April 23, 2015
One of the commitments Matt and I made to each other and to our then-future child when we decided to adopt from China was that we would pursue incorporating Chinese culture into our family’s life. From talking to and reading about the experiences of other trans-racial adoptees, we knew that our child, while fully part of our family, would experience the tension of living between two worlds. Raised with white parents in middle-class America, she would lose her ability to connect fully with the Chinese or Chinese-American communities, but neither would she fully experience life as a WASP. We want to do all that we can to help her navigate that reality. On top of that, we believe Chinese culture and history are fascinating, and knowledge and experience of them has so much to offer to us and to all of our children.
When we learned that the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which normally has an exhibit focused on China and its culture, would also be hosting a temporary exhibit including some of the actual terracotta warriors crafted thousands of years ago in Xi’an, China, we were determined to make the trip. One weekend last September, we made it happen.
My brother David currently lives in Cincinnati, which is just a short trip from Indianapolis, so he was able to join us for the trip, which was an extra blessing. Even just the time at the hotel with him was a treat!
We enjoyed some time at the regular China exhibit.
We learned about the Chinese zodiac signs…
…and about Chinese characters and calligraphy.
The little market was one of the girls’ favorite parts of the day, and we went back there multiple times.
We also took a little bit of time to check out the museum’s dinosaur exhibits.
And then it was time for our entrance into the terracotta warriors exhibit! There was a short film about the terracotta warriors and their construction thousands of years ago and their discovery by local farmers in the 1970s, and then we were allowed into the exhibit. Matt spent some time studying and drawing this warrior.
One thing I was very impressed by was the way the exhibit communicated information about the warriors and their history but also made everything fun and interactive for children of various ages. Both Miranda and Madeleine CaiQun really enjoyed putting together this three-dimensional puzzle to build a replica of the kneeling archer.
We looked around at the various warriors…
…and then we were able to construct our own miniature warriors using clay and molds!
By the time we came through, a sizable army had already been constructed, and we added our figures to them.
Then the girls put on some armor, and we practiced making our fiercest faces and being defenders of the emperor.
We also enjoyed drumming, always a favorite activity, but especially with a large drum like this one!
As the girls were only four years old when we took our trip, I’m not sure they retained a lot of information about the terracotta warriors or from the main China exhibit. That’s not really our goal at this point, though. Obviously any pieces of information they pick up and can recall later are great. However, what is important to us right now is that we are creating a family culture in which we are continually pursuing learning and, in particular, learning about China and its culture. As our kids get older, I expect there to be more and more opportunities for that, but we’re thankful we were able to take advantage of this one when we had the chance!
March 4, 2015
This 2014-2015 homeschooling year has been a journey of learning for all of us. Since we’re well over halfway through our curriculum and our school year, I think it’s about time for an update here :)
The primary basis of our curriculum this year has been Sonlight’s pre-k package. I posted more about the specific choices we made for our school year this year here, but the basic idea is that I’m doing all of our reading and activities together with both girls, and that covers most subjects – Bible, Reading, History, Science, and World Cultures, and then I have them doing Language Arts and Math separately.
One thing I’ve very much enjoyed this year is seeing concrete developments in our girls’ knowledge and thinking. CaiQun is now able to count to 39 reliably (and needs just a little help thereafter). Miranda is now consistently able to count beyond 100, is building the foundations for understanding our base 10 number system, and can do simple addition and subtraction. CaiQun recognizes all her letters and knows the sounds they make and can read and guess spellings of some simple words. Miranda is able to sound out words that follow pretty straightforward rules of pronunciation and reads a book to CaiQun and me each day. Miranda’s handwriting has gotten dramatically better, and CaiQun is learning how to write letters and numbers. Both girls know the days of the week, months of the year, and the four seasons.
They’re also growing in knowledge and understanding through our reading. We’ve read about types of matter, classification of animals (though they still express disbelief every time we discuss the reality that human beings are considered to be mammals or any type of animal at all!), and the earth itself. We’ve read about different professions, and both girls have developed ambitious goals in this arena – Miranda says, “I want to be half ambulance driver, half mom, half doctor, and half fire truck girl.” CaiQun is going to be a mommy (she’ll have Miranda be the doctor who helps her give birth), and she’s also going to be an ambulance driver, a firefighter, and a gymnast. They both want to attend college in China, though Miranda is only planning to take classes on Tuesdays so that she can live at home with us the rest of the days of the week :)
Another thing we’ve been enjoying together this year is Scripture memorization. Our curriculum suggests a weekly Bible verse to memorize, but I wasn’t always thrilled with their selections, so leading up to Christmas, we ditched them in favor of memorizing John 1:1-5. Once we had that passage down, though, the girls wanted to keep going, so we now have through verse 10 pretty solidly memorized and are working on 11-13. It has been fun to work on that with them during our lunches each day and to discuss what the verses are really saying. My hope is that it will serve them well in the future to have some good passages tucked away in their memories.
And we definitely enjoy reading the different stories, whether tales of Uncle Wiggily’s adventures or stories told by various cultures from around the world or Milly-Molly-Mandy classics. Both of the girls are really loving the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories right now. Their attention spans and interest in reading books without pictures on each page have grown tremendously in the last year or so, and I really enjoy that they’re now able to read and enjoy some longer and more complex stories.
We’re almost always able to accomplish our entire school day in under 2 hours, usually all before lunch time, though we often finish things up in the afternoons if we’ve had morning errands to run or spent some time with friends in the mornings.
One of the things I enjoy most about home-schooling is the time. Because it is so flexible, I am able to allow the girls so much free time, time to do various art projects of their own creation, time to play in the playroom, time to play games or do puzzles with each other or as a family. And, as has been the case recently, there’s time to play out in the snow when weather permits :)
And when weather isn’t ideal for outside play…we get to do things like meeting friends at Bonkers when it’s empty, because everyone else is in school :)
I also enjoy being able to spend so much time with the girls. That is an area in which I’d like to continue to grow – I’m very task-oriented by nature, and the demands of caring for 3 small children and managing a household are pretty intense for me right now, so when we have 30 minutes free, I’m much more apt to think about what task I can accomplish than to come up with a fun activity for us to enjoy together. The lure of quality time does occasionally win out, though, and I’m grateful for the times it does! This year’s curriculum is actually very good at suggesting activities to do that tie into what we’re reading. Some of the activities aren’t appealing to us at all, but a lot of them are fun when we do them, and I’d like to take the time to do more of them.
There are some weaknesses in the curriculum. I actually wish it were more intense. The girls often want to read more than is scheduled, and I need to be better at indulging them in that, too. I thought there would be more content and more focus than there is, and those are some things I’m really looking forward to about Sonlight’s curriculum in future years.
Those words may come back to haunt me, as we embrace added intensity next year but have our growing little boy spending his days with us, too. Hopefully the challenge will not prove to be too much :) This year I have sometimes felt harried as I’ve tried, simultaneously, to introduce a math concept to Miranda, give direction on handwriting to Madeleine CaiQun, and bounce a fussy baby in need of a nap, but we’ve been managing to work through everyone’s different needs, and I imagine we’ll continue to figure it out.
And the hard times give us opportunities to work on and pray about character issues. We’ve devoted a lot of time this year to self-control, and while we still have a long way to go, I’m glad we’ve been able to focus on it so much. Home-schooling gives us an opportunity to talk about and pray about so many different things. Just the other day we had an extensive lunch conversation about a decision facing them in which they could choose to be selfish or to be kind, good friends to another child, and on the first day, they were 100% committed to selfishness, but after we talked, we prayed about it, and the next day they announced that they had changed their minds and wanted to choose to try to be kind.
Overall I really think the year is going pretty well. The girls continue to enjoy school, and I continue to enjoy teaching them and seeing them learn – and they are clearly learning. I think we’re seeing spiritual growth, as well as intellectual growth, and we’re enjoying our time together doing it all!
February 25, 2015
It’s funny how certain sights or smells can take you back immediately to another time and place, often the home of a poignant experience.
About a week ago I submitted our 2014 taxes, and being the detail-oriented person that I am, I then plugged our info into the IRS2GO app on my phone so that I could track our refund – and I was immediately taken back to this time last year, when I was tracking our 2013 refund, which we’d use to get our emergency savings account back up to a minimally acceptable level (we’d depleted it in its entirety to pay for the last of our adoption costs). And knowing we’d be back to a more stable place financially, we were talking and praying about potentially trying to get pregnant.
It felt like a strange place to be. After we began pursuing adopting from China, and as we learned more and more about the children around the world waiting for families, I began to think that perhaps we were done having biological children and would adopt all of our children from there on out. It seemed to me, in my black and white manner of viewing the world, that we were going to have a certain capacity, whether it was 4 kids or 5 kids or 6 kids, and any of those spots that we filled with a biological child was a spot that we couldn’t fill by adopting a child who needed a family.
But that perspective began to shift last winter. We knew we wanted to adopt again, but we also knew that we weren’t ready to do so yet. For one thing, we didn’t have the money even to start the process. More importantly, though, we didn’t feel like adding another toddler to our two toddlers at home would be a good dynamic for our family.
We were talking and praying and reading a lot about marriage, though. In that, I think I saw anew the beauty of procreation, of seeking God and of coming together to create new life. And I began to wonder if maybe that was actually what God had for us next.
I realized – for about the millionth time – that God’s ways are not my ways. He doesn’t work like I do, and I don’t always understand what He’s doing. It felt like He was saying, “yes, but not yet,” to adoption but was at the same time drawing us toward the possibility of having another baby biologically.
Honestly, I felt somewhat confused. I wasn’t sure if He really was – or even could be – leading us in that direction, and if He was, why. We talked about the idea of having another baby with some of our friends, and I brought it up with some of the other China adoption moms I’ve grown to know and trust, women who are also passionate about adoption and orphan care. Were we crazy? Should we avoid trying to have another biological baby in case doing so could limit our ability to adopt more children? But instead of a resounding, “yes,” to either of those questions, what we got were reminders that all children are a blessing from God, that all life is from Him, that we have many years in front of us to add children to our family through adoption, and that there is so much we can’t know – that God might intend for this potential child to be a special blessing to his or her siblings or to walk a path to do amazing things in the world.
In short, we were encouraged to go for it if that’s what we were feeling led to do. We did and quickly found ourselves pregnant with Atticus.
This side of that pregnancy, with our little guy here with us now, I’m still not sure WHY. Why did God lead us in this direction? What does He have for us in parenting Atticus? What is the pathway He has laid out for our small son?
I don’t know. And yet I am thankful. I am so enjoying having little Atticus here – his smiles and coos and little laughs have already added so much joy to our household. And I trust that God is good and that He is at work in our little family.
I came across a poem the other day that begins:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.'”
I’d like to live my life more and more in that manner…placing my hand into the Hand of God and walking forth into whatever may come with full trust in Him.
And I pray that He will continue to work in and through our little family, guiding us as He wills, and bringing us whatever adventures (and whatever children) He may!
February 15, 2015
Our little guy is now over 2 months old!
Atticus is an incredibly happy baby.
And he continues to be everyone’s favorite little snuggle bug.
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.
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.
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.
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.
February 8, 2015
Obviously this post is a rather late, but I did just have a baby recently, so I think it’s understandable that I have gotten a bit behind :)
We so enjoyed our Christmas, though, and I do want to share just a bit and post some photos here. Our celebrations started off with our Christmas party with our missional community group from church.
We are super blessed to have these people in our lives…and even though I doubt he’s really aware of it yet, Atticus already has two built-in best friends in our group!
We basically announced to our families when we told them we were pregnant that we were not going to be traveling for any holidays in 2014, and they were welcome to do whatever they wanted, but we’d be here for everything. We were so blessed that Matt’s sister and mom visited before and after Christmas, and my whole family came for Christmas itself.
The girls, of course, continue to love their uncles beyond measure. They enjoyed some rocket-ship construction with Uncle David…
…reading books with Uncle Danny and Sharon…
…snuggling with Uncle Danny and Sharon…and doing puzzles with Uncle David (and me)!
And of course, we can’t forget Sharon, who remains a favorite of both girls, for obvious reasons! Here she is helping them to frost cookies.
And here she is painting their fingernails.
And she also apparently gives piggy-back rides!
Danny and Sharon actually brought their dog, Dixie, with them for this trip. I was a bit apprehensive at first about how things would go with 7 adults, 2 kids, a newborn, and a dog all in one house, but Dixie was the most well-behaved, pleasant dog I’ve ever met. The girls loved her, of course!
She was a bit less enamored with them – she enjoyed having them along on her walks but otherwise generally hid in the guest room until they went to bed at night!
Not to be forgotten, Atticus enjoyed snuggling with every member of the family at some point during their time here :)
The girls and my dad and I made our traditional Christmas cut-out cookies…
…though some of us were distracted by the tastiness of the dough itself!
We also looked into other activities that we could enjoy as a whole family, and we opted to give bowling a try.
Thankfully it was a hit for everyone!
And then we had the more traditionally Christmas-related activities – a Christmas Eve church service (to which the girls wore these adorable outfits that their Aunt Denya sent for them!)…
…our Christmas dinner (of which I made none – thank you again, family!)…
…and of course our Christmas tree and gifts to one another!
My dad hadn’t upgraded his phone in quite some time, so we got him an iPhone for Christmas. It’s a good thing he had Madeleine CaiQun to show him how to operate it! “This is how you plug it in. Then it needs to be brighter. Here. This is the weather – it tells you if you need to wear a jacket or not…”
And then we were blessed to have a warm enough day for the girls to try out the plasma cars that my mom got for them! It took a bit of time for them to figure it out, but they were loving this!
It was such a great Christmas and so much good time with so many people who are so special to us!
February 4, 2015
For the past two days, I’ve gotten up at 6:30 in the morning. That may not seem significant to you, but we are night owls, and for the past 5+ years, Matt and I have generally stuck to a schedule of going to bed around midnight (or later) and getting up between 8:00 and 8:30, so pushing that back to a 6:30 wake up is a change for me!
I haven’t written about it much here, but I actually work (very) part time from home, and this week I started back to work with the goal of trying to do just 5-7 hours per week for this semester. Before Atticus’s arrival, I’d worked during the girls’ rest time in the afternoons, but now that he has joined our family and is still too little to really have a regular schedule, I knew that wasn’t always going to work. Matt and I talked about it, and we decided to try my working for an hour each night after the girls went to bed, and Matt would keep Atticus with him for that time. It was a great idea in theory, but we tried it Monday night and realized that the reality was going to be a different story. Evenings are Atticus’s fussiest time, and while Matt loves our little guy, the prospect of having his quality time with him be focused so heavily during the “witching hour” was not appealing. Plus, with Atticus continuing to refuse bottles, Matt is at a significant disadvantage as a caretaker and comforter due to his lack of breasts!
Our rough experience on Monday night prompted me to propose that I try getting up early to get in my work time, and I set my alarm for 6:30 the next morning (and, somewhat surprisingly, actually got out of bed when it went off). Atticus has woken up hungry both yesterday and today during my work time, but even with taking a break to feed him, I’ve been able to eat breakfast, spend a little time reading my Bible and praying, and get in an hour of work each morning before 8:30.
Honestly, I kind of like it. Even though everyone else is maintaining their same sleep schedule, it has felt like our days have gotten off to better starts. I’ve accomplished more and am more ready to go by the time everyone else gets up, and our mornings as a whole have gone better, too.
The downside is pretty obvious, though. I am TIRED. I contemplated napping this afternoon if I could line up one of Atticus’s naps with the girls’ rest time, but alas, it didn’t work out that way.
That does seem like a small price to pay, though, for our whole family’s days to go better. There have been numerous times during the last couple months that I’ve thought of Paul describing his life as “being poured out as a drink offering” (Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6). Not that I’m really comparing my life to Paul’s – he endured heavy persecution, while I get to spend my days loving my favorite little kiddos. But the reality is still that the life of a mom is a life of dying to self – those precious babies remind you 24/7 that your life is no longer simply your own. Perhaps these early wake-up calls are simply the latest manifestation of that. But it is hard to get up…particularly since evenings after the girls are in bed are the times Matt and I use to catch up, and it’s so hard for me to cut those off to go to bed early.
We’ll see if we can still find time to connect and if I can maintain the self-discipline to get up that early and get my work done before the rest of the family gets up.
