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My 2¢ on Adoption Fundraising (Series)

A note to any birth families, expectant mothers considering adoption, and adult adoptees: I recognize that this kind of frank discussion of the costs associated with adoption can be upsetting. Please accept my apologies for anything that feels disrespectful and do let me know if you feel there is a more appropriate way to discuss these issues.


Just My 2¢ – Adoption Fundraising

I’ve been asked by the lovely people over at No Hands But Ours to write a series on adoption fundraising. I broke my thoughts down into five parts, and I’ll post the links here as they are published. If you are having some déjà vu from the title, that’s because some of this series is based on this old post from 2013, but much of the content is brand new.

Part One: Writing a Fundraising Letter

Originally Published on January 7, 2016 at

If you are in the process of adopting or are considering adopting, you probably have already noticed that one of the first things anyone wants to talk about is the money.

How much does adoption cost?
Isn’t it really expensive?
How are you going to afford it?
I could never afford to adopt. It just costs too much.

Frankly, talking about the costs associated with adoption can be overwhelming and a bit intimidating. When my husband and I first began discussing adoption, the cost estimates we found in our research ranged from $10,000 to upwards of $50,000 or more, depending on the type of adoption. The foster care adoption process can cost almost nothing these days ($0-$2,500 source), but the domestic infant adoption and international adoption processes can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. READ THE FULL ARTICLE »

Part Two: Applying for Grants

Originally Published on February 11, 2016 at

Of all the ways to put together the funds prospective adoptive families need to cover their process costs, grants can be the most intimidating and complex. There are a huge number of factors for families to consider and address.

First, adoptive families need to consider whether an adoption grant is right for them and their adoption process. Most grants are awarded by organizations that have a specific demographic that they focus on. Some of them are for families who are planning to adopt from a specific country or a child that has a certain special need or medical condition. Some are specific to a locale within the US or are for families of a designated religious faith. (As a side note, a family who is planning to adopt a healthy infant via domestic infant adoption in the US is unlikely to find a grant to assist them in covering adoption costs, though there may be some available.)

If you have decided that an adoption grant may be right for your family, here are my two cents about how to make things go smoothly from research to application to funds (or not). READ THE FULL ARTICLE »


Part 3: Sales & Events


The first two parts of this series covered letter­-writing and applying for grants. Donations that came in as a result of our letter, plus the grant we received combined to cover over 40% of our adoption costs. We continued saving every extra dollar we could spare, which covered another 20%. The rest was covered by funds raised through special events and sales that we carefully selected, planned, and executed with the help of our friends and family. We tried a variety of different events and sales over two and a half years… READ THE FULL ARTICLE »

Part 4: Using social media to raise funds


These days, using social media as part of your adoption fundraising process is not unusual. In addition to my family’s adoption-focused blog, we had (and still have) a Facebook page, dedicated to our adoption journey. What started out as a page for family and friends to follow along with the minutiae of paperwork and home study and weekly fundraising updates soon because a larger group that included many friends-of-friends and some complete strangers, many of whom were hopeful adoptive parents or people who had adoption on their hearts.

When your circle gets bigger than the people who you love and trust, your guidelines for sharing must be modified. Learn from my missteps and my hindsight. READ FULL ARTICLE »

Part 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process


“I want you to know that we’re not going to be giving you any money toward your adoption.”

Out of the blue, there it was, a statement of a fact that I’d suspected but dismissed — this person did not support our plans to adopt. What’s more, he wanted us to know it for sure. It was awkward, hurtful, and, frankly, sad.

Adoption is complicated, filled with pain, and surrounded by misinformation and ignorance. It’s no wonder that prospective adoptive families often face negativity during the fundraising process. Negativity comes with the territory, and it can linger long after all the process fees have been paid in full. Learning to cope with and defend yourself and your family from negativity is an important part of becoming an adoptive parent.

Negativity surrounding adoption and adoption fundraising comes from a variety of places and sources. Adoptive families have to learn to identify what form of negativity they are facing so they know if and how to address it appropriately and effectively. READ FULL ARTICLE »

My son is Chinese. I am not. (Part 2)

This post is Part 2 in a series that focuses on my process of learning what it means to raise a Chinese son as a white adoptive mom. Prerequisite: Read Part 1 here.

My son is Chinese 2

This series is my attempt to understand what it will be like for Theo to be Chinese and American and adopted by a white family, so that I can be his ally and support him in whatever identity struggles he may encounter as he grows up.

What does prejudice against Asian-Americans look like and how prevalent is it?

I started with this basic question, and quickly found myself veering off that course in the direction of a more general question that I realized needs to be answered first.

How does racism and prejudice against any person of color (POC)1 relate to my Chinese son, me as his mother, and our life as a multi-racial family?

In the midst of the racial tensions surrounding the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings in the summer of 2014 (yes, I’ve been working on this series and my research off and on since then), I came across an article written by Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu called, Men Without a Country: Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, My Father and Me.

It is a heartbreaking read that describes what the recent highly-publicized, racially-charged incidents of violence against black people by police officers mean to other non-white people like Chu, who is a Chinese American. Basically, what does racism against black people have to do with other minority groups in the US? The trick for us white people is that we have to read this piece as the lived experience of one person, even though I know with absolute certainty that many, many people of color living in our white-dominated culture could have written something shatteringly similar.2

Without remembering that these are the words and experiences of an individual, we can get sucked into defensiveness filled with tangents like #notallasiansfeelthisway #bluelivesmatter and #alllivesmatter.

Pause here and go read the article, or this next part of what I have to say won’t really make sense.

Here are the two parts of what Chu had to say that keep coming back to me:

Waking up every day knowing that all of it—the broadcaster accent [that you practiced and perfected], the memorized cultural references and song lyrics—isn’t fooling anybody. Your face gives you away.

And this:

I am not an American. This is not my country. I have no country other than a China I barely know and do not love.

It’s important to note that Arthur Chu was not adopted. He was born here in America to Chinese parents who immigrated to the United States when they were young adults. He has achieved a lot of success and some minor fame in his life. Still, Chu feels that he does not belong here in his own country—in our country—because of his race.

That revelation is not something small.

It is not something to shrug off and move quickly past.

It is not something for me to push back against defensively, as if my experience as a white person somehow informs me of what it is like to be Arthur Chu, a Chinese American.

It is deeply painful to me to imagine my son feeling this way about America because of how people interact with him and other people of color that he encounters. Honestly, to most white people, race is not a consideration on any kind of regular basis, except perhaps when we need to describe a person of color and we have that momentary internal panic of “Am I allowed to say that he’s black? Or am I supposed to say African-American? Or do I just say he’s wearing a blue necktie and has glasses?

Most of us simply don’t know how to talk about race comfortably, so we avoid talking about it altogether.

White Transracial Adoptive Parenting

I’m at the very beginning of learning (and unlearning) about race and how it relates to being a white adoptive mom of a Chinese son. If my education on this topic were a book, I’d still be in the preface. Maybe I’m just in the table of contents, learning the chapter headings of what is to come.

Two weeks ago, at the urging of a fellow transracial white adoptive parent (ready for more acronyms? TRWAP), I joined a transracial adoption group on Facebook. I started out in one group that’s like the baby pool to the big transracial adoption group. The “baby pool” is a place for adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents to take a peek into the “deep end” and see if they can handle what’s there. In two weeks, I’ve seen at least five people join the group, make a few defensive/offensive comments, and then leave in an angry huff.

As one member so bluntly put it, “Adoption is not natural, and most people are not prepared.”

Adoption is not natural, and most people are not prepared.


That statement is more true than I expected, and this pool is deeper than I ever could have imagined. Here’s an analogy that one of the moderators of the “baby pool” group posted about what the experience of getting “woke” (becoming anti-racist as opposed to simply being non-racist3) [shared with permission]:

It’s as though I am walking through a dark forest and someone tells me, “Step wherever you want—you are free to go anywhere; you won’t hurt anyone.” So I do. For my whole life, I just wander through this dark forest going wherever I please. Then suddenly, this forest gets filled with light, and I can see that I am not alone. It’s actually very crowded, and I have been trampling all over living things and hurting them.

If I truly want to avoid hurting anyone, I have a much narrower path to walk. I have to tiptoe as I learn how to walk all over again.

I have to change how I go through the world, and that changes my confidence. I no longer feel as free, and I no longer feel as confident that I’m a good person who doesn’t hurt other people. That is a very hard realization.

But it’s the reality. That narrow path is what people of color (POCs) and adoptees face from the moment they’re born. It’s not that we’re trying to elevate POC and adoptees to have that ‘white privileged’ life of zero consequences and almost no awareness; we’re trying to get fellow white people to acknowledge that to live with compassion means looking at the things that are hurting others.

This is a crowded world, and we have to tread more carefully than we were taught.

It is unpleasant and uncomfortable to discover that my plodding through regular white life is harming other people. It makes me want to pull back a bit and protest.

Is anyone out there thinking these things right now?

“I can’t live my whole life worrying about other people’s feelings and how they’re going to take the things I’m saying, Laure. If I don’t intend to hurt people, it’s not my fault if they are offended. Can’t we all just stop being so sensitive?”

I hear you. Truly, I do. I have thought that exact thing.

I’m learning that, for all people of color (yes, all), issues like prejudice, systemic racism, and racial stereotyping flow past and around them continuously, and there is always more of it coming. Take, for instance, and article on The Toast, Regrettable Things Our White Relatives Have Said to Us, submitted by Asian American adoptees. Here are a few quotes:

Are you ever sad that you aren’t white?

Your eyes aren’t that squinty.

Too bad the Asian side determined your height!

Can I still say “Oriental,” or is that not a thing?

I mean, I don’t expect anyone to call me a Swedish American.

You’re not like other Asians. You know, the real Asians.

Were you closing your eyes in that photo? I can never tell with you.

Of course I was surprised when your parents adopted a Korean, but I wasn’t unhappy about it.

You should be glad you were raised in a Christian country.

Why do you care so much about Asian stuff?

You know I don’t see you as Asian.

One at a time, those things don’t weigh very much, but a lifetime of those kind of remarks will start to feel pretty heavy. We cannot sit back and be content that we don’t intend to harm anyone; instead we must pay careful attention to the impact of our words and attitudes on those around us an on our communities and culture in general.

The Problem of ‘Othering’

Have you heard of “otherness”? Or the verb “othering”? Here’s a quick explanation:

“The othering process is the human tendency to believe that the group (race, religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, country, sexual orientation, species etc.) that they are a part of is inherently the ‘right’ way to be human.” (SOURCE)


“[Othering] often results in hostility towards those not part of a group, as they can be seen as a threat or liability that is detrimental to the group’s existence, creating an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.” (SOURCE)

What is the impact of ‘othering’ people?

I’m going to share an extremely minor example of othering that had a big impact on me, but, first, let me be clear that experiencing “othering” or watching someone else experience “othering” is not the same as experiencing racism or racial prejudice. It does not make me an authority on this topic… it’s just the experience that made the lightbulb of comprehension go on in my head.

My daughter Evie has very light blonde curly hair. Here in America, that’s adorable, but not uncommon. People occasionally comment on her curls, and, once in a while, reach out and touch one of those springy little spirals. No big deal.

When we were in China to bring Theo home, our little blondie came with us and was suddenly thrust into a sea of dark, mostly black hair. To say that she stood out would be an understatement. She was adored and petted and pinched and photographed and squealed at over and over.

Evie with a random man in Tiananmen Square.

At first, she shyly smiled when people spoke to her and touched her. As the days went on, she became frustrated and refused to smile. In a grocery store, a woman walked up to us, said something to me that I didn’t understand, and then picked her up and walked away. I chased them down to find her showing Evie to a friend as if she were a funny toy that had been discovered in another aisle.

By the end of the three weeks, Evie was refusing to wear the dresses we’d packed for her, instead asking to wear some of the shirts that we’d brought for Theo. She also asked to wear her dark blue hat every time we went outside, even though it made her sweaty and uncomfortable with the sun beating down on it. On the airplane ride home, the flight attendant parked herself next to Evie for an hour and stared at her. Evie just looked at me like she was going to cry. I wished so much that I knew how to say “Please give her some privacy” in Mandarin.

When we touched down in Chicago and made our way through the airport, no one stared at her. No one played with her curls. No one even batted an eye at her. Within days, she was back to happily wearing her own clothes and was eager to be hat-free.

Two weeks of being something ‘other’ than the norm was isolating for her, even though all the attention was positive and flattering. She was uncomfortable and stressed and unhappy and withdrawn.

I simply can’t imagine what a lifetime of othering would feel like—being told you don’t belong, of people constantly pointing out how you are different from “normal”, of the culture around you silently (and not so silently) implying that your eyes are the wrong shape or your skin isn’t the right color or you don’t speak the right language in the right way, of being fetishized, demonized, or tragedized.

I can’t imagine it because I haven’t experienced it, I can’t experience it as a white person in this country, and I don’t have enough voices around me from people who HAVE experienced it. If I don’t and can’t understand, then how will I be Theo’s ally in this kind of experience as he grows up?

Can I just cross my fingers and hope that he is fine? Assume that he won’t encounter racism, prejudice, life-long otherness, and identity struggles because that’s what would be easy for me?

  • If a classmate or teacher tells him that he should be getting A’s in math because he’s Asian, will he come to me?
  • If the school photographer tells Theo to open his eyes wider because it looks like he’s blinking in his photo, will he tell me?
  • If someone calls him a racial slur or he witnesses someone else being bullied because of their race, will he trust me to talk about it with him without being defensive or dismissive?
  • If the US’s political relationship with China become strained or combatant, will he know that he can bring conflicted feelings to me?
  • Will he trust me to protect him and stand up for him and encourage him and love all of who he is, including his Chinese heritage (and not in spite of it or without regard for it)?

I can’t guarantee anything about Theo’s future except that I will be his ally in every part of his life to the absolute best of my ability. If that means I have to have my mind blown every few days with the unwelcome realization that I’m (still) part of the problem… then so be it. If that means I am uncomfortable and offended and defensive while I listen and learn, bring it on. This isn’t about me.

More to come.

If you have any resources you think may be helpful in my research, please post them in the comments or email me at




[1] “Person/people of color” abbreviated as POC is the term preferred by the black and other non-white members of my TRA group. I understand that people have a variety of feelings about racial and ethnic terminology, so I know there may be some people who aren’t comfortable with this term. Please contact me if you feel that there is a more respectful way for me to talk about this topic. I want to learn.

[2] For more about this topic, read Why Ferguson Matters to Asian Americans by Soya Jung.

“The invisibility of Asian death, and the denial of any form of Asian American identity that doesn’t play by the model minority rulebook, is another reason why black rage holds such importance to me. It serves as a beacon when faced with the racial quandary that Asian Americans must navigate.”

Powerful words in the middle of an insightful article. #livedexperience

[3] Here’s a video that explains the difference between being “non-racist” and and being “anti-racist”. There’s some profanity, and I don’t agree with every correlation he uses, but the basic sentiment is there. Don’t be distracted from the point of non- vs anti-.

Love Always Hopes

Love Always Hopes

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12 ESV

Let’s talk about indiscriminate affection.

Never heard of it? If you’ve spent more than a few minutes with Theo, you may have experienced it without realizing it.

