Showing posts with label Chinese Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chinese Culture. Show all posts

Friday, February 14, 2014

Continuing to Honor His Chinese Heritage

China. It's important to him and important to us. 

Still, we almost missed it.

Chinese New Year.

In the busy-ness of life, it's easy to overlook holidays I didn't grow up celebrating. We were out of town for a soccer tournament on Chinese New Year this year, so The Year of the Horse arrived unnoticed. There was zero fanfare that evening as we shared dinner at a Chick Fil A by the interstate. Red envelopes (for giving money to the kids) lay forgotten in a drawer back home.

On top of that, I almost forgot the annual Chinese New Year parade last weekend. Mike and Nathan were away on a campout, and Julia was spending the weekend with a friend. As I was getting ready for church, I remembered that the parade was on a Sunday in early February and quickly checked my computer.  

Yikes! It would start in a couple of hours.

We were able to go to church and then join our Asian-American community downtown, just in time for the first float.

Dragons. Mardi Gras beads. Lots of free candy.

A whole sea of folks who looked more like Wenxin than they looked like me.

And an Asian meal that was to die for.

It was a great day.

International adoption is a tricky dance. On the one hand, I want to honor his birth culture. 

But on the other hand, I don't want to constantly point out his differentness, making him essentially a life-long exchange student in our home.

I think what I'm shooting for is a little more nuanced. I want to see our family culture shift slightly and embrace more Chinese culture. It takes intentionality on my part, which means it doesn't always happen. But every time I make the effort -- like changing plans last minute to get Katherine and Wenxin to the parade last Sunday -- I'm reminded that it's worth it.

Recently, Nathan competed in The Ying Expo, a county wide science fair sponsored by Dr. Nelson Ying. At the Awards Ceremony, Nathan received second place in Computer Science. We were thrilled, and as we cheered and clapped, Wenxin had a question.

"Mom, where is Dr.Ying from?"

Back at home, we looked up Dr. Ying's bio online and learned that his family immigrated from China during The Cultural Revolution. They started a new life in America, building a successful business. Now, the senior Dr. Ying and his son (pictured above with Nathan) generously sponsor several science competitions in our area.

I was reminded that Wenxin needs role models who look like him.

Meeting successful Chinese Americans plants seeds of pride in his Chinese American heritage and  gives him a glimpse of what can happen with hard work and perseverance.


It will always be important, because my son in Chinese.

And my family is still evolving, learning to embrace that truth and discovering what it means for us.

Sharing today at The Long Road to China.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Moon Festival Adoptive Family Style: Year II

China's Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is Thursday.

Am I the only adoptive parent who feels totally inept when it comes to important holidays from my child's birth culture?

Last year was our first time to celebrate the Moon Festival as a family. At the last minute, I ran out and bought a couple of mooncakes and made a quick dinner of frozen pot stickers. We played Chinese folk songs as we ate. I'm glad no Chinese person (other than Wenxin) could see my lame attempt at honoring his birth culture. Yes, it was pretty lame. But it was a start.

Sometimes it's important just to start.

And you know what?

It was fun.

This year in August Wenxin reminded me. "Mom, don't forget. The Moon Festival is coming up."

So yesterday we made a day of it. We drove downtown to an area with lots of Asian restaurants and shops, and we had lunch at my favorite Vietnamese place. We all chowed down on noodles and rice, and everyone tried bubble tea for the first time.

Those tapioca pearls kind of freaked everyone out. They'll be talking about it for days.

After lunch, we headed to an Asian supermarket to shop for mooncakes. Last year we had the ones with red bean filling. This year we bought a tin with four different flavors. We chose the kind that have a salty egg yolk in the middle. From what I understand, the egg yolk stands for the full moon. I just couldn't bring myself to do the cooked egg yolk in the middle of a cake thing last year, but this year I'm game. Why not? Mooncake is pretty much outside my comfort zone no matter what's inside. And Wenxin's pretty excited about those egg yolks.

Next, we dropped by a gift shop and bought paper lanterns for decorations. The Chinese ladies there even talked me into buying a huge paper lantern that floats up into the sky when lit. Wenxin is convinced it is destined to come crashing out of the sky and cause a fire.

"That one's a fire hazard, Mom. If we're going to light it, we need to go somewhere FAR FROM OUR HOUSE."

Last stop: the public library for a book about the Moon Festival.

Thursday night, provided there's no rain, we plan to set up our porch table in the backyard under the full moon. There will be candles and lanterns and our favorite Asian foods. 

Our family is a blending of two cultures, so it just seems right that we should incorporate some of the best things from both. For us, that means adding the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year to our list of family celebrations.

This year's Moon Festival holds special meaning for us. It's the third anniversary of the night Wenxin came home and all my kids slept under the same roof for the first time. The night we became a family.

Do all internationally adopted kids want their new families to celebrate their birth cultures? Should you push birth culture when all your kid wants is just to fit into his adopted culture? Kayla addresses these questions today at No Hands But Ours in a post called Chinese, if you please.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 23: A Movie I Recommend

This feature length documentary is available on streaming Netflix or at Amazon.

While not specifically about older child adoption, this film paints a picture of what it's like to grow up as an international adoptee, always living somewhere between your birth culture and your adopted culture. It gives a rare glimpse of international adoption through the adoptee's eyes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Traditions Celebrating Our Adopted Kids

What to do about the Christmas ornaments? Believe it or not, that question weighed on my mind back in 2010 as we prepared to travel to China.

When my first child was born in 1999, my mom started a Christmas tradition. Each year, she gives each grandchild a personalized engraved pewter ornament.  Eventually, I even bought a small tree especially for the children's ornaments. They have a lot of fun each year when we pull out their individual collections and let them decorate their tree. The older the child, the more ornaments they have.

Anticipating 7 1/2 year old Wenxin's first Christmas in our family, I wanted him to have an ornament collection as well. 

Deep inside, I wished my mom would think about catching him up and volunteer to buy him an ornament for each Christmas of his life. I wanted her to get it. But intellectually, I knew I was being unrealistic. For one thing, it would be very expensive.  And I knew she wouldn't see the point. For all the other kids, she started buying ornaments when they entered our family. Why should she buy Wenxin ornaments for all the years he wasn't here? I decided this was a need for me,as his mom, to meet.

But was it really even a need? I wasn't sure, however some gut instinct told me that this family tradition had the potential to make Wenxin feel like an outsider.

Family traditions are just like family stories. They're one of the things that separates the insiders from the outsiders. I had this nagging feeling that Wenxin needed a collection of ornaments that celebrated his life to feel a part of our family tradition.

Christmas 2010, Grammy gave Wenxin his first personalized ornament from her. It was just like the one that Nathan, Julia, and Katherine received that year, and it was very special. I also bought two beautiful picture frame ornaments and inserted a couple of my favorite photos of Wenxin, bringing his collection to three. Then, on the day we decorated the children's tree, I brought out  a set of beautiful cloisonne ornaments from our trip to China and gave them to Wenxin. Just like my other kids have ornaments from Grammy that celebrate each year of their lives, Wenxin has a beautiful set of ornaments that celebrate his life in the country of his birth. He couldn't be prouder.

Linking up at WMFW.

Monday, November 19, 2012

China Adoption Myths Busted

There are a lot of myths surrounding China adoption. A while back I wrote a post called How Did You Get a Boy From China? to address the myth that all Chinese children available for adoption are girls.

Today I happened on two more myth busting articles.

Valentina's Happily Ever After - debunks the common misconception that Chinese people don't adopt domestically, and that if they do, they never choose girls. Valentina found her forever family in her own birth country, China.

Long Journey Home - tells the story of a boy adopted from China by American parents. As a college student, he returns to China where he searches for and finds his birth family, something most of us assume our adopted Chinese kids will never be able to do. All those unanswered questions? This kids was able to get some answers, straight from the mouths of his birth parents. Grab a box of tissues, and read his amazing journey.

While these stories aren't yet typical of China adoption, they do lead me to believe that times are changing. We need to stay informed, so that in the area of adoption, we aren't operating under old assumptions, still believing myths that were busted a long time ago.

Have you entered to win the Red Thread Sisters Raffle? You still have 3 more days. Winner to be announced on Friday!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Giveaway - Just in Time for Christmas

Wen has spent the first eleven years of her life at an orphanage in rural China, and the only person she would call family is her best friend, Shu Ling. When Wen is adopted by an American couple, she struggles to adjust to every part of her new life: having access to all the food and clothes she could want, going to school, being someone's daughter. But the hardest part of all is knowing that Shu Ling remains back at the orphanage, alone. Wen believes that her best friend deserves a family and a future, too. But finding a home for Shu Ling isn't easy, and time is running out . . .

Finally. A novel about older child adoption. And even better, it's written from the point of view of the adopted child.

I was cautiously hopeful as I began reading. Would this book really paint a picture of the challenges as well as the joys of older child adoption? Or would everything just be butterflies and rainbows? Would the story be compelling enough for kids of all ages (and even adults) to enjoy? Was that too much to ask of one book?

In the end, my hopes were realized. I really liked this book. In fact, I liked it so much I decided to read it aloud to all my kids.

Ages 12, 10, 9 and 8, my kids were the perfect audience for Red Thread Sisters which is aimed at middle grade students. I found it to be appropriate for older elementary kids as well. My one concern was Wenxin. Although the author, Carol Peacock, approaches the subject sensitively, when Wen and Shu Ling share their stories of abandonment, the ache of their hearts is unmistakable.  I cried for them. Would this prove to be too much for nine year old Wenxin, only home from China two years?

I prefaced the book by sharing with all the children that this was Wen's story (the main character), not Wenxin's. And as I read, I saw the biggest response from my biological kids.

Julia, age 10, said, "I never thought before about how the adopted kid might feel."

Following Wen's story, they were able to see international adoption through her eyes. Their empathy and understanding deepened.

As for Wenxin, he listened, but didn't say much, and I didn't push it. I just gave him room to process, and let him enjoy the story.

By the end of the book, all of us, even Wenxin, were cheering Wen on, hoping she'd find Shu Ling a family before it was too late.

After reading Red Thread Sisters, I gathered up my courage and wrote the author, Carol Peacock. She is so sweet. I asked if she'd be willing to give away a signed copy of her book, and she said, "Yes!"

So just in time for Christmas, you have the opportunity to win your own signed hardcover copy of Red Thread Sisters. It would make a great gift for any young reader. It would even be helpful for prospective adoptive parents. There's something about a good story that drives the truth home and helps it stick.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below for up to 12 chances to win! If you've never used Rafflecopter before, don't be intimidated. It's super easy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dr. Carol Antoinette Peacock grew up in Maryland, in a suburb outside of Washington D.C. She is the oldest of three children in a family who loved books. When she was young, her parents, Andrew and Gloria Peacock, read devotedly to her, her younger brother, Richard, and her younger sister, Nancy. Carol Peacock has wanted to be a writer since she was eleven. She is now a practicing psychologist and author of six books. Dr. Peacock earned a BA at Cornell University, a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Psychology at Boston College.

You can find Carol Peacock on Facebook and at And if you don't want to wait for the raffle to end, Red Thread Sisters is available now at Amazon.

Shared at the Tuesday Baby Link-up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Moon Festival Adoptive Family Style

If you are Chinese, you might want to skip this post. Because my family's unconventional Moon Festival celebration might make you cringe. For example:

There they are. Howling at the moon. Every last one of them.

I don't think Chinese people usually do that.

Wenxin's been our son for two years now, but this was the first year we celebrated the Moon Festival.

Because even though I write an adoption parenting blog, I've got a long way to go as an adoptive parent.

That first year, when the Moon Festival rolled around, we had just arrived home from China and were still dealing with jet lag. Wenxin was grieving and raging, and honestly, it was all we could do just to hold things together around here. No Moon Festival for us.

Last year, I intended to buy mooncakes -- I really did -- until fall hit with a vengeance. School. Soccer. Julia's birthday. Before I knew it the Moon Festival had come and gone, and I was on my way to becoming the worst adoptive mom ever.

Back in the summer, Wenxin brought it up.  He told me about the Moon Festival in China -- how it was really fun.  He wondered if our family could celebrate it this year.

So this past weekend, while I was running from soccer game to soccer game and packing for New York in between, I googled "when is the Moon Festival in 2012?" It looked to me like the Moon Festival ran a whole week, so I figured if all else failed, we'd hunt down some mooncakes when we got to New York and celebrate up there. I also posted a Facebook message to ask my friends where they buy them and discuss  favorite mooncake fillings (more on that later).

6:30 pm Sunday night, I checked Facebook and saw this message from my friend, Jerry. Jerry's wife, Evelyn, is Chinese.

"It's tonight, you know. Tonight's the night you give the mooncakes."


I called an Asian food market downtown.

"Are you still open?"

"Yes, we're open til 8."

"Do you have mooncakes?"

"No, all gone."

Panic.  Panic.  Panic.

Googling Asian markets in town.

I found one that looked to be close to my house and called. Now it was 6:45.

"Are you open?"

"Yes, we are open until 7."

"Do you have mooncakes?"

"Yes, we have a few."

I grabbed my purse and ran to the car. Mike looked up from pushing the lawn mower just in time to see me screech off. A woman on a mission. In search of mooncakes.

I pulled into the Asian market parking lot at 7:02. I could see the owner reaching to unplug the "OPEN" sign.

"No, no, no, no!"

I ran to the door and pushed it open before she could lock it.

"Mooncakes," I gasped and staggered inside.

Selection was limited. The few that were left had red bean filling. Mooncakes, at least the ones I bought, are small -- about the size of moon pies, for my southern friends. Many of them have a whole egg yolk cooked inside -- like a full moon.  I opted for the no egg version. (I know, I'm a wimp.) There was a decorative tin with 4 mooncakes for $21.  I decided to buy a single mooncake ($5.99) for Wenxin, and then another single for the rest of us to share.  Something told me that would be enough.

"What do families in China do on this night -- besides give mooncakes?" I asked the owner.

"Usually we share a huge meal, like Thanksgiving, " she said.


Just great.

I didn't even have a plan for dinner.

"And you have to wait until the sun goes down."

Finally, a part of this whole moon thing that I could get right.  It was already getting dark outside.

Remembering there was a little jasmine rice left from lunch, I raced to Wal-Mart and bought a bag of frozen pot stickers.  No, they're not Wenxin's favorites. We'd never even tried them before. But I was winging this Moon Festival thing, and it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

So while Chinese families around town were feasting on big meals, our celebration was more like "Moon Festival in Time of Famine."

No, that's not the appetizer.  It's the whole meal.

But it didn't matter.  When Wenxin saw what I was doing, he got so excited.

"Should I put on the Chinese music, Mom?"  He ran to find the CD of Chinese folk songs he brought from China.

We did our best to eat pot stickers and jasmine rice with chopsticks.  I even broke out some fortune cookies.

And then there were the mooncakes. Even though I lived in Asia for seven years back when I was single, this was the first time I'd ever had mooncake. I've heard them compared to fruitcake in America.
When I opened the cellophane wrapper , a little package of silica  fell out. You know, the little packets that come in your box of new sneakers that say, "Do Not Eat."  I kid you not.  I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason for that; I'm just not used to finding those in my food.

When I sliced the mooncake that Nathan, Julia, and Katherine were going to share, everyone yelled, "Chocolate!"

"No," I corrected them, "It's red bean."  Yummm.

The looks on their faces as they chewed and swallowed confirmed one of my theories about traveling in Asia. "Eat, eat, eat, but stay away from the desserts." For most Americans, smashed red beans just don't belong in cake -- of any kind.  Oh well, Wenxin can't stomach cheese pizza.  But he seemed to genuinely enjoy his mooncake.

Moon Festival adoptive family style. For us, it was a good start, and it was fun. Our family made a memory together, and from what I understand, time with family is what the Chinese Moon Festival is all about.

Next year, I'll try to give the "feast" part a little upgrade.

Little by Little