10 Simple Chinese New Year Activities

Since adopting Quincy we have been learning more about the Chinese culture and incorporating some of their traditions.  One of the biggest holidays in China is the Chinese New Year or its also referred to as the Lunar New Year.  

Chinese New Year is a two-week celebration full of lots of fun activities for the whole family culminating at the end with the Chinese Lantern Festival.  We wanted to incorporate some of these traditions to celebrate Quincy’s birth culture.

So, I thought I would share with you the 10 simple Chinese New Year activities we are doing to celebrate this year.  What Chinese New Year activities do you do?


1. Family Dinner

Many families in China travel to be together during the Chinese New Year much like Thanksgiving or Christmas in the United States.  They have a large meal together.  Since our family is not nearby we have opted to invite friends over for takeout Chinese food.  


family holding Chinese dumplings


2.  Eat Noodles and Dumplings

These two foods bring great meaning to the Chinese people, especially during the Chinese New Year.  Noodles symbolize long life and dumplings symbolize wealth, reunion and harmony.  

We actually took a dumpling-making class while we were in Beijing.  Our guide hid a hard lemon candy in one while we were making them.   The person that found it won a prize!  A fun idea for your Chinese New Year celebrations.


3. Clean the House

Cleaning the house is an important part of the Chinese New Year as they sweep away bad luck and usher in the new year.  I am pretty sure my kids think I made this one up because I am extra excited to incorporate this into our celebration :).


Chinese new year red envelopes


4. Gift Red Envelopes with Gold Coins

Adults often give red envelopes to children full of money.  We will fill our red envelopes with gold coin chocolates and gift them to our neighbors and friends as a way to celebrate!  You can find the red envelopes here and the gold coin chocolates here.  Wrapping the money in a red envelope symbolizes more happiness and blessing to the recipient. 



5. Read Chinese New Year Books

Since the Chinese New Year is unfamiliar to many in the United States we bought a few books explaining the tradition and will read them as part of our dinner celebration.  

Here are a few of our favorite books so far –



6.  Decorate with Red and Gold

The color red is very important to the Chinese.  Not only is it the color of the flag but the color red symbolizes wealth and happiness.  They also put up banners around their doors to welcome new guests and keeps Nian the monster away.  Find the Chinese New Year banner here.


7. Make Hanging Lanterns

Ornate hanging lanterns have been used for both light and worship for centuries in China.  You can make a simple hanging lantern by folding a piece of paper in half and cutting it not quite to the edge.  Then open and fold into a circle and staple closed.  Then affix a paper strip with a staple to create a handle to hang.



Chinese paper lantern craft


8. Figure Out What Chinese Zodiac Animal You Are  

Each Chinese Year is named after a Chinese Zodiac Animal.  The Zodiac is on a 12-year cycle.  2020 is the year of the rat.  You can find your zodiac animal here.



9.  Drink Hot Tea

Drinking hot tea is a daily activity for the Chinese people, they believe it helps with their overall health and hygiene.  Unlike Americans, they drink loose leaf tea.  First, they rinse the tea leaves with hot water and then they steep the tea.  Check out the app Mighty Timer to learn how to steep all different kinds of teas.  

Different teas are drunk in different parts of China.  When we were in China, we learned tea from Quincy’s province is actually refrigerated so we couldn’t bring any home.


10.  Set Off Firecrackers or Noise Makers

The Chinese also set off lots of firecrackers and fireworks during the Chinese New Year so if you are feeling adventurous you could do the same.  The noise they believe scares away evil spirits.

In lieu, of firecrackers you could make your own firework noises with noise makers!


Why is the Chinese New Year so Important?

The Chinese New Year is a time for the Chinese to honor family and the deities they worship.  It’s the biggest holiday of the year and many of the government entities are closed for the duration of the holiday.  We are excited to incorporate some of these traditions into our home and honor our son’s birth heritage.  How do you celebrate the Chinese New Year in your home?


Read More About Our International Adoption Here –

International Adoption Process

International Adoption Questions Answered

Gotcha Day

Orphanage Visit


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Simple Kid’s Indoor Activities

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Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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Easy Chinese New Year Activities

The Surprising Visit That Changed Everything

We pulled up to the compound gate.  Large imposing concrete walls on all sides and a guard waved us through.  We drove through the streets of building after building.  We had just entered the social welfare institute of Hefei city where they kept the orphans, the disabled, the mentally ill and the forgotten of society. 

Just two days prior, we had met our sick little boy in a sterile office in the local government building and our lives would never be the same (read more about that here).

The hazy, smog-filled sky loomed overhead, a warm and humid summer day in June.  Our van driver took a right to our son’s building.  We waited for the orphanage director to come to get us so we could go meet the nannies that had cared for him for the last two years after he had been abandoned at 900 grams (not even 2 lbs) on a dirty street corner.  

As we waited,  we gazed through the tinted windows of the van.  I felt silent tears trickling down my face.  I was overcome at what my senses were taking in.  Nannies were pulling little wagons and all you could see were limbs hanging out.  Golf carts being loaded with children for their afternoon dose of fresh air.

Children with such severe and profound needs were being carted around outside by smiling and doting nannies.  I could not fully comprehend what I was taking in.  I had never seen anything like this and to think this was taking place in every welfare institute in nearly every city in a country of 1 billion people broke me.  I hugged our son a little tighter as my heart broke into a million pieces.

The director came and we were paraded like royalty through the throngs of hurting children all with smiles on their faces.  Smiles.  It pierced my soul.  How could they find joy in the midst of all they were missing?  No family.  Severe health issues.  Many without the ability to speak, walk or feed themselves and yet they joyfully received us.

Once inside, the orphanage, we walked up a cold set of stairs to our son’s home of two years.  Little flowers and decals peppered the white cinderblock walls and light poured in through the barred windows as we passed by a little plastic playground. 

I had seen my son playing on that plastic playground in a picture they sent with his referral file.  This place was real.  This was where my son had been.  I hadn’t allowed my mind to believe this is where he had been.  Without a mom and a dad or siblings to kiss his cheeks and ruffle up his hair and wipe away his tears.   