If you have ever volunteered at an orphanage, you have probably seen it, had it showered upon you. I remember how readily the kids at the orphanages in India and Haiti hugged me and told me they loved me. I remember thinking that they were the most loving and open children I had ever met.

Theo’s instinct is to show love to almost everyone, pretty much immediately. He runs cheerfully into the church nursery, while Evie, at nearly four years old, often lingers at the door, needing hugs and kisses and then one more hug before she is confident to stay.

When I return after the worship service to pick them up, the nursery attendants regularly tell me, “Oh, he’s doing so well! He gave me hugs and sat on my lap. He even gave me a kiss on the cheek and held my hand!” I’m pleased that Theo is kind of others; it’s a step in a very good direction. At first, he was unpredictable and a bit unkind to new people. (I’m sure you all remember the biting, spitting, hitting, scratching, and kicking that used to fill our days.)

Sure, some of this may be due to him being a more outgoing child than Evie is. But, when you are dealing with a child who has experienced trauma, it is almost always more effective to assume a behavioral issue is related to the trauma than to assume it is “normal” toddler behavior.


Because so very little of his childhood experience has been “normal.”

I went looking for a good definition of indiscriminate affection (or indiscriminate friendliness, as it is sometimes called), and I came upon an article published by the American Psychological Association, called The Lasting Impact of Neglect. It describes some of the behaviors that institutionalized children in Romania displayed and how they fared after adoption, comparing the results to children who were transferred to foster care and subsequently adopted.

One of the most common behaviors [Megan Gunnar, PhD, director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota,] sees among post-institutionalized children is indiscriminate friendliness. “A child who doesn’t know you from Adam will run up, put his arms around you and snuggle in like you’re his long-lost aunt,” Gunnar says. That friendliness was probably an important coping technique in their socially starved early lives, she says. “What’s interesting is it just doesn’t go away.” (SOURCE)

Attachment is hard… It’s part of why I have struggled so much over the past few months. I desperately want to love Theo with my whole heart, without reservation… But my natural instinct is to hold back, just a little, to protect myself from his rejection. In a way, it’s precisely what his instinct is telling him to do to me.

He has lost his entire world three times—first, when his biological family abandoned him, second when he left the hospital, and third, when he left his foster family to join our family. That’s a serious lack of stability and continuity for a little one.

When you see how attached Theo is to our family, it’s important to remember that he has been with us only one third of the amount of time he spent with his foster family. He’s been with us as long as he was with his bio family (if you start counting at conception, then he has an extra nine months of hearing their voices, learning his mother’s gait, dozing to the sound of her heartbeat…). He’s been with us only slightly longer than his stay in the hospital.

A few weeks ago, Joel was sitting with Theo, looking at pictures from his time before us when he was with his foster family, and Theo excitedly pointed to the hands holding him in a photo and called out, “Mama!”

I am his momma, but I always know that I’m not the only momma in his heart. And that’s okay. It’s important for me to remember that our son is not only our son. He is someone else’s son too; his sweet baby face has been painfully inked onto the hearts of many others in his past who have loved and lost him.

This past week, we spent a few days with my extended family. For four straight days, I got no affection from him whatsoever. In fact, when I asked for hugs, he shook his head, said no, and refused. Of course, I stole the hugs from him anyway, but I admit that it hurts a lot when he doesn’t want me… Particularly when he gave his affection away freely to my sisters and my parents.

My mom was staying at her house with Theo while he took a nap and I went to work from my sister’s house (she has a faster Internet connection). I arrived home a bit after he woke up from his nap to find him snuggling and playing with my grandfather, whom Theo has only met a few times.

Before you pipe up to say that your biological toddler doesn’t like to hug you all the time either, please allow me to respond. I know. Evie doesn’t always want to hug me. BUT—and here’s the humongous difference—I have certainty in my heart that she loves me and that I love her. A few refused hugs from her don’t usually feel like a stab in the gut. His rejection sometimes does. When my daily goal is attachment, the rejection feels like a failure. Repeated failure is disheartening, depressing, frustrating, guilt-inducing and so on, and so on goes the spiral.

But, you know what renews my hope? A moment like this one: after four days of ignoring me, shooting me angry looks, and doling out snuggles to nearly everyone else in sight, he suddenly appeared at my side after dinner.

“Up!” he demanded. “Momma, up!” He raised his arms to me and stepped in close.

I was shocked and ecstatic.

I pulled him onto my lap, and he snuggled into me, putting his head on my shoulder with a contented sigh. For the next ten minutes, I got more hugs and chit-chat from him than I’d had in the previous month.

And then it was over.

It’s been two weeks, and I’ve gotten one more hug since then.

The other day, after he sat in a time-out, I sat down on the floor with him and told him that I would be his momma forever; that I always love him, even when I am sad or angry; that he is my son forever; that we are a family forever.

“No,” he said sadly. I figured that he wanted to get up and go play, so I finished up my talk with him.

“You will stay here with us forever! Yay!”

“No,” he said again.

I paused and looked right into his eyes. “Do you want to stay here with us in this house? With Momma and Dada and Evie?”

“No no no.” He face was dead serious. Hmm. I hugged and kissed him, and told him he could go back to play. He trotted back into the playroom without looking back.

So, was he telling me that he doesn’t want to live here forever? Or was he misunderstanding my question, thinking that I was asking him if he wanted to stay in time out forever? Or was he just picking one of two answers that he gives to any question and hoping that it was the one I wanted to hear? I know what I want to think, and I know what I fear…

Back to the article on APA:

Fox and his colleagues had also noted such disarming friendliness in the Romanian orphanages. Initially, children with indiscriminate friendliness were thought to have an attachment disorder that prevented them from forming healthy connections with adult caregivers. But findings from the Bucharest Project as well as Gunnar’s own research have demonstrated otherwise, she says.

In a study of 65 toddlers who had been adopted from institutions, Gunnar found that most attached to their new parents relatively quickly, and by nine months post-adoption, 90 percent of the children had formed strong attachments to their adoptive parents. Yet that attachment was often “disorganized,” marked by contradictory behaviors (Development and Psychopathology, in press). A child might appear confused in the presence of a caregiver, for instance, sometimes approaching the caregiver for comfort, and other times showing resistance. (SOURCE, emphasis mine)

Theo is an amazingly resilient child. Alongside his sister, he’s weathered my angry depression like a champ, and he continues to amaze me by learning and growing every day. We’re only five months into this crazy ride, and I fully expect that our relationship will continue to develop and change for its entirety.

It is encouraging to read that “by nine months post-adoption, 90 percent of the children had formed strong attachments to their adoptive parents” (see quote above). I also recognize that the back-and-forth of him seeking and/or rejecting love may be a lifelong pattern. There’s no way to know how he will behave or feel in the future. There’s also no way to know which parts of him are “his personality” and which parts are the result of trauma, neglect, and inconsistency of care in his babyhood.

I hope and pray that we will eventually bond in that “just as if I’d birthed him” way, but I refuse to see that as a goal with a deadline. We’ll get there if and when we get there, and this part of the journey is not a waste until then.

For now, I relish the fleeting moments of affection he offers. I drink them in, trying to memorize the feeling of burying my nose in his warm neck. I pretend to nibble on his grubby little fingers, reminding myself that these are the smallest hands he’ll ever have as my son. I find the spots on his back, behind his knees, and under his arms that make him dissolve into fits of laughter.

When nothing is offered to me, I sneak hugs and snuggles as often as I can muster them. I stealthily turn book time into snuggles and tickle fights into cradling him like a baby in my arms. When I reach toward him for affection, I move my hands slowly like I am approaching a rabbit in the woods. I make certain that he has seen me coming, so I don’t startle him, triggering a fight-or-flight panic.

I spend as much time as he will allow, gently holding his face in my hands so he will look into my eyes as I talk to him.Sometimes, he puts his hands on my cheeks and grins impishly. Other times, he turns his eyes away from me sharply, refusing to meet my gaze.

I whisper our mantra to him over and over and over, praying desperately that it will speak to his heart in a way that our disjointed affection cannot.

Wǒ shì nǐ de māmā yǒngyuǎn. Wǒ ài nǐ.

I am your momma forever.

I love you.

[I]f I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. […I]t is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love […] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

I Corinthians 13:2b-5,7-8a NIV

Fighting Back Against Post-Adoption Depression

Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of repetitive thought patterns common to depression. It could also be very upsetting to adoptees.

Fighting Back Against Post-Adoption Depression

Inside my head

It is 7:30am.

I wake up, hear the kids fussing that they are ready to get up, and it starts.

I hate everything. Why is it morning? I wish I was dead.

This is the truth.

For the past few months, I’ve been having a hard time. I told a few people that I was struggling, but I didn’t let anyone in on the reality of what was going on in my head every single day, all day.

I would cover my ears at the sound of the kids’ voices, snapping at them to stop yelling and JUST. BE. QUIET. I would close the playroom door and hide in a small space beside the couch so they wouldn’t be able to find me. If either of them touched me, I would have to use all my strength to fight the urge not to scream at them or smack their hands away.

I would have to leave the dinner table before the meal was over because I simply couldn’t take one more second of sitting there in the incessant buzzing of their (mostly) normal child behaviors. I would hide in my bedroom, listening to Joel playing with them in the evenings, desperately praying that they would leave me alone but also secretly hoping that they would miss me and ask me to join them.

I would emerge after they were in bed, move myself to the couch, and stay up until 1 or 2am almost every night, desperate for the quiet in my mind that came from losing myself in Netflix and a bowl of ice cream. I’d wake up in the morning exhausted, with the disturbing thought train starting up almost immediately after I opened my eyes, triggering the whole thing again for another day.

I was angry almost all the time. Before this, I had never experienced the blinding rage that I felt repeatedly each day; I would lose myself in screaming, sometimes barely holding myself back from throwing things. I most certainly disciplined my kids more harshly than I ever would have in the past. In fact, the me from last fall would be horrified.

Anger. Rage. Guilt. Shame spiral. Apathy. Wishing for bad things to happen to me. Hating myself for being this way. Guilt. Rage. Guilt. Apathy. Fake smiling. Shame spiral. Anger. Isolating myself. Ad infinitum…

Finally, I started reading up even more on Post-Adoption Depression, still fairly certain that what I was experiencing wasn’t that. (It seems so obvious now.) I didn’t want to admit that my brain and my emotions were betraying me, that I wasn’t in control of my own mind.

It turns out that 65% of new adoptive parents report experiencing some kind of depression. Symptoms usually set in about a month after placement, and it usually lasts six months or more, depending on treatment.

According to my degree from the university of Google (ha), typical symptoms of Post-Adoption Depression include:

Feelings of anxiety, panic, inadequacy, being overwhelmed by responsibility, being slowed
down, inability to get any enjoyment out of life, worthlessness, guilt, low self-esteem, loss of identity, loneliness

Aches and pains, stomach problems, back problems, sleep problems, tension headaches, lack of energy, fatigue, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, loss of or gain in appetite

Irritable, angry, despairing, pessimistic

After one particularly horrific day, I found myself at 11 o’clock at night, crying hysterically and screaming at Joel about how much I wished someone would kill me so I didn’t have to kill myself and disappoint everyone.

The next day, I joined an online post-adoption depression support group. I read post after post from other adoptive moms in my same situation, dealing with these same kinds of thoughts and feelings. I can’t explain the relief I felt when I had actual confirmation that what I was experiencing is a real thing. What I am feeling isn’t normal, but it is common.

I have post-adoption depression.

But I don’t have to stay in it.

So, after reading about the progress some of the ladies in my group made, I set up a plan of attack, a ladder for climbing up out of the hole I’d been living in:

  1. Check in with my support group every week.
  2. Start a regimen of vitamins and supplements.
  3. Exercise and eat healthy.
  4. Reconnect with my identity in Christ, not in myself.

Many of the women in my support group were prescribed medication or given vitamin & dietary supplement recommendations by their therapists and doctors. I looked into prescription meds but decided to give vitamins and supplements a try first to see if they would make any difference. (Honestly, I wasn’t ready to tell a stranger my inmost thoughts.)

I read up about the side effects and effectiveness of different supplements and decided to give the following a try:

  • Women’s multivitamin (1x daily)
  • St. John’s Wort (3x daily)
  • Fish oil (2x daily)
  • 5000ui Vitamin D3 (1x daily)

I found that within 48 hours of the first set of supplements, I started noticing a difference. Call it “the placebo effect” if you want, but it’s definitely helping me. There are plenty of other supplements that are sometimes recommended for treating depression. WebMD has a nice big list with details about the likely effectiveness of each item and user reviews, so if you’re interested, you can check that out here.

(Please keep in mind that I’m a graphic designer and not a doctor/therapist, so don’t take my advice about how to treat depression. Take a doctor’s advice.)

A Work in Progress

A Place I Didn't BelongIt’s been three weeks since I joined the support group, started taking the supplements, and started exercising and being (a little) more careful about eating healthy foods.

My group has been reading and discussing, A Place I Didn’t Belong: Hope for Adoptive Moms by Paula Freeman (affiliate link). It’s been an interesting read so far, though much of it relates to adoptive moms who are dealing with children who have extremely challenging behaviors due to trauma, neglect, or abuse. Theo has his struggles, but I wouldn’t classify anything we’ve dealt with as “extreme” (especially compared to some of the stories adoptive mommas in my group have shared).

The book is set up as a weekly study, with four short readings and sets of questions per week, so it’s totally manageable, even with everything else that’s going on these days. I’ll do a full review once I’ve completed the study.

I asked Joel last night to rate how he thinks I’m doing since starting to fight back, on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 = “bad mother” and 10 = “super mom”).

“An eight or a nine, I think,” he answered.

“What was I before?”

He paused and asked, “Am I allowed to be honest?”

“Yes,” I told him.

“A two.”

Yikes. But, it’s good to know. I mean, I didn’t realize it was that bad, but that’s part of the issue when you’re in a hole. You can’t really see how deep it is, and, for me, I couldn’t tell if I was digging my way out or just digging the hole deeper and deeper.

As it turns out, I had to put down the shovel altogether and find myself a ladder.

Instead of “Momma, are you sad?” Evie has been asking me, “Momma, are you happy?” and Theo isn’t flinching every time I walk past him. I absolutely hate who I have been for the last three+ months, but there is nothing to be gained from wallowing in my guilt and shame (unless spiraling into depression again would be a gain… which it’s not). I’ve sat down with Evie and Theo and I’ve sat down with Joel to apologize for my behavior and ask for forgiveness. I work hard every day to say kind and encouraging things to the kids, which I know they need after months of my negativity, sighing about everything, irritability, and exasperation. It’s an uphill battle, but I won’t stop fighting. I’m not going back into that hole again, if there’s anything I can do about it.

These days, I still have to fight the thought patterns, the rage, and the apathy every day. It’s getting easier to catch myself, to notice the things that trigger me to lose it and avoid them or let them go, and to force myself to take an action when all I want to do is nothing. I still make mistakes and find myself spiraling into that hole again, but it’s getting easier to climb out again now that I have seen that it’s possible.

I’ve been listening to the song Pure by Superchic(k) a lot. It’s on a playlist that I could label, “Lord, get me through this day.”

This is my brand new day starting now,
I let go the things that weigh me down
And rob me of the beauty that’s to be found
And life all around.
And this is my prayer without ceasing, the negative releasing,
And as I rise above, my burden is easing.

I bring the pure flow (like water around),
The rocks of life won’t pull me down.
I bring the pure flow (I drink so deep)
The river of life—my soul at ease.
I bring the pure flow (like water around),
The rocks of life won’t pull me down.
I bring the pure flow; I’m rising above
The storms of life to live and love.

— Pure by Superchic(k)

Things I Know

I know that some people will read this and think that I’m being over-dramatic. I’m not, but it’s okay if you don’t understand. It’s actually a huge blessing that you have no idea what going through all of this dark crap would be like. This post is not for you.

I know that some people will read this and think that I’m a horrible person. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me in the comments; I’ve been telling myself that over and over and over for months. If you say it too, I’ll probably just agree with you, shrug, and keep plugging away at getting better. This post is not for you.

I know that some people will read this and think that I’m a crazy person who doesn’t deserve to have children. Please see above.

I know that some people will read this and think, “Holy cats. This woman is in my messed-up head. If she can climb out of the crap, then maybe I can too!” Friend, if that’s you, I want you to know that you are the precise reason that I wrote and published this post. You are not alone. We can get through this. Don’t give up.

Everyone else, will you pray for adoptive families? This is a lonely, difficult business for everyone involved… the moms and the dads, the brothers and the sisters, the new ones and the bios.


Simple Plain Slow-Cooker Congee (Rice Porridge)

Today, we’re making a very Americanized version of Chinese congee!

So, what exactly is congee?

If you’ve never heard of congee, you’re not alone. I hadn’t ever heard of it before I started researching Chinese culture and foods in preparation from bringing Theo home from China.

Congee is an porridge or gruel made by cooking rice in water until it has broken down significantly. When you call it “gruel,” it sounds disgusting (it’s not), and, when you call it “porridge,” I just think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

“And this congee is JUST RIGHT.” (source)

If you’ve ever had homemade rice pudding, then you have the general idea of how delightful congee can be. Traditionally, congee is eaten as a breakfast food or late in the evening; sometimes people use it as a substitute for rice at other meals.

Want to know more about congee? Read the wiki page. There’s tons of info over there, so I’m not going to bother retyping it over here.


1 c. white rice
8-12 c. water, depending on how thick you like it


  1. Measure 1 cup of white rice and pour it into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
    meansure 1 cup

    This is a measuring cup. If you don’t know how to use this, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to use the stove (or slow cooker).

    Fill the bowl halfway with water to rinse. Using a spoon or your hands, stir and agitate the rice until the water begins to look cloudy and gray. Pour out the water, straining the rice with a colander or the edge of the bowl and your hand.

    rinsing the rice

    See how cloudy that water is? Rinsing several times gets rid of surface starch which can affect the consistency of the congee.

    Repeat two or three more times until the water stays clear.

  2. Allow the rice to soak in the clear water for 10 minutes, then pour out the water again. (I’ve heard that if you don’t want to waste the rice water, you can save it and water your plants with it, but I haven’t tried that myself.)

    almost clear

    After soaking, the water may be a little cloudy again. That’s okay.

  3. Add the rinsed rice into the slow cooker, then pour in 8-10 cups of water.
    rinsed rice

    Rinsed and ready to go!

    I like to make ours with 8 cups of water for a thick oatmeal kind of consistency, but more traditional congee is a bit runnier (10-12 cups of water). I recommend starting with 8-10 cups for now; you can always thin it out after it’s done cooking if you so desire.

  4. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. The longer you cook it and the greater the water:rice ratio, the more the rice will break down while cooking.If I’m making the congee for breakfast, I get the whole thing set up, then plug my slow cooker into one of those vacation timers, set to turn on at 3am. That way, my congee is ready at 8am when the kiddos are ready to eat it.

    Timer… Sorry, it’s upside down because that’s how our plug was installed.


    Done! (This batch didn’t get to cook quite as long as I usually like, so yours may break down a bit more, particularly if you cook longer with more water.)

Serving Suggestions

Traditional congee is usually a savory dish, with chicken, pickled duck eggs, fish, or other flavorings added in. We tend to make ours for breakfast sort of like oatmeal.

You can refrigerate and reheat prepared congee for several days. I usually end up adding a bit of water, chicken stock, or cream to thin it out after microwaving it the second or third morning.

Here are my favorite single-serving mix-in recipes:

Sweet Spiced Congee

sweet spiced congee3/4 c. prepared congee
2 Tbsp milk or cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp brown sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg


We also toss in whatever fruits we have in the house. Evie and Theo like dried apricots and cranberries, diced prunes, raisins, sliced banana, apple, and peaches.

Pumpkin Spice Congee

3/4 c. prepared congee
1-2 Tbsp pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Simple Ginger Chicken Congee

3/4 c. prepared congee
2 Tbsp low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 c. shredded cooked chicken breast (leftover rotisserie chicken works great for this)
pinch of ginger
1 tsp chopped green onion

You can find lots more great congee recipes on Pinterest.

Do you have a favorite congee recipe? (Perhaps one that’s a bit more authentic than my made-up versions?) Share it in the comments!

The Bottom Line — How much did it cost?

Trigger Warning: Adoptees and birth families may be offended by this post’s frank discussion of fundraising for adoption process costs.

Bottom Line

Since so much of our adoption journey and this blog revolved around our attempts to raise money, it seems fitting that I take a post to conclude the financial side of things.

<sidebar of randomness>Does Benjamin Franklin look really disappointed in that header image? I feel like he’s making that “tut-tut” sound with his tongue and slowly shaking his head at me. Poorly done, Laure. I expect more of you. I’m sorry, Mr. Franklin! May I call you Ben? No? Okay. Well, this is awkward. <end sidebar>

Anywho, I did a final “Fundraising Friday” in October just before we left for China, but, even then, we weren’t sure what the final costs for everything would be since we were still waiting for our consulate appointment date and travel costs.

Using some of the information I’ve posted before along with the final travel expenses, I have compiled a list of our estimated expenses for this entire adoption. This list doesn’t include the expenses from the first part of our adoption journey (the domestic infant adoption part at the very beginning); these expenses pick up in May 2013 with our application to the China program with Holt International.

Keep in mind that these are estimates, rounded to the nearest $5… and sometimes even more rounded than that if I wasn’t able to locate all the records (particularly the miscellaneous fees & expenses). We also traveled in October, which is at the peak for hotel cost because of a huge trade show in Guangzhou, so our hotel costs were higher than average.

Don’t worry; I added some sweet animated GIF action to keep non-numbers people from glazing over.

Without further adieu, here are the numbers.

International Adoption Expenses (2013-2014)

In chronological(ish) order… The big/important ones are in bold.

$300 Adoption Program Application (agency)
$90 Certified Copies of Documents
$2,680 Home Study (agency and social worker)
$3,000 Dossier Fee (agency)
$145 Required Adoption Training
$890 United States Customs & Immigration Fees
$275 Dossier Documents — Certification by State of PA
$635 Dossier Documents — Authentication by Chinese Consulate
$500 File Review
$14,160 Adoption Program Fee (China) & Post-Placement Fee (Agency)
$2,115 Other Pre-Travel Fees & Expenses
$5,120 International Flights (Prepared by Adoption Airfare)
2 Adults, Round-Trip @ $1,454/ea
1 Child, Round-Trip @ $1,227
1 Child, One-Way @ $985
$7,345 In-Country Travel (Prepared by Lotus Travel)
Includes airport transportation, sightseeing with English-speaking tour guide, professional driver, luggage handling, hotel accommodations (15 nights), and economy class – Beijing/Wuhan/Guangzhou flights
$1,500 Other Travel Expenses, Gifts & Souvenirs, Food, etc. (estimated)
$38,755 Total Expenses
$24,790 Pre-Travel
$13,965 Travel

Prospective adoptive families, don’t be scared.

If you had told me in March 2012, when there was about $700 in our adoption fund, that in two-and-a-half years, we’d be home from China with our son, having somehow spent nearly $40k without going into any debt… I would have laughed incredulously.

But, here we are. We did it! Certainly not alone, and certainly not without loads upon loads and hours upon hours of hard work, but we did it. Here’s the breakdown of how our adoption fund ended up:

Adoption Fund (March 2012 – October 2014)

$11,130 Donations
$8,380 Etsy & Craft Show Sales
$7,085 Cash/Savings
$5,000 Show Hope Grant
$2,495 5K for 6k (Summer 2014)
$2,305 Mom to Mom Sale & Garage Sales (Summer 2013)
$755 Online Auction (Summer 2012)
$650 WeeUsables Consignment Sale (Fall 2013, Spring 2014)
$590 Misc. Item Sales
$245 Peanut Butter Eggs Sale (Spring 2012)
$120 Interest Accrued
$38,755 Fully Funded

funds graph

Phew. So, there you have it!

If you want to read more about our fundraising process with all of the lovely successes and horrible failures, read this post. Learn from my mistakes, friends!

I have to admit that, after 30 months of fundraising and penny-pinching and selling everything in my house that wasn’t nailed down, it was really hard to get out of that mode. For weeks after we returned, I still found myself turning fundraising ideas over and over in my head, debating new sales tactics, and considering opening my seasonal Etsy shop, even though I was definitely too busy to handle it this year.

Friends and family graciously continued to support us financially in that first month home, which was a huge blessing while we waited for the funds from the Show Hope grant to process (the $5,000 grant couldn’t be disbursed until we returned home with Theo). I still sometimes find myself peeking into my mailbox to see if a random stranger has gifted us a thousand dollars (hey, it happened three times), and then I remember that we don’t need it anymore! We’re done!

Okay, that guy is a little creepy, but I didn’t think Taylor Swift taking a bow or Kanye mic-dropping was appropriate. So, I guess we get creepy hand-wiping guy.

And here’s one for everyone who helped us get here:


Please Note: I have posted these figures for informational purposes, to give other prospective adoptive families an idea of how their adoption costs might run. Fees and regulations change all the time, so don’t expect these numbers to be the same between agencies, other countries or states, or over time.

International Adoption Jet Lag Survival Guide

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links, so purchasing items from Amazon via the links on this page will send a few cents my way. That said, I am only linking to products that I have actually purchased and used. If you have any questions, let me know!


When we got home from China with our newly adopted two-year-old son and our three-year-old daughter in November, the hardest, most heart-wrenching and exhausting part of the adoption process was just beginning.

I can’t explain the relief I felt as we settled into our bed that first night at home. We had landed at our home airport at 11pm after 29 hours of driving to the airport, flying from Guangzhou to Beijing, a five-hour lay-over, flying Beijing to Chicago (an hour on the tarmac plus 14 hours in the air), customs and immigration in Chicago, and then (finally) flying home to Pittsburgh. We walked into our house, utterly exhausted and sick of traveling, at 2am. The kids were both asleep in their beds by 2:30, and I prayed that we were starting our new “normal.”

Thank God that what followed in the next three weeks was not our new normal.

What followed, my dear friends, was hell.

Jet lag was the main culprit, but, at the time, I thought that the problem was me, that I wasn’t a good mother, that I wasn’t even a good person. It felt like I had no patience, no compassion, no empathy. I knew that the changes would be hard and big and life-altering… but I just didn’t know what that would feel like physically, spiritually, emotionally.

It’s the difference between someone describing being burned and actually dunking your arm into a pot of molten lead.

There was screaming. Oh, so much screaming.

Theo would wake every hour or so, screaming in terror—sweating, kicking, thrashing, drooling, moaning, shrieking terror. His screaming would wake Evie, who joined in with her own sad, confused wailing. Theo’s crying would last for hours sometimes, with no breaks. He screamed if I held him, rocked him, stroked his hair, spoke sweet nothings to him in Chinese and English, wrapped him in blankets… Nothing would soothe him. He cried out for his momma, and he didn’t mean me. He screamed even louder if Joel attempted to approach, address him, or soothe him.

There were diaper failures. There was drooling, gagging, and vomiting. There was biting, scratching, hitting, head butting, kicking. There was hysterical shrieking so loud and horrifying that it made the hairs on my neck stand up.

On the third night, I tripped in the darkness, accidentally kicked the foot of the crib as I ran for a towel to mop up an expanding puddle of urine on the nursery floor, and broke one of my toes. (Three months later, it still aches, a reminder to me of how close we are to those first days, even if it feels like a lifetime ago.)

It was, in no uncertain terms, a disaster.

Here’s how we survived:

1. White noise machine

Both in China and once we had returned, we played white noise in the bedroom. It helped to cut down on ambient noise waking the kids (and us), and it allowed Evie and Joel to get a bit more sleep after I took Theo and his screaming out of the nursery to other parts of the house.

At home, we have a Marpac Natural White Noise Sound Machine. In China, we simply purchased a recording of an electric fan and played in on a loop from our tablet or phone during naps or at night.

2. Foam ear plugs

Some people can handle a lot of sound. I am not one of those people. When Theo would get to his extended, high-pitched screaming fits, I would within moments get a pounding headache. The headaches made it hard to hold him and rock him; all I wanted to do was take a handful of ibuprofen and put a pillow over my head.

With that not being an option, I resorted to using foam ear plugs to help bring the volume down to a bearable level. Friends, that saved my sanity.

Without the ear plugs, I could barely stand to have him on my lap while he screamed. With the ear plugs, I could hold him, rock him, comfort him, without the headaches and with a LOT more compassion.

I didn’t wear the ear plugs to drown out his crying; I still attended to him every time he needed reassurance. I would just keep them beside my bed and put them in while I made my way to scoop him up.

3. Premixed congee/milk drink to fill hungry middle-of-the-night belly

We only needed this midnight snack two or three times in the first week, while Theo adjusted to the time change. He struggled (and still sometimes struggles) with trauma-related feeding issues, so having a cup ready to go with a thin rice congee made it easier to soothe his desperate hunger. He didn’t have to watch me with increasing panic as I got things out of the fridge and cabinets, mixed, poured, heated, etc.

I would just grab the cup, stick it in the microwave for 15 seconds, and hand it to him.

4. Melatonin Supplements

Just skip this section if herbal supplements are not your thing. If you take this advice, and it goes horribly wrong… please keep in mind that you’re reading advice from a graphic designer, not a doctor.

Before we headed to China, I did extensive Googling research about how to help toddlers to handle a long flight and jet lag. Many of the articles, blogs, and sites recommended giving your kids something to help them sleep—cold/allergy medicine, melatonin, chamomile (yes, like the tea), and other supplements.

Melatonin is the hormone that your body secretes naturally to make you feel sleepy. You can read more about melatonin and how it works here.

I ended up ordering two kinds of melatonin supplement tablets—one for adults and one specially made for kids. The adult tablet we got contains 3mg of melatonin (and other supplements), while the version for kids contained 2mg of chamomile and 0.5mg of melatonin.

I tested both versions on myself before giving any to Joel or the kids.

I found that the 3mg melatonin made me feel just sleepy enough to get over a bit of caffeine imbibed too late in an evening, but not as “holy cow, my brain isn’t working anymore” sleepy as a drug like Tylenol PM or ZzzQuil (which use the antihistamine diphenhydramine to induce sleepiness). Another plus: on the melatonin supplement, I didn’t have that less-than-pleasant “medicine wearing off” feeling in the morning or in the middle of the night. I was also still easily able to hear the kids and wake up immediately.

I ended up cutting the kids’ pills in half, and they still worked just fine. Both kiddos responded in the same way—initial fussiness as they got sleepy and then sound sleep for several hours. I gave each child half the pill before bedtime and the second half some time in the middle of the night when they woke each other up with all the lovely screaming.

