How to Stretch a Penny… all the way to Ethiopia
A work in progress
Why Ethiopia?
Our next step
Questioning our Agency…
Can I overuse the word blessing?
Wrangling the Paperwork

How to Stretch a Penny… all the way to Ethiopia

Lately we’ve become serious penny pinchers.  Those of you who know us well might wonder how Calvin could pinch that penny any tighter.  It is possible my friends; quite possible.  We’ve come up with some ways to make regular life cheaper so that adoption life can gain speed.

1. We buy those coupon books that kids sell for fund raising.  Seriously.  These are a major score.  The auto coupons inside can save you 10-20% on car maintenance.  Free oil changes.  We recently had work done on Calvin’s car and saved well over $100.  So spend $20, help the kids, and rake in the savings!  Getting a dinner out at a super cheap price every once in awhile is also a major perk.

2. I cut hair.  Calvin’s and Elliott’s to be exact.  For Elliott’s hair I set the blade to 7 and go to town.  Calvin’s is 5 on top and 2 on the sides. This saves roughly $30 a month.

3. Ladies, this one is super daring.  I wax my own eyebrows.  For real.  It’s not that hard after you mess up a few times.  Savings: $12.

4. I shop (and volunteer) at kids consignment sales.  Volunteering comes with early shopping privileges and credits.  I am able to get the kids clothes and necessities for the entire season for a 1/4 of retail cost.  (maybe less)

5. COUPONS.  Can I say it again… coupons.  If you aren’t on the band wagon, hop on it.  I literally cut my grocery bill in half each week.  Often I cut the bill by 60-70%.  People, it’s like cutting dollar bills out of the newspaper on Sunday, printing dollar bills from the computer, finding them in the mail… it’s awesome.  And let me be clear.  I do not feed my family crap loaded with MSG and gross preservatives.  We eat partially organic and mostly natural foods.  There are coupons available for any way you choose to eat, you just have to take the time to look for them.

6. We don’t buy things we don’t need.  Pretty straightforward.

7. We don’t have Iphones.

8. We are pretty green.  We recycle, of course.  But the trick that helps us save is conserving energy.  Not running the heat/air too high.  Washing large loads of laundry instead of many small ones.  Starting a vegetable garden in the back yard so I don’t have to pay $2.69 a pound for dang tomatoes anymore.

9. We don’t spend money on lawn care.  Sorry homeowners association.  Of course we will mow, but we aren’t going to fertilize or hire lawn care people to make our lawn look like outdoor carpet.

10. Finally, we just try to cut out the unnecessary.  Eating at home, playing together, making use of what we already have… all these things help us achieve our goal.

Saving money isn’t so bad after all.  For me it’s a challenge, a quest of sorts.  And I love a good challenge.  Anytime I open my wallet I try to think of our child and how every dollar brings us closer to him.  It’s pretty easy to close it after you meditate on that for a few seconds.

A work in progress

Yesterday I hauled my sweet babies into the office of Catholic Charities again.  I love explaining the statues of Mary to Elliott.  When we left he said, “bye, Jesus Mommy.”

Our individual interviews are now completed and the stack of paperwork is in our social worker’s hands.  I’m feeling quite accomplished.  However, I know that while the progress of our adoption is gaining speed there is much ahead of us.  We recently found out that we will have to travel to Ethiopia twice.  We will travel after accepting the referral to meet our child and then a few months later bring him home. Thankfully our agency is really on top of this change and sending tons of info. our way.  My mommy heart aches at the thought of meeting him and then  promptly heading back to the states without him in my arms.  God give us strength.  In addition, we will now incur around four or five thousand more dollars in travel costs.  To be honest it really doesn’t scare me.  If we can count of God’s provision for $24,000 we can certainly count on him for a few thousand more.

We have had some inquiries about making a donation to our adoption.  If this is something you feel led to do you can donate, any amount, using the donate link on the left side of our blog.  We are also taking donations of cool stuff that we can auction off on our blog.  For example, I have a gently used Coach that will go up for auction soon.  We are pretty much open to anything that will help us raise funds to bring this sweet child home.  (=

We appreciate all of you and your continued prayers and support.  We have been blown away by our “support system.”

Why Ethiopia?

Good Question.  And one I’ve been getting a lot lately.

Once upon a time I fell in love with Africa.  I had never been there, and I didn’t know anyone from there… but for some reason a small piece of my heart devoted itself to a land far away.  In college I sought an opportunity to serve there as a missionary.  It never came to fruition.  Once married, my husband and I talked about going there as missionaries, I was in seminary, and that also failed to take place.  These things didn’t fail to happen because we didn’t act on them, God simply led us down another path.  That path led us to Nashville where we had our second child and began to think about how we would continue to shape our family.  We had talked about adoption as an option for our family and our hearts were convicted to pursue the next member of our family through such means.  A domestic adoption never came to our minds (at that time).  We talked about China a bit, but Africa weighed heavily on my heart.  We prayed about the adoption.  We prayed about where.  God whispered in my ear, “don’t forget Africa.”  And I haven’t.

