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!

Christmas 2017

It has been several years since we have traveled for Christmas, but this year we made the trip to Wisconsin, where I grew up and where my mom still lives, to spend Christmas with my mom, my dad, and my brother David (Daniel was out east with his wife Sharon and her family).

It was probably a good thing that we were heading north instead of hosting people here. Traveling for FangFang’s latest surgery and then continuing to help her recover once home, plus trying to get in a bit of schooling with the big kids, and just live life (feed everyone at least 3 meals a day, make sure everyone has clean underwear, and keep everyone alive) was pretty much all I could handle the couple weeks before we left. This was the extent of my Christmas decorating.

And you know why that was up? It’s because my mom made it with Miranda last year while I was in China, and Miranda didn’t want to take it down, so it stayed up all year. And ripped. And I just left it there. We did no Christmas tree at home, no Christmas crafts. We did watch some Christmas movies 🙂 Matt did some Advent stuff with the kids. And I started reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible Advent reading plan with them…and then failed to finish it. But this year’s holiday season was one of realizing that we could not do it all and that we needed to prioritize what was most important, focus on that, and not sweat the rest. We talked about Christmas being a celebration of Jesus’s birth and what that meant. We listened to Christmas music. And we looked forward to heading to Wisconsin to be with family 🙂

The big girls were very excited and told many people that while everyone staying here was probably going to have a green Christmas in Missouri, we would be enjoying a white Christmas in Wisconsin. They were rather disappointed when we arrived to only small patches of snow on the ground. David and I took all the kids for a walk a couple days after we got to Wisconsin, and they collected all the snow they could find in this stroller and then brought it home and dumped it outside the window of my old room, where the big girls were sleeping, so they could look out at it to enjoy a white Christmas!

Unfortunately, it was really cold, so that was pretty much our only outdoor outing for the whole trip. We did have a lot of indoor entertainment, though 🙂 Madeleine CaiQun’s siblings got her a paleontology excavation kit for Christmas, and she chipped away at it (sometimes with a bit of help from Miranda) until she had uncovered every single bone and put together her dinosaur model!

Miranda has been interested in learning more about how to sew, so she dove into this sewing kit project as soon as she received it!

We’ve learned, over the years, that our kids do better with a “Christmas season,” as opposed to one giant, overwhelming morning of a million presents and no time to enjoy any of them, so we started letting them open presents, one or two at a time, several days before Christmas.

Even so, Christmas morning was a big deal 🙂

I love these photos of my kiddos spending time with family and enjoying their gifts <3

We made our traditional Christmas cut-out cookies and frosted them the evening of Christmas Day. Somehow the frosting turned out super runny this year, which made things more difficult than usual, but we managed to enjoy the evening and make some nice cookies 🙂

The time in Wisconsin was, overall, very relaxing. We didn’t go out much – it was freezing cold, and Matt had a sinus infection that sent him to urgent care (and then back to bed) early on in our trip, so we ended up spending a lot of time just relaxing at my mom’s. That wasn’t all bad, though. Matt made a lot of small artworks. I read some books. The kids played and had space to really enjoy their time with extended family. Miranda played more games of Yahtzee with my dad than I could count. We received several more cooperative games for Christmas gifts, and we all enjoyed playing those together. There was time to play with Playmobil and puzzles and, of course, dinosaurs. Some of us adults frequently played cards after kids were in bed…and Atticus woke up a couple times and sat with me while we finished our games 😉

And we did get out a bit. In addition to our Chicagoland trips, I finished reading Wonder out loud to the big girls, so the two of them and my mom and David and I went and saw the movie one evening. And after Matt started recovering, we were able to go out and connect with a few friends in the area. Miranda found a fellow climber in my cousin’s daughter, which was so fun to see!

Overall, it was one of the most relaxing Wisconsin trips we’ve had. I think we often pack them full of things to do and people to see, and while I love getting out and enjoying other places away from home and connecting with friends and family, our last few weeks leading up to Christmas were intense that it was probably perfect timing for us to have some pretty low key time with family. It was a good Christmas celebration!

Christmas 2016

Christmas of 2016 was an odd one for us. Having been in China, I’d missed nearly all of our church’s Advent worship gatherings. And while we did see Christmas decorations in China, we spent all of our time in the southern part of China (think: Florida), and my heart was focused on adoption, official appointments, bonding, attachment, and parenting, not on Christmas. We arrived home on the 23rd, so by Christmas, we were still crazy jet-lagged. And most of the at-home family was sick with a bad cold and cough.

We made the most of it, though, and tried to celebrate Christmas a bit. Matt and my mom had done some decorating, including setting up the Christmas tree. Of course, my mom and brother David were here when we got back, and my dad had been here before and then flown out to meet me and fly home with the girls and me, so we had a small contingent of family here to celebrate. Conventional wisdom is that you should keep your newly adopted child’s world small when they arrive home, limiting interactions primarily to immediate family until they learn what family really is. Larger Christmas celebrations with extended family don’t quite fall into that description, but we figured things in China were so chaotic that a few more days of chaos weren’t going to ruin everything, and we’d only have a few extra people. We’d limit holding FangFang and feeding her to just Matt and me, but we’d enjoy our time with family. All of them had been here helping while I was gone, and we wanted to give them the chance to meet FangFang and see MeiMei, and I wanted to see them.

Plus they agreed to handle the Christmas dinner preparations 🙂 True to their word, they did just that – with my mom’s help, David made us some awesome vegetarian lasagna, and my dad made his traditional cheese torte. They also handled most of the clean up and were just generally helpful in those crazy first few days home! And in the midst of the craziness, we managed to have some fun 🙂

We made and frosted our customary cut-out cookies!

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We’ll just pretend that Madeleine CaiQun was dressed for the occasion…

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The littles were, of course, more interested in eating than in frosting, and, what with it being Christmas and all, we allowed the indulgence 🙂

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On Christmas morning we decided not to drag it out but to let everyone dive into the gift opening.

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Everyone got gifts with which they were thrilled – it was a morning of blessings 🙂

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When you have OI and an always-planning mama, you and your brother may both get giant bean bags for Christmas! They’re tons of fun in general, but they’re also perfect for comfort after major fractures – this way we’ll have them when we need them, but we can also just enjoy them for now!

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We, of course, used the day together to continue to cultivate those precious new sibling relationships.

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Miranda really has stepped up to the task of welcoming FangFang into the family and being a loving big sister to her, and that has been such a sweet thing to see.

And of course my two big girls continued to enjoy being reunited! They have moments of sibling drama, but they also play together so well so much of the time.

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And we enjoyed our sweet treats – cheese torte for the win!

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And for me? Honestly, all I wanted was for my whole family to be home and together. However, Matt really outdid himself. When we bought our house, the room we both agreed was most in need of some updates was the upstairs bathroom, but there were always reasons to tackle other rooms first, so we still hadn’t gotten around to that one. While I was gone, Matt completely renovated it for me! The full details are here, but in essence, he took this:

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The whales, people. The whales. Also, not pictured: a door that never quite shut all the way.

And he turned it into this!

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I love it. This guy is a keeper.

It may not have been our most put-together, well-planned, healthiest, Christ-focused Christmas. But we did what we could, we enjoyed our time together, and we sought to bless each other and celebrate amidst the crazy, and for this year, we count that as a win 🙂