Evie has always had trouble falling asleep, so she loved the little pills. In fact, sometimes these days if she is having a hard night, she asks me for “a little pill in my mouth to help me sleep” or she’ll tell me, “I need some sleeping tone.” (We don’t have any supplements left, so now I just give her “sleepy potion” — a mug of warm water with cinnamon and honey. She says it makes her very sleepy right away. Ha! I love preschoolers.)

5. Separate bed away from anyone who might be disturbed

Theo slept just fine in China in the hotel-provided portable cribs, and we co-slept with Evie the entire time we were overseas. So, when we were back in our own house, Joel and I were oh, so ready to have our bed to ourselves.

We have a full-sized sofa bed in our living room, which we set up each night with sheets and pillows and blankets, ready for one or more inhabitants. Usually, one of the kids would wake up by 1 or 2 am (sometimes as early at 11pm) with the crying, triggering the other crying. We would usually end up with Joel and Evie in Evie’s twin bed or Joel and Evie in the master bedroom… and Theo and me in the living room on the sofa bed.

The living room bed worked pretty well for us. It put some space between Theo’s screaming and the other bedrooms, which meant that Joel and Evie could usually fall back to sleep pretty quickly (within an hour or so).

To be perfectly honest, I also appreciated having the sofa bed (as opposed to Joel and I both co-sleeping with him in the master bedroom) so that after Theo calmed down and dozed off, I could still have a bit my own space in the bed… after all the thrashing and wailing, I was SO ready to have no one touching me.

Which brings me to the next thing…

6. Headphones to go with iPad and Netflix

Listening to your child or children scream in panic for an hour or two can really get your adrenaline pumping. There were several nights that I found myself staring at the ceiling, begging sleep to reclaim me, while Theo slept (finally) peacefully at my side.

When I found that the “win the child sleep game” adrenaline prevented me from relaxing back into sleep, particularly if it was after 4am, I would break out the iPad, pop in my headphones, and watch an episode of a favorite show or part of a movie. It was a tiny bit of peace, all to myself, just when I needed it. After watching an episode of Scrubs or a bit of Pride and Prejudice (the 1995 BBC version, obv), I would usually be relaxed enough to catch a few minutes of sleep until the next round of crying and/or the morning.

7. Clean diaper and change of clothes for everyone

Self-explanatory, right?

We needed most of this every night of the first week. It was extremely helpful to have it all laid out, ready to use, rather than having to dig in the drawers in the dark to find a pair of pants after being peed on.

I also recommend a towel or two within arm’s reach, in the hopes that I can save you a broken toe. If a broken toe does happen… buddy-tape it, my friend, because there’s nothing you can do for a broken toe except look at it and shake your head sadly as it turns black.

8. Black-out curtains

Sleeping in a dark room is scientifically proven to improve the quality of your sleep. When you are fighting jet lag, your body is working overtime to compensate for the day/night confusion. We added blackout curtains to our bedrooms to help keep the light of passing car headlamps, street lamps, and early morning sun from triggering our bodies to wake us up randomly throughout the night or at sunrise.

I almost purchased an extra set of the blackout curtains for the living room since Theo and I were sleeping out there most nights, but I ended up sticking it out until he was able to get back to sleep in his crib with minimal rocking/patting/comforting (about two or three weeks) where it was already pitch black.

These curtains (in black) are my favorite blackout curtains, and I’ve tried a few different kinds. They are soft, not crinkly, and they actually make it almost completely dark in the room, even in the middle of the day. They are bit pricey, but totally worth it to me if they help at all.

9. Time and Patience

Bleh. Yep, it takes time. I honestly worried that I would not survive the three weeks it took for us to make it through the jet lag. I was plagued by feelings of inadequacy, fear, anger, regret, shame, and… if I’m being really honest here… some very dark, suicidal crap.

During week one, I remember thinking that I definitely wasn’t going to kill myself but that I was beginning to hope that I would be the victim of a random act of violence or some kind of accident. I was desperate to escape from the seemingly endless sleeplessness, the shock of our new family situation, the hours of crying and useless attempts comforting, and the feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and shame.

It was not a good place.

Fortunately, it didn’t last for long for us. Once we all started getting back into a more regular sleep pattern, the clouds began to dissipate. The difference that getting five hours of sleep (without anyone screaming) was shocking. The darkest part of the depression I experienced lasted from the middle of our second week in China through the third week at home. It lingered a bit through month two, and, by the middle of month three, I rarely experience the depth of emotional darkness and spiritual heaviness that plagued those first weeks.

More about that later.

Learn about the realities of Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) »

10. Prayer

I’d list this as number one, but, after reading all of these other things, you may have already forgotten I’d mentioned it.

You have to take all of the stress, fear, anger, frustration, and sleep-deprivation to the Lord. Over and over and over. And over.

I was sure that I would never survive it. But I did.

You will too.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:22 ESV

Got any other bright ideas or tips for dealing with jet lag in traumatized toddlers? Post ’em in the comments!


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My son is Chinese. I am not. (Part 1)

My son is Chinese. I am not. (Part 1)

I haven’t mentioned much of anything about race on this blog in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it.

In fact, I’ve been mostly silent on this topic because it is complex and deeply important, and I simply didn’t (and, to be honest, still don’t) know enough about it to feel confident in posting my thoughts in public.

I am posting my thoughts now, despite still feeling nervous about doing so, and with the full knowledge that I am very new to being in an interracial family and that my views and opinions will likely evolve over time.

Here goes.

I want to be deliberate in addressing issues of race in our family. Accordingly, I have set out to educate myself about what it means to be a Chinese-American man in this country so that I can do my utmost to raise Theodore to be comfortable with, confident in, and proud of his Chinese heritage. I also want to be educated about the struggles with racism, prejudice, and stereotyping that he may face as a Chinese person in this country.

I had only a vague understanding of black/white racial issues as I grew up, having been raised in a white family, attending a very white school, and members of a mostly white church.

I say that meaning that I understand how unintentionally exclusive and lacking in diversity my world was and, in many ways, still is.

I say that meaning that I acknowledge that when my black neighbor reached out and touched my arm when I was in the mall when I was 14, I panicked before I realized it was him1.

I say that meaning that I understand that I have some racial bias because I am white and therefore enjoy a degree of white privilege, most of which goes completely unnoticed by me.

I certainly wanted to believe that I didn’t have any racial bias, but my results from Harvard’s Project Implicit race test prove that I have what they call “a moderate automatic preference for European American compared to African American.”

Well, ouch. I don’t love that interpretation of the data.

Then again, it’s important to identify our biases, even if we wish we didn’t have the bias at all. I think the Washington Post said it well in their review of the book Blindspot (which is based on the results of the Harvard study I mentioned above):

“While we may not have much power to eradicate our own prejudices, we can counteract them. The first step is to turn a hidden bias into a visible one…. What if we’re not the magnanimous people we think we are?” (SOURCE)

With this statement in mind, here’s my background.

I used to subconsciously accept the idea that Asian-Americans represent a “model minority.” For those not familiar with the phrase, model minority in this case refers to:

“[A] minority group (whether ethnic, racial, or religious) in certain countries whose members are most often perceived to achieve a higher degree of success than the population average. This success is typically measured in income, education, and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability.

In the United States, the term was invented to describe Japanese-Americans, although it has evolved to become associated with Jews and Asian Americans, but more specifically with the largest groups of Asian Americans which are Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean and Japanese.”


My buy-in to the concept of a model minority3 likely stemmed from my lack of interaction with anyone of Asian descent for most of my formative years. My high school had exchange students from South Korea who were very good at math (which “fits” a well-known stereotype) and appeared to be—dare I say it?—model students. Yet, I avoided interaction with most of them because I was afraid of the social awkwardness surrounding not being able to understand what they were saying and not wanting to be misunderstood.

