It's not "The Pearses" and "The Grahams." It's not "yours" and "mine." If Wendy and Bill divide the kids at all, it's by age: the Littles, the Middles, and the Bigs.

And the emblem of their family is the sand art that all eight children created at the couple's November 2014 wedding.

Starting with a base of beige sand from Wendy's and Bill's favorite childhood beaches - Ocean City, N.J., and Cape Cod, respectively - each child sifted a different color of sand into a heart-shaped glass vase that now rests on their mantel. The result is layered. Colorful. Inseparable.

After Bill's divorce in 2011, he figured his chances of finding love again were scant. And Wendy, grieving the end of an 18-year marriage, couldn't imagine who would want to date, let alone marry, a woman with six kids. Even so, both ventured onto Match.com.

After a series of "one-hit wonder" dates, Wendy was struck by Bill's profile.

"He seemed down-to-earth. Real," she says. "And I was attracted to the fact that he was a father." Before the two met, Wendy let him know that she was the mother of six; Bill lobbed a message right away: "Not to worry. I'm the oldest of five."

The couple's first date, on a Sunday evening at a restaurant in Colmar, lasted four hours. Wendy came home that night and found her oldest daughter, Madison, in the kitchen. "How was it, Mom?" she asked.

"I couldn't stop smiling," Wendy recalls. "He felt like an old friend."

The two waited a month before introducing the kids to each other. "I'd heard horror stories about blended families where the kids can't stand each other," Bill says.

After Hurricane Sandy knocked out the power at Wendy's house over Halloween, the couple decided to throw a post-Halloween costume party for both families.

"I had some apprehension, but also confidence that they would meld together," Bill says. And as he watched the whole troupe - dressed as Captain America, a bunny, a character from Phineas and Ferb - start to talk and tease each other, his anxieties melted.

By the following fall, they were discussing marriage. Bill wanted to propose in the parking lot of the restaurant - now a Red Cedar Grille - where they'd had their first date. But on the night he chose, rain was pelting down.

"I have something to tell you," he said, as Wendy prepared to bolt from the car to the restaurant door. "He was literally grabbing my arm," she recalls. "He presented me with this ring box, but it didn't hit me until we walked inside. Then I started crying. Another couple bought us champagne. Then we called the kids, of course."

At the candlelit wedding ceremony a little more than a year later, the children were their wedding party. They had already begun blending their households; Wendy and her kids stayed at Bill's place in Chalfont every few days. "At the outset, we were both more lenient to the other's children," Bill says. "I wanted the Graham kids to like me. Then I realized I had to be a dad to all of them."

Now, their natural temperaments drive their parenting roles: Bill is the kid-at-heart who jumps into the fun when someone opens a new toy; Wendy is the organizer-in-chief who bustles around to gather up the packaging.

They live in Telford - "10 in a townhouse," Bill likes to say - with daily lineups for the two showers and a morning routine of staggered wake-ups starting with Julianna's predawn alarm for swim practice. Inevitably, the house fills with a cacophony of "Who took my sweater?" and "Where's my gym uniform?"

"Of course they fight," Bill says. "But they do it equally, among all the kids. No holds barred. Just like a family."

Wendy, a stay-at-home mom, washes three loads of laundry a day; once a month, she and Bill load up their SUVs with bulk items from BJs or Costco. The family's two refrigerators and standup freezer are perpetually crammed. A monster-sized box of cereal can vanish in a day; a package of Oreo cookies might never make it to the shelf. The coat closet bulges with backpacks.

Afternoons and evenings are a whirl of homework and dinner, pickups and drop-offs for religious school, sports or play practice. Bill is the house cook - the whole family loves his chicken scampi over angel-hair pasta - and will sometimes feed the kids first so he and Wendy can steal an hour of privacy, sequestering themselves on the deck for dinner a deux.

Even on the couple's "off" weekends, when Wendy's kids are with their father and Bill's with their mother, their agenda is peppered with swim meets or college visits. "We love the kids and hanging out with them, but we rarely have quiet time," Bill says.

And yet, this blended family is a sweet astonishment. "I didn't hope to find somebody I'd be married to again," Bill says. "I didn't think it was possible to find my soul mate after the age of 40."

Wendy had the same doubts. "Divorce is a loss. You grieve. You go through that painful process. When my ex left me, I figured it was going to be the children and me, and I'd get through this life."

Now there are every-other-Friday pizza dinners, weekly movie nights and the occasional road trip - everyone packed into the two SUVs - to a drive-in north of Allentown. There are more kids to kiss each night. Wendy creeps into the room that the younger girls share, then into the boys' room, wedged with bunk beds and a twin, and finally to the sleeping teens.

"I tuck them in and kiss them. They may not even hear me. That's when I look around and say, 'Thank you.' I think, this is so amazing. As crazy as our life is, it's a blessing. How did we do something so right?"

The Parent Trip

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