Madeleine CaiQun is 6!

I haven’t gotten a chance to blog about it yet, but last month our sweet Madeleine CaiQun turned six!

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This girl is oh-so-precious to me. She is sweet and thoughtful and fiercely loyal, particularly when it comes to her siblings, both of whom love her to no end. Atticus can often be heard asking, “Mei mei? Mei mei?” when he doesn’t see her, and though she would rather prefer that this not be the case, his first activity each morning, after waking Matt and me, is to run into the girls room, shouting, “Mei mei! Jie jie!” and climb into their beds with them to wake them.

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Miranda picked out this large Star Wars coloring book for her, and it was the perfect gift for our Star-Wars-obsessed girl! The other day I asked her to make a guess about what the names of 2 girls in a painting might have been, and she looked at me and announced, “Mom, my brain is just so full of thinking about storm troopers and clones, I can’t think of names for that!” Funny girl 🙂

Madeleine CaiQun is also a lover of soft and silky things, and these new pajamas from her grandma Nancy were definitely a hit!

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Our sweet girl generally prefers to run around in just her underwear (one reason it’s hard to find blog-appropriate photos of her!), but when she does get dressed of her own accord, you can be sure it will be in something soft 🙂

My mom came for a visit to help us celebrate Madeleine CaiQun’s birthday, which was great! We had a pretty low key day. She chose to have homemade pizza for dinner and a strawberry cake for dessert, and we played and just enjoyed spending time together. Mei mei is such a great kid, and it is a joy to be her mama and to see her grow and develop as a person. I’m looking forward to the adventures with her that the following year is sure to bring!

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!

snow storms and Star Wars

Our babies have all reacted differently to their first experiences of snow. Miranda Grace tolerated it reasonably well…

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…while Madeleine CaiQun, newly home from China, loved looking at it through the window but was terrified of being out in it. I wondered how our Atticus boy would do, and this week we got the chance to find out!

Unfortunately, our little guy was not a fan!

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Unable to move very well in his snow pants and coat and boots, our poor little guy’s reaction to being put down in the snow was to flop over backwards and cry! Matt rescued him and let him watch the winter play from the living room window instead – a much more appealing prospect.

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Meanwhile, the girls, of course, dove right in and enjoyed the snowy wonderland!

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They’ve also been enjoying, recently, something that Matt and I both enjoyed as children and continue to appreciate as adults – Star Wars! They watched the trailer for Episode 7 with Matt, and he started showing them some scenes from the earlier movies and eventually let them watch some of the full length films (slightly edited at their most intense points!). So far they’ve watched Episodes 1-4 and are hoping to get to 5 and 6 this week. We may make those viewings family affairs, as I’d like to watch them again, too! And right now they are absolutely loving everything about Star Wars.

They worked with Matt to put together a Lego Star Wars set…

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…Miranda has enough Star Wars drawings to fill a book (Darth Vader, of course, pictured here)…

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…and they can frequently be found wielding light sabers!

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It’s really fun for us as parents that the girls are now old enough that they can begin to enjoy things that we really enjoy, too. Not that Daniel Tiger and Leapfrog aren’t awesome, but they’re not exactly shows we’d choose to watch if our kids weren’t present 🙂 We really do enjoy Star Wars, though, so it has been fun to revisit them with the girls and share their excitement. I’m looking forward to more similar shared enjoyments in the future 🙂