When we turned the corner his nanny came to him, a huge smile on her face and they reached out to one another for a loving embrace.  He clung to her and she whispered to him in Chinese.

This woman had been by his side since he had arrived after a 12-week stay in the NICU.  She lovingly made a baby scrapbook for him so he would know about his first two years of life.  An unbelievably special gift we will cherish.  

She felt his forehead, felt his belly and checked that the clothes I had selected were satisfactory.  She cared so deeply.  As an aside, I put him in pants knowing that would set her heart at ease even though it was in the upper 90’s!

Our guide translated for us as I asked questions and listened intently to her instructions.  At the end of our brief but informative session, she said, “ please take care of him, he needs good medical attention.  He’s so sick.” 

And with tears streaming down my face I promised her with every fiber of my being I would give him every possible advantage and resource we could possibly find.  He would never know hunger again, he would know love and family and have a momma bear that advocated for his needs!  He would also know that his brave birth mom gave him life and that his nannies loved and cared for him the best they could.  They were heroes in our book and always will be.

After the conversation, we continued on our tour.  We peered in the windows of the playroom as sweet toddlers, like our son, played.  Grasping tightly to a block or a little cup.  It explained why our son was content with just the stacking cups we had brought along no matter how many toys we piled beside him.  

A few kids came up to the window and we played peek-a-boo with them which elicited smiles on all of our faces.  I looked over to see my 10-year-old son overcome with emotion, silently weeping.  The situation not lost on him.  As we got up to continue on our tour, I tried to forcefully send all the love I had through the window willing them to feel it.

We stepped into the crib room where beds lined the walls.  His little ward had 16 beds and his crib was already occupied by a new resident.  He had only been gone for 2 days.  

I asked about our son’s best friend and they said he was still waiting for his forever family and I silently prayed at that moment for God to move swiftly.  My legs felt week, I knew God was here in this place.  Holy ground.  He saw these babies and he loved them so deeply.  He had never abandoned them.  He just needed people to set fear aside and come in faith.

It was feeding time so it was time to go.  We waved goodbye to the kids and I willed myself to convey the words my heart felt.  I wanted the nannies to know the gift they gave our son and our family.

We took one last picture and our son started to cry as his nanny kissed his cheek and rubbed his back one last time.  She handed him to me and it’s like he knew he was leaving her and the only place he had ever known.  While we knew it was going to be for his good, he didn’t. 

As we hopped in the van and drove away, I  held him tight as tears poured down both of our faces.  I knew I’d never be the same.  Adoption had changed each of us.  It had changed everything.  Our family would never be the same.


If you are just getting caught up on our adoption story, you can catch up on some of the waiting process in these posts –

 China Adoption Gotcha Day

China Adoption Trip Part 1

Adoption Announcement

Adoption Process Part 1

Adoption Process Part 2

Adoption Process Part 3

Adoption FAQ

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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China Adoption Trip | Gotcha Day

arriving in Hefei for our gotcha day

Our train pulled into Hefei and we were struck with miles after miles of apartment buildings.  Not just 5 story buildings, skyscrapers.  Miles of them.  Quincy’s town was larger than we could have imagined and the smog haze prevented us from seeing the sun.  It’s known as the “smog city” and located in the Anhui Province of the People’s Republic of China.

We arrived Sunday afternoon, June 9th.  We stepped off the train with our 3 kids, 5 pieces of luggage, a stroller (and what felt like a partridge and pear tree) and somehow navigated the hundreds of people and down the escalator unscathed. We found our guide and hopped into the van to head to our hotel.  We were finally in Quincy’s province and tomorrow, June 10th, was Gotcha day!

hotel crib for adopted child

When we walked into our hotel room there was a tiny crib in the corner.  It was hard to believe.  This was it, tomorrow we would get our son.

signing adoption paperwork

The kids stretched out in their adjoining room while we chatted with our guide about what the next day would look like. He went through all the scenarios of what Quincy might do when handed to us and what we should focus on in the first 24 hours.  Then, we signed all the preliminary adoption paperwork.  If we weren’t nervous before, our hearts were racing a mile a minute at this point.

Our guide headed out, we unpacked and grabbed a quick bite to eat (meaning the kids were not a fan of the noodles so they literally ate a bite) in the hotel noodle restaurant before calling it a night.  We somehow slept, not great, but we did sleep.  We were SO nervous.  It’s hard to explain but we were walking into unknown territory.  We felt the prayers of those back home and we knew God had led us to this point so it was “go time”.

Thankfully, our gotcha day time was in the morning so we didn’t have to sit around all day and wait.  We got up and went to the top floor for breakfast.  Every hotel they booked for us had a western breakfast buffet so we tried to eat despite all the nervous butterflies and also met the other adoptive family that would be joining us.  It was such a comfort to be with another American family.  We could share in the nerves and excitement together.  Having them there felt like a piece of “home” was with us.

adoption gotcha day selfie

Around 8:30 AM, we packed up the diaper bag full of snacks, little toys and the gifts we had brought for Quincy.  A soft navy blue blanket from Nana, a plush football from Solon, a little play phone from Vera and a small stuffed rabbit from Lucy.  We hopped in the van and off we went through the streets of Hefei to the government affairs building.

The building itself didn’t look like a government affairs building, it was just in a row of other buildings along the street.  We hopped off the bus and followed the guide through the non-descript front door.  The only indication we were in a government building was two guards at the entrance who nodded at us as we walked in.  We rode up to the floor that handled marriage and adoption certificates and they filed us into this room with a large boardroom like table and chairs.

There our guide instructed us to get out all the paperwork we had brought with us from the United States while our kids played on iPads and we waited for Quincy to arrive.  Shortly before 9 am, our guide got a call from Quincy’s orphanage letting him know they would be delayed because Quincy wasn’t feeling well.  I didn’t think much of it other than the fact we would have to wait a little longer.

