Going to China: Taking Siblings Along

August 3, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Continuing into August with our Going to China series, because one month just isn’t long enough to cover all things China-trip related! Today Nicole shares how she successfully traveled to China as a family of 6. Upcoming topics include orphanage behaviors, undisclosed special needs, different ways children react at placement, and how to cope with feeding and attachment issues while in country.


My husband and I traveled with our three children (ages 9, 7, and 4) to bring our newest son home at the end of 2014. To make our trip as successful as possible, we did a lot of planning and preparation ahead of time.

We talked with our children beforehand. A lot. This included talking quite a bit about what to expect during our trip. We discussed the travel, plane ride, hotel, sights, sounds, food, and smells of China. If you haven’t been to China before, I recommend this book to prepare.

While there, we reminded them what was going to be happening each day so there weren’t any big surprises. We also made sure to explain a lot about how our new son may react on Family Day, so they were prepared for a wide range of emotions and behaviors. We asked them to take things slowly, being sure to not touch him a lot at first. We talked at length about how important it was for their new brother to learn who mommy and daddy were.

They were supposed to be playmates only, and they knew not to meet any of his physical or emotional needs. They were also tasked with the job of videoing and taking pictures during Family Day while we tried to comfort our newest little guy.


We packed for all situations. I packed a lot of extras that I wouldn’t have if just my husband and I were traveling. We took a lot of snacks and food that we knew would be comforting to them. I packed extra clothes for different weather situations. We also took a large variety of medications for them, including ibuprofen, benadryl, antibiotics, prescription allergy meds (to combat the pollution), etc. We included a stash of melatonin to help with sleep regulation. I packed some of their clothes and supplies in all of the checked luggage in case we lost any of the bags. This made sure that even if only one bag made it, they at least had a few days of clothes. We packed many small toys, play dough, and other entertainment in checked luggage. (We also packed a backpack for our new son, loaded with toys that were just for him.)

Electronic entertainment was employed. “Screens” were a lifesaver for us. We gave all of the children early Christmas gifts and loaded the new devices up with games (that didn’t need internet), a variety of music, our homeschool memory work songs, and books on tape. I also put several e-books on my iPhone to read aloud, but we never ended up using them. The in-flight movies were a wonderful addition to the long flights too because they helped break up the 15 hours.

We planned with travel in mind. For the flights, I packed each child a backpack with the following:

  1. Their loaded-up electronic devices, chargers, and headphones.
  2. Individual snacks in the original packaging, inside of a plastic baggie for easy access. (I also prepped a second snack bag inside our checked luggage for the plane ride home).
  3. Travel pillows.
  4. Their favorite blanket.
  5. Travel-size tissues.
  6. Travel-size wet ones.
  7. Travel-size hand sanitizer.
  8. An empty water bottle to fill with drinks.
  9. A full change of clothes in a gallon-size plastic baggie.
  10. Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  11. A few games, including a travel scavenger hunt.
  12. Anything else that they wanted to fit, without making the backpack too heavy.

Also, we booked flights that were non-stop. It took extra planning, but it made all the difference in the world. We had to drive a little extra, but we all agreed that layovers with four children weren’t something we wanted to deal with.


We tried to be realistic and flexible while creating a comfortable routine in-country. While we were in China, we made sure to be realistic about our expectations for them. We didn’t overload their days with a ton of events, but still did plenty of sightseeing and shopping. We tried to create some semblance of a routine each day, allowing ample time for sleep. But we also went with the flow, as is needed when traveling with children! I highly recommend renting a family apartment at the Garden Hotel – we had plenty of space and even had a microwave, washer, and dryer! It offered a safe and welcoming “home” to come back to each day.

Being in China together didn’t always mean sticking together. My husband and I often split up with the kids, especially when adoption paperwork was required. I went alone with our son to the medical appointment. Also, we separated to get some of the children out for awhile. Our new son did better in the apartment, but the other children wanted to experience China! We tried to be as accommodating as we could so that all of the children had their needs met. We also did go out as a family, but kept our trips brief.

A positive attitude helped us see the beauty. We had a few tough situations, but the trip was overwhelmingly positive. Even with lots of travel, missing sleep, a few tantrums, and some picky eaters, we are so glad we took everyone. The children have memories that we can never recreate: they had the opportunity to try new foods, practice their Mandarin, see amazing sights, and fall in love with China. They also learned many valuable lessons during that trip, and got to experience life in a new and different way. They were able to witness their new brother join our family; and our new son got to meet his whole family right away. The older children offered a lot of comic relief when needed, and I think they helped our new son feel more comfortable.


We can’t wait to go back. Our children talk almost daily about their return trip to China! We don’t know when it will be, but we know we’ll go back. In the meantime, we are keeping up with our Mandarin studies so they will be even more prepared. We look forward to going back together and are so grateful for our time in China!

what we’re reading: 8.2.15

August 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Hello August, hello new family travel blogs (my favorite!), and hello news articles and posts of interest! Thank you to everyone who contributed to this month’s compilation, keep the links coming!

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling family, go here.


Kindness Matters. Read the beautiful thoughts of a mama encountering new experiences with her daughter who has a visible special need, especially poignant are the times she has been shown kindness. May we all learn how to extend love and kindness on this day.

All you ever wondered about Adopting Out of Birth Order, Two Unrelated Children, or an Older Child compiled into one succinct post. If you are curious about any of these topics head over to Mine In China to read more, and while you’re there read through the archives, this is a great blog with lots of information on China adoption.

One of the issues which can become prevalent for families who are in the middle of attachment and bonding struggles is well covered in the post, Adoption 101: Indiscriminate affection. In fact, this is a post you can send out to families and friends to better understand what your child may be going through, giving encouragement advice: “Educating yourself on what new adopted families will be facing with their children and how you can appropriately respond to these issues is one way you can support these families.”

It is not often that you get to see inside of the heart of someone who has just realized they have fallen in love. In She Has My Heart, we get to see just this. The beautiful retelling of a mama realizes how deeply she has fallen for her daughter. A daughter she may have for “one more day, or one more month, or one hundred more years to hold” is now in full possession of her new mama’s heart.

Growing Wests shares a fantastic post titled, Foodies. This is a great read filled with love and practical wisdom from a super-mom who shares her perspective of having children with food issues.

Let me share just a few words of the post Call to Boymom by Leftylex: “Being a boymom is just about as terrifying as I thought it would be. My son is as sticky as a glue stick every second of the day, his energy never runs out, and he instantly turns any object into a weapon. But, dear Lord, does that boy love and melt his mama!” Now go read the rest, it’s so good!

Lanza Adoption Adventure gives us a review on the children’s book titled, Porcupette Finds a Family. This sounds like a sweet book which might be helpful for children who are learning to love and trust their new adoptive family.


Jamie, a fellow adoptive mom has authored the book, Blood Sisters: A Tale of Adoption, Thalassemia, Sisterhood and Miracles. The book recounts her family’s story of adopting two girls from different parts of China who both have the same rare blood disorder. “This is the story of how they became a family and how that family navigates the world of adoption and medical care.”

We had the privilege of sharing The Ayers Family Writes Their Own Story with you last year. Watch this inspiring video as they make the news in their local city. The courage this amazing couple exemplifies in facing the fears of adoption and travel to China is a lesson for all of us, they did not let anything stand in their way. It is such a blessing and privilege to have this type of bravery for us to learn from within our China adoption community.

Zhanjiang Kids Organization has officially opened their foster home named Grace Village in Zhanjiang, Guangdong. They will be serving special need children who require more specialized care than what may receive within the local orphanage. It is such a joy to watch the difference they are making in these little lives within the very first few days of opening.


Pepper Meeting her Daddy for the First TIme

Pepper Meeting her Daddy for the First TIme

In China now (or super soon)…
Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust
Our Adoption Journey
Happy Family of 5
Bringing Home Pepper
Vermillion Rules
Strengthen My Hands

And just home from China…
Crazy Blessed
One Love, One Family
A Miracle for Meg
From Great Wall to Great Lakes
Joy In the Waiting
Bringing Charlie Home
The Gordons
White House Adventures

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

Thank you for joining us for another What We’re Reading edition, see you again soon!


“Easiest Special Need Ever”

August 1, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Continuing to spotlight different special needs each month, we just finished up a month of posts from moms parenting kids with craniofacial needs. This month we are focusing on infectious special needs: HIV, Hepatitis B, Syphilis and Tuberculosis. Grateful for each and every mom who shares so others might be encouraged to consider a special need that once seemed too difficult or too scary.


The first time I remember hearing about HIV, it was an article I read about Ryan White. In the article, his mom was interviewed and talked about how she was not scared of catching HIV. That she hugged him and kissed him and shared his soda. I remember wondering why anyone would be scared to catch it from hugging or kissing or sharing soda. I was in middle school probably, but knew it could not be spread by casual contact.

The next time HIV blipped my radar, I was in nursing school. We went around the room introducing ourselves and said what area of nursing we were interested in. My answer was pediatric nurse practitioner (I got that half right!). One of my classmates said emphatically, “HIV/AIDS – that is what I want to work with.” I remember thinking that would be an intriguing population to work with.

The first child I met who was HIV positive was during my hospice clinical rotation. The girl was 6 or 7, her braided pigtails flying behind her as she played. I asked her hospice nurse how in the world she qualified for hospice (to qualify a physician must say they do not expect you to live longer than 6 months). The nurse said that she will most likely live to be an adult (this was the mid-1990’s and the new medications were just beginning to be available), but no one knew for sure. That little girl was so full of life, and so adorable, I could not fathom her life may be cut short because of a virus.

Fast forward over 15 years (how did that happen so fast??). We are beginning the adoption process for our daughter. It was time to fill out that medical checklist. Which medical needs would we be ok with? Many needs made that list, including hepatitis and HIV. I think that was the point where I knew that adopting a kiddo with HIV was in our future. We knew that HIV was considered a treatable, chronic condition. It no longer was a death sentence. HIV is easier to manage and has fewer complications than diabetes.

We did pounds and pounds of adoption paperwork. We completed our parent training. We excitedly told our families who were overall supportive. Then the day came that we got THE CALL. It was our 15th wedding anniversary. The agency rep said they had the file of a girl younger than we’d requested, but otherwise fit our medical checklist. She had cleft lip and palate, hepatitis B, and some hearing loss. Did I want her to email the file to us? Well, I thought that was a silly question.


We both knew when we opened the file she was ours. We raced through more paperwork, and finally traveled to China and arrived home in February 2013. She had several medical appointments, including the cleft team and with a GI specialist who would manage her Hepatitis B. Her labs came back and she was hepatitis negative. The doc called the lab and spoke to them to be sure. We have no idea why the labs in her file said she was hep B positive. We settled into our new life of parents of 3 kids.

In April (yes about two months after arriving home) I saw the face of a little boy in a waiting child group. He was 5 1/2. He was HIV positive. He was the cutest boy in all of China. I loved him. We just got home though. We were broke. We were trying to find our new normal. So I advocated for him. Surely I could find this sweetheart a family. Time passed. His 6th birthday came in July and I grieved.


After much prayer, we decided that we were his family. One small issue. His file was assigned to another agency. We wanted to re-use our dossier paperwork to save time and money (a family can re-use much of their adoption paperwork required by China if they submit LOI before the one year adoption date of the kiddo who just arrived home). I called the other agency. They wanted to keep his file one more week, and then they would transfer it. That was one of the longest weeks of my life. I called back exactly a week later. The agency rep said they requested the transfer the day before. Our agency emailed very soon after saying they had his file.

We did more paperwork. It was near our anniversary again (16 years!), so we announced to family that our sweet Alex was our gift that year. We did more paperwork. We moved to a different state. That required more paperwork. We scrimped and saved and went into debt to pay fees and travel. In April 2014, Alex joined our family, about a year after I first saw his picture.


He slid into our family seamlessly. He is the happiest, most easy going boy. He is learning what it means to be in a family. The HIV affects us daily, but it doesn’t. He takes meds (3 different anti-virals) twice a day. He needs labs every 3-4 months. His viral load has always been undetectable, so technically he cannot pass it to anyone. Other than Alex getting tired more easily than our other kids, HIV does not affect his health very much. He is a normal healthy kid. He loves swimming and dragons. He loves ice cream but still does not like cheese. He fights with his siblings.

I am much more aware of the perception of HIV in the general public. My heart breaks when I hear stories of a mom losing custody of her kids because her new fiancée is HIV positive. My heart soars when families with one HIV positive parent posts pictures of his HIV negative family – including his kids. I feel heartbroken when I hear of a housekeeper in China whose husband wants a divorce and custody of their children because she simply worked for a family who was fostering a child exposed to HIV at birth.

The truth is in China the stigma is much worse when compared to the US. HIV positive people are routinely denied jobs, housing, and medical care. This breaks my heart. I have willingly become an educator and advocate. I make it well known that I am always willing to answer HIV questions, without judgment, no need to be embarrassed. Asking questions is how we learn.


Here is a list of the most common questions I get asked:

1. What about boo-boos and blood? Do your kids know what to do when they bleed? Are there any risks if my kid plays with a kiddo who is HIV positive?

HIV has never been spread through casual contact. Bleeding boo-boos are not scary. HIV is killed quickly by contact with air. Any spilled body fluid has to get into the bloodstream to infect someone – which is hard to do. Putting on a band-aid happens the same way it does at your house. Intact skin is the best defense against any virus. We teach all of our kids not to touch other people’s blood. That is the medical part of me though – it has nothing to do with HIV. I don’t want my kids touching anyone’s body fluids – that is just gross and unnecessary. They know to come get a grown up if they see blood. There are no risks for children playing together. They can pass on the flu or colds – but not HIV.

2. If I adopt a HIV positive kiddo – what if she gets sick? Will she end up in the hospital from a cold? Do I need to worry about her immune system?

