Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent: Out of the Root...

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1, 2 ESV)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Advent: Books & Links

I'm preparing for a little Adventures in Advent workshop next week. I listed resources 2 years ago on my previous blog; and I've had a few questions about resources, etc. So, here they are. What are your favorite boosk or traditions and scripture readings? Jesse Tree? Advent Candles? How do you prepare for the celebration of Jesus' first coming to earth? And how do you speak and teach your children through the daily life about their place in the redemptive narrative of history that promises one day all sad things will be untrue?

I'd love to hear from you as I post and update the next few weeks!

Here are a few of my favorites, I've linked to Amazon, apparently I have some little associate account that I've never used. But, here we go. We'll give it a try, I've linked to Amazon or blogs or websites.

For Adults & Young Adults

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper

Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative b
y Russ Ramsey
Jesse Tree

Reading from Ann Voskamp's Blog

Family Celebration Ann Voskamp 

Advent Candles
Advent Candle Set ** they usually sell out quickly!
Candle Reading by
    Week 1 
    Week 2
    Week 3
    Week 4

Advent Calendars
Naptime Diaries with Journe ** our calendar for 2014

Online Reading Resources from Daily Blogs or Downloadable: (downloadable via Advent Calendar)

Some of Favorite Kid Resources: for crafts **we'red doing crafts this year...oh my!

The Donkey In the Living Room: A Tradition That Celebrates the Real Meaning of Christmas
by Sarah Cunningham
* This is a super fun reading story to sort of play off the fun of opening a new nativity animal each dady and telling a story.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Christmas Sale at Bamboo & Pluff Mud Shop

I've listed a lot of sale options on my site! If it's too challenging to order that way, email me at bambooandpluffmud at or message me through my Facebook page:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

{Pre-order} Rooted Pendant & Nest Sale

The most popular combination seems to be the Tealish Turquoise Rooted Pendant and the Silver & Pearls nest. So, let's have a pre-order sale to get a jump start on Christmas shopping.

I've launched by Storenvy site, too; and I hope this will help simplify the ordering system. Hop on over and check it out! You can always access this store link from this blog or my Facebook page or Instagram account! I've listed 20 items in this combination. I'll be shipping the first 10 by October 1st and the 2nd batch around October 10th. I'm leaving a little window in the shop schedule for when I'm attending and *working* the amazing Together for Adoption conference.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Advent & Miss Ann Voskamp

In the winter of 2010, before we began our adoption journey, when Justus was about 2 months old, we began our Advent Journey. The hustle and bustle of Christmas had taking it's toll. I'll spare you the details; but I was becoming a Scrouge. Discovering the focus of Advent was an amazing gift to my heart and to our family and we are so grateful to get to share that with our friends. 

The baby that was 2 months old will be turning 3 years old in just a few weeks. So, we prepare for Advent 2013 and our first year to celebrate as a family of five! The other day as I was rummaging in our garage cabinet, I caught a glimpse of the vase for my modge podge Jesse Tree. The broken tree limbs shoved into frosted glass brought a silent peace to my heart.

Days ago, I pulled out some of my favorite Advent books and began to think about the November Advent Worshop. I began to think and pray for the Momma's coming and the families who are a seeking and telling the true redemptive narrative in the only real Story that goes beyond just Bethlehem nativities with a dash of Walmart Santa.

Photo from Holy Experience Blog
And then just today I finally had time to open my email, and something beautiful arrived in my email box from precious Ann Voskamp's blog. I consider one of my "top influencers" if this was a Klout page. She was..sharing about her book dedicated solely to Advent....So, yes, my copy of The Greatest Gift is on it's way; and yes I hope to share it more and more with those of you who will begin to prepare for Advent in November. I hope you'll order it, too! I'm sharing a link right here and it'll be on the side of my blog with my little Amazon deal.

I'm only slightly excited!

Here's the link to buy it now. I'll be adding some of my other favorite Advent Books to a post soon as well!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What will you tell them about their roots?

I remember someone innocently asking us what would we tell our daughter about "her roots". The question began to churn. I realized that wasn't just a question for my daughter; but it was one for all my children. What will we tell them? Will their story begin with His story? Will we pray that their lives go beyond the top soil and into the nutrient rich earth? And for us, will will we ask for the Grace to dig deeper into the Gospel's Story that began with a promise of a Messiah out of the Root of Jesse? So, just what will we tell them about their roots? 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bamboo & Pluff Mud {the shop}

So, let's skip 5 months of blogging andfill y'all in on one piece of info. 
We are going for it with Bamboo and Pluff Mud Shop.  

