November 26, 2015

thankfulness 2015

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, friendship, God, homemaking, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, parenting tagged , , , , , , , at 12:12 pm by alison

This year I’ve been particularly reflective about the blessing of family. This time last year we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our third baby, little Atticus Garrett, for whom my labor started the morning after Thanksgiving.

This past year has brought much growth in all of us. My girls became big sisters to a baby brother, and they have been challenged to love him well but also to grow in their own independence. They’ve also continued to develop in their own right, growing closer and closer to being the women they’re going to be. Matt and I have been so encouraged by the ways in which they’ve grown this year, and we’re enjoying them more and more as people.

And that Atticus boy – I’m trying to soak him in. There are his adorable curls and the way he smiles and reaches for me when I walk into a room. There’s the way he curls into my chest and reaches his hand inside my shirt when he’s wanting to nurse. There’s the way he tucks his head into me and scrunches his eyes shut when he’s ready to go to sleep. There’s his increasingly steady gait as he practices walking longer and longer distances. There are his excited squeals and gesticulations every time he sees an animal, whether cat or dog or even fish. There’s the amusing way he seeks a way to climb on anything and everything, whether stove, staircase, or couch. I want to take every part of this fun time and sear it into my memory for revisiting in the future when my little guy has moved beyond this stage.


And of course there is my relationship with Matt, my partner in parenting and beyond. With the girls at Awana every Wednesday night, we’ve been able to get out for some regular date nights this semester, which we’ve very much enjoyed. This year we’ve been studying parenting, experiencing the writings of Madeleine L’Engle, and trying to dream big about future possibilities for art, writing, learning, building, ministry, and travel.

I feel myself, now a mom of three, being stretched and growing into more and more the mother I’d like to be. I’m more comfortable in this role of constant out-pouring of love, energy, and grace. I have the perspective of five-and-a-half years in this parenting role to know that the interrupted sleep and the need for constant supervision of my baby-almost-toddler will come to an end. I’m realizing that focusing on the difficulties of certain stages is less helpful than enjoying their positives and strategizing about parenting well in the midst of them. I’m content in not being able to do all that much ministry outside of our family (though it is a blessing to be able to do what I can with some lay counseling and children’s ministry and hosting our missional community group and a few other things), realizing that this is a season, and there will be other seasons that look different. For now, I can focus on loving my kiddos well, reading that extra book, taking those minutes to snuggle, listening to that made-up joke, rubbing that back, rocking that baby.


And this year at Thanksgiving we are immersed in the added blessing of being with my family – my always-serving mother and game-playing father and my awesome brothers and Danny’s fiancee, Sharon. I see now what I didn’t as a child, that the friendships I had then were important, but it would be with my brothers that I would have my most enduring and meaningful relationships. I’m grateful that even as we live spread across the country from one another, we’re able to maintain relationships and support, encourage, and enjoy each other.


And of course I am grateful to the God who is the author of it all. I find myself yearning to know and understand Him more and more. As Atticus cries for me and only me at night, I wonder what it would feel like to know that He and only He has what I need, to cry out for Him and refuse to settle for anything less. I pray for that.

November 25, 2015

snow storms and Star Wars

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, parenting tagged , , , , , at 3:58 pm by alison

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

01 snowstorm

…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!


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.


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


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…


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


…and they can frequently be found wielding light sabers!


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 :)

October 26, 2015

the winter of our discontent?

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, God, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, parenting tagged , , , , , at 10:54 pm by alison

Okay, so it’s not even winter yet. But it feels like it – at least in that we have already been hit with all sorts of winter-type illnesses. Over the last few weeks, pink eye, a double ear infection, colds, and two different stomach bugs have taken up residence in our home.


Also, just as I was finishing the laundry created by the first stomach bug, our washer breathed its last, so we are currently without in-house laundry capability.

In the midst of those circumstances, it’s easy for me to settle into a season of discontent, winter or not. Elisabeth Elliot defines suffering here as, “having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” Under that definition, this is certainly a time of suffering in our family. I certainly don’t want to be holding my daughter’s hair back as she dry heaves over a bowl, nothing left in her little body to throw up. I’m not particularly interested in being awake for 3 hours in the middle of the night with a baby whose stuffy nose prevents him from sleeping, nursing, or experiencing the comfort his pacifier would bring.

As I settled into bed last night, I was reading Romans 5:3-5:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

My thoughts have continued to return there throughout the day today. It seems obvious that suffering produces endurance. As a mom, I have no real options. Whether I want to be awake at 3:00 a.m. or not, that’s the path set out for me, and there’s no choice but to walk in it – put one foot in front of the other, sing one more song, add one more load of laundry to the pile awaiting the delivery of our new washer later this week.

And endurance does seem likely to produce – or, at the very least, reveal – character. Forced to persevere in difficult circumstances, we can become bitter, or we can grow in our ability to endure, to press on, and to work through adversity.

I pondered throughout the day, though, how it would be that endurance would produce character and character produce hope. On the surface, hardship and suffering seem more likely to lead to discouragement than to hope. Bitterness is a distinct possibility. Verse 5 in this passage seems to be key – we can grow in hope, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We can live in light of God’s love, in dependence on the Spirit in us.

Throughout trials, I can remind myself of the truths God speaks to us in Scripture. I can remember what Moses tells the Israelites as he bids them farewell – “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). God is with me and with my suffering children always, just as He was with the Israelites thousands of years ago. I can trust that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” and I need “not fear though the earth gives way” (Psalm 46:1). I can pray for His grace as I comfort my oldest in her misery, as I seek to coax my baby back to sleep, and at the end of the evening as I want nothing more than to relax on the couch but really need to lean in toward my middle child, who is seeking reassurance of my love and care for her in the form of the attention she’s been missing all day long as I’ve cared for her sick siblings.


It’s not a given that suffering will produce endurance, character, and ultimately hope. But I pray that I will live – and suffer – in a way that makes it a reality in my life.

October 24, 2015

Homeschooling 2015-2016 – Curriculum and Plans

Posted in books, family, homeschooling, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, parenting tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:57 pm by alison

Given that we started our school year over 4 months ago, it’s about time I share a blog post about what we’re doing this year :) When pressed, we say that this is Miranda’s kindergarten year and Madeleine CaiQun’s pre-k year, but for the most part we just work with each child wherever they are and work on learning and growing.

We were super happy with our Sonlight curriculum for two years ago and last year, and we’re using Sonlight as the primary basis for our school curriculum for this year, as well. Sonlight packages together several primary subjects as cores – Bible, History/Geography, and Read-Alouds – which allows you to explore the year’s main theme from each of those angles. This year we’re using Core A, which is Intro to the World: Cultures.

We’re finishing up the 12th week of the curriculum, so we’ve made it through about 1/3 of the material, and we’re really enjoying it. We’re always looking for more good kids’ Bibles, and this one is pretty good. In history and geography, we’ve been able to read about ancient societies (Greece, Rome, and China), and we’re now up to somewhat more modern times (Spanish explorers, Dutch traders, Pilgrims and Native Americans). The books present the material in interesting, age-appropriate ways, and honestly, all 3 of us are learning about these different cultures and enjoying doing it! The read-alouds are awesome, as well. We’ve already read everything from The Boxcar Children to Curious George to Dolphin Adventure to Little House in the Big Woods. My biggest complaint about the read-alouds is that we love them so much that we’ve read through them faster than the curriculum guide dictates, and I’ve needed to supplement them! That seems like the best type of problem to have :) Beyond that the only modifications we’re making have been to the Bible curriculum. Our girls are participating in Awana this year, so they’re memorizing the Bible verses that their Awana groups are working on instead of those from our school curriculum. I’m also supplementing the Bible curriculum by having the girls memorize answers to catechism questions, as well. Going through this book is helping them synthesize some of the Bible information they’re learning, and they are learning about ways in which God’s truth applies to our daily lives from the accompanying stories in the book.

For science, we’re doing Sonlight’s Science A package, which focuses on Biology, Botany, and Physics. I’m pretty impressed with it. There’s interesting science reading, some of which comes with links to internet videos about the topic at hand (Madeleine CaiQun’s favorite part), and each week there’s information about how to do at least one science experiment, sometimes more. In and of myself, I’m not super creative or hands on, so I very much appreciate the activity suggestions!

experimenting to see which substances from our refrigerator will freeze when put in the freezer

experimenting to see which substances from the refrigerator will freeze in the freezer

For Language Arts we’re also using Sonlight packages – Language Arts 1 for Miranda and Language Arts K for Madeleine CaiQun. This is the part of our curriculum about which I’m most ambivalent. This is probably my girls’ least favorite part of our school day – they say they enjoy it, but it’s the aspect of school about which we have the most conflict. I think that is in part because the choice of Language Arts level is dependent upon the child’s reading level, but reading level and maturity level are not necessarily the same. Additionally, there is a big jump in the expectations between the kindergarten and first grade packages, both in the types of assignments given and in the amount of work included. I find myself altering specific assignments in both girls’ programs, and I’ve pretty systematically altered Miranda’s first grade package by removing the spelling component. She just isn’t ready, at 5, to do a spelling program, and she really doesn’t need to be – she’s only 5! I actually suspect that she’ll pick up these spelling words without any effort just given some additional time reading, and if she doesn’t, we’ll come back and pick them up later.


What I do really appreciate about the Language Arts program is that it has been a great tool in teaching both of my girls to read. It moves slowly enough that they build a lot of confidence in their reading abilities as they go, but it also introduces them to increasingly complex words, so their abilities really are growing. On top of that, because the Language Arts and the reading aloud portions of the curriculum are linked, the Language Arts concepts we discuss often show up in the reading, giving the girls experience dealing with punctuation, compound words, etc. as we discuss them.


Both Miranda and Madeleine CaiQun love reading out loud and are continually growing as readers, which is so fun to see. And we do have some fun Language Arts activities, as well. Both girls love playing Sight Word Bingo!


All that to say, Language Arts is going pretty well this year, and everyone is definitely learning and growing, but I probably will explore what other options we might have for next year, just to see if there’s something else out there that might work even better.

The last piece of our main daily curriculum is math, and we very much enjoy our math curriculum! We’re continuing with Singapore this year – grade K for Madeleine CaiQun and grade 1 for Miranda. Both girls love, love, love math – most days I have to cut them off and announce that we need to move on, or they’d just keep working their way through lesson after lesson.


It’s really fun for me to see them growing in their understanding of numbers, simple addition and subtraction, and other math concepts and truly enjoying it all. It happens quite often that Miranda will run up to me and announce excitedly, “Mom, I thought of a number sentence for you!” She’ll tell me an addition equation, smile, and run off to play again. We’ve also been playing some games like Shutbox, in which they can practice their addition skills without even realizing it, and they could not be happier.

Overall, we are really having a great time with school and with these materials in particular. We love the reading – frequently my favorite part of the day is curling up on the couch with the girls with some books. The girls are learning about science and history, they’re learning language skills, they’re learning to read, and they’re growing in their math abilities. It’s so encouraging for me as a teacher to see them developing in all of those ways, and I pray these years of quality time plus foundational development will be a great blessing for them in the years to come!

October 15, 2015

just a boy, his mama, and his throw-up bowl

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, God, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, parenting tagged at 12:45 pm by alison


That has been the theme of our week this week. Our poor little guy was hit by a stomach bug for the first time. Atticus is usually so happy that it was especially hard to see him so worn out and hurting. We gave him lots of hugs, Tylenol, and fluids, and we prayed that he would recover quickly.

The first time he threw up hit just hours after I published this post, in which I claimed to be growing in my ability to handle the unexpected with grace – rather ironic! This week has been a major challenge for all of us. Poor Atticus has felt miserable, and Matt has had to work and install shows, go to graduate critiques, and fulfill a number of extra obligations. We had to cancel (for the 2nd week in a row) a playdate to which Miranda has been very much looking forward, and Madeleine CaiQun has had to accept my need to focus more heavily on Atticus this week. And I have had to cancel commitments and realize that I just couldn’t get through everything I’d wanted to do each day.

But we’ve survived. And while I certainly wouldn’t wish for this experience, I have enjoyed the snuggles. Looking into that adorable baby face and resting in the love I have for this sweet boy has been precious.

And, praise God, as of this morning, we have been fever-free, vomit-free, and diarrhea-free for 24 hours – hallelujah! And while we survived the sickness, I very much hope we’ll stay healthy for a while now :)

October 11, 2015

growth in grace

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, God, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, parenting tagged , , , , , , , at 9:28 pm by alison

The last few weeks have, I think, been important in our family.

I’m seeing a shift in my perspective about parenting. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be a mother – I believe I was 4 when I told my parents that my new year’s resolution was to have lots of babies. Now I’m here – a home-owner, minivan-driver mom with 3 children of my own – and I’m finding that it’s both more wonderful than I’d expected and more difficult than I’d imagined.

The sleep deprivation takes its toll, and my back feels the strain on the days on which my littles continuously request to be held. But even more than the physical pressure, there is the great emotional and spiritual burden of parenting. I see how much these little people, whom I love more than life itself, need to learn and grow, and I feel the weight of my responsibility to love and teach them.

And I so easily get caught in the trap of seeing the challenges and telling myself that this is a “difficult season” and that I just need to get through it, and things will be better. Anyone who has ever felt the root of bitterness taking hold in their heart can tell you that time does not heal all wounds, time does not solve all problems. Something else needs to change. Instead of seeing primarily the negatives, I need to focus on (1) creating good times with my kiddos and (2) being strategic in parenting them where they’re at, wherever that is.

I can say yes – yes to baking sprinkle-covered gum to see what will happen…


…yes to bike rides around the neighborhood…


..and yes to train rides at the zoo.


I can think about how to reach my kids’ hearts and teach them about what really matters in this world. There have been many opportunities for that over the last few weeks. Matt has been reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress to the girls before bed, they’ve started going to Awana on Wednesday evenings, and we’re memorizing some theological truths by way of some catechism questions, all of which are prompting them to think more about spirituality. Miranda even told us a few weeks ago that she had prayed to Jesus to forgive her sins. By no means do I believe that every five-year-old’s declaration of faith should be taken as a long-term assurance of the state of their souls, but I do believe that God works in the hearts of people of all ages. I’m hopeful that Miranda is truly grasping some important spiritual truths and that God is really working, and I think we may be seeing the beginnings of some initial fruitfulness of His work in her. Madeleine CaiQun’s interest has also been piqued, and while she’s less self-assured and has not been making so many pronouncements about her own faith, she’s asking good questions, displaying an interest in God, and reflecting growing knowledge about Him. As we continue to work through the sometimes frustrating issues surrounding obedience, self-control, kindness, and gentleness, it has been encouraging to be seeing these developments in both girls!

And as I’ve worked and prayed to change my perspective, that has made it easier for me to swallow weekends like this past one, which don’t go as I planned. Atticus’s first flu shot on Friday left him feverish and fussy. His naps never seemed to fall where I wanted them to be to enable me to accomplish some of what I wanted to do this weekend, and he slept so fitfully last night that all he wanted to do today was stay in bed, snuggle up close to me, and sleep on and off all morning. He slept, I held him close and read some articles online, and we stayed in bed until noon and spent a good portion of the afternoon snuggling, as well.


I’m naturally so focused on getting things done that it can be hard for me to accept times like this in which there is relational investment but not so much task accomplishment. I’m thankful that God is growing me in that area, though – I’m seeing growth in grace for the girls and me in this season, and I’m grateful for that.

September 29, 2015

Ten Months with Our Atticus Boy

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, parenting tagged , , at 4:26 pm by alison

This little guy is 10 months old today!


And oh, what a joy he is! He is incredibly good-natured. Even this past weekend, which he celebrated by coming down with the ill-health trifecta of a cold, pink eye, and a double ear infection, he remained pleasant throughout.

He loves his sisters something fierce and always wants to be in on the action.


He also has a great time hanging out with his buddy Ransom, who spends two days a week with us while his parents are at work. Ransom is about 3 weeks older than Atticus, and the boys very much enjoy each other. They swap toys, crawl all over each other, and generally have a good time together :)


Atticus crawls like a boss, and we’re all just waiting for him to take that first step. He cruises all over the house, and he’s willing to stand for about 10 seconds without holding onto anything; he just isn’t willing to take that first unassisted step yet! It could come any day…or it could still be a while. Either way, it’s all good :)

One thing that’s very different for me this time around, with Atticus as my third child, than it was with the girls is that I have a greater sense of perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff so much. At some point he’ll walk. At some point he’ll talk. Obviously I have a general sense of when those milestones should happen, and should it seem like he needed extra help, I’d be the first to pursue that for him, but I’m more focused on enjoying the little guy than I am on tracking his accomplishments.

Of course, there’s less time to devote just to enjoying him since he is our third baby, but he seems to enjoy simply being a part of day-to-day family life, and we’re glad to have him as a part of it. He crawls around while we do our school reading, he screeches back at the girls when they get upset and yell about something (this is not always so well received, let me tell you!), and he makes himself right at home in the playroom.


Of course, being a 10-month-old boy, he also gets into a fair amount of trouble. The photo above was taken seconds before he transferred that chalk to his mouth. He’s constantly destroying some magna-tile creation the girls have been working on and pulling books and DVDs off the living room shelves and generally making it difficult for me to check items off my to-do list. But that’s what 10-month-old boys do, and this too shall pass :)

That’s what we tell ourselves about the lack of sleep, too! This one was a bit of a surprise to us. Both of our girls regularly woke up in the night for years, but they’d want something (milk, snuggles, reassurance), and as soon as it was provided, they’d go right back to sleep. But this little guy? About once a week, he wakes up in the middle of the night ready to play! To his great credit, Matt is willing to get up with him most of the time, but I’ve taken enough of those middle of the night wake-up calls to know that their effects on our ability to function the next day are real! Atticus is always happy to play, sometimes to poop, and then eventually go back to sleep, but still – we pray for those nights to be few and far between. This is the sight we like to see :)


We recently moved Atticus into his own room – he’d been sleeping in our room up until a couple weeks ago – which has helped a bit, but we’ve still had some rough nights. But like I wrote above, this time around, we do have more perspective. Eventually he’ll sleep through the night, and really, it won’t be all that long before we get to that point. Until then, we try to get to bed a bit earlier and just love the little guy well through it all :)

And although I’m not obsessing about milestones, I do look forward to hearing his thoughts when he starts talking. There have been a lot of “mommommommommom” exclamations recently, but I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence that he really links that word to me. Maybe soon :)

I have to say, these 10 months have gone by incredibly quickly. It’s hard to believe that it was a whole 10 months ago that this little guy made his entrance into the world, and I was snuggling his 8-pound little burrito self, and now here he is tipping the scales at 23+ pounds, crawling and cruising around the house, on the verge of walking and talking! And while there are milestones to which I really am looking forward (talking and dropping the morning nap being the big ones), I’m trying hard not to wish away these baby days with our sweet boy.

Happy 10 months, baby boy! We are completely in love with you and totally enjoying life with you :)


September 20, 2015

The Great Road Trip of 2015 (Part 3) and MCQ is 5!

Posted in adoption, Atticus Garrett, family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , , at 9:49 pm by alison

It has taken me longer than I’d hoped to get back to share this final installment about our trip out east (feel free to go back and check out parts one and two if you missed them earlier!). The last big part of our trip was spent with Matt’s side of the family in upstate New York. We don’t get to see them very often, but we always enjoy the time we have together!

We stayed with Matt’s sister Denya and her husband Tim and their two daughters, Cassi and Elisabeth. Miranda and Madeleine CaiQun settled right in with them :)


We all very much enjoyed swimming in their pool that week!


The girls always love helping Denya cook…


…and Elisabeth was kind enough to help them and their cousin Averie make and decorate Frozen-themed cookies one afternoon!


They also enjoyed coloring with their cousins and Matt’s sister Stacey :)


Meanwhile, Atticus continued to cultivate his love of dogs.


And everyone got in some good snuggling time :)



We really enjoyed our times just hanging out at the house with family, but we also had some fun outings. One day we went to the zoo with Stacey and Averie, which everyone enjoyed!



We even got to see a little baby elephant!


And of course the girls are always excited about penguins, since they are Sharon’s favorite animal :)



Averie is about 6 months younger than CaiQun, so all 3 girls are at a great age to play together and enjoy each other. Miranda and Averie – being firstborns – had to spend some time working through each of their desire to be in charge at all times, but really they all did pretty well together :)


Another fun outing was our evening bowling. Elisabeth and her boyfriend Michael are part of a bowling league, and they made sure we were all set for a fun night out!


Then the next morning, Madeleine CaiQun’s birthday, Michael came over early, and they made a special pancake and waffle breakfast for us!


Our little mei mei was so excited to spend her birthday with family, and the day did not disappoint :)

Matt’s older brother brought over a bounce house, which the kiddos loved!


I did let Atticus crawl around in it a bit but only when things were very tame, so for much of the time he enjoyed some snuggles while the girls bounced :)


And of course mei mei got some fun gifts! One present we got for her this year was a photo book with pictures from when she was in China up until now. She loved looking through it.


She also loved getting gifts from her grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.



So much fun with cousin Averie :)


Our little puzzle-lover was gifted several puzzles this year for her birthday, and she loved getting to do some of them with family on our trip!


We were also able to visit the museum at Matt’s alma mater, Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, which has an awesome children’s area. Our kids loved it, so they hung out there with me while Matt walked around the museum with a former student of his. I actually can’t say enough good things about our experience there. CaiQun left a Frozen ring, which she’d just received for her birthday, in the children’s area, and, when I called about it, the staff went back and found it and mailed it to us at home in Missouri – so sweet.


Atticus was particularly taken with Matt’s step-father, Papa Dan, and especially Papa Dan’s cane, which he spent much time trying to grab!


On our last night in town, there was a sweet cousin-and-uncle game of Uno :) You know you’ve got a good group of high schoolers when they’re willing to spend their evening teaching 5-year-olds how to play a card game!


And as much as we enjoyed our time in NY, it was over quickly and time for all of us to head home. The kids really did pretty well with all of the driving, but the highlight of the trip home was definitely our stop in Ohio mid-way through our drive.

In the orphanage at which Madeleine CaiQun lived until we adopted her, the toddlers shared cribs, usually 2 (but sometimes 3) to a crib. Her cribmate and friend was adopted about a month before she was. Her mom was kind enough to send us some photos of CaiQun when they traveled to adopt Lily, and we were able to reunite the girls and meet as families 2 years ago on our way home from New York. On the way home from this trip we were able to stop and have dinner with them again!


It was such a joy to spend an evening with them and reflect on how these two girls, 2.5 years after being adopted, have settled into their families. As they are only 4 and 5 years old, there is obviously not a great depth in their interactions right now, but we are thankful that they have this connection and can maintain it as they get older as they choose – and for now, they can enjoy playing together!


After our visit with Lily and her family, we drove on to Cincinnati, where we spent the night with my brother David, who graciously put up our family of 5 in his 1-bedroom apartment! It was nice to get another couple hours with him, but then we were up early and on the road again the next morning. And after 16 days away, as wonderful as they were, it was very nice to be home :)

August 30, 2015

The Great Road Trip of 2015 (Part 2)

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , , at 10:42 pm by alison

The Great Road Trip of 2015 was so great that it is necessitating multiple posts, in order to avoid any one post becoming so lengthy that even my family doesn’t want to finish it :) If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

As our time in Virginia came to an end, we piled back into our car and headed to Washington, D.C. for a couple days. Danny and Sharon had asked if it would be possible for us and for her family to meet during this trip so that we’d all have an opportunity to get to know one another a bit before the wedding next spring. I’ll admit that I was somewhat nervous about how it would go to have so many people packed into one apartment for 2 nights, but it all worked out!

We arrived in the city on Friday afternoon and were treated to a motorcade passing in front of us at an intersection – Danny and Sharon guessed it most likely belonged to Vice President Biden.

After getting settled into Danny’s and Sharon’s apartment and having lunch, we headed out for an afternoon of sightseeing. We opted to travel by metro, much to the girls’ delight!


Madeleine CaiQun said, “Mom, do you know why I’m crying happy tears?”

“No, why?” I asked.

She replied, “Because I’m just so happy that the train is moving so fast that I have happy tears.”

Asked later, both girls said that their favorite part of the day had been the train ride.

However, we were also able to take in some other noteworthy sights! Our first stop was, of course, the White House!


Moments after we took this picture, security guards asked everyone to back off across the street.


They didn’t tell us why, but Danny and Sharon said they’d never seen that happen before, so something interesting was probably going to happen. We could see snipers on the roof.


We waited around for probably about half an hour and were just getting ready to move on when we heard a helicopter flying overhead. We were able to see one helicopter fly behind the White House to land…


…another take off from behind the White House…


…and another fly by off to the side.

Apparently any time the President is flying in a helicopter, there are also 2 decoys that fly nearby to provide added security for him. We definitely enjoyed getting to see that! But then we headed to our next stop, the Washington Monument.




We would have loved to see more of this awesome city, but the girls were getting tired, and it was approaching dinner time, so we headed back to the train…


…in which we managed to fit 5 people into one seat, which was highly entertaining to my mother :)


The next day we spent relaxing at Danny’s and Sharon’s apartment and at their pool.


And we did indeed get to meet Sharon’s parents, who are lovely people :) I’m really thankful that, just as I married into a family of people I genuinely like, it seems like Danny will be marrying into a family with great people. Unfortunately, I apparently considered the day to be so relaxing (I actually took a nap! by the pool!) that I failed to get a single picture of us hanging out with them! We really enjoyed the time with them, though, and it was nice to meet in person in a low-key environment.

Sharon’s mom, Patti, actually suffered a stroke just 2 days after our meeting. She seems to be recovering incredibly well, which is a huge answer to prayer, but if you are a praying person, I’m sure she would appreciate continued prayers, as she has a long road of recovery. We’re looking forward to seeing both her and Sharon’s dad again next spring at the wedding!

After Sharon’s parents left, we just hung out at the apartment for the rest of the evening and enjoyed our time together. Atticus, in particular, enjoyed their sweet dog, Dixie :)


That was our last night with my side of the family, and the next morning we headed out toward Matt’s side of the family in upstate New York (coming up in part 3!).

August 23, 2015

the tipping point

Posted in adoption, family, life, Madeleine CaiQun tagged , , , , , at 12:01 pm by alison

Today’s the day – or at least our best guess as to the day. Madeleine CaiQun has been with us as many days as she lived in China without us. My emotions as I’ve thought about this day have been something of a mixture.

On the one hand, I believe that it is best for children to grow up with the mothers who gave birth to them. A mother bonds with her baby during the 9 months the baby spends in her body. A baby recognizes his or her mother’s voice at birth. It’s good and natural and right for families to be preserved whenever possible.

Sometimes, however, family preservation is just not possible. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding Madeleine CaiQun’s departure from her first family, but whatever they were, she and they suffered a profound loss at that time.

And while I believe most nannies in most orphanages do the best they can to care for the children with whom they are surrounded, the staff-to-child ratio is generally far too low, the resources far too scant, and no matter how good, an institution can never replace a family. Some children fare better in that environment than others, and our little one was not doing so well. At age 2.5, she was beautiful but only the size and at only the developmental level of a 15-month-old. She was so small, so behind, that she actually qualified for a failure to thrive diagnosis at her first visit to our pediatrician. As prepared as I was for all sorts of possibilities, I felt a lump in my throat as I looked at the lab slip with those words written across the top.

Our girl came to us hungry for food and for love.


And now, 2.5 years and 5 days later, she’s had as much time as a beloved family member as she had without us. To say that she has blossomed would be an understatement. No more silent tears. No more clutching at a snack cup as she drifted off to sleep. Our little Madeleine CaiQun is a beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter, and niece, and she knows it. She radiates joy and is full of love. Her innate intelligence is readily apparent and her perseverance admirable. She empathizes easily and is quick to share and to encourage.


We’ve been oh-so-blessed by the years we’ve had with her thus far, and we’re so looking forward to the future we have together.

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