Saturday, April 30, 2016

Packing is an art. (#adoptionpackinglist)


Packing is my jam. 
I love it. 
The planning and organizing and strategically placing all the right things in all the right places-- 
I love all of it. 
Actually, I think it's the fact that I like being prepared. 

*NOTE: I'm writing this post before I bring my girl home b/c I have the time to write it now but plan on being too busy with her to write it when I get home. However, I will edit it to reflect any recommendations once we are home and settled. 

This will be my fifth trip to Africa, 
and I've learned a thing or two about what I really need versus what will waste space in my suitcase. 
And when I did some searching for African adoption packing lists, the posts were in short supply.
This will probably bore most of my readers, 
but it helps even one Africa-bound traveler or adoptive mom, 
then it will be more than worth the time it took to write it. 

Please note that I am not an over-packer. 
I know what I can get in-country and would rather not carry things I won't use. 

Okay, so first here's what I'm packing in: 

-1 large suitcase (This will weigh 50 lbs. or less and will be checked and stored under the plane.)
-1 carry-on, small suitcase (This has my adoption paperwork and enough food and clothes to sustain me and Evie should my check bag be delayed.)
-1 Kavu sling bag (This will be my personal item that will sit under the seat in front of me. It has all the things I will need on the plane in it.)

NOTE: This list will vary from one person to the next. Everyone has different food preferences, medical needs, and comforts of home. Also, the list will vary depending on the age of you child and whether he or she has any special needs or medical issues. My daughter is between 2-3 years old and has no known medical issues. 

Okay, so here's what's in each bag: 

LARGE SUITCASE: 

RANDOM ITEMS: 

-1 roll of paper towels 
-3 small washcloths
-2 towels (The towels in Africa are notoriously bad. I always take one with me to Africa and then leave it there. This frees up room in my suitcase for souvenirs.)
-1 hand towel (to use for washing my face, brushing our teeth, etc. This could also be used for cooking.)
- 2 travel packs of Lysol wipes
-2 packs of baby wipes
-1 package of disposable bowls (Bowls can be used in place of plates, but not vice versa. These are invaluable in Congo b/c the water isn't safe to drink or wash dishes with.)
- a few packs of disposable cutlery
- a few child-sized spoons and forks
-a sippy cup ( I suggest bringing two different styles in case your child prefers one over the other. Also, when I met Emily, she knew how to drink out of a regular cup and did so much better than my bio babies, but we needed a non-spill cup for when we were out and about, and I'll want one for Evie on the plane ride home.)
-a water bottle for me for in-country use
-several Ziploc bags of various sizes
-3-4 packs of travel-size disinfecting hand wipes (These are way better than liquid germ-x, as they remove dirt AND germs.)
-a blanket for Evie (She has most likely never had air-conditioning and will be much colder on the plane, etc. than I will be.)
-shampoo and conditioner for me and Evie
-coconut oil for Evie's skin and hair
-a non-tangle brush for Evie and one for me


FOOD: 

TIP: I pack anything that's crushable in tupperware containers to keep them in one piece. 

-a bag of goldfish
-several squeezie packs of baby food (Even toddlers enjoy these. They don't require utensils. They're a great way to get some veggies into your kid.)
-a package of suckers (These are great for keeping your little quiet while you're meeting with government officials, etc. They're also good for little ears on airplane rides.)
-Fiber One Brownies (It's hard to find vegetables I can eat in Africa that won't make me sick, and a girl needs her fiber. This is my compromise when I travel.)
-a few packs of travel-size trail mix
-2-3 bags of beef jerky 
-2-3 boxes of raisins for Evie
-instant coffee individual packets  (I CAN'T STAND airplane coffee but can't stand the thought of traveling without coffee.)
-individual coffee creamers 
-Propel drink mixes 
-Crystal Light packs with caffeine (These tend to help when I'm feeling jet-lagged.)
-several packs of oatmeal (I like the kind with extra protein.)
- all the bars (They're easy to carry around when you're out and about, and you don't have to touch them to eat them. I try to bring some that are packed with protein.)
-several packs of individual peanut butter (These are great for little ones. They can eat them with a spoon, and then you can just throw them away. They also take a little longer to eat and are more filling than crackers, etc.)
-canned chicken with pop-top lids 
-rice (I usually bring instant b/c it's easier to cook if you simply have access to hot water.)
-instant mashed potatoes (also good with just hot water access)
-tortillas (easier to pack and last longer than bread. Plus, I actually LOVE the bread I've eaten in African countries, so I try to buy some when I can. These can be used with peanut butter or chicken.)
- a can of Pringles (comfort food, and the can helps keep them in tact)
-Belvita breakfast crackers (Blueberry is my favorite.)
-two pre-packaged camping meals that one require adding boiling water
-some candy and chocolate (Comfort food :) )

