What’s On My Bookshelf: November

It’s the last Thursday of the month which means it’s time to share what I’ve been reading this month.  I read a total of six books this month and they were all over the map in genre.  It was a good month of reading.  I get a lot of questions about how I have time to read with a busy life, four kids, and a job.  My answer is that I love books, so I find a few seconds here or there whenever I can.  While most people scroll through social media while killing time waiting in line, I’m typically reading a paragraph from a book on my phone.  You would be amazed how many books you can fit in during these little fringe moments over a month.

Winter Solstice

When I first heard there was a new book out in the Winter Street series I was a bit confused.  I felt as if the third book had wrapped things up nicely.  But I am unable to resist a Hilderbrand book so I had to check out this new installment.  This fourth and final book continues to follow the Quinn family through another holiday season.  If you haven’t read the first three novels, start with Winter Street and make your way through the series.  They are the perfect winter reads.

When Dimple Met Rishi

I have heard about this book from a lot of different places and I was drawn in by the adorable cover.  I typically do not read a lot of YA, but this one kept coming up.  The story is about a fresh out of high school girl who is pleasantly surprised when her parents agree to let her go to a summer computer coding camp. She then realizes they only allowed her to go because the boy they wish for her to marry will also be attending.  I listened to this on Audible and the story just flew by.  It is light, the characters are charming, and the cover makes me want an iced latte 🙂  If you have a teen girl to buy for on your Christmas list, this would be a fun read.


This is the newest installment in the Robert Langdon series (the same main character as The Da Vinci Code).  In this novel there has been a recent discovery regarding human existence which will answer the questions surrounding human origin and the future of the human race.  If you are a fan of Brown’s other books, you will like this one.  I found it to occasionally get bogged down a bit by too many details regarding art (we get it, the book is well researched), and much of the book calls religion into question which may be difficult for some to read, but overall I enjoyed the story, even if I did predict the ending early on.


Owen’s third grade class read this earlier this year and planned to go see the movie together.  I made a point to read it before we went to see the movie.  This is another book I have heard about for years, but it was a middle grade book.  Why would I, as a 37 year old woman, read it?  Well, I am sorry I waited this long.  If you have a middle grade reader, immediately put this book on their Christmas list and read it together.  It can foster great conversations about what it means to be different, how important it is to choose kindness, and how to appropriately and compassionately approach those that may be different than you.  I also loved that this book digs into Auggie’s sister’s point of view.  It opened a discussion between Owen and I about how he felt about his sisters being considered “different” than the rest of our family and what he thought about all of the attention that it brings.  While there were some differences in the book and the movie (as there always are), the movie was extremely well done.  I don’t think there was a dry in the house among the parents or the third graders when it was over.

We’ll Always Have Christmas

It’s that time of year.  Time for cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies.  They are my favorite and this book was a Hallmark Christmas movie in novel form.  Cheesy, predictable, and with a happy ending.  What more can you want from a Christmas novel?  Grab your hot chocolate and cozy up by the tree with this one.

Merry and Bright: A Novel

Every time I’ve been to Target lately, this book has been calling to me, but every time I have resisted putting it into my cart.  Then I read another blogger’s review that compared it to You’ve Got Mail and you know I was hooked.  I immediately downloaded it onto my kindle app and I finished it within 24 hours.  The comparison is spot on, a girl meets a guy online only to discover he is her curmudgeon of a boss.  The story continues to unfold and is a dead ringer for my beloved favorite movie.  I loved every predictable minute of it.  And now I need to go watch You’ve Got Mail for the millionth time.

There you have it.  Six books.  One middle grade, one YA, one popular thriller, and three holiday novels.  A little something for everyone.  What book do you hope to find in your stocking this year?

Linking up with Carpool Book Club.

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Adoption Trip Part 4: Official Business and Orphanage Visit

I’m back with Part 4 of our China trip recap.  We finally had our girl but we still had several more days in her city to finalize the adoption and apply for her passport.

She woke up on her first morning with us quiet and reserved.  On her first trip to a hotel buffet we learned that she hated fruit, refused to drink, but could eat three hard boiled eggs and bacon.  We had to get our energy up for a long day of official appointments.

The first twenty four hours with your new child is considered a “harmonious period”.  For this period you just have guardianship of your child.  The adoption is not yet final.  The next morning we returned to the government office to finalize the adoptions by signing paperwork and taking an oath.

This is the room in which we received Quinn.  It was so strange to be back in that room.

There was a lot of sitting around and waiting for your turn to be called.

It’s official!  From this moment on she is officially forever an Elsbury.

I believe our first stop was to a notary office that involved climbing numerous flights of stairs to sit in a blazing hot room.  Next up was getting her passport photo taken.  It took forever because the children had to have their head perfectly straight, no smiling, and no crying for the photos.  During the long wait the older siblings took to their electronics.  Official business is boring.

Passport photo complete.  Please note there are more siblings sitting outside with their face in their electronics.  I’m telling you, this errand took forever.

The final stop was to apply for her Chinese passport.  Another building, another waiting room.  Someone was getting sassy.

We finally made it back to the hotel and were starving.  Shane ran out to get carry out with our guide.  The restaurant menu had lots of interesting options, including these whole turtles.

Meanwhile the girls were having a little party in the hallway.  I love that our agency has most of the families stay on the same floor together.  Hall parties were a great way to pass the time and let the littles run out their energy.

Back in the room and being entertained by the big guy.

Time for a little swim.  Can you say adorable?

After a long day of official business these kids needed to have some fun.  I am so grateful for all of the amazing siblings in our travel group.

After swimming it was time to turn in for the night.

The next morning we had a completely free day ahead of us.  Many of the other families were visiting their child’s orphanage this day but ours was planned for another day so we had an entire day to kill.

Her first ride in the carrier was a success.  She slept through our entire lunch.

Anderson was elated because we agreed to eat at Pizza Hut.  After a week of Chinese food he was in need of some pizza.

There was a mall across the street from our hotel.  Since it was raining we decided to wander around the stores for a while.  Already a shoe gal.  How can you say no to that face?

There was a inflatable obstacle course that you could pay a couple yuan and play for as long as you want.  Anderson loved it.

He really wanted to play with some of the other kids but he was nervous because they (obviously) didn’t speak English.  With just a little gesturing they worked it out and started playing tag.

For dinner we wandered into a hot pot restaurant.  This was a highly entertaining experience.  A giant bowl of boiling liquid and a hyper two year old?  Not the best idea.  We had no idea what we were ordering and communicated to our server with a lot of charades and very poor translation app.  We ended up with the most random assortment of ingredients, but it was still tasty.  After dinner it was back to our hotel for bedtime.

The next morning it was time for our visit to Collins’ orphanage.

Driving up to the gates I was nervous.  When we were in China before we did not visit the orphanage because Quinn lived off site in a small foster home located in a little apartment across town.  Knowing that hundreds of children lived in this building made my heart heavy before we even entered the building.

As we walked across the grounds we saw this playground.  It looked nice, but there were no children outdoors playing.

Headed into the building.

Our first stop was to the Show Hope unit’s green room.  Collins spent two years in this room.  Three weeks before we arrived she was moved from here to a foster family apartment on the orphanage grounds.  As soon as we walked in she ran right to the ladies she was so familiar with and had been missing for the past few weeks.

This woman was Collins’ primary nanny.  Not only did Collins seem excited to see her but she seemed to be excited to see Collins.  You could tell she genuinely cared for our girl.

We were able to ask lots of questions about Collins and her history, her likes, her dislikes, her routine, and everything we could possibly think of to ask.  There was also a lot of discussion about how all of Collins hair had been cut off.  They did not seem too happy about this turn of events 😉  We were grateful that one of the nurses speaks excellent English and was able to translate as our guide was hopping between our family and another family visiting a different room with their son.

While the staff doted on our girl we were able to explore the room and love on the other kids.  As a side note: I deliberately am leaving out most of the photos of the other children cared for here.  If you happened to have stumbled upon my blog and are a parent of another child in the green room of Show Hope Zhengzhou during this time, shoot me an email.  I may have photos of your child.  We took a lot in hopes of being able to share with other parents.  We were so grateful of those that went before us while we were waiting!

Her crib.  I am thankful for the mattress and warm blankets as so many kiddos are not so fortunate.

The play area.

The other room of cribs.  I had the same experience here as I did when we visited Quinn’s foster home.  I walked into the crib rooms and assumed the kids were elsewhere because it was so quiet.  Only when I peaked into the beds did I realize that most of the children were in their beds awake but silent.

Play area on the right, beds in both rooms on the left.

Each child had a bin with their medications labeled with their name and photo.

One last photo before we said goodbye to these lovely women.  We are so thankful for them and for Show Hope for caring for Collins.

We then toured other areas of the orphanage.

Many more rooms filled with babies.

Where baths are given.

Look at all of those bottles lined up on the counter.

Hundreds of babies requires a lot of diapers.

The brightest spot in the building is where the laundry dries.

We then moved on to where the older children live.  Cribs are replaced by rows of beds.

I think there is something powerful about this photo. Anderson is peaking into this classroom of boys.  He quietly walked down this hallway, silently looking into each room.  He then came up and whispered in my ear “These kids actually live here? Like all the time?”.  Obviously over the past three years there has been a lot of talk of adoption and children that don’t have a mom or dad.  Seeing the infants and toddlers he was expecting.  But seeing boys his age?  I think this is the moment when the tragedy of this building hit home.  It was a lot for a six year old brain to handle.

Next we walked across the yard to the building containing the foster family apartments.  Shane noticed the shards of glass atop the wall.  Not sure if it was to keep things out or in the walls, but it made me uneasy.

Outside of each apartment was a photo of the family and the children they care for.  These are the seven boys that are currently with them.  That blank yellow spot?  Just a couple of days earlier had a photo of Collins.

Her foster mom was gracious enough to welcome us into her home.  All of the boys were currently at school.

They all share this one tiny bedroom.  She shared with us that Collins was the first girl she had ever had and she was only there for three weeks.  I think this made her a bit sad.

We saw this happy gentleman coming back from his garden.  His smile brightened my day.

See that bag in Collins’ hand?  They are shrimp flakes.  She told us they were one of Collins’ favorite snacks.  She also gave a bag to Anderson who politely smiled and took it from her.  When we later got into the van he happily handed them over to Collins.  Shrimp flakes taste and smell exactly like they sound.

She also shared with us that bottles give Collins diarrhea and she hates fruit, especially apples and peaches.  Remember back on the day we arrived in Zhengzhou and we received information on our child’s likes and dislikes before heading to the store?  Ours said Collins was primarily bottle fed and her favorite snacks were apples and peaches.  What?  I think something was lost in translation.  This explains why we had yet to get her to drink a bottle and she spit every piece of fruit back at us.

One last photo with our lovely guide before leaving the orphanage.

An emotional day calls for not one, not two, but three suckers.

Guess what Anderson wanted to do again?  Yep, swim!

Time to find some dinner.  She is already starting to look like him.

We called this the tomato noodle restaurant.

Chopsticks and a spoon.  He starting to eat like a local.

These cute girls sitting at the table next to us kept talking to Anderson.  They were so sweet and wanted to practice their English.

These light-up ride on toys on the side walk looked like so much fun.

The boys couldn’t resist.  They needed to take this fun thing for a spin.

Whew!  If you made it this far, I’m impressed.  That was a long one.  I better stop here.  I’ll pick up next time with our final days in ZZ, then on to Guangzhou.


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Adoption Trip Part 3: Gotcha Day

In my last recap we had just arrived in Zhengzhou and had settled in for our last night before meeting Collins.

The day was finally here!  We awoke before the alarm full of jittery energy.

While I was getting ready I plugged in the hotel provided hair dryer, turned it on, and the room went black.  We were hoping the breaker just needed to be reset so we located the box and tried everything we knew how but we could not get the power back on.

We eventually gave up and called the front desk.  A very nice maintenance gentleman came up and proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes on a ladder working in the closet.  He ended up having to replace multiple fuses and get us a new hairdryer.  It was a huge ordeal that did not help to add to my already stressed mood.  Plus, I was getting ready to meet my newest daughter.  I did not want to do that with wet hair!

I was too nervous to eat much, but Anderson hit the breakfast buffet like a champ.

After breakfast we loaded onto the bus and headed to the government office where we would meet our kids.  Our group consisted of 12 families adopting 13 kids.  Typically the bus was pretty loud and rowdy.  This morning it was eerily quiet as the importance of the day hung in the air.

Walking into the room where we would meet our children.  Several of the kids were already there when we arrived (Collins wasn’t there yet).  It was a different room than where we met Quinn.  The room is crowded and loud.  Lots of nervous parents.  Lots of scared and crying kids.  Picture a chaotic scene.  To respect the privacy of the other families I haven’t included any pictures of how crowded and crazy the room was.  But trust me, it was.

After about half of the kids had arrived, I heard one of our guides say that the children from the Zhengzhou orphanage had arrived.  I knew that was us so I quickly ran to the entrance.  Here came the orphanage officer with a little peanut that I instantly recognized as our Collins.

Our first moment together.  I was already smitten with the scared little girl.

Meeting baba and Anderson.  Snacks always make you feel better.

I can’t believe we finally have our girl.

The emotions of those first few minutes are overwhelming.  Joy and relief that you finally have the child you have been longing for for months, yet grief for the loss and terrifying change that they are experiencing.  This photo reminded me of my favorite photo from Quinn’s gotcha day.

I can hardly believe that is the same Quinn we know today.  What a difference two years makes.

While the orphanage officer showed Shane the few items in her bag, the toys we sent in her care package and a photo album, our guide was showing Collins pics of Quinn and Owen (I’m still confused as to how she had photos of them on her phone?).

Scared, but safe.

The same gentleman brought Quinn to us on her gotcha day.  He asked to see current pictures of her and asked how she was doing.  He commented on how beautiful she is.  He also told us that he did not know we were coming for Collins.  He said had he known, he would not have moved her to the foster family.

We then found a semi-quiet corner to sit down and look at the photos in the album she was sent with.  She seemed to like looking at photos of her nannies.

Finally some eye contact!  And the first glimpses of a smile.

Peek-a-boo!  Anderson was already rocking his role as big brother.  He was able to connect with her and break through her shell better than us scary adults could.

After an hour or so she started to feel brave and climbed down from my lap.  We weren’t sure how well she could walk or how strong she would be.

All the children had arrived and paperwork signed.  It was time to head out.  Collins took my hand and led me around as if she knew exactly where we were going.

A bunch of American families standing on the sidewalk holding (mostly crying) Chinese children earns some funny looks from passers by.

Such a momentous event takes place on such an unassuming block.

That’s not our bus.

Already obsessed with feeding mama.  Tip: When you have just met your child, eat whatever slobbery nasty snack they place in your mouth and smile about it 🙂

Getting a family is tiring work.  Fast asleep on the way back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel it was time to play and get to know each other.

Pretty girl.  I have had several people ask we if we had to pack clothes for her or if she came with clothes.  This outfit she was wearing and her photo album are the only items that came with her.

Testing out a headband.  Not sure she was a fan.

By dinner time we were all hungry so I sent Anderson and Shane out to find some dinner.  They came back with takeout from this restaurant and it was delicious.

This was when we discovered her love for fried rice.  See that giant bowl?  That little 15 pound peanut ate her way through most of it.

It had been a long and emotional day for us all, so when Anderson asked it he could go swimming we felt like he had deserved some fun.

Hanging on the deck of the pool while Anderson swam.

Her first bath with us.  She loved it!  This was such a difference from Quinn who was terrified of the bath tub the entire time we were in China.

All clean and jammied up.

Noodle soup.  The perfect bedtime snack.

All snuggled up in her crib next to our bed.  This is another big difference from her sister.  Quinn would not get any where near her crib and slept with us for the first 3 months.  When Collins got sleepy she walked over and pointed to the crib.

She fell right to sleep and slept most of the night, only waking a couple of times to see if we were still there.  She had slept her last night without a family in a room full of cribs.  She was now a dearly loved daughter and sister.  Welcome to the family Collins Violet Elsbury.



Linking up for Tuesday Talk

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Adoption Trip: Beijing Part 2

I’m back to continue the recap of our adoption trip to bring Collins home.  On our final full day in Beijing we loaded up the bus, once again sat in horrific traffic (do we sense a theme here?), and headed to The Great Wall of China.

Seeing the masterpiece that is The Great Wall truly is a once (or twice 😉 ) in a lifetime experience.

Anderson’s take on it? “This is awesome!”  Not many first graders in Indiana can say they have walked on the wall.

This shot shows how steep most of the steps are.  Straight up and a lot of the steps are tall.  Like above my knee tall.  Anderson was determined to be the first in our group to the top.

Meanwhile…Climbing these steps is hard work!  (Notice him trekking along without us behind me.  He did not want to get beat.)

First to the top!  Mission accomplished!

When we adopted Quinn in 2015 our travel group sweet talked our guide into taking us to the Mutinayu portion of the great wall where we were able to take a ski lift up and a toboggan down.  Unfortunately, this time we weren’t so lucky.  Our agency typically takes groups to the Juyongguan area and that is where we went this time around.  While it was nice to visit a different area, we MUCH preferred the Mutinayu portion from our previous trip.  The highway literally ran right through this area of the wall which took away some of the charm, plus the views were not as vast.  Our biggest disappointment with this portion of the trip was that Anderson didn’t get to experience the toboggan ride down the wall.  That being said, it was still an adventure of a lifetime.

Why yes, I did bring my selfie stick.  When in China…

Surveying his kingdom.  The mountains are beautiful.

If you would have asked me in 2015, I NEVER would have guessed I would be standing on the Great Wall again with this guy.

Visitors had been using these little lookout towers as a restroom and the maintenance guy was not happy about it.

I’m pretty sure if I were stuck on the wall during a thunderstorm I would be more worried about all of the umbrellas and selfie sticks acting as lightning rods than the cell phone in my pocket.

He worked up an appetite climbing all of those stairs.  Thankfully mama came prepared with an Oreo treat.

Shane is an excellent model of safe behavior.

Anderson wanted in on the selfie stick action.

What an amazing experience.

Once the group was loaded back onto the bus we made our way to a jade factory owned by the Chinese government.  First we enjoyed a lunch served family style.

Lots of beautiful jade pieces plus an entire showroom of jewelry and souvenirs for sale.

Due to the, guess what???, traffic, we left the jade factory and headed straight to the acrobat show.  Last time we opted out of this activity because we had heard mixed reviews.  We figured it was something Anderson would enjoy, so this time we said yes.  The show was in an old movie theater and was packed with people.  Prior to the acrobat show there was some sort of charity auction where a gentleman wrote these huge scrolls then people bid/volunteered to go up on stage.  All I know is that it was all in Mandarin and we had absolutely no idea what was going on.  At that moment it hit me.  This is what we will sound like to our new children.  Someone speaking a million miles an hour in a different language and you have zero idea what they are talking about.  It was a sobering moment.

The acrobat show turned out to be a lot of fun.  Our favorite act was these two guys spinning around in two giant spinning hamster wheel type things.  They had no fear!  Another highlight was the motorcycles in the sphere.  Anderson definitely loved that part.

After the show our guide handed each of us these awesome panda hats.  Because nothing says “acrobat souvenir” like a winter panda hat.  These silly hats turned out to be Quinn’s favorite thing we brought home.

Back at the hotel we headed out on our own for a bit more exploring.  I know just reading that we were wandering around Beijing at night on our own is giving my mom hives.  Sorry, mom!  We found a delicious pizza place for dinner and Anderson fell asleep at the table.  I wish I had snapped a pic!

All over China we encountered groups of people dancing, exercising, or other fun group activities.  These folks were doing a beautiful dance with scarves.

The next morning we were fortunate to meet up with some friends from our previous travel group when we adopted Quinn.  They live in Beijing and were kind enough to take us out for the morning (even though it was a rainy day).  Anderson made quick friends with their little guy who insisted on holding his hand everywhere we went.

We had a delicious breakfast that included some of the best oatmeal I have ever had.  Due to the nasty weather we just sat in the cafe and talked for a couple of hours while the boys ran around the table.

Channeling our inner Mary Poppins.

We absolutely LOVE this family!  We are so grateful we were able to connect with them.

We said our goodbyes and it was time to head to the train station to make our way to Collins’ city of Zhengzhou.  We got completely drenched on our way inside.  All of those ponchos and umbrellas were doing us a lot of good inside our suitcases.  Ha!

We made it inside!  Time to find our train.  The station was super busy but we stuck together as a giant group of American families and pushed our way to our gate.

We had about 10 minutes before our train boarded so we grabbed some golden arches for the ride.

When the train stops you only have a couple of minutes to disembark with all of your luggage before the doors close and the train departs for its next destination.  We were a HUGE group with more luggage than you can even imagine.  But we made it!

Hello, Zhengzhou.  We meet again.  Fun fact: both of our girls are from here.

After meeting our guides and depositing our luggage at the hotel, we headed to Carrefour.  We were sad to learn that the Walmart across the street from our hotel had closed since our last trip.  Thankfully the Carrefour is within walking distance.  Our guides took us around and showed us where to find items like formula, diapers, and popular children’s snacks.

The day you arrive in your child’s province you are given a paper listing their daily schedule, sleep habits, favorite foods, and other bits of information.  The information we received about Collins stated she was primarily formula fed and supplemented with rice and noodles.  Her favorite foods were listed as apples and peaches.  (Remember this tidbit of information because it comes into play later.)  We also learned that she had recently been moved from the Show Hope unit in the orphanage to a foster family on site.  It said “she cry every day since moving to foster family”.  The thought that she had recently been moved from the only place she knew absolutely broke my heart for this little girl.  Her world was about to be turned upside down again.

Finally, we headed out for a quick dinner and landed on these “Chinese hamburgers”.  The best way I can describe it is a sloppy joe inside a flaky biscuit.  At only about a dollar each, they were surprisingly tasty.

After dinner we settled in for our last night before meeting our girl.  Up next is Gotcha Day!  I can’t wait to share about the day we met our newest girl.


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China: Beijing Part 1

Get ready for picture overload because I’m finally posting about our trip to China to bring Collins home!

All packed with our giant suitcases (these are seriously the best. HUGE and super light weight) and ready to board the plane.

I will probably repeat this a thousand times, but Anderson was an absolute rock star the entire trip. Long haul flight? No problem: iPad, neck pillow, and headphones are ready. If he wasn’t doing this…

He was doing this.

We survived the flights and made it to Beijing. A comfy travel outfit is a must including this cross body bag.

Here is where we hit a little bump in the road. We got off the plane, retrieved our luggage and made it through customs.  Apparently our guide was taking some other families from our group back to the hotel, so he had a friend of his meet us at the airport. This guy spoke absolutely no English, so he immediately thrust his phone at Shane to speak with our actual guide. Our guide, Jason, told us there was one other family on our plane that we would wait for, then this man would put us into a car and take us to our hotel. We knew the other family, as we had met on the plane. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Almost an hour later they appeared. Great!

So both families were ushered outside and the guide put the other family (that we had just waited an hour for) into a car and sent them on their way to the hotel. Then we proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. About 45 minutes later our car finally arrived. We then proceeded to get stuck in the worst Beijing traffic. It took over 2 hours in traffic to get to the hotel. By this time I was completely exhausted and aggravated and Anderson was passed out in the backseat.  We finally pulled up to our hotel and unloaded our bags.  Anderson was still completely passed out, so the driver picked him up out of the back seat, laid him on the sidewalk and quickly drove away. Ha! We got checked into our room only to find that we had been booked in a room with one bed instead of two. We asked to be moved, but the hotel was full so we asked for a roll away. Due to the language barrier we were brought a crib. Anderson was not having that. Ha! Eventually we got the roll away bed and ordered up some room service because it was way too late to venture out at this point.

Our first meal in China at 11 p.m.

This kid LOVES sweet and sour chicken and was determined to use the chopsticks.

After a good night’s sleep we were up and ready for breakfast.

Then off for a day of sight seeing. First stop, Tienanmen Square.


Last time we were here this part of the square was closed due to some foreign leaders visiting. I love the two men in the background staring at us.

A warm and sunny day meant lots of umbrellas.

Anderson’s first experience with a squatty potty was quite entertaining. We walked into the stall and he suddenly froze. “What is THIS????”. Son, that’s a squatty potty. Then he proceeded to pee all over the floor around the squatty potty including onto my feet (yep, I was wearing sandals). Shouldn’t this be easy for a boy? He was completely confused as to how girls use this type of restroom then was super impressed when mama could navigate one like it was no big deal.

Next we headed into the Forbidden City. Apparently I didn’t take many photos of this portion of our day.  Maybe because we had been here before?

The Forbidding City is huge and each section is very similar to the one before.  I was proud of this little guy.  He didn’t complain of being bored even one time and took in all of the history.

I think he looks like a secret service agent here.  Keeping the group safe.

It doesn’t get much cuter than holding Dad’s hand. Anderson got a bit nervous in big crowds and would always sidle up to one of us and quietly sneak his hand into ours. Love that sweet boy.  Don’t worry, we won’t lose you in a sea of Chinese tourists.

After leaving the Forbidden City we loaded into a rickshaw for a hutong tour.

Our driver pedaled approximately three feet, then stopped abruptly and made me get out.  Should I be offended?  Was I weighing us down?

After a couple of minutes of chattering in Chinese between a couple of the drivers the three of us loaded into an different rickshaw and headed off on our ride. It turns out our first driver was done for the day.  It had nothing to do with me 🙂

After riding through the narrow alleyways of old Beijing we stopped at a local family’s home for lunch.

It looks a bit different than our kitchen at home, but boy was the food delicious.

Something about this little cup made me chuckle.

After lunch we took the rickshaw back to the bus, then made our way back to our hotel in horrible traffic. Once the group was back at the hotel we decided to do some exploring around the hotel.  Just up the block is a huge mall. Anderson got a kick out of wandering through the toy store.

One of the things we were really looking forward to on this trip was taking Anderson to see all of the crazy street food.  Here we are at the gate of the road.

Yes, those are scorpions, starfish, cockroaches, snakes and other bizarre foods for sale.

Fun drinks and we never figured out exactly what the watermelon drinks were, but we saw tons of people enjoying them.

So as we explored food street we quickly realized that Anderson needed to get out, and get out fast. You see, the smell in this funky little crowded alleyway is absolutely horrendous.  Between the noxious smells and the wiggly snacks waving at him on a stick, Anderson was about to lose his lunch. So we quickly wove thru the very dense crowd and back out to clean air.

Next to our hotel was this beautiful church.  A rare sight in China.

That evening we went with a few other families in our group to dinner.  The food was served family style and was delicious.

After dinner we were all exhausted from jet lag and knew we had a full day ahead of us in the morning.  Up next, the great wall and meeting up with old friends!

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Friday Favorites

I’m wrapping up the week with some favorites.  I don’t know about you, but we have a weekend full of Halloween festivities.  By the time the actual holiday gets here our costumes will most likely be smeared with candy and on their last legs.

Back to blog land

My first favorite of the week is being back here on my little space sharing all about the things and the people that I love.  Thank you for all of the kind comments and messages after I returned from a little hiatus.  If you missed What’s Up Wednesday or What’s on My Bookshelf (there are some GREAT books there), be sure to check them out.  I promise to start the China recaps next week!

Jack-o-lantern spectacular

On Wednesday night my parents offered to watch the kids so we could have our first kid-free couple of hours since Collins came home.  We decided to try out a new restaurant, grab coffees (it was the first cold evening of the year), and check out the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.  For years I have been hearing how great of an event this is, but we have been hesitant to go because it is a bit pricey for looking at pumpkins and we now have 6 people in the family, plus everyone talks about how crowded it is. Since it was only the two of us we decided to check it out.  We picked the perfect night because not only was it Wednesday, but it was also cold so the crowd was very manageable.  It was a 1/4 mile long trail through a park lined with 5,000 carved pumpkins, some of which were just absolutely unbelievable.  The theme this year was A-Z and they had a theme with each letter.  I think Alice In Wonderland was my favorite.  Not only were the pumpkins amazing, but the lighting and the music set the perfect stage.

A natural deodorant that works

We’re all friends here, right.  Can we talk about deodorant for a minute?  I know that natural deodorants are all the rage and we should be convinced that traditional deodorant is from the devil.  And that may be true, but every single natural deodorant I’ve tried in the past just did not work for me.  The only reason I have tried so many is because that regular deodorant frequently makes me itch.  Let me tell you, walking around with itchy pits and wanting to scratch them like a monkey is no fun.  So when I saw a new brand of natural deodorant on the shelf at Target I couldn’t help but try it out.  Well guess what?  It actually works!  I have been using the Schmidt’s bergamot + lime deodorant for a couple of weeks and it has held up to serious sweaty workouts, full days of running after kiddos, and I do believe it works better than my traditional ones.  Bonus, it doesn’t contain aluminum and it smells good too!

Growing families

I love seeing other families grow thru adoption.  Bonus if it’s my friends’ families.  This week a dear friend that helped mentor me through our first adoption process brought home her newest two cuties from China and another friend was matched with her newest daughter.  It just makes my heart happy to see these children joining their forever families.

A new devotional

A few years ago I read Annie F. Down’s Let’s All Be Brave and it rocked my world.  I just loved this book and the concept of being brave.  So when she released a new devotional,100 Days to Brave, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it.  I have only just started to dive in, but I love that it is 100 days of a quick two page devotional to help focus on how to be more courageous and brave in our daily life.  Plus I love that it is small and pretty and looks good on my night stand.


For years I have been searching for a pair of casual sneakers I could wear with jeans.  I cannot begin to tell you how many pairs I have ordered and promptly returned because they hurt my feet or looked terrible on me.  Good news.  I finally found a pair I love and they are super comfy.  At first I wasn’t sure about the tongue, but they grew on me and now I like how it kind of sticks up.  Now that I know these fit me I’m excited to branch out and try some other fun colors.  Being back to having a two year old means I need to put away the boots and wear the sneakers to chase her around.

That’s all for today.  Time to prepare for a weekend full of candy.  I hope a couple of Reese’s cups and pull ‘n peels make their way to me.

linking up with Erika, Narci, and Andrea for friday favorites


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What’s On My Bookshelf-August, September, October: Super Size Edition

Grab a hot cup of coffee and kick back for a super sized edition of What’s on My Bookshelf.  Since I took a blogging hiatus for a couple of months while we adjusted after bringing Collins home from China, I have my books from August, September, and October to share.  That’s eleven books in all.  I’m so excited because there are some GREAT books here.  So get comfy and let’s dive right in…


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Over the past year I have become a huge Taylor Jenkins Reid fan. One True Loves is a favorite of mine.  In her newest novel, Evelyn Hugo, an old Hollywood starlet, sets out to give her memoirs to an unknown writer.  She divulges the story of each of her seven husbands and who was her one true love of her lifetime.  This book was a bit of a different tone than the other TJR novels I’ve read and to be honest about halfway through I wasn’t sure it was for me.  But in the end I came around and while it definitely wasn’t my favorite book of the month, it was well written and an interesting story.

Everything I Never Told You

I may be the last person to have read this book.  I have heard about it everywhere.  The story is based around a teenage girl whose body is found in a lake (not a spoiler, it’s on the first page 🙂  This is a book I think will appeal to a wide variety of readers.  It has the element of mystery (what happened to her?), fantastic relationships, and is a definite page turner.  I was excited to pick up her next novel.  More to come on that later…

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

I am going to go ahead and declare this one of my top 5 books.  I listened to this on audio and found myself looking for reasons to mow the grass, take a walk, or clean so I could listen to a bit more.  To be honest, it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended :).  There are parts that are a bit long and you learn a lot about tea, but the story was so unique and interesting.  The novel follows a Chinese girl growing up in a rural mountain tribe in China.  We are talking no running water or electricity.  The similarities to her tribal society and Native American cultures are strong.  When she must abandon her baby on the steps of an orphanage, her heart is broken.  The story then goes on to follow the main character as she ages and leaves her culture and family and her daughter who is adopted by an American family.  It is probably pretty obvious why this story struck such a deep chord with me.  I was jogging through my neighborhood with tears streaming down my face during the scene where she painfully leaves her innocent baby.  I have no delusions about my girls’ birth families and the situations regarding their decisions not to parent, but boy did this author weave an amazing story.  Add to that the transformation of the mountain tribe’s culture and views over the years and this is one unique and interesting novel that I would recommend for all of my fellow China mamas.

What Alice Forgot

For years I thought I had read this book.  So when someone was talking to me about it and I had absolutely no recollection of the story I realized that maybe I had not read it.  Imagine waking up and not remembering the past 10 years of your life.  You don’t remember your children, your friends, your past decisions.  This is an excellent story and if you are one the few that hasn’t read it, definitely pick it up.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

In all my life I’m not sure I have ever read an entire book in one sitting.  Well, I read this cover to cover on the plane to China without even a break to use the restroom.  This is the story of a cranky reclusive widower that owns a small book shop.  When a baby is unexpectedly left in his shop his life gets turned upside down.  The perfect little story if you have a heart for adoption and just a plain delightful little novel.