I am adding some samples. Nests are generally around $20 {plus shipping}. I post a lot of sales and samples on Facebook and Instagram. But, I will try to keep some samples here, too. 

Email me at jess dot mariecarpenter @ gmail dot com if you don't have FB or IG, you can email orders. But, if you do have FB, please use that to help me track orders. I will invoice you via paypal. Necklaces come on approx 18" hemp


Sample of sales:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Leaving on a Jet Plane....and the "Attachment Post"

Today is our packing day. And wow, do we need a day! We are bringing home lots of special gifts for our little girl (and for our boys, too!).

Travis and I keep standing and looking out the big huge window over the city. We're definitely not big city people, and we are eager to get home; but we are both sad, too. Last night, when Meili Joy fell asleep on our bed, I laid down beside her and a huge lump pushed at my throat. I went ahead and cried. I have no idea how she is going to process everything in the next few days. She has been happy and playful (for the most part) with us. She's had her moments, and definitely is a two year old who doesn't like to be told "no".

However, we are also prepared for reality, she has been in China, and in a familiar place with the same smell, busy streets, and mostly Asian faces. Yes, she's had a mix of Americans around her in our travel group; but she's still the majority. She also thinks she's an only child right now.

This is where things get real. There is a lot of one word prayers going on in my heart right now "Abba". The best and most simple prayer.

We can't wait to get her home, and join our boys at home. We know they are going to make a dynamic threesome. I can already tell that she and Justus will battle it out a bit, and that Austin will be a wonderful big brother to her. Sidebar, Justus also doesn't know he's about to become a twin.

What will we do when we get home? And what are we asking of you as our family and community?

Please continue to pray for us. We are already tired, and we are on a 12 hour time change right now, and so is Meili Joy. And this will be new for everyone. This will also be a bit different than when we brought the boys home. We'll need a different kind of support.

We are excited to meet some of our family and MJ's grandparents at the airport. We'll be arriving around 5 pm on March 21st. I hope that MJ will have slept and as long as she has some food, I think she'll be in good spirits. We welcome anyone who wants to see her.

A couple requests:

We do ask that you don't ask to hold her or give her anything at the airport. If you have special gifts, we can save those for later. I believe her brothers have gifts for her. If your kids have something, that is okay. Please be prepared, she may grab it, and she doesn't know how to share at all yet.

After the airport, we're going to try to hunker down for awhile. Yes, I said "hunker".

This is going to be hard; but we are trusting all the attachment/adoption experts on this. We will  be focusing our time of connecting now as a family of 5 and in a new place for Meili Joy. We've got a great bond going on with her; but she still doesn't get that we are fully her parents now. And our parenting is taking a huge curve, being new parents to a two year old who we have no solid background information on is challenging. We were told that she was in foster care when we got her file (in Oct), and then we were told when we got here she had barely been in foster care. She has been taken from a biological family, to nursing and orphanage staff, to a three month stay in foster care as an only child, back to the orphanage, to a two week fun-spree with us. So, helping her to create a security in her identity as our child, a sister, and us as her parents is vastly important to her attachment in the long run.

And what do we mean by attachment? There are dozens of articles and studies and professionals who can speak to this; but for a child who has experienced trauma (like our girl), finding a secure place is very important. Even if she is very happy and energetic, at the core, she is still not sure what is going on yet. For her to thrive, we want to give her that security of us as her parents, that we will take care of her. As an infant, our boys figured that outon their own and quickly. We even tried to get them used to lots of people who fed them, gave them things, etc.

Well, basically, with adoption, it's backwards.

So, we don't want anyone to have their feelings hurt or feel that we are keeping her from all of you. Everyone in our community and family have been a huge part of this journey and helping us financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So, we are asking you to join us on the second part. This isn't the glamorous part. This isn't just the precious adorable smiling child, or the energy of fundraising. This is when we parent and love and grow into a full forever family with a new child who has come from a hard place. You all saw place where she was found. That reality doesn't go away, even though she maintains a very playful disposition.

The main goals, if you are around us, please allow us to feed her, give her things, change her, hand her toys, food, and anything she needs. If she reaches for you (and she will if she is mad at us for saying "no") please go ahead and smile at her and point to us. Please don't give her any toys or things at this time. If you want to give her something specifically so she knows it is from you, you can hang onto it for awhile, and we'll get it to her.