I did not stand up for them when my calculus teacher made highly offensive remarks to and about them in front of the class. When he intentionally mispronounced their names, ridiculed their accents, and made side comments to the rest of the class about them, I simply shrank down in my seat, blushed a little, felt uncomfortable, and explained the remarks away internally with the excuse that the teacher was “from a different time” and that “he didn’t mean anything by it.”

It seemed to me upon a very shallow study that the Asian people I had met carried only good stereotypical traits. In fact, if you’d asked me back then about racism against Asian people, I probably would have come up blank, save the controversial “Asian eyes” gesture and perhaps the “Fa ra ra” scene in A Christmas Story. I had simply never had a reason to think it over in any depth.

In the fall of 2012, Joel and I attended one meeting of a transracial parenting support group just as we were making our decision to switch to the China program from the transracial domestic infant adoption program. The meeting was eye-opening for me, as this group of well-meaning white parents grappled with issues of race that they clearly had not expected to encounter with their “brown children”4 and seemed a bit unprepared to handle.

In the midst of the discussion of racism in America, I asked the facilitator about prejudice against people of Chinese descent, and she brushed me off.

“What kinds of things do people say about Asians?” she replied. “Good at math, quiet, hard-working? That’s not racism. Those are good things. Brown children face real racism.”5

My question was absurd to the group, and I wondered momentarily if I was absurd for bringing it up. I felt that the facilitator’s assertion was wrong, but I didn’t know how to articulate why. I didn’t have any facts or even any vague perceptions.

There is real racism against Asians in America—different racism than what black and “brown” people may face for certain—but real nonetheless. Ignoring or dismissing racism against Asians in America is part of why it continues to exist.

I don’t want to be part of the problem, feigning ignorance of what my boy may face. I want to be proactive, deliberate. So, I started digging.

I created an list of questions to answer:

  1. What does prejudice against Asian-Americans6 look like and how prevalent is it?
  2. How does this prejudice affect Asian-Americans, transracial Asian adoptees, and Asian boys/men?
  3. To what extent do I have bias against people of Asian descent, and how can I combat any bias in myself?
  4. How will our family authentically incorporate elements of Chinese culture into our life?
  5. How will our family encourage Theo to be confident in and proud of his racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage, while also instilling in him a sense of belonging and identity as an important part of our white American family?

I’ll continue to work through these questions and others that may arise as I collect information. I certainly won’t be able to answer them definitively, but I will do my best to organize and analyze what I find. Bear with me; this series may take some time.

If you have any resources you think may be helpful in my research, please post them in the comments or email me at




[1] When my neighbor saw my expression of fear, he let go and jumped back with his hands up, saying, “Hi, it’s me. You know me.” My friends looked at me in terror. It must have been just a moment before his face registered and I realized it was my neighbor whose kids I sometimes babysat… but I have replayed that moment of fear over and over in my head in the nearly two decades since.

I used to tell myself that my response was because he was man I didn’t recognize, but the truth of it is that my mind registered a black person reaching for me, computed that I don’t know any black people, and decided that he was someone to be feared. I don’t like that that’s what I processed, but acknowledging that it was a racist response forces me to recognize the bias I must work to counteract.

I am still mortified by my reaction and deeply saddened that he knew from my reaction that he needed to make himself less “intimidating” by putting his hands up and stepping back.

[2] Thanks, Wikipedia. My high school librarian would be highly distraught at the idea of me quoting and citing Wikipedia, but, since this isn’t a scholarly article and Wikipedia has come a long way since the late 90s, I’m going to go with it. Sorry, Mrs. Shertzer.

[3] For more about the origin of the “model minority” concept of Asian-Americans, check out this article.

[4] Using “brown” as the identifier of their children’s race/ethnic heritage was the support group members’ terminology, which I understood to include children of black American, African, Haitian, Latino/a, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Indian descent.

[5] This is not an actual word-for-word quote; it’s a paraphrase of the response to my question. I remember watching the other parents in the room nod in agreement, brows furrowed at my apparent lack of understanding.

[6] Many of the items I bring up will refer to Asian-Americans or Asians and may encompass a more generalized view that includes people of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and/or Indian descent. By using the singular term, I am not intending to leave other groups out or imply that Asian countries or people are interchangeable. I’m still learning how to talk about race, so please forgive me of any unintentional offenses, and let me know how I can be more inclusive or precise in the comments.

The Good, The Surprising, and The Tiny Panic Attack

About a month ago, we requested an update about Theo and his foster family. It can take up to a month to hear back, but we were lucky enough to get a reply within two weeks when the update popped up in my email inbox two weeks ago. And then, we unexpectedly received another update last week with new photos and two videos! What a blessing it is to watch him grow, even from so far away!

This summer, we put together a photo book filled with pictures of us, our house, Theo’s new bedroom with Evie, the playroom, swing set, and our families. We mailed it to our agency, who forwarded it to the orphanage, who forwarded it to Theo’s foster family.

It’s always possible that it would never arrive. It’s possible that they would receive it but not show it to him. It’s possible that they would show it to him once and then put it away. I prayed and prayed that he would get to hold it and look at it whenever he wants.

In the update, Theo’s foster family wrote that they show him our photo book often. In fact, when they ask, “Where are Mommy and Daddy?” he points to our picture.

I can’t even begin to explain to you how it feels to know that he’s seen our faces. He certainly doesn’t truly understand what is about to happen, but we won’t be complete strangers to him on Day One.

We will be familiar faces. Unknown but still familiar, and that is something.

In one of the videos, his foster mother urges him to kiss our photo book. She points to my pictures and tells him in Chinese, “Kiss your Dadda, okay? Kiss your Momma!” (Well, that’s my best guess from my experience with a basic Mandarin language course under my belt plus Google Translate). He looks up at her, confused, and she points to the picture. Then he looks down at the picture. Then the video ends.

He doesn’t understand right now. When she says that the lady in the picture is his Momma, he can point to my face in the same way that Evie can point to a photo of him and say he’s her brother. The truth is, neither of them knows what that actually means.


Which brings me to the next thing…

Something Unexpected This Way Comes

On Thursday, we received word that our Article 5 document had been picked up by our agency’s rep in China. That’s the last piece of paper before Travel Approval (TA)!

Here’s how the next part of the conversation went (paraphrase):

Agency Contact: “I’ve been asked to tell you that the Beijing office has specifically requested that you travel as part of our October 17th group.”

Me: (after stunned silence) “What does that mean? We were going to request to travel with the November 7th group.”

Agency Contact: “Hmm.”

Me: “I mean, we can try to make that work, but we made all our plans around traveling in November. How strong is this request? I mean, is it a suggestion? Or is this something that we really need to do?”

Agency Contact: (after a long silence) “Well….”

Me: “Do you know the reason?”

Agency Contact: “No, not specifically. It doesn’t have anything to do with the orphanage or foster family. It could be for any number of reasons.”

Me: “So, you’re saying we should try really hard to make this work.”

Agency Contact: “Yes, that’s a good idea.”

Well, okay then.

Joel and I spent the weekend on the edges of our colloquial seats. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I actually started to wonder if I was coming down with an illness because I was nauseated with my stomach in knots for four days.

Someone, please remind me to breathe.

Today, we had to make our decision. We’re doing it.

We’re heading to China in just over THREE WEEKS instead of nearly seven.

I'm so excited, I may vomit.

I’m so excited, I’m reusing my GIFs.

I just cut down 20 days worth of paper rings from our countdown chain. This is craziness. Seriously.

Only 28 days until we’re together, and I cannot even begin to process this. Time to light a fire under our travel-planning backsides!

Here we go!