Meanwhile, we got to witness two other families to welcome their children.  Both of those children were older and one little boy was adopted by a Spanish family.  It broke my heart as tears trickled down his face, he was so scared as he cried out for his nanny.  Adoption is born from brokenness.  Meanwhile, we tried to remain calm and prepped Solon with our DSLR camera and Vera with my iPhone to snap photos and videos when Quincy arrived.

I’ll never forget the moment he arrived, the door opened and there he was.  His nanny walked in and he just looked so somber and sober.  I reached out for him and he came to me.  He was warm and collapsed against my body.  We introduced him to the kids and to Scott while our guide handled the paperwork.  He just stared at us with his deep brown eyes.

At one point, I looked up while holding him to see a pile of medication on the table.  I thought to myself, “someone must be quite sick, that’s a lot of medicine.”  Well about 10 minutes later, I realized all that medicine was for Quincy.  He wasn’t just under the weather, he had a high fever and a respiratory infection.

adoption day adoptive mom

Our guide started to go over all the Chinese medicines and how to dose them.  Some we would have to mix with water, others we would have to grind up and place under his tongue.  Scott furiously took notes as my mommy heart started to feel really anxious.  I missed our American healthcare system, I was scared.  Our guide translated other pertinent information to Scott like Quincy’s schedule and that he took 5 bottles a day and had two snacks.  He didn’t “eat” much food.

gotcha day

We finished up the paperwork and had our official adoption photo taken.  Unfortunately, since I was so anxious about Quincy’s health, my one regret is we didn’t get any family photos beside a quick selfie on his gotcha day.  We packed up all of our things after the paperwork was completed and loaded into the van to head back to the hotel for the rest of the day.

Since the orphanage didn’t send any formula or bottles with him, we asked our guide to help Scott locate that.  Our guide, Scott and the other adoptive father left us at the hotel and walked about 15 minutes to the nearest mall to grab essential supplies and food at the grocery store.

The kids and I took Quincy upstairs and snuggled him.  He didn’t have much interest in too much since he didn’t feel well but the kids did get a couple of coos out of him with the stacking cups we had brought along.  After Scott got back and our guide gave us instructions on how to make the bottle (2 scoopfuls of rice cereal along with the formula).  We tried to get him to drink with not much luck.

We spent the rest of the day nursing his high fever and praying fervently that he would be okay.  By the end of the day, we were all mentally and physically exhausted.  Since Quincy was sick, we didn’t want to leave the hotel for dinner, so we reached out to the front desk to help us order a pizza.  Thankfully, the did and delivered 2 pizzas to our room ;).  We sat on the floor of the hotel room, utterly exhausted from the day, for a carpet picnic.  Pizza never tasted so good.

gotcha day matching pajamas

We dressed everyone in the matching pajamas my sister got the kids shortly after and got Quincy tucked into bed, he hadn’t really napped combined with feeling ill, he was exhausted.  We were tired too.  What a day.  A day we will never forget.  The day Quincy James became our son.  Our gotcha day.  It didn’t go quite as we expected but we had a lifetime ahead of us!  Our family was complete and our long-prayed-for son was in our arms.  It was surreal!

If you are just getting caught up on our adoption story, you can catch up on some of the waiting process in these posts –

China Adoption Trip Part 1

Adoption Announcement

Adoption Process Part 1

Adoption Process Part 2

Adoption Process Part 3

Adoption FAQ

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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China Adoption Trip | Beijing

Many of you followed our adoption trip on Instagram (follow Simple Purposeful Living here) but I thought I would share more of the details of our trip here!  So let me begin with our 3-week adoption trip with the first week spent in Beijing, China!

If you are just getting caught up on our adoption story, you can catch up on some of the waiting process in these posts –

Adoption Announcement

Adoption Process Part 1

Adoption Process Part 2

Adoption Process Part 3

Adoption FAQ

China Adoption Trip Part 1 | Beijing

Day 1 & 2 | Travel

We got matched on February 26th with our sweet Quincy James and spent all spring finalizing paperwork and getting a gotcha day date and consulate date so that we could buy plane tickets and head to China!  Scott’s parents took us to the airport bright and early on June 4th to start our journey.  We all hopped out of bed and were ready to go.


We had a 4-hour layover in Detroit but its a great place for a layover.  They have a fun underground tunnel between terminals that has lights coordinated to music plus moving walkways so we got a little exercise. We then rode the elevated terminal tram and enjoyed the large water fountain before going to Max & Erma’s to enjoy one last all-American meal!

Then it was time to board our flight for Beijing.  We had 3 seats together so the girls and I sat together and then Scott and Solon sat across from us.  The flight took about 12 hours and unfortunately Scott and Solon’s tv’s along with their whole section did not work.  Thankfully, we had downloaded movies and tv shows from Netflix so they were fine.

Unlike domestic flights, international flights still offer meals so about an hour after we boarded we had our first meal.  The kids didn’t love them but I had packed lots of protein bars and snacks to supplement the meal.  On international flights, they also offer complimentary drinks so I enjoyed a glass of wine with my meal ;).

We all watched some TV.  I chose to watch both Momma Mia movies before we dressed the kids in pajamas and got them ready for bed.  They each brought a blanket and these blow-up footrests helped the girls to lay flat while they slept.  They each slept for about 4-6 hours and Scott and I slept on and off as well.  I wore my favorite joggers (found here) so I was nice and comfy too.



We arrived in Beijing at about 3 pm (which was 3 am our body time) and went through customs.  At this point, we were all pretty tired (like your body aches tired), but we got our bags and found our guide who took us to our hotel.  When we stepped outside the airport, I instantly noticed how thick the air was in China.

Beijing’s footprint is the size of 20 New York City’s.  It’s HUGE!  Of course, we arrived at rush hour so we didn’t arrive at the hotel until about 6 pm and by that time we were ready for a shower, dinner and a bed.  Our guide ordered us 1 large Pizza Hut pizza to be delivered to our room.  She used the Chinese equivalent of Grub Hub.  Fun fact the pizza was the size of a medium but we all ate it, showered and went to bed.

Day 3 | Great Wall of China

The next morning we met another adoptive family from Kansas City and our guide and hit the road for the Great Wall of China.  We went to the Mutianyu portion of the wall which took us about 2 hours with travel to get to from our hotel.  It started to rain when we arrived and I only brought 3 ponchos so I bought one more for $3 for Lucy and me.  She was strapped to my back.


The awesome part about the Mutianyu portion of the great wall is it is a little less busy and you can take a chairlift up and an alpine slide down.  Unfortunately, due to the rain,  we couldn’t do the alpine slide but the good news was there was NO one there which is unheard of in China.  There are always people EVERYWHERE.   We enjoyed walking the wall.  It was all built by hand which is mind-blowing!

There were some really steep parts and Solon and Scott traversed up.  The picture doesn’t do the slope justice.  We all had fun exploring before we took the chairlift back down!

After a late lunch of traditional Chinese food, we stopped by a Jade factory where we saw a lady making a jade family ball.  It’s one piece of jade they make into interconnected balls.  The ball represents the family and we picked one up in Guangzhou.

That night we went to a Kung Fu show.  we were really tired and it wasn’t quite what we thought it was going to be so we all ended up nodding off, whoops.  After the show, we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.  The kids all slept great.  Scott and I kept waking up at 3 am.  Not sure why that’s the magic time but we did the same thing when we came home.

Day 4 | Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Old Beijing

Our hotels all offered a western breakfast buffet included with our stay so we always ate a big breakfast.  After breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee we met up with our guide and other family to head  to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  It was actually the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests but no one discussed that in China.  All our guide mentioned was that it was the largest political square in the world.

From Tienaman Square we walked into the Forbidden City.  It was MASSIVE.  Huge building after huge building with huge courtyards in between.  Our guide was very good and filled us in on all the history and facts.  The kids enjoyed the ice cream stand in the middle the most!  Did I mention it was HOT?  It was in the ’90s with humidity!

After the forbidden city, our guide took us to a local Chinese restaurant and ordered for us.  We had a large variety of food including coke 😉 and the kids loved using the lazy susan to pass the food.

After lunch, we went to the Hutang part of Beijing which is considered “Old Beijing”.  It sits along the dragon line which means good Fung Shei and therefore expensive, prestigious real estate.  We rode rickshaws around and even toured a local family’s house.

After that, we stopped by Starbucks for caffeine and snacks before going to see an acrobatic show.  This show was incredible.  We had great seats and I had to cover my eyes for some of the stunts they did.  Our guide told us the performers start training at 3 or 4 years old and their families basically give them to the art.

After the show, we headed back to the hotel and said goodbye to the other adoptive family who was heading to their son’s province.  We would meet up with them again in Guangzhou.

Day 5 | Summer Place, Dumpling Cooking Class & Temple of Heaven

We started our last morning of sightseeing at the Emperor’s summer palace.  If you can believe it, it’s even larger than the forbidden city.  They even built a lake and a hilltop temple.  There was a nice breeze and lots of shade which was a nice break from the heat of Beijing.

After visiting the palace, we went to a dumpling making class for lunch.  This was another highlight of our trip.  It was so fun to work as a family making dumplings.  After we made them, they cooked them and then we had them for lunch.

After lunch, we headed to the temple of heaven and at this point, my kids were over it.  It was SO hot.  Literally, Scott said he thought his shoe would melt to the marble floor – ha!  We survived but barely.

Did I mention it was hot?  It was hot so we opted to go to the mall down the street from our hotel that night to get out of the hotel.  Their malls are a little different.  It consisted mostly of one large department store with all these little boutique sections.

Of course, they also have American/International stores like Adidas, Lego, Croc, Nike, etc. as well.  We stopped into the lego store and the kids played while we found some cool Chinese special edition legos to give to Quincy on one of his gotcha day celebrations.

Day 6 | Travel to Hefei

The next morning we packed up and got ready to head to Quincy’s province, had breakfast at the buffet and walked down the street to a local park.  Most parks in China don’t have kids playground equipment so our kids were a bit bummed but we saw people practice sword and fan dancing, tai chi and ballroom dancing.

We walked back to the hotel and met our guide to go to the train station.  We took the bullet train to Hefei which we were all excited about.  Our train’s top speed was 230 mph and it would show above the door how fast you were going.  The trip took about 4 hours but it was super smooth and so much easier than plane travel.

Our favorite guide of the trip was Helen!  She was AMAZING.  Our agency recommended her.  She booked our hotel, train and show tickets, came up with the itenerary and took us out to eat.  I call her the “fairy godmother” of Chinese adoption because she also delivers birthday and care packages to orphans from their American families while they wait to come get them.

We arrived with all of our luggage in Hefei and we couldn’t believe we were so close to Quincy.  It was all setting in that the next day we would meet our son.

Why did you go to Beijing first?

Many people asked why we went to Beijing first and not right to Quincy’s province.  Every situation is different but our agency suggested we go a few days early to get adjusted to the time change (hello 12 hours difference) and get to know our son’s culture first-hand.  It was a great experience and we weren’t holding our eyelids up with toothpicks when we arrived in Hefei.

I’ll be back with our next part of the trip – our week in Hefei, Quincy’s province!

You Might Also Like –
doption Announcement
Adoption Process Part 1
Adoption Process Part 2
Adoption Process Part 3
Adoption FAQ
Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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International Adoption Process Q & A

Lucy, our youngest daughter, was just 5 months old when Scott’s sister and brother-in-law brought our nephew home from China.  We had walked with them through their international adoption process.  Never in a million years at that moment, did I think we would walk through it ourselves.  Yet, here we are on the brink of bringing home our son from China.  Anytime, I mention that we are adopting I get lots of questions so I thought I would answer some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the international adoption process.

My husband and I also did a Facebook Live and covered many of these questions, you can watch it here.

Why did you choose adoption?

Many people assume adoption is reserved for those that cannot have biological children of their own and while that is a reason, it’s not the only reason.  We have 3 biological children and actually thought our family was complete.  You can read this blog post to my last child (God has a sense of humor!).

Shortly after my nephew came home from China, I started to feel this “pull” to adopt.  I remember with trepidation voicing the desire to my bible study small group and shortly after to my husband.  Like I said we were done having children, so my admission was a surprise to everyone, even myself.

I asked Scott to pray about it and he didn’t.  He didn’t know how serious I was so a year later on our 10th wedding anniversary cruise, I asked what he thought about us adopting and he had to admit he hadn’t prayed.  He agreed to pray and over the next 6 months, God revealed to him that we should adopt too.  We started the international adoption process in late August 2016!

We chose adoption because we answered the call God placed on our hearts.  It sounds silly but it’s true.  On average 1/3 Americans have considered adoption but only 2% actually adopt (source).

Why did you choose international adoption, specifically, China?

For us, there was no question in our mind.  We felt called to China.  We will never understand fully what it feels like to be adopted but we could give our child 2 cousins that would share their heritage and experience.  They would have cousins that looked just like them in photographs and they could grow up together knowing others like them.

Not only that, as far as adoption goes China has a very reputable long-standing relationship with the United States and the process, although slow, is very straight-forward and by the book.

What does the International adoption process look like?

We started by locating an agency that specialized in the China adoption process.  We were given the advice to go by word of mouth recommendation so we opted to go with the same agency as my husband’s sister’s family used.  We filled out the application and were accepted into their program.

Home Study

The next step was completing our home study.  Since our agency was located out of state, they recommended a local agency to do our home study.  A social worker within that agency was assigned to our case and made several visits to our home to interview both my husband and I as well as our kids.  The social worker than compiled all of the personal and financial information into a large document that would eventually be sent with our file to China.

I-800 & Dossier

When that was complete, we started the immigration process by filling out the I-800 which is the pre-approval necessary to immigrate a child into the United States.  Once we got that back, we could compile all the collected paperwork and submit our dossier (all collected paperwork) and submit it to China.  When they received our dossier and accepted it, we were officially logged in.  We were officially logged in (LID) July 2018!

Waiting for a Match

Then, we waited for a match.  This by far was the hardest part of the process because there was literally nothing we could do except pray and wonder when we would receive a file.  Then, on February 26th we got a file and accepted our match.  You can read more about our match day here.

Prepare to Travel

Once, we got matched we officially accepted with a letter to China and waited for our letter of acceptance (LOA).  Once we got that back, things were official and we could start the ball rolling to go get our son.  We sent in the rest of our immigration paperwork (I-800A) and started filing for our Chinese visas.

Once we get the I-800A paperwork back (takes 4-7 weeks) then we can schedule the day we pick up Quincy (gotcha day).  They are always on a Monday and book plane tickets based on that.

What will your stay in China look like?

We plan to fly into Beijing 4 days ahead of our scheduled gotcha day to acclimate to the time difference.  It’s literally halfway around the world (13-hour time difference).  We will use the time to acclimate and sightsee around Beijing.

Then, we will travel to our son’s province.  During our stay there, he will officially be placed in our custody and we hope to see his finding place (the place he was abandoned) and visit his orphanage.

Then, most likely after that, we will travel to Guangzhou where the US Embassy is located for the remainder of our stay.  There, we will have a variety of medical and consulate appointments.  In between, appointments a guide will take us to different sites in the area like the local zoo, a river cruise and a visit to the pearl district to name a few.  We will travel by train to Hong Kong and then fly out of Hong Kong back to the United States.

Our agency helps us plan the entire trip thankfully since we probably will be in a bit of a new child haze most of our time in China.

Will you travel to China as a family?

Yes!  Our kids have been part of the entire adoption process and we want them to experience our son’s birth country and culture.  We want them to learn the value of global citizenship beyond the scope of central Iowa.  There are lots of opinions on this but for our family, based on the recommendations of those we trust, we have chosen to all go!

How much does adoption cost?

The short answer is between $25,000-$35,000.  The fluctuation in numbers is due to travel expenses based on the time of year you travel and how many people will be traveling.  The thing I didn’t know about that number is not all of the money is due at one time.  Our international adoption process has taken 20 months so far and we have paid portions of that throughout.

When we were praying about adoption, everyone who had adopted said do not let money stop you, God will provide.  It’s true.  In a million different and unexpected ways, God has provided.  We have learned a lot about what contentment and have really refined our spending habits in this process, definitely an unexpected benefit.

How much do you know about your son?

Before we ever got matched, we had a conversation and training on what we were willing to accept.  It’s heart-breaking to have to decide but it’s a life-long commitment and we had 3 other children to consider.

So, when our social worker sent us our match she knew exactly what we were looking for.  So, before I even opened his file I was pretty sure he was our son.  We got a fairly extensive medical record and all the information they knew about him plus a few pictures and 2 videos.  We had that information to make our decision.

We consulted our local pediatrician and she looked over his file too.  We were going to have an international adoption specialist review his file but it wasn’t necessary in our case.  We most likely won’t get any more information on him until we meet him on Gotcha day.

How can others be supportive of adoptive families in the process?

Ask questions.  The biggest difference I noticed when adopting is that since there was no protruding belly, there was no visual reminder to prompt people to ask how it was going.  The adoption process can be lonely and the wait can be extremely hard.  Just asking how it’s going means so much.

Prayers.  Knowing you are being prayed for is huge.  Even though we are matched, we still covet prayers for smooth paperwork, safety in travel and bonding for our whole family.

Support.  Whether that be a financial contribution, help with fundraising, taking care of the housework while they are away or a meal when the family gets home.  Just knowing there is a community there to support you is huge.  We invite our friends and family to meet us at the airport to meet Quincy when we get home.

