Dim Sum: to touch the heart

“One of the great culinary traditions in Hong Kong is eating dim sum. These are the tiny (steamed and deep fried) snacks that come around to your table on a trolley or are brought to you in bamboo containers with a lid…

Dim sum, which literally means ‘touching your heart,’ is served for lunch and breakfast in most local teahouses as well as restaurants….”


{a typical dim sum breakfast in Hong Kong}

(click here to learn more)

Enjoying Dim Sum is a yummy Cantonese tradition, and one we want to keep alive for Big Brother. You will find the finest dim sum ever created on the streets of Hong Kong, where this delicacy first originated. One of our favorite types of dim sum is Cha Siu Bau (steamed barbecued pork bun). We made a batch for the lunar new year and the kids loved it so much, we’ve made it several more times. They make a great snack or meal, and it’s pretty easy to make, too…





now into the steamer…and voila!




You can find the recipe here.  Now go do yourself a favor and whip up a batch today.  It will indeed touch your heart, and your tummy!

Into the mess

“Wow, you must be some kind of saint.”

“I could never do what you do.”


Sometimes people say the darndest things. They say it out of complete sincerity and kindness, and I take it that way. But I am here to tell you that I am no saint. Far from it, my friends. And that yes, you could certainly do what I do. There is nothing special or different about me. The key is that I don’t do it alone, and I’m not talking only about the great support team in my hubby, family and friends. I’m talking about my Creator who destined my life from before the time I even existed. I am not in this alone.

You might be surprised to know that I am a really messed up person, I would even venture to say that I’m far more of a mess than the general population. I sin. I sometimes eat a whole box of cookies in 24 hours without a hint of regret. I sometimes raise my voice with my precious kids, the ones who I love more than anything in this world. I leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. My laundry pile can get so high it actually starts to acquire an odor by the end of the week. My floors are dirty and will turn the bottom of your socks black at the moment. Don’t worry, I will mop today with the aid of my little helpers. Fridays are our clean up days and they love to help.

I worry about the future even though my faith is supposed to eliminate the need for that. I cry over mistakes I’ve made in my past, and trust me, there are many. I sometimes do the wrong things and say the wrong things. Sometimes, even more than I’d like to admit.

Folks, I am a mess.

And so are you.

And that’s ok.

I’ll leave you with what I put on my fb page yesterday, complete with a link to a blog I think you should read…as in stop what you are doing right now and read it…

Today as I walked Big Brother into school he started screaming “Mommy be there” [meaning I want mommy with me at school]. He actually burst into tears as I kissed him goodbye. For the first time ever, my 5 year old son has shown true emotion for another human being….how lucky I am that it was for me. Had I known a year ago what a hard road lay ahead, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to travel it. Had I known the rewards waiting for me, I never would have doubted. Today this post spoke to me in a way I can’t describe. I hope it brings you some encouragement today, too.


Unintended Consequences

Wow, I guess I really blew my daily NaBloPoMo goal. Sometimes life gets a little messy and more important issues stand in the way of blogging.  Let’s begin again then.

Revisiting our time in Hong Kong did something to me that I hadn’t expected. Not only did it bring back a flood of emotions from an exciting but difficult time, but it opened up some old wounds that I haven’t dealt with properly.

Like the fact that we most likely won’t have any contact with birth family due to the very difficult circumstances surrounding Big Brother’s removal from his birth family and subsequent institutionalization. Or the fact that there are some things in his past the upset me too much to even process in my own mind. Or the many unknowns that will never be answered that have direct repercussions on his current health and mental functioning. The list could go on and on.

But you know what?  Some amazing things have transpired in the last few days and I have spent my time soaking them up. These are things that remind me how lucky we all are….things that bring tears of joy to my eyes…things that make me stop and say “how did I get so darn blessed?!”

  • Big Brother has had three good days in a row at school
  • Yesterday when I dropped Big Brother off at school, he made a sad face and said “I want mommy be here.” When I told him that I couldn’t stay he said, “I want Little Man be here.”  Then he asked if we could stay and play “three minutes.”  He called out “Mommy Mommy” as I walked out the door.  It took every ounce of restraint I have to not run back in, wrap him in my arms, kiss him and take him home with me.  But do you know how major this is???  Yes, those are complete sentences but even more importantly, they are concrete signs that he is attaching to his family!  Woohoo!
  • Little Man is starting Karate lessons soon.  We are friends with his teacher and we used to take martial arts lessons from him, so we know he is going to have a blast!  We are going to take Big Brother, too, and see if he has any interest and if I could assist him in learning karate like his brother.
  • I met with the preschool director in our church on Monday evening and we are getting our special needs program ready to launch.  I am so excited and feel so blessed to be a part of this ministry.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the families and volunteers at our church!  What an honor to assist in this great new program. I feel so called and so passionate in this area, and now I get to put those passions to work.
  • I have a possible full-time teaching opportunity for the fall that would allow me enough flexibility to still give Big Brother and Little man the support they need as they both begin kindergarten in the fall.
  • I’m finally getting my house under control and organized.  Yes, I am.  Really.  R.e.a.l.l.y This is the year, really!!  I mean it.  See, if I write it enough, it has to come true. Now, if only I could find a half of a day to myself to get this started…..

Then and Now

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

– Soren Kierkegaard

For the past few days I’ve been revisiting our adoption journey from one year ago. I love looking back and reflecting on how much we’ve all grown as a family. But how about what we look like today?  Here is a short video I made last night.  I’d say the now is quite lovely.


Orphaned no more

From the archives…

January 12, 2011:  A Great Day

And that’s how it happened–on a seemingly ordinary day in January, an almost-4 year old little boy walked out of an orphanage onto a crowded, rainy Hong Kong street.  He waved goodbye to his orphanage and to everything he’d ever known. And suddenly, it happened–three turned into four.  Big Brother smiled the entire walk back to the flat.  So did Little Man.

When we arrived at the orphanage this morning to get Big Brother, his caregivers told me he was up at 5 am and asking for us (they had told him over and over again that he was leaving with us, etc.)  He was so ready to go!  His caregivers and friends had a little going away party for him and it was very bittersweet.  They sent him off with a suitcase full of clothes, toys and a lifebook.

Today has been a wonderful day…above and beyond my wildest dreams.  The boys love each other and Big Brother is like a different child outside of the orphanage.  He has really started to come out of his shell and continues to interact with us more and more. We have shared some amazing moments together.  It’s not all sunshine and roses and there are moments of great frustration, but overall it’s been such a great day.  With each passing hour it is clearly evident that Big Brother is opening up to us more and more.  In just two days alone with us he truly is like a different child.

Well, it’s 8 pm here and both boys are sound asleep.  They both fell asleep within minutes of getting into bed, and not a single tear was shed!!!  We are in complete shock!!!  I sang a couple of songs and they were out :)   I guess that’s what happens when you play hard all day long.

Okay, now for the good stuff I don’t want to forget!  Today I was sitting with Big Brother while he ate some cheerios.  He stared into my eyes (which is a big deal) for about 15 seconds straight and then burst into a huge grin…he actually smiled with his eyes too!  Then he grabbed my hand and made me feed him.  He said “mama [something in Cantonese…]” and directed me to put a cheerio in his mouth.  It was really one of the sweetest moments of my life.  For those who have adopted an older child, you can understand this I’m sure!!!  He also has started to run to me and grab my hand to lead me somewhere when he wants something…again, a very big deal!!!  By the end of the day today, Big Brother was frequently and effortlessly making a lot of meaningful eye contact with us.  We couldn’t be happier!!!

The one issue that has turned out to be pretty major (and unexpected) is food.  Oh my, where do I begin.  Big Brother wants food constantly and not only that, he wants to hold some in his hands at all times.  He will eat whatever and however much you put in front of him.  He literally shovels it in his mouth in a very deliberate and mechanical way. And then he will ask for more to hold in his hand while he plays.  Then he scours every inch of the floor for any crumbs he can find.  He cannot go more than about 10 minutes without running to the kitchen and asking for food…and not just asking, but crying and begging for it.  Food issues are such a complicated thing….it’s been tough as we learn how to deal with not overindulging him but not refusing him food (we want him to associate us with a never-ending food supply, but we also have to keep him healthy!).  It’s very strange to see a 4 year old child eat more than an adult, but I’m sure we will be able to find a balance as the days pass.  They warned us that Big Brother has some food issues when we arrived at the orphanage this week, but man, it’s crazy.

I really wanted to post videos today, but my computer is giving me a hard time (or perhaps it’s the internet connection again).  I will keep trying, so check back!!  Sorry for the lack of pictures, I’m totally slacking because I’m spending so much time playing with the boys.  Anyways…I’m off to enjoy a good night’s sleep, fingers crossed.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Hong Kong!


Once we were home, I was able to reflect a bit more on this day.  Here is what I wrote…

January 26, 2001:  Goodbye Orphanage, Hello Tears

Big Brother’s “going away” party…it was extremely emotional for us….helping Big Brother say goodbye to his life, his bed, his caregivers, his friends, all the while knowing he did not understand what was about to happen…

It was gut-wrenching.

While it was emotional for us and all the caregivers, it was just a confusing, uninteresting event for Big Brother.  He had no idea what was really happening.  I wish he could have understood….I wish we had more pictures to document it.  But it was a crazy, rushed and emotional time and we barely were able to document it at all.  And when it was all over, we quickly stepped out onto a busy, bustling street and walked down the road, in the rain, to the flat.  Big Brother held my hand and Hubby pulled his suitcase full of gifts, clothes and notes from his caregivers.  But it wasn’t what was in the suitcase that broke my heart, it was whatwasn’t.  There was no note or momento from birth family, something I had hoped desperately for, and something that is a common occurence in HK adoptions. Big Brother was not abandoned on a doorstep or left at a hospital.  I was secretly hoping there would be something, anything….just a shred…

Nothing.  My heart hurt.

The beginning of a new beginning…

Picking up where I left off yesterday….yes, the next meeting was much better.  MUCH better.  Big Brother was like a different child alone with us and away from the orphanage.  This is what I wrote that evening after our second visit together…


January 11, 2011:

mir·a·cle (mr-kl) noun:

1. an event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause

2. any amazing or wonderful event

3. a person or thing that is a marvellous example of something

I think all of the above apply to the last 2 days.  If I could use any other word (besides miracle) to describe our time with Big Brother it would be smile.

Do you see this smile?

And this one?

It’s because of this one right here:

Play time at the orphanage…Big Brother and Little Man liked to chase each other around:

Play time at the flat…Big Brother likes to watch his brother show him new things:

cheerio break:

It’s hard to describe the last two days.  First, I’ll give you the list of words that come to mind:

amazing, tiring, exciting, thrilling, relieving, happy, anxiety, miraculous

We have spent the last two days visiting with Big Brother.  On Monday we went on an outing with him and some of the other children at the orphanage.  Then today (Tuesday) we spent half the day at the oprhanage and then brought Big Brother to the flat to play with us for the afternoon.  Then we took him back for his last night in the oprhanage.  Tomorrow morning, Big Brother says goodbye to the orphanage forever.

Today we signed the paperwork that places Big Brother in our custody.  His case worker in the HK government came by the orphanage today to let us sign the paperwork and to meet us in person.  We spoke at length and at the end of the conversation, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  I’m deeply touched by how much Big Brother is cared for.  They told us that they think it is an act of God that he has found his perfect forever family.  In addition, no one can hardly believe how well Big Brother has interacted with us (especially Little Man).  Big Brother usually doesn’t interact with other kids that well…that is until he met Little Man.  It has left us speechless.  And tonight is Big Brother’s last night in the orphanage.  When we told him goodby tonight, Little Man cried for his brother…real tears ya’ll.  He wanted Big Brother to spend the night with us.  I gently explained that tomorrow morning he would walk out of the oprhanage and live with us forever.  There were still tears.

Thank you God.  Thank you for these two tiny miracles.  I never in my wildest dreams could have orchestrated such a perfect plan.  I know that there will be trying times ahead and I know that Big Brother has a long road ahead of him in terms of playing catch-up and learning how to interact with others, but that doesn’t diminish the awe I feel right now.

Little Man has been a superstar.  He has not once gotten overly jealous or upset.  He has shared everything and has gone above and beyond what any normal three year old should be doing.  He is a very, very special child.  Of course, his brother is as well.

Big Brother is smart.  He is delayed in some areas, but is amazing in others.  He eagerly learns new English words and has been doing so well as we teach him as much as possible.    He eats like there is no tomorrow (seriously, it’s insane) and we caught him hoarding food in his pockets and hands today 😦  He also chugs his milk or juice in under 3 seconds…I think he’s scared it will be taken away if he doesn’t drink it. That’s okay, he’ll hopefully learn soon enough that food and drink are always at his reach.  Oh, and he’s obsessed with balloons.  Obsessed!

I’m really, really tired and I’m trying to prepare for tomorrow. We are worried that night time tomorrow may be quite difficult and scary for Big Brother. So, I’m not going to write any more right now. I want to blog more about Big Brother tomorrow, so come back if you want more:)

The Meeting

On this day last year, we met Big Brother for the first time.

It was an unusually cold day in Hong Kong. I awoke early in our hotel room to shower and pack our bags. This was it, the big day. We would be transferring our bags to the flat near the orphanage and then we would go meet Big Brother. My heart was racing and my stomach was churning. This day was 14 months in the making. Although I was very ready and extremely excited for the big meeting, I was also scared senseless. I tried to put on makeup but my hands were shaking too much. I tried to eat some breakfast, but my appetite was gone. I was just ready. “Let’s do this,” I thought.

As we made our way to the orphanage, that old but familiar feeling grabbed ahold of me. I had felt it on a sweltering Saigon street a few years earlier. The anticipation, the anxiety, the happiness and doubt…..the surreal feeling of meeting a child–your child— that you’ve only known through photos.

We were ushered into the orphanage and asked to remove our shoes and wash our hands. They took us to a room to wait for Big Brother. They would bring him in shortly, they had said. We waited for what felt like an eternity. I thought I was going to explode. We all sat there on the edges of our seats, waiting….

And then it happened. Big Brother came running into the room. There was nothing in this room except for a pair of couches, a table, a piano and few little toys. Big Brother ran right past us and gave no acknowledgement that anyone was even in the room. He didn’t see us. If he had in fact seen us, he didn’t give any indication at all. He ran to the few little toys in the corner and began to try to hang them together. Then he tried to take down the pictures on the walls. We bent down to his level and tried to talk to him. He didn’t even flinch an eye. He still didn’t acknowledge us. We tried again and again….nothing. He wouldn’t even look at us. My pulse started to quicken and I could feel my heart beating inside of my chest. I started feeling dizzy. My head was spinning. “What are we getting ourselves into,” I wondered silently.

In Big Brother’s world, we didn’t exist. In his world, adults were nothing more than untrustworthy objects that come and go and change as much as the weather. In his four years on this planet, that’s all he had known. Why should we be any different?

After about five awkward minutes of attempting to reach Big Brother, all of our efforts seemed useless. Then hubby pulled out a balloon and everything changed. We had him. He ran to hubby and motioned for him to blow it up and twist it. And then he became fixated on hubby and that magical balloon. We all sighed a deep breath of relief. We had made contact. We had entered his world, if only through a balloon.

Then some of his caregivers came and took him back to his room to get him ready for the outing we were about to go on. Hubby and I looked at each other, reassuring each other with unspoken words that everything was going to be ok. Little Man was excited that he finally got to see his brother. He didn’t mind at all that his brother didn’t seem as excited about us. We had warned him that this would be the case, and he seemed to take it all in stride.

The next thing I knew, we were getting on a bus to go on an orphanage outing. Little Man sat with Hubby. I sat with Big Brother. I sang to him, spoke to him…anything I could think of. He only stared out the window with a vacant look on his face. He never once looked at me. Another day, another caregiver….

When we arrived at our destination they strapped Big Brother, who was almost four, into a stroller. They told me to push. It was crazy, chaotic and hectic. The morning was a blur. Finally we stopped to eat lunch. Big Brother was mesmerized by Little Man. He was laughing and flapping his arms at everything Little Man did. He was smitten with his new brother. His caregivers acted surprised. I wasn’t surprised at all.

And then Big Brother looked at me. For the first time all day, he was looking at me. I got excited. Then my heart sank.

He throws his food at me and laughs. He takes his shoes off and throws them at the table next to us. He gleans at me and flashes a smirk. He tries to clear off the table with the erratic sweep of his arms. Then he laughs uncontrollably. I start to panic. I ask hubby if he’s got anymore balloons. Nope, they are all gone. Sweat drips down my face. I want to cry. I don’t. Instead, I put a smile on my face and acted like it’s no big deal. The caregivers watched me intensely. I felt like a bumbling mess. I just wanted to hold my son, somewhere away from all the chaos and watchful eyes. I knew it would be different if we were away from the orphanage staff and kiddos. But here we were, and I made the best of it.

He was testing me out. I was his new “caregiver” of the day and he was trying to see what I was made of. He was ready to see how much I would take before walking away. Oh dear sweet child, if only you had known that I was different….that there would be nothing that could make me walk away.

After the outing was over, we headed back to the flat. Big Brother stayed behind in the orphanage. We would go back the next day to visit him again and to let him visit with us in the flat. I pleaded with God for a less chaotic day. Big Brother had no idea what was going on…not the slightest clue. He didn’t know what a family or even a home was. He couldn’t possibly comprehend what was going to happen over the next few days. All he knew is that these strange people had shown up and were hanging out with him for some bizarre reason.

That night I felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but I was optimistic that the next day would be better. We would have Big Brother come to us in the flat, away from the orphanage. I knew it would help. And this time, we would make sure to have more balloons. That night I vowed to carry my faith around my body like a shield, reminding myself constantly that God was in control and it was only my job to keep on walking forward. I went to sleep with ease, ready for the beginning of a new day.

Pictures from that first day we met: