Looking Back: Wedding Trip Part Two

I wrote in October about the first part of our trip out to my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding, and while we’re in the midst of what is a rather different part of our lives right now, I do want to come back and touch on the wedding itself before the end of 2016! We’ve all loved Sharon since the first time we met her – I started making some not-at-all-subtle hints to my brother about marriage soon thereafter! – and we were thrilled for them to be embarking on the journey of marriage together, and we were all honored to be part of their special day.

They actually turned it into a full weekend of fun – our family and Sharon’s had pizza together at Daniel and Sharon’s cabin on Thursday night, and then on Friday the guys hung out and those of us girls who were in town got our nails done before the rehearsal dinner Friday evening.

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They actually invited their entire guest list to the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and a Sunday morning brunch, which was a lot of fun! It was nice to get to see some of our friends and extended family throughout the weekend, but of course the main event was Saturday 🙂

The guys got ready together and the girls together, and we did most of the photos before the wedding.

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

If you’re wondering why we look so cold…it’s because we were! The days leading up to the wedding had been beautiful, but the wedding day itself was only about 50 degrees, so while the day was gorgeous for photos, we were all freezing outside! We made the best of it, though 🙂 Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Here’s the happy couple with their dog, Dixie!

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Of course the most important part was the ceremony itself! The first time I teared up was when Danny was escorting Sharon’s mom, Patti, and my mom down the aisle. Patti had had a severe stroke about 9 months prior and was working hard in PT. She wanted to walk down the aisle, but as they started out, it became clear that she needed more support than Danny could offer with her on one arm and my mom on the other, so my mom came around to the other side, and they all walked down the aisle together.

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

The girls took their flower girl role very seriously.

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

The ceremony was beautiful, and the officiant did a good job of incorporating parts of their story and personalities into the day.

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

It was great to have so many people all coming together to celebrate the beginning of Daniel and Sharon’s marriage! This is the wedding party and both immediate families.

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

We’ve actually seen and gotten to know Sharon’s family better than might be normal for two sides of the family living all over the country, and that’s been sweet. We tried to be an encouragement to them after Patti’s stroke the summer before and very much appreciated their support after Matt’s heart attack in February, and it’s been cool to feel like the families are being knit together as Danny and Sharon have joined together in marriage.

The reception was at the beautiful vineyard and was a lot of fun!

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

Matt and I and our kids had to head out relatively early that night to get the kids to bed before they melted down, so we weren’t part of this photo, but we very much enjoyed seeing so many of our extended family members at the wedding!

Jennifer Gulley Photography www.jennifergulley.com

We were so happy to have Sharon joining the family officially, and we were all thankful to be part of this amazing day!

Note: All photos in this post (except the girls at the nail salon!), as you probably guessed by their quality, were not taken by me! They are courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law and were taken by Jennifer Gulley Photography.

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!