Please pay attention to our boys, too. They will need lots of extra attention.

We know that especially for our extended family,  this is a lot to ask. We feel especially for Travis and I's parents this is going to be a bit hard for the first few months. We've always worked very hard for our boys to connect and have special relationships with them, and we want the same for MJ. It's going to have to come at a slower pace. We know from other friends who have told us that if their child connects more with a grandparent more than the parents in the first few months, that it can delay their attachment by months. So, we are grateful that our family understands and is going to allow us to have a different approach for a few months. Having to ask my sister not to come in right away to Charleston to meet her, was hard. She was ready to hop a plane . Having to ask my Mom not to come over to help me for the first week or two, is hard. (She's even going out of town!) Having to ask our special Grandaddy Bag to be put on hold for Karen and Tom is hard.

Again, hard decision; but as her parents, we have to make the best decision for her and help her to thrive in the best way possible. We so appreciate all your support in this adjustment. Thank you for loving us, giving us so much grace, and being with us through all of this. We invite you to the next phase with us, too!

We don't know exactly how long this will take; but we've been advised to keep limited attachment for the firsts month home. So, that's where we'll start. Please keep praying for us, and we will be posting and sharing. We'll be taking Meili Joy to a cardiologist in a few weeks, we do know she has a slight murmur still, and we are praying for positive results that we don't need another heart surgery anytime soon.

Please also feel free to talk to our adoption community, Laura Lewis or Sharon Lyon or Angie Rylands, if you have any questions on the attachment or don't get why we are doing something. And please feel free to message us or ask us, too. We aren't sure how crazy things will be; but we promise to try to be open and appreciate all your grace during this next phase.

I have to admit, I'm super nervous. Living in a hotel with no job to do, and 2 weeks with Travis, and no meals to make has allowed us to fully focus on Meili Joy! Now, it gets real!

We love y'all!
Jess & Travis

Fun Times & Not So Fun Time

After we went to Meili Joy's finding spot, our awesome guide, Rebecca, had us stop for lunch. When we walked in there was an entire fish market, including a standing pool with fish in it. Craziness.

Rebecca ordered for us and our driver and we had fried rice, noodles, and some type of peanut dessert with hot tea (of course).

After this, Meili was exhausted. She cried for about 30 minutes on the way home. We called it a day.

That night, we went out to dinner across the street and experienced some of the disturbing evening scenese. Apparently, there are a couple of extremely disfigured and disabled people who are brought out by other people to the streets at night. They are laid in the middle of the sidewalk. We had been prepared for this, and last week, apparently, they were on the walking over passes. But, I still can't get over it and we literally almost stepped on them. We understand there is nothing we can do and giving them money isn't the best idea. I won't detail out the scene for anyone; but I have never seen anything like this before.  I was grateful again for the work that A21 and other anti-trafficking organizations are doing around the world. And I wanted to scream and punch the people we suspect are trying to make money off of these individuals, the ones lurking to the sides.

We are having so much fun in the hotel hanging ou with her and playing and eating noodles. I am grateful for the down time because it is a very busy area. We also spend a lot of time packing up all of our things to take with us. Exchanging money. Making sure we have snacks for our little princess, etc.

We were very grateful for a huge group that came in on Friday night.

On Saturday morning 11 families got on our big tour bus and went to the Medical clinic. It was crazy, and our guides did an amazing job.

We all lined up first for photos, and our little girl had JUST fallen asleep in the carrier. She falls asleep on me in the carrier almost every morning. She seems to sort of glaze over around 9:30 am and if I'm holding her or we get in a van, she sleeps great. Anyhow, we had to wake her for her photo. So, it's a pretty funny photo. Then we go from room to room in our groups. One was for weight and height. She was great, and then cried a little. Then one was for drawing blood. They just changed the TB test from a patch test to drawing blood. They actually took her from us for about 4 minutes and did the procedure. I was so sad for her, and happy to get her back. She sweats like crazy when she gets upset.

Then we had to have them listen to her heart. Our guide was going to stay with us, but she was running back and forth. And the first nurse was talking to me in Mandarin, and I had no idea what she said. She came back with another doctor. He listened to her heart, and they talked. Then he went and got another doctor. I was getting super nervous. The third doctor came in and they all talked. We found Rebecca by then, and she said that they were saying she still had a slight heart murmur. We expected that she may have this since she had open heart surgery last year. They told us that the doctor who was the third one they brought in was "a very famous good doctor".

We were there forever. Meili started to get super wild, and we were glad to get back to the hotel.

We went to the Banana Leaf with Angie, her Mom, and her boys. We had our first crazy experience with service. We had heard great things about this place. First they brought us one big menu, we finally flagged someone down to give us a second menu. We ordered our food. We loved the green beans and chicken and rice that Angie ordered was good also.We also liked the spring rolls. Our noodles never came, and that was when the fun began. We waved at about 7 people. They would lift their hand at us and keep going. What?!

Finally, we had poor Cameron translate that we didn't get our noodles. Then 20 minutes later they still weren't there. So, we told them, we didn't want them, we want to go. So, we tried to just get dessert. We asked Connor (who has been with Angie for a week) how to say "Mango Pudding" in Mandarin. He can read the characters and then Cameron interprets what he says (in Mandarin). So, he reads it. Looks at us and says "Mang Go Pu Deen" In a specific cadence. Hilarious. So, we say "mango pudding" as "Mango Pudding". Finally after arguing with them, we settled everything.

What a night!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 4: Ancestral Temples

I was a little nervous about going to "temples". I had a little bit of an odd experience in Tokyo, years ago. But, we thought it was important that we go to learn a little more about her culture. It's a big deal to be in her actual city (where she was found). So, we are trying very hard to get a feel for the culture here. Even though it seems like New York to us, it's still very different. Today, it was cooler. Wish I'd worn a jacket to the tour. But, it was more comfortable than the days before.

The ancestral temple was a former special home for worship and school for one of the larger royal fammilies. It's not functional anymore and the government owns it; but the architecture was amazing. No nails in the entire building. The carvings are beatuiful. We bought our tea sets here because they are guaranteed not to have lead in them (Okay, so I bought two sets. I couldn't help it. The cheaper "every day" set was cute; but not as amazing as the smaller more expenseive sets. We bought a fancier set for MJ for her wedding or something special like that). And we had a small tea ceremony with the ladies. It was wonderful.  We also saw these crazy bugs for sale. We bought small little charms for the boys. Hilarious. And we watched them hand paint artwork and the pottery.

This is most of our group, minus one of the families. Five more families come in on Friday!
Our guide, Rebecca, told us that China is known for some of these specific trades and it is important to preserve the culture by passing down the tradition of these hand made items. It was fun to buy some of these special gifts for Meili Joy here. We also found out that what we were calling "cherry blossoms" are actually Mei Flowers. Um, hello!? Rebecca was so excited that we were naming her Meili. She kept saying "that means beautiful. and it is a Chinese name!"

So, after the temple. We came home and she took her first long nap. My head and sinus' are horrible, so I started my zpac. Pretty sure the smog and cigarette smoke is getting to me. Then we decided to try to find a few more restaurants and stores on our own. So, for the families traveling behind us, here are my notes. We tried to find the Banana Leaf restaurant, and we didn't. We found the Saltan Turkish restauarnt though!

So, here we are going out to dinner. I had also bought a dress the day before in one of the boutiques, we figured I better be stylish and also used our "godmother" Aunt Abby money for a special boutique dress with a little petticoat skirt for Meili Joy. So, we have done the high fashion side of GZ now. The ladies in the store said "Oh, I have 'L' for you" meaning Large. And, they come way off their pricies when I showed any interest. It was pretty funny. And that was even in the mall. I am not loving that my flat iron doesn't work well. It's so fancy here, that I'm not loving being all grungy casual. But, that's probably just my vanity!

Soon to travel families:
So, come out of the front of the hotel, walk along the sidewalk, up the weird stairs w/ a ramp in the middle and down the subway stairs. Once down stairs, veer to the right (don't buy a ticket) and follow the Exit B signs, you'll come back up the stairs on the other side of the road. You can't cross the road there unless you do this, or walk to the other side, where the high bridge/cross walk is. I was scared to walk this. I had heard there were some very disturbing sights from disfigured homeless people and other situations. But, we did walk that way back after dinner. It wasn't too bad. We had taken the stroller, and that was hard. We went through the Friendship Store, and managed the floors. Floor 4 has the extra grocery story. Floor 6 is high end children's clothes. Nothing super special. And the mall is insane! Designer everything!

We walked down one of the side streets, and finally saw the Sultan Restuarant (under the Friendship Store to the left of the huge TV screen). It was a turkish restaurant that another adoptive family was coming out of. They said it was good. We ordered the flat bread and the appetizer dip that was yogurt (like tzaziki) and then split a mixed chicken & kabob meal. We also ordered the chick pea salad and the rice pudding and the other pudding and turkish tea for dessert.

She dressed up and put her headband on and all the bright colored hair ties that I had and that Abby had bought for me.

Okay, VPN back up. Hitting "publish". Wish I could load more photos; but they are only letting me load one at a time. I have to go back & hit "upload" and open the camera folder each time and start over. Oh, well! Thanks for praying!

Day 3 with Meili Joy

The only thing our agenda on our 3rd day with her was to go to the police station for passports. Again, we thought this would be a lot of down time; but we were tired. So, we all took our time getting up. Had another breakfast downstairs, and hung out in the room.

We took a walk through the "Gardens" of the Garden Hotel. Meili Joy liked these and we let her ride in the stroller. She really likes to go. She gets super excited when she sees me getting my shoes. She grabs her shoes and tries to put them on. Then when we are ready to go, she baby babbles at me and gets behind me and pushes me. She runs to the elevators and squeals when she hears the bell sound of the elevator arriving.

We have to hang onto her downstairs, the lobby is very busy and she wants to run around. We have been doing big breakfasts and sort of skipping lunches.

We did do some walking. We tried to find the grocery store again. We missed it; but ended up at Starbucks for green tea frappuccinos because she fell asleep in the carrier on me. Then, we went and found a cute dress in a boutique for me. Well, a shirt for me. It's a dress for most people here.

At 3pm, we all loaded up and headed to the police station. We had our passports on us. Our guide had us do everything in order. They took a photo of MJ and we weren't allowed to take photos in the building. We had to wait til 3 pm because that's how long our paperwork from the day before takes to process through the system, etc.

Our guide took us down anoter street, out the the other side of our hotel where the pharmacy is. She showed us a few stores and we found out the Cow and Bridge restaurant had opened here in GZ. Our friends had told us that this was a great restaurant for Thai food. We went with another couple who is from Greenwood, SC. This is their 2nd adoption, so they are pros. MJ threw a crazy tantrum before we went in. I was so scared that someone was going to take her from me. And both our kids were just crazy in the restaurant. But, maybe the fact that I forgot my "I'm allergic to lemongrass" card at home started the evening off great. The waitress literally called someone who spoke English and he talked to me. They brought out a stalk of what looked like celery; but they thought was lemongrass and put it on the table to show me. Anyhow, it was very funny. The couple we were with had great fun with us. I think everyone was glad when we left.

Prayer requests: sleeping. We want to do everything we can to help her sleep well and the best way she can feels safe and secure. However, we've found out she most likely is used to going to sleep on someone while they are standing up. And neither of our backs are doing well standing and holding her (in dead weight) for 30-120 minutes. So, we are really praying for wisdom on how to help her and not frustrate her at all; but also what we can physically sustain.

We will visit her orphanage on Friday AM (Thursday night your time). Please pray for this.

And keep praying for our boys, our health, our travel group, etc. We know that she's doing very well right now; but we are being very cautious and trying to trust the guides, our agency, and cotinuously rely on God's wisdom and strength.

But, y'all this little girl is amazing!!!!! We can't wait to get her home to meet her brothers. We know they are going to love her and she is going to be so excited to have them (well, at least she will be eventually).


So, our sweet pea is from Guangzhou. Many parts of Ch**a are more remote country side, etc. But, our little girl is from GZ. And this sort of feels a lot like New York City. So, our first Gotcha Day was pretty low key. We ordered room service and ate in the hotel. Travis held Meili until she was asleep and she slept through the night in her crib. She woke up once around 11:30 pm. She went back to sleep after being held for awhile.

Travis and I were both pretty tired, too. So, we all went to bed early. It was so surreal to have walked through the day we had been praying and dreaming about. We still are so grateful for all the prayers and support. We couldn't believe how many people were setting alarms and online in the middle of the night praying for us.

Thank you. It is very crazy to finally be going through the motions, and trying to absorb as much as possible. And it is sort of as if you kick into auto-pilot. So, our prayers, are just "Here we go, Jesus, go before us."

The next morning we had our first breakfast and lots of time just hanging out in the hotel. We wonderered why there was so much "down time" in our schedule the first few days; but just getting ready, trying to navigate what we'll eat, what she needs, playing, facing getting dressed challenges (or rather not getting dressed) is a big deal. So, at 9:30 am, we headed back to the civial affairs office with our group. We were wondered if any of the children would be nervous. But, they were mostly playing together. One at a time, we went into a side office with a gift with us, and we were asked a few questions, with our passports. And we signed a form saying we wanted to adopt her. We promised to never abandon or abuse her and told them why we wanted to adopt her. Then we went upstairs to have our forms notarized and were asked more questions. And left a small gift, etc.
No one really looked at the gifts or smiled; but they were polite.

Then our guide ran to the bank for our orphanage "donations". We were given official forms and took a photo with the three of us as the "official" photo. And as far as Ch**a is concerned, she is legally our daughter!

She also was gulping down her water. We found out she could really care less about the formula. But, we sort of keep making it for her. She ate puffs and fruit and bread and noodles constantly for the first 48 hours. We didn't care. We just kept letting her know there is plenty of food. She gets very upset if you try to share a plate.

That night, we started the infatuation with the I Love New York shirt. Once she has a shirt on, she likes to stick with it for awhile. Again, we just go with it. The second morning, we just put her new clothes over her pajama shirt. After breakfast, she was attached to her new shirt, so we could take off the pajama shirt.

We ventured out of the hotel, which seems silly; but again, this feels a bit like New York to us. So, it's busy. Huge buildings and busy streets, and no crosswalks. Also, everyone told me that it's super "casual attire" here. I am assuming the provinces are more casual; but people are dressed in stillettos and even full sequin dresses even at breakfast. It's no wonder MJ is a fashionista. She's from this city.

For friend who will travel here, we walked out the side door of the hotel (passed the elevators and toward the bank) out the back door to the right, through the gates and toward Costa Coffee. Starbucks will be the to the right. There is a little mall there, and at 3F is Belgiannos. It was great Italian. They don't let you  bring your own water. So, we ordered cokes and then a bottle of Evian. They said "It's a big bottle". So funny. We drank the entire bottle between the 3 of us. Travis ordered the lasanga and we ordered saffron risotto and a penne pasta for MJ and I. They had a great sauce that was basically tomatoes with different breads. We were very early, and so, the entire wait staff just stood and stared at us. They really liked Meili Joy. She and I wore bows in our hair.

So, that was our 2nd night! MJ slept mainly through the night. But, was up for about 2 hours. Travis is the baby whisperer. She really likes to be held standing up. She doesn't know how to support herself, so she's completely dead weight. Obviously, I want ot hold her; but this is pretty brutal on my back. But, I also think she thinks he is cozier to sleep on. She definitely doesn't fall asleep without being rocked our held standing up. Travis also stands by the window and for some reason looking out over the city really calms her down.

(Again, no editing, etc. Forgive the errors. VPN only works intermittantly. Maybe someone can log in & edit for me!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Baba's (Daddy's) Promise

Dear Meili Joy,

Today is Monday March 11th, 2013. A day your Mama and Baba will never forget.

This is your "Gotcha Day" and somewhere around 2 or 3 today we will embrace you for the very first time. This thought is hard for me to bare as I know how much joy it will bring to us, I must also in love acknowledge the pain it will bring to your foster family and the confusion that it will bring to you. At this early age of yours you are unsure of the change surrounding you, however we will walk this journey together. Side by side, hand in hand, day by day; we will be there for you the way our great Father in heaven will be there for us. We will comfort you when you are sad, protect you when you are scared. We will encourage you when you are down, and hold you when you are lonely. Mama and Baba will lay our hands on you praying the scriptures over you, that you might be led by the Spirit. We will embrace your uniquenesses and honor your heritage; all the while we celebrate your likenesses and cherish your name.

Today you will become Meili Joy Carpenter. Daughter to Travis and Jessica Carpenter. Sister to Austin James and Justus Reed, granddaughter to Sharon and Jerry Miner, Karen and Tom Lewicki, and Harold and Ann Carpenter. Amid these relationships you have cousins, aunts, uncles and greats and a special godmother. But above all these things you are a Chosen Daughter of our Father in heaven.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14 NIV)

You are beautiful, precious, chosen, and wanted.

You are desired, and loved. You are and shall always be deserving of respect and honor.

You are Meili Joy Carpenter.

With a never ending, never stopping, always and forever love.


This is the letter Travis wrote to Meili Joy around 4 am on her Gotcha Day.

Gotcha Day

We loaded our van at 2pm on March 11th to meet our daughter in the Civial Affairs office of Guangzhou.

So, what did we do til 2 pm? Well, Travis and I had arrived via train on Sunday, the day before. We went straight to our rooms after a somewhat bumping train ride through the countryside, and set down our things and went into a paperwork meeting with our Guangdong Province group until about 7:00 pm. By the time we went to order dinner, we had both hit the travel wall. Jet lag, fatigue hat caught up. Especially with me (Jess). It's so funny that you can be so absolutely excited; but the stress of travel, really still effects you. We are running into a few eating issues with me, since I've been on Gluten Free and hardly any pasta, white bread, etc for my EDS flare ups. I also can't eat anything with Lemongrass and a few other random things, since I've had three major angioedema episodes this year (one as recently as 2 weeks ago).So, reality of ordering food was a bit challenging. So, we've decided I'm probably going to go with a lot of white carbs and pastas and desserts. I'm pretty sure I'll come home from China 15 lbs heavier.

So, we were both exhausted after a quick dinner in the hotel. We woke up for the breakfast buffet here at the Garden. Then we spent the next few hours finally unpacking, settling in, organizing, getting our paperwork together, packing Meili Joy's back pack, and charging all our electronics.

I was so excited and nervouus. I was grateful for Spotify and worship music blaring.

At 2 pm, we met our travel group downstairs. Everyone chattered away on the bus, and I realized again my introverted-extrovert was showing. I could barely talk and make converstaion. As we walked down a short cut to the Civial Affairs office, I tried to breath it all in, looking up at the high buildings. Starting at the laundry out the windows. The low hanging pretty green trees.

We turned a corner to a sleek grey marble building. We walked up the stairs and into a strange wooden elevator. Up to the 8th floor, we were all seated in a big open room. We were told to get our cameras ready.

We saw a small little girl walk in with a nanny. We thought maybe she was Meili and realized she wasn't. Then out of the side of the room came our girl. She was wearing a cute blue and white outfit and holding the hand of her nanny. They walked her across the room. We were seated in the corner and caught a glimpse of her. Travis knew it was her. He was pointing. But, they took her behind the curtain.

A few minutes later, our guide started calling us all up quickly. We thought we'd have more time, one at a time to get our children, but she called us up next. I was so glad we could hand off our video camera on the ipad because we almost didn't get video.

We had been told she may scream and to offer her a treat and toy. When they told us we could go twoard her, they also had me go first and then Travis to follow. She just looked at me with a blank stare. I showed her the doll. She didn't care, so I figured I might as well grab her. She didn't cry. She just smiled. In the video, I'm more jittery than she is.

After we sat down, she just stared into my face. Looked me square in the eyes and stared. I kept telling her who I was, that we loved her, that Jesus had brought us all this way. That she was chosen and loved. She just sat for the longest time. She was "dead weight". She doesn't weigh that much; but she doesn't support herself at all when she is held, so she feels heavier.

We started going through the bag, and she loved the puffs. She had a little round cookie in her hand that she stared at for a long time. She finally took a bite. I also gave her a sucker, and she held it and then let me feed her. Later, I tried to take it from her hand and feed her when Travis was holding her, and she swatted me. We were pretty impressed that she reacted. All good signs.

So, we were in the office for over an hour. The other families with us, did amazing. One of the families was adopting a little girl who is 5; but her special need causes her to grow beyond her age. So, she looks more like she is 9 or 10. She was crying for a long time. Her Dad just stood and let her cry. I have to admit, I believe Lifeline really had prepared each family very well. No one seemed in shock about how their kids were reacting.

Travis and I were so grateful to so many of you for getting up and praying for us. We truly believe God's presence was with us. Meili Joy's shirt even said "Princess" on the sleeve in English letters.

Once she started eating the puffs, she didn't stop. She ate them all night. In fact, she has barely stopped eating since we met her.

When we got back from the Civial Affars office and the "Walmart" run. Travis had to go to a paperwork meeting for an hour and half. Meili Joy and I played. She didn't like for me to mess with her play, too much; but she wanted me to stay int he same room. She didn't like the other room or want to play on the bed. She loved her bracelets and etch a sketch. She sat and colored for almoss 15 minues. Then she lined up all her toys, took the forks and spoons out of the bag and lined them up.

We ordered room service when Travis came back. And she fell asleep on Travis around 9 pm. That is her normal bedtime. She really panicked and cried when we tried to put  her pajamas on her. So, we went with the ones w/o feet and let herr keep her socks on. She liked that.

She slept through the night in her crib by our bed.

(Photos to come. Cant' get them to load via blogger. And we are so tired that we don't feel like being on here, too long. Please keep praying for us, MJ, etc. Also, Jess' back and shoulder.)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Almost Gotcha Day

We are sitting in Guangzhou at the Garden Hotel. We head to the cival affairs office at 2 pm today. I was thinking we'd be bored waiting; but the time to actually settle in and feel organized is really wonderful.

I'll back up and cover some of our basics of our travel. We spent an amazing 20 hours in NYC, and we'll save that post for later. But, headed to JFK airport early Friday evening. We settled into the Admiral Lounge for British Airways. Our donated miles included all of this special status. It was great because we had run around like crazy people in NYC.

We bored the plane around 9:30 pm and waited for about an hour and half to de-ice. The fact that we had even made it to NYC the day before had been our first miracle. Almost all of the flights out of Charleston had been cancelled except Jet Blue. Jet Blue only flies this route for the flight we were on back/forth to NYC. Not gonna lie, the turblanance on landing at JFK was pretty intense. But, I was at peace about it. So, we weren't surprised when we had to sit and wait for de-icing in JFK later. However, we were not concerned about connections because our plane was stopping in Vancouver, and we weren't even leaving the plane.

Having the bonus gift of being in business class was wonderful. Our seats laid down flat. And they came with a duvet style cover and pillow. I had packed a neck pillow and other travel pillow, too. So we had plenty of great neck support. Since it was 11 pm, we were super tired. We started taking our homeopathic No Jetlag meds. And I took some melatonin and Airborne. I think we both slept most of the flight to Vancouver. I woke up every 2 hours or so, and slathered on coconut oil, salin nasal spray, eye drops (had taken my contacts out), and took our No Jetlag pills. I also had cayenne pepper in a  little spray bottle for my feet, etc. I think we took a total of 2-3 doses of airborne the entire trip. We had both been fighting sinus congestion, so I was trying to keep my skin and nose hydrated. I also had a pair of hospital grade compression socks on (thank you, Shar!). My feet started to swell at the beginning; but I kep the cayenee/water mix on them and my hands.

They fed us a dinner after leaving JFK and then again as soon as we took off in Vacouver. I had planned to blog; but I just felt that I needed to sleep and trying to disengage my brain. I was sad that I hadn't done my spotify offline correctly because I was missing some of my music.

Anyhow, the Cathay Pod experience was a huge blessing. I stretched out and did some pilates stretches every couple hours, too. I can not believe that I  flew/sat on an airplane for about 20 hours and walked off without pain. So, very grateful to Jesus for that extra blessing.

At one point, Travis and I ordered soup and cake at about 3 am. That was fun!

We arrived in Hong Kong at 8 am. They served us breakfast about 5:45 am on the plane. We both changes and I put my makeup back on, etc. It was hot when we were in the airport.
We waited for our
shuttle to the Sky City Marriott down in the 28-30 section. We were space cadets and went through Immigration first, and then got our bags and then walked through customs. We didn't even stop at customs. Just walked through the "nothing to declare" area.

We were greeted by  Angie's mom, Barbara, in the hotel lobby. The bus boys took our bags to our room, and we checked in. Travis ended up going down to eat about an hour later. We decided we would try to take advantage of being in HK. So, we took the hotel shuttle to the main subway station. It was like a classy mall, kind of reminded me of Keystone Mall in Indy. We bought subway tickets with our Hong Kong dollar (divide by 8 for the amount in US dollar). We road the subway line all the way to HK Station. We got off there, and got a taxi to the Tram Station Peak. Then we stood in a very long que for tickets. It was very funny, everyone kept moving in herds closer and closer to the tram. The line was super long; and jetlag was catching up with us at that point.

The tram is like a little train car on a rail that goes straight up the mountain. At  the top there is a big mall type area and you can look out over the city. We were so blessed to have a sunny clear day, hardly any of smog. We could see for miles.

We took the same transport back, and then realized we had no idea where the shuttles picked up. But, we made it back in time for dinner with Angie, Cameron and her mom. I had the buffet becuase I hadn't eaten much that day. Cameron ate mini octopus. Seriously!

We fell asleep at 7:39 pm. Out cold!
The next morning, we took our time waking up and headed to breakfast. Then we prayed over Angie and her Mom and Cameron and headed upstairs to pack. We took a taxi to the train station. We tried to take lots of pictures for the boys to se, like these double decker buses. So far, our souveniers for them are sighting buses from NYC and HK.