Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Feeding My Boy from China - Asian Food

Hot and Sour Thai Soup
- 2 boxes (8 cups) Swansons chicken broth
- 1/2 can coconut milk
- 1 rotisserie chicken - remove bones and skin and tear chicken into small pieces
- juice from 3 limes
- garlic powder- to taste
- red pepper flakes - to taste
- Thai fish sauce - to taste
- fresh cilantro
- 1/2 box angel hair pasta
Bring first eight ingredients to boil.  Break angel hair pasta into thirds and cook until done.  You can also add fresh sliced mushrooms and fresh chopped carrots if you want some veggies.  Just play with it.   We like lots of red pepper flakes (hot!) and lots of lime juice (sour!).  Delicious served with a side of jasmine rice.
Occasionally prospective adoptive parents ask me about recipes for Asian food.  I'm lucky in that I lived for many years in Bangkok, Thailand, so I already love Thai food (different from Chinese, I know, but a lot closer than most American food.) Since Wenxin's been home, I've cooked more Thai and Asian foods and everyone enjoys them.  The soup recipe above is currently our family's favorite meal.

One great thing about China adoptions is they require adoptive parents to spend some time in country.  Our trip was 17 days.  This trip is a great opportunity to observe your new child and find out what kinds of foods they like.  We did the travel package offered by our agency.  They put us in nice hotels with huge breakfast buffets.  For most other meals, a Chinese guide took us to a variety of restaurants. 

I learned a lot about Wenxin's tastes at these meals.  I learned that he'll gobble up most fruits and veggies.  I learned he likes meat.  I learned he can eat spicy food.  I learned he loves ketchup.  Rice and noodles were always eaten.  And McDonalds or KFC were considered special treats.  All good to know.

Food is such an important part of life.  It's definitely an important part of attaching to an adoptive child and helping him feel secure and at home.

A couple of things I learned surprised me.  First, I learned he doesn't like congee - a rice porridge that's a common breakfast food for Chinese kids.  Second, I learned he hates Chinese dumplings.  So no need for me to try to perfect my congee recipe or dumpling making skills.  That was good to know before we got home.

The best "adoption gift" we received was a rice cooker.  It's so easy to cook perfect rice in a rice cooker.  And all rice is not created equal.  Our favorite rice for Asian meals is jasmine rice from Thailand.  These days you can even buy it at Wal-Mart.  A big steaming side of jasmine rice can make most any meal a little more familiar for Wenxin.

I've learned not to throw away left over rice, because fried rice  (with veggies and an egg thrown in) makes a quick easy hot lunch.  Now I cook a little extra rice just so we'll have leftovers.

Finding sauces your child likes can help you easily modify a meal.  I have a Thai sweet chili sauce that Wenxin loves on fried chicken.  So while everyone else is eating their chicken plain, Wenxin can douse his in hot chili sauce.  Win-win for everyone.

In closing, here's what we had for dinner last night.  Everyone had seconds.  Some had thirds.  We licked the platter clean.

Photo from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Beef with Snow Peas, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks website.  Pioneer Woman, I've come to find out, has a soft spot for Asian cuisine so this is a good place to find new Asian recipes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are We Like those Slave Owners?

Friday night Mike took the girls to their first ever Daddy-Daughter Dance.  So, at Wenxin's suggestion, I took the boys out for a Mother-Son dinner. 

On the way home, Nathan made an interesting comment.  He said that when he thinks of how Wenxin is doing, he keeps wondering if we are like the slave owners back in Civil War times.  Huh?  He went on to explain that the slave owners insisted that the slaves were just fine, even grateful for the opportunity to work on their plantations. 

In Nathan's 11 year old heart, he wonders if we are way more excited about this whole adoption thing than Wenxin.  Do we mistakenly think he's grateful?

I was blown away by Nathan's humility. . . and empathy. . . and insight.

Later, I pulled Nathan aside and talked with him.  I told him I believe Wenxin is happy to be a part of our family.  Given the choice, I believe he'd much rather be in our family than in the orphanage.  As I carefully watch, I believe he is loving having a mom and dad and siblings.  He seems genuinely happy.

But even knowing that, we can never forget that Wenxin comes to us with a history of big losses.  I listed them for Nathan.  He lost his first parents and probably will never have any information about them.  He lived in a foster family until he was 5, and then he lost them when he was moved back to the orphanage.  At seven, he lost China  - being surrounded by people who look like him and speak his language.  He lost  familiar foods and smells.  He lost it all to come to a strange country.

I told Nathan that at different times in Wenxin's life he may grieve these losses and feel angry.  Who will he be angry at?  His birth parents?  Kind of hard, because he doesn't even have a face to put with them.  His foster mom?  Maybe.  But that was long ago and far away.  The orphanage staff?  Probably too impersonal.  Nathan followed my line of reasoning.  "He might get angry at us," he offered. 

I softened it a little by saying, "I hope he never feels that way, but it is possible, as he gets older that he may feel angry at Mom and Dad.  He may need to feel angry at someone, and hopefully he'll know that it's safe to share his real feelings with us."

I told Nathan I don't expect Wenxin to feel grateful to be in our family any more than I expect Nathan and Julia and Katherine to be grateful to be here.  Sure, we are called to be grateful to God for all our blessings.  But kids generally consider "being a part of the family" their birthright.  They don't walk around every day feeling "grateful."  I don't want Wenxin to be singled out as the one who has to feel especially grateful.  It seems even more absurd to expect gratefulness when he got here as a result of loss.

But as for me, I left that conversation feeling grateful.  My 11 year old son, who was scared to welcome an adopted brother into his life, has grown to truly love him.  Nathan loves Wenxin enough to see past the adoption stereotype of "the grateful adoptee."  In this area, he's more mature than a lot of adults I know.