September 27, 2014
It has been a while since I posted my last baby Atticus update, and I thought you all might like to see how he – or at least my belly – is doing :)
Here’s a photo at almost 24 weeks.
And here’s a more recent one at just over 29 weeks.
Obviously we’re both getting larger :) All is as it should be!
He’s an active little guy. It’s hard for me to be sure, since it has been so long, but I’m pretty sure he is more active than Miranda was. One of his favorite times to be most active is when I get back into bed after waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom – not exactly what I would have chosen, but I’ll take what I can get :)
Now that we know he is a little boy, the girls and I have had fun doing just a little bit of shopping for him.
It’s nice for even third babies to have a few new items that their mommies have picked out for them :) And honestly, I think there’s something about selecting items for your little one and picturing them wearing or using them…at least for me, it helps me begin the attachment process and look forward more specifically to their arrival. We’ve been blessed by several friends offering us hand-me-downs, which we’re more than happy to accept gratefully, and some of our early baby clothes are neutral colored, so I think he’ll be set when he arrives, but it was still fun for the girls and me to choose a few new items ourselves!
We’re starting to plan more specifically for his arrival, too. We got out the baby furniture and have most of it set up in our bedroom, and while I still need to wipe it down, the infant car seat is at least out of the attic now. I attended an infant CPR class to brush up on those procedures a couple weeks ago, and we have childcare lined up for the girls for when we go into labor (so thankful for good friends who are willing to be on call 24/7 for that!). Matt and I need to do a quick review of some of our labor and childbirth books, and I’d love to take a tour of the hospital, since they’ve rearranged some things since we were there last, so I need to get that on the calendar, but I’m not super concerned about it. Mostly there are some additional household projects we’d like to get out of the way before he arrives, and I’d like to have some more money set aside to fund my “maternity leave” from work, but by and large, I think we’re pretty well set up for him and his arrival, whenever that happens to be – but we are hoping for another couple months here before he makes his entrance :)
September 17, 2014
One of my goals for this summer and fall has been to enjoy this time as a mom-of-two and to give my girls some good, fun experiences. Hopefully Atticus will be a pretty laid back little guy and willing to come along with us on all sorts of adventures, but some things will get harder once he’s here, so we’re trying to make good use of this time before his arrival. We’ve been working on that, which is the biggest reason this blog has been silent for a few weeks! I’ll have some more posts coming up soon to share about some of our adventures, but I thought I’d start with sharing about our day at the zoo yesterday!
We love our college town, but one of its drawbacks is that it doesn’t have all the perks of bigger cities, like museums and zoos. Fortunately we’re able to catch some traveling concerts and performances, and we’re near enough to some bigger cities to take advantage of their cultural institutions. My sweet friend, Liz, and I had been talking for almost a year about how fun it would be to spend a day at the St. Louis Zoo together with our kiddos, and yesterday we were finally able to make it happen :)
The rhinoceros was one of the first animals we saw, and it was actually pretty active!
The hippos were less active, but we still enjoyed seeing them, too. They remind us of Uncle Danny, since the hippo is his favorite animal :)
And seeing the elephants is always a big hit with our crew…
…as is seeing the tigers!
Our little friend Hayden is an equally impressive tiger :)
The picture above and the one below are from our train ride around the zoo, the one activity we really splurged on, and it was definitely a good move. We still had some birthday money from my dad for the girls, so I felt okay about spending a bit extra on this trip for them to have some fun experiences. Everyone was getting tired after lunch, and the train ride offered a nice break for all of us.
Just look at how happy the girls were! Miranda said she was so happy it was like eating chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. When we got home that evening, it was the big thing they wanted to tell Matt all about :)
After our train ride we saw a few more animals, including the zebras…
…and the camels.
And then we grabbed another snack – a must for this pregnant lady – and headed home. It’s so nice to be able to talk more with the girls about the different animals now, and they are old enough not to need to be in the stroller for most of the day. It was a lot of fun for all of us to share the experience with our friends, too. All in all it was an exhausting but great day!
August 13, 2014
Today we celebrated our little Madeleine CaiQun’s 4th birthday!
The girls and I worked together this morning to bake a cake (pink velvet, per her request).
We actually turned half of the cake batter into these cake-and-frosting sandwich cookies that were pictured on the box that Miranda thought looked amazing.
And the other half we turned into this cake.
What can I say? The girl is into pink right now :)
We did just a little bit of school work, and she opened some gifts, almost all of which brought exclamations of delight!
The girls and I put together the puzzle that Miranda picked out to give to CaiQun as her gift.
This is the first time Miranda has been able to keep it a secret what she chose as a gift for her sister, and she was so proud of herself and so happy that CaiQun liked it :)
Last, but certainly not least, we sang to her and enjoyed that pink cake together!
This girl is such a sweetheart. She frequently takes the initiative to share with her sister and is quick to apologize for wrongdoing and quick to forgive. She goes all out in everything she does – she’ll sit determinedly and work on puzzles or artwork, but when it’s time to move, she takes off at full speed. She’s talkative and friendly, often regaling us and our friends with extensive reports of her latest activities or narratives about her babies and stuffed animals. She brings so much joy to our lives, and it’s such a blessing to get to watch her grow and develop. I’m totally in love with our little Madeleine CaiQun, who, 4 years old or not, is still my baby girl :)
August 11, 2014
In a world in which hundreds of Palestinian children are being killed, thousands of Yazidi and Christian people in Iraq are being driven out of their homes and into areas in which survival is nearly impossible, and the death toll from the ebola virus is nearing 1,000 with no signs of imminent containment, perhaps it is trivial to mourn the loss of one man.
And yet I keep coming back to the idea Madeleine L’Engle expresses so beautifully in this passage from A Wrinkle in Time, in which the children are being told that they are fighting against evil itself, against the powers of darkness:
“And we’re not alone, you know, children,” came Mrs Whatsit, the comforter. “All through the universe it’s being fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it’s a grand and exciting battle. I know it’s hard for you to understand about size, how there’s very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy. You think about that, and maybe it won’t seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and it’s a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy. You can be proud that it’s done so well.”
“Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.
“Oh, you must know them dear,” Mrs Whatsit said.
“Mrs Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.“
“Jesus!” Charles Wallace said. “Why of course, Jesus!”
“Of course!” Mrs Whatsit said. “Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.”
“Leonardo da Vinci?” Calvin suggested tentatively. “And Michelangelo?”
“And Shakespeare,” Charles Wallace called out, “and Bach! And Pasteur and Madame Curie and Einstein!”
I can’t help but feel that the world has lost a great light today. Robin Williams represented, for us, a doctor who heals with humor, a teacher who inspires his students to seize the day, a brilliant therapist, a dad so desperate for time with his kids that he’d pretend to be an old female housekeeper, and so much more. He had an unrivaled ability to bring humor without superficiality, and for those of us in my generation, he has been part of our lives since childhood.
I believe we’ve lost a light, and so I mourn for him and for all the lights in Palestine and Iraq and West Africa, whose lives are being snuffed out before we even have a chance to see them.
And I commit to trying to do what I can to be a light, however small my sphere of influence.
August 7, 2014
Remember how I had a 2+ month hiatus from writing here earlier this year? It coincided perfectly with the timeframe during which I was experiencing the worst of my first-trimester-of-pregnancy horrible morning sickness symptoms! There are a number of events that actually occurred during that time that I’d love to write about and share with you, but I think the most important is the 4th birthday of our firstborn, little Miranda Grace :)
We try to make birthdays special in our family, but we don’t spend a ton of money, and we don’t go party-crazy. I expect our kids will be more interested in having parties and celebrating with friends as they get older, but for now, they are quite happy to open a few gifts, get to choose a favorite meal to have for dinner, and make cupcakes – and for that, I am extremely grateful, since I could barely muster the energy for even that this year!
My mom was able to visit earlier in the month (and brought some gifts for the girls), and we all appreciated our time with her (and the gifts!). We don’t focus a lot on ownership for a lot of our toys. Special blankets and stuffed animals or sentimental things, yes, but toys like those in the following pictures we view more as communal property. Both girls just see that as normal and don’t object to sharing their toys, even birthday gifts.
(Note that Miranda is still in her pajamas; we were flexible on the need for getting dressed during my time as an invalid!).
This set of tape rolls has been one of the best gifts ever. The girls LOVE it.
My dad was able to be in town for Miranda’s actual birthday, which was great. He played with the girls…
…read to them…
…introduced them to new games (to those who know my dad, this should come as no surprise!)…
…and helped us make and enjoy birthday cupcakes :)
We were also able to spend some time using some of her new gifts – this girl loves her art supplies…and at least that day, apparently, her breakfast :)
I love that huge smile :) It doesn’t appear incredibly often, but when it does, it is an expression of pure delight :)
Miranda also got a new baby doll, in part so that she and CaiQun would each have a specific baby doll that was their own. This is the first baby doll that she has really named on her own, not based on Matt’s or my suggestions, which I think is notable. Meet Nora :)
Especially now that the girls have such a great interest in pregnancy and fetal development and in motherhood, it has been good for them to have some sweet baby dolls with which to play.
For her birthday dinner, Miranda chose to eat at House of Chow, always a favorite for everyone :)
My big girl has been 4 for a few months now, and I have to say, it’s a delightful age. We are definitely working on a number of character issues, but we are also having so much fun. Her questions are generally thoughtful, and we’re able to have increasingly intelligent conversations. She and CaiQun often play so beautifully together, and she can be super loving and sweet and sensitive.
At 4, she loves to read. She can read simple words and books on her own and is looking forward to doing more of that as part of our school curriculum this year. Her favorite subject in school right now is probably math – I use it as a reward for getting through hand-writing, which seems to feel more tedious to her – though she also loves our science and social studies materials. She is having a blast at gymnastics and looks forward to it every week. While she enjoys fun, out-of-the-ordinary activities, she also craves the stability of routine and structure. I see her introverted nature manifesting itself pretty clearly – she really does use her afternoon rest times to re-charge, and I often find her curled up on the couch looking at books on her own. Food is one area of life in which she shows very little interest – if it were up to her, she’d probably survive entirely on chocolate milk and yogurt (with occasional crackers thrown in for good measure). But she has so many other passions. She’s creative and frequently makes up story lines for herself and CaiQun as they play together. She can’t wait for Atticus to arrive and is completely in love with our friend, baby Judah. And she loves to talk and learn about pretty much anything :)
I feel blessed to be this little girl’s mommy. These past 4 years have been amazing, and I look forward to what God has in store for all of us in the future :)
July 27, 2014
Last Monday, Matt, Miranda, CaiQun, my good friend Brooke, and I crowded into a small room, eager to see pictures of our baby #3, find out if he or she looked healthy, and find out if this was a he or a she! Lo and behold, we discovered that God seems to be blessing us with a healthy little BOY this time around!
If you haven’t already, check out Matt’s beautiful post from our ultrasound for our first son :)
We were at first surprised and, honestly, a little intimidated! By no means do we have this parenting thing figured out, but we’ve been parenting girls for over 4 years now, while we have zero experience actually being parents to boys. But then we started to remember the years of fun we had with friends’ children in Chicagoland and how much we loved the time we spent with Noah and Jackson, with Stephen, and with Elijah and, of course, Roman, with whom we spent so much time that his mother and I joked that he was practically my first child. Of course I also had – and continue to have – many fun moments with my own brothers.
And as I have reflected on parenting moments with our girls, I’ve realized that I really parent them each as individuals. Certainly a big part of who they are is that they are little girls, but each of them is an individual person, wonderful and unique, with their own preferences and personalities, strengths and struggles. Our son will be just the same. We look forward to welcoming Atticus Garrett into the world in just a few short months :)
Isn’t he precious already? Just look at that adorable little wave!
We’ve had our little guy’s name picked out for years now. When Matt and I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird together, we fell in love with Atticus Finch. It’s impossible not to have a deep love and respect for a man who says things like this:
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
We determined soon after that we would name our first son Atticus. We like to cast vision for our babies as we name them, and I can think of no better role model for our son to have than Atticus Finch. Our little one’s middle name, Garrett, is a family name from my mom’s side. My mom has come to help out with the arrivals of each of our two prior babies and is planning to do the same this time and is one of the most helpful, genuinely servant-hearted people you’ll ever meet. When she’s here, she cooks, cleans, rakes leaves, tirelessly plays with kiddos, dishes out ice cream, and on and on. I hope little Atticus will be blessed to carry on the Garrett name, as well.
It has been fun to begin to think of him more and more as a unique little person, now that we know his gender and have a name for him :) I wonder what his personality will be like, how he’ll interact with Miranda and CaiQun, and what will make him laugh and smile. Will he hate pureed green beans with the same passion that Miranda did, or will he eat practically anything, as CaiQun does? Will he retain Matt’s blue eyes beyond infancy, or will his slowly turn brown to match the girls in the family? Will he be a good sleeper (please, God!)?
I’ve been getting more and more excited to get things around the house set up and ready to go for him, too. As I’ve told several first-time expectant moms recently, the only thing that absolutely has to happen before your baby comes is getting that infant car seat in the car. Adding a child to our family for the third time, I’m much more laid back than I was with either of our first two. However, I’d still feel a lot more comfortable if we had his bed and changing table set up and the cloth diapers and some clothes for him washed and ready to go :) Matt and I did some work this afternoon cleaning up and organizing our bedroom in preparation for making room for some baby furniture, and we really enjoyed that time together, getting ready for our little guy.
He continues to kick and move all around with increasing strength. Matt has been able to feel him move for a few weeks now, and within these last few days he has even been moving for long enough at a time and with enough force that I could get the girls’ hands in place to feel him kicking, which they have loved. And I, of course, am continuing to get bigger and bigger! Here I am at just shy of 22 weeks.
This second trimester of pregnancy – in which I am big enough to be noticeably pregnant but still small enough that my size is not a huge (ha ha) inconvenience, nausea and heartburn are under control, my ankles are still my own, and I get to feel my baby moving around frequently – was my most enjoyable with Miranda and, I suspect, will continue to be my favorite with Atticus. That said, though, this second pregnancy is coming with a lot more aches and pains than my first, which, from what I’ve heard, is entirely typical. I’ve been taking steps to protect my back and deal with pain and have gotten some good recommendations from a physical therapist friend, for which I’m extremely thankful. I don’t think pregnancy is for the faint of heart or for those who prize comfort above all else, and I really do believe the physical strain is worth it for the little life we’ll get the pleasure of welcoming into this world and shepherding through his childhood.
I’m so looking forward to the arrival of our little Atticus Garrett, and Matt and I are excited about this next phase of our adventure together – having a son and being the parents of three amazing kiddos!
July 20, 2014
I often wonder what paths my children’s faith journeys will take. How will they respond to what we share about what we believe and why?
I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy working with Miranda regarding a couple of character issues that have recently been coming to the surface, as they tend to do in four-year-olds :) That can be draining for both of us, but I also believe that it’s what she needs, and we try to get in a lot of fun and sweet times, as well. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going about this whole mothering thing the right way, and I’m very thankful for a couple of great friends in Chicagoland who are willing to offer solid parenting feedback. Even so, there can be times when I wonder if we’re making any headway.
But every once in a while there seems to be a touchstone moment, and for those I am very grateful. They are such encouragements to me to press on, to be grateful for the hard times – the burners turned down to low while cooking dinner is put on hold or the to-do-list tasks put off. Those moments of character revelation and subsequent discussion really do matter, even if I can’t see the payoff right away.
Tonight, after some harder moments, we had a long talk about love and how we can continue to love people even when they are being unkind. I talked with her about the Holy Spirit and how He is in our hearts when we are following Jesus, and He can help us to love people even when it’s hard.
After our conversation, Miranda went into the living room to play with CaiQun, and they told me they were going to practice playing together kindly. I reminded them that they could also pray that God would help them do that, and when I walked into the living room a few minutes later, Miranda was sitting off to the side, quietly praying. Moments later, she came over to me and sweetly said, “Mom, I prayed, and I asked God to send the Holy Spirit to my heart, and I prayed such a lovely prayer, and God heard me and said that He would.”
I suffer no delusions that my four-year-old daughter has a full understanding of what it means to follow God or that she is capable of making lifelong commitments. However, I also take Jesus at His word when He says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). I believe He loves little children, and I believe He hears their prayers. It seems to me that right now, in her own way, my little Miranda is taking some baby steps of faith. And who am I to discourage any steps of my little ones toward Him?
July 10, 2014
Things are progressing here with our Baby #3! You may recall that with this second pregnancy, my baby bump was beginning to make a clear appearance by 12 weeks. It has continued to grow and can be seen here at 14 weeks…
…and here at just shy of 19 weeks.
We’re all looking forward to our upcoming morphology ultrasound, when we hope to find out if this little one is a boy or girl! I’ve been feeling him or her moving around for a few weeks now, which is always fun :) My nausea has also been increasingly subsiding, which greatly increases my enjoyment of pregnancy! I’ve had some crazy heartburn this time around, but my doctor had some recommendations that are really helping.
Matt and I are continuing to talk with the girls about what life will be like once our baby makes its appearance. Our friends Jaylyn and Jonah have been super indulgent, letting us visit them and their new baby, Judah, and allowing us to watch him for a couple hours one evening for a reality check to complement our theoretical discussions :)
Miranda is particularly intent on discussing babies and motherhood with Jaylyn…
…and likes to see how her baby measures up to baby Judah.
We of course love baby Judah for himself, as well – he really is a cutie pie :) And it has been so fun over the last few weeks to see him keep his eyes open more and start to make more intentional movements!
But in addition to enjoying him, we have been greatly blessed by our time hanging out with him and his parents and “practicing” for having a baby around. I think there will be some challenges all around, but overall, we are looking forward to it!
In general, I am far more laid back with this process of adding a third child to the family than I was with either of my first two. Whatever happens, I’m confident that it will all work out :) I just need to make sure I get the car seat out of the attic sometime before our baby arrives…and we need to come up with a girl name in case this little one is going to be adding to the gender imbalance in our family! We’ll find out soon, and we’ll keep you posted :)
July 6, 2014
We had dinner last night with some sweet friends, another adoptive family from our church. As we chatted that evening, Maureen asked me whether, since CaiQun is doing so well, we still thought of her as a child who had come through trauma or not so much. I think I gave her a brief answer before our conversation was interrupted by one child or another, but I’ve been thinking more about her question since then.
Honestly, I think that very early on in our parenting journey, Matt and I decided that one of the values we wanted to have characterize our parenting was compassion. We wanted to take our kids’ feelings and experiences seriously, even if, to us, they might seem silly. That’s the biggest reason we never used a “cry it out” sleep training method with Miranda.
I think that decision made it easier for us to make some of the transitions in our parenting strategies that being adoptive parents required of us – in many ways, our initial parenting strategies were already similar to those recommended for parenting adopted children.
That doesn’t mean there’s never any room for growth, though. Back in April, Matt and I were blessed to be able to attend an Empowered to Connect conference. It was such a great refresher in so many areas and introduced some new material that we were excited to discuss and incorporate more into our parenting. One of my most vivid memories from that conference is of Dr. Purvis discussing the difference between meeting physical needs and emotional needs. For instance, if a child falls off his bike and scrapes his knee, a parent can clean and bandage his knee (meeting his physical need) and/or offer comfort and reassurance to soothe his fears and encourage him (meeting his emotional need). She later showed a video in which she used band-aids with a group of troubled teens to help them discuss both physical and emotional wounds. Something I realized as I reflected on those aspects of her presentations was that although I want to prioritize meeting emotional needs, my instinct is much more toward meeting physical needs.
One thing I decided to do differently after that weekend was to be far more liberal in dispensing band-aids :) It is a fairly common occurrence in our household for one or the other of my daughters to come running to me, announcing that they have an owie and need a band-aid – I suspect most moms of pre-schoolers can relate :) In the past, my general rule had been that unless there was actual blood, there was no need for a band-aid. However, the reality is that my little girls are coming to me for both physical and emotional care. Sometimes there’s not actually any need for physical treatment, but by offering up a band-aid with a hug and kiss, I can validate their feelings, reassure them, and meet that emotional need. I was happy to read later that other moms and dads have reached similar conclusions :) It probably costs us a few extra dollars each year in our grocery budget, but I think it’s worth it!
Basically, what I’m saying is that I don’t think that I think of Madeleine CaiQun all that frequently as “a child who has experienced trauma.” I recognize that that’s true of her – and I fully expect that we will deal more explicitly with more aspects of her personal experience as she gets older – but at this point, I think of her primarily as my adorable little daughter with whom I am completely in love :)
I think quite often, though, about the type of parent I want to be and the type of parent my children need me to be. I want to be a band-aid mom, and I think my kids – both of them – need me to be that type of mom. Just this past weekend, I spent an hour one night lying in bed with Miranda. It had been an odd out-of-routine few days for us, and she was having a hard time that night, so I snuggled with her until she had calmed. It wasn’t what I had planned to do, and I checked off significantly fewer items from my “to do” list that night than I had been hoping, but that was what she needed, and I’m glad I took the time to be with her. Both of my girls need compassion and need me to be available to help them work through whatever hard stuff they experience in their lives.
This parenting gig can be exhausting…but it’s good :)
July 4, 2014
One big thing we are doing to celebrate Independence Day today is perhaps not typical of 4th of July celebrations occurring around the country.
You see, I’ve been following this blog for a while now. Its initial appeal to me was that its writer shares stories and thoughts about trans-racial adoption. When you don’t have local, in-real-life mentors, you find them where you can, and that often means looking to the Internet!
She also covers other topics, though, and she was recently invited to travel to Southeast Asia to learn about sex trafficking with Exodus Road, an organization working to end sex slavery and free its captives. While there and since she has returned, she has been sharing about she encountered there, what Exodus Road does, the difference between sex trafficking and sex tourism, what the lives of prostitutes are like, and what after-care looks like for victims of sex trafficking.
And today she is inviting us, on this Independence Day, to help bring freedom to those who need it.
Matt and I aren’t rich. I did, after all, marry an artist :) We’re still paying off student loan debt (and a car and a house). We have a new baby on the way (and we’d love to start saving for another adoption soon). And yet we feel like we have money to stop at Starbucks for a coffee, to go out for an occasional date night, and to sign our girls up for gymnastics classes. If we can set aside $35 a month for coffee or going out to eat or other “luxury” goods for ourselves, we feel like we should also be able to set aside $35 a month for work like this.
We’re generally informed and are aware of what signs might be indicators of sex slavery or slavery of other types in America. It’s possible that through that knowledge, we will someday be a part of helping someone in our own country gain his or her freedom, but chances are slim. This is something concrete that we can do that we believe is allowing us to be part of the solution.
Would you consider joining us and others as part of this endeavor, as well? If so, you can go to Kristen’s site and follow the instructions she gives there.