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.

 

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

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.

 

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!

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…

Image may contain: one or more people, shoes and outdoor

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.

Family in Fifty: Mississippi

When our family took the unplanned path toward adopting Collins this year, we knew a big summer vacation wasn’t in the budget.  But we didn’t want to abandon our #familyinfifty goal of visiting all fifty states as a family.  When our dear friends moved to New Orleans last fall we knew we wanted to visit.  It was drivable, we were missing our friends, and they were kind enough to offer to host us in their home.  It was the perfect way to check Mississippi and Louisana off our list.  We looked at the calendar and found a long weekend, Thursday through Monday, that I wasn’t scheduled to work, and made our plans to head south.

Three kids-check!

Coffee-check!

DVD playing in back-check!

At Home in the World on audio up front-check!

We were ready to go!

Rather than taking the interstate all the way we chose the scenic view of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  Beautiful views and no traffic!

Goodbye Tennessee…Hello Alabama!

Then on to Mississippi!

One of our Family in Fifty rules is that we actually do an activity in each state, not just drive through.  We have been to Tennessee and Alabama already so we just trucked on through.  But Mississippi was new for us.  Our first stop…Tishomingo State Park.

After a long day in the car we were ready for a hike.  Notice sister in the background was too impatient to stop for the photo.

This old suspension bridge was beautiful, but there was a definite lack of safety measures.  I was convinced one of the kids was going to fall off.

Creek bed rocks are always a hit.

A family that explores together, stays together.

Three little monkeys, sitting in a tree.

She loves to explore.

And she also loves bugs.

We made it back to the trail head.

Back on the bridge.

Successful hike with three kids in tow.  We were happy campers.

We spent the night in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis, and they like to remind you of that everywhere.

With all of the car lovers in this family, a visit to the Tupelo Automobile Museum felt like the perfect outing.  We were told it is the private collection of a car enthusiast whose goal is to have 10 cars from each decade.  The cars are displayed in chronological order which is fun to see how they evolved.  The brilliant staff at the museum gave us this little car to push Quinn around in.  What a smart idea to corral the littles and to to keep hands off of the cars.

The oldest car was from 1886.  My favorite part was the old signs decorating the walls.

After the museum we strolled down the main street of downtown Tupelo.  We stopped for lunch at Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen.  It is a delicious farm to table restaurant that did not disappoint.  If you find yourself in Tupelo we highly recommend checking it out.

Look at all of those gorgeous fresh ingredients.

After lunch we strolled down the street and popped in to a few cute little shops.

Then it was time to jump back into the car and make the final leg of our journey to our friends in New Orleans.  Louisiana, here we come!

Linking up our favorite way to spend our weekends-TRAVELING-with Erika and Shay for Working It Wednesday: Weekends.

Magnolia Market

We’re back today for Friday Favorites with part three of our spring break trip to San Antonio and one of my FAVORITE adventures from our vacation.  Our trip to the silos and Magnolia Market!

Day Five

Like a lot of the gals I know I’m a huge HGTV and Fixer Upper fan.  So after a great week exploring all of the family friendly activities in San Antonio, we had a day for mama and loaded up the rental van for a road trip to Waco, TX.

The kids were pleasantly surprised to arrive and find the lawn full of balls, frisbees and other fun activities for some outdoor play time.

A very serious game of corn hole ensued.

And then sister took off with the bean bags.

Somehow it turned into a game of chase.

After spending some time playing on the lawn we decided to check out the food trucks for some lunch.  The lines were pretty long, but the food smelled so good.

We landed on some yummy bar-b-que.

While Shane stood in line for food, there was a rare moment of sibling cooperation with some adorable swinging.

Look mom!  We’re sharing!

There are a ton of picnic tables around, but it was very busy due to the lunch time crowd.  So we decided to have a little picnic on the lawn. (I think it is worth noting that Anderson is drinking a rootbeer 😉 )

They have these fun chairs sprinkled around.  Somehow little miss snagged the chair.

With lunch finished we took a few pics in front of the famous silos.  I would love to know the number of photos taken at this place each day.

Finally it was time to head inside and do a little shopping.  I love all the men in the background sitting on benches while the women are inside shopping.

Look!  My name on a place card.  It’s like JoJo knew I was coming in today.

This was my favorite corner of he store.  I love the tile, the scale, everything about this little space.

Since we were flying home and I’m currently saving up for adoption expenses, we just left with a couple of small items.  If you purchase anything large, there is a FedEx shipping desk right in the store.  Aren’t the shopping bags fun?

While I was shopping Little Man was outside relaxing.

And Quinn was swinging.

Next we wandered over to Magnolia Seed and Supply.

They had a tub full of baby chicks for sale that belonged to the Gaines’ daughters.

A nice lady that had just purchased some chicks let us hold them.  I thought I might be buying her a new one when Quinn suddenly launched her chick across the yard.  Thankfully, baby chick seemed to be ok and the kind lady didn’t seem to mind my less than gentle three year old.

After lunch time, the crowd really thinned out and there were much less people around.

Can you believe that before this trip Mimi had never heard of Fixer Upper or Chip and Joanna????  Apparently I have failed as a daughter.  So in preparation, she read The Magnolia Story (which I happened to have on my kindle app) and we watched two episodes of Fixer Upper on my iPad in the hotel before we headed to Waco at the end of the week.  She is now a Fixer Upper convert 🙂

DudDud wasn’t feeling well, so he stayed back for the day.  I have a feeling he wouldn’t have been as impressed by my day of fandom anyway.  Ha!  But we made sure to remember him on our next stop…The Silos Baking Co.

Yes, that is the line around the building to get in.  While the crowds were significantly smaller in the late afternoon, apparently everyone was ready for an afternoon sugar high.

Thankfully the line moved fairly quickly and soon it was our time to head inside.

Someone skipped nap (again) and was just ready for a cupcake.

While you wait in line you are given a menu card so you can make your selection, then when it is your turn you just hand your card to the cashier and they box up your order.

We took our cupcakes and headed out to a picnic table to enjoy our treat.  Notice that Owen has eaten almost his entire cupcake before I even took my first bite.  The carrot cake cupcake was delicious!

One final photo before loading back up into the van.  I was shocked that we ended up spending over five hours at the silos.  We had plans to visit some other shops and sites in town from Fixer Upper, but we really needed to be heading back to DudDud and San Antonio.

As we pulled out of the parking lot we turned in the opposite direction of how we had come in.  When I asked Shane where we were going he said he had looked up the address for Magnolia House and that it really wasn’t much out of our way to swing by.  And that, my friends, is why I love this man.

The sun was extremely bright and in a terrible location for photos, but the Magnolia House was so adorable.  There were guests staying inside that we could see through the windows.  Can you imagine hanging around on vacation and see random people pop out of their car to take photos of your house?

Another nice couple was also Magnolia stalking and offered to take our photo.

And that concluded my Fixer Upper fan day.  JoJo, call me!

If you are thinking of making a visit to the silos, here are a few things we learned:

  • Go early in the morning or late afternoon.  Around lunch time was the busiest.  (Although it was kind of fun to see a crowd and everyone was incredibly friendly.)
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen!  We spent several hours just simply hanging out on the lawn people watching and playing.  I was glad I had a small tube of sunscreen tucked away in my purse because I did not think about it ahead of time.
  • If you want to purchase a large item, you can ship it!  Or you can just order it online when you get home 🙂  It’s more about the experience than the actual merchandise in my opinion.
  • Don’t let the bakery line intimidate you.  Yes, the line was long but it moved quickly and the cupcakes were delish.
  • The town of Waco itself is not exactly picturesque.  It was strange to see these beautifully re-done buildings in a neighborhood that is not necessarily in the best shape.  I love that a couple like Chip and Joanna are trying to infuse some love into their home town.

Day Six

Our bags were packed, the rental van returned, and we made it to the airport for our flights home.

Here I need to say an enormous thank you to my mom and dad.  They are so very generous and treated us to this amazing trip.  We are so very thankful for them and that we get to experience such fun adventures with them.  Thank you Mimi and DudDud!!

That’s it for our spring break in Texas.  If you are looking for a family friendly vacation destination other than the beach, I would highly recommend it.

As usual I’m linking up with Erika, Narci, and Andrea for Friday Favorites.

P.S. If you are interested in supporting our adoption and helping us bring Peanut home, feel free to do your Amazon shopping through our blog affiliate link. It costs you no additional charge and we will earn a small portion of your purchase in commission. All earnings will go into our adoption fund to bring Peanut home. Thank you for supporting our family!

To start your Amazon shopping, click here.

San Antonio: Part Two

I’m back today with more of our visit to San Antonio for spring break.  Make sure you check out Part One  if you missed it.  We left off last time after spending the morning at the Alamo and lunch and boat tour on the Riverwalk.  After our boat ride we decided to walk to Market Square.  On our way we stumbled upon something super fun.  They were setting up to shoot American Ninja Warrior!

It was so fun to see the obstacles in person.  We chatted a bit with the crew and found out that it takes almost a week to set up and that they begin filming after dark and usually film all night long.

By the time we made it to Market Square it was WAY past Q’s nap time, so she had a little nap on DudDud while the rest of us walked around.

The boys chose Icee’s as their special treat of the day.  Perfect for a hot afternoon.

For some reason, Anderson had really been wanting tic-tacs lately.  Mimi promised to buy him some on spring break, and finally his wish came true.  Thumbs up for tic-tacs!

While browsing thru Market Square we spotted a playground across the street.  A great place to let the kidlets play after a full day of sight seeing.  This fella loves the monkey bars.

Shane can be a bit of a monkey too 🙂

After running off a lot of energy and making new friends at the park, we headed out in search of some Texas BBQ.  It did not disappoint.

We headed back to the hotel to drop the men and Anderson and Quinn off to do a little evening swimming.  Owen chose to go with the girls to the grocery.

We have a little vacation tradition in our family.  It’s known as “vacation cereal”.  We typically try to keep most junk out of the house and that includes sugary cereals.  But on vacation, all bets are off.  Each kid gets to pick his or her very own box of junky cereal.  Whatever their little heart desires.  Owen takes his vacation cereal decision very seriously.

(In case you are wondering, he chose Cocoa Puffs and Anderson sent us to the store with his pre-chosen selection of  Trix while he stayed back to swim.  Quinn, she ate some of both.)

Day 2

It was supposed to rain most of the day, so we chose to check out the DoSeum.

It is a museum filled with all hands-on, mostly STEM focused activities targeted toward kids ages 2-10.  We expected to spend the morning there, but ended up spending an entire day.  It was a big hit.

They have a specific area for the younger kids that includes a grocery store (complete with working registers), bank, food truck, gas station, vetrinarian office, and airplane.  Even my big boys had fun.

Building creations to test on different activities.

Even though the forecast called for rain, it ended up being a beautiful day.  We were thankful because the DoSeum has some great outdoor spaces as well.

Anderson was obsessed with the tube slide.

We had a blast at the DoSeum.  If you are in San Antonio with younger kids, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Day 3

The next day we decided to check out the San Antonio zoo.  Q is a huge animal lover so we thought the zoo sounded like a great idea.

Tip: We have a membership to the Louisville Zoo so we were able to secure a 50% discount on admission at the San Antonio Zoo for all seven of us just by showing our Louisville zoo pass.  Always check for reciprocal programs to other zoos and museums if you have a membership.

Anderson and Quinn were all about petting the snake.  Owen decided to pass 🙂

Brushing the goats was a highlight for little miss.  (Sometimes I just can’t quite get over how beautiful she is.)

Ganging up on the poor goat.  Thankfully, they were very tolerant.

I didn’t take many pics at the zoo, but we were shocked at how active all of the animals were.  Typically I feel like zoo animals just lay around and sleep all day.  Almost every animal was walking around and very active.  It made for a great zoo experience.

After the zoo we had a delicious Mexican dinner at Rosario’s, where I apparently took zero pictures. Side note – If you like a margarita with a little kick order the La Piña. We then walked to the HemisFair park where we we went the first night for more playing and a movie on the lawn.

They had a huge outdoor movie screen set up and everyone brought blankets and lawn chairs.  The movie for the night was Nacho Libre.  It wouldn’t have been my first choice of movies, but the kids found it hilarious.  It was the perfect night for a movie in the park.

Day 4

Sunday had us heading to Sea World!  San Antonio may not be anywhere near a sea, but they have a Sea World.  Random, right??

Check us out in the back row.  Hands up!!!  The boys were obsessed with this ride.  What you can’t tell from this pic is that there is a huge lake of water at the end of that drop.  I’m not a huge fan of water rides that don’t involve wearing a bathing suit, but in the pursuit of being a fun mom I took one for the team and rode with them as many times as they wanted.  For the record, wet tennis shoes and undies are the worst.

Enjoying some cotton candy during the beluga whale and dolphin show.

There was one roller coaster that neither boy was tall enough for, but Owen was tall enough for the Steel Eel.  He waffled back and forth and in the end decided to go for it.  He and I are somewhere in this pic loving it.  I was so proud!

When you are too short for rides, you get dip-n-dots instead.  She didn’t complain.

Waiting on Shamu.

Notice the crowd in this pic.  It was not busy at all.  We were able to walk right onto most rides.  We only had to wait on one.  There was plenty of seats during the shows.  Apparently we timed our visit well.  The week before had been the local spring break in Texas and apparently everywhere was crazy busy.  We were thankful for the small crowds.

I didn’t get any photos, but there was a great area for younger kids called Sesame Street Bay of Play.  They had several rides, a splash pad, and a huge climbing area.  Mimi and DudDud took Quinn there to play while Shane and I rode the big rides with the boys.  Huge shout out to Mimi for climbing through tunnels and giant rope nets with Q for over an hour.

We left Sea World at closing time and made our way to dinner.  Quinn played until she dropped and spent most of the dinner snoozing away.  I would call that a success.

That’s the end of day 4.  I’ll be back tomorrow to finish off our vacation recap with our road trip to Waco and Magnolia Market.  Fellow Fixer Upper fans, you won’t want to miss it!

P.S. If you are interested in supporting our adoption and helping us bring Peanut home, feel free to do your Amazon shopping through our blog affiliate link. It costs you no additional charge and we will earn a small portion of your purchase in commission. All earnings will go into our adoption fund to bring Peanut home. Thank you for supporting our family!

To start your Amazon shopping, click here.

San Antonio: Part One

Friday means Friday Favorites and the definite favorite from this past week has been our spring break trip to San Antonio.  Today I am beginning the recap of our trip.  Being the over sharer that I am I have to split it up into more than one post 🙂

When my answer to “where are you going for spring break?” was San Antonio, I got a lot of funny looks.  Yes, San Antonio seems like a random spring break destination to most people in the Louisville area where Destin, FL seems to be the number one spring break choice.  We’ve done the spring break beach trips.  And we love them.  But there is a huge country out there and we want to see it all.  In fact, we have a family goal to visit all 50 states as a family.  I’m currently working on a catchy name (because I LOVE to come up with cheesy names for things).  I originally coined it “Five in Fifty”, but then we decided to add Peanut to the mix which will make us a family of 6.  So I’m on the hunt for something new…Family in Fifty?…hmmm…that might work.

Anyway, let’s hop on a plane and head to San Antonio, Texas!

Travel Day

We boarded our plane before 7 am and landed in San Antonio around lunch time.  After picking up our rental van we headed to the hotel to drop off our luggage, then headed out to find some lunch.  We have always heard great things about In & Out Burger (something we don’t have around here) so we decided to give it a try for a quick lunch.

Enjoying our first In & Out experience.

After lunch we headed to Hemisfair park to burn off some energy after being stuck in an airplane for most of the day.

This park was recommended to us by our good friend.  She described it as a “ninja warrior park” and she was right.  It did not disappoint.  The boys loved it!

The park also had lots of fun games such as ping pong…

and Foosball.  I think Owen was kicking Mimi’s booty 😉

Quinn fell asleep in the car on the way to lunch so she enjoyed her In & Out in the park later.

After the park we headed back to the hotel for a little swim in the pool.

After our swim and baths we grabbed dinner.  Anderson was pooped after an early morning start.  He fell asleep at the table before our dinner arrived and stayed asleep through dinner and Shane carrying him back to the hotel.  Travel is exhausting!

Day 1

This was the day we did the traditional San Antonio activities.  Up first, The Alamo!

We were pleasantly surprised at how interested the kids were in the Alamo and it’s history.  They have really improved the exhibits since we were there 10-ish years ago.  These fellas really enjoyed learning about the weapons of the time.

Apparently these are their “Alamo faces”.  On a side note, this guy looks exactly like a guy we know.  We were convinced he was related to Ray the Painter.

After the Alamo we headed across the street to the Riverwalk.

We enjoyed some Mexican food and watched the river.  Anderson was enjoying the view and a cold root beer.

Then it was time for a Riverwalk boat tour.

Owen wanted to sit between Mimi and DudDud.

We rode right by the stage used in Miss Congeniality.  A co-worker of mine gave me the idea to watch a movie set in your vacation destination, so we watched Miss Congeniality one night in the hotel.  The perfect San Antonio set movie!

Sibling love in San Antonio.

We’ll pause here and wrap it up today.  Make sure you check out yesterday’s What’s On My Bookshelf post if you missed it.  See you on Monday for more of our San Antonio adventures!

As usual I’m linking up with Erika, Narci, and Andrea for Friday Favorites.

P.S. If you are interested in supporting our adoption and helping us bring Peanut home, feel free to do your Amazon shopping through our blog affiliate link. It costs you no additional charge and we will earn a small portion of your purchase in commission. All earnings will go into our adoption fund to bring Peanut home. Thank you for supporting our family!

To start your Amazon shopping, click here.

Friday Favorites

Today’s favorites are short and sweet because we are off enjoying a kid free weekend with friends. Woohoo!

{One}

Butler weekend


Last weekend we headed up to Indy to spend the weekend with some of our favorite friends from college and to cheer on our Butler Bulldogs.


A huge thank you to Jen and Scott for hosting all thirteen of our crazy crew.


We had stop for a quick photo on the sign before heading into the game.


Future Bulldogs.


After the game they allow kids onto the floor to shoot around.  What other university allows your six year old onto the court to shoot baskets?


We also got to meet Butler’s mascot, Trip, after the game.


Nana and Aunt Abby met us for the game then we headed to Broadripple for our favorite Thai food.  Yum!

{Two}

Basketball

This week Anderson wrapped up his final basketball game of the season.  What a great surprise to have one of his teachers show up to cheer him on.


They ended up losing the final game in double overtime.  They played so hard and it was fun to watch.  Great job, boys!



{Three}

Packing


For our getaway I made it my personal goal to pack everything I need into a bag that will fit under the airplane seat. Mission accomplished! Four days, three nights into this tiny bag.  I borrowed this carry-on suitcase that fits under the seat from my mom and it holds a surprising amount.  I was also able to make good use of the small bag by packing clothes in my beloved packing cubes .  I love those things!

{Four}

Self tanner


Before heading off for the weekend I had to break out my favorite self tanner to take the glare off of my pasty winter skin.  I always have the best results with this product.  Tip: the applicator mitt is a must.

{Five}

Blog love

I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for all of the positive feedback and support of my What’s in a Name and Owning It posts this week.  I was shocked by the number of comments, messages and emails I received with name suggestions and encouragement.  As for choosing a name for Peanut, the suggestions were overwhelming and fantastic!  It is clear that you gals are as passionate about names as I am.  I think we have paired down the list to just a few and are excited to pick the perfect one.

That’s it for this weekend.  I’m going to enjoy every second of it and try to release the guilt of planning a getaway months before we knew we would be facing funding an adoption.  It is important to get away. Right?

Happy weekend!

As usual I’m linking up with Erika, Narci, and Andrea for Friday Favorites.

Thanks for stopping by!