Day 11, Friday (12/11) – Nanning to Guangzhou

Lydia and Kristen spent time together playing and doing a session (Kristen is Lydia’s attachment therapist). I took FanFan on a trip up and down the escalators at the mall–it is his favorite thing in the world.

On our way to the escalators at the mallOn our way to the escalators at the mall

Both Barrett FanFan and Lydia were “off” today, given my long day away in Wuzhou. However, I know that in the long run, every thing Kristen and I learned in Wuzhou is the best thing.

Bryson and I packed up our room and were eager to see the familiarity of Guangzhou, but sad to be leaving Nanning. We were also nervous about getting all of our luggage on the train with two littles in tow. We typically pack light, but this trip, we did not. I had a visit to the ER the weekend before we left, and was left confined to the couch until the day we left for Tulsa to China. We also packed lots of comforts from home for Lydia.

We were to check out and meet our guide in the lobby of the Marriott. From there, we would pick up Barrett FanFan’s Chinese passport and get on the train to Guangzhou. (Domestic air travel in China can be awful and is plagued with delays, so we chose the bullet train from Nanning to Guangzhou).

Once in the van, our guide handed us our paperwork from the Notary in Nanning. We noticed there was an error in our address. It said we lived in Arizona–and though the warm climate sounds lovely right about now–we actually live in Arkansas. This mistake was not good, and meant that with little time to spare and lots of traffic, we had to go back to the notary to have Barrett FanFan’s paperwork redone.

I gave Kristen the look, the look that said “I cannot deal.” She nodded.

If you know Bryson and me, you know one thing. When traveling, we get everywhere VERY early because we always have margin for Murphy’s Law in a foreign country. When traveling with a guide, they don’t always have the same buffer.  In this case, we did not and it proved to be such a stressor.

mandy and barrett

Our guide looked at us and said, “You might miss your train to Guangzhou. If there is any traffic, we will not make it.” Not the words any of us wanted to hear. Oh, there was traffic. Lots.

Bryson and our guide got our paperwork redone and our guide made some frantic calls asking the person to meet us in the parking lot with Barrett FanFan’s Chinese passport. Our guide was sweating, and not because of the heat. When we got to the parking lot, the person had his passport in hand. Our guide then serenaded us on the way to the train station.  Lovely touch, but not the time.

Thankfully, our driver was driving in illegal lanes (not something I would typically celebrate) so that we were able to get to the train station. It was like a movie, except not. It was my life.

The train station was very different and much older than the one Kristen and I went to yesterday.  There were several flights of stairs, many suitcases and carry-ons, one hysterical toddler, and a mom, dad, guide, and therapist running as fast as we could to make our train.

Literally, within a couple of minutes of getting on the train (not seated yet), our train was on its way to Guangzhou. The three adults were in awe that we made it, and Lydia hated that we had to run so frantically to the train. But we made it.

Bryson and I were drenched in sweat. We had both been wearing babies, carrying big backpacks and suitcases in our sprint to the train. And so, once seated, we drank the only very cold beverage available on the train: a Tsingtao (if you have been to China, you know I am not kidding about cold beverages. They are hard to come by). Truly, I should’ve had two.


The train was an easy four hour ride to Guangzhou, and though not bad at all, Barrett FanFan was sick of it about an hour before Guangzhou. It probably had more to do with the entire day and that it was bed time than the actual train ride.

Entertaining FanFan with selfies.

Entertaining FanFan with selfies.


After awhile, Elmo wasn't cutting it. Introducing FanFan to Adele and Jimmy. He is a FanFan.

After awhile, Elmo wasn’t cutting it. Introducing FanFan to Adele and Jimmy. He is a FanFan.

Our bags were in various locations on the train because we were literally the last people to board. It took all three adults splitting up to locate the bags and remove them quickly once we arrived in Guangzhou. Lydia is not a fan of us splitting up, but we had to.

We were the last ones on the train in Nanning, and also the last ones off in Guangzhou.

Kristen and Bryson carried all of our luggage down flights of stairs while I had a crying toddler – which one, I cannot remember. Tears and trains, baby, tears and trains.

We were relieved to see our Guangzhou guide waiting for us in a waiting area and she took us to our van.

Guangzhou, we made it.

Lydia was tired of traveling. Who could blame her? Qe all were and it was 9:30 PM and we were still in disbelief that we made the train.

This time, we decided to stay at the China Hotel in Guangzhou instead of The Garden. I’ll post more about that later.

We got checked in to our amazing executive suite and ordered room service since it was around 11 PM. Barrett FanFan was so tired, he fell asleep on our bed momentarily, just like Lydia had when we arrived in Guangzhou with her nearly two years ago. It was truly deja vu.

Barrett FanFan asleep

Barrett FanFan asleep


Lydia asleep in the bed upon arrival in Guangzhou two years ago.

Lydia asleep in the bed upon arrival in Guangzhou two years ago.


Proud big sister looking at her little brother as he sleeps

Proud big sister looking at her little brother as he sleeps


She is Kind: Becoming a Big Sister

Seriously. What a hard thing to instantly have a toddler brother you don’t know to share with, instantly.

We’ve all had moments where we’ve made ugly mistakes in the process of learning to love each other and embrace each person.

But this girl is so kind to her brother. She’s providing lots of help at craft time. And seeing the two of them together – wow – I’ve had a front row seat at her transformation over the past two years and despite the messy moments, it is truly remarkable.

Craft time

26 Days

Bonding and attachment takes time, for all involved. 

And even though Barrett FanFan calls me mama by name–and has since day one–I can tell he doesn’t feel I am mama just yet. That takes time. But I know that’ll come.

And the same is honestly true for me. Soon, it won’t feel like babysitting. That is already starting to change, in slow increments each day. (There are some who likely cringe that I stated that it feels like babysitting at first, but it does. We don’t have an attachment yet.)

In our instant gratification culture, it is hard to wait. We want, what we want, instantly. Often, we want it without hard work or sacrifice. We don’t want to invest. That’s just not how much of life works.

Even with cocooning, we realized some people were not supportive of our cocooning efforts with Lydia because it is so counter our culture. It is counter instant gratification.

Wait. Just wait. See what slowing down and pushing the pause button on rushing here and there does. Watch what happens when we choose to slow down life and focus on one thing: connection for the four of us.

Barrett FanFan doesn’t feel comfortable with my kisses–so wait. Oh, how I would love a slobbery toddler kiss, but I will wait. Give it time. He doesn’t feel I am mama just yet.

But that is starting to change in slow increments. Saying no to the busy and hectic, saying no to the dishes and cleaning gives me permission to watch the most beautiful work unfold.

Yesterday, he asked me to get off my twin bed in the guest room and join him on his twin bed next to mine. “Mama,” he said and grunted like a little dinosaur, smacking his hand down next to him. He was saying mama, I want you here. So there I went, only getting as close as his body language told me he was comfortable with.

What a huge gesture. What a big step for both of us as we step into mama and son. 26 days. It took 26 days.

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2015 In Review

2015. What a Year!


I started writing for No Hands But Ours with some of the kindest people who love Jesus and are passionate about adoption.

In January, Miss Lydia finished seeing one of the best and nicest physicians I have ever met in my life. When he placed the stethoscope on her chest, Lydia said, “You gonna take dat stethoscope and wisten to my boobies?” He told me the fact that she can say stethoscope at two years old means she’s going to be a physician. I am so thankful Lydia has access to excellent medical care in the US. 

We have had the best treatment at Arkansas Children's.

We have had the best treatment at Arkansas Children’s.

We also saw how Lydia was beginning to relax and trust more. We went to the grocery store one night in January and I couldn’t help but compare that night to every shopping experience just a few months ago. She trusted that no one was stealing our food when we put it on the conveyer belt and that it was coming home with us. That doesn’t sound huge to you? In our lives it was HUGE. “Dis all my food,” she said with a smile.
Lydia started to refer to herself as the Princess Daughter.
We saw Barrett FanFan’s face for the first time and submitted paperwork in a rush to say we wanted to adopt him. This is Lydia’s face the first time she saw him in a video. We will be forever thankful to Celeste for telling us about FanFan.
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Lydia also helped me move out of my office at JBU ending my full-time career. Mommy and daddy cried when I closed that office door one last time.
We made the announcement online that Lydia was getting a promotion.
We received PA from China in early February saying we could adopt Barrett FanFan. We decided to name him Barrett after some precious people in our lives. And his smile. Look at that smile.
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Twenty minutes after getting PA, we found out our business was getting audited. Awesome.
We celebrated Chinese New Year with some of our friends. Lydia was pumped.
Lydia enjoyed her first time playing in the snow.
I was in some serious need of self-care. I took my first trip away – and left Lydia in the capable hands of Bryson. I got to spend time with some of the best people I know.
When I got home, someone was happy to see me and mad. Someone said she was so mad that her mama went bye bye. “I so mad at you. I miss you and you still didn’t come home to Wydia.” I told her it was definitely okay to be mad, but that mama comes home. She kissed me.
Lydia and I ate lots of ice cream.
I taught her how to catch raindrops with her mouth.
We shipped off tons of adoption paperwork.
We celebrated Lydia’s third birthday. Precious girl and such a gift to the world.
I turned 34. We celebrated by touring a local museum which happens to be one of the best in the US.
After lots of PT and OT, Lydia was able to pedal a bicycle on her own.
We went to Washington, DC and met Nina – Lydia’s best friend from her orphanage. What a precious, life-changing visit.
“Once upon a time in China there was a baby girl who lived in a big room with lots of other babies. The girls shared cribs with one another and became great friends. The girls had nannies to take care of them, but each was missing something — a mommy.” from the book “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes”

Lydia, Nina, and Leah at the orphanage.


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It was like seeing sisters reunited.


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We spent a lot of time at her favorite creek, in princess dresses.


Lydia learned to SWIM!


We sent a birthday party to China for Barrett FanFan.



Lydia passed her ISR Winter Clothes test for swim lessons.


Bryson worked hard to finish our documentary, The Making of a Family. It currently has 13,000 views on YouTube. Insane.



We spent lots of time with some of our favorite people.



Lydia started preschool. It is unlikely she would’ve been allowed to go to school in China, due to her special need. I was overwhelmed with the fact that my incredibly bright daughter gets to go to school.


We went to Atlanta and spent some time with precious friends.



Lydia rode on her first roller coaster and loved it.


We took lots of lovely fall walks.


We went trick or treating with Stella.



Lydia and I went to Shriner’s to see her amazing ortho hand specialist, Dr. Goldfarb. He will do surgery on her lucky fin sometime in 2016.



We took Lydia back to China…


we became a family of four…


and journeyed safely home.


The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

We look forward to sharing more memories with you in 2016.

Barrett FanFan

Yes, both of these are Barrett FanFan and they are taken approximately one month apart. Little chunky man. What a gift the orphanage director gave me.

Little Barrett FanFan, what I would have given to have held you in these moments. I am so thankful for the One who placed so many kind and loving women in your life to care for you before I could.


Day 10, Thursday (12/10) – The Day I Went to Wuzhou

Today, Kristen and I jumped on the bullet train and went to Wuzhou. The train station we departed from was like 50 Tulsa International Airports – very, very modern and clean. It was a beautiful and easy train ride through some of the most incredible terrain I have seen. Guangxi province is just stunning, and My God is an incredible Creator. I absolutely cannot wait to go back to this province with my children when they are a tad bit older.

And why don’t we have bullet trains in the USA? They are amazing.

The bullet trains in China are so much smoother and more comfortable than the high speed trains I have traveled through Europe. Kristen and I were both worried about nausea, but neither of us experienced any.

I told my agency that even if I could not tour the orphanage or visit Barrett FanFan’s foster family, I HAD to go to Wuzhou. With Lydia’s adoption, I regretted so much that I was not allowed to at least visit her town in Jinagxi province.

Bryson stayed back at the hotel with Barrett FanFan and Lydia. Lord bless that man. Barrett FanFan has been forming his trauma bond with mama up until this point, and was hysterical when I left the hotel. It was hard for me to leave, but I knew for the long run, I needed to go to Wuzhou and see the city where Barrett FanFan spent his first two years of life and was found.

Though there are many things I share about our family, there are things that I will never blog about or share publicly or even with friends…like where and how my children were found.

But today, I was able to go to the spot Barrett FanFan was found. Kristen had to remind me to take photos and videos of the spot so that I could show Barrett FanFan someday, because I was altogether too overwhelmed by the ordinariness of the location and yet the significance of it for our child. I tried to imagine why, I tried to imagine who, I tried to imagine all of those moments leading up to that decision. I tried to think through how I am going to explain this to each of my children. “Mandy, take more pictures,” Kristen said. Yes, today, I will focus on taking more pictures. Today, I can do that.

This is the restaurant Kristen and I ate at in Wuzhou

This is the restaurant Kristen and I ate at in Wuzhou

Kristen and I ate an authentic meal in Wuzhou. Though I love spicy food, I ate some of the spiciest dishes I have had outside of Thailand. We dined on hotpot and lots of local dishes. Our favorite dish was a pork tenderloin dish that tasted like it was encrusted in peanut brittle. Sounds odd but it was delicious. I would love to find a recipe for it.

After eating and going to the finding spot, a bunch of local school girls could not stop giggling at Kristen and me. We could tell that in Wuzhou, we stuck out a little.

A tree lined street in Wuzhou.

A tree lined street in Wuzhou.

I asked if I could be taken to key parts of Wuzhou.

A market area in Wuzhou.

A market area in Wuzhou.

We went to see The Dragon Mother Temple. I could see The Dragon Mother shrine at the top of a large hill as we were driving through Wuzhou and told our guide I’d like to see it up close.

Dragon Mother from the city

Dragon Mother from the city

Our guide told me it was some important holiday for the Dragon Mother and that we were lucky we were visiting on this day. It was very crowded and people were setting off hoards of fireworks in honor of this holiday. There were many tourist buses from Guangzhou there for the occasion.

These are the casings for fireworks that have been set off. Thousands and thousands of fireworks.

These are the casings for fireworks that have been set off. Thousands and thousands of fireworks.

I took this photo as someone set off hundreds of fireworks immediately behind me and jumped for my life.

I took this photo as someone set off hundreds of fireworks immediately behind me and jumped for my life, hence the blurriness.



Dragon Mother sits atop of a large hill and overlooks the river and port

Dragon Mother sits atop of a large hill and overlooks the river and port

From the temple, overlooking Wuzhou

From the temple, overlooking Wuzhou

The tree was covered in prayers or wishes

The tree was covered in prayers or wishes

The river from the temple

The river from the temple

Much of what I experienced on this day won’t be blogged about, but it was truly one of the most special and important days of my life. I loved having the opportunity to see the city where Barrett FanFan lived. Such a beautiful place.

It was close to 8:00 PM by the time I got back to the hotel room. When I opened the door, Bryson declared it was the hardest dad moment his life and that precious Barrett FanFan had cried for me nearly all day… I hurt for Bryson and Barrett FanFan, but knew going to Wuzhou was the best decision for the longterm.

We all went to sleep knowing that tomorrow would be our last day in Nanning before heading to Guangzhou.


Day 9, Wednesday (12/9) – Chill and Wait

Lydia and Barrett FanFan in matching shirts

Lydia and Barrett FanFan in matching shirts



Last night (Tuesday night), I kinda reached that point where I was maxed out. I was exhausted. It was pouring, so food options with two toddlers was limited. We had spent most of that morning finalizing the adoption, and FanFan was grieving hard.

Our hotel is wonderful  for many reasons, but one of the reasons is because it is connected to a large mall with a Walmart on the first floor. We decided to eat at one of the places connected to the hotel because of the rain. Bryson thought I had a place in mind, I thought he had a place in mind, and after walking for quite awhile, I asked, “Where is the restaurant you want to eat at?” And he said, “I thought you had one in mind. I am just following you.” And my facial expression must’ve been AWESOME. Communication 101 – we nailed it.

Bryson took charge and said he saw a place near the Walmart that was packed with locals at lunch, so we followed him. Once there, Bryson tried to order, but all was lost in translation, and we could not order because of the language difference. So off we went. And so we ate at Pizza Hut and Kristen, Bryson, and I all laughed at how mama was about to lose her mind and how we were eating at Pizza Hut in China. There aren’t many times when I just get to that point, but I was there. And we wanted pepperoni pizza, but when we tried to order that, we realized it wasn’t happening. So we just pointed at a picture of a different kind of pizza. Baba carried Lydia and Barrett FanFan all of the way back to the hotel and just as he was about to put them down, Lydia said, “Oh baba, you are as strong as a super hero.” I laughed and laughed and said he had no choice but to carry the both of them back to the hotel now.


This morning, Barrett FanFan woke up, looked at us and smiled. Though he is grieving, his smile was a welcomed “I am going to be okay.” I can tell he was very well prepared for his adoption. He knows we are his mama and baba, though he is clearly grieving.

He slept on the floor again, and I decided to sleep on the floor with him, within a distance he was comfortable with. Tonight, he slept further away from the door and closer to our bed. Baby steps, and we have lots of time.

Though he smiled, he was cranky and frustrated this morning. We decided to cancel our plans to go to the mountain park, and instead relaxed at the hotel.

Like Lydia was, FanFan is protective of his coat that he came with, and wants to always wear his shoes. We absolutely let him, as the scents of his clothes are familiar and comforting. We let him sleep in these items. Though yesterday, he surprised us when he wanted to wear a matching t-shirt like Lydia’s that said “play like a boss.”

Today, Barrett FanFan felt comfortable enough to change his shirt to SuperMan.

A breakfast photo by Lydia. She nailed it.

A breakfast photo by Lydia. She nailed it.

He also wanted to go swimming at the hotel pool, but hated the cool temperature, I suspected. He was happy to put his feet in the hot tub. His foster mom later confirmed that it is the temperature he doesn’t like in a cool pool.

Lydia is not so sure about wearing the required swim caps, though we are pretty sure she is all things adorable.

Working hard to get that cap on

Working hard to get that cap on

How cute is she?!

How cute is she?!

That night, we finally went to the mall that is a 10-15 minute walk away for dinner. The mall is a very high end mall. Bryson wanted to shop at this store.

Bryson's favorite clothing store

Bryson’s favorite clothing store

We ate a seriously delicious meal at a Szechuan restaurant. FanFan put the food down like a boss. He loves spicy food. All kinds of food.

It was a beautiful walk back to our hotel.

Bryson, Lydia, and Kristen

Bryson, Lydia, and Kristen

We absolutely love Nanning, and cannot wait to return soon.

FanFan fell asleep on my lap and slept closer to the foot of our bed on the floor.