Madeleine CaiQun’s Birthday Celebration

Last month we celebrated Madeleine CaiQun’s 7th birthday! One thing that was super special about this year was that Matt’s mom and sister Stacey came to visit us the weekend of her birthday, so we had family here to help us celebrate, and that made the whole weekend seem like a fun treat. We don’t get to see them often, so it’s very special when we do.

Stacey had ordered a giant cardboard house for the kids to color, which the kids thought was amazing.

We talked to Mei Mei about how she’d like to celebrate her birthday, whether she wanted a party with friends or to go somewhere special, or what sounded best to her. I wondered what she’d choose – I thought she might say she wanted a party like Miranda did, not because that would necessarily be most enjoyable for her but because that’s what her sister had done. I was glad, though, that she thought about what she’d really like and chose accordingly. She said wanted to celebrate with just our family, to have a fun day at home, to get Chinese food for dinner, and have a pinata. We told her we could certainly make that happen!

She got some fun gifts, and we all enjoyed diving into them. The game Blokus will, I think, be a good one for our family, and Madeleine CaiQun is a very spatial thinker, so I think she’ll be good at it.

And she was happy to share her jewelry making kit with Miranda (she’s super generous), and of course both girls still love all things Star Wars!

I was exhausted – Madeleine CaiQun’s birthday fell at the end of the week during which FangFang’s tooth started hurting tremendously, and neither she nor Matt or I was getting much sleep – and by that afternoon I felt like I couldn’t put together a coherent sentence and went upstairs to get just a bit of sleep. Grandma Nancy and Aunt Stacey stepped in to help the girls make the birthday cupcakes, and then we all enjoyed Chinese food and cupcakes for dinner!

I love it when Madeleine CaiQun smiles – when she does, she radiates joy 🙂 She is such an incredibly sweet child and brings so much joy to our lives. That sweetness was evidenced by the fact that she was totally fine with sharing a bit of the spotlight on her birthday with little brother, who was incredibly jealous that she got to blow out a candle!

And, I blame it on my sleep deprivation, but I completely forgot about her pinata until the morning after her birthday! No worries – we had just as much fun with it then as we would have the day before 🙂 She had chosen a gigantic dinosaur pinata – the largest one at the store – to our amusement! We’d filled it with candy…

And then we let the kids take turns whacking it with a stick 🙂 Matt had to help a bit to get it to break open, but everyone was quite entertained by the whole experience!

Madeleine CaiQun is such a beautiful soul. She’s sweet and kind and has a strong sense of justice. She’s self-aware and thoughtful, and she loves to snuggle. I am so thankful to have her in our family <3

Heaviness, Choosing Joy, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

It has been a heavy week at our house. My mom’s boss – but, more than that, her friend – died completely unexpectedly on Tuesday night of a heart attack. I hadn’t spent much time with him myself, but he was always friendly and kind in the few interactions I did have with him, and more than that, I loved him and his family for enfolding my mom into their lives with genuine grace and care. His death followed closely on the heels of the death of the father of my best friend from high school the prior week, also of a heart attack, also completely unexpected. And I sit in the knowledge that it was only 7 months ago that I was the one calling 9-1-1, and our outcome could have been much different, and I am humbled by that, and my heart is broken for my friends and family whose loved ones did not make it.

And all of that was happening as we were sharing about the matching grant we’d just received (and then working to resolve the technical difficulties associated therewith). And in only a couple days, the donations have started coming in, and I find myself rejoicing, because each one brings us one step closer to being able to pay all of the final costs associated with the adoption of our next daughter. And yet as I rejoice, I also feel the weight of that blessing. We have friends and family members who are truly giving sacrificially, and receiving those gifts is so humbling. I want to do all that I can to honor them and their contributions in our journey.

And in the midst of that weight, we are parenting our three precious kiddos, and we are choosing to pursue joy – not because we want to pretend the pain of loss does not exist,  but because, as this poem I love states so beautifully, “We must risk delight…We must admit there will be music despite everything.”

Yesterday was the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, celebrated in China with importance second only to Chinese New Year. As the girls have gotten older, we’ve tried to incorporate increasingly more Chinese culture into our family’s life, and so, while I’m not sure we’d enjoy traditional moon cakes, we decided to make moon cake cookies together. The kids and I made the dough yesterday!

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And then today we had stir fry and ate with chopsticks for dinner…

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…and used our new amazing cookie molds and all worked together to make the cookies!

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We thought they turned out pretty well, and they were yummy, too!

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We read a bit about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, went outside and actually looked up at the moon, and generally enjoyed our evening together 🙂

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You've Come a Long Way, Baby! Happy 2 Year Family Day, Madeleine CaiQun!

Two years ago today, a tiny girl with a large love of shrimp chips was placed in our arms.

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Two years in, she has gained 10 pounds and 7.5 inches.

But more importantly, she is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, and a niece, and she is oh so very loved.

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Of course, she lost a lot to get here. She lost her first country, her first language, and the culture into which she was born, and most significant of all, she lost her first family. Those losses are profound, and over these last two years, we’ve begun to have conversations about them. Particularly throughout my pregnancy with Atticus, thoughts and questions about her origins came to the surface. With a heavy heart, I had to respond, “We just don’t know,” to most of them and then give her space to wonder, speculate, and begin to grieve.

There is brokenness in this world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the harsh realities facing children who find themselves separated from their parents. And yet there are snippets of hope. Children do not belong in orphanages but in families, and we are so blessed that Madeleine CaiQun has become a part of ours.

Over the past two years, we have seen God knit her into our family beautifully. This sister bond is one of the best things that has ever happened to both of our girls. 001

They are learning friendship, forgiveness, and fun every day that they spend together.

And Matt and I? We could not be more in love with our little girl.

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We still work hard at this family thing. The intensity of our focus on cultivating attachment has waned, but we will always be cognizant of our need to be aware, to be intentional, and to lean in toward our children and help them to lean back toward us. We are band-aid parents. We seek out opportunities for hugs and snuggles, and we prioritize eye contact. We know that hunger for food is not always, really, hunger for food. We discipline in ways that are not necessarily typical.

And we celebrate. We celebrate that we are a family. We celebrate that this amazing little girl is an integral part of it.

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We are oh so very blessed.