Two-And-A-Half Months with Our Little Guy!

Our little guy is now over 2 months old!

Atticus is an incredibly happy baby.

054And he continues to be everyone’s favorite little snuggle bug.

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He’s definitely growing well. At his two-month appointment with his pediatrician, he was in the 88th percentile for length and 73rd percentile for weight. He seems so big to me that I was actually surprised those numbers weren’t higher!

He’s also getting stronger all the time. He enjoys tummy time more now that he can hold his head up a lot better – and of course the girls are always eager to come hang out with him on his blanket.

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He truly enjoys his sisters. He’s a social little guy, so he doesn’t like being put down and left alone, but I often set him up in his bouncy seat and ask one of the girls to sit and talk to him while I get dinner going or switch the laundry or something of that nature. I’ll return to find them cooing and smiling at each other happily 🙂

He gets a ton of language exposure. I was actually worried that he wouldn’t pick up words as quickly as Miranda did, since I wouldn’t be able to give him as much direct one-on-one time, but now that I’ve seen what his life actually looks like, I realize how silly that concern was! Matt and I both still talk to him quite a bit, but the girls are also speaking to him constantly. On top of that, we read to the girls a lot, both for school and for fun, and he’s around for much of that and just soaks it in along with them.

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And – in response to the #1 question for parents of babies his age – he is sleeping very well 🙂 He gives us good, long stretches of sleep at night, usually just waking to nurse 2-3 times each night. His naps are more variable, which is not ideal (from my perspective), but it’s very typical for a baby his age, and it’s not a real problem.

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All in all, I think things are going pretty well. We’re not back to our normal patterns from our life before his arrival, but we never will be. It feels like we’ve established at least the outline of what our new normal (for now) is, though. We’re able to do school, run errands, and take care of most of the everyday tasks of cooking and cleaning. And for the most part, Matt and I are both able to do the work we need to do and have quality time together. We’ve even been able to start spending a little bit of time with friends and having people over for dinner again.

There are hard things about this stage of life, though. I often feel like everything continues to run smoothly as long as I am working toward that end constantly – using any spare minutes to get a few more dishes into the dishwasher or start a load of laundry. There’s more to do, and everything just takes longer these days. I never know when I’m going to have a free 20 minutes to accomplish (or even start!) any task that needs to be done, and the unpredictability of it is hard for me. I’d so like to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight and be able to wear something from my closet other than yoga pants. It can be hard to connect with friends when we have 3 young kiddos. And I don’t feel like I get true breaks – since Atticus won’t take a bottle, the instant I finish feeding him, the clock starts ticking down toward the next time he’ll need me.

But the thing about adding a child to our family for the third time is that I know this time is fleeting. This stage won’t last forever – or even very long at all. Soon enough Atticus will begin eating solid food and no longer need me to be his sole source of sustenance – and then I’ll blink, and he’ll be done nursing entirely. His naps will become more regular – and then someday he’ll give them up completely. I think that this time around, I still feel the pressure of the challenges, but I can work with them. I set him up in the bouncy seat and talk to him while I do the dishes, and I grab a book to read while he sleeps in my arms. And I know that these particular challenges will pass, but in the meantime, there’s a heck of a lot of joy available.

I get to see my girls growing in their roles as helpers and nurturers. I get to see the pure joy of Atticus’s smiles and coos and laughter – and I get to be the one at whom he so often directs those beautiful gestures. I get to love and snuggle and read books and answer questions and teach facts and encourage kindness and pray for growth. I get to grow myself, learning more about patience and gentleness and kindness as I feel myself stretched.

These are good things. We’re thankful for them and thankful for the little guy whose arrival ushered us into this new stage of life.

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a momentous occasion

Today has been a momentous day for multiple reasons.

First, it is exactly one year ago today that we first saw Madeleine CaiQun’s file. That file contained precious few words and seemingly more questions than answers. And yet, through it, there began to take shape in our minds an image of a little girl. And the bottom line for us became that this little girl needed a family, and it seemed possible that we could be that family for her. We knew she could come to us with undisclosed needs, be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. We knew that the image of this child that our minds were beginning to form could be accurate or not. We didn’t know what the consequences for our lives and Miranda’s life and her life would be if we were to move forward with pursuing her adoption (or not). But we knew she needed a family. We believed we could be that family, that we could care for her and nurture her and love her and that there would likely be overwhelming and scary moments but that God would carry us through, and we committed to moving forward with adding her to our family.

And oh how God has blessed us through this little girl! Each of us is being challenged and is growing in new ways. She brings so much joy to our lives and to our family. Today, as I snuggled with her at naptime, I told her, “Mei mei, Mama loves you.” She smiled back up at me and said, “Yeah, Mama love mei mei,” followed quickly by, “And Baba love mei mei! And jie jie love mei mei!” Yes, sweet girl, we all love you so, so much.

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Today was also momentous in that we were able to reunite our little CaiQun with her former cribmate from her time at her orphanage.

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Obviously at this age, the girls’ time together was not exactly composed of intimate, soul-baring conversations, but CaiQun did seem to remember Lily, and we hope that it will be an encouragement to her as she gets older to have this relationship from her past.

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And last, but not least, tonight was the first night that our little mei mei asked to pray at bedtime. Each night, as Matt and I put the girls to bed, one of us will pray for the girls and for our night and anything else on our hearts. Occasionally Miranda will tell us that she wants to pray, too, which we always love, and tonight CaiQun announced that she would pray, and we got to hear her sweet little voice addressing God – beautiful. We are so thankful to have her as part of our family.

 

This Girl

This girl has been a part of our family for 5 whole months now.

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We have been so incredibly blessed to watch her blossom through this time. What a joy she is! Just look at that huge smile, that sweet, sweet face, and the pure excitement she’s exuding (over packing material, no less).

She is continuing to attach to us and form relationships beautifully. She loves to be with me and to be held, though she’ll also let me know when she’s ready to jump down and get back to playtime. She and Matt have a fun relationship, and she and Miranda are virtually inseparable – their sister-bond warms my heart. She is absolutely confident in her assessment of who is a trusted member of her family and is a firm enforcer of boundaries – if a friend offers her a helping hand, they will almost certainly receive the determined response, “No, Mama do it.” And yet she also distinguishes between friends and acquaintances and strangers.

Her mastery of the English language, 5 months from her first sustained exposure, is astounding. She regularly speaks in 4-5 word sentences, and her vocabulary numbers hundreds of words (at least).

Her growth and development are also remarkable. She has gained multiple inches and pounds since arriving home. She’s now potty-trained. Her gross motor skills have taken off, as well. She regularly announces happily, “Mama, I jump!” or comes screeching to a halt in front of me to announce, “Mama, I run so fast!” At the same time, she has developed a much greater attention span and has maintained her ability to focus with great intensity.

And as great as those achievements are, they do not compare to this unveiling of her soul that we have been granted the opportunity to see. My girl is quick to forgive. She enjoys time with others and by herself. She reads, she plays, she laughs. She is absolutely full of joy.

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She can fall asleep on her own in her bed, but she also, some days, grants me the privilege of holding her in my arms and singing to her as she nods off to sleep. How sweet those times are.

Madeleine CaiQun, I am so blessed to be your mama.

On nights like tonight, I mourn the fact that we will probably never get to know her birth mother, to tell her about the amazing child her daughter – our daughter – is, to share photos like these, to share our joy in this amazing little girl. I mourn the fact that CaiQun will probably never know the woman who gave her life.

And yet in the midst of the bitter, I rejoice in the sweet. This amazing little girl was given life. She is no longer living out her days within the walls of an orphanage. She is my daughter. She is beautiful, inside and out. I see, in both my daughters, imago Dei, the image of God. What a blessing to have had these past 5 months with our little Madeleine CaiQun, our sweet mei mei. I look forward to so many more.

 

our week in photos

I’ll be back with more words later, but for now, I have some photos to share, and I’ll let them speak for themselves (for the most part – I’m a writer, not a photographer, so I know myself well enough to know I won’t be able to keep entirely silent here!).

We’re still singing “I’ll Fly Away” more often than any other song around here. CaiQun can’t really form the words yet, but she’s got the basics of the tune, and it’s clear that she’s singing right along with Miranda.

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We love to read. All of us. This is actually such a blessing. The first few days we were home with CaiQun, the only book I could get her to “sit” through in its entirety was Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, and that only because it includes motions on each page, and they were what kept her interested. Now she brings me books and plops herself down on my lap, ready to read, multiple times a day. Her attention span and interest in books are growing – and we, in this nerdy, book-loving family, are celebrating that. We’re enjoying our books, and she’s even started to find some favorites of her own – so far, Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (she does the motions, and it’s adorable – and every once in a while, we’ll be doing something entirely different (like changing her diaper), and she’ll burst out with yells and a wagging finger, explaining to those monkeys that there should be “no more monkeys jumping on the bed!”) and Caps for Sale (for which she also does the motions – I’m particularly excited about this one since it was one of my favorites as a little girl)! (Don’t mind the piles of laundry in the background. You can’t keep all the balls in the air all the time. And when one has to land on the floor…well, putting the laundry away is often my ball-on-the-floor of choice.)

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My “big artist” and “little artist,” as Miranda calls Matt and herself.

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One morning this morning I got up early and went out to breakfast with my friend Liz before she took off with a group from our church on a one-week mission trip to Brazil. Consequently, Matt got the girls up and dressed that day. Here is the result.

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CaiQun loves to rock…and she continues to love her hippo (and the mystery has been solved – it’s Uncle Danny we have to thank for the hippo!).

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We’re into pigtails and alphabet blocks.

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We’ve also started to venture into the kitchen as a group of three girls – we haven’t been too ambitious yet, but here we are making granola bars for the first time since getting back from China.

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Miranda and I had planned to work on her United States puzzle one evening while Matt was giving CaiQun a bath, but she was so eager to get started that she couldn’t wait until little sister went upstairs, and amazingly enough, it actually went well!

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And no photo post would be complete without some documentation of our glorious snow day on Sunday. It was lovely. Most people around here are rather less excited about it, as they were hit with a huge snowstorm (or two) while we were in China…but since we missed that, we were excited to have the opportunity to get outside and play!

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Note that there are no photos of CaiQun actually playing in the snow. She thought it was beautiful from the inside – she couldn’t stop staring out the windows and declaring, “no!” (snow!) to anyone walking by. However, she was significantly less enthralled with the possibility of actually coming into contact with it.

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Later that evening, Matt and Miranda went back out in the snow. I attempted to take CaiQun out again, but it was not happening. She dissolved into tears, and we came back in and rocked in the rocking chair until she calmed down. In my absence, Matt and Miranda constructed this snowman named Ozymandias. I’m not sure what else to say about that.

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And now that we have that out of the way…I think we’re ready for spring!

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home (almost) a week

Miranda interrupted my reading of our “naptime book” (so nicknamed because we read it every day at nap time) this afternoon to inform me, “CaiQun is loved, and I am loved.” In that moment, my heart was so full. She is getting it. She remembers what I tell her every day after we finish reading our naptime book. Even if she doesn’t fully comprehend at this point what that means, she is absorbing it as truth.

I think that’s a picture of a lot of our week this week. Miranda is more fully making the transition from being an only child to being one of two children in our family, and that’s hard stuff. Honestly, I think Matt and I were so focused on preparing for the attachment and bonding and adoption-related difficulties we might encounter as we added CaiQun to our family that we somewhat under-prepared for the normal challenges that face any family adding a second child. We’re working through it, though – disciplining for disobedience but offering hugs, snuggles, and quality time for our firstborn. This morning Matt and Miranda went out for a daddy-daughter date, and she was ecstatic. Of course, the prospect of a Panera cookie for breakfast didn’t hurt.

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And we actually witnessed our girls playing together this afternoon before their nap – not both attempting to play with the same toys and getting in each others’ way, not even mere parallel play, but actually playing together. So sweet.

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And little CaiQun is settling into her place in our family more and more. It’s beautiful to see this transformation occurring before our eyes. I remember reading that getting to know your adopted child is often like peeling back the layers of an onion – it’s not an all-at-once kind of thing, more of a learn-a-little-more-each-day kind of thing.

CaiQun no longer goes to sleep on her own within minutes of her head hitting the pillow, never moving from the position in which we lay her down. No, now my girl knows that there are snuggles to be had, so she stays awake through the before-bed reading and singing of songs and waits for the opportunity to snuggle close to her mommy, hold her blanket and her stuffed hippo (sent by whom? there was no note in the box – please let me know if it was you! she loves it!), and be rocked to sleep. It’s a joy to see those “easy” but atypical behaviors that were cultivated out of necessity during her life in an orphanage begin to disappear and be replaced by a desire for love and care.

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Of course, just as Miranda does not yet fully understand what it means that both she and CaiQun are loved, CaiQun does not yet fully understand what this transformation in her life means. I have no doubt that she is enjoying being with us – the smiles and laughter that never appeared in any photo of her we received from her time in the orphanage are now constantly present. However, we have known each other for less than 3 weeks. I suffer no delusions that she completely grasps the difference between orphanage and family or between nanny and parent. She seems to be attaching to us beautifully. She reaches for us for comfort and reassurance; she keeps a careful eye on us when others are here, making sure she knows where we are; and she seems so much more at ease with us than she did at first. But we haven’t even hit the 3 week mark in this new adventure of being a family of four. We’re still very much building foundations.

These are great foundations to be building, though. The mom-and-daughter time.

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The sisters-with-dad time.

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And through it all, I am feeling blessed not only to be the mother to these two sweet girls, but also to have another window into the character of God and His work in the world. I see my own journey reflected in CaiQun’s, my self-reliance gradually giving way to trust in a God who can take far better care of me than I can do for myself parallel to her growing trust in Matt and me as her parents. I see in my daughters a perfect illustration of our definite status as children of God and yet our lack of understanding of what that means in terms of our relationship with Him and our relationships with one another. I’m grateful for these glimpses into His character and my relationship with Him.

And even beyond that, we’re doing well. We’re finally getting some sleep (sometimes). Last night, not so much, due to some certain small someones being awake from about 4:00 a.m. Tonight I will not make the mistake of forgetting the melatonin again. But the night before last, we all slept for around 11 hours. Glorious! Matt survived his first week back to work (though he’s been on a grading marathon this afternoon), and the girls and I survived our first week with him back at work. We even ventured out of the house a couple times! We didn’t quite do it solo – I wasn’t that ambitious – but my beautiful friend Liz was sweet enough to give up two of her mornings this week, the first to accompany us on a run to the mall post office to send back the CARES harnesses we rented for all of our travels, and the second just to go for a walk around the neighborhood. I almost cried on that first outing – the joy of pushing my double stroller that held my two babies, being back in America where we could stop at any food place we wanted and get food and not worry (too much) about its safety and even order drinks with ice, having real conversation (interspersed with many exchanges with small children) with a friend in person. It felt rather pitiful to be close to tears on an errand to the mall post office, but I’m okay with that. This is good stuff, my friends 🙂