Archive - April 2016

» Mama Goose
» FWD: How My Special Needs Parenting Confuses Most Of The World.
» This is life, facing our daily disasters
» Atlanta: Three-Day Family Vacation
» REVIEW: E-hydrate – Natural support for the whole family
» Joy, Living Simply and a House FULL of kids: Chatting with Author Tricia Goyer

» Mama Goose

This is a trying several months, turned Facebook post, turned blog post.

It’s often difficult to determine what is shareable in the world of grief, trauma, loss and adoption. I mention those things because they are all wrapped up in adoption and also exist outside of adoption. Grief and trauma in any form has to be handled carefully. As parents we need to protect our children, but we also have the responsibility to help others feel… not so alone. So I’ve started sharing, with few details and in return I hear sighs of relief echoing through my little world. I hear, I’m so thankful your day looks just a bit like mine. There is strength in numbers, and strength can often come from numbers.

Just yesterday, I shared about our youngest son. How he was struggling… how I was struggling. I also shared about my hope for him. I received numerous calls, texts and messages. From weary moms and encouraging friends. I was already determined to fight that day but my thoughts turned to prayers, desperately seeking some divine intervention. We needed a good day, some connection. Something.

Later that day after work and school and dishes, I told Liam his bike was in the car. I said, let’s head to the park and work on your 2-wheel riding. He agreed and we headed out to do just that. Things were going well. No raging in the car, no escaping from his car seat. The short drive to the park was fairly peaceful.

We strapped on his helmet and I began by giving him a choice. “Which trail would you like to take Liam?” He chose, feeling a bit empowered, and we began. I needed to RUN. As much as we needed connection, I needed the outlet of pounding pavement even more. So I ran and he rode, I said let’s race, we raced. Then he crashed. It wasn’t pretty; it was full of screaming and I hate you and you wanted me to fall.

This moment and the moments afterward are what solidify my belief that if we seek the Lord and watch for him in the details of our lives he will respond with overflowing grace and love in our most desperate moments.

As the screaming continued I glanced to the side of the trail, near the lake and saw a nest with two large goose eggs. “Liam!” I shouted. “There are eggs right behind you!” This surprised him a bit and he turned to view the eggs. I walked with him and we peered at the eggs from a safe distance. Within moments two angry geese stormed out from behind the bushes with mouths ready to bite. I snatched him up and we moved to a safe distance. At once, I knew what to say to my precious boy. I grabbed his shoulders tight and put my face in front of his.

Do you see how angry those geese are? They thought we were going to hurt their babies. They wanted to protect them. Liam, do you understand that’s how I feel about you? Do you understand that I will always protect you? I will never leave you and if anyone tries to hurt you… I’ll bite them! Just like the geese wanted to bite us! We giggled about that for a moment and I looked him in the eye again. When your heart hurts I can protect you. Share your hurt with me and we will talk or hug until it feels better.

I do mama. You a goose. You a mama goose. (followed by laughter)

We hugged and teased the geese one last time. Liam got back on his bike and we finished our outing peacefully. We ran and rode together while I pondered the gift of crashing right near a nest full of goose eggs; and how a crash gave me the opportunity to explain my love with live, honking, angry examples.

Later that day anger cropped up again. Hot rage filled his eyes. And I said, hey Liam, do you remember those geese? It took a moment, but he remembered. The anger subsided a little quicker than usual. That’s what connection does, it develops little pathways of communication that feel safe and meaningful.

We will keep struggling. For years to come we will struggle. But I’m learning that when our resolve is strong and our faith is stronger we will find divine opportunities to connect with each other along the way. Every bit of the struggle is worth it. Because our kids are worth it.


» FWD: How My Special Needs Parenting Confuses Most Of The World.

[This article was originally written by Mike Berry…It’s used here with his permission. Mike and Kristen Berry are raising 8 amazing children (photo above), all of whom have been adopted. Their blog Confessions of An Adoptive Parent exists to offer hope for families in the trenches.]

As adoptive and special needs parents, our style of parenting can be quite different from most parents. Because of our children’s traumatic pasts, there are reasons why we do the things we do, expect the things we expect, and redirect the way we redirect.

My son’s coach meant well. He really did. His fatherly instincts told him to comfort my son and try to remedy the situation by loaning him his gloves. The temperature at game time was a brisk 30 degrees. The sun was up, but slow to melt the frost that fell in the early morning hours when it was much colder. My son stood on the sideline shivering, crying, snot running down his upper lip, and looking as if he were close to death.

I stood on the opposite sideline, glaring at him as he did so, feeling absolutely no sympathy.

In fact, through my anger, I reflected back on the night before, when I was digging out knit caps and gloves in preparation for his game. And since I’m a college-educated person I paid attention to the evening weather report. I listened when the weather man said that the next morning would be below normal. He even went as far as to say, “If your son or daughter is playing soccer, football or fall baseball, you will want to dress them warm!” Ironic.

My son argued with me. He told me that he didn’t need to wear gloves, because none of the other kids would be wearing them. He shook his head and told me that football players are supposed to be tough and that wearing a knit cap would make him look like a sissy. Then, he obsessively walked around the house in his uniform pretending to be an NFL player who didn’t wear long sleeves in frigid temperatures. Big talk until he got out of the car the next morning and joined his teammates (who, by the way, were all wearing knit caps and gloves). He almost immediately started to shiver. I didn’t budge. “Life lesson learned,” I thought to myself. “He can freeze his ‘you-know-what’ off!”

Some of the parents nearby gave me nasty looks. Some tried to remedy the situation by getting involved. I’m sure I was labeled as a terrible father that day. But the highlight of this experience was the email I received from his coach, later that afternoon, saying “Next time we have a game with those temperatures please make sure to properly dress your son.” He then explained his strategy for making sure his son was dressed for chilly game-time temperatures.

And that’s when it hit me- This world will never understand how or why I parent my special-needs son the way I do, and that’s okay! Many would look at that experience and consider it normal 9-year old behavior. It was the farthest thing from it.

Noticed But Not Understood.

What people rarely see (unless they spend significant time with us) is the impulsive, illogical, obsessive behavior my child displays over nearly everything. He has a disconnect in his brain. It’s a permanent condition he inherited from the choice his birth mother made to consume drugs and alcohol when he was still in her womb. While other children may argue with their parents, push buttons, stomp their feet and demand their own way, my son makes it a campaign, battles us to sometimes violent levels, and refuses to listen to logic, even when logic is causing his ears and finger tips to turn blue and go numb.

  • “I’m blunt and to the point for a reason.”

When you live with a child who has brain damage, or has gone through significant trauma, you can’t leave an ounce of what you say up for interpretation. My son will fill in the blanks and many times that equals disaster or very bad choices. I have to be blunt and to the point always. I know I sound harsh. I know I sound unforgiving and belligerent. But my point must be crystal clear with my child. I stick to a strict schedule with him. Bedtime is always the same. So are trivial things like brushing teeth, household chores, and homework. Without a routine, my son will melt down.

Most parents of children with normal brains usually have to give gentle reminders to their children (usually). Even if they mess up and forget, a gentle reminder or two will do the trick. Not so with my child. If I gently remind him he won’t get it, or he’ll move into a 2-hour tantrum. If I resort to doing the task myself he’ll never learn nor come back to the task in his mind. I have to bluntly state my expectations and be ready with a consequence if he fails to do what was asked of him.

  • “I give the consequences I give for a reason.”

In his mind, he believes he is right and I am wrong all the time. Not only that, he can be extremely manipulative. This is a result of the disconnect in his brain. If he can get you to buy into his story, believe that I just didn’t want to give him gloves and hat for the freezing temperatures, he wins, and quite frankly, you lose. He doesn’t necessarily mean to do this but his brain has been damaged. He isn’t thinking logically and, although I reassure him and show him that moms and dads always take care of their children and are there for them, he reaches for something else. Many times, it’s a stranger or a person (like a coach or teacher) that he barely knows.

We’ve custom-designed boundaries because the only way he’ll learn how to live is through the structure I keep in place. Within his mind there is deep fear and anxiety that even he does not understand. This usually manifests itself through impulsive choices, and sometimes, obsessive-compulsive outbursts.

  • “I have to keep going even though I’m extremely exhausted.”

When you parent normal children, with normal brains, who pull normal child-like stunts, you often fail to understand that I have to be vigilant around the clock. I cannot take my foot off the gas. I have to read labels for ingredients you never give a second thought to. I have to ask questions at doctor’s appointments that most parents never have to ask. I have to mentally and physically prepare for something as simple as a trip to the grocery store. I have to make sure my son is following the same routine day after day after day.

It can take the life out of us.

While “normal” children can go off-routine during vacation or the weekend, mine cannot. The consequences of this could take days or weeks to undo. I don’t expect you to understand the way I parent my special-needs son, but I am asking for respect and a little less judgement. Until you walk in the shoes of a parent with a child who has special needs you will never understand the reasons why we do the things we do, and say the things we say.

It’s What Moms And Dads Do.

In case you’re wondering, I secretly brought his knit cap and gloves to the game that day. After allowing him to live with his consequence for a while, and refusing to let his coach bail him out, I walked over, reminded him that I was his parent, and that moms and dads always take care of their children, then handed him his cap and gloves.

» This is life, facing our daily disasters

Yesterday I was walking through the house when I discovered that our 1 year old pup had eaten an eye off a of stuffed penguin. Thirty minutes later Elliott couldn’t find a decent pencil because the same pup had chewed the erasers off of pretty much every pencil in the house. First of all, these kiddos need to pick up after themselves or we are going to have a sick dog on our hands and second, perhaps some chew toys would be an appropriate purchase at this juncture.

But I wasn’t necessarily thinking either of those things in that moment. Instead I smiled and thought, this is life. Of course we have a pup who chews everything, and one day when his days have passed and we bury him under a tree I’ll wipe away a tear as I place a few chewed up pencils on the little, rounded mound of dirt. He always liked those, I’ll say as I glance up at taller and more handsome children who now use computers over pencils.

We finally found a pencil with a point and an eraser that was shaped like a dinosaur and the homework was completed. The kids were tucked in, with much struggle. Books were read, teeth were brushed, frustrations were expressed. And finally, I sat downstairs with my husband quietly snacking behind glowing lap tops as we each caught up on work. I sensed the cry before I actually heard it. It’s an odd sense that four children will help you acquire. I stood. Calvin, there’s crying! I don’t think he heard, but I jogged up the stairs to find a dark haired, crying girl covered in vomit. I threw up, she said. This is life, I thought as I made my way toward her. And I traveled back in time past countless sick days and vomit bags and remembered the story that makes me laugh despite the miserable circumstances.

We were visiting my Uncle Bob, my dad’s brother. He served us shrimp for dinner before we headed back to my grandma’s house to sleep. I remember my brother, eating that shrimp with gusto. I also remember waking up a few hours later with stomach pains that threatened to rip me in two. I was always very neat when I was sick. 9 times out of 10 I made it to the appropriate place before vomiting. But this. This was something else. Something violent. And the night was long and awful and I told myself, dramatically, I might not make it. Bless my mom, who can’t handle puke. She would peer in and try to provide towels or some ice water. But my misery could not be helped.

Finally, by day break the pain had subsided. I couldn’t eat or move a lot but there was some relief.  And I didn’t have to wonder if there were other sicklings for long. My younger brother, overcome with stomach pain himself, holding his hand over his mouth, made a beeline for the porch after finding the bathroom occupied. I watched in horror as he struggled to wrench open the glass sliding door. I ran to assist him but it was too late. He had already decorated the glass. Disoriented and weak, I giggled and pointed. Daniel, there’s little shrimp stuck all over the door. His answer was to vomit again. This sent our mom running and left me to scrub the mess while my brother laid down to endure several more hours of stomach pain. That was life. And now it’s our story, a giggle shared between grown siblings.

Years later, I’m standing upstairs looking at my child, miserable in her pain and vomit. I scoop her up, making a mess of us both and we start a warm shower. We clean up and relocate while Calvin cleans the sheets. I hold her close, thankful that my stomach is strong after years of telling myself it needed to be. I wonder if I’ll be the one puking next but can’t back away when she clings to me. She’s like my sister in that way. She would hug you while she puked if she could. We lay out towels and rub on fennel oil and forgo liquids for the time being. Every hour brings another sick bag, and more tears. I Lysol, I bleach, I clean, I hold, I hug, I wipe down. And I think this is life. This is one more story that binds our hearts together. When you’re 18 and call me from college, sick and away from home. I’ll stay on the phone and order soup for delivery. I’ll care for you from far away, knowing that our growing years made you strong, you’ll be okay.

Life’s little disasters and difficulties. I’m beginning to smile at them. I’m beginning to cherish the odd ways they bind us together and build our stories. The way they give us a chance to love each other deeply in service and with our time. They won’t all be as simple as chewed up items and stomach bugs, but perhaps our everyday is practice. This is life, beautiful, frustrating instances and moments that point toward past and future at the same time. If we can face the little disasters with grace, we can learn to face the big ones as well.


» Atlanta: Three-Day Family Vacation

With the spring school semester coming to a close, many of you are already thinking about Summer vacation. During Spring Break, we wanted to get away but didn’t want to drive too far. Atlanta is within the four-hour window; the furthest we were willing to go. The kids were pretty cranky in the car but the fun activities and attractions snapped them out of their bad moods pretty quickly! Atlanta has a lot to offer so consider this a quick snap-shot of our trip in a city filled with family adventures.

Day One Afternoon:

World of Coke

I remember visiting the World of Coke during my high school years. I had fun then, but they have definitely upped their game in the last several years! As we entered the building we were ushered into a large holding area with a large bar full of staff opening and handing out aluminum bottled Cokes, Diet Cokes and Coke Zero. Once everyone was situated with a cold drink we went into the next part of the museum where a lively host gave us a run-down of Coke history. From that point we entered a large theater. As we filed in the host mentioned that there were monitors for the visually impaired! This was awesome for Lola, who is severely visually impaired (blind) but enjoys following along with light and color when she can get close to a screen. This monitor was adjustable and she was able to pull it all the way up to her nose. This may seem small, but for a kiddo who can’t access the big movie theater screen it was huge. I’m so thrilled that they made an effort to be inclusive (they even have braille guide maps at the entrance). Once the movie presentation was over we were released into the big, wide world of Coke. We took pictures with the Polar Bear, watched a 4-D movie, explored Coke Art and of course… drank every Coke product from every country. Once we had our fill of Coke culture we exited and received a commemorative glass Coke as a souvenir. Entry to World of Coke is fairly inexpensive so I highly recommend a visit with your family the next time you head to Atlanta. Make sure you download the Explorer Mobile App (we have iPhones and downloaded via the App Store) to enhance your visit, too!


The kids love to pretend to live in the different rooms in Ikea. Hours of entertainment while mom and dad get to look for fun items for the home. The cheap dinner is an added bonus, we went on Tuesday night when kids eat free!

Day One Evening:

Loews Atlanta – Midtown

We opted to have a taste of the bustling Atlanta city life and treat ourselves by staying Midtown at the Loews Atlanta hotel. Location is a huge advantage with this hotel, walking distance to restaurants and 1.8 miles from the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coke. I was a bit nervous about mixing a luxury hotel with four small children but the friendly staff and mango lemonade in the lobby eased my fears right away. While I checked in the kids sipped their drinks and got more information from the concierge about the scavenger hunt the hotel provides for curious kids (a must!). They were also spellbound by the modern/chic decor and soaring ceilings in the lobby. When we finally made it up to our room we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious the bathroom and guest rooms were. The floor to ceiling windows and Atlanta city views were the icing on the cake. After the kids had settled in and enjoyed a movie on the large flat screen (and on the bathroom tv) I escaped downstairs to grab a charcuterie plate from Saltwood for Calvin and I to share before turning in for the night.

We often find that hotels, even luxury hotels, are lacking when it comes to food service. Not LOEWS! Saltwood is one of the highlights of staying at the hotel, cleanly decorated and located conveniently on the lobby level it does not disappoint. Named for its emphasis on salted, cured meats and classically rustic presentation on wood blocks, this casual eatery features a charcuterie station that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece. Diners can pull up bar stools to sample house-made and locally sourced items and sip on handcrafted cocktails and local brews while watching the restaurant’s charcuterie chef hand-carve meats and assemble charcuterie plates. We can definitely see ourselves spending a weekend at LOEWS Atlanta again in the very near future, with or without the kids! (FYI for families, unfortunately there is no pool at this location).

