Tag - Adoption

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Like Yesterday
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REVIEW: Surprised by Motherhood (book)
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Thanksgiving 2014
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The Adoption Campaign
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Be Kind
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Dangerous Love: A Mother’s Day Confession
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Happy Gotcha Day and Giveaway winner
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A Story of Provision
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Adopting the Older Child: Part 3: Siblings
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Adopting the Older Child Part II

Like Yesterday

The adoption process is difficult. Not just choosing an agency, doing the paperwork, raising the money… but navigating the ethics and using the rights words and preparing for your child to experience the sadness that only that kind of disruption can bring. The loss is great and I see daily reminders of that as I love my children through the hard times. But adoption is also full of joy. And today is a day when I get to focus on that part. Three years ago I was in Haiti. Not expecting to travel to Ethiopia for at least 4-5 more weeks based on the current court date system. But God had other exciting plans for us.

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Goodbyes are hard.

I left the team in capable hands and hopped the next flight home. It was time to meet our precious, sought after, prayed for baby boy. And oh the emotions. The grieving for him, the rejoicing in him.

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In all my life I’ll never know how and why and the ins and outs of everything that brought us together as a family. But I’m thankful. It’s been three years since these moments and it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago. We love you Liam Alula. We are here through it all and I anticipate, with hope and joy, the day we travel back to sweet Ethiopia together. I love your birth country almost as much as I love you. Almost.

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REVIEW: Surprised by Motherhood (book)

Now that I’m a seasoned mom I have a few inside secrets I share with moms to be. Not tips and tricks, because let’s face it, every baby is different and sometimes a new mom just has to figure out what works for her. Instead I lean over and whisper, “Don’t be freaked out, but right after you have the baby your belly will literally feel like jello. It will go away though so don’t be freaked out! Like for real. You can kinda pick it up and move it around a little.”

This is just one of the things that totally caught me off guard after having a baby. I went into cold sweats wondering “so this is my new stomach… forever??” Erica with her bowl full of jelly. Thankfully it firmed up just a few days later but in an effort to educate I now share this little tidbit with my expecting friends.

It’s probably strange that I go around whispering this into pregnant ears but I have always felt that the glowing mystery of pregnancy needed to be tempered a little. In the midst of the miraculous event that pregnancy is, there is also a bunch of weird stuff and emotional stuff and even gross stuff. One doesn’t need to be scared, just prepared.

After reading Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom I’m thinking that Lisa-Jo Baker probably agrees with that sentiment. However, preparing for birth and preparing for Motherhood are two very different things. Birth is often empowering, a rush of adrenaline caused by bringing forth life. And then. Then. You are driving home from the hospital with a live person in the backseat. Completely dependent on you.

This is where Surprised by Motherhood picks up. Lisa-Jo’s words echoed every thought, every word I’ve felt growing into my motherhood. And she did it without offering parenting advice. Grace, love, prayer and perspective were the themes in this book. Her journey to motherhood is filled with sorrow, loss and redemption and though it is nothing like my own, I found so many parallels in the challenges of raising strong-willed boys and relying on God just. to. get. through. the. day.

If you are needing a huge helping of grace and truth spoken into your motherhood or motherhood-to-be I highly suggest picking up this book. Read it with your friends, laugh and cry with them. Seasoned mamas, pick up this book, read it and pass it on to a new mama, struggling to fit into her new skin. And Lisa-Jo says that the best compliment to this book is chocolate cake, so grab some of that too. Encouragement and chocolate go hand in hand.

I became a mother in four very different ways, I also have two babies in Heaven. For more on my path to motherhood check out Becoming Mommy part 1 and part 2.

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving holds little tradition in the Ho family. Each celebration has looked slightly different, from celebrating Elliott’s Red Egg as an infant and enjoying dinner with seminary friends, to waiting for our children to come home and even welcoming a niece into the world while munching a quickly purchased Cracker Barrel meal. While solid traditions have not yet graced this day we are so thankful as we look back and see the many faces and places that fill our memories. Today we made a quick trip to the movies and are relaxing, just the 6 of us, as we prepare to give thanks over a meal this evening. It’s going to be a great day. Happy Thanksgiving friends, enjoy these moments.

The Adoption Campaign

I wrote about kindness yesterday. Which is helpful because posts like this need to come from a heart FULL of kindness and a desire to educate rather than rant.

The Holiday season ushers in many opportunities to help families and individuals in need. It’s a beautiful thing as many families are struggling rather than celebrating. However, organizations that aim to help these families, individuals and kids have chosen to use the word adoption in their campaigns. The word adoption has been made synonymous  with the word help, sponsor and support. While this seems harmless to the general population, we’ve somehow forgotten that the general population contains thousands upon thousands of adoptees.

I realize that there is no way to make everyone happy. And many who read this will think, “oh great, another PC term I have to remember.” But this is more than not being politically correct. It’s downright INCORRECT. Adoption doesn’t mean helping. Adoption is permanent. Adoption is creating a family. Adoption is hard. Adoption can be painful. Adoption is beautiful.

If you’re wondering how common the issue is, here are just a few organizations using this wording.

Schools in Sumner County- Salvation Army- Churches EVERYWHERE- City Team- Wal Mart- Boys and Girls Club of America

 I respect my children who entered our family via adoption. I respect their right to grieve, to ask questions, to be confused. I will walk with them through every step of every mess that comes our way. I will be their voice when they come home and ask if the 3-year old girl their class is “adopting” will live in their classroom. True story.

That is what happens when adoption is used incorrectly. A child who understands that adoption is forever is now being told that adoption can mean other things as well, like buying underwear for a child in need. Additionally, those kiddos we are sponsoring have PARENTS. Parents who love them enough to seek out assistance. Adoption does not pertain to these families.

Churches, organizations, schools and Friends: Please consider replacing the word Adoption in your Christmas campaigns. There are wonderful words such as help, sponsor, support and bless that will accurately express the program. Take a chance, rebrand, the results will be respectful and wonderful.

 

Be Kind

I had a series of experiences yesterday that left me a little hurt and a lot annoyed. After learning the news about our Pastor, see previous post, and making it through school drop off I was in a really weird emotional place.

So what do I do when faced with weird emotions? I go to Target to take advantage of the buy $50 in groceries and receive $10 off. I had coupons to stack so this was starting to seem like a really great distraction. My 3-year-old was with me so I decided to buy his silence with a snowman cookie from the Starbucks conveniently located inside the Target. Y’all know that’s a trap right? Starbucks and Target dollar bins within feet of each other? They can now guarantee that you’ll spend at least $10 before you hit the actual store.

As I settled Liam into the cart I heard another small child throwing down and thought “Thank the Lord that’s not me today” because normally… that is me. Liam gets super over-stimulated in stores, he has since the day he came home. It’s just something we deal with. The over-stimulation manifests itself in meltdowns and what looks like pure naughtiness. And people LOVE to comment, just loud enough so I can hear them. Some of my favorites are “I know a way to stop that screaming”, “That kid needs a good spanking” and the classic “I would give him something to cry about.” I’m pretty certain that if I started beating my kid in Target it would NOT make him stop crying, but thanks for the passive aggressive advice fellow Target/Kroger/Aldi shoppers.

But TODAY. Today, we had a cookie. A little snowman-shaped miracle.

As we made our way through the store the cookie went from frosted perfection to a crumbled mess that Liam started to smash everywhere. It was beginning. I took a second to remove the cookie and clean the crumbles out of Liam’s hair. Cookie crumbs and Afros do not mix friends. Then he asked to walk and I reluctantly allowed him to do this. After all, things seemed to be going well today. That lasted a few moments at most, Liam broke free from the cart and literally started sprinting through the Target. I tried to offer him the chance to make a good decision but that wasn’t even on the table anymore. So here I am sprinting through Target, people shaking their heads at me, and Liam enjoying the whole thing. And yes, more of those just loud enough to hear comments.

I finally collected my son and strapped him, screaming, into the cart. And this is how we spent the rest of our time in Target. And no. I did not leave, nor should I. If I started leaving stores every time my son had a meltdown we would never have toothpaste, or groceries or clothes… you get the picture.

Later that day Liam and I were in the car rider line waiting to get the big kids from school. The kids had successfully made it into the car and the signal was given for cars to start moving. However, the car in front and to the right of me was not moving and the door was open. This prevented me from going forward.

I waited patiently, I could see they were still getting the kids settled and it would be dangerous for me to move. A large truck behind me started to honk. I pointed to the car with the open door and the dude honked all the more and gestured back at me. I was annoyed by this time and made a face at him in the mirror and moved my hands around a little. So tough. The car in front finally moved and the truck sped around so it was beside me (remember we are in a school pick-up zone) and the guy again gestured to me and gave me “a face.”

So why am I telling you stories from my day yesterday? And I promise you, the above is a normal day for me if you add in kids fighting and one raging and cooking dinner and someone poking the dogs eye…

I’m telling you these things to remind you, not how hard my days are, but how hard days are for those around us. That guy behind me? Who knows what hardship he is carrying, what weight might be on his shoulders. The people in the store? While I want to just call them dumb and be angry I have to consider that their passive aggressive comments may be a result of deep hurt and pain.

And crap. I kinda feel bad for waving my hands around a little at the truck guy.

The Christmas season just ramps up everyone’s sadness, joy and anger all at the same time. We have an opportunity to be kind this season. KIND in the face of snarkiness, impatience, and rudeness. Not just paying it forward when you order a coffee for the person behind you in the drive-thru but really seeing people and the hurt that they carry below the surface. Just try it. Assume that hard battles are being fought, because they are.

 

 

Dangerous Love: A Mother’s Day Confession

There are things I’ve contemplated sharing for the past ten months. Things I thought, felt and experienced during a time when the title “mommy” stretched me further than I was really okay with. I’ve prayed about sharing, wondering if there were friends, mommas, daddies that needed to hear my heart. And it’s finally time. And it’s conveniently two days before Mother’s Day.

The refining process is not easy and it’s not over. Especially when you find out that your heart issue is standing in the way of redemption. When Lola became our daughter Lola wasn’t ready to be part of a family. She wanted it, but the transition is harder than little hearts can ever imagine. In addition to being an “older child” Lola has a severe vision impairment. She has a lot to overcome.

We launched into a very hard year. I watched my other 3 children experience hurt and anxiety as we tried desperately to curb Lola’s extreme raging. She got all of us, our energy, our time… or so I thought. I was hurting so badly and honestly if one more person told me how cute she was I thought I might actually punch them in the face. We tried everything and anything under the sun. Read the books, did the therapy, went to Vanderbilt. We had one late night conversation where Calvin and I wondered out loud why we were chosen, even questioning if God got it wrong. Those are dark moments. It’s hard to watch your children who seemed well adjusted launch into anxiety attacks and night terrors. I started to think my calling was hurting them.

But in the morning, which is promised to bring Joy. God impressed truth into my heart. Like mighty, refreshing wind God spoke and my mind was filled with truth.  They aren’t yours, they are mine! They are part of this redemption. They will not be lost. They are loved. They cannot be sheltered from pain, that’s not your job! Teach them to love like me! You are not salvation, I am! Look for me and teach them to look for me too! They will grow up knowing life is not good but I AM!

I surrender. In my imperfection I surrender. In my desire to control and fix and perfect I surrender.

There was freedom in surrender. And with that came the freedom to give Lola all of me. I mentioned above that Lola was getting all of us. I believed that lie for approximately 8 months. And the reality hit me so hard and fast that I could barely stand the weight of my heart-breaking position in her life.

I was so consumed with her hurtful behavior toward me that I closed off a little piece of my heart. I protected it, saved it for the other 3 who wanted to cuddle and could make it through Target without tearing everything off a shelf.

For Lola and I to succeed as Mother and daughter I had to open up that closed door. I had to let her hurt me like a daughter can hurt a mom. When that door is closed, when you protect your heart it doesn’t hurt when your child lashes out at you. It was time to be hurt and hurt with her because that’s what she deserves. Who am I to try to feel safe and warm and fuzzy? Who am I to try to protect myself from my child, my daughter.

So I opened my heart to all the dangerous love.

It’s been about 2 months since that dangerous love started taking place. Did it magically solve the things we struggle with? No. But do I see a change? Yes. Children know when you don’t give them full and complete love. They know how to spot the imposters. They are smart and wonderful and worth it. And they will call you out. Maybe not verbally, but in body language and actions they will CALL YOU OUT.

Healing and redemption are coming. Little by little. And it wasn’t up to Lola to engage this change. It was up to Calvin and I as her parents. To trust God, to trust our hearts and to trust the HIGH calling God has given us as parents. When I think about the family I’ve been given I can’t help but feel so inadequate, so undeserving of this challenge. Why did you trust me to get this right God??

And then I hear that whisper that becomes a roar. You aren’t going to get it all right, but if you take the wisdom and guidance I provide in abundance I will walk with you and I will Lead you and in THAT you will find success.

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Happy Gotcha Day and Giveaway winner

Today is March 19th! My sister’s birthday and Liam’s Gotcha Day. The day we had him in our arms for good, forever. Really interesting fact about our two children who entered our family through adoption: both of their Gotcha days are on my siblings’ birthdays. Lola’s Gotcha is June 18th, on my brothers birthday and the day before her sister Charlotte’s birthday. And Liam’s, like I said, is on my sister’s birthday. Thank you God for little reminders along the not-always-easy paths of life.

Oh Liam. Oh Liam. What a joy you are. You are a feisty and naughty almost 3 year old, but my goodness how you have knit yourself completely into my heart. My love for you was immediate and overwhelming. I dreamed of you becoming my son since I was a child. When you became my son God showed me how He fulfills the desires of one’s heart in devastatingly beautiful ways. Our stories collided 2 years ago and while it is steeped in heartache and pain God has redeemed what was lost. We have much to walk through as you grow older and your story becomes clear to you, but know that you are firmly grafted to my tree, you are my joy, my son. I love you in indescribable ways.

Meeting Liam on our first trip to Ethiopia

Meeting Liam on our first trip to Ethiopia

Returning with my momma to bring Liam home on our second trip to Ethiopia

Returning with my momma to bring Liam home on our second trip to Ethiopia

Driving away from the orphanage

Driving away from the orphanage

Arriving home with Liam, the whole family is finally together

Arriving home with Liam, the whole family is finally together

Our big guy

Our big guy

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Our family tree

THIS is Our family tree

Congratulations Amber Minor! You have some Lemon oil coming your way! Please send me a message with your address. 🙂

A Story of Provision

Today I’m going to tell you a story I’ve never told anyone. Except my mom. It’s one of those stories that you just don’t advertise. But for some reason it’s really been on my mind, a memory that just can’t seem to stay in the vault.

Many, many months ago when we were waiting for Lola to come home I had to take a trip to Wal-Mart. Please notice that I said “had to.” I really do not enjoy Wal-Mart. Calvin and have watched countless documentaries about the evils of Wal-Mart and I swore to stop shopping there. But like all hypocrites, if something cannot be found elsewhere or prescription glasses are cheaper there than anywhere else, I’ll march myself right in and give them my business.

On this day I quickly grabbed my items, waited an obscenely long time to check out and headed out to my car. I had Liam with me so we stopped at the cart return station in the parking lot. As I pulled Liam out of the seat and pushed my cart into the return I noticed something in another cart. It was a Wal-Mart bag. And there was something inside.

Are you getting nervous yet?

I looked around to see if anyone was currently loading theirs cars or preparing to leave but most were walking toward their cars with their carts. Hmmmm… what is in that bag? I was curious so I peeked inside. It was a gigantic roast with a $25 price tag. And it was still very cold. Someone had obviously left it recently. It was Summer and the meat would go bad if it sat there much longer.  I looked around, and hollered, “anybody leave a roast in this cart?” I got some interesting stares at that point and a few shoulder shrugs. I lifted the hefty roast to see if anything was under it, there was a receipt! The groceries were paid for with cash, so no info to be found there either. The more I tried to find an owner for this roast, the more I realized they were evidently long gone.

Let me pause here and tell you we are not really roast eaters. We eat lots of chicken, roast is not generally on my grocery list. But times were tight, we were in the middle of a very fast paced and expensive international adoption and I couldn’t have bought that roast if I wanted to. So I kinda peeked one eye up to heaven and asked “God? Is this roast for us? I mean… this would feed my family for days. Are you giving me a roast? At Wal-Mart?”

One more pause. I DON”T BUY MEAT AT WAL-MART. Ever. Scary stuff.

As I had this weird dialogue with God, and argued about the source of the roast, I began to feel pretty peaceful about this roast and it’s apparent place with our family. And so… with a fair amount of confidence I looked around one more time, just in case the owner was coming back for his/her roast… held it up a little trying to meet anyone’s gaze, putting that gigantic roast on display… no takers. The sun was giving some urgency to the situation as well. So after about a minute I came to the understanding that the roast was mine. Like a strange meaty Wal-mart cart manna this roast was going to fill some bellies.

I put it in the car, brought it home, dressed it up and we feasted that night and for 3 days after. (I also found out how much my kids like red meat… “this is the best dinner ever mom!”)

So that’s the story of the time I took a roast out of a cart in the Wal-Mart parking lot. And that’s one of many ways God has provided for our family. As we enter a new season of stay-at-home mom and living on less I’m confident that God will continue to provide in new and exciting ways. Although I’m not sure anything can trump the Wal-Mart roast.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:7 (AMP)

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Adopting the Older Child: Part 3: Siblings

This is the last part of older child adoption I plan to write about for the time being. It’s also one of the most difficult areas of our adoption thus far. When we were waiting for Lola our middle daughter, Charlotte, was a ball of anticipation. She prayed constantly for Lola and the day she would come home. She was over the top, over the moon excited about having a sister. It would have been very easy to fuel these expectations but we did our best to prepare Charlotte for the broken little girl who would soon become her sister.

A new family member with lots of baggage isn’t going to come in and make your home a little brighter. As difficult as that is to convey, it’s the truth. If you are considering adoption, it’s important to know that darkness comes before light.

And with that knowledge you can step into adoption knowing that the work is hard but the outcome is restoration.

When Lola came home she did not understand family. She didn’t understand that other children could be part of her family. And suddenly, she was sharing these two people (mom and dad) with three other kids. Probably not what she had planned. As a result, she rejected sibling relationships for several weeks. This left Charlotte feeling hurt and disappointed. Though we had prepared her for a difficult transition, it’s impossible to truly prepare an unscathed four-year-old mind.  The boys… well, they are boys, and while they exhibited other emotional signs such as frequent temper tantrums and whining, they did not necessarily get their feelings hurt.

So what did we do?

1. Dates. Lots of dates. Dates were comprised of mom and daughter/mom and son trips to the grocery store, a quick stop at a coffee shop or letting the one who had the hardest day stay up a little later to watch a movie or play a game with Daddy. I can’t tell you how many times Calvin and Elliott have played monopoly in Elliott’s closet. For Liam, who is two, I’ve taken to wearing him in the Ergo when he’s especially cranky. Magic I tell you.

2. We never placed blame on our newest family member. Commiserating with the other 3 is not the answer here. Children don’t enter families through adoption to become the enemy. Agreeing with them when they were angry with Lola was an absolute no-no. This creates lines of division, when as parents we are working toward unity and family connections.

Example: Child says “ugh, she is always mean to me, I hate it when she does  ____” An off the cuff response from a parent might be “Me too honey, this is difficult for all of us.” A better response, that removes blame and adds grace would be “Honey, I know you are having a hard time. You have really been a good example for your sister. Feel free to express your feelings to me anytime.”

This response acknowledges the child who is struggling, but does not allow blame to be placed on a new, adopted sibling. The last part is especially important. Parents must let their children express their feelings and hurts in a safe setting. The last thing we want is to push our children to express intimate feelings to people outside the home.

3. We did not use gifts as a replacement for time. When chaos seems to be reigning in your home it’s a natural Western response to start buying your kids everything they want. Well… we still have adoption debt so that kept my spending at bay… but additionally we know that gifts do not replace time. So Calvin and I plunged into quality time that depleted us but built up our children. There are times in your adoption transition when you look your spouse in the eye and commit to exhausting yourself for a time… all the while praying that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t terribly far away. Warning… don’t commit to this exhaustion without having a plan for at least some renewal, even if that renewal comes through watching DVRed Walking Dead episodes with your honey while cramming salty snacks into your mouth at 10:30pm. This is truth.

4. We held Lola to the same kindness standards we asked of Charlotte, Elliott and Liam. This was crucial. When your newest person enters the family, their grief and loss must be accounted for, but it does not give a pass to skip out on family rules. We corrected behaviors with appropriate adoption-minded responses, and clearly communicated expectations for family behavior.

When you adopt, your children will grow up just a little quicker. When you adopt, your children will see the dark side of the world a little earlier. And this is okay. Who ever said that suffering should only be witnessed by the mature? I pray that my children will grow up to be challengers and defenders who never sit on the sidelines.

Lola has now been home for four months. Yes, we are still at the beginning of this transition. BUT the initial chaos and sibling hatred is tempering off. Hearts are being healed, trust is blooming AND they are starting to play together. Tea parties are happening in the sun room, hide and seek commences spontaneously, there are less fits and whining and generally, we are feeling like our family is whole. Is it worth it? YES. One thousand times over.  I am honored to watch my new daughter and my entire family transform before my eyes. I am blessed that God chose to form our family by adoption. And I am humbled that I was found worthy to mother my four children. I am never a perfect mother but as I adventure on with Calvin and these four beauties I resolve more and more to allow grace to dominate my parenting.

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Adopting the Older Child Part II

We did a very brave thing last night. It was finally time to take the first daring steps into family portraits. So we drove downtown and met up with Marissa of Rylan’s Riches Photography. Here’s her facebook page, trust me, you want to know her, she’s great. That’s a whole ‘nother post in itself but family photography definitely plays into part II of the older child so let’s touch on that before we dig in.

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When things get crazy around here I love to take a moment to check out the thousands of pictures we have stored on our computer. Pictures of my kids at their best. Having fun, celebrating birthdays and just experiencing the best that childhood has to offer. I could get lost for hours just scrolling and celebrating who they are.

As I continue to scroll back through the pictures that represent their little lives there is a little sadness as I realize, again, that there are no birth day pictures of Liam or Lola. Their stories within a family start a little bit later. When I held Charlotte and Elliott for the first time there was a completeness, wholeness… it’s the way things are supposed to be.

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When I held Liam and Lola for the first time there was completeness and wholeness for me… but not for them. This isn’t really the way it’s supposed to be. A very early broken cord brought them into my arms. And while it’s a beautiful thing, it’s a very messed up thing as well. This is a crucial point that you cannot miss when entering into older child adoption. You must, even if you do not verbalize this to your child for a year or two, understand and grieve the loss of first family.

Without grief, there is no healing. Just as I took time to grieve the lost years with my adopted children, they will need a chance to grieve the loss they experienced. Here are a few pointers for parent’s navigating the grief and loss parts of adoption.

1. Keep birth family talk positive but honest. If you don’t know anything about your child’s birth family help the child understand situations in their birth country that may have caused the loss of first family. Pray for the birth family that you may or may not know.

2. Never tell a child they are better off in their new family. This isn’t necessarily true. Poverty/Having less does not always equate a less-than situation. Children were meant to be a part of their birth families, that is plan A. Adoption may be an adoptive parent’s plan A but it is always a child’s plan B.

3. Do not expect your child to be grateful. They didn’t ask for you to rescue them. We don’t expect biological children to be grateful for their birth, don’t expect an adopted child to be grateful for their adoption.

4. Help your child look toward the future. Plan a trip to a birth country or birth state. If it is appropriate, or if your child requests it, a family search should certainly be accommodated.

5. Keep the opportunity for discussion open but never push birth country/birth family talk until your child is ready to engage. Probing with questions before they are ready to talk (sometimes a year or more) will only drive your child further away.

When you scroll through the pictures of family life there will always be a giant eye-sore of a hole for adopted children. There are missing moments and pieces that cannot be filled. However, with a great deal of respect, and LOTS of new family pictures, adoptive parents can begin to help their child process and heal. We can always move forward with our children, and we should! But we must also be available and ready to help process grief and loss whenever the opportunity presents itself.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal