Saturday, April 30, 2016

Packing is an art. (#adoptionpackinglist)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, so here's what's in each bag: 



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


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

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


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


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

CLOTHES (Evie): 

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


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


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


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

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

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

Sometimes love wins.

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

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

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

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

Good, you say?

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

Another little girl?

Another little girl. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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