Understanding.  Due to the need to bond, the adoptive parents need to be the primary caregivers for the first 3-6 months which means they can’t attend a nursery/daycare setting.  In addition, his primary needs like feeding, diapering, and holding should be done by his parents alone.  Although it seems different, it’s essential the child feels bonded to the parents.

What adoption resources would you recommend?

How do you find an adoption agency?

We had been given some good advice to go with a word of mouth recommendation.  If you know someone who has adopted, ask them who they used for their adoption.  Then, set up a time to chat with them in person or over the phone and ask your questions.  It’s important you feel comfortable because they will walk you through the process, you want to have a good rapport out of the gate.


Bringing awareness to adoption

We love to bring awareness to the international adoption process and share our adoption journey with others.  Keep in mind, every country and adoption is different and the international adoption process looks different than the domestic adoption process. However, When we were deciding whether we should adopt, I loved reading about other’s adoption journeys.

Also, if you have any questions, please email me at  Plus, don’t forget to watch our Facebook live where we share more about our adoption journey and answer more questions!  Watch it here.


You Might Also Like –
Adoption Announcement
Adoption Process Part 1
Adoption Process Part 2
Adoption Process Part 3
Adoption FAQ

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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Overcome Unlikeliness and Live Your Purpose

I shared this message at the women’s retreat I spoke at as well as another group of women this past week.  I hope it encourages you too as you live your life simply on purpose 🙂


Unlikely.  That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about our adoption.  We were done having kids.  There have been other times in my life I have felt very unlikely or unqualified.  Maybe you have felt unlikely too. 

We might be unlikely by the world’s standards but we are chosen.

God chooses ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things.  Just look at Esther.  She is one of the only women in the whole bible that has a book named after her.  She was an ordinary girl in the middle of Persia minding her own business when the king selected her and several other beautiful women to come to the citadel for a beauty pageant.  He was in need of a new queen so a beauty pageant was the logical choice.

Guess what? Esther was chosen to be queen.  We know she was not only chosen by King Xerxes but also by God for a specific purpose.  There was a plot to annihilate her people. As queen, if she stepped out in brave faith, she could save them and she did.  God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

So how can you overcome feeling unlikely and say yes to God?

Find your identity in Christ.

In Genesis, God is creating all the things in the universe. He saves his best creation for all, mankind.  In Genesis 1:27 it says, So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. We bare the image of God.  Our worth is found in that, not in our abilities, beauty, or possessions.

Our identity is not rooted in what others think we can or cannot do.  I don’t know about you but I care too much what other people think.  My identity is rooted in the fact that the creator of the universe made me in His image and I am his beautiful creation.

If we weren’t that valuable, would God have sent his son to die so that we could be reconciled to him?  No.  He loves us so much, it says in John 3:16, that he sent his son to die for us.  We are deeply loved.

Step out in faith and know God makes what you have enough.

But I am not qualified?  I have said it myself.  I don’t have what it takes.  The bible is full of stories detailing the fact that God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.  Just look at David.  He killed Goliath with a staff, a sling and 5 smooth stones when he stepped out in faith.  Do you know what made David successful?  God.  1 Samuel 17:45 David said to the Philistine (Goliath), “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.

David stepped out in faith and God took what he had (the sling, stone, and staff) and went with him.  Just like that little schoolboy who gave his lunch to Jesus.  Jesus fed 5000 (John 6:7-13).  God took what he offered and made it enough.

Know God is faithful.

Just like God was with David, He is with you.  A couple weeks ago we got news our adoption process has slowed down considerably.  Our dreams of having our baby boy home for Christmas were dashed.  I was really upset.  Why God?  The next morning, I forced myself to read the bible.  I didn’t want to but I knew I needed to and I heard God whisper read Joshua 3.

In Joshua 3, God is leading the Israelites to the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  They were wandering because they had given in to fear and not trusted God after God tried to lead them into the promised land the first time.  Now, the only thing separating them and their 2nd chance at the promised land was a flooded Jordan River.

God told the priests to put one foot in the river.  Step out in faith.  When they did he stopped the river way upstream and it says, the entire delegation crossed on dry land (he didn’t even make them walk in the mud).  When they finished crossing, God told them to gather up stones and make a memorial so they could always remember that God had been faithful in leading them across the river into the promised land.  God is faithful.

Remember stones of faithfulness in your life.

When I finished reading that story, I wrote down all the times God had been faithful in my life. He changed our hearts for adoption.  He provided Scott with a new job and the list went on and on.  Then, when I ran out of ideas from my own life, I started writing down stories of God’s faithfulness from the bible.

Remembering how God has been faithful in the past brings me comfort that he is faithful now. He will help us bring our baby boy home.  You might not be waiting for your adoption to be complete but maybe you need to be reminded of how faithful God has been as you wait for him to show himself faithful in a current situation.

Get off the bench and get in the game.

When I remembered who I was in Christ, that he chose me and built me with a purpose, I could bravely step out in faith knowing he would make what I had enough and be faithful.  I am so glad we said yes to God, we would have missed out on so much.

It reminds me of that short time I played basketball in 7th grade and my coach called me off the bench to get in the game and I was like, no man I am good.  I’ll just sit here.  And my coach yelled back, get in the game.  I got up and got in the game and I am so glad I did.

Even if you feel unlikely, know you don’t walk alone. Get in the game.  You are not unlikely to God, you are chosen.  We are only given one life.  Let’s live it simply on purpose.  

Are you with me?

Need more inspiration, you might like this –
To The Person Who Thinks They Have No Impact
Encouragement for the Mom with Young Kids
10 Daily Habits That Will Transform Your Life


Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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Linking up with Becky


Our Adoption Story – International Adoption Process

Chinese lantern Pinterest pin for international adoption

This post is long overdue but the last several months we have been knee-deep in paperwork as we navigate the international adoption process.  Many adoptive families say there feel paper pregnant and we have definitely felt that way!  If you missed the first three adoptions posts you can read our announcement here, part 1 here and part 2 here. Today, I am going to walk you through the first part of our international adoption process!