Day Two Afternoon:

After a lazy morning in our room, the kids went on their hotel scavenger hunt adventure with Calvin that sent them up and down the 26 floors of the hotel and a couple blocks around the hotel property. Once completed, they returned their sheet to the concierge and were rewarded with prizes from the treasure box.

We wanted to eat lunch close to the zoo (our next destination) and stumbled upon BBQ joint Tom, Dick & Hank. This place had a great, clean atmosphere and the barbecue was great! Give them a visit, especially if you’re going to the zoo.



Zoo Atlanta

The Zoo in Atlanta boasts a few animal exhibits that our zoo in Nashville does not have. The kids were most excited about the Panda exhibit. Seriously, who doesn’t love watching Pandas roll around with a ball? The zoo is easy to walk through and a great way to spend about 4 hours on a warm afternoon. There are plenty of interactive areas as well including a petting zoo and a playground. The kids also enjoyed feeding the birds in the bird exhibit and getting up close with the lizards and snakes in the expansive reptile house.

Day Two Evening:

Stone Mountain Marriott Evergreen

The Stone Mountain Marriott is the place to go if you have kids. It’s located conveniently within the park, so you do not incur extra parking fees etc. It’s so nice to relax at the hotel after a long day at Stone Mountain and skip the drive to a hotel outside the park. What makes this hotel great for kids? The pools. There are two pools, one large outdoor pool and one smaller indoor pool. The weather was a bit cool but the outdoor pool was heated so we were able to swim and enjoy the beautiful views. The outdoor area is filled with seating and fire pits so we grabbed some food to go from the lower level restaurant and fed the kids while they ran in and out of the pool. There are even giant chess and checkers sets on the patio.


The guest rooms are a reasonable size but the beds are full and not queen, an important detail to consider when booking rooms. We requested floor two, which had a balcony with lake views and quick access to the pool. Bonus tip: Papa Johns delivers to the hotel with no additional fees. A great way to fit in a cheap and poolside friendly meal.

Day Three:

Stone Mountain Theme Park

Stone Mountain definitely exceeded our expectations. We love to be active with our kids and this fit the bill perfectly! The adventure pass option is the best value (you can even add an optional meal if you want). This allowed our kids unlimited access to ropes courses, rock climbing, 4-D shows, train rides, mini-golf. We were excited about the newest experience, The Jump, but unfortunately it wasn’t open yet. It also allowed us to take the sky-lift to the top of the mountain. (Tip: booking online saves $5 on Adventure passes.) You can hike, of course, but we were unsure how the youngest would do. Once on top of Stone Mountain we experienced breath-taking views and took lots of fun photos. I was really in the mood to hike so I challenged the kids to hike down the mountain with the promise of the delicious ice cream found at Stone Mountain. They excitedly agreed and we found the hike down to be enjoyable for the whole family. It did rain while we were there but we found plenty of indoor activities to entertain the family during a short rain storm. Once night falls Stone Mountain puts on a laser show projected onto the mountain that is unparalleled.

Disclaimer: The folks at Zoo Atlanta, World of Coke, Stone Mountain, and Loews Atlanta kindly accommodated us for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» REVIEW: E-hydrate – Natural support for the whole family

I recently had the opportunity, through Moms Meet, to review E-hydrate natural electrolyte and protein products with my kids. We sampled the Protein on the Go (for mama), the natural drink mixes for kids and adults and the kids version of Protein on the Go.

Protein on the Go (adult version): I love the convenience of Protein on the Go. The protein shake powder is already in the little bag and you simply add water, shake and presto… you have a shake ready to go. This would be ideal to throw in your gym bag or purse for a post workout replenish or a snack at work. The shakes tasted great and surprisingly, there were no lumps after shaking.

Electrolyte Drink Mixes: I was pretty excited about the drink mixes. No dyes or fake sugars, just good stuff and electrolytes. I enjoy having a product like this on hand for long hikes or hot days at the park. We were all a bit surprised to find that the mixes seemed lightly carbonated or fizzy. Not what we were expecting, but you could definitely trick your kids into thinking they were getting a bit of soda.

Protein on the Go (kids version): This. This is my new favorite product. Our preschool aged son was totally over the moon for the cinnamon roll flavor. He is often cranky, thirty and hungry when I pick him up from preschool in the afternoon. I kept these on hand during the week and they filled him up and gave him a great serving of protein after a hard day of coloring, play dough and letter sounds.


E-hydrate offers great products that support your family’s healthy lifestyle. Hop over to their site to snag some for yourself and use code MOMSMEET to receive 20% off your order!

The best part? You can enter to win $50 in E-hydrate products right here, right now. Simply comment below or on the FB post to enter and win! The winner will receive:

(4) Protein On-the-Go pouches (Chocolate and Vanilla)
(8) Hydration Drink Mix sticks (Lemon-Lime, Red Berry, Orange, and Grape)
(8) KIDS Hydration Drink Mix sticks (Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Apple)

Good Luck! The winner will be announced on April 21st!

UPDATE: Congrats to our winner Amy Lapp!!

“I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.”

» Joy, Living Simply and a House FULL of kids: Chatting with Author Tricia Goyer

(above photo: January 11, 2016 – Tricia and her husband John are blessed to officially have four more kids in their family. Making them parents of 10 kids!)

I’m so excited to share some words of wisdom from the talented Trica Goyer today. I’ve reviewed a few of Tricia’s books and followed along with her bustling life for some time now. I have HUGE respect for what she accomplishes both as a mom and a professional. I love her transparency in doing so as well. Be sure to check in with my Facebook Page, I’ll be hosting a giveaway there and you might just be able to snag her newest books!


Tricia, many of your books focus on the Amish lifestyle, you seem to be an expert! When did your love for Amish culture begin?

Growing up one of my favorite book series was the Little House on the Prairie books. I read them numerous times, and I’d lay in bed at night imaging living during the prairie days, riding in a covered wagon and going to school in a one-room schoolhouse. The simple life has always appealed to me. Then about ten years ago my daughter was on a homeschool basketball team with a young woman named Saretta. Saretta’s family had been Amish. When a publisher asked if I’d be interested in writing an Amish novel I immediately thought of that family. I interviewed them and dug into the Amish lifestyle. It reminded me so much of Little House of the Prairie! I love how the Amish focus on faith, family, and community, just like people did one hundred years ago.

What do you think we can learn from a simpler way of living?

Living simply has to do more about internal factors than external ones. It’s about focusing on people more than things. It’s about not getting caught up with the latest fads, fashions, and gizmos. We are a very tech-friendly family BUT we know our neighbors and we take time to serve. We attend an inner city church, which is completely opposite of a prairie church, yet we also reach out to help those in need. The Amish don’t have technology because they want to put people first, and though it may be harder for us to do, I think we can do the same.

You’ve recently grown your family through adoption. What have your biggest joys and struggles been?
The biggest joy is seeing the healing and the growth that has happened with our kids, and just doing life with them. The struggle is parenting kids with traumatic backgrounds. It’s. So. Hard. It’s hard figuring out what triggers them. It’s hard loving kids who act mean and ugly at times. It’s hard going to therapy appointments and figuring out new ways to parent. But it’s also so rewarding to see these kids blooming and transforming before our eyes.

How do you balance your work with motherhood? And what encouragement can you pass on to other moms?
The encouragement I have is know there is a season for everything. There are seasons when I have a lot of time to write and other seasons where I can barely get through a few emails in a day. I used to think that if I found the perfect daily schedule that I’d also find a good balance, but there is no perfect schedule. There is no perfect balance. Instead it’s all about following Jesus and doing the tasks He has for you in a day. Yes, I have 10 kids (and two grandkids!), and yes I’ve written 55+ books, but this has been a 25 year journey. My oldest son is 26-years-old, and I turned my life over to Jesus when I was pregnant with him. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Instead it happens with 30 minutes of writing mixed in with reading aloud, making dinner, giving baths, and everything in between!

I’ve written more about this in my book Balanced, which is only $3.99 on Kindle!


Tricia has recently released Made with Love and Planted with Hope. Find them on Amazon or hop over to win them on my Facebook page. Either way, with these sweet books you’ll have your Summer reading in the bag!

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal