Part of Me Blog

China adoption trip

an exhaustive adoption packing list

Adoption, WISHLISTS, TRAVELlissa-anglin1 Comment

I'm going to apologize in advance for the amount of detail in this post- I'm writing it for me, one month ago. At that time I was a frantic, excited and stressed out mama trying to pack her entire household for a trip across the world. This included packing for a child I knew only a little about and had yet to meet. Cue the list-making, and googling, and random trips to Target for that one thing I forgot.

If you are an adoptive mama about to make that trip, bless you! I hope this is helpful. I realize everyone has their own preferences, but here's how we packed our bags. 

Travelers were myself, my husband, our 7 year old son, 3 year old daughter and we brought home our 2 year old daughter. My parents also came with us, but I'm only covering our family of 5 in this list.

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Baggage Allowances

You'll want to check your baggage allowances before you start packing. We were able to book humanitarian tickets through American Airlines (thanks to Adoption Airfare) which allowed us all up to a 50 lb. bag. The problem with that is that our domestic flights had much tighter restrictions on weight (35 lb. per bag) and only 1 carry-on. So, we needed to pack for the domestic flights, not the international.

If you're headed to China, be prepared to find conflicting or no information at all about the baggage allowances on domestic flights (I'm sorry!). There are also different requirements about where liquids and electronics go (checked bags vs. carry-ons- it was different every time!). The guides our agency provided were extremely helpful with this and there was definitely some packing/un-packing we had to do at check in, but we all got on the plane in the end. 


Luggage

• 1 medium rolling bag for Lissa's clothing (Here is the set we have)

• 1 small rolling bag for Shawn's clothing (Here is the set we have)

• 2 small hard-side bags for Knox, Liv, and Lucy's clothing (Liv's bag similar, Knox's bag was the smallest of this set

All of our luggage bags had expandable zippers which were super important because we really packed the small ones down! They worked like a charm, and I found that I really prefer the hard-side bags to the fabric ones. 

• 1 backpack/bag for each person 

Our backpacks were our carry-ons and all had a little something different in them. 

Shawn's backpack (also carried our laptop, important paperwork, and DSLR camera)

My bag (this is typically my camera bag, but the lens insert and pockets worked really well)

Knox's backpack (iPad, headphones, activity books, pens/pencils, small toys, change of clothing/underwear, water bottle and snacks)

Liv and Lucy's backpacks (these are smaller sized so it meant they could carry them by themselves which was essential at a few points!) I packed Lucy's backpack in my larger luggage bag on the way there. Liv's bag included her iPad, headphones, small zipper bag of shopkins, coloring books/activity books, crayons, stickers, wipes, extra Pull-ups, water bottle and snacks)

• Stroller (ours has been discontinued, here is a similar)

I debated on bringing a stroller, but ultimately it was SO helpful- especially in the airport and on a few sightseeing days. We needed it most for our 3 year old (we carried our new daughter in a carrier most of the time). I would recommend buying one there if you are not bringing other children with you, and I also would not take a stroller that is too precious to you. There were a few moments we weren't sure if we'd see it at baggage claim, and in those moments I was really glad we'd brought our old umbrella stroller.

Tula Carriers

Not technically baggage, but carriers. :) We borrowed my sister's Tula and so we had two- one for each girl. These were so great- especially on the days when the stroller wasn't appropriate (hiking the Great Wall, for example) and we were SO glad we'd brought them. We love our Tula- very comfortable and fit our 2 and 3 year old well.

Compression Bags

I bought these on a whim and they were so useful for us. I had seen a lot of recommendations for packing cubes, but they were more expensive than these bags and the compression aspect of the ones we used was great for diapers and clothing.

• Money Belt/Neck Wallets

Shawn and I wore these money belts from the time we took off in Lubbock to the time we landed back home (well, I guess we took them off while showering and sleeping, but you get it). They were fine, necessary, but annoying. My dad had a neck wallet- something I didn't even know existed- and I will definitely be purchasing one for our next overseas excursion because it seemed way more comfortable. 

• Luggage tags

This might be an obvious, but I wanted to pass along a few tips. Make sure that every piece of luggage you bring (including carry-ons) has a luggage tag on it. We like to fill out the address with our home address and then put another card with our name and our hotel's address ON TOP OF IT for the flight over. We do this on trips longer than a few days, when there would be enough time for our bags to still arrive at our destination should they be lost or not on the correct flight. Once we receive them at our destination, we take the top tags off, so that our luggage now reads our home address.

Another thing to consider is your personal safety. We are very careful about what we put on our tags, since anyone can see that information. We only use 1 name, address, phone or email for all of our bags, and on the kids' backpacks, we even flipped the information over and wrote "over for info" on the card- just to ensure that wandering eyes couldn't associate our children with any address or name. We were also careful to make sure that the bags they were carrying did not have their names displayed on them (the girls' backpacks do have a monogram)- this is just a safety measure to prevent strangers from knowing their names. 


Clothing

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We packed for only half the trip and did our laundry halfway through (our guide helped us find laundry service at 1/2 the price of of the super-expensive hotel laundry). This cut down majorly on what we needed to pack. I had read that laundry was cheap, but after sending clothing for all 5 of us to be laundered, it was still 150.00! I would do this again, but budget a bit differently. :)

I also did my best to make sure that every piece of clothing could be worn together. Helped me feel a bit less monotonous and Shawn dress the kids. I brought several matching outfits for the girls which also helped with dressing.

It was in the 70s the entire time we were in China (April), but it was also a lot more humid than we are used to in West Texas. So overall, we packed to warmly. Here's what was useful, though: 

Per person:

• 7 shirts (4 short sleeve/3 long sleeve)- I recommend bringing quick-dry materials. It was humid and rains off and on, so you need all the help you can get for your clothing to dry out.

• 7 pants or shorts

Knox and Shawn wore shorts every day, while the girls and I wore pants or leggings. It was hot and humid- so I could have gotten away with shorts or a dress- I just prefer jeans. 

• 10 pairs of underwear, 1 bra, 3 bralettes, 1 sports bra 

• 4 sets of pjs per kid (somehow these were dirty quickly), 2-3 Shawn and I (I brought yoga pants and wore those during the day too)

• 5 pairs of socks  (the girls wore sandals or slip-ons most of the time, so they didn't need more than a couple pairs of socks)

• 2 pairs of shoes (MAX! This is a great way to create more luggage space. I ended up wearing my tennis shoes the entire time, except for when we went to the pool and the last few days in Guangzhou, where I wore sandals)

Shawn's shoes (New Balance tennis shoes, Chacos)

Lissa's shoes (cheap tennis shoes from Walmart- these are similar, sandals)

I was happy that I hadn't brought my "nice" tennis shoes so that I wasn't worried about how dirty they were getting! We walked at least a mile every day (not kidding)- so having tennis shoes was essential. These sandals are cheaper versions of the Sanuk brand. I bought the Sanuks several years ago and they broke in a few months. These have actually lasted several years! Also- you might get some looks from people in China about your sandals if you choose to wear them. Chinese people just don't really wear sandals and we were questioned a couple of times if we really wanted to wear ours or not that day :). 

Knox's shoes (tennis shoes, Keens)

Liv and Lucy's shoes (sandals, slip-on shoes)

Estimating Lucy's sizes was tough and the shoes I brought her were a total miss- wayyyy too big. Thankfully, they didn't take up much space and we were able to find her a couple of pairs while we were there (there was an H&M in the mall in her city).

• Swimsuit & swim caps

Some pools in China require you to wear swim caps, so I bought these and packed them unopened just in case. We only swam in Guangzhou, and didn't need swim caps there, so I returned them once we got home. 

• Rain jacket (we used these a few times and they didn't take up much space, so I was glad we brought them)

Shawn's rain jacket, My rain jacket, Knox's, Liv and Lucy's

Vinyasa Scarf 

I am in love with this scarf and it was so great on the plane because it doubled as a blanket or pillow. I didn't wear it in-country though- it was too hot!

• Sunglasses


Baby Things/for Our New Daughter

• Diapers

You can buy diapers in China (they took us to Walmart immediately after meeting Lucy so we could buy the baby things we needed), but they were just as expensive in China and the compression bags we used really worked well to make them take up less space in the luggage- so I was glad we'd packed them. I estimated 3 a day and we still came home with some. 

• Swim Diapers- only a few

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• Wipes- we brought 4 or 5 packages of the sensitive (or unscented) kind in case Lucy had any reactions to fragrance. We used these for way more than just diaper changes!

• Medication

We used Dr. Chambers at Children's of Alabama International Adoption Clinic to review our files when we received Lucy's referral. A week or so before our trip, she called in a few prescriptions to take with us for commonly seen issues in Chinese adoptees. There were a few creams and an antibiotic, which we ended up giving to Knox when he got sick on Gotcha Day. We also brought our favorite cough syrup, ibuprofen, allergy meds, powdered Pedialyte and Pepto for the kids. 

• Melatonin

Our pharmacist (a.k.a. Uncle Justin, who actually is a pharmacist) recommended this melatonin for the kids- and it was essential for us, especially those first few days getting over jet lag. We gave it to the kids at bedtime for the first few days, and on the long flights when it was time to sleep.

• Bib and plastic kid utensils

• Sippy Cup with straw (we actually bought this in China)

Lucy was used to drinking from bottles, but we found out quickly that she could also drink from a straw and bought one at Walmart there.

• Toys

Light up toy (we had a microphone that lit up and played music that she loved- I think the lights were helpful in getting her attention and interest that first day), coloring book, crayons, stickers, stacking cups (great for bathtime, too!), small board books

• Small hair bands and bows (we are from Texas, duh!)

Detangling Spray 

Boogie wipes (these were super helpful as we brought a virus with us that Lucy quickly contracted and alllll the boogers ensued)

Snack containers

I should have known to bring these, but I forgot! Definitely something I wished I'd had for Lucy.

• Blanket

I packed a Kickee pants swaddle blanket in each of their backpacks, and they were perfect for the plane, stroller, and sleeping. They are very lightweight and breathable, but also fold down and aren't very bulky. Lucy still sleeps with hers every night.

• Safety pins

These are always useful and just in case the clothing we bought her was way too big, I knew these would help.


Toiletries/Meds for Adults

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• All the medication we might need- I took everything out of boxes and labeled them well. Tums, allergy meds, Tylenol, melatonin, activated charcoal (this is helpful if you feel someone has had food poisoning)

• Essential oils and diffuser (this one is smaller and great for travel)

The oils and diffuser are some of our "normals"- we used the oils for various things- upset tummies, headaches, general mood lifters and sleep. It was nice to keep the diffuser running in our hotel room so it smelled nice and was relaxing.

• Toothbrushes & toothpaste (including one for Lucy with fluoride-free toothpaste) 

• Travel size containers of all shampoos, body wash, hair products, etc. 

If there was a travel size of something, I brought it! This was super helpful with space-saving. Dry shampoo was a MUST for me and this is my favorite kind- I found the travel version at Walmart. 

• Makeup essentials

I wore my tinted moisturizer , my favorite mascara , and chapstick most days. We did need nail scissors for Lucy (I actually use these and am obsessed with them! They took them away from me in Hong Kong because they weren't in my checked luggage and I immediately came home and bought a replacement pair). I also brought my favorite mama self-care eye cream which boosted my jet-lagged self on several days. Small things like this were a great way for me to feel like I was still "me" during two straight weeks of no alone time.

• Sunscreen- we didn't pack this but our travel group friends shared. This was definitely needed on some sightseeing days where we were outside most of the day.

• Deoderant, Gold Bond powder (it's hot and humid!)

• Curling Iron or Flat Iron (Converter needed. No need to bring hairdryer- they are in the hotels)

• Razors 

• Qtips, cotton balls

• Kleenex travel packs (you will need to keep these in your daily backpacks for squatty pottys)


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Tech

• Travel Converters

It is super important that you get converters and not just adapters- as China's voltage is different from the US. We ordered several of these on eBay and they worked great. I've also seen people recommend bringing a power strip, which we definitely could have utilized at times, but we were fine without- even with 2 iPads, a laptop, phones and chargers.

• iPads 

We brought two iPads for the kids with pre-downloaded videos (you can do this for free on Netflix) and games. I also wish we would have downloaded some episodes of Elmo in Mandarin from YouTube- Lucy loves those!

• Headphones and headphone splitter

We brought 3 pairs of headphones total- 2 pairs of wireless bluetooth headphones (for the girls- we have found we like the wireless ones better because no one can chew on the cord and ruin them...not that that's happened or anything...) and 1 wired pair (Knox's old headphones), with this splitter so that the 2 wireless headphones could watch the same iPad. This worked really well in the hotel room, but we found the bluetooth headphones did not work on the plane with their in-flight video system. This was okay because they provided earbuds on the plane- except the girls could not wear the earbuds- they were just too big to fit in their ears. So, I would have preferred 3 sets of old school, wired headphones. :) 

• VPN

China blocks many of the websites we needed to keep friends and family updated- specifically any form of social media (besides WeChat), and so to access those, you will need a VPN. We had a friend set us up on all our devices, but it's good to have at least 2 downloaded to your phone/laptop/iPads BEFORE you leave. When the one our friend set us up (a private one) didn't work, we used Betternet and it was great. Just download it from the app store.

• International phone plan

This was something we'd decided we didn't need, until our international adoption doctor recommended it. She said, "what happens if you get stuck at a hospital somewhere and don't have any way to reach anyone?"- and that sealed the deal for me. We just called our provider and got a temporary international plan for one of our phones. We did actually end up using it a few times for calls or directions, so I'm glad we had it.

• WeChat

As I said earlier, WeChat is pretty much the only social media in China. They use it for everything- texting, renting a bike and even paying. So go ahead and download it and create a profile. You will use it to talk to your guides and your travel group. I WISH I would have asked Lucy's foster mother to friend me on WeChat so I could have stayed connected with her. One of my biggest regrets for sure.

• Battery backup charger

My mom brought a backup battery charger and it came in clutch when one of our phones was about to die.

• Downloaded music

We have a "Sleep Playlist" that we play for our kids every night when putting them to bed on Spotify, and so we downloaded it to our phones before we left. I also downloaded this album- "A Little Mandarin" which has some familiar children's music in Chinese. I wish I had downloaded more just to enjoy while we were hanging out in our hotel room. 

• Google Translate

This app was super handy when we needed to read a menu, read a street sign, or try to communicate with a shop owner. Must download!

• List of waiting games

You'll spend a lot of time waiting- in an airport, like, van, etc. and if you are bringing kids, you will need some entertainment. I kept this list on my phone of games that required nothing but kept the kids entertained:

I Spy / Simon says / Thumb wrestling / Would you rather / Two truths and a lie / Telephone  / Rock Paper Scissors / Alphabeth Game- My name is Alice. My husbands name is al. We come from Alabama, where we sell apricots / 20 questions- guess the animal or person


Food/Other

• Laundry hamper

This was suggested by another adoptive mom who had just been to China and it was genius. We took this one and packed it into our luggage bag. It was super helpful to have when you're in 1 hotel room with 5 people and all their dirty clothes.

• Coffee survival kit

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This was one of my favorite "pamper me" items. I am a caffeine addict- meaning I will literally get a headache if I don't have a cup of coffee in the morning. Sad but true! It's also just a little comfort item. So, I researched the best instant coffee, and put several packets of it, a baggie of palm sugar, and powdered creamer all inside a sandwich-sized ziploc bag with some plastic spoons. My little "survival kit" came in handy several mornings/evenings when I wasn't able to run down to the lobby to get some coffee and was a familiar taste of home.

• Water bottles

This is just something our family does on every trip. I packed the kids each an empty Contigo water bottle (found them cheapest at SamsClub auctions! They're not always there, so here is another link) that we filled up after we went through security at the airport. You can't drink the water in China, which means we were either buying bottled water or using the complimentary ones at the hotel, and having these water bottles meant we always had something to keep us hydrated. Shawn and I both brought Kleen Kanteen insulated bottles and loved them because we could do coffee or water. The loops on the top of all the bottles we took were handy when we had a lot to carry- it was easy to tie them on to a backpack.

• Candy

Yes, some of this was just for personal comfort, but we also brought a package of Dum-Dums specifically for Lucy on Gotcha Day. I had read that suckers were a great way to say "hello", and that the sucking motion would help soothe her as well. So you better believe I packed those in her backpack! She could have cared less about them on Gotcha Day but they did come in handy several times during our trip.

• Dish soap and dish brush

I brought a small travel-sized bottle of dish soap and it was so handy when I needed to wash our water bottles, bibs, or even treat a stain on clothes. I just forgot a small dish brush! So I had to use a washrag most of the time, haha.

• Laundry detergent 

We've had this concentrated laundry detergent for several years now and it was really handy when I needed to wash a few things before we were able to send our laundry out. Mind you, it was very humid where we were so it literally took DAYS for things to dry in our hotel room. 

• Clif bars

Ya'll, we lived on Clif bars! The food was great in China, but there were a lot of moments where we were in-between meals and everyone was getting hangry. I bought a large pack at Sams and we ate every last one. Knowing my kids were also getting some protein in their systems and not just a ton of sugar was great too- and it kept them full until mealtime. Lucy actually liked these as well- especially the banana ones (she has a thing for bananas!) I also brought some Z bars for the kids since they don't always eat the larger bars.


Things to buy in China

There are many opportunities to go to Walmart or a local grocery store to buy things you might need. Our guides took us in both Guiyang City and Guangzhou, but we were also able to find them on our own after asking the hotel concierge for directions.

• Bottled Water

Again, you can't drink the water in China (brushing teeth is ok), so you will probably want to get a case of water. Don't overdo it though- every hotel we stayed at would supply us with 3 new bottles every day.

• Paper towels

3 kids and 2 adults in 1 hotel room. Spills happen. I wish I would have just had a couple rolls of paper towels!

• Sippy cups (if your child doesn't like what you brought)

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They didn't have a huge selection in China, but we were able to find one with a straw that Lucy could use well once we realized she did not need to be drinking from the bottle we were given by her foster mother. If there had been any indication that she needed to continue to use it for emotional support, we would have been glad to continue using it- but she saw our other kids' water bottles and immediately forgot about the bottle.

• Crackers & Snacks

We bought Lucy drinkable yogurt (which she loves and is super popular there), rice crackers and several other snacks to keep in our room. We actually overbought and had to leave some food there- so I would say don't go overboard.

• Bubbles

We loved playing with bubbles and they were easy to find and inexpensive in China. I had packed some, but I wished I hadn't and saved that space/weight for something else and then purchased bubbles while we were there. 


Unnecessary Items

• Bulky/large strollers

• More than a couple pairs of shoes

• Face mask for smog (if you want one, they are readily available)

• Umbrella (you can borrow one from the hotel)

• Car seats (these just don't exist in China, haha!)


Cultural differences

Lastly, I want to share a few random tips if it's your first time visiting China, and a few things we learned while on our adoption trip.

• It's not rude to stare, or speak up

Just prepare yourself for it. If you are caucasian, you're going to get stared at. Don't take it too personally- because it's not considered rude to stare in China and most people are just genuinely curious. When we did engage people who were staring, they were very nice for the most part. It's also not rude for someone to offer you their opinion, even if you have no idea what they are saying. Chinese like to keep their little ones in several layers of clothing, so if you take your kids out in any less than 2 shirts and a jacket, there will inevitably be a little old woman that needs to tell you to put some more clothes on your child. :) 

• Appointments and work hours are different

We were both amazed and frustrated at how quickly and how long some appointments took. Some were more formal than others- and sometimes we'd need to run to a random office to sign something or get passport photos. Our guides were very trustworthy and knowledgeable, but sometimes it felt a little chaotic, and that's just the result of how things work in China. One exception was our appointment at the U.S. Consulate- which was exactly on time.

• Translation requires patience

Most people spoke some English, but there were many times when we needed things to be translated for us. Our guides/translators were super helpful, but it required us to add an extra dose of patience into every conversation. Most people were incredibly patient and helpful with us- but it was frustrating to wonder how well something was being translated, waiting for the translation, and the fact that everything took longer because of that. Our American culture wanted everything to be more efficient, but because we had the privilege of a translator, we had to chill out and be more patient with every conversation.

• No air conditioning

So many people laughed at us because we were always commenting on the heat! Our hotels had air conditioning but one in particular was quite warm. We did request a fan from the lobby and very quickly had a large fan delivered- complete with ice cubes in it to cool us off! So, just so you know- air conditioning is not the norm.

• Walmart! And Starbucks!

If you've made it this far, you've seen me post about Walmart- but there are also several other western familiarities- especially in Guangzhou. Starbucks, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC...lots of familiar things for when you get a craving. However, these restaurants are more expensive AND you'd be missing out on the delicious local food if you just stick with what you know. 

• Check front desk for fees

Before checking out, be sure to check the front desk to see if there have been any fees associated with your room you might not be aware of. In two of our hotels, there were unknown fees and we needed our guide to help us sort them out with the hotel before we checked out. I am assuming this is pretty common, so I'd want to be sure to check while a translator is there to help.


Whew! I hope that was helpful. Of course, I still feel like I am missing a few things. Here are a few other packing lists I referenced that were very helpful:

No Hands But Ours                Mix and Match Mama

 

our adoption trip • part 4

Adoption, TRAVELlissa-anglin4 Comments

If you're just tuning in, here's Part 1 (Beijing), Part 2 (Gotcha Day), & Part 3 (Lucy's city).  

Our last leg of the trip was in Guangzhou, China- which is where every American adoptive family in China ends up before they can leave the country with their new child. Why? Because that is where the U.S. Consulate is, and you have to obtain a visa for your child before you can leave. 

So, Lucy boarded her very first flight and did great. It was only about a 3 hour flight. 