Choosing an Adoption Agency

After we decided in September to pursue international adoption, we got busy filling out our adoption agency application.  From all our research, most people recommended choosing an agency based on word of mouth experience.  So, we chose the agency Scott’s Sister’s family used for their first adoption.  They were using them for their 2nd adoption so we figured that was good proof they liked their experience.

We got accepted by our agency and I had my first phone conversation with our social worker.  It was a warm fall morning and the big kids were at school.  Lucy played nearby as I sat in our white rocking chair.  It was surreal talking about our adoption and walking through the process after praying about it for so long.  Our social worker walked me through the process and answered my pressing questions.

Due to some new Chinese laws, we would not be eligible to adopt until Lucy (our youngest) was 3 years old.  However, we could start the domestic side of the adoption and when she turned 3 in June, we would be ready to notify China!  I just remember choking up several times during the conversation.  I was equal parts scared and excited but my heart knew this was God’s plan for our family.

Our Home Study & I-800A Approval

In October, we got accepted and had our orientation meeting.  We would be using our main agency for our dossier and referral but they could not do our home study.  Thankfully, they recommended another agency, we applied to that agency, got accepted and we began our home study in December.

I was so nervous to have a stranger come to our home and poke around.  What would she say?  Thankfully, she quickly put my fears to rest and we instantly hit it off.  She made the hours of interviews feel more like a conversation amongst friends.  She visited 3 times, interviewed us as a couple, as individuals and even interviewed the kids.

I’ll never forget when she asked Vera what she was scared about and Vera responded “strangers and thunderstorms.”  Our social worker quickly course corrected and asked “what are you scared about with the adoption?” to which Vera answered, “nothing”.   Our social worker had recently returned from a trip to China where they worked in orphanages and she told stories about what she saw.  All of us, but especially the kids, were attentive listeners.

We wrapped up home study at the end of January and she submitted the final copy to our referring agency in February.  From there, we got to work on our I-800A which is the paperwork that pre-authorizes us to immigrate a child to the United States.  We headed to the federal building downtown to get our biometric scan which really was just fancy dancy fingerprint scans.  We mailed all that paperwork off by the end of March.

Prepping Our Dossier

In the meantime, we started making appointments for our adoption physicals and started compiling all the paperwork necessary for our dossier.  Everything from tax statements, proof of employment, birth and marriage certificates, physical exams for everyone, a psychiatric evaluation for me, and our complete financial standing.  Scott and I would block off a time on the weekends and work together to make a to-do list, scan, and copy!

At the end of April, our I-800A was approved.  We mailed our dossier packet off to our agency on Mother’s Day!  A great way to commemorate Mother’s Day!

We were ahead of schedule and feeling good but paperwork takes time ;)!  The next step in the dossier phase is to have your paperwork authenticated at the state and federal level.  We got word from our agency that our file was rejected in Iowa because of a bad notary signature on one document.  We got it all redone and our paperwork was approved in Iowa in June and then sent to Washington D.C. to be authenticated.  Everything cleared and our paperwork was sent to China on July 17th, 2018!

Officially DTC

So, now that our paperwork is in transit to China – we are officially DTC (dossier to China).  When they get our paperwork, they will review it and officially log us into the system.  We hope to hear within the next week or two that we are officially LID, meaning we are logged in and ready to receive referral files.

Due to some law changes, adoption agencies no longer have partnerships with orphanages so the centralized system makes it a longer process to get a referral.  Our social worker told us we should get matched within the next few months.  I am not going to lie, it’s so hard to wait but my wise husband reminded me we have made it this far, we know God’s perfect timing will prevail.

Praying and Waiting

If you made it to this point, in this very long update, thank you!  I hope this post gives you a glimpse into the international adoption process.  No adoption is identical but when we were researching adoption, I wanted to read other adoptive families’ stories to help give insight into what we might experience.  I hope to pay it forward.

We will keep you posted.  If you think of it, please pray for us.  Pray for our child, for us to be united in a decision and for God’s provision in finances.  The average cost of an international adoption is $35,000.  We have seen God provide financially already and are trusting Him to help us with the remainder of the cost.  We have about $20,000 left to pay.  He has carried us this far.  We know He will guide us but we also believe in the power of prayer :)!



Our Adoption – God’s Provision & Stepping Out in Faith

If you are catching up on our adoption story, you can read about our our Adoption announcement here and the  first installment of our story here.

Vocalizing Our Adoption Desire

Last we left off, Scott and I were spending a lot of time praying about adoption.  I was trying my best to keep my mouth shut and let God work out the details. In April 2017, we had our couples small group over for our weekly Thursday night meeting.  When we went around the room to share prayer requests, I looked at Scott willing him to share about adoption but instead he said, we have an unspoken prayer request.

I wish I could have captured my face and our group’s face in that moment.  They all looked at us curiously and my eyes might have ended up in the back of my head but Scott was just not ready to vocalize it yet and so I knew, despite my frustration at the seemingly never ending wait, I had to be patient.

Asking for even an undisclosed prayer was progress.

Week after week our group joked with us about our unspoken prayer request. We did life with these people and they knew something was up.  I am an open book so it took everything in me to not share my heart but I wanted to respect Scott and his heart needed some time.  Finally, one Thursday night, he was ready to share and he looked at me to do the honors.  My heart beat out of my chest vocalizing the words to our small group that we were praying about adoption.

Of course, they needed more information because we had told them our family was complete after Lucy so we rambled on as they asked questions, we didn’t really have answers for!  Around that same time, we shared with my best friend and a few close family members as well so I was thankful to process through my fears and feelings with others.  I do my best processing with my mouth ;)!

After we shared, we continued to pray.


God’s Provision

Over and over again whenever we talked about it, Scott’s main concern was the cost of International adoption and the cost of caring for another child with the possibility of special needs. Some asked us why we didn’t foster to adopt (which is free) or try domestic adoption but our heart has always been in China.

So, we prayed specifically for God to show us how we would be able to afford it.  I didn’t work outside the home and although we saved some monthly, it would be really hard to do without dipping into long-term savings which Scott was unsettled about doing and to be honest so was I!

