over to the toys you want to play with. And I love it.
-Friday mornings I get you out of your cribs, you each hold your Elmo and trail your blankets as we walk to Mommy and Daddy's bed to snuggle and watch youtube videos of Elmo's songs.
-Zeke just started exclaiming "Oh!" every time he is corrected (as if you had NO idea that you were in error). It's hilarious and devious since it's at times when I've said, "Eat your snack at the table," and you are suddenly sitting beside me on the floor with snack in hand. I remind you, "Zeke, you're supposed to eat your snack at the table," and you say "Oh!" Very smooth.
-Gabe is always pulling out his bag of tricks to get a rise out of his audience. Our favorites these days are his Cosby face, his "Heyyyy," (pointing both index fingers at you and squinting one eye), and his ability to copy anything he's seen once. Which brings me to my next anecdote.
-It was pointed out to me once years ago that when I pray, I used the syllable "Um," a lot.  Well, this month, YOU pointed out to me that I say it around the house a lot too. One day when I asked, "Gabe, would you like some milk?" You said, "Ummm.... (and rolled your eyes up to the side while you considered) ....Yes." What is that about? I wondered. But when I asked if you were all done, or if you slept well, or asked you anything... I got the same, "thoughtful," "Ummmmm.... Yes." Or, "Ummmmm..... No." It began to frustrate me. Do you want another cracker or not? Just spit it out! I was about to ask Cary where this new habit originated when it hit me -- it didn't come from him.


Well, I've used up a nap time and bled into your playtime, so I think blogging time is up! Suffice it to say, life with you is FUN. Your Daddy and I were pulling you in your red wagon on the Huckleberry trail the other night, figuring that these may very well be the best days of our lives. We're not taking them for granted. Thank You, God, for all of the LIFE and LOVE we have found in our amazing two year olds.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Celebrating: (Goodbyes are Hard)

When I Grow Up.... 

 

 When you're little, you wonder how you will ever know what you really want to BE one day. OR, if you are me, you find it easy to imagine you will be everything someday. When you're at the library, you fancy you will love your job scanning book bar codes while you drink in the smell of books all day long. When you're at Wal-Mart, you look forward to your turn to push so many buttons, and decide you will be an especially smiley checker-outer. In fact, in kindergarten, I found my awareness of ALL of the things I could possibly be so overwhelming, that I remember telling my peers that I'd already occupied some of the careers I thought I'd probably like to, but wouldn't have time for later. (Ex: At 3 I was a doctor. At age 2, I was a dentist...) One brave 5 year old called me out on my creative tale, and I'll never forget the friend sitting beside me who stuck her neck out for me and declared, "I believe Amy Beth. She would never lie." I am still friends with that girl today. (Of course, the integrity of our relationship began a little rocky... on my end. I feel bad about that. That is neither here nor there.)

The point is, in middle school I spent a lot of weekends selling pie to raise money for my church at community auctions. I learned that I love working directly with people - even for short and sweet exchanges. Shortly after I discovered a passion for political science. I thought I might be a future president of the United States. And maybe I will. But then I got really excited about music - I felt sure the Lord was calling me to pair that passion with the thing in me that can't stand to learn anything great without passing it on. I think they call it teaching. And so I did. I got a Master's degree in music education, got a job at a middle school with super kids all ready to build a good band program, and we did it. I loved it! And then... I felt sure God was calling me to be a Mom. I became a mom, and I LOVE it. And then I felt sure that I couldn't do a good job trying to divide my heart, my time, my conscience... So here I am. Signing away the most ideal teaching job I could ever have had. I don't know if I've ever done anything harder. Goodbyes are hard. I am so grateful for the years I got to spend developing a God-given gift, the people I enjoyed it with, and ultimately the kids I got to teach and build relationships with - the very best part of all.


Celebrating... Not Grieving 

 

 

(A very special group of 8th graders after "Ethiopia Day" at lunch)

 This blog is a little bit because I enjoy sharing with you, but it's also such a special form of documentation for me. I may have had the privilege of teaching the very best students who will ever pass through that middle school. I guess I'll never know. (Yes I do.) I have so much to be grateful for. SO many unbelievable teaching stories, and so - admitting I could never capture them all here, in my next few posts, I'd like to share a few...

1) My first day of school EVER as a teacher: 
I am calling role in my first EVER class. (It's a class of 6th graders who would also be my first class to graduate.) There are first day of school butterflies in the air. They're squirmy and nervous and I'm nervous. I am trying to memorize their names and faces TODAY, careful not to mispronounce (and thus scar) a single one of them, and I get to the name "Cassandra." I wonder how this student pronounces the vowel in her name, so I ask, "Do you go by CassANdra? Or Cassandra?" She shrugs. I'm worried I've embarrassed her. "Either is fine! I just want to get it right today so I know what you want to be called in the future!" She shrugs again. There are snickers. I'm a little frustrated. "How would you like me to pronounce your name?" She shrugs again, and rolls her eyes slightly. I am befuddled. I give it one more go: "What does your Mama call you?"
She answers, "My Mama calls me Sassy."
True Story.

2) "Take Out the Trash"
1st year of teaching: I teach 6th grade brass in a room that adjoins the band room, but has no teaching materials, phone, etc. In that class I have a student who's been placed in band although it wasn't his idea or interest. He has an IEP 3 miles long, and struggles with huge emotional explosions that result in erratic behavior. It's week 3 or 4, and I recognize this student is escalating. I try to calm him down, but he is reacting with defiance and I see quickly that it is not going to happen. Step 1 on his emergency plan is to call the guidance office. Problem is, in this room I teach in, there is no... wait for it... phone. I give soft and clear instructions to this student, now standing in front of his seat, looking at me like a bull ready to charge. I turn out the lights, and continue giving calm directives, now asking the rest of my class to remain silent and seated, and I back toward the door that connects to the band room. When I reach the band room door, my room is frozen - my students seem to be holding their breath, and my upset and misguided cherub appears to have stalled on his vision for what he should do next. I take a big breath, spin around and run like a banshee through the band room, grab the phone, dial, yell, and sprint back! I slide through the door, and the room is still frozen - all of my students are sitting silently in the dark room just like I asked them to. All but... one. I, too, freeze. I scan the room quickly. He is nowhere to be seen. I scan again. "Where is he?" I calmly ask. They just point. To the large custodial trash can by the door. And sure enough. He is in it. 
I wonder if I will ever survive this year.

#3) "Don't punch the baby"
 I love illustration. In music, we are often working to achieve abstract goals, so analogies, metaphors, and the like are extremely helpful. When you're working with middle schoolers, they are triple effective. This was the perfect job for me. In the same breath, as every good band director knows, analogies can get you in trouble. Sometimes you are mid-productive-thought when you realize something has gone horribly awry. Such was the case the day, "Don't punch the baby" was born. I was demonstrating contrast. The importance of good tonguing, especially when given specific articulation. I was illustrating a phrase; the artistic musical sentence one might use to sing to a baby. (I cradled hypothetical baby in one arm.) But in the next phrase, the band had accents. I began demonstrating a good accent; noting the initial blast of air. "It's like a punch!" I was saying. Each note begins with a "punch!" I was gesturing emphatically as a good middle school teacher does for their students; but I'd forgotten to put the hypothetical baby down. Immediately, I realized my middle schoolers would never forget this moment. It was a little funny when I was shocked to realize what I had done. It was extremely frustrating when I could not silence the repeated phrase as they walked in and out the door and passed me in the lunchroom, but then it became a little funny again later in the year when they'd murmur to students who'd been thoughtless or forgetful, "Dontpunchthebaby," or wove the phrase into my Christmas card. Needless to say, our band's accents were unbelievably clean that year. I can't know what mental images were going through their minds while they played them, but boy - we got the job done.

With every anecdote I finish I'm flooded with memories of 5 more. I'll weed them down, but look for some more in the coming days. I am so grateful to have gotten to know some amazing young people, and for these memories that will be ours forever...

(My final performance in the middle of my maternity leave with 8th grade at their spring concert.)










Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Year Home

Sunday March 9, 2014

**Dad was thinking he'd enjoy 10 last minutes of sleep, when he is brightly greeted: "Hi, Dada." He opens one eye to see Zeke smiling around the thumb he is sucking on one hand, holding his blanket in the other. Dad makes room, and Mom drops Zeke onto their bed. As Zeke lays his head back across Dad's chest, he tugs at his blanket that is wrapped up beneath him. He tugs and tugs until he has enough blanket to cover himself and (half of) Dad. After he adjusts it, he gives Dad's blanketed chest a "pat-pat" before snuggling back down to suck his thumb and rest**

**Mom's scurrying around the kitchen to get dinner in the crock pot when she feels two little arms wrap around her leg. She takes a minute for sweetest Gabe hugs, and sends his cute little self back around the counter to play. Seconds later, she hears the *scoot, scoot* of the bathroom stool across the kitchen floor. It stops right beside her, and Gabe climbs up onto it, ready to "help." Mom pauses to realize nothing better can come out of this moment than finishing dinner with her busy little sidekick, relishing his determination to be with her.**

Most adorable Mighty Men, how did we get here?? What glorious thing did your Daddy and I accidentally do, that our Heavenly Father would entrust the past year to us? You have brought more joy to our lives than we have ever known, and we give all the thanks to Him. Hard to believe a whole year has already flown by. Sunday we celebrated your first "Gotcha Day!" Long before we could have imagined the fun it would be to interact with you every day, God put a song on our hearts. Praise Him - it's the same song resonating through our lives today:

"We Belong Together"

(The first time we got to sing it to you, at the care center in ET)


(Singing it after being home for just a week!) 


 (Where the journey began; this song shared our vision, and we were amazed as friends and family came alongside us to get you home. Happy Gotcha Day!)

 


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The engagement.


In honor of treasured Jane Austen stories, original versions of British movies, shared blankets and tissues and too much popcorn, the heart for Dickens and all things rich and beautiful and real. *Ahem* Allow me....



On a very important March afternoon, when the long winter let up so we could feel the coming spring, many people were headed into the nation's capital. A girl and her friend. A boy and his family. More friends and excited family members. All but one traveled with a secret. Across the bridge and into the big city, just over the water rose their gallant destination: the John F. Kennedy Center. Swiftly inside, quietly up the stairs, handshakes and hugs... there were huddles and glances and lots of electronic messages. The sun started to fall behind the skyline, and with every passing minute it took more seriously the coming event, deepening its hues for the drama that was to unfold.




It was one of those evenings where the surprise of warm fresh air rang of magic, and the anxious waiting crowd noticed special sights; row teams and tow boats, "Marine 1" cutting just overhead - perhaps the president himself flying down the Potomac.


He set out three albums along the terrace railing - one for every year he'd known her, with facebook correspondence, journal entries and photos chronologically ordered. He tugged at his blazer, felt the ring in his pocket, and slipped around the corner where he would watch, and wait.


All of the family was gathered at the opposite end of the rooftop - careful to remain unseen, but watching with excitement.

 And then she arrived. Donning a classic ivory topped black ruffle dress and her remembered Grandmother's pearls, she and her friend stepped onto the terrace.



Her friend led with nervous energy. They meandered exactly toward the hidden groom a ways until the friend spied him, and steered her back to the planned route - a nice dose of suspense for the groom and onlookers. Her friend explained she'd been instructed to lead the girl this far. With loving excitement and relief, I believe her parting words were, "You're my best friend. I love you," and she backed away to watch the girl discover and explore what now lay on the railing before her.

The girl was confused, and excited. She knelt down and opened the first album. A date, a photo, scraps of conversations and memories past of she and the boy. She took her time flipping through it. As she began to understand the message within, and the thought of the whole thing that was really taking place here tonight appeared fuzzily in her mind, she took her time and tried to let it all sink in. She moved to the next album. Another collection of experiences shared from another year.
She gently pushed a tear off of her cheek. With each photo or entry, it grew clearer; both what was being expressed, and what she was ready to say.


It was after she moved to the final album that he quietly strode toward her, first taking her hands in his, then speaking the things he'd planned to say. 



The sun was almost gone behind them and they were small little figures to the eager family watching from afar. Right around them, a couple of pairs noticed, others walked right by, missing the magic altogether. 

He was dropping to his knee. 

And then, a long embrace. Celebration! They strolled up the terrace, affectionate and happy. There was still one more surprise. He pointed across the river, directed her attention away from the large group waiting for them as they got closer. The family turned around, enjoying the fun of making the suspense last just a little bit longer. But then, a stray nephew toddled out from the group. His mom turned after him, and glanced up to find her eyes already being met by the girl, again surprised! Lots of laughter as the group turned around... I'd go on about the many embraces and "welcome to the family" talk, but as they say, one picture is worth a thousand words. Here are several.