Knox and Dad were asleep like this before we even took off! Haha

Knox and Dad were asleep like this before we even took off! Haha

Guangzhou is further south than Lucy's city and we'd been told it was a more tropical environment, which honestly made it feel a little bit more like vacation in a way. The vegetation was beautiful and the city itself was very clean. We learned that they are a no-motorbike city, so that cleared up a lot of crazy traffic, pollution, and noise. Instead there were bicycles everywhere, which I enjoyed photographing. They have a popular rent-a-bike system there so you'd see rows and rows of them ready for riders.

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There were far more Westernized things, too- probably a result of the many international visitors over the years. McDonald's was right next to our hotel and most people spoke English. There was Pizza Hut, Starbucks (in our hotel!), and 7 Eleven. 

When we arrived in the evening after our flight from Lucy's city, we were a little travel-worn and hungry. The China Hotel by Marriott has a beautiful, large lobby and as we were checking in we were greeted by an American man (also in line) with a smile that said, "Checking in? We've been here a week and it's great. You must stop by the Muslim noodle shop down the street. It's delicious!" Hearing his American English and reassuring understanding of where we were at (emotionally and physically) was so wonderful. And he was right- the Muslim noodle place (a simple noodle shop owned by Muslim Chinese) was my favorite restaurant of the trip! I think we ate there 3 or 4 times that week, haha.

All week, we continued to meet adoptive family after adoptive family- and literally everyone was so incredibly nice. It was neat to hear their stories and relate. I was so encouraged by them and because of that this was my favorite week in the journey. 

One of the first things we noticed when we walked into the hotel was THE staircase. The one we'd collectively seen in our agency's posts of families who had completed their adoptions. They were seated on a red staircase, smiling. I'd never known where that staircase existed, haha- but there it was, in all it's glory, and WE WERE GOING TO SIT ON IT AND TAKE A PICTURE, because we had DONE THIS THING! 

This was our travel group- some of the best people I am so thankful we know and call friends!

This was our travel group- some of the best people I am so thankful we know and call friends!

I also have to mention the breakfast. Ya'll- it was included in our stay every morning- and it was the nicest breakfast buffet I've ever seen! They were used to accommodating families with kids, so they had plenty of high chairs and delicious food and espresso.

One of the first appointments we had in Guangzhou was Lucy's medical appointment. All children being adopted are required to have a medical exam before leaving, and so my parents kept the big kids while we took Lucy. She did great, except when they had to draw blood for a TB test. She cried for a bit but was ok pretty quickly- that was one of the first times I realized that we had one tough little girl.

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One evening we got to take a River Cruise down the Pearl River. It was beautiful to see the city lit up at night. Our guide had ordered pizza for us to take and eat on the boat, and there must have been a little bit lost in translation- because our chicken pizza was MOVING! Haha- check out the video below. We found out later that those are actually dried fish flakes reacting to the heat. My mom ate some and liked it, but everyone else was too chicken. Or fish....get it?!?

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The next day was possibly the most fun of the trip- we visited the Chimelong Safari Park and it was amazing! They had so many animals to see and even though it rained on us we all really enjoyed it. 

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We were so excited to see PANDAS!

We were so excited to see PANDAS!

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We also got to visit the Chen Family Temple, which is beautiful and ornate. I purchased some keepsakes for Lucy here- a Chinese knot we will use as an ornament that has a monkey painted on it (her birth year was the year of the monkey), and a stone carved stamp with her English and Chinese name. Our guide also took us to the pearl market, which was a neat experience. I got to pick out pearls and have them made into bracelets and earrings for the girls- they made them right in front of us! Knox said he'd prefer something else :).

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He has been the sweetest big brother!

He has been the sweetest big brother!

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Bath time at the hotel!

Bath time at the hotel!

Another photo I was hell-bent on having. :) We love the Kickee Pants brand and when I found out they had a panda print I knew I had to get some pjs to take to China.

Another photo I was hell-bent on having. :) We love the Kickee Pants brand and when I found out they had a panda print I knew I had to get some pjs to take to China.

We also spent a lot of time just hanging out around the hotel and exploring the neighborhood nearby. We walked through this alley at dusk one night and I knew I just had to go back to photograph it- because it perfectly encapsulated China- all the hustle and bustle, colors and smells. I want Lucy to remember these things, so I photographed them as best I could.

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Yep, this is how you buy your meat. No refrigeration needed.

Yep, this is how you buy your meat. No refrigeration needed.

We also got to go to Shamian Island- a part of Guangzhou that was once under British rule and has some beautiful buildings and landscaping. And also Starbucks, which we were excited about. 

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Knox's souvenir from the Safari Park was a lemur tail, so he wore it everywhere after that, haha. Also super thankful we brought our stroller to carry all our bags!

Knox's souvenir from the Safari Park was a lemur tail, so he wore it everywhere after that, haha. Also super thankful we brought our stroller to carry all our bags!

We are forever bonded with these couples from our travel group. Not only do our children share histories, but now we do, too!

We are forever bonded with these couples from our travel group. Not only do our children share histories, but now we do, too!

Another photo I was insistent on! This sculpture on Shamian Island is visited by most of the adoptive families that come to China and it was a rite of passage for me! I could cry seeing my THREE right there!

Another photo I was insistent on! This sculpture on Shamian Island is visited by most of the adoptive families that come to China and it was a rite of passage for me! I could cry seeing my THREE right there!

Lots and lots of walking- lots and lots of transportation. Helped justify all those noodles we were eating!

Lots and lots of walking- lots and lots of transportation. Helped justify all those noodles we were eating!

After our appointment at the U.S. Consulate, we decided to go swimming at the hotel pool. I'm pretty sure it was Lucy's first time in the water, and she was pretty nervous at first, but then calmed down and started enjoying it when she saw Knox and Liv doing so.

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We also ventured out to a local park which was just down the street from the hotel. It was beautiful and I couldn't get over the unique flowers we were seeing.