MEDICINE: 

- tweezers
-band-aids
-toddler safe Vapo-rub stick 
-toddler tylenol (chewable)
-toddler benadryl (chewable) 
-toddler cold and cough medicine (chewable) 
- Lotrimin for ringworm
- a lice kit
-precription cream for Scabies
-children's Pepto
-children's Bonine (for motion sickness)
-Neosporin
-adult Advil
-adult Pepto
-immodium (I've taken this every time and never had to use it, but better safe than sorry.)
-Cipro (prescription antibiotic I'll take if I have stomach troubles or anything else until I can get home to a doctor)
- prescription malaria meds (I prefer Malarone.)
-Melatonin (adult and children's for the trip home for Evie and for me as needed)
-Pedialyte drink mixes (These are for Evie, but I'll use them if I worry about being dehydrated.)
-bug bite itch stick 
-travel size essential oils (Thieves, Lavender, DigestZen, bug repellent oil, Tea Tree oil to repel lice)
-adult cold and sinus meds
-Vitamin C chews for the plane
-adult motion sick meds (Again, I've never had to use these, but better safe than sorry.)
-sunscreen (Whether or not you wear in at home, you will want sunscreen when you meet the sun over Africa.)
-razor
-q-tips
-bar of antibacterial soap
-small pair of scissors

CLOTHES (Mom): 

--1 pair of flips flops (I can wear these in the room or to step outside, etc. But be careful about wearing flip flops in villages; there are many parasites in African countries that enter the body through the feet.)
-1 pair of Converse (which I'll wear on the plane and everyday in country. Any closed toe shoes that you prefer would work though if you're not a Converse fan.)
-2-3 long skirts ( You actually don't have to wear these in bigger cities, but I think they're cooler than pants.)
-5 t-shirts
-1 nicer shirt that I can wear if I have to go to the Embassy
-2-3 pairs of pajamas (I always pack something I can sleep in and wear around the hotel, usually Nike shorts and a pair of leggings and t-shirts)
-1 pair of socks in case it's cold at night (I don't wear them with my Converse.)
-1 rain jacket (I will wear this on the plane coming and going.)
-1 pair of jeans (I will travel in these.) 
-unmentionables (Don't forget these, as you'll have a heck of a time finding them in country!)

CLOTHES (Evie): 

-10 pairs of panties (You can't have enough of these.)
-5 pair of socks 
-3 pairs of shoes in different sizes, since I'm not sure what size she'll actually need
-7 outfits (a mix of dresses, leggings, and tops. I think I know her size, but I'm not sure, so with a mix, I'm more likely to be able to make it work.)
-a sweater for the plane ride home
-a few hair accessories
-5 pairs of pajamas

SMALL, CARRY-ON SUITCASE: 

-Adoption paperwork
-neck pillow for the plane (I highly recommend this. Sleep is precious on an airplane.)
-a converter and phone charger
-my DSLR camera and charger (don't forget your memory card!)
-a change of clothes for me and Evie
-a hairbrush
-a quart size Ziploc bag of liquids (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, contact solution, mouthwash, travel size container of coconut oil)
-a Ziploc full of a few diapers (for bedtime and travel home) 
-my make-up bag (for the trip home) 
- Evie's Ergo (I'm packing this here instead of my suitcase b/c I can't replace in country if my bag doesn't arrive.)
- a thin diaper changing pad for the plane ride home with Evie


KAVU SLING BAG:

-my headphones (the airplane ones are terribly uncomfortable. Mine are comfortable enough to sleep in and help block out the unwanted airplane noises when I'm sleeping.)
-a pair of compression socks (These are one item would NEVER leave behind! They are such a game changer for long flights!)
-all the snacks (Airplane food is lame.)
-a sleep mask (Again, sleep is at the top of the priority list on an airplane.)
-my I-pod
-a black ink pen to fill out my customs info on the plane
- small notebook with the address of where I"ll be staying inside of it (also for customs info)
-chapstick (Another item I'd NEVER leave behind!)
-meds (Melatonin, malaria pills, Advil, sinus/allergy/cold meds, Vitamin C pills)
-travel pack of Kleenex
-Germ-X
-antibacterial wipes to wipe my seat tray, armrests, and hands with on the plane (In real life, I'm not a germaphobe AT ALL, but put me on an airplane, and it's a totally different story.)
-my cell phone (and a USB cord in case I can charge it on the plane) 
-gum
-a small toothbrush and some Wisps disposable travel toothbrushes


TRAVEL ENTERTAINMENT ITEMS FOR EVIE: 

-a small backpack in my suitcase for her to carry on the way home
-a small container of play-doh
-stickers
-a package of pipe cleaners
-a small toy car
-a Barbie doll
-a small baby doll
-balloons
-some volume control headphones (I normally wouldn't encourage my toddler to watch TV, but when you're traveling for about thirty hours, you do what you have to do.)
-crayons and a coloring book
-magie wonder markers and a magic wonder coloring book
-some Silly Putty
-a ziploc full of little plastic toy animals

On the way home, I will use her backpack several changes of clothes for her, diapers, a pair of pajamas for the plane for her, and as many snacks for her as I can fit in it.


I hope this is helpful to someone one day. And if you're an African adoptive mom who has any additional tips, please leave them in the comments!


Sometimes love wins.

There are so many things to say, and I've been having ALL THE FEELS lately, but let's just sum it up and start at the beginning, shall we? 


Three years ago, we answered God's call to adopt a little girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We knew this process wouldn't be easy, but we NEVER imagined it would be this hard...or this good.


In September of 2013, we saw the face of a beautiful little girl, and we just knew that she was ours. We accepted her referral and began the court process for our Emily. And in January of 2015, I went and spent ten days with her. Loving Emily was so easy, and we were blessed to call her our daughter for eighteen months. 

On May 19th of that same year,  we lost our beloved Emily when she was reunited with her birth family. That phone call knocked the wind out of our chests. It was so unexpected. It was so out of the blue. It was so painful. And it was so good.

Good, you say?
Yes.
Good.

On May 19th,2015, in the same minute that we lost Emily, our agency told us about another little girl in desperate need of a family.

Another little girl?
What?


Another little girl. 


Even though this certainly wasn't our plan, it wasn't really a question of IF as much as WHEN.

God didn't call us to adoption because of Emily;
God called us to adoption because there is a little girl out there in need of a family.

We still have room in our home; we still have room in our hearts; we still have room in our family.
And there is still a little girl in need of a home. None of those things have changed. 

We  aren't going to lie or sugarcoat it; saying yes to Evie was HARD. While we felt so blessed at the opportunity to say yes, it would have been so much easier to say no. What if someone heard our story and was too scared to yes to adoption? What if we couldn't love Evie the same way we loved Emily? What if she NEVER comes home? What if we lose her too? It was, to put it mildly, a lot. 

We had a choice to make. And in August of 2015, after taking some time to pray and seek God's direction for our family, we said yes to Evie and accepted her referral. Evie wasn't our original plan, but God has confirmed time and time again that she was ALWAYS His plan. And we know without a doubt that His plans are ALWAYS better than anything we can attempt to come up with. During these past twelve months, we have fallen so in love with our Evie. Her name, Evelyn, means 'longed for child', and that is nothing short of true.

During the past three years, a lot of people have told us how admirable we are or how wonderful we are. They've thrown around words like brave and bold and awesome. While those words are very nice, and we recognize that they are coming from a place of love, we have simply been obedient. We turned away from what would have been easy and safe and said yes to Jesus instead. 

We don't feel brave. We don't feel awesome. We certainly don't feel like heroes. We feel BLESSED. We get to be a part of God's beautiful story of redemption for this beautiful daughter of His. We get to be her mother, father, and sisters. We get to call her OURS. WHAT A GIFT IS THAT! 

God is so much bigger and better and mightier than we can even begin to understand. And we have seen His goodness in all things. Even in the loss of time and energy, even through all the tears and frustration, even through the heart-ache of losing one daughter to gain another, He was there. He is so immensely good. But please hear us when we say that even if our story never has a happy ending, HE IS STILL THAT GOOD.

And it's with the biggest smiles on our faces and hearts FULL of joy that we can say that God has made a way through what has seemed like an impossible situation for so so long; OUR DAUGHTER IS COMING HOME....SOON!  He has moved mountains to get her here, and her coming home is nothing short of a miracle.


We literally went from wondering if she would ever come home and thinking that our adoption journey might never have the happy ending we so long for to be packed and ready for a call to travel in three weeks time. 



Needless to say, it's been a little crazy around here---in literally the best way possible.


MY DAUGHTER IS COMING HOME!!!!!!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

And then she was two.


Today, 
on the other side of the world, 
my daughter I have yet to meet turns two. 

It's such a strange feeling, 
loving someone so much whom I've never actually met. 

It's also hard for someone who loves birthdays as much as I do to think about the fact that there will be no cake, no presents, and no one celebrating her today. 

My arms literally ache to squeeze her. 
I can't wait until her birthday will involve candles, cake, and all the presents. 
But, so much bigger than that, I can't wait until I can tell her just how happy I am that she was born. 
I can't wait to be her day-to-day mom and do all the things that come with that--
 the good, the bad, and the messy. 

The way my heart longs from her--
I remember feeling this way when Hollyn was in my belly. 

There was one night towards the end of my pregnancy when I just cried and cried. 
I was SO ready to meet her and just wanted to hold her. 
(I was also obviously very hormonal. Bless it.)

That's how I feel now. 
I WANT her. 
I can't WAIT until she's here, with her family, in her home. 

My most precious Evie girl, 
YOU are celebrated. 

Happy two years, baby girl. 

And while we can't celebrate this one together, 
I pray that we will have many, many, many birthdays to spend together celebrating the gift that is YOU!

So, instead of focusing on the sad and allowing this to be a hard day, 
I'm instead focusing on the fact that this birthday you have a family who absolutely adores you and is praying for you and loving you and celebrating you from afar. 

I love you all the way to Africa and back, E. 


Thursday, January 7, 2016

And If Not, He Is Still Good



This is me, writing a blog post.
 I know, I know.
 It's somewhat of a {post} Christmas miracle. 

So, where have I been? 
What have I been doing? 
Why haven't I been blogging? 

2015. 
That's why. 

This year was something else. 
It was one of the worst and best years of my life. 
It was a year of loss, heart-aches, and new beginnings. 
  
And as hard as this year has been for our family, 
God has used this year to reveal Himself over and over again. 
He's used this year to remind me that He sees me. 
He sees us. 
And no matter what happens or doesn't happen, He is still good. 
He is still in control. 
His plans are always better than mine. 

And right now, it seems as if He has another plan for our family.

On May 19th we lost our beloved Emily.
That phone call knocked the wind out of my chest.
It was so unexpected.
It was so out of the blue.
It was so painful.
And it was so good.

Good, you say?
Yes.
Good.

On May 19th, in the same minute that we lost Emily,
our agency told us about another little girl in desperate need of a family.

Another little girl?
What?

Another little girl. 

It wasn't really a question of IF as much as WHEN.

God didn't call us to adoption because of Emily;
God called us to adoption because there is a little girl out there in need of a family.

We still have room in our home; we still have room in our hearts; we still have room in our family.
And there is still a little girl in need of a home.
None of those things have changed.

So, we prayed.
And we waited.
And we prayed some more.
And on July 20th, we said YES.

Everyone, I'd like to introduce to our newest addition:

EVIE.


And by OUR, I literally mean OURS;
we passed court, making her legally our daughter.
BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT I'VE EVER RECEIVED.

God is so so good.
This wasn't my plan;
but it was His.

She is ours.
We have a daughter.


AM I SCARED? 

I'm terrified.
Losing Emily hurt.
It was so hard. And if we're being honest, it still hurts every day.
What if I fall in love with Evie, and we lose her too?
Well, that will be awful, but not following God's call?
That would be MORE awful.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't view adoption differently now.
I have seen another side of adoption now than when I was waiting for Emily.
With her, I never ever doubted that she would come home;
 I never for one second entertained that idea.
With Evie, I know better.
It's not about my plans.
I can make them all day long, but in the end, God's plan?
It's the only one that matters.
So with Evie, every single day that I get to  be her mother is a gift.
Every day is a blessing.
SHE is a gift, and being her mother?
What an honor.

AM I EXCITED? 

I am very, very excited.
The more I learn about her, the more excited I get.
I can't stop staring at her little face and dreaming about the day she'll be here,
in her house with her family.
I don't love her less because I lost Emily,
the same way that I don't love Libby more because she was first baby.
This heart of mine?
It's big enough for them both.
She's not our second choice or our plan B.
She is our DAUGHTER,
and we are thrilled beyond thrilled to welcome her into our hearts and our home.


WHEN IS SHE COMING HOME?

Do you know?
Because I certainly don't.
We are still several steps away from being ready to bring her home, and on top of that, her country is still under suspension and not allowing anyone to come home right now.  So, I'm trying very hard to view it in terms of, "she'll come home when God is ready for her to come home", and not focus on the fact that this whole thing is scary and hard. One step at a time. So, today I'm focused on praying for the speedy arrival of the documents we need to file for our I-600 application. So, if you see me out and about and want to talk to me about how cute she is but don't bother to ask us when she's coming home, that will be fine by me (and I may hug your neck. Consider yourself warned).


HOW CAN YOU PRAY FOR US? 

Pray for Evie.
Pray for her foster parents, her health, and her little heart.
Pray for paperwork-- all the paperwork-- to go through at a speed so fast I get a little whiplash.
A little whiplash sounds awesome right now.
Pray for my girls; waiting for your little sister is not an easy thing to do.
Pray that 2016 brings Evie HOME.

We've been in the adoption process for almost three years.
I'm tired and weary.
But Evie?
She's worth pushing on for,
and I'm believing that 2016 is our year.

And yes, today is my birthday.
Happy 36 years to me.
I can't think of a better to celebrate than by sharing all that God is doing in my life.
If you need me, I'll be busy stuffing my faee with tacos, laughing, and staring a hole into Evie's smile on my phone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

And then she was six.



Yesterday, my baby turned six. 
While part of my thinks this is just downright rude of her, 
the other part is too busy being thankful for her and all that she adds to our life to be anything but crazy grateful. 

She's our sunshine, 
our peace-keeper, 
and has more friends at age six than I've had in my whole life. 

Everyone that meets her loves it,
and it's so easy to see why. 
Her little heart is so so good. 
She loves deeply and is crazy funny. 

I literally can't wait to see what all God has store for her, 
and I will thank him every single day for the rest of my life for choosing me,
 of all people, 
to be her mom. 

Happy birthday, peanut butter cup. 
I love you all the way to Africa and back. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Eleven whole years.



This girl of mine is simply amazing. 
She's so brave and bold. 
This past year she's learned a lot about what it means to be a friend. 
And she's growing up. 
I'm noticing it more and more in everything she does. 
Slowly but surely she's becoming the girl God made her to be. 
And even though she knows how to push my buttons more than anyone else, there is NO ONE I'm more proud of. 
I feel like I'm just sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see all that life holds for her and all the ways she will make a difference in this world. 

And even though if it were up to me, she'd be five indefinitely, 
I sure am enjoying the adventure that is Libby. 

Happiest of happy birthdays to the girl who made me a mom. 
I pray that your eleventh year is nothing short of amazing. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The beach life is the best life.


This past weekend was just what a needed. 
Four days at the beach with my girls, my mom, my sister-law, and my nieces. 
It was simply simple, and that happens to be my favorite way to spend a weekend. 




The girls boogie boarded until they all but fell out. 




The waves, sun, wind, and sand were practically narcotic. 




And Hollyn swam floatie free for the very first time. 

Also, I was able to cross #3 off of my 30 in my 30's list. 

I'd say this weekend was mighty fine indeed.