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!

Looking Back: Happy Birthday to FangFang!

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my blogging about family events, but some are too important not to come back and address 🙂 At the end of September, we celebrated FangFang’s 4th birthday! It was her first birthday home with us, and after seeing her sisters celebrate their birthdays, she was quite excited to have her own celebration!

Of course, for a 4-year-old, the gifts were a big draw 😉 One of her favorites was a book we got for her called Three Names of Me. FangFang loves all things China, and she was captivated by this opportunity to have a book that tells a story similar to her own, of a girl adopted from China.

In addition to being drawn in by gifts, the promise of getting to choose her favorite meal and dessert was quite exciting for FangFang! She requested a pink cake with pink frosting, and we were happy to oblige.

She wanted “bear candles,” and Matt bought some gummy bears…and then impaled them on the candles(!) to create “bear candles.” I thought it was a little bit creepy, but FangFang approved 🙂

She is simply delighted to have attention and to receive love from friends and family, and she very much enjoyed everything about her day. Celebrating it made me think back to last year, when she was still in China, and the poor child broke her arm on her birthday, but still, her joy shone through!

And she remains very much that same child today – so full of joy in any and every circumstance – but most especially when given attention and treats 😉 It’s amazing to me how much changes and how much stays the same in the space of a year. In the space of a year, this girl had switched primary languages, transitioned from her foster home to her family, and moved from one country to another. Her life looked so different, and yet you can see, in her photos, her shining through. To me it is a testament to the quality of the foster home where she lived that her personality and joy were so evident there, and we’re glad she has brought them into our home and family, as well.

It is a blessing to have her home and part of our family, and we were so glad to be able to celebrate her birthday with her!

Our Atticus Boy is 18 Months Old!

Our little guy hit that big 18-month mark at the end of last month! He is an amazing juxtaposition of all things little boy – he is sweet and snuggly while also being an adventurous lover of dirt.

IMG_0365

IMG_0458

He is resourceful, regularly pulling a chair from the dining room into the kitchen to expand his reach – sometimes to see what he might be able to reach in the China cabinets, but other times in an attempt to be helpful.

IMG_0035He considers the dishwasher his personal domain, certain that he is essential to both unloading and loading it. Fortunately this works pretty well for unloading…

IMG_0229

…though when it comes time for his mama to load the dishwasher, he often finds himself relegated to the Toddler Tula 🙂

IMG_0596

With his sleep, he proves the statement that every child, even within the same family, is different. He has always been a pretty good napper, and while he generally sleeps well at night, he is my only child who, beyond a few months old, would regularly wake in the night not just because he needed something but in order to spend a couple hours playing. We’re hopeful that he’s growing out of that phase!

IMG_0445

He is a climber and an acrobat and a builder of block towers.

IMG_0108

IMG_0104

He’s also an avid reader. He loves to listen in on his sisters’ reading, bring books to us to read, and look at books himself.

IMG_0637

Due, in part, I’m sure, to this reading, he seems on the verge of a language explosion. He doesn’t say “this” all that much anymore, but he does have a few other words. His favorite word is “moon,” and he also offers directions with a few words – “up” and “down” and “out.” Before he takes naps and goes to bed, he approaches each person in the room to wave and say, “night night.” In true boy fashion, he had multiple sound effect words – “boom” and “bump” – before he ever said “mom,” but the other night I did get a definitive “mom” from him, which made my day! He also occasionally says “ball” and “dad.” And he makes signs for more, no, and touchdown. He’s a fairly able communicator, employing pointing and grunting in addition to his words, but we are looking forward to his having more actual words!

One effect of his status as a third child is that at even 18 months old, he recognizes Star Wars paraphernalia and, much to his sisters’ delight, any time he sees it, he starts humming and dancing to the Imperial March!

His hair is still one of his defining features – it was the first body part he learned to identify 🙂

13344723_10107200524193659_7377524496586944542_n

It can be tamed somewhat, though, and he cleans up pretty well! He was the ring-bearer in my brother’s and sister-in-law’s wedding last month, and he LOVED the pocket watch they gave him!

13233027_10107135214250309_3761124038921966568_n

Though his presence in our family certainly makes life somewhat more complicated, it also brings so much fun. We’re so thankful for these past 18 months with our little buddy, and we can’t wait to see what the coming years hold!

Happy birthday, Miranda Grace!

We’ve had a busy few weeks around here, and I have a lot of catching up to do here on the blog! First up: happy birthday, Miranda Grace! This little girl made me a mama 6 years ago, and I rather adore her!

03 happy family

She is intelligent and creative and highly passionate! As the oldest, she is our parenting guinea pig, and I often feel that we fail her in one way or another, but we keep pressing on together, doing all that we can to figure out how to live this life well.

Upon realizing that birthday parties could have themes, Miranda requested a Choco birthday, a la A Mother for Choco. She had assumed that just as her cousin Averie had been able to have a party with all things Frozen, we would easily be able to pull together a variety of Choco-themed party-supplies – not so much! However, Grandma came through with Choco shirts for the girls, about which they were thrilled 🙂

IMG_0296Miranda also requested a pinata for her birthday. Matt played with the idea of making a Choco pinata for her. I wasn’t sure this was a good idea – in part because at Averie’s party, they’d had a new type of pinata in which a number of ribbons hang down, and the children take turns pulling ribbons until someone pulls the one that releases all the candy, and I wasn’t sure Miranda really understood that a homemade Choco pinata would mean beating Choco with a baseball bat until he broke open. Once we explained the idea to her, she seemed enthusiastic about that possibility, too, though. However, when I was at Target purchasing candy with which to fill her pinata, I noticed that they sold ready-made pinatas for only $15 – $20 and called Matt to ask if I should get one of those. That was rather fortuitous, as he was just realizing that he might have over-committed himself in his proposal to create a homemade Choco pinata. Fortunately, Miranda was agreeable to that option and excited to choose a Darth Vader pinata (ribbon style, which, honestly, is mama-preferred!).

IMG_0310

IMG_0318

In years past, I’ve simply allowed the birthday child to select a boxed cake mix for their birthday, but this year, in keeping with our new diet, I thought I’d offer to make something from scratch – perhaps a carrot cake or an apple cake? After hearing my suggestions, Miranda announced that she’d like a raspberry cake – not something I’d ever heard of before, but I told her I’d give it a try!

IMG_0319

Fortunately she was pleased with the result!

She got some gifts, mostly from Grandma 🙂

IMG_0292

We gave her a few small presents, but our kids have SO MANY THINGS, and we’re trying to encourage them to value experiences over stuff, so our big gift to both of our girls for their birthdays this year is a family weekend in St. Louis filled with fun activities. They’ve been talking about it and asking exactly when it’s coming up, so I’m hopeful that they’ll really enjoy it!

All in all, we had a very fun day celebrating our wonderful girl 🙂 Even on our hard days, I’m so thankful she’s in my life and that I get to be her mama. We’re 6 years into this journey of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to see what is yet to come!