Summer on Blossom Street

Unfortunately this was my least favorite of my books these months.  I typically love the light and predictable nature of her novels but this one felt pieced together.  I did not feel as if any of the characters or stories were adequately developed and the thread connecting them all felt hastily thrown together.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t a favorite of mine, but it won’t stop me from picking up her other novels in the future.

The Husband’s Secret

What if you found a letter that made your entire world come crashing down?  This book explores how a husband’s secret, kept since he was a teenager, can impact everyone’s life.  If you like Liane Moriarty, you will love this book.


Two by Two

A friend in our China travel group passed this book along to me when she finished it on our trip.  I’m not typically a Nicholas Sparks fan.  I don’t like to feel like an author’s number one goal is to get his readers to cry.  But I did enjoy that this book focused on a man who finds himself in the middle of a major career change, newly single and raising his young daughter.  So many novels tell this story with a female main character, it was refreshing to see it from a male perspective.

Little Fires Everywhere

Just go ahead and read this book.  It was so good.  It opens with the Richardson house burning down then returns to the previous year and the events that lead up to the fire.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away.  Let’s just say that the characters are excellent.  The relationships are interesting.  And I don’t think Mrs. Richardson is supposed to be a likable character, but I found myself relating to her in many ways.  Put this on your reading list today.

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)

A friend texted to ask me if she should read this if she hasn’t watched the most recent Gilmore Girls reboot.  That’s when I realized it was on my Kindle but I never got around to reading it.  If you are a Gilmore Girls or Parenthood fan then this would be a fun memoir for you.  It is a quick and easy read with fun insights into some of my favorite shows.

Of Mess and Moxie

And my current read: Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything.  Not only do I love Anne Bogel’s blog and podcast I’m loving her book.  As an only child parenting four VERY different little people, the personality frameworks in this book is causing all sorts of light bulb moments for me so far.
I am such a fan of Jen Hatmaker and all that she writes.  While I think For the Love was such a great and fun book to follow, this one was a great blend of Jen Hatmaker’s humor and heart.  This would be a great gift for a girlfriend.

Whew!  That was a lot of books.  Thanks for sticking with me and hopefully you found something you can add to your list.  See you back tomorrow for Friday Favorites.

In case you missed it:

What’s On My Bookshelf-July

What’s On My Bookshelf-June

What’s On My Bookshelf-May

What’s On My Bookshelf-April

What’s On My Bookshelf-March

What’s On My Bookshelf-February

What’s On My Bookshelf-January

linking up with Carpool Book Club



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Back to Life, Back to Reality


Well hello there!!!!  After taking a long break as we found our legs as new family of six, I’m back to my little space here on the blog.  During my adoption-leave hiatus we have, traveled to China, brought home our little peanuty Collins, fought jet lag, navigated sibling rivalry and trauma, bought a car, sold a car, been on a hastily planned last minute family vacation, had a broken leg with toes to hip cast, had four cases of the flu, had therapies, and sports, and parties.  It’s been a whirlwind of a few months and I feel like we are still trying to find our new normal, but I’m ready to be back to sharing and documenting it all.  Thank you for your patience as we took this family time.  I thought what better way to jump back in than with a What’s Up Wednesday to catch up on all the happenings in Casa de Elsbury…

What we’re eating this week…

A delicious Italian sammy inspired by a recipe in Jen Hatmaker’s new book Of Mess and Moxie.  She mentions making this easy crowd pleaser after a day of grocery shopping when you are completely over thinking about food.  And that is exactly what I planned it for.

Vegetable soup – We like it spicy.  Must use Spicy V8 and creole seasoning

Black bean sweet potato tacos – my favorite

Sweet and sour tempura chicken (thank you, Trader Joe’s) and fried rice

Chili – a staple for this time of year.  I am loyal to this chili spice blend.

Pork chops, potatoes and veggies

What I’m reminiscing about…

China.  Posts and way too many photos of our trip coming up in the next few weeks!

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And our first little trip as a six pack was the perfect way to spend fall break.

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What I’m loving…

Well guys, like everything in life, I’m the last to jump on to every bandwagon.  I convince myself I will not get sucked into the vortex of whatever the current social craze or obsession is.  After years of convincing myself I was not one of those pumpkin crazy gals I gave in.  I ordered my first pumpkin spice latte.  My first in my entire 37 years of existence.  And y’all.  It was life changing.  Now I get what all of the hype is about.  It is flipping delicious.  Plus I am embarrassed to say that pumpkin is now permeating its way throughout the rest of my life as well.  Pumpkin O’s cereal from TJ?  Yes, please!  Pumpkin bread mix?  Why not!  Pumpkin creamer with my k-cup.  Abso-freakin-lutely.  Guys, It’s a problem.  I am now one of “those pumpkin people”.

What we’ve been up to…

See the first paragraph above 🙂  Life over the past couple months has been full to the max.

What I’m dreading…

My adoption leave from work is quickly coming to an end.  While I’m ready to get back to normal routine and time spent with people that don’t constantly ask for snacks sounds appealing, I’m anxious about transitioning back to work (even if it is only part time) and what that will look like.

What I’m working on…

Organizing pictures from our China trip so I can get a recap up before I forget all the details.

What I’m excited about…

We are thick in the heart of all things Halloween.  While Christmas is my ultimate favorite holiday, kids in costume just make my day.  I am excited to tour the neighborhood with my little band of trick-or-treaters this year.

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What I’m watching/reading…

I will have my What’s On My Bookshelf post up for the month on Thursday, but my current read, Reading People, paired perfectly with an aforementioned PSL on our road trip.

As for watching, fall TV is back so we are back to our favorites like Scandal, Big Bang Theory, etc.  Plus I just discovered the show Younger.  Have you watched it?  I just love Sutton Foster.  I am currently making my way through the first three seasons (I believe it’s on Hulu) and I believe it is currently on season 4.

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What I’m listening to…

Currently the quiet.  I am expecting to hear two little gals wake up from their naps at any moment.

What I’m wearing…

The past couple of weeks you never know if it’s going to be 80 degrees or 40 degrees.  So my wardrobe has been a bit of a everything.

One of my favorite things in the fall is choosing outfits for our fall family photos.  I wrote a bit about my process here.

Here’s a sneak peak of what we will be wearing this year…

Shane-grey vest/plaid button down, Me-necklace/cranberry top/booties, Collins-chambray top/floral leggings/boots, Quinn-chambray dress/faux fur vest (similar)/boots, Anderson-shirt/pants/boots, Owen-button up/pants/shoes

What I’m doing this weekend…

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Following this little flamingo around to all the Halloween things. Trunk or treats, fall parties, soccer tournaments, and pumpkins, oh my! It’s going to be a busy weekend.

What I’m looking forward to next month…

My goal is always to have my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving every year.  Given that I haven’t bought one single gift yet, I better get to shopping!

Bonus question: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish…

Well just the thought of Thanksgiving is giving me hives (see shopping goal above).  I’m not generally big on traditional “holiday food”.  Turkey, ham, dressing, etc.  No thank you.  But my favorite side dish at Thanksgiving has always been noodles.  We are talking simple egg noodles cooked in chicken or turkey broth.  They are in no way fancy but I love them and the holidays are the only time I eat them.

So there is a little of what has been going on around here.  Come back tomorrow for the largest What’s On My Bookshelf post ever.  I have a lot of books to catch up on and, spoiler alert, several of my favorites of the year are included.

It’s good to be back with you, friends!

Linking up with Mix and Match Mama, Sheaffer Told Me To and The Larson Lingo for What’s up Wednesday and What I Wore.

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Standing on the precipice of chaos and change

In twelve hours I will be on a plane headed to China to meet our Peanut.  Over the past week countless people have asked how I am feeling.  Excited? Nervous? Anxious?  Ready? Scared?  My answer…yes.  I currently have all the feelings.

In some ways the second time around is easier.  We know what to expect.  We are familiar with the process.  And some ways it is much harder.  We know what to expect.  We know how truly hard adoption is.

I am a safe person.  I like the known.  I like to be in control.  Bringing Collins home is none of those things.  But she is worth it.

Life as we know it is about to be turned upside down.  Chaos and change are inevitable.

On Sunday I looked up and saw Quinn standing on the front of the boat trying to sum up the courage to jump.  In that moment she perfectly represented how I currently feel.  Peering over the edge trying to anticipate what it feels like on the other side.  Knowing there will be an initial shock, but the water will gradually feel warmer.  Butterflies in my stomach, fists clinched in anxiety.  But knowing that being brave is what I am called to be.

The time is here.  It’s time to jump.

Collins, we are coming for you!

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What’s On My Bookshelf: July

It’s the last Thursday of the month which also means it’s time to share what I read in July.  Also, it’s my boys’ FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!!  Where did the summer go?

Enough whining about the end of summer, let’s get to the books.  Here are the five books I enjoyed during July…

The Bookshop on the Corner

The title of this book grabbed my attention.  It reminded me of my beloved favorite movie and The Shop Around the Corner.  This book is about a gal who leaves her job as a librarian and moves to a small town in Scotland to open a bookshop in a van.  Think a food truck for books.  I loved the premise of the book, but agreed with a friend that thought the first half was delightful and the  second half focused too much on a cheesy love story line.  All in all I enjoyed it and want to check out some of the author’s other novels, but it wasn’t my favorite book of the month.

The Mother’s Promise

I have heard a lot of great things about Sally Hepworth’s work so I decided to pick up this one.  While a book about a single mother diagnosed with cancer and trying to raise a teenage girl struggling with anxiety isn’t the normal trope I gravitate toward, I have to say Hepworth handled the subject matter well.  It was real and relatable.  While the topic is inherently sad in nature I did not feel as if the story was written solely to manipulate my emotions and make me cry.  The characters felt real.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

The Identicals

Probably my favorite novel of the month.  I love Elin Hilderband and her newest novel did not disappoint.  It follows twin sisters, one raised by her mother on Nantucket and one by her father on Martha’s Vineyard.  Circumstances occur and they subsequently switch islands for a while.  While the plot summary sounds cheesy and and bit like The Parent Trap, it was a delightful story.  Perfect for an end of summer read.

Rich People Problems

This is the follow up book to Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend.  A different twist on typical chic-lit.  While the list of characters is huge and terms frequently thrown in in several different Asian languages can be cumbersome.  These books are quite entertaining.  Like to watch a train wreck of over the top, over privileged families (I’m looking at you friends who love the Real Housewives ;)?  Then this series is for you.  They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they are a hoot.

Secrets in Summer

Nancy Thayer writes fun summer novels on par with Hilderbrand.  This book takes place on Nantucket and is about a girl who discovers her ex-husband and new family have rented the house behind hers for the summer.  I loved the characters in the book, especially her elderly neighbor Mimi.  The perfect way to end July.

That’s it for this month.  I’m already part way into Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.  So far, so good! And I’m taking a departure from my typical genre and listening to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.  All I want to do is discuss this with someone!  August is already looking like a great month for books!

Linking up for Carpool Bookclub

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