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!

img_2532

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

img_2544

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

img_2564

img_2538

img_2542

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

img_2558

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 🙂

img_2559

Throwback Thursday – Our Trip to the Indianapolis Children's Museum

One of the commitments Matt and I made to each other and to our then-future child when we decided to adopt from China was that we would pursue incorporating Chinese culture into our family’s life. From talking to and reading about the experiences of other trans-racial adoptees, we knew that our child, while fully part of our family, would experience the tension of living between two worlds. Raised with white parents in middle-class America, she would lose her ability to connect fully with the Chinese or Chinese-American communities, but neither would she fully experience life as a WASP. We want to do all that we can to help her navigate that reality. On top of that, we believe Chinese culture and history are fascinating, and knowledge and experience of them has so much to offer to us and to all of our children.

When we learned that the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which normally has an exhibit focused on China and its culture, would also be hosting a temporary exhibit including some of the actual terracotta warriors crafted thousands of years ago in Xi’an, China, we were determined to make the trip. One weekend last September, we made it happen.

My brother David currently lives in Cincinnati, which is just a short trip from Indianapolis, so he was able to join us for the trip, which was an extra blessing. Even just the time at the hotel with him was a treat!

023

We enjoyed some time at the regular China exhibit.

037

We learned about the Chinese zodiac signs…

045

…and about Chinese characters and calligraphy.

054

The little market was one of the girls’ favorite parts of the day, and we went back there multiple times.067

We also took a little bit of time to check out the museum’s dinosaur exhibits.

070

And then it was time for our entrance into the terracotta warriors exhibit! There was a short film about the terracotta warriors and their construction thousands of years ago and their discovery by local farmers in the 1970s, and then we were allowed into the exhibit. Matt spent some time studying and drawing this warrior.

083

One thing I was very impressed by was the way the exhibit communicated information about the warriors and their history but also made everything fun and interactive for children of various ages. Both Miranda and Madeleine CaiQun really enjoyed putting together this three-dimensional puzzle to build a replica of the kneeling archer.

091

100

We looked around at the various warriors…

107

120

…and then we were able to construct our own miniature warriors using clay and molds!

110

By the time we came through, a sizable army had already been constructed, and we added our figures to them.

114

Then the girls put on some armor, and we practiced making our fiercest faces and being defenders of the emperor.

122

132

We also enjoyed drumming, always a favorite activity, but especially with a large drum like this one!

137

As the girls were only four years old when we took our trip, I’m not sure they retained a lot of information about the terracotta warriors or from the main China exhibit. That’s not really our goal at this point, though. Obviously any pieces of information they pick up and can recall later are great. However, what is important to us right now is that we are creating a family culture in which we are continually pursuing learning and, in particular, learning about China and its culture. As our kids get older, I expect there to be more and more opportunities for that, but we’re thankful we were able to take advantage of this one when we had the chance!

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.

IMG_4448

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.

074

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.

IMG_6523

016

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.

096

ATT_1361860912058_photo

021

photo7

010

023

img_7363

038

040

IMG_9896

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

043041

064

031

008

We are oh so very blessed.