Showing posts with label Holidays and Adoption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays and Adoption. 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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Blogaholics Anonymous

We've been playing games together. Card games. Silly games. Games with Grandma, because Grandma likes games.

And I've been taking photos. Lots of photos. Getting out of my comfort zone and shooting a lot of candid, indoor shots. Capturing Christmas memories.

This morning we're off to a local state park for breakfast in an old Spanish sugar mill. Note to self: Don't forget your camera!

Here are a few links I found this weekend that I thought you'd like.

Giving the baby back - A foster mom shares her thoughts. "I give them back because they are not mine. And this is not about me."

Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss - written by an adoptive father, this is a beautiful piece about accepting the constraints of our lives.

this Christmas - Stefanie, from Ni Hao Y'all, shares how her family celebrated Christmas a little differently this year. I love what they did!

Anyone else still in Christmas vacation mode?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Look Who's Curled Up With a Good Book

This makes my heart happy. Really happy.

Wenxin, adopted from China at age 7 1/2.

No spoken English. Zero. Nada. Zip.

He spoke Chinese, of course, but he'd never been to school in China and couldn't read his own language.

So for the last three years, I've had simple educational goals for Wenxin -- goals that will set the stage for a lifetime of learning.

1. Bonding and learning to be a family.  This was really a goal for all of us, not just Wenxin. At first glance, it doesn't even seem educational. But if there was no attachment, no becoming a family, then nothing else would really matter. So for the first months home, while we did dive right into academic schoolwork, it wasn't all that important to me. Doing schoolwork together was just a means to another end. We were getting to know one another. We were growing to love each other. We were becoming a family.

2. Fluency in spoken English. Not much to add here because immersed in a family of big talkers, this one happened naturally.

3. Literacy. I wanted him to read fluently, and I wanted him to love to read. It was kind of like pushing a boulder up the side of a mountain.

So this morning, when he curled up in a chair with one of his Christmas books and read it from cover to cover, I ran for my camera to record the moment. OK, I'll confess that he only did this after I banned the new XBOX until everyone read a little. Still, he read the whole book in one sitting.

I see the doors of learning swinging open wide for my boy, and I can't help but smile.

BTW, did you see my Christmas in Photos post? Click here to take a look.

Ni Hao Yall

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Not Too Late for Your Best Christmas Card Ever!

Festive Four Ornament Card with Luxe Ribbon for Hanging

It's not too late to make a beautiful Christmas card at

The folks at Minted contacted me last week and asked if I'd take a look around their site and let you know what I found. 

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at Minted was lots of original, fresh design. That's because Minted showcases the work of a community of indie designers from around the world. For the past few days, I've had fun browsing Minted, playing around and creating beautiful cards from my family photos.

The sheer number of design choices can be overwhelming, but I discovered something that really helped. I went ahead and uploaded the photo I wanted to use this year, and clicked the "Find it Fast" button. Minted magically inserted my photo into every one of their designs so I could see how it would look in each one. Each time I saw a design that looked promising, I clicked the little heart beside it which saved it to my Favorites. When all was said and done, I had five or six serious contenders out of the hundreds of possibilities.

Cards come flat or folded with your choice of a variety of shapes. Minted offers several options for the back of your card, from leaving it blank to adding a fun color or print or even more photos and text. Envelopes can be standard white or something a little more fancy. You can even add liners to up the WOW factor. More than any Christmas card company I've used in the past, Minted offers a truly custom experience.

Now here's the jaw dropper. As you check out, Minted gives you the option to upload your address list so they can address your envelopes - for FREE. 

Minted, you had me at beautiful custom design, but the free addressing thing. . . that pretty much seals the deal! I'm ordering my Christmas Cards from Minted tonight!

There's about a nine day turn around, so I'll have my cards in plenty of time to pop them in the mail for Christmas. 

If you decide to use Minted for your holiday cards this year, click through this link to get $25 off $50 at It's not too late to have a beautiful card this Christmas. Getting $25 off $50 on your most beautiful card ever? You might even say that it paid to procrastinate this year. 

BTW - Does anyone else obsess about the actual Christmas card photo? Is that what's holding you back?

Here a some tips to get you past your perfect photo inertia:

1. Use a photo you already have. Look back over your photos from the last year and pick one of your favorites.

2. If you MUST take a new photo at this late date, enlist the help of a friend who's a hobby photographer.

3. Don't obsess about the perfect wardrobe. Pick some fun clothes that don't clash from everyone's closet. You can even pull things out of the dirty clothes. We did! 

4. Have fun and get that Christmas photo marked off the list! 

Disclosure: I received credit at for this review. All opinions in this post are mine alone. The $25 off $50 link is a referral link. Minted. com will give me store credit for all purchases made through this link making it a win/win for all of us! Thanks!

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

I guess you could call it water tether ball. . . or something like that.

It was wet. It was rowdy. It was the perfect Labor Day fun for my four not-so-little kids.

Better still. . .I taught them all how to play Spades. It was a rite of passage for them and for me. Now they can play cards with the adults. And I've arrived at the stage of parenthood where I no longer have to play Candyland. . .or Monopoly. . .or Uno.

Looks like my partner is working up a pretty good poker face.

We won.

At this point, whoever is my partner is assured of winning.

Enjoy the last little bit of your Labor Day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Diving into 2013

Yesterday, my crazy extended family invited us to take the plunge into 2013 with a polar plunge into a freezing cold river on New Year's Day. First person totally under got a $20 prize. Mike, Nathan, and eight year old Katherine took the challenge.