While praying, I wracked my brain and searched Pinterest trying to think of all the different ways we could make enough money to cover the estimated $35,000 cost!  I had lots of ideas but of course God had other plans that could only be orchestrated by Him and show us that He would provide.

So, we should not have been surprised when Scott got an interesting text on a random week day in June (2017).  A friend and former colleague asked him if he would be interested in a new job at a different firm.  Scott had worked at the same company since he graduated and had no intentions of looking anywhere else but he jokingly texted back if the price is right. 

One thing led to another and he ended up setting up an interview with the company, more out of curiosity, than anything else.  Meanwhile, another former co-worker and friend reached out the same week asking if he would like to come work for his company.  Not one but two new job opportunities, seemingly out of nowhere, in one week’s time.  He had gotten opportunities in the past but nothing worth investigating and never two in the same week.

Was it just a weird coincidence?

We started to wonder if God was up to something.  He ended up interviewing with both companies and the first one asked what would motivate him to come so Scott gave them a number that he thought was crazy and we prayed that if this was how God would provide, He would.  I also prayed that this would bolster Scott’s confidence that God would provide for us if we stepped out in obedience.


Stepping Out in Faith

On August 19th, 2017, the day of my 34th birthday Scott gave me a little bag filled with tissue paper.  I was cautiously optimistic that it might be the one thing I asked for my birthday, a confirmation that we could step out in faith and say yes to adoption.  A big birthday request but when he asked what I wanted for my birthday, that was it!

So, as I took out the tissue and saw a little Chinese flag, I knew he was saying yes to adoption!  We told the kids the news and they were all excited. They couldn’t wait for another sibling.  My heart started to beat a mile a minute and to Scott’s surprise I didn’t cry. I  was in shock.  After years of praying, we were finally stepping out in faith.  The moment was quite surreal much like the emotion you feel on your wedding day.  It was happening.

On September 25, 2017 – just a month after we stepped out in faith and said yes to adoption, Scott started his new job.  He accepted and signed that crazy offer he had submitted to them.  Both of us humbled at how God provided for our family as we stepped out in faith, with trembling feet and hearts racing, as we embarked on bringing home our child.

It’s not the story we would have written or the way we thought the finances would work out but God always works out the details according to His perfect plan!  Now, it was finally time for the next step and officially start the adoption process.


Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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Adoption Update: Praying About Adoption

January 2016, I held a 6 month old, a chubby cheeked Lucy, in my arms.  I sat down on a stool in a Sunday school classroom with my bible study small group.  We each went around sharing prayer requests.  My heart beat out of my chest at the thought of sharing a secret but I knew I had to get it off my chest.

It was no surprise, I started to cry as I spoke the words, I think I want to adopt.  My bible study friends listened intently as I poured out my heart, my words probably making no sense at all, but alas they listened.  To be honest, the desire to adopt didn’t make sense to me either.  We had our 3rd child, whom we had long prayed for and just a year prior we said our family was complete.

The ladies agreed to pray for me and we left it at that.  A month later, we visited Scott’s parents in Florida and they watched the kids for a coveted date night out.  We chose a fancy bayside restaurant and while enjoying Scott’s favorite (not mine) Oysters Rockefeller, I told him I had, what seemed like, random but deep-seeded, desire to adopt.  He listened and I told him he should pray about it and that I was praying about it.  The evening ended on a series of different subjects with the adoption discussion finished for the time being.

That’s the way the adoption conversation went for a long time.  It would come up from time to time but the subject usually faded into another conversation and that was that.

I’ll never forget the Sunday, my friend Azlyn stood up in front of the congregation to share about her desire to become a full-time missionary serving the orphans in Togo, Africa.  She told story after story complete with pictures of gaunt-faced babies without moms and the Holy Spirit within me grieved.  Tears trickled down my face as my heart yearned for those orphans.  I have sat through many amazing missionary speakers and not once had I ever been moved in that way.

I knew enough about God to know He was moving in my heart and creating a desire but we had witnessed some difficult scenarios with adoption in the past and the idea of adoption scared me.  I didn’t want to go into the process and fail.  So, I wiped my tears away and told myself it was too hard.  Scott wasn’t on board and the pain of the past was too much to proceed.

But God did not relent.

In August 2016, Scott attended a mens breakfast where the speaker shared how he adopted several children from Africa.  Of course in my infinite wisdom,  I though that would change Scott’s heart.  I probed as a wife might do and to my great astonishment and discouragement, Scott said he had a great time but he never mentioned how God moved his heart toward adoption.

At that point, I figured I must be hearing God wrong about adoption because how could I have this desire if Scott wasn’t on the same page.  If Scott was praying with no change of heart, I needed God to change my heart.  Although, deep down I knew God was for adoption, I must have heard him wrong.

But God did not relent.

In January 2017, we headed out on a week long Caribbean cruise.  The funny thing is when you get away from your kids you have time to talk, not just about the day to day, but dreams, desires, hopes for our family and our future.  One afternoon, over our favorite chorizo bean dip out on our balcony, I asked Scott if he had been praying about adoption.

He said no.

To say I was hurt was an understatement and thankfully God took hold of my tongue.  Instead of yelling and screaming, I calmly shared that the desire of my heart had not changed in over a year.  I still felt called to adopt despite asking God to take the desire away.  I told Scott, adoption scared me to death and that I really needed him to pray about it.

For the first time, I think he realized this desire of mine wasn’t fleeting and I was dead serious.  He agreed to pray and we dug deep into our fears of finances, failure, family dynamics, caring for an orphan…you name it we went there.  It was scary and vulnerable and we did not have all the answers.

For the next several months, I did my best to not nag him.  I had to trust that Scott would stick to his word and pray.  It was hard because I like to help by reminding him but I kept hearing God say, he would work it out if I just zipped my lips.  What a lesson that was for me!

I waited and prayed as Scott prayed and waited.

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simply purposeful life.  #tribekoko
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