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Finally, we had Lucy's passport, visa, and clearance to go home! The night before our flight, we took a train to Hong Kong. It was a little crazy carrying 7 people and alllllll our baggage, but we did it! 

Lots of toys and snacks were handy on the train!

Lots of toys and snacks were handy on the train!

The next day we arrived at the ticket counter several hours before our flight, ready to check in. It was at that moment we realized that somehow we had lost Shawn's passport. And I mean LOST. It was not in any of our baggage. It wasn't in the hotel room we'd checked out of. Shawn was running through the airport retracing steps and calling the hotel concierge. Ya'll- this is when I ALMOST had a full out panic attack. I'm so glad my mom was there to calm me and help with the kids. Shawn's name was on every adoption document and Lucy wasn't officially a U.S. citizen until we went through customs in the U.S. I was PANICKING. My dad remembered that we'd changed money the night before and went to that counter to see if they'd found a passport- and THANK YOU JESUS- they had it! Major crisis averted. The grace of God on our family. This photo is Shawn's face getting back in the check-in line- whew! 

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The flight home was long but uneventful. We were able to fly straight into Dallas which was wonderful. One more short flight to Lubbock and we were HOME! Our friends at home had done such a wonderful job taking care of us when we weren't even there. Our dogs and home were fed and clean, fresh groceries and freezer meals were in the fridge- they even fixed my car battery when it wouldn't start up after a few weeks off! We were greeted by some of them at the airport, and it was so sweet. 

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My sweet sister circled the DFW airport for 2.5 hours just to meet us in line for a few minutes. It was so great to see her face!

My sweet sister circled the DFW airport for 2.5 hours just to meet us in line for a few minutes. It was so great to see her face!

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I still can't believe we actually went and came home with a new daughter. Our time in China was hard, wonderful, and precious. If you've tuned in this whole time, thank you for reading- and please feel free to comment with your questions- I love sharing our experiences and have been so encouraged by others who have gone before us, so I want to do the same.

I plan on continuing to post on other aspects of our adoption- like our packing list- very soon!

our adoption trip • part 2 (gotcha day)

Adoption, TRAVELlissa-anglinComment

Check out Part 1 here in case you missed it. :)

We arrived in Lucy's city the night before we would meet her, which was great and gave us a chance to get settled in at our new hotel. The next day, we were told to be ready by 1:30 p.m. Every minute before 1:30 was just plain full of anxiety for me. I wasn’t myself- could hardly eat and my parenting was definitely lacking. I’m so thankful my parents were here and that Shawn is generally chill in every situation. Poor Knox had not been feeling well the day before and really took a turn for the worse that morning- turning white as a sheet as we waited to head to the Civil Affairs office. I am SO thankful we had my parents in that situation- they dutifully took care of our sweet boy the whole time so that we could focus. 


A quick note on the term "Gotcha Day": I realize that some families choose not to use this term because it could seem offensive or insensitive- as if a person is something that can be owned or purchased. I totally get that, and am so NOT ok with those insinuations. However, for simplicity's sake our family has chosen to use the term "gotcha day" just to reference this very special day in which Lucy officially became part of our family and was adopted. Our purpose in using this term is only to pinpoint the much-anticipated day where we got to hold Lucy for the first time. We don't intend to hurt or offend and respect those who choose not to use this term.


About 1:00 pm, they let us know that we actually didn’t need to go until 2. Ugh. So, finally, 2:00 rolled around and we all piled into the van. Knox was losing color in his face and only wanted to sleep. Poor guy- we didn’t have any choice but to drag him along. There was such a tension among all of the families in our group- though we all tried to laugh and say positive things, but the unknown was at the forefront of our thoughts. We weren't sure who would be there- foster parents, orphanage directors, random civil affairs workers- we had been told it varies. And what would happen? Crying? Likely. It was like preparing for intentional heartbreak, knowing it was the right thing. In those moments, we had to lean on Jesus, and trust that He had brought us to that place, and He knew best. 

Just before we went up the elevator to meet Lucy. Check out my I'm-about-to-puke-I'm-so-nervous smile. I don't know why I even tried! Ha!

Just before we went up the elevator to meet Lucy. Check out my I'm-about-to-puke-I'm-so-nervous smile. I don't know why I even tried! Ha!

Once we arrived, we had to take an elevator up to the correct floor of the huge office building. We'd had grand plans of how we would capture this moment of meeting, and even had my dad prepped with the camera- but got pushed onto separate elevators and so our videos are pretty haphazard- which is really more how it all felt, anyway. Once we stepped off the elevator, we were immediately directed into the Civil Affairs office, which I recognized from some photos from other families, and as we walked in, I saw the silhouette of a little girl with pigtails being held by a woman who looked a lot like Lucy’s foster mother.

Lucy had been in foster care most of her life- and we had been told that her foster parents may or may not be there on gotcha day. I was excited at the chance to meet and talk with such a special lady. Sure enough, the woman recognized us- and we recognized Lucy. It all happened extremely fast. All three families along with their adoptive children and foster parents were lead into a separate room. For us, there were no tears shed in those minutes— not Lucy, Shawn, nor me. Lucy’s foster mother was smiling and talking up a storm to me- I wish I knew what she was telling me about! She pointed to me and said, “mama”. She pointed to Shawn and said, “baba”. Eventually I got to hold Lucy- just for a bit- and then she wanted her foster mother back. We did this routine a few times until finally Lucy let me hold her for a while. 

Lucy's foster mother- God bless this sweet woman!

Lucy's foster mother- God bless this sweet woman!

It was clear to me that Lucy’s foster mother was not new to this gig at all- and I really believe she contributed so much to the good experience we’ve had in these first few weeks with Lucy. She smiled and talked so positively about our daughter- answered our questions as best she could (we had some time with her and the translator to ask questions). When we asked if there was anything she wanted to tell us, she told us that Lucy is a very good girl- not spoiled, and happy with company. I saw her wipe away a few tears as she bounced Lucy and made her smile. She handed me some yogurt, a bottle, some formula and a few diapers, and before Lucy could realize it, she was gone. I didn’t get to say all of the profound things I’d planned on- but I didn’t need to. I think she knew what all my “thank you”s meant. 

Knox and Liv were so sweet and had a bag of toys ready to go!

Knox and Liv were so sweet and had a bag of toys ready to go!

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Lucy fell asleep soon after this and so I was able to put her in the Tula carrier and watch some of the paperwork that Shawn was now involved in completing. There was a lot of signing and thumbprinting. The other sweet babies that were being adopted that day cried in the background and their mommas fought very hard to comfort them. I was so shocked that we hadn’t yet had any crying on our side that I wasn’t sure what to do- so I ended up praying for the other families during that time and I’m so glad I was able to. It honestly calmed me down just to be reminded where our help and strength comes from!

Finally and all of a sudden (yes, that’s how it felt- both long and fast at the same time)- we were told to come sit together in front of a red background for a photo. Knox was still feeling awful but was able to join us all for a quick photo. We went over some more details with our agency’s representative and then, it was time to go!

Always more paperwork to be done!

Always more paperwork to be done!

It was completely surreal to walk out of that building with a beautiful little girl who I’d stared at in photos for months, but didn’t actually know. She woke up and was melancholy. Her eyes stared blankly at anything but me. She didn’t cry. She just absorbed. Such a brave little soul.

Our photo for her official adoption documents. Lucy was basically still asleep during this photo, haha!

Our photo for her official adoption documents. Lucy was basically still asleep during this photo, haha!

Shawn and I walked down the street with our guide and the other parents and kids just after our meeting to take some passport photos. She just stared at us so solemnly. I will never forget that surreal feeling- standing there in the urban jungle of Lucy's city- soaking in the sounds and the realization that we have THREE kids!

Shawn and I walked down the street with our guide and the other parents and kids just after our meeting to take some passport photos. She just stared at us so solemnly. I will never forget that surreal feeling- standing there in the urban jungle of Lucy's city- soaking in the sounds and the realization that we have THREE kids!

Sweet Knox- he was such a trooper this whole day, even though he felt awful. Liv, of course, could NOT get enough of her new sister.

Sweet Knox- he was such a trooper this whole day, even though he felt awful. Liv, of course, could NOT get enough of her new sister.

Once we were back to the hotel (we took a trip to Walmart right after we received Lucy to get a few necessities for her), Lucy perked up and played for a while with Liv. Their giggles were (and still are) such a beautiful thing to hear. Going to bed that night was quite a long and hard process, but Lucy eventually snuggled up to Shawn and it has been better and better every night since. 

Playing at the hotel.

Playing at the hotel.

Looking back on it now, I will remember Gotcha Day as a long, hard, beautiful day- and a reminder that God is so, so good to us. I was so thankful that we could carry His peace with us- knowing that even if we couldn't comfort Lucy, He could. He was our reassurance to take the next step and trust Him in every unknown. Even Knox who felt terrible was sustained and healed in the days to come. He SO had our backs. No detail was new or a surprise to Him, and that gave me immense peace on one of the most stressful days of my life- not to mention my new daughter's. Again- He is so, so good. 

More of our journey to come!

our adoption trip • part 1

Adoption, TRAVELlissa-anglin1 Comment

We've been home just a few days from our trip to China to receive Lucy and bring her home. I had hoped to blog while in China, but it was too difficult to get reliable internet service- plus I was just plain exhausted at the end of every day. I remember realizing at about day 10 that I hadn't actually had any introspective thoughts that I could recall for the majority of the trip- which is so unlike my normal rhythm. I was just in pure survival mode most of the time. 

So, I journaled my thoughts as much as I could while we were there and promised to blog later- in hopes that I might have a more well-rounded perspective looking back. 

Our adoption trip took place in 3 cities- Beijing, Guiyang City (Lucy's birthplace), and Guangzhou. This is our first adoption, but believe that most adoption trips follow a similar format. 

A couple of interesting facts about the trip:

- Only 1 trip is required, and from the time we met Lucy, she stayed with us.

- We didn't know our travel dates until about 2 weeks before we left (which was a little stressful seeing as we are approaching our busiest work season with weddings). Our dates hinged upon our appointment date with the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, which would issue Lucy's visa to come to the U.S. Once we got our appointment, we were able to set travel dates and book our flights. 

- Speaking of flights, it's complicated. We had 6 total in our party going, 7 coming back, with no round trips and restrictions on which countries we could have layovers in coming home due to immigration laws. We consider ourselves pretty travel savvy and have booked many a flight in our time, but when we literally had hours to book flights to China for 7 people, we reached out to adoptionairfare.com and they were AMAZING. They were able to get us better flight schedules and humanitarian rates lower than we'd seen anywhere online- and they were extremely fast. After we contacted them, we had flights booked in about 5 hours. I would highly recommend them!

LUBBOCK -> BEIJING

The upper left photo was our last meal in Lubbock as a family of four.

The upper left photo was our last meal in Lubbock as a family of four.

We had an early flight out of Lubbock on a Thursday morning. I'd literally been packing for two weeks and was a ball of nerves- worried that somehow we'd miss our flight or forget something essential. Our courteous friend Brandon picked up Shawn, Knox, Liv and I in a borrowed 15 passenger van (nothing else would fit all our luggage!) at 5:30 a.m. and then we headed over to pick up my parents.

-When we began our adoption journey 5 years ago, we had an almost 3 year old son (Knox) and wanted to treat this trip as if we would a visit to the hospital when a new sibling is born. We'd always envisioned him being there when we went to get his sister. When Liv was born two years into the process, that changed a bit and we felt like she would be too young to go when we went. Time passed, though, and God spoke to both Shawn and I separately about it. A month or so before we received our referral phone call, we decided to take Liv as well, now that she was old enough to possibly remember, and to help ease a new one into our family. So, once we knew we were actually going to China, we decided we would need some HELP. And thankfully- oh, SO thankfully- my parents were willing and eager to come with us.-

The flight over went really well- we had plenty of fun toys packed for the kids in their backpacks and plenty of movies and games on the 13 hour flight to Beijing. China is 13 hours ahead of Texas, so it is literally like doing a 180 when you travel to China. To help with the jetlag, we gave the kids melatonin for the first few days which helped get them to sleep at the right time. 

One of the best parts about the trip is that we had to plan little to nothing- our agency did it all for us. This is really not my usual approach to any trip or vacation, but there are so many appointments and unfamiliar territories that it was extremely helpful. We were given an itinerary the week before we left. The first two days in Beijing were meant to get over jetlag before meeting Lucy and experience some Chinese culture. I couldn't wait to watch my family experience China!

Dinner our first night in Beijing! You could see right into the kitchen at the restaurant we went to and watch them make your dumplings. Delicious!

Dinner our first night in Beijing! You could see right into the kitchen at the restaurant we went to and watch them make your dumplings. Delicious!

Our agency plans travel in groups, which I thought was a little unusual until we got there. In the end, I was so thankful for these two other families- a husband and wife with their 8 year old daughter from Maine, and another couple from Nebraska with 3 other children who stayed home. They were all so extremely nice and low-key- journeying with us the entire trip. The very best part about group travel is having someone to talk to face-to-face who is going through the same experience with you. You already know what each other has been through just to get to this point, so I already had a lot of respect for them from the beginning- not to mention after 2 emotional, draining weeks.

After eating breakfast at the hotel (which was quite decent and had great espresso!), we boarded our bus for Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (where the emperor used to live). I had seen Tiananmen before, but never been inside to the Forbidden City. It was a good bit of culture shock- the sheer amount of people and crowds were astounding. We had many stares (it’s not rude to stare in China)- especially Liv with her blonde hair- and people asking to take photos with her. She handled this okay- though I’m not sure anyone got a smile out of her, haha! 

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If you know my dad, you won't be surprised that he made some friends himself :).

If you know my dad, you won't be surprised that he made some friends himself :).

It was really neat to see how huge the Forbidden City is and amazing to imagine it when the emperor lived and ruled from there. Everything is incredibly ornate and expansive. We probably walked 3 miles that morning before heading to lunch. After lunch we visited the Summer Palace, which was a much less formal environment- still huge and ornate- but more gardens and trees- and it sits on a lake which makes for a beautiful view. 

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We got to eat a Peking Duck dinner that night- it was delicious- but by 8 pm, our kids were asleep at the table and we were all exhausted. We were all wide awake at about 3 am that next morning, but a little melatonin got us back to sleep- at least until it was acceptable to eat breakfast. :)

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The second day, we needed to pack up all of our things again (not the easiest feat with 6 people!) and be ready to go by 8:30 am. So, so thankful for that espresso in the lobby restaurant! We headed to the Great Wall. It was a gorgeous day- no clouds and 70 degrees. I have been to the Great Wall a couple of times before but never this section. It was SO incredibly steep! I had Liv strapped to my back in the carrier (here's a similar one) and I am so glad we had that- the thought of her running free on those uneven, crowded steps makes my anxiety level rise even now. At some portions of the wall, the steps were a foot tall and so steep all you could see was the next steps in front of you. I was so impressed with my parents who climbed up further than we did! By the time we descended, our legs were complete jello but we could at least say we’d done it. 

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Knox was so excited to wear his school tshirt on the Great Wall and send them a photo.

Knox was so excited to wear his school tshirt on the Great Wall and send them a photo.

That afternoon we walked the National Stadium area where the 2008 Olympics were held. The structures there were amazing and they also had some cool sculptures. Then, it was time to get to the airport to board our flight to Lucy's city.

I was so thankful we had our AWAA guide with us to help us with our domestic flight. We were a large group and had been given very vague details on baggage requirements from the airline- so there was some chaos and moving things around from bag to bag. Before leaving, our guide, Summer, gave us some special shirts she had designed for our kids with their Chinese names on it. I think we all cried before we turned to enter security. 

The sakura blooms were all over and so beautiful!

The sakura blooms were all over and so beautiful!

Security for this flight was no joke. Maybe it’s because we were totally exhausted from all the activity the two days before or just emotional at the weight of what was about to come- but I felt a little violated after getting out of that line, haha! I had been patted down, asked about every piece of carry-on luggage I had, and they ran my backpack through the scanner 4 times! Ugh. We saw McDonald’s on the way to our gate and shoved french fries in our faces to cope as Chinese men and women just stared. Who even knows what they were thinking about all those Americans with their McDonald’s! I just didn’t care at that point. 

Our seats were at the very back of the plane, and it was a late flight with a rough landing and mystery food. The kids slept the whole time, which was great. Once we arrived, though, things got better. 

Liv was enamored with the city lights at night.

Liv was enamored with the city lights at night.

Stay tuned for part 2!