A Big Birthday – Miranda Grace is Ten!

Miranda is our kiddo who most wants to have birthday parties with friends, so there was much dramatic discussion leading up to her birthday about whether it was even worth celebrating her birthday this year, since she couldn’t have a party. I told her that it was very sad that she couldn’t have a party, but we still wanted to celebrate her. We’d have to see what the coming months look like in terms of the possibility for a party, but in the meantime, it is good to celebrate each person and acknowledge their special days.

We went out of our way to do what we could to make her tenth(!!) birthday a special day within the context of the limitations of our social isolation, and we tried to celebrate it as well as possible!

The day began with some birthday gifts – first up, some homemade cards from sweet MeiMei <3

Usually Matt and I try to give a lot of our gifts in the form of certificates for future experiences we know our children will enjoy…but that, too, is rather impossible this year. Both Miranda and MeiMei have been spending copious amounts of time reading lately, and especially with the public library closed, we used Miranda’s birthday as an opportunity to expand our personal “upper elementary reading for pleasure” library. She also received some new art supplies, as well as several stuffed animal dragons (the Wings of Fire series has been a favorite for some time, and the kids all enjoy playing with dragons).

Some of our good friends drove by to wave from their car and say happy birthday to Miranda, which she enjoyed, as well <3

Her biggest request for the day was that we not do school, and I was happy to give the kiddos a day off. Fortunately, we had beautiful weather that day, and we spent a good portion of the day playing outside.

Several family members also called and FaceTimed with Miranda, which she loved!

In our family, when it’s your birthday, you get to choose a special breakfast cereal (Froot Loops) and whatever dinner you want. Miranda actually got a bonus meal, in that Courtney asked her what she’d like for lunch and sent her delivery from a local favorite Chinese restaurant, House of Chow. Her dinner of choice was homemade pizza, and she helped make her favorite – cheese pizza!

For her birthday dessert, she chose a “Peep cake,” though we had to substitute marshmallows, since stores were out of Peeps by the time I made our pre-birthday grocery order. I completely forgot to order candles, but luckily Matt came up with the idea to melt together two candles we already had to make a Roman numeral X for her.

There was no grand party, but we certainly enjoyed celebrating her as a family. In addition to our standard “high/low/buffalo/act of kindness/looking forward to” dinner activity, we added a category for each person to share something they love and appreciate about Miranda – she soaks up that affirmation.

It’s so strange to think that she is ten years old now. If she is ten, that also means that I have been a mother for ten years! On some level, that seems so natural to me – I have always wanted to be a mom, more than anything else. But it also seems like it was just yesterday that she was born!

She is undeniably her own person. We think she is an Enneagram 8 – a challenger through and through. She has firm convictions, which may or may not line up with Matt’s or mine. She views the world in black and white, and to say that she much prefers leading to following would be a gross understatement. She feels all feelings big, and we work hard on distinguishing between emotions, thoughts, and actions. While that sometimes presents challenges for her, it also means that her love and compassion are more than generous. She thrives when given opportunities to take responsibility, whether for cooking a meal or putting her little sister to bed (a ritual she and FangFang have recently started choosing for themselves most nights). Her love of animals is her reason for being a strict vegetarian, and she is great with our cats – the only cat allowed to sleep in a bedroom at night is Rosie, who spends almost every night on Miranda’s top bunk with her. Miranda dreams about wanting to be a baker and an engineer and a scientist, as well as wanting to be in charge of any number of things!

Being her mother is one of the great challenges and great joys of my life <3

Happy birthday, Miranda Grace!

Meet Keena, Jefferson, and Rosie

As you’re likely aware if we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on Instagram, our family has recently grown again! Meet Keena, Jefferson, and Rosie!

from left to right, Jefferson, Rosie, and Keena

It was a bit of a journey to get them. It started when I arrived home from our church’s women’s retreat the first weekend of May to an excited announcement from the kids that there were cats in our yard! Apparently, as they’d been playing outside, they’d seen a mama cat and kittens who seemed to be living under our sunroom in the back yard. After soliciting advice on Facebook from our cat-expert friends, we decided we’d try to get them to warm up to us, so we could trap them and take them to get spayed and neutered, and we’d try to find good homes for them. And after some discussion between Matt and me, we told the kids that we could probably keep two of the kittens.

Actually, years ago, when people would ask if we had any pets, we’d look at them like they were crazy and respond that when we had the time, energy, and money to devote to another being, we’d have babies – and so we did. But now, four babies later, we think our family has all the kiddos it’s going to have. And we’ve seen the positive ways in which our children have responded to animals. And while having pets does complicate travel and does add additional responsibilities within our home, we’ve talked with friends who are cat-owners, and we’ve come to believe that adding cats to our family could be manageable.

Thus began our brief attempts to tame the cats in our back yard. We put out some soft food, which mama cat and the kittens began to eat.

I stood outside while mama cat ate, trying to get her used to my presence, so I could hopefully get close enough in the days that would follow to trap her and her kittens. Unfortunately, my presence had the opposite effect – it seems I spooked her, and we’re pretty sure that mama cat moved her little family elsewhere. We saw her a few times – always at a distance and never when we were outside – after that, but we haven’t seen the kittens since.

Our kiddos were pretty bummed and began carrying around the cat carrier we’d purchased, just practicing for the day when we could get cats for real.

After a couple days of no kitten sightings, I began researching our options for getting cats, and we decided that for our family, the ideal situation really would be to bring home some kittens. It’s definitely harder to find families for older cats…but it’s also harder for older cats to adjust to a family with many young, active children. And after reading and talking with friends about the benefits of having multiple cats, we decided we’d try to bring home 2 kittens.

Because we are us, and once a decision is made, we move, we went out that afternoon and met and played with some kittens, and that evening, we welcomed Keena and Jefferson into our family!

There was just one problem…Keena and Jefferson were part of a litter of 3 cats. I am quite sentimental, and I couldn’t stop thinking about and feeling bad for the 1 cat we’d left behind, and neither could our big girls. That night I talked to Matt, and the next afternoon I loaded the kids up into the car, and we went back to get our third kitten, now named Rosie, before anyone else could come and get her.

They are very playful!

And Madeleine CaiQun does a great job of playing with them!

But as all kittens do, they also require a great deal of sleep, which is quite adorable 🙂

We’re finding that our hypothesis is probably correct, that it’s best for our family, with our many young children, to have kittens. Atticus, in particular, requires a lot of coaching about how to treat cats with kindness and gentleness, but all of the kittens are pretty tolerant even of him!

The cats have been great snuggling companions for everyone, which has been a blessing. Everyone needs to know that they are unconditionally loved and accepted, and while Matt and I do our best to communicate our love and acceptance to all of our children, we understand that there’s also a lot of teaching and discipline in our relationships with our kids. At more difficult times, the predominant emotional sense our kids have of our relationship may not be positive, and they may not be able to receive a lot of affection from us – but the kittens will curl up on their laps and allow themselves to be petted, all the while emitting motor-like purrs of satisfaction and approval, which is so encouraging and helpful for all of our kiddos. Curling up with a kitten has definitely become another strategy in our toolbox for helping dysregulated children.

Bringing kittens into the family has added some expense and some work and a few more appointments to our lives, but overall it has been a very positive experience, and we’re glad we’ve embarked upon this journey of pet ownership!