The Back to School Post

August 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I don’t think our school district fully grasps the whole paperless concept. I’m staring at a stack of forms they’ve called “children’s homework” that I must complete. Somehow, the paperwork required to send our children to public school each year feels like we’re assembling an entire dossier. There’s even a fingerprinting form somewhere in this pile, and I can’t volunteer to lead a single game of 7-up until it’s complete (don’t even think about birthday cupcakes).

I know it’s all important; of course, it is. But, as our daughter starts 1st grade at a new school this year, there are other things taking priority in the limited space I have in my head, trumping volunteer sign-ups and shopping for Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.


Our daughter joined our family via adoption. She is fully ours, but I’m also fully aware that her history is an ongoing experience for her and us. As her mother, it’s my job to navigate that along with her as best as I know how in each season of her life. As she and we have anticipated her first year of elementary school, we’ve wrestled with a few issues.

How much and what to share.

With a child who is the same skin shade as you, you have the option of sharing nothing at all adoption related with teachers. There are plenty of blonde mamas with brunette children thanks to genetics and Clairol. But, when your child is clearly of a different race, you have a choice to make. How much do you want to share about your child’s adoption? How much should you share about her adoption? We’ve come up with our own answers, for now at least. But, every family’s answers to those questions are going to be a little different. While we arrived at little disclosure, other parents may feel like more is needed for their child to be set up for success in the classroom.

Regardless of where each of us arrives in the end, the key is this: it’s better to ask ourselves these questions before we go to back to school night or to our first teacher conference. If we ask ourselves these questions ahead of time, we can enter these situations with intention and be less likely to stumble into a conversation and say things off the cuff that we regret later.

Answering the questions of what we want to share and what we should share is not an easy task because not only are we motivated to do right by our child but our hearts can be muddied with other motivations that aren’t so pretty. Maybe sharing about our child’s adoption history makes us feel like the teacher will think we’re “good parents” because we know something about trauma or attachment. It could be that we kind of like the pat on the back it gives us to know something about trauma and attachment that we believe that teacher doesn’t know. When I feel like I’m failing in a lot of areas, a pat on the back sounds pretty good. And, if we find ourselves in a spirit of parenting defeat, our efforts to protect our child by making sure his teacher knows all the hard stuff may make us feel like we’re at least doing something right for him.

Maybe we are worried that our child’s failure to comply in the classroom will reflect poorly on us, so sharing about his adoption will get us off the hook a bit (i.e., “it’s not because of our parenting that he does these things.”). Any of that resonate with you? I’ve been there, maybe all over there before. Hey, our hearts aren’t pretty places. There’s always layers of stuff going on in there, layers that keep us humble when we get glimpses of them. And, it’s not easy to get those glimpses. But, when we do, we can better understand ourselves and then separate our own “stuff” from what is true and matters when it comes to these kinds of decisions for our kids.

It’s not easy to figure out what to share and how to share it. As much as we wish a very specific manual existed for that, it doesn’t. But, if there were a manual, I think it might simply say this: be intentional. Being proactive with wrestling through this before you’re presented with the open door to share and being proactive with considering the fullness of your motivation in sharing makes all the difference.

It’s not you against them.

So far in our school careers with four kids, we’ve had a combined total of 19 teachers. This year will raise that number to 23, not counting the myriad of middle school teachers working with my kiddos who now change classrooms for every class. Of those teachers, we’ve only had one who didn’t seem to so much love children. Teachers who aren’t all for kids do exist, but they are few and far between. Yet, it’s so tempting for us as parents to start off the school year with an us–them mentality as if our child’s new teacher has no awareness of family differences and/or no sensitivity to whatever awareness may be there and that he or she inevitably will injure our child with a family tree assignment or something worse.

As you start off this school year, give your teacher the benefit of the doubt. He or she may say something or give assignments at some point that you or your child feel are insensitive; if that happens, make a phone call and have a conversation. But, fight the urge to start off the year on the defense and assume that your child’s teacher doesn’t have a clue.

You don’t need to be all rah-rah adoption.

A recent article posted on Adoptive Families advocated: “Raising adoption awareness at school helps create the open, accepting environment that lets our children flourish” and that a few great ways to create that ideal environment are to “read an adoption storybook to the class during story time,” “give an adoption presentation in the first or second grade,” or “suggest a community service project around National Adoption Day.” If you haven’t been given the volunteer sign-up form already, you will be. Before you write your name on that form, take these words to heart: You do not have to be the poster family for adoption. It is not your job to create whatever you may be picturing as an ideal adoption-friendly environment in the classroom. Put A Mother for Choco and all the other kids’ books you’ve collected over the years back on the shelf for now and simply follow your child’s readiness and lead.

Ask your child. If he wants you to come in and read a book about China, great. If she loves the idea of you helping with a Chinese New Year party, run with it. If not, don’t. Our children are singled out enough; don’t put being an adoption cheerleader above your child’s desire to sometimes just be who he is without extra attention focused on what makes him “special.”

If you haven’t figured it out already, we’re going to screw up…like over and over again. Entering the season of school gives us even more opportunities as parents to make mistakes. But, you know what? It’s okay. We can do this; I know we can. Leading up to that first day and all through that rough transition of starting out, verbalize to your kiddo that you’re for him, that some kids may feel scared about a new school year but excited at the same time and that you as his mommy or daddy kinda feel the same way. You are scared because you can’t go with her into that classroom everyday, and you wish you could because you love her so much and want to make sure she’s always okay. But, you are also excited because you know that she’s going to learn a lot this year and grow and do great things. Then, take a few deep breaths and write those words down somewhere so you can read them over and over to yourself after you wave goodbye each morning.

Your child’s teacher can do this. They want to do this. Your child can do this even if they do life outside the box. They will be okay. You can do this. It might be hard and you’ll likely mess up a few times, but you can do hard and you’ll learn stuff too and won’t keep messing up in the same ways. Be intentional, and invite others to share their own journey along the way to enlighten you in yours. You’ve got this.

Now, go finish your homework.

– image by Tish Goff

Going to China: Feeding Concerns

August 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

When we were adopting our two new daughters we were not really well prepared for what they could or could not eat. We knew one of the girls was severely malnourished, but we did not understand that it was entirely possible that nobody taught them how to eat or drink. Neither of our new daughters knew how to drink from a bottle or a cup and one daughter could not chew anything. I was left with trying to come up with some really creative ideas on how to help nourish their bodies while in country.

I don’t know how often it happens that a child does not know how to drink from anything, but it happened to us twice so it can’t be unheard of either. Our daughters are completely blind so that also played a role in their skill level. Each child will be different in their needs and abilities, but here are some things that worked for us.


• Medicine droppers are great ways of getting in fluid if your child has no ability to suck. You can slowly provide more tension on the dropper so that they begin to suck on it and this serves to teach them the skill to use on a bottle. Another similar idea is a straw. You simply hold your finger over one end to keep the liquid from spilling out and then release your finger once the straw is in their mouth. To teach them to suck, keep your finger covering the end of the straw and they will begin to suck on it.

• If they are a little older, cut a bottle nipple with scissors to make it easier when they do suck on it. The bottles require quite a bit of strength to get fluid out of them and we found it necessary to make them very easy because of the lack of strength in our daughter’s tongue and jaw.

• In our case our daughters also had little exposure to milk and neither one of them could stomach or handle it. We used apple juice because it was readily available in hotels. One of our daughters was extremely picky in what she would drink, but soup broth was our best bet with her and it was readily available in the grocery stores in country.

• Once home we discovered our miracle drink for her. As it turns out the girl loves water with a little essential oil of lime. Who knew? It was a jet lagged and frazzled mom who tried that trick one morning and it just happened to work. Lemon? No! Lime? Absolutely. Maybe it will work for you, who knows.

• Our Ellie also could not chew, anything at all. Obviously, that presented quite a few issues. On gotcha day we were given a can of baby rice cereal and a bowl with a spoon. Ellie was four and a half and I just sort of stared at it and thought they surely were kidding. No, they weren’t and it took me a few meals to realize it needed to be nearly water consistency to work for her. They also weren’t kidding when they said it took an hour to feed her a bowl of food. Sweet Mercy, that was an exercise of patience!

• Evie was fairly malnourished herself, although not to the extent of her sister, and I was really concerned that she was losing weight. I scoured the grocery stores for anything that was fat and could be added to her rice cereal. Butter was my best friend. It is hard to find, but in Guangzhou at Aeon you can find some in the refrigerated section. I was also not above taking a few from the breakfast table each morning, survival and all, you understand. Eventually she was able to take congee and I also took a sealed Rubbermaid bowl to breakfast each day and grabbed some for the road.

• Once we were home we slowly worked both girls up to sippy cups.

• We were able to grind food for Ellie in a food processor once we came home and we slowly graduated her to chunkier foods and then soft foods like noodles.


We have been home nearly six months now and they have progressed so well! Ellie still prefers the bottle as a sippy requires more strength and wears her out quickly, but we are still working on that transition. She has almost a normal diet at this point. The only foods we still stay away from are very crunchy foods such as carrots. She just doesn’t have that strength in her jaw yet. Evie eats anything and drinks from cups with straws now. She still refuses anything but apple juice and Ellie still clings to her lime water like candy!

One universal rule of thumb is to take six months and feed what comforts them. Who knows, maybe you will end up loving chicken feet! Then again, maybe not. Don’t assume anything and go with the flow of their preferences. Our son rejected all Asian food for close to six months and we just left it in the cupboard for whenever he was ready. Our daughters on the other hand preferred congee and rice and seaweed for months on end. You’ll figure this out and your family will be better for broadening their eating habits!

At the end of the day the most important thing is attachment and bonding. Nutrition can come in its own time. You need to do what works best for your own family and creates the least amount of stress for everyone. Those first few months home tend to leave us with enough stress from other things.

You’ll get through this, I promise, one day at a time, one meal at a time.

Find My Family: Aspen

August 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Aspen is an adorable one year old who has deformity of both legs. He is part of our orphanage partnership program. His left leg seems to more affected than his right leg. His file also reports some mild heart conditions. Aspen can stand holding onto something (as you can see in his recent video) and moves around by crawling and scooting (as seen in his video).


He likes to be near his caretakers and gets sad when left on his own. When being fed, Aspen likes to have one hand on his bottle and his other hand on his caretaker’s shoulder. He loves to play with toys the make noise and listening to music. He will often shake his head while listening to music. This smart, sweet little boy needs a loving family.


Please reach out to Heartsent to learn more about adopting Aspen.

A Back-to-School Letter

August 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


Dear Teachers, Here we go! The start of a new year! First of all, you both have my great admiration. I do not know how you do it. The energy, patience, and creativity it takes to shape, mold, and sometimes just wrangle a whole crew of almost-three-year-olds is something I do not possess. I’m so …Read More

Aging Out: Sophie

August 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Beautiful Sophie was born in February 2002 according to parts of her file. This makes her 13 years old already and she will age out next February. Other parts of her file indicate a date that is two years younger. She needs a family who is willing to rush to her before she ages out, …Read More


August 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 9 Comments


From the time I was a young girl, I always felt the Lord’s presence and His pursuit of my heart. However, I did not begin regularly attending church or consistently studying God’s word until a while after my husband and I got married. In the spring of 2007, we joined a “small group,” and every …Read More

How Going to China Changed My Life

August 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We have been home for six months and this is the first time that I’m actually sitting down and processing our trip to China. For a while, it was just too fresh, you know? The thought of any attempt in organizing my thoughts made my brain hurt, and so I just didn’t. But now, I …Read More

Find My Family: Sebastian

August 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Who wants to meet little Sebastian? He is as sweet as can be. Sebastian is an outgoing 3 year old boy who can be shy around strangers. He likes to play with his caregivers and loves to be held. His favorite activities are playing outdoors, listening to music, and watching cartoons. A bright boy, he …Read More

He Calls Me Mama

August 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

It’s been 9 months since Dumpling has been in our arms. It also marks about 6 months of him seeking me out as “mama” and “mom” and “mommy.” I had to work hard for those titles though, they didn’t come easily. For the first couple months, he didn’t refer to me or DH as anything. He simply walked over …Read More

find my family: Paxton

August 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Photo 4-2

I’m so lucky to get to introduce you to Paxton! He was born August of 2012. Paxton has been diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, otherwise known as Brittle Bone Disease. Paxton was abandoned outside of a local police station. He was estimated to be six months old. He was taken to the local Social Welfare Institute …Read More

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