And I welcome any other suggestions anyone may have for getting in quality marriage time but also having a consistent time to study the Bible study and get work or other chores done while also still caring for little kiddos!
February 3, 2015
I had been dreading last week ever since I found out that Matt would need to be traveling to the Baltimore and Washington DC area in connection with a show he was curating out there. He doesn’t travel much, and I never particularly enjoy him being gone, but it felt particularly intense for him to be gone right now, with Atticus still so little.
He had to be there for a couple days, but then he also asked if it would be alright for him to stay for an extra day or two to take advantage of the myriad of museums out there, and I agreed – it would be so sad for him to be so close but unable to enjoy all of the great art and culture in the area, plus my dad and brother live out there, so he’d be able to spend a bit of time with them. I knew it was a great opportunity for him, but still – I was dreading it.
But we survived! We did school…
…sometimes in fairy wings :)
Along with some friends from church, we took a tour of a local fire station!
My friend Rebecca joined us there and at our house for a couple days, which was such a blessing.
She held Atticus, engaged with the girls, did dishes, provided adult conversation for me, and was just generally helpful and encouraging. One of the biggest challenges for me when Matt goes out of town is just feeling alone, and it was so nice to have Rebecca there with me!
And my friend Liz came over with her two little boys one morning to play and hang out and chat.
And then my mom came for the weekend, which was so, so nice!
We’re all always thrilled when Grandma comes for a visit :)
I didn’t get tons of quality time with her – evenings were more like, “Okay, the girls are in bed and I’ve fed Atticus; can you keep him so I can take a shower?” than, “Let’s sit down and enjoy our ice cream and have leisurely conversations.” But still, it was good to see her :)
And pretty much before we knew it, Matt was home! Phew!
There were a few rough patches. Dinner was pretty late on the one evening we didn’t have anyone here with us. I didn’t get as much sleep as usual – Atticus is usually a great night-time sleeper, but he had a couple nights that were rougher than normal, but even those weren’t too bad. There were times I struggled to be patient and kind while feeling pretty worn out. But ultimately, we survived! I know there are parents in military families and single moms who do this all day every day, and to them, I tip my hat – because as a mom of 3 kiddos under 5, one of whom is just barely 2 months old, just making it through 4 days of life without my husband (and with lots of help) felt like quite a triumph!
January 20, 2015
Most often when people ask how we are adjusting to life as a family of five, my thoughts jump immediately to my “to do” lists and how well I’m keeping up with them – and as an afterthought I consider our hearts, how we are loving each other and taking care of ourselves. Really we’re doing pretty well on both fronts, but I definitely need continual reminders to address the latter. And so today, as the girls are upstairs enjoying their rest time and Atticus is sleeping beside me (because this boy is a snugglebug – why sleep in a bassinet when you could have full body contact with your mama?), I open this page to write. Writing, even if not profound, reminds me that I still have a self that is distinct from care-giver-for-the-littles – while that occupies most of my time and I truly believe that it is my calling and I love it, it does not make up the entirety of me. I enjoy these few moments I can grab from time to time to write…and writing also reminds me of what we have celebrated and for what we are thankful.
One of the things for which I am thankful that I haven’t yet shared here is our December visits from our NY family. Matt’s younger sister Stacey flew out for a long weekend about a week and a half after Atticus was born, and Matt’s mom joined us for a few days after Christmas.
They, of course, were quite willing to spend some time holding our little guy :)
And that truly is helpful! With 2 other kiddos for whom to care and a household to run, I certainly didn’t mind other people spending some time snuggling with and getting to know the newest member of our family!
The girls also got in some great quality time with both their aunt and their grandma, which was a blessing for them and also for Matt and me. Since they live over 1,000 miles away, we don’t get to see our NY family very often. We still want our kiddos to have good relationships with them, though, so it really was wonderful to have some of them here and spending so much time with our kids.
And of course it was great for Matt and me to get to see his mom and sister, too! We so appreciate the fact that we can keep up with far-away family through Facebook and phone calls and texts, but there’s so much ground you can cover in a few days together that the sporadic long-distance interactions don’t provide. It was so nice to have some time to get more caught up on each other’s lives! And we hope to make it out to New York this summer to have the opportunity to re-connect with the entire New York side of the family and introduce Atticus to them!