Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The "So Glad We Brought This" list!

I can't wait to wrap up my posts about our China trip and make it all into a book for Stella Claire! Life is busy, busy, with a new toddler in our home and we are loving every little minute (even the not so easy moments!) of it.  She's been home a month now!  But I wanted to take time to write out what we were so glad we brought to China with us.  Some of these items are on many of the packing lists that can be found around the web and on blogs of China mamas who have so carefully written it out for all of us!  This is just my short list of items that you might not have thought about bringing, but were so glad to have them in China while adopting a child.

The "So Glad We Brought This" list: 

*Baby carrier (our child was a newly turned 2 yr old at adoption day) - I brought my Baby Hawk, but I saw others with Tulas, Ergos and Becos.  Strollers are not always available but we did borrow one at the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou and were so glad to have it too!

*Baby Blanket (I made one for Stella and brought it with us to China.  She has attached herself to it - for naps and nighttime at home now.  "Blankie" is a very special and important part of our sleepy routine).

*Sippy cups, snack up and plastic toddler spoons.  We had an "incident" in a restaurant with a broken porcelain spoon...  Porcelain and two years don't go well together. Ahem. Bring the plastic.

*Downloaded music to my iPhone - "Hidden in My Heart" lullaby hymns. Played at each bedtime, and any time we needed to calm her heart or ours.

*Iphone and Ipad (and a VPN like PandaPow or ExpressVPN if you want to connect to blogger or Facebook).

*Bubbles, stickers, stacking cups.  Just a few of our favorite toys!


*Compression socks (for the long flights).

*Wireless phone charger!!!! I almost didn't bring this and oh.my.goodness. go get one if you don't have one.  It will keep everything charged during those long days of not having access to outlets.

*Some Chinese money.  I exchanged some with my US bank before leaving and we were all set to go once we landed in China (which was late at night and we were tired from the 24+ hrs of travel).  I exchanged approx. $200 US and it was plenty for those first few days when we needed cash.  All the hotels will exchange money easily once in China.

*Diapers.  I took one pack and wish I had brought more.  The China diapers are just different... They get damp quickly which makes for very frequent diaper changes and we went through them like crazy. I even bought the Pampers overnight ones in China.

*Wipes - Clorox wipes (for hotel and borrowed stroller), hand sanitizer wipes, facial cleansing wipes and baby wipes. Sounds like a lot but we actually ran out of the hand sanitizer wipes! And the facial ones were so convenient for quick airplane freshen uppers.

*Little packs of tissues (toilet paper is rare when out and about in China). 

*Diaper disposal bags (with arm and hammer).  Found these at Target in the baby section.  Trust me - stuck in a hotel room with a stinky diaper is not pleasant!

*Snacks for the airplane and granola bars for quick breakfasts.


*Lavender essential oil.

*Gentle baby body wash. Used for baby and for cleaning bottles, etc!

So that's our short list of items to pack when traveling to China for an adoption!  If you shop on Amazon, you can support New Day Foster Home (where Stella lived before we got her) by going here and then shopping through the link.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Goodbye Hohhot - Hello Guangzhou!

I can't leave writing about Hohhot and Baotou without telling everyone about the delicious food Inner Mongolia has! The day we visited Baotou, we went for lunch at a traditional Hot Pot restaurant.  So yummy and one of our favorite Chinese experiences! This was seriously some of the best food I have ever had.  And we were hungry! We enjoyed the company and conversation with our travel mates, guide and driver.

Everyone begins with a pot of broth, flavored spicy or mild, and the waiters come light each pot to start the cooking process.

Our guide ordered our food (thank goodness!) - a variety of fresh vegetables (broccoli, chinese yams, mushrooms, spinach), meat (lamb), pastas and bread. Such beautiful food!

Each person cooks their own food in their own "hot pot".  It's multitasking at it's finest! Cook, eat, cook, eat! This peanut sauce... super yummy. 

Stella ate well and promptly fell asleep in her high chair.  The day was exhausting for her.  As we were leaving the waitress serving and watching us said to us "you love them just like biological children".  Yes, yes we do.

Squatty potties... for our friends who have never experienced these.... Most public places in China do have western style toilets, but not this restaurant! Taking toilet paper with you is a must pretty much wherever you go.  And forks too if you're not savvy with the chop sticks!

Our driver for the day was quiet on each trip, but his conversation during lunch is one I will never forget.  As we talked and compared experiences in the US and China, he had this conclusion - "different cultures, people all the same".  As we paid and thanked him after arriving back at the hotel, he said "God bless you" to us.  He was a Christian.  How I wish we had talked to him more about his life in China.

Some of our favorite Inner Mongolian goodies we picked up to bring back home (from the grocery store)- milk teas, milk candy, milk lollipops and some weird flavored Chinese potato chips (Numb and Spicy flavor anyone? Or how about Spicy Fish Soup Hot Pot flavor?)! Stella was given a traditional Mongolia dress, and an ornament from our guide and the international adoption worker.

We left Hohhot's mild, dry air (much like Colorado here in the US) and headed to Guangzhou's tropical, humid climate.  Guangzhou is where all US adoptions are finalized as the US Consulate is located there. Everyone gets an appointment date to go over the US side of the paperwork and the goal is to get Stella a VISA to enter the US.

Stella's first airplane ride went incredibly well as she was pretty much oblivious to being on a plane and then took a nap.  Napping in anything moving - cars, planes or buses was her napping location of choice on our China trip.

We were pretty much paparazzi material wherever went in China and people were always trying to take our picture (either straight out or snapping selfies with us in the background).  We just smiled! This woman on the plane must have had a whole album of us on her phone...haha! Now she's on my blog!

Exhausted, we arrived in Guangzhou feeling like we had just left China and entered a huge international city (Guangzhou has a population of 14 million people!).  We got checked into the Garden Hotel then went out to find food.  We don't usually eat McDonald's at home, but when you are tired, familiar is good.  McDonald's China style it was! A face time back home to end our day and we all crashed into bed.  As long as the pillows are soft, it doesn't matter how hard the bed is... Missing home but feeling like the end is in sight on this day.  One more week in China.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beauty in the brokenness - our orphanage visit

Thursday, our last full day in Hohhot, we spent driving about 3 hours each way to the city of Baotou. Baotou, named the city of deer, is where Stella spent the first 6 months of her life, so we wanted to visit the Baotou SWI which cared for her and her finding spot.  We came to China for her and to help piece together anything from her past.  Visiting the orphanage was an important part of that - one I had tried to prepare myself for way before this day.  You can see pictures of orphanages, read stories of others visits, hear about the children.... but nothing can prepare you for entering one for the first time.  I knew I would have a hard time dealing with what we would see and I was right.  I've been writing this post in my head for almost a month now... wondering how I could put to words everything we saw.

Leaving the hotel, praying in my head for God to make us His hands and feet today and always.  He broke our hearts for the fatherless and what I wanted to do most is let the children feel His love from us. As Stella's Mama, I also wanted to protect her on this day and keep her secure. The drive was beautiful with the mountains alongside the highway and apricot tree blossoms blooming. Baotou is a beautiful city and the orphanage was on the other side of the city.  As we pulled in the first thing that captures your eye is the black metal gate where babies are often left and the colorful flags on top. Such irony.

I've tried many times to put words to our visit and this is what I want to remember most about that day.  The beauty.  The beauty in the brokenness.  We live in a broken world, full of tragedy, trauma, sadness.  But see - there is beauty here everywhere I looked.

Beauty in an orphan made a daughter. Held close in her carrier, we viewed the orphanage together. Snuggling close whenever a nanny approach her.  She only wanted Mama even through the little packaged french breads they offered her.  Spoiling her by holding her - this is what they chided me for - but no, just protecting her heart on this day.

Beauty in the nannies smiles. They all wanted to see Stella, the child they had cared for and remembered. She is so beautiful they said and they wanted to touch her.

Beauty in the nannies souls.  Loving on the children in their care. For how long? Maybe a lifetime (some will never be adopted or leave), maybe a few months (some, sadly will die here), maybe a year or two (some will find families of their own again). What hearts these precious women have! We were told they love the children from the bottom of their hearts and I could see this in every one we talked to.

Beauty in the sunshine that flooded the baby room. Filled with little wooden cribs, and seeing where Stella slept, emotions overcame.  I saw the beauty, and yet, I felt the enormous weight, the burden of being an orphan. The little babies too sick to be held. Deep breath. How will we ever forget them? We won't.  Our Emme Rose was a sick little baby in an orphanage not that long ago.  How do we help them? Sometimes all we can do is pray from afar for Jesus to intervene and take them home. I prayed over the little one with his head so swollen from hydrocephalus to be helped.

Beauty in an orphan's smile as she sat in her nannies lap in the colorful playroom. How that little girl smiled at us and completely captured our hearts! Melissa asked to hold her....gently, being so very careful of her head and back.  Gentleness...please feel loved sweet baby girl. Coming to my knees, even with Stella strapped to me, I had to touch them and let them know they were loved.

Beauty in children in the dining hall eating noodles from metal bowls.  Tummies full.

Beauty in language unspoken. Communicating through love of children. I knew just what she was saying even before the translator could come over to help us.  These two girls - same age - and this nanny had cared for them both.  One for just a short time, the other still.  One short haired an orphan child and the other - my daughter with her full head of black hair.  How did one get chosen to leave and the other to stay? So many whys.

Beauty in the child that stayed.  Beauty in the child that left.
"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. 

There was so much brokenness in this day and so much beauty as we brought in the love of Jesus. Our world is so broken, yet He has not forgotten a single child of His.  There is beauty in trusting in Jesus.

Way on the other side of Baotou, near the factories, is the hospital where our daughter was left.  I'm never sure what word to use to describe the act of leaving a child.  Is it "given up" or "abandoned"? All our paperwork in China says she was "abandoned" here by the hospital gate.  Imagine the heartbreak of doing either.  Answers to her questions about why she was left here will be so very hard to answer.  The street was busy the day we visited and the guards in a booth by the gate, eyed us closely.  Our visit rushed because of their questioning looks and our guide wanting us to make it quick.  She didn't want any trouble with them as she had words with them on another occasion.  Not at all how I imagined visiting the finding spot.  Wouldn't it have been neat to meet the guard who found her and try to learn more about that day? Yes, of course.  When the questions come, I pray that  maybe someday, Stella will see the beauty in this as well....someday she will hopefully understand and know that she wouldn't be our precious, wanted daughter, if she had never been left here.  I want to make sure she knows that this place exists and is part of her past.  But that her beauty, that God gave her, overshadows the brokenness. She is so very beautiful - perfectly and wonderfully made. 

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal". 2 Corinthians 4:18