All kids get sick. It is part of life. Yes – you would watch a bit more closely, but it really depends on what her immune system is up to. A cold does not mean a hospitalization. The medications used to combat the HIV also help normalize the immune system. Most of the time the body will fight it off just like it would for anyone else. Of course there are exceptions, and sometimes HIV kiddos do get sicker. Just like cardiac kiddos, or diabetic kiddos, or any kiddo that deals with a chronic medical condition. There are things you can do to help your kid’s immune system. Most important thing is frequent handwashing. In our family we use vitamin C and D as immune boosters (especially in the winter). We also avoid gatherings when others are sick. That also has more to do with my not wanting the kids to get sick than the HIV. Sick kids are not fun!

3. How often are doctor visits? How much do the meds cost? How often is lab work?

Doctor visits with the pediatric infectious disease (or PID) doc are every 3-4 months for most kids with HIV. Labs are the same frequency. The medications are usually covered well under insurance, and if not there are medication programs to help reduce the cost if needed. The families I polled pay about $35-80 per month for all the meds. We fall in the middle of that.

4. What if the meds don’t work? What if the child becomes resistant to the meds? What about medication side effects?

Drug resistance usually occurs when the medications are not given regularly. Missed doses or frequent medication changes can lead to drug resistance. There are now very sophisticated tests that help the PID if this situation arises. There are several types of HIV and some types respond better to different meds. There are 5 categories of HIV meds, and around 25 different meds total. Research is being done to increase the medication options. If resistance occurs, there are tests for that too. The resistance tests (which are all blood tests) help determine what the next step will be. Thankfully this is rare, and PID’s are usually more than willing to collaborate with each other.

There is still a great deal of research in HIV. I talked with several people who have kiddos who are drug-resistant and none of them regret choosing this medical need. So far all have found treatment options – different combinations of medications or even research trials. My advice would be to call your local PID and ask them how they would handle this. The meds can have side effects, and like any med it really is dependent on the individual. We have been through one med change because of side effects. There are many medication options out there and finding the treatment regimen that has the least amount of side effects may take time. Part of the quarterly lab work is monitoring liver function and such to keep an eye out for early indicators of side effects.

5. What is the long term prognosis? Can a HIV positive person marry a HIV negative person and not infect them?

People with HIV have normal life expectancy. Dying from AIDS is pretty rare. A person with HIV can marry, have kids (even the old fashioned way!), without infecting their partner or baby if they are the woman. Magic Johnson and his wife have been married many years, and she is still HIV negative.

I have a confession. When I traveled to get our Alex, my good friend Brandi went with me. She is also a nurse, and we both have seen a lot of different medical needs. We both had adopted from China’s Waiting Child program before, and had experienced several needs in our own families. Twice a day, when it was time for Alex to take his meds (which he swallowed the pills all at once), we would gleefully look at each other and one of us would say, “Easiest special need ever!!” We felt like we had a secret. Alex was so healthy, such a normal 6 year old boy, it felt like he had no special need. And we still feel that way.

– guest post by Kathy 

Living into Hope

July 31, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Today’s post finishes out our feature this month on craniofacial needs. So grateful for all the moms who willingly shared about parenting a child with a craniofacial need – you can find all the posts in this series here. If you would like to share your family story, just complete this short form and we will be in touch …Read More

Going to China: the Long Flight Home

July 31, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


The China trip looms large in our adoptive parent hearts and minds. We daydream about Gotcha Day, pray for the moment we can snuggle in the hotel with our little love, hope for that once in a lifetime walk along the Great Wall, plan for an afternoon spent shopping in Guangzhou, and imagine ourselves eating …Read More

Contributor Q and A: Moments!

July 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


At some point on your China trip, something silly, something embarrassing, or something crazy will happen. You are away from home, out of your comfort zone, adopting a new to you child, and traveling in a unique culture. You can bank on some family giggles. The No Hands But Ours contributors have accrued their share …Read More

Waiting Child: Ethan

July 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Ethan is a handsome boy, who is 4 years old. He is listed with Hawaii International Child. He was found abandoned when he was 3 years old, and brought to the orphanage. They found him to be in good health, with the exception of low muscle tension in his legs. The doctor diagnosed him with …Read More

What Should I Pack for China?: My Best Attempt at a Comprehensive Packing List

July 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


One of the questions I see most often in China Adoption Facebook groups is “What should I pack for China?” Naturally, I had this question the first time I adopted from China. When I approached this task, I did what I always do: I researched. Every time someone posted in a DTC Facebook group a …Read More

Waiting Child: Kim

July 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Kim is a precious and beautiful girl who is 6 years old. She is designated special focus to Lifeline through an Orphanage Partnership. Her special need is listed as abnormal bone development. This little girl is absolutely precious! She is a polite and loves to greet others! She can walk unassisted, go up and down …Read More

Going to China: Carry-On Only

July 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Being that my husband is in the airline industry, we have been a family that takes full advantage of the flight benefits. Therefore, since we fly stand-by, we hardly ever check bags – because one is never totally quite sure IF we will get on the said flight until the last minute – major bummer if your …Read More

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