I stood on the dock in the drizzling rain and snapped photos, wondering why anyone would want to run into a river in the middle of winter?

Katherine says she chose to plunge when she saw that most people in the family didn't want to do it. She wanted to take a challenge that others were afraid to take. "Most of the time, Julia and Wenxin do all the brave stuff in the family. It felt really good to be confident enough to try something they didn't want to try." Being the baby isn't easy, and Katherine chose to distinguish herself from the crowd by being the youngest person in the whole family to plunge into the icy water. She ran in with determined abandon and almost won the prize.

Nathan said he chose to plunge because he was afraid he might regret it if he didn't. Coming from  Nathan, this was huge.

Mike. . . well. . .I didn't even ask because if people were going to plunge, there was never the slightest chance that Mike wouldn't join them. That's just how he rolls.

Crazy, risk-takers. . . all of them! I love it.

May we all experience the thrill and satisfaction of stepping out of our comfort zones in 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting the Christmas I Wanted

This year we got a little closer to the type of Christmas I want for my kids, and we did it by celebrating Advent as a family.

You know, I don't get upset by a lot of things that seem to really bother some Christians. I don't care one iota if the cashier at Target says "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" to me. I really don't. But I do want Christ to reign in my heart and the hearts of my kids. All year long. And I can't help but notice how hard it is for Jesus to compete with Santa and presents and all the glitz and glamour of Christmas each year.

Some of my friends deal with this by just banning Santa, and I respect their decision. But I'm not sure that just removing Santa causes our children to truly treasure Jesus in their hearts. Honoring Christ at Christmas has to involve more than just the removal of the secular.

Starting the fourth Sunday before Christmas this year, each evening we gathered as a family around the table and lit the Advent candles. (Because Advent wasn't part of my religious tradition growing up, I had to do some research on the order of the candles and such.) Lighting the candles added mystery and significance to our time. Then, in the flickering candlelight, I read a chapter from Jotham's Journey, historical fiction about a Jewish shepherd boy living in Israel at the time of the Messiah's birth. Each night, the story ended with a cliffhanger.

My children know the biblical Christmas story well, so they had fun following the fictional Jotham on his journey. We met characters, both biblical and fictional, who shared the longing the Jewish people had for the Messiah's appearance. We saw the story through fresh eyes. A little bit each night. By candlelight.

And the comments were priceless.

"Mom, if Jesus hadn't come, we wouldn't have any way to get to heaven -- Right?"

And from Nathan, the oldest, "Mom, did you notice that the angels said they had good news of great joy for all people? I think the angel was saying the gospel was for all people all around the world, don't you?"

"Wenxin, have you invited Jesus into your heart? Because I really want to be with you in heaven."

We still watched Rudolph, and we pretended that Santa stuffed stockings and brought new bikes and a remote control helicopter and a camera.

But Jesus held the special place of honor. . . each night. . . by candlelight.

And on Christmas morning someone said, "Hey Mom, don't you think we should burn the Christ candle all day long?"

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Shared at "Hear it on Sunday. Use it on Monday."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cutting it Close (and a linky party)

Does this make me a bad parent?

Here's how it all started this year. Because I had a torn tendon in my ankle, the kids climbed the ladder and decorated the tree. The torn tendon actually gave me an excuse to slow down, and I anticipated a more relaxed, layed back Christmas this year.

Then, a week into December, our only working car died. . . died permanently -- as in, died for the last time. Died, as in, "Oh great, now we get to buy a new car that we didn't exactly budget for."

So. . .much of this December has been spent praying for God's wisdom and provision, crunching numbers, and shopping for a car. Add in a scary medical procedure for Mike, a thirteenth birthday for Nathan, and a weekend soccer tournament for Julia, and I 've found myself wondering what happened to my dreams of slowing down and savoring Christmas this year.

Finally, two days ago, I got a beautiful, new (new to me, that is) van -- just in time for Christmas. It is so pretty. . . it runs so quietly. . it seats 8. Merry Christmas to me!

I confess, I'm still shopping today. I've never cut it this close before. But it's a lot more fun to cut it close when you're driving around town in your new car.

I'm linking up today with We Are Grafted In's Adoption and Christmas Linky Party. Take a moment to link to a post you wrote over the last month: anything relating to adoption and Christmas. Browse the other posts. You might even find a new blog to follow.

I've got one more Christmas related post up my sleeve. I want to share how my family celebrated Advent this year. Gathering around the table each night for a story by candlelight was a favorite part of this season for each one of us. This little tradition has truly prepared our hearts to celebrate Christ's birth, grounding us a little, even with the busy-ness of the season. Maybe I'll write about it tonight, after everyone is in bed, and all the presents are under the tree.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why the Christmas Picture is Totally Worth It. . .

Every year the kids get a little bigger. . . Mike gets a little grayer. . . and I get a little blonder. Here's a look at our family through the years.

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2011

Christmas  2012

Thankful for the blessing of family this Christmas.

Little by Little

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.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Do you use Pinterest?

I love Pinterest, but I try to use it purposefully. I don't think it's a good use of my time to sit at my computer, mindlessly "pinning" for hours. But used intentionally, it's a great tool.

I just updated two Pinterest boards I thought you might like: Art Projects for Kids and Older Child Adoption Resources. Take a look!