Tag - Adoption

» On attachment, blindness and the support we need
» Kindergarten Countdown
» I choose yes
» Ethiopia Trip (pt. 1) and The Day of Hope
» Celebrating FIVE years of life!
» Love is Blind Part II
» A Day with Show Hope
» Until Joshua has a family
» Look Up
» Mama Goose

» On attachment, blindness and the support we need

This may be the hardest blog post I’ve ever written. It’s hard because it may offend people who had good intentions. And I’m thankful for those intentions. But at some point life must be lived and explanations must be given and teaching moments should take place.

My daughter is legally blind. She was also adopted at 5 1/2 years old. This creates a complex set of issues that we, as a family, deal with on a daily basis. The blindness/visual impairment… honestly not a big deal. The attachment issues and past trauma… really big deal.

This summer marks four years home for our daughter and we decided that it was time to let her fly a little bit. To go and do all the fun things that our other children were doing. We have NEVER restricted her from activities due to her vision condition. She has gone on the tallest water slides, rope climbing courses, swam in the ocean… you name it, she’s done it. However, we did restrict her from activities that involved adults and older teenagers because she has difficulty discerning who she can and cannot attach to. When an adult shows her attention she thrives on it and begins to seek an inappropriate amount of attention from that adult.

Here’s what we have learned in the past several years. People often do not know how to react to children with disabilities such as blindness. They are either intimidated, over-indulgent or hands-off. Fortunately we have met people who reacted appropriately, but honestly those people are few and far between. It seems incredibly difficult for kids and adults to treat her like a typical child. Rather we frequently get two extreme spectrums: the celebrity treatment or name-calling and excluding. Neither of these are healthy for our daughter, yet we can’t seem to convince people to treat her just like any other kid.

No child is more special than any other child. They are all created differently yet deserve equal treatment. Elevating a child and giving them extra attention because they have a disability can be incredibly crippling. Lola’s life is going to take a lot of extra work and she can be just as successful as any other person. BUT if she is surrounded with people elevating her beyond her peers and making life easier on her she will never learn to work as hard as she needs to. Lola needs the chance to be treated like every other child her age. 

Our difficulties in this area are compounded because our daughter is also struggling with attachment. When adults give her extra attention, more than other children, it causes a bigger rift in our relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given adults guidelines such as: please don’t hug Lola, please don’t call her name with huge high-fives EVERY time you see her, please encourage her to play with other children when she tries to hang out with you… only to have these guidelines completely disregarded.

When she returns from a place or event where she has been showered with attention and allowed to do things her way without question our home becomes chaos. We are placed at square one again, no matter how much work we’ve done on the front end. All of our efforts are completely wiped out.

I am explaining all of these things because you may know our family or a family like ours. We desperately need your support to help our child grow emotionally. We need you to allow US to give the hugs and compliments and we need you to provide structure, boundaries and normalcy when you happen to be with our child.

» Kindergarten Countdown

I sent my first child off to kindergarten 4 years ago. I watched many mommas say goodbye with tears and lamenting Facebook posts. I, on the other hand, said goodbye with a pep in my step. I knew Elliott was ready and I knew he was going to have a great time. I also had two in preschool and one on the way home from China. My plate was full. I’m also a work outside the home momma and did not have to return home to an empty house.

A short 4 years later all my babies are home and in various grades at school. Our youngest is finishing up preschool and kindergarten is just months away for him. And I’m a bit of a mess over it. No one warns you what it’s like to let the baby go to real school. Sure, he’s been in preschool for some time now. But it’s sweet and small and special. He plays a lot and get smiley faces. Real school is big time. It means the baby is gone. It also means I have to grow up too. No more he’s the baby passes. I admit… it’s probably awesome being the youngest. I didn’t experience it myself but I do recognize the special treatment one receives as the last one with a little baby in them. Not special in a way that lets him out of consequences, but special in a way that gets extra drinks of water at bed time or more snuggle time. Because man… that kind of stuff just won’t last forever.

Letting go is an art I need to learn. And motherhood is teaching me. Girls, this is way more than I ever expected! My kids are growing fast, they are moody, they are needy and they are so unique and wonderful. I’m never ready for the next stage to start because what we are in is so good! This day, this month and this year will never happen again. And while, at times, I want to beg time to slow down I also can’t wait to experience all the other stages of mothering my kids. It’s a tug of war. Torn between anticipation of who they will be and the desire to rock them to sleep until they are 15.

I might if they will let me.

As our family approaches our last preschool graduation and kindergarten…. I have some thoughts for you, Liam. Thoughts that will also be written on paper for that special box I keep for each of you.

Buddy I remember where I was when I got a call about you. We had been waiting a couple years to know who you were. We were praying too. I was really, really ready to know you. And when I wasn’t expecting it my phone rang on a regular morning while I was playing with Elliott and Charlotte. They were so little at the time, just babies. Our family coordinator was on the phone and she told me that she wanted to tell me about a baby boy. I was so surprised because you were so little! We had given away many of our baby things because we thought you might be 2 or 3 year old… but no… when we got the call you were just 3 months old. I stared at your picture and printed a dozen copies for our home. We began to plan for you and anticipate meeting you for the first time. The next time I got a call I happened to be in Haiti. We didn’t expect to travel so quickly! I had to fly home and get to Ethiopia as fast as I could. Daddy and I were so excited… the long flight seemed even longer than usual!

We had to leave after just a week with you. We didn’t know when we would get to bring you home. The wait was so much harder after we held you. After we saw your eyes light up when we tickled your tummy. You were so completely our son and we were so completely your parents. God gives many good gifts in life and you are one of our greatest. Thankfully, as you know, Nana and I got to bring you home just 8 weeks later. You were pretty sick, very sick actually, and I petitioned a lot of important people to help us get you home quickly. We didn’t sleep much that week, in Ethiopia, I was worried and you needed a lot of care. The plane ride home was very scary but very joyful once we arrived home and knew things were going to be okay.

Liam, how we came together as a family sounds pretty adventurous at times. And you, my son, are definitely an adventure. You keep us on our toes. I don’t think anyone moves or dances as much as you do. But adventure isn’t our glue. It’s not what makes us a family. We are a family because we work hard every day, together. God gave us to each other and we honor him by doing our best. Buddy, every single day I wonder what I can do to help you be your best. And every day you show me the biggest, fullest love. I know life will give you a lot of questions down the road. I know everything in your life doesn’t make sense. And with every big step forward, like starting school, there will be more that we need to talk about. But we are ready for all the big and hard. There is beauty and there is brokenness… and those things make life what it is. I’m ready to walk all of those roads with you. It’s such an honor to be your mom. I know God made me just the way I am to be just the mom you need. It makes me confident that all of our pieces will fit together even if the puzzle is a bit difficult to work at times.

We have a few more months to get ready for the big K and it’s going to be so much fun. I know you’ll be ready. And I know this will be my hardest send off yet.But you’ll always be the baby. The one who changed my heart and shaped it to love in new ways.

» I choose yes

We’ve had some hard weeks recently. These little pockets of difficulty manifest themselves throughout the year and somehow we never expect it. It’s like falling down the stairs. Everything is going great and then your foot misses a step and it’s all downhill from there.

I’m speaking about trauma and parenting a child with an extensive past that we don’t fully understand.

In the middle of this recent bout with hard stuff I reflected deeply on the way we chose to form our family. I asked myself “would I still choose this, given the chance to do it all over again.” I gave that thought a couple days to process as I fielded calls and emails from the school and sat with my child while she did everything in her power to skip her assigned reading that evening. My answer came slowly, but resolutely, YES I would choose this all over again.

I would choose this again because she is my child. Three years ago I stood in a dimly lit Chinese office building, I dipped my hand in red ink and pressed my palm onto a balmy piece of paper inscribed with words promising to mother the scared little girl perched in my lap. And with great ceremony Calvin and I took her hand, pressed it into the same red ink and pushed her palm down onto the paper and she promised to trust us.

I didn’t meet her until 5 1/2 years of her life had been spent without me. And I’ve spent the past 3 years trying desperately to make up for that lost time. It’s slow and it’s painful and we take 9 steps back before we take 2 forward but she’s my child. No one in this entire world is more fit to love her than Calvin and I. No hands are more equipped to guide her back when she veers off course. No heart is more broken when watching her struggle. Of all the parents in the world she got us and we got her. Yes, we chose to pursue her. We saw a picture and read a story and chose to find her. But I can’t believe in chance. Just as my biological children formed in my womb, my children from across the ocean formed in my heart. They were always there, it just took me longer to find them. This is not said to romanticize a process that begins with loss and brokenness. This is said to affirm that there was no wavering in this matter for me. My children are my children. And their battles and struggles are now mine.

So yes, a million times yes. My girl… I will always say yes to you.

Margaret Wise Brown said it best in her book The Runaway Bunny

Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you.
For you are my little bunny.”

“If you run after me,” said the little bunny,
“I will become a fish in a trout stream
and I will swim away from you.”

“If you become a fish in a trout stream,” said his mother,
“I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

This stinkin’ little bunny continues to propose a million ways to escape his mommy. But mommies are smart and we are fierce. And no matter where our children go or how far they push away we are one step behind.

Every day I choose to mother. I limp to to the field some days, but I keep showing up.

Your situation may not look like mine. But whatever it may be I encourage you to keep showing up, keep fighting for your kids and finding them wherever they go. They are waiting and watching. They are testing and pushing your limits. Show them what a momma’s love looks like. Broken, imperfect and messy… but it’s there saying yes… every single day.


» Ethiopia Trip (pt. 1) and The Day of Hope

As you may know, this has been a busy season for me… leading with an unplanned surgery, my last semester of graduate school, and a trip to Ethiopia with One Orphan. Many people have asked about the trip but it takes a while to process (as it always does) and I’ve already had to leave again for a quick work trip to D.C. Please read the information below about The Day of Hope (today!) followed along with some pictures from my recent trip to Ethiopia taken by photographer Daniel Hobbs. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sure to share more!

Today is the day the Day of Hope: America World and One Orphan invites you to join as we continue our mission to care for orphans worldwide, build forever families and advocate for waiting children.

Due to a generous grant opportunity gifts given during this time will be matched dollar for dollar up to $100,000!

Together, we are able to have significant impact on the lives of vulnerable children in each of the countries we partner with. AWAA is committed to family preservation and orphan care and thanks to our wonderful in-country partners, hundreds of children are being loved and cared for.

Here are a few ways your gift will be utilized:

Support for five orphanage partnerships in Ethiopia
Provide Ethiopia families with sponsorships through family preservation efforts
Support for families in the post adoption stage
Resources and support for orphanage partnerships in Haiti
Resources and support for orphanage partnerships in China
Support for adoption programs in India

If you would like to give a year-end, tax-deductible gift please click HERE and choose Day of Hope in the drop down menu. If you have further questions about how your gift will be utilized feel free to contact the Executive Director of One Orphan, our orphan care ministry branch:  joe.wilson@awaa.org



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» Celebrating FIVE years of life!

Liam we’ve had the joy of seeing you grow for the past 4 years. I still remember seeing your picture for the first time, it feels like yesterday. You challenge us in our parenting daily and help us grow. You are such a lover and you give the best compliments. I’m just so glad you’re our son. So glad. Here’s to five whole years of the world being a better place because you’re in it. We love you so much!

» Love is Blind Part II

Hopefully you caught part I of Love is Blind, if not, you can read about the LaGorga family and their adoption story here. I’m happy to report that their sweet Lili is now home and learning all about life in a forever family. Part 2 of this story is all about the Carl family and their precious son. It’s been a joy to watch them adjust to life as a family of 4 with all the triumphs and heartbreak and stress that it brings. It’s hard. But all worth it things are hard. So without further introduction, it’s time to hear from Jenifer Carl as she shares just a bit of her big ol’ heart.

I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to adopt children. I can remember growing up in my small town in Iowa, and seeing other adoptive families at church. I felt drawn to them, and often watched in awe, wondering how their lives had intersected. Many years later I graduated college with degrees in Journalism and Women’s Studies. At this point I felt strongly that I was meant to be a mother, but didn’t feel strongly about the need to have biological children. Rather, I was more interested in thinking about how my journey to motherhood might be able to connect me with other women around the world. The desire to adopt was already strong.

When I met my husband several years later, I brought up adoption on our first date. It turns out he, too, had a heart for adoption. In fact, his older sister was adopted. And so, we started researching adoption agencies even before we got married. We just knew we wanted to start growing our family through adoption. At first, we planned on bringing home a “healthy infant.” However, we quickly realized that there are long lists of couples wanting and waiting to adopt healthy infants. The true need, we soon found, was for families open to considering older children and/or those with special needs. With that in mind, we switched gears to pursue a waiting child program in South Africa, which led us to our daughter who is now five (adopted at age 3 1/2).

While working on our paperwork for South Africa, we also found ourselves drawn to the China waiting child lists. Our previous agency sent out an advocacy email with the profile of a little boy with low vision who was living at Bethel Child. He had been paperwork ready for quite some time, but due to his gender, visual impairment, and age, was not being considered by many families. I can remember watching his video, and feeling my heart split in two. We had never considered parenting a child with a visual impairment. And yet, here was this little boy, happily pushing a stroller down the sidewalk in the video, while I watched with tears running down my cheeks. I showed my husband, who felt something tugging on his heartstring as well. We decided to sponsor the child, so that we could follow his story from a distance. In time, we learned more about Bethel China, and their mission to help children living with visual impairments in China to live life to the fullest. Although we didn’t talk openly about it at the time, we both started to wonder…”Could we ever do that?”

Soon we met other families who were parenting children with visual impairments. I started following blog posts and learning as much as I could. Lola’s story especially struck me. I remember seeing photos and reading about her initial transition into her family – all of the challenges, but also all of the little victories. One of my favorite things to watch were the videos of Lola with her siblings. I remember sitting Ryan down to show him two videos in particular. The first was a video of Lola running a race across a field with her siblings. We both watched, amazed at how fast and straight she was running. Yes she was blind, but there she was running happily with her brothers and sisters. The second video was of Lola learning how to ride a bike, with the help of her sister Charlotte, who was cheering her on proudly from the side. We both looked at each other with raised eyebrows after watching that video. Not only was Lola defying everyone’s expectations of what she would be able to do, but she was also teaching her siblings valuable lessons about the power of hard work, determination, and love. Lola showed us how beautiful and rewarding it could be to parent a child with visual impairments. Through Lola’s story, we eventually found our hearts pointing us towards our own blind son, Ted TongZhi.



The Carl’s have now been home for several months and I’ve watched them with knowing eyes. The first few months knock the wind out of you in some ways. Not because our children are blind, but because they lived a whole life before they knew us. They struggle with fears that we can never understand. But I watch with eyes that already know the progress that will be made, the trust that will come and the security that will result. I watch Ted with a forever family that will give him the resources he needs to live a full and abundant life. And I hope that more families, like the Carl’s, will say yes to these precious kids. Kids like Joshua, and kids waiting at Bethel, an incredible orphanage for blind children in China. If your heart is being pulled or moved, listen to that, and explore what role you might play in the lives of children across the globe.


» A Day with Show Hope

Our friends at Show Hope invited us over for a few hours last week. Mostly because our kids are cute… but we are also adoption grant recipients and live nearby. After we crashed their offices and our kids talked to EVERYONE and touched EVERYTHING we’re pretty certain we’ve taken that friendship to the next level.

  • Lola approving the Mandarin portions of the team training book
  • The Show Hope ceiling, filled with kids who are now home.
  • Getting ready for the photo shoot!

The kids had such a good time just being themselves, trying on the cute t-shirts and playing a game of red light green light with some of the staff. We are honored to help show off these fun t-shirts that benefit families in the adoption process, and ultimately the children that become part of those families. We know without a doubt that our family would not be the big, bustling beautiful thing it is today without generous givers and grants.


You can check out Show Hope and their fun t-shirts here… and yes, you’ll see our smiling faces when you get there.




» Until Joshua has a family

I’ve advocated for many children over the years. And I continue to do so, both professionally with One Orphan and as part of my normal life. It’s become as natural as breathing. There are so many kids that have woven themselves into my heart. I desperately want a family to step forward for them. There is no plan B for the kids I’m sharing about. It’s a family, or life in an orphanage.

So here’s Joshua. The child I can’t shake. The child that keeps me awake at night. He’s not my son, but I’m certain I’m supposed to introduce him to his parents. In fact, there is a team with him THIS WEEK. I just received a picture of him and there are updates coming. Will you step forward with me today? Will you share until every corner of FB has seen his face? Because his parents are out there, they just haven’t seen him yet.



Meet 3 year old Joshua. For reasons you can understand, our daughter has a similar condition, this guy is pretty special to me.

Joshua is a sweet and quiet boy. His caretaker reports that he loves to cuddle and play. Joshua was born with binocular corneal leucoma (whitening of corneas), which has caused him to lose sight in both of his eyes; however, because the reason for his leucoma is unknown, it is also unknown until he is further evaluated by doctors if his condition can be treated to some level. At one and a half, he could crawl, respond when others asked for him to share his toys, and look for sources of sound. He is very sensitive to sounds and knows how to locate where sounds are coming from.

He is designated by the CCCWA as a special focus file and is from one of our agency’s orphanage partnerships. His file is now a shared file. A family at any stage of the process is eligible to review this file.

A grant is available to the family pursuing Joshua’s adoption. Email china@awaa.org to learn more.

» Look Up

This is a devotional I shared at Together in the Trenches Retreat. I thought there might be someone reading today that needs these words as well.

I’m a mom. A mom who constantly questions whether I’m getting anything right. I’m scared, confused and worn out right along with everyone else. Isn’t it funny how God uses us despite our short-coming and fears?

I hope these words of encouragement and pieces of God’s word bring you some rest today.

Mothering children who have experienced trauma and pain in the early stages of life is difficult, to say the least. It’s downright lonely and crippling at times. You find yourself in a rotating pattern of drowning and clawing back up to the surface for a breath of air. The very child who brings you joy also leaves you speechless and empty.

The very chaotic, unpredictable nature of trauma has claimed your household and left you in shambles.

You’re left there, sitting in the wreckage, wondering if there is an “up” from here. You’ve heard that once you hit rock bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. That’s all well and good, you think, but it seems you’re spending most of your days at the bottom lately and the light at the top is slowly fading.

Mom in trenches; the darkness isn’t closing in yet. The light isn’t fading. You’re just so very tired and worn thin from endless days spent clutching The Connected Child in your left hand and guiding your child back to you with your right. Here’s a bit of truth to cling to, when God allows you to be emptied He doesn’t plan to leave you that way. Look up, He’s there.

Don’t forget, you are fully human, yet striving to do divine work. Redemption is costly, redemption is painful. And in your beautiful surrender to obedience you’ve accepted a task that you cannot do alone.

We see so many instances of God standing with his people in scripture:

2 Timothy 4:17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

The last verse, John 16:33 has become my heart verse in the past year. Reading those verses in succession gives me great courage and hope… but knowing that Jesus has already won every battle I’ll ever facethat gives me strength for the day. Jesus you’ve got this, take my life in your hands. You said it Jesus, you have overcome.

If you can’t find words to pray, know that it’s enough to say, Jesus you’ve got this, I’m yours. My kids are yours.

Mom in the trenches; you are a warrior. And warriors don’t fight alone. We wake, we rise, we swipe on war paint, we hand it to Jesus and we claim our tribe.

Every day provides a new opportunity to fight for the family you courageously love.

Give it to Jesus mamma, he’s already won.

» 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.


All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal