When Loss and Sadness Won’t Stay Pressed Down

I didn’t plan to write about loss today because I’m trying not to feel – pushing away the emotions threatening to bubble up and overtake me.

I think, “I don’t have time for this. I can’t spend a day crying, and if I start, I’m not sure I’ll  be able to stop.”

What does loss feel like to you? Do you try to hold it off, or press it down?

Zoe came in the door after school with an unexpected Amazon box from the front porch. I sifted through my mind, but couldn’t think of anything I’d ordered.

It was addressed to me and the word “gift” in the corner of the shipping label caught my eye.

My birthday isn’t for three months, there are no holidays…oh, wait.

Kalkidan’s birthday is October 29th, maybe someone remembered her.

I opened the Amazon box to find a smaller box with the word “heaven” on the label. Inside was a candle with a quote curving around the ceramic holder. She wasn’t forgotten; she was loved and we were loved.

Her birthday is coming, whether I’m ready or not.

I remember the first birthday she was gone. I would love to say I was so fully at peace with God, I was just fine. In fact, I was an anxious mess; I couldn’t bear it as the day approached.

Then the 29th came and our family wore her favorite color (orange), as did friends, family, and many of you (thank you). Together we posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and you know what? We weren’t alone.

One of the worst things about losing a child is the fear she’ll be forgotten.

Other kids are growing older, year by year, but Kalkidan will never be older than 13. Just typing that creates a weight in my chest. I want to walk away from this computer and not come back for days.

How could this have happened?

If we hadn’t stopped to put overdue Christmas cards in the mailbox, if I hadn’t let Kalkidan sit behind me, if we had left just a few minutes earlier, everything would have been different. I didn’t keep her safe.

I can’t seem to escape the way grief and the feeling of not being a good enough mom are entwined.  Do you ever feel that way?

I should write something like, “I know these are lies from the enemy of my soul, the one who accuses me at every turn,” but I can’t quite say it today.

Losing a child changed me.

Parenting children living with the effects of early trauma brought me to my knees. Everything I believed about myself seemed to fall away in the face of constant failure. Judgment from people, especially people who also love Jesus, broke me.

And then, we lost her.

I’ll probably edit this tomorrow, removing the soul-baring questions. I’ll feel stronger; maybe I’ll have pushed the emotions down a little bit better. Or maybe not.

One thing I know, I’ll be wearing orange and have Kalkidan’s Ethiopian cross around my neck on October 29th. I’ll reach up to touch it many times during the day, just as I do every time I wear this treasure.

This morning Wogayu asked for a chain to wear with a small silver “K.” The charm was originally tied to a stuffed animal, a gift from his aunt when Kalkidan died. Today he left for school with it around his neck.

We wear our love for her close to our hearts.

On her birthday, I’ll do my best to honor her life and all she taught me.

Friend, if you’ve lost someone you love, I’m with you. If you have hopes that will never be realized, I understand. If you have prayers that seem to be unheard, know that you are not alone.

I don’t understand many things, but I know we’re loved by a good Father and we’re still in the middle of God’s story for our lives.

With love and a tender heart,


Why Won’t My Kids Just Go Play?

Episode #10: Why Won’t My Kids Just Play?!?

Do you feel frustrated when your kids won’t just go play?

And what about the bins of Legos and awesome craft supplies nobody touches? Why won’t they play with them?

Or, do you wish you were a more playful mom? I know I do.

In this episode, I interview my co-host, Melissa. She’s done her research and shares great information that will help you view play in new ways.

We talk about the developmental stages of play and how early trauma delays this process.

We also discuss different play styles. I was relieved to learn I actually do play with my kids, but it’s not with board games, because (you remember homophones) board sounds a whole lot like bored.

Grab our free download about play development and play styles. 

We release a new episode of The Adoption Connection podcast each Tuesday. Next week our guest will be talking about hope for battle-weary parents. You’re going to love her.

With courage and hope,


3 Reasons Why Being a Midlife Mom is Great

Anybody else adopt at a slightly more mature age?

For many years I was the young mom in the crowd. I was 23 when Hannah was born and had four kids before I was 30. I soaked up a lot of wisdom from the moms who were ahead of me on this winding path.

Then Claire, baby #7, was born one week before my 39th birthday. This time I was a somewhat older mom, but I was still in my thirties. I felt great.

Four years later we adopted Ebenezer and Wogayu and brought them home when I was 43. Eby was two and Wogayu an infant, so I was in my early forties when they were born.

We’re already a unique family – there are lots of us and we’ve adopted transracially. But babies in my forties seems to have pushed me into a different category.

I’m generally the oldest mom picking kids up at football practice or sitting in the audience at the middle school band concert.

Sometimes it’s hard for my adopted kids to have a white mom, and one of my kids is really bothered by his parents being “old.”

He recently asked me not to come into the gym when I pick him up because, “None of the other kids in my class have a mom with gray hair.”

Sorry, but I’m coming in anyhow because I’m your mom and I love you.

Here’s the thing, I’m a better mom now than when I was 30. I’ve learned an ocean’s worth of lessons over the years, calmed down a whole lot, and don’t worry as much about what other people think.

No longer do I have a huge brood at home, so these kids actually get more of my attention than their older siblings did.  Not to mention, two of them have their own bedrooms – completely unheard of in our family.

Another huge bonus, my younger kids have a tribe of adult siblings who love them, support them, and think they’re pretty awesome. Although the big kids are spread out around the country, they pour a lot into the younger crew.

I’ll grant you, middle school is tough; most kids feel they’re under a microscope and their peers are watching. For a child of color adopted into a large white family, the feeling of being observed is heightened.

It’s not easy being different when you want so badly to fit in.

Middle schoolers are striving to find their place in this complex social system. Wanting cool athletic clothing and shoes, playing the popular sports (and being good at them), and having a bike that isn’t an embarrassing hand-me-down are all very important.

To sum it up, for me, being a midlife mom means:

1. I’m generally more relaxed because I draw on decades of life experience, and I’m pretty good at knowing what’s truly important.

2. I can give them more attention than when I had lots of little ones.

3. They have older siblings involved in their lives.

In the end, I hope having a mom who loves them like crazy, welcomes their friends into our home, and supports them as they pursue their interests, outweighs the discomfort of having a mom who is “old.”

And as for my hair, it’s not gray, it’s silver – and I happen to like it a whole lot.

How about your family? Are you a midlife mom?

Have you grabbed my free gift to you?

Being an adoptive or foster mom presents unique challenges. Many parents grow weary and begin to lose hope. I know, because it happened to me.

This FREE guide will help you identify ways to regain hope and remember you’re a good mom, doing good work. You are amazing!

All for today, my friend. I would love to hear your thoughts about today’s post, or anything else. A quick hello from you would do my heart good.

With courage and hope,


Are Newborn Adoptions Easier?

Are Newborn Adoptions Easier? Episode #9

Rebecca Vahle is an adoptive mom and adoption professional. All three of her children were adopted as newborns/infants, which is supposed to be easier, right? These kids have no terrible history to overcome. What could be hard about that?

Rebecca shares what she’s learned over the years and offers many thoughts on how to support our kids including advocating for them with medical professionals and schools.

She also shares her work with Family to Family Support Network which educates hospital staff about adoption and the needs of the baby, birth family, and adoptive family in this unique situation.

She shares so many gems of wisdom, including the truth that adoption is a wedding and funeral happening at the same time. Grief and joy are entwined.

Are Newborn Adoptions Easier? Episode #9

Have you subscribed to the podcast yet? It’s simple and makes listening much easier. If you like the podcast, would you leave a rating and review? It helps us get the word out to more parents searching for adoption podcasts. Leave a comment or email me ([email protected]) if you need help figuring out how to do it.

Also, if you decided to do something with the #last90days, let me know!

With hope and courage,


My Book With Dr. Karyn Purvis

I’ve wanted to share this for so long – today is finally the day.

I had the incredible honor of writing a book with Dr. Karyn Purvis. We worked on the book for years, persevering through her first cancer diagnosis, our car accident and losing Kalkidan, and then through Dr. Purvis’ final cancer battle. With the support of her family, and help from her longtime colleague, Emmelie Pickett, the book is being published.

This week I signed a book contract with Harvest House! It’s been a long journey getting from the original idea to today.

In a story-rich format, each chapter includes my personal experiences coupled with Dr. Purvis’s research-based findings. Together we give concrete tools to parents desiring to build trust and connection with their children.

I hold the incredible gift of writing this book with Karyn Purvis close to my heart. I can hardly express my gratitude for sharing in her last written work.

This is a long process; I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of publication.  The official press release is below if you would like to read it.

With love,


Announcing the release of a new book for parents of children from hard places written by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Lisa Qualls with Emmelie Pickett.

Dr. Karyn Purvis, best-selling author and world-renowned developmental psychologist, shares insights from decades of research and explains the changes in the brains and bodies of children from “hard places” of abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. She provides parenting tools that promote attachment and healing from her evidence-based therapeutic model, Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®). These science-based, practical methods can be adapted by anyone who loves and serves vulnerable children.  

Lisa Qualls, author of the blog One Thankful Mom and co-founder of The Adoption Connection resource site, shares her experiences as a therapeutic parent who strives daily to build trust and connection with her children. As the mother of twelve children by birth and adoption, Lisa draws from her wealth of real-life stories – the successes and the failures – of using these techniques to parent her children.

In a story-rich format, each chapter includes Lisa’s personal experiences coupled with Dr. Purvis’s research-based findings. Together the authors give concrete tools to parents desiring to build trust-based relationships with their children.

Dr. Purvis and Lisa collaborated for many years on writing the book and finished much of its content in the months leading up to Dr. Purvis’s death in 2016. In 2017, Dr. Purvis’s longtime colleague, Emmelie Pickett, joined the project to help finish the manuscript. Emmelie is the Media Specialist at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, where Dr. Purvis’s work continues to flourish.

The book is due to be released by Harvest House in May 2020.

Tips for Advocating for Your Child at School

Episode #7 of The Adoption Connection is live!

Kids with a history of trauma and adverse experiences often struggle in a traditional learning environment. As parents, it’s daunting to know how to best advocate for your student. This week Sandi Lerman, MA Ed, shares her best tips for helping your child get the free and appropriate education the law requires.

Sandi Lerman is an Education Consultant and the proud mom of a 17-year old who was adopted at age 10 from Guatemala. Additionally, she is the founder of WingBuilder, LCC, providing parent training and coaching for parents of adopted children and others with developmental trauma through her HEART-STRONG™ Parenting Program.

Through her years of experience as an educator and parent, Sandi walks us through a step-by-step process for navigating the education system.

You’ll love the resources in this week’s show notes. Sandi also created a great free download with IEP and 504 accommodations for kids like ours.

Have an amazing day, friend. I’ll be sending out 3 Thankful Thoughts later this week. Be sure to subscribe to this short and sweet weekly email. I have exciting news to share very soon!