The Year We Missed Easter

Emma and Mira at the airport

Eighteen years ago, we missed Easter. Twice.

On Sunday, March 27, 1999, we met Mira in Kazakhstan for the first time. All the next week we came to visit her, driving up a long and curvy, still snowy road from the capital city of Almaty to Esik, a journey of about only 40 miles but over an hour by car. I was taken back to the nursery only once (no male germs allowed). They always brought her out to the director’s office. She was so tiny—not much bigger than a newborn at three months. She’d been fed formula once a day. The rest of the time she was given diluted mashed potatoes; that was all they could afford.

Sunday, April 4 was Easter back home, but not in Kazakhstan. We found an ex-pat church to attend that morning, but as I recall, they didn’t …

One More Time, Just For Fun

When I decided to take a few weeks’ break in January, I didn’t expect to be gone this long. But a lot of things have happened that kept me away.

One of those things was my youngest daughter getting her learner’s permit. In Maryland, you can get that at 15 years and nine months old. You keep that for nine months, drive 60 hours with a licensed driver, and get your license at 16 ½.

John took Dara to get her learner’s permit. Among the required documents, I sent her birth certificate, which was issued by the state of Maryland, has a state seal on it and is dated. To obtain that certificate fifteen years ago, I had to …



photo by Emma Towriss

I always think of adding my kids to our family in terms of the holidays. Emma was born on Christmas Eve. Mira was born on December 21, but we met her on the day we celebrate Easter in the west and brought her home on Orthodox Easter, one week later.

And Dara and Johnny we brought home two days before Thanksgiving. I can never remember the date. I just remember it was Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving fifteen years ago. In the adoption community, we call that Gotcha Day.


Gotcha Day, November 20101

Dara and Johnny are what are called virtual twins. Virtual twins are biologically unrelated children less than nine months apart who are raised together. Dara and Johnny are nothing alike. Until recently she’s been a head taller than he, but he’s catching up quickly. Even when we met her she was twice as …

I Am Not A Child Trafficker

Screenshot 2016-08-25 23.04.45This is how an anti-adoption activist replied to a tweet of mine saying a quarter million children from around the world had become part of American families through international adoption since 1971. I (stupidly) responded, asking if I should have left my daughter in a baby house without enough food. He replied with a link to his website, which was basically pages and pages of reasons why no one should ever, ever, ever adopt any child for any reason whatsoever.

I skimmed through the site, and some of the comments. Adoption was an act of violence, akin to slavery. Adoptive parents were white imperialists, hypocrites … and child traffickers.

emma holding mira

Emma holding Mira at the airport.

This was on a Sunday morning. I cried on the way to church. I cried during worship. I cried after church. I cried all day.

In my eighteen years of being an adoptive parent, I’ve …

Defending Catelynn

Tyler and Catelynn (from their new book cover)

Tyler and Catelynn (from their new book cover)

I cannot believe I am going to do this.

I am going to defend a Teen Mom. You know, not a normal teen mom, an MTV Teen Mom.

I don’t follow this show, although I’ve watched a few episodes. But this story has blown up all over the internet, and I heard about it. So here it is: In 2009, Catelynn Lowell and her boyfriend Tyler Baltierra became pregnant. Over a period of months, they heart-breakingly decided to place the baby with a couple named Brandon and Teresa. Along with viewers, both sets of parents were stridently opposed to their decision. Catelyn’s mom yelled at her and even after the birth continued to voice her disapproval. The baby girl, named Carly, is now five and lives in North Carolina. It’s an open adoption and Catelynn and Tyler still see her.

January 1, …

Why Would You Want to Do That?

Mira close-upA case in Qatar this week made international headlines. An American couple of Asian descent has just been released after being trapped in the tiny middle-eastern country of Qatar for almost two years.

In 2012, the Huangs were relocated to Doha, the capital of Qatar, by his employer to work on a major infrastructure project for the 2022 World Cup. The Huangs have three children adopted from Ghana.

On January 15, 2013, their daughter Gloria died suddenly. Gloria was born into extreme poverty and was adopted from an orphanage. Despite the Huangs’ best efforts, Gloria still suffered from severe eating issues, common to children born in such circumstances, such as not eating for days, then binging and eating from trashcans or getting food from neighbors. The Huangs were detained by police that same day. Over the next twenty-three months, in a story worthy of a badly-written made-for-TV movie, the Huangs …

Father Knows Best

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, so like everyone else I was thinking of our freedom, our country, our privileges.

naturalization certificateAs you know, my three adopted kids came from Kazakhstan. Buggy had to apply for her citizenship after we brought her home in April 1999. It was a formality—they had to grant it, but we still had to fill out the paperwork and pay several hundred dollars to receive a Certificate of Naturalization signed by then-President Clinton. When it came, we took her downtown and snapped her picture with the capitol in the background. It was right around July 4.

When Bear and Bubba came home in late November 2001, the law had changed and they were automatically citizens when we touched American soil. But we still had to pay to get the certificates if we wanted proof of citizenship, which, just a few months post 9/11, I definitely did.…

Genghis Khan, Softball and Seeking

This is what we call The Glare. When M steps up to the plate with The Glare, balls will fly, bases will be taken, runs will be scored. John’s gotten to where he can tell before she can how well she’ll hit the ball. He often videos her at-bats on his iPhone. One snippet we love to watch has him yelling “goodbye!” before she even swings! Sure enough, she knocks that ball to within a few feet of the fence. Only one girl was on base, but M knocked her in and got almost to third herself.

The Glare is many things. Cold, calculating, some say heartless. (When you’re descended from Genghis Khan, what do you expect?) But most of all it is single-minded. When she wears that look, it is because she has blocked out everything else. All she sees is that ball. There are a thousand things she’s …

The Funniest Names I Ever Heard

About a year ago, in the car, Emma mentioned that she had mispronounced a classmate’s name that morning and the girl had become quite angry. I responded that I was surprised she was not more forgiving. “After all, in this area there are so many unusual names. It’s not like everyone is named Bill or Sally.”

Suddenly, from the back seat, Dara burst into laughter. I asked why, but all she did was laugh more. This went on for days. Finally she said, “Bill and Sally. Those are the funniest names I’ve ever heard.”

OK, I’ll give her Sally. That’s not a common name any more. But Bill? I told her it was a nickname for William. She didn’t buy it. “William is a fine name,” she countered. “We have a William in our class.”

“Well, what do you call him?”

“William. Sometimes Will.” I think she had trouble with …

21 Questions

People often lose their common sense when faced with an adopted baby. I have heard the most ridiculous comments. A smattering:

MC as toddler

When we brought MC home, people would hear our story and then whisper, “Are you gonna tell her she’s adopted?” I’d answer, “I’m thinking she’ll figure it out whether we do or not.”

When we brought home DK and JT, DK was literally twice as big at seven months old than six-month-old JT, who was a bit sickly. She’s Central Asian; he’s Russian and German. Yet I was asked repeatedly, even after I said they were four weeks apart, “Are they twins?” Really?

Or better: “Do they speak English?” Yes. Fluently. At seven months old. We start Mandarin next month.

A better question might have been, “Why is DK so fat?” In the “baby house” they believed fat babies survived the brutal winters more easily, so …