The needs of Ethiopia’s children are great.  They are hungry, they are orphans due to disease and famine.  They need families.  The needs of America’s children are great.  They are hungry too.  They need families too.  They are in my heart as well.  This is the first child we will adopt, and probably not the last.  So don’t worry, those of you who question our international choice, we haven’t forgotten about our homeland.  This is only the first of many journeys.  And let me pose this question in response to yours:  Is a child in need any less important or worthy of a family simply because they come from another country?

Perhaps you remember this song: Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.  They are precious in His sight.


This just happens to be one of those weeks that has the potential to become a complete disaster.  I’m volunteering at the Encores and More North  Kids Consignment sale this week.  ( http://www.encoresandmorenorth.com/ )  If you are in the Nashville area I would HIGHLY recommend stopping by this weekend.  There is some amazing gently used equipment and clothing.  I have my eye on a Fisher Price Kitchen for the kids, hopefully I can score it.  In addition, I’m studying for the Praxis II, a test for teachers, and so far I’m a little concerned about how much I remember from college.   The test is bright and early on Saturday, so let the cramming commence.  To top it all off Charlotte started running a fever and is only consoled if I hold her constantly.  However, there is a bright spot, a little something to get excited about.  We are working with a new agency, All God’s Children.  Yay! (Picture little bits of confetti falling to the ground)  You can find out more about them at their website on our links page.  Our social worker at Catholic Charities suggested them to us and after researching them and speaking with them a few times we felt really peaceful and comfortable working with them.  AGCI does have an age policy regarding our biological children.  We can only receive a referral for a child that is 9 months, or more, younger than our youngest child.  Charlotte will most likely be around two (she’s almost one can you believe it??)  when we travel to get our son which means he will probably be between the ages of 2 months and about a year old.  Interesting.  We were originally planning to expand our age category up to three years old.  In the long run I think this is going to be a good thing for the dynamics of our family unit.  Keeping birth order intact is very important for our children and their identity as older or younger siblings.  We wouldn’t want to take away their privilege of being “big” brothers and sisters.  Now time for a confession… it took me almost an hour to write this dang post.  Charlotte is sleeping restlessly in my arms and has now woken up.  Going to call the pediatrician now, I think they are starting to recognize my voice.


I thought it might be interesting to write a post about Ethiopia.  It is our intention to encourage our child to celebrate his heritage and history rather than simply tucking it away and forgetting the miracle that brought him to us in the first place.  Although the Ethiopia of today can be heart-breaking it still contains a population of beautiful and strong people who are the unfortunate victims of drought, disease and a poverty-stricken economy.

Interesting Facts:

Ethiopia is one of the most ancient countries in the world.

Ethiopia was the original source of the coffee bean.  It is still the number one export.

46 % of the population is under 14.

Ethiopia has 84 indigenous languages.

Ethiopia has their own calendar which is roughly 8 years behind the calendar we follow.

Track and Soccer are the most popular sports in Ethiopia.  Many Olympic gold medalists have come out of Ethiopia.

Just a couple of things I have discovered in my quest to learn as much as I can before we hop a 16-hour (or so) flight over to Ethiopia.  Fortunately I still have plenty of time before that takes place.

Stay Tuned, Calvin will be guest-blogging next. (=


Humor me for a moment.  (Those of you who have met with social workers can skip this part.) Close your eyes and conjure up your best visual image of a social worker.

I’ll share mine to help you out: Early fifties, clip-board in hand, granny glasses (so that she can peer over them and scrutinize you), kinda tough, kinda judgmental, kinda hard to work with…. the list goes on.

I hate to say that this is what I was expecting as I lugged my two kids through the blowing snow and sat down to wait in the lobby of Catholic Charities earlier this afternoon… that, or maybe a nun.  Calvin was running a few minutes behind so I went in before him to make sure we kept our appointment time.  After sitting for five minutes or so, breathing in the very 1950’s smelling air, our social worker came out to meet us.  Surprise!  She did not exactly fit the profile I had made up in my head.  She was quite stylish, young, and very positive and energetic.  Calvin and I spent a full hour and a half with her as she explained the process, asked personal questions and talked over our two children who were joyfully ransacking the toy chest in her borrowed office.

Now at home, questions answered and huge stack of paper in hand, I wonder why I ever feared the social worker.  They are only there to help us bring home our child.  Our goals align.  Now if I can only get excited about all the papers I have to hunt down and fill out.

Our next step

Taking a time-out is very difficult for me.  I’m a take the ball and run kind of girl.  However, when you’re consulting God sometimes he requires a time-out; on your part that is.  We are looking for a new agency and I really just want to jump on the first good reference that comes our way.  CWA had good references, you see where that got us.  Although we prayed over our decision to adopt and felt deep conviction that it was a definite for our family we did not give the choosing of our agency enough prayer.  In fact, I will admit to some general reluctance when we entered into business with them.   But they have a great Ethiopia program right?  So of course that was the place for us!  Hopefully this time we will be guided by the spirit rather than word of mouth.

Home Study starts next week with Catholic Charities. I will update you on how it goes, what’s involved etc.

Questioning our Agency…

As many of you know we have chosen CWA, Christian World Adoption, to facilitate our adoption process.  Sadly, a news story was aired last night on CBS that told the story of three Ethiopian girls who say they were sold into adoption.  For the whole story go here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/15/cbsnews_investigates/main6210911.shtml?tag=cbsContent;cbsCarousel

Do we know if this is true? Of course we don’t.  CWA has issued statements denying the allegations and has launched a full-scale investigation of their Ethiopia adoption program.  Initially I was very angry as I sat and watched CBS news.  Now I am sad and a little scared that something will happen to prevent us from bringing a child home.  Most likely we will sever ties with CWA and seek another agency to work with.  However, there is still a large and looming question of whether or not we will be matched with a child who has been placed for adoption under false pretenses. It seems that this may be growing problem in Ethiopia.  Our intention in this adoption is to bring home a true orphan, fatherless, homeless or abandoned.  It is unethical to take a child from his home for money or other reasons.  Working with an agency who has the same goals, and really practices what they preach, is the only way to accomplish this.

I believe that if we can just take this out of our hands, do away with the thought that this is something that we are accomplishing and let God handle the details we will be much better off!  I know there is a child waiting, and created, to join our family and I’m trusting that the day will come when we are together.  So please continue to journey with us as we seek a new agency and continue our search for our child.  We begin the homestudy process next week with Catholic Charities so our pace should not be drastically altered.  I’m looking forward to moving forward. (=

Statement from CWA:


Can I overuse the word blessing?

Just wondering, because I’m about to use it again.  Just like I overuse commas.  So… on to the blessing.  Last night Calvin and I met with our Pastor of Volunteers/Adoption.  I know what you’re thinking, who has a Pastor of Volunteers??  Long Hollow Baptist Church ladies and gentlemen.  Pretty awesome.  Any way, we met with Rob and it was so reassuring to find out that our church offers us some pretty amazing services when it comes to adoption.  They have access to a lot of information that will be abundantly helpful as we are preparing to welcome our next child.  They will help us go through all of our paperwork with a fine tooth comb, so as to ensure we don’t get stuck in Ethiopia or some other potential disaster.  And on top of those wonderful things they have paired us with a family who has completed an international adoption… mentors!  My anxieties are eased.  However, if you know me very well you would say “what anxieties?”  True, true.  I tend to leap before looking.  Perhaps a little anxiety is a good thing.  If we don’t prepare for potential problems we won’t know how to handle them when the inevitably arise.   So thank you Lord for Long Hollow and their commitment to adoption.  Thank you for your provisions!

Side Note: Rob gave me a bracelet (live strong style) that reads: “Share the Joy of Adoption”  and I snatched it out of his hand like a two-year-old and slid it onto my wrist all the while admiring it like it was encrusted with diamonds.  Yes, I would say I’m in the romantic stage.

Wrangling the Paperwork

This week I’m starting an adoption notebook.  Anyone with kids… well let me take that back… anyone, no matter who you are ,has the potential to lose just about anything and everything.  I can’t count the number of times I have left a piece of paper or a bill on the counter only to find that is has mysteriously relocated itself in a matter of mere seconds.  Therefore, the notebook, a place to file and keep everything together until the blessed moment it all leaves my house in a giant manilla envelope.

The things I need to gather, get and send out for this week:

  1. 2 fire extinguishers (should already have them, need them for homestudy)
  2. Certified copies of our birth certificates
  3. Certified copy of marriage license
  4. Photographs of the fam. and the house

So that’s my list for this week.  Trying to spread it out so as not to become completely overwhelmed and or crazy, whichever comes first.

I also want to thank everyone for their amazing support as we have shared this news.  It is so incredible to know that we will have friends and family praying and holding our hands through this lengthy and somewhat scary process.  You are all appreciated and loved.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal