Our Little Atticus Boy is 3!

At the end of November, our little Atticus boy turned 3!

It was actually a really hard day for me – because I was in Omaha with FangFang and not with him. I’d known for quite a while that her tibias needed to be rodded, and I knew that if at all possible, she and I and another adult needed to go to Omaha for the surgery. FangFang, at age 4 and with a history of trauma, is completely opposed to my leaving the room after surgery. She doesn’t want to stay with a nurse, and she doesn’t want to stay with child life. This is understandable – but makes it difficult for me to do surgery trips with her as the sole adult (unless I can carry everything we’ll need for our stay in one trip and have no interest in eating for the duration of our time in the hospital). I talked with my mom about her availability, and I talked with a friend whom FangFang loves about her availability, and it just kept coming back to that week of Atticus’s birthday – that’s when it worked for my mom to travel with us to do surgery.

So I talked to some other mamas of kids with medical needs, who assured me that, yes, they had occasionally missed a birthday for one of their other kids, and it had all been okay; I spent a day crying; and then I e-mailed to schedule the surgery.

Fortunately, Atticus is young enough that he has no real ties to the specific day, and he was quite happy to celebrate his birthday early. In fact, it was probably even more fun for him, because we had family in town for Thanksgiving. We did love getting to celebrate with everyone!

Our little guy is obsessed with dinosaurs these days. Just about every present he received was dinosaur-related. There were dinosaur toys…

…there were dinosaur books…

…and there were dinosaur clothes!

Atticus, like our other children, has what our pediatrician calls a “strong personality.” One way in which this manifests itself is his pronouncements that certain clothes are good and others are not, seemingly at random. We have kiddos who have sensory challenges and preferences, and this isn’t that – it’s just a decision he makes. So, unfortunately, while he wants to wear dinosaur clothes on a daily basis, he has also announced that half of these items of clothing are unwearable! Youngest child or not, he has no problem developing firm opinions of his own and making them known.

He is almost completely potty trained (hallelujah, I’m almost done with daytime diapers!!!!), which actually makes this clothing dilemma less of a big deal, because he is my only kiddo who has had most success with the nude method of potty training…so he mostly runs around naked all day long when we’re at home 🙂 We may not be a conventional family, but it works for us 🙂

Anyway, back to our birthday boy and his dinosaurs 🙂 Even with many new birthday dinosaur presents, he is still excited every time he finds a new dino item. He was my grocery shopping buddy soon after his birthday, and he saw this walking, roaring dinosaur at Aldi, and he was so excited when I said he could use his birthday money from my dad to purchase it!

Aside from his dinosaur focus, he also requested an ice cream focus for his birthday 🙂 He choose pizza and ice cream for his birthday dinner, which was greatly enjoyed by everyone!

About 3.5 years ago, when we found out that the baby with whom we were pregnant was a boy, I was a bit intimidated. I wondered whether I’d be a good boy-mom. I wondered if I’d love him the way I loved my girls. And now, with a little 3-year-old boy in my life, I can say unequivocally that this little guy is a treasure. Our Atta-boy has hilarious thoughts – I mentioned to him the other day something about when he was born in the hospital, and his response was, “I was not born in the hospital! I was born on the coffee table!” The girls and I dissolved in laughter, and I assured him that he was in fact, born in the hospital, and I offered photographs as proof (which he, fortunately, accepted!).

He’s a climber and a jumper, but he’s also a snuggler. He loves to laugh and play. I could not love this little guy more <3 I’m so thankful for the 3 years we’ve had with him so far and look forward to many more!

on parenting my bigs

Our girls may be only 5 (and 5.5, Miranda would be quick to tell you!), but in our family, they’re the “bigs.” And as they get older, I find myself enjoying them more and more – or perhaps not even more, but in a different way. Their love of Mumford & Sons and Star Wars marked their entry into enjoyment of things that Matt and I also appreciate.

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watching Episode VI together

They are able to have increasingly complex conversations and be more and more helpful at home. They are often tasked with entertaining a baby for a few minutes at a time. And we’d even started having regular chores (unloading the dishwasher and sweeping)…until the dishwasher and the broom became 2 of Atticus’s favorite things, making it impossible for them to complete their assigned tasks without his interference!

We are realizing more and more the importance of one-on-one time and have been making an effort to spend bits of time with the girls as individuals.

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an Aldi outing with Madeleine CaiQun

And as they get older, we’re seeing them express pieces of their individuality and interests.

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Miranda, dressed in a swimsuit, listening to music on the digital piano my dad got us for Christmas

And yet, it’s so beautiful to see their sibling relationship continue to develop. Leading up to Christmas, they spent a series of nights alternating which sister’s twin bed they’d sleep in, snuggled close together.

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Mei mei even shared her beloved brown blanket with Miranda!

They maintain their own distinct roles within their relationship, though! I shared this conversation on Facebook the other day – it would be difficult to capture an exchange that more typified a relationship than this one!

Madeleine CaiQun – “Mom, if me and jie jie want to be flower girls in Uncle Danny and Sharon’s wedding, we’ll have to practice – it’s a big job for 5-year-old girls!!”

Miranda Grace – “I have practiced enough. I even knew how to do it before I practiced. Watch me.”

Only a few months apart in age, they still fall into those typical first-born and second-born roles 🙂

And as they grow, we are exploring new strategies to parent them. One of our more successful attempts has been a re-introduction of an afternoon rest time. After they gave up naps, I had had them spend an hour or so playing or looking at books in separate rooms each afternoon for some quiet time for them and work time for me, but once Atticus was born and began napping upstairs in the afternoons in one of the rooms we’d used for their rest times, I gave up on that idea. More recently, I’d let them watch tv while he napped, and I was able to accomplish a lot during those times, but I didn’t love the idea of them watching so much television. I do still let them watch a show or two most afternoons, but we have transitioned to using much of Atticus’s nap time for “blanket time.” I spread out a blanket on the living room floor for each child, and they’re each allowed to choose one basket of toys – even the kept-up-high-so-Atticus-can’t-get-them toys! – and play with them independently on their blankets.

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They love it! They have quite a bit of free play time each day, most of which they spend together, and I think they like having more of a low pressure, independent play time for a little while during the afternoons. Plus they get to play with some of the toys that have been gathering dust since Atticus became mobile!

It’s always nice when parenting strategies that we try seem to work well 🙂 Another one from which I’ve loved seeing the pay-off is our frequent attempts to give our kids a voice. We’ve invested pretty heavily in trying to communicate to them that we are all on the same team in our family and that we’re interested in their thoughts and feelings. We’ve worked hard at helping our girls identify and share their emotions (in true home-school mom fashion, I even have a feelings chart hanging prominently in our playroom!). And, as a parenting book I read recently suggested, sometimes when our girls are overwhelmed and aren’t able to verbalize their feelings, we’ve asked them if they’d like to draw pictures of how they’re feeling. Miranda has taken that suggestion to heart, and every once in a while she hands me a picture like this to communicate to me about what’s going on with her – I love it!

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I’m hoping and praying that as our bigs get bigger we’re able to continue to foster open communication with them! Though we have our challenges, of course, I feel so blessed to be their mom!