No. 7 // The Perfect Match.

If I am being completely honest, this journey has been much harder to document than I anticipated it would be. Not from the perspective that I didn't want to talk about the things that were happening but more from the perspective that everything that was happening felt very uncertain and tenuous and my heart could hardly handle talking about it in person, let alone write about it. 

For those of you keeping track, it's been nearly 4 months since our last post. And in those four months, we've experienced a literal lifetime of emotions including the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. We lost another potential match, we said goodbye to another one that wasn't the best fit for our family, we've doubted the process, we've doubted the possibility for a positive end result, we've cried (I've cried) over how impossible this feels some days, I've prayed desperate & honest words and given my utterly broken heart to the Lord more times than I can count and then turned around, sometimes the very same day, and allowed myself to get lost in the worry and the fear of it all, I've chided myself for feeling so impatient and so weak when we were just a few months into the waiting, longing for a match that felt right, and then when it felt like we might as well settle into the long haul of a 2-year wait time, we met her.. 


A truly beautiful and amazing woman who has entered our lives and offered to give a piece of herself which, only by the power of God's grace and glory, will heal the most broken of places in our souls. 

I still want to write the rest of our story and I will. I promise. I'll tell you about the day we heard our daughter's heartbeat for the first time and how I wept in the car on the way home. I'll tell you about her ultrasound and how sometimes I'll catch Matt just staring at her photo taped on our fridge with a soft smile on his face. I'll tell you about her nursery and how I routinely find myself in there, sitting in absolute stunned wonder of God's plan and His grace and the fact that a tiny human will soon fill that space (and those diapers). And I'd love to tell you a little more about how we met our birth mom, how much we already adore her and how she is, without any hesitation, the most extraordinary person we've ever met. 

And one day, hopefully very soon, we'll introduce you to our daughter. One so longed for, so fought for, so intensely loved already. Her story is one of redemption and I can't wait to tell her everything. 

1 Samuel 1:27–28 "I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give her to the LORD. For her whole life she will be given over to the LORD." 

No. 6 // The PATIENCE and “Feeling” like I’m Back in High School

It’s already been several months since we first announced our intent to adopt a mini Oho of our own and we’ve already received such incredible support. We can’t thank you enough and it’s so great that we don’t have to go through this alone. 

Maybe you know this, or maybe you don’t, but I’m a pretty private person.  “Feelings” is the type of work that gets quotes (air quotes or real ones) when it comes into the conversation.  That’s one reason why Mel and I are such an incredible couple; she has enough “feels” for the both of us.  Granted this also has cause a bit of an unbalanced ratio of Mel to Matt blog posts (not that I’m keeping score or anything) so, I’m stepping up my game today. Wish me luck!  Also, as I’m typing this, I’m playing the Doogie Howser, M.D. theme music, I’m hoping it will help. 

Mel has already shared our December blues, but beyond that things have been really quiet.  Which has been disappointing.  I think after getting such a prompt response from our original announcement, both of us are “feeling” a little restless (or at least I am).  This is old news to you, but on average, it’s around a 24 month wait.  Despite knowing that, I still can’t help but think that number is the average and surely, “we’ll be one of the couples that brings the average down, not up”. We both want a family of our own so bad, and with each passing day that 24 months starts to become more real.

In short, Mel and I could use your prayers for a little more patience (yes, I realize what I’m doing by asking that).  Also, I’m thinking I’m going to need more hobbies, because reading isn’t cutting it! Mel just may get her wish on redoing the laundry room, master bath, and whatever else she can think of.  For the good of our marriage and budget, I beg of you to share some suggestions, because without a distraction, I feel ourselves second-guessing everything we put out there!  In short, it’s like high school all over again. 

Circa 2000. High School versions of us. (No judgment, ok?) 

Circa 2000. High School versions of us. (No judgment, ok?) 

Ok, all you cool kids out there, just keep in mind that you were lucky SOBs, because high school wasn’t a breeze for the rest of us. Shocking right? The introverted person, not fitting into a system that expects you to be social.  To me, high school was all about second-guessing myself all the time.  What I wore, what I said, what sport I played, and who I hung out with.  Maybe everyone feels that way on some level, but suddenly I feel like I’m right back there, only this time it’s adoption. 

With adoption, it all feels so much the same.  You have to put yourself out there, and the second you do, you suddenly start second guessing that action.  Did we put enough personality in our webpage and adoption letter, did we use the right pictures, will everyone think we are total dog nuts (we are), is our website too flashy (at least it doesn’t flash “please give us your baby” in the background), or do we look like a stable enough family to be trusted with a child (after reading this, maybe not).  I honestly feel like I’m back in 10th grade second-guessing those cargo pants I wore (I shouldn’t have), and hoping someone will look past it and trust me with a child

But since we’re on the topic of feelings (air quotes or not), while high school may not have been a barrel of monkeys, through that experience I gained some pretty awesome friends (even if they are regular misfits), and met my wife.  Even more importantly, I got through it and we will get through this adoption too. Not alone, but through God’s blessing and the support of incredible people like you (your prayers and help searching from mini Oho couldn’t hurt though).

So, this wasn’t so bad, I’m going to need some new theme music though; I keep trying to write in time with the music.  Until next time, love you all and thanks again!


Matt Oholendt
No. 5 // Coping (Exclamation Point)!

Over Christmas we experienced our first potential adoption match fall through. 


I'll write about it one day when I have some distance and perspective but it probably goes without saying that the whole thing created some intense feelings.


Today's post is infinitely more upbeat than what went down over Christmas. And it's nerdy. Which are like my two favorite things in life. 

Since we got back home from the holidays, the Oho House has been getting a deep clean - the depths of which it hasn't seen before - and my non-professional diagnosis is that this is my regular New-Year-Clean-House mojo combined with some next level COPING(!). And man, oh man, is it doing excellent things for my sanity. 

Matt will tell you that anytime life feels out of control, my way of dealing with it is to put order to the pieces of life that are within my control and while I've always been an organizer (the fact that I didn't have to buy a label maker for this latest project because I already owned one might tell you all you need to know about that), three (plus) years of living in any one place breeds some areas where organizational systems either failed or weren't followed (invite me to your party; I'm the fun one). And that left so many areas of our house that, while functioning, weren't exactly living their best lives. 

Enter a Melissa, fresh off a new devastation, label maker in hand, the Container Store website on her laptop and now, just shy of one month into the New Year, I've already tornado'd through the kitchen, mudroom, my office, closets, bathrooms, guest rooms, garage and am knee-deep in the major organizational project that is our basement with eyes forward on refining my business processes and goals. 

So, If you're anything like me or need a healthy distraction from your current situation OR just want to jump on the New Year, New You bandwagon, here are a few of my very, very favorite tools of home organization - all tried, tested and loved by this girl. 

Organization Style Board.jpg

1. Spice Drawer Insert
We used to keep our spices in the cabinet next to the stove and while it worked in the beginning, the more we tried new & fun recipes and accumulated new spices, the less awesome it was. I would have to dig and pull out 20 other spices before finding the one I wanted originally and, I am telling you, nobody got time for that. Enter this drawer insert and it is a beautiful, glorious thing.

2. Label Maker
I actually had this label maker for about a year before really pulling it out and putting it to use and now there isn't a closet or drawer in my house that is safe from being labeled to death.  

3. Glass Spice Jars
With the addition of the drawer insert, it only made sense (says the girl with the love of organizing) for the spices to be uniform. It's 100% unnecessary but goodness, does it ever make my heart sing to open the drawer and see pretty spices lined up in a row. 

4. Heavy Duty Shelving
It is truly the blessed law of science & physics that converts an unfinished basement, filled with boxes as far as the eye can see, back into a tidy, open space with just a few 18 inch deep shelving units along the walls. Three cheers for storage that goes vertical. 

5. Ana White's Easy & Fast DIY Garage Shelves
Speaking of vertical storage... Matt and I tackled this DIY project one Sunday after church and not only was it truly easy & fast but it also created some much needed garage organization. 

6. elfa Cabinet-Sized Easy Glider
I'm a fangirl of ALL the elfa products but these easy gliders, especially, have my heart. Almost every sink in the house has one of these in the cabinet below and it solves the age-old question of WHERE DID THE TOILET CLEANER GO (oh, it's in the very back of the cabinet). 

7. Baskets with Handles
We have a few of these baskets peppered around the house and I adore them but this isn't limited to just these specific baskets. It's dedicated to my love of this multi-functional decorative storage that holds anything from toilet paper to dog toys to bags of various pastas or sugars in the pantry equally well. I could write a love sonnet about my love for baskets but since that's weird, I won't. (Or at least I won't publish it publicly.) 

8. Nordic Storage Baskets
My love for these particular baskets is very specific. They are well made and functional but with that bamboo top, they become stackable and are almost too beautiful to hide in the closet. 

Melissa Oholendt
No. 4 // Good Days. Bad Days. And when it's both, at the same time.

I woke up yesterday feeling pretty defeated. It didn't make any sense but there it was.

The past week we've been riding high on the exuberant nature that is reaching the end of the agency to-do list and officially being listed "in the book". This should be a celebratory moment. One with champagne and high-fives and just an intense relief to having completed ALL the steps necessary to become a waiting family. 

It should feel like that but there I was, feeling that the one thing I want most in the world was so, so far away from my current state.. 

And to be completely honest, I didn't want to write this post or own up to these feelings because they feel so impossible to try to convey in a way that doesn't feel like I'm asking for sympathy and, well, they are just tough; both to experience and to communicate. We have so much to be thankful for and so many reasons to be hopeful and it genuinely feels self-indulgent to even acknowledge experiencing these days of "off" but they do exist. And I think it's important to at least give a nod of recognition of them because not only do I hope I'm not alone in these emotions but I know that they can be hard for even our closest friends and family to understand (especially with how infrequently I talk about them). 

To put it simply, most days I'm fine. More than fine. Happiest Oho on the block. Until the day we have that little one in our arms, there likely will always be an undercurrent of wishing and hoping but most days I jump out of bed before the sun, ready to tackle to-do lists and whatever life has in store for me. 

And then there are days where the longing of motherhood is so painfully acute and unfulfilled that it is hard for me to shake the emptiness of that. 

The depths to which I long to be a mom took me by surprise. For someone who started out not knowing if that would ever be in my future, I am continually astonished at how vivid that desire feels in my heart in this time of waiting. 

Yesterday, in the pains of a day that felt off-kilter caused by nothing other than just being like every other day, there's nothing to do but just to live that particular day, give that longing to God and hope that tomorrow feels differently.

It's not the easy answer. The easy answer is to fix. To try and do something that furthers our journey and gets us that much closer to our desire. The easy answer is to view our situation from the negative - to see all the ways in which we have felt wronged. Four years of infertility, medical & adoption costs, heartache and still, those empty arms that long to spend sleepless nights snuggling a newborn, changing diapers and wrestling with parental angst.
The hard answer is simply trusting that God is working when it feels like nothing is happening. To trust that, ultimately, nothing we say or do or write or print has any bearing on who our Mini Oho is meant to be. To know that "fixing" won't actually fix anything and certainly won't make it happen any faster. To view the past 4 years as a time where our marriage faced it's biggest and baddest hardship to date and came out fortified in a way that brings me to tears just thinking about it. To acknowledge that yes, the last four years have been brutal but they've made us more resilient, given us a sense of humor in impossible situations and have been preparing our hearts to be parents to this little one in a way that will be necessary. 

As a person who is utterly human, on days that are hard I want the easy answer. To fix. To be allowed to indulge in feelings of unfairness. But I know, for myself, the only way to kick myself out of those feelings of "off" is to accept that longing exists inside our hearts but know the wait has a purpose. 

So today, this morning, I am choosing to live the hard answer. Trusting when it's hard. And living inside of a verse that has become a stronghold in my life, Isaiah 58:11. 

“And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”


Melissa Oholendt
No. 3 // Update

December 14th. 

A few hours ago I got the approval of Draft Two (of three) of our Birth Mom Letter from our agency with very minor tweaks to go. This letter is the last piece of intensive, get-it-done homework before we are officially listed as a Waiting Family on the agency website and wait to be picked by a Birth Mom. 

Those of you who know me, know that I have some (ok, fine, many) perfectionist tendencies. They flare up in three big areas of my life - gift wrapping (I wish I were kidding and yes, this is a big area of my life - no judgment), our home and, most applicable to the adoption process, my intense desire for everything to be set/designed/in-place before launching a new project. 

I've gotten better at coaching myself through the crushing moments of perfectionism, usually in the fetal position and chanting the words, "done is better than perfect, done is better than perfect", but then there are days like today. When we're 90% of the way done and ready to go but all I want is for someone in an authority position to come by to tell me that I've made it that last 10%.

Which is why I'm really glad I mailed off 150 Christmas cards, announcing our adoption (and this website), yesterday. Because done is better than perfect and God knows I am not perfect. 

So, if you're here as a result of that card? 

Hi. Welcome. 

We're seriously so happy to be sharing in this with you. 


Melissa Oholendt Comments
No. 2 // All The Feels

Like most teenage girls, I spent my adolescent years feeling emotionally volatile in the way that I found it exceedingly hard to control where, when and how hard emotions would hit and, for me, that meant that they tended to combust at just the right times. Non-stop laughing attacks with friends in the middle of chemistry class. Lunchtime meltdowns over silly boyfriends. Sassy & sarcastic retorts to my parents during a well-deserved lecture where I should have been contrite. The typical teenage stuff, to be sure. 

But as an adult, there's an expectation that you get those Emotions (the capital "E" kind) under control and under control I did. To the surprise of maybe everyone I grew up with, I transitioned from a dramatic teenager into a rather logical thinker as a mid-thirties business owner.

Getting from Point A to Point B to Point C is my jam and something I truly get a lot of happiness and satisfaction from - especially in the difficult & stressful situations. (Nerd.) It's a quality that allows me to think fast on my feet and one that comes in handy on the time-warp that is photographing a wedding day and on slower, business-filled, regular days in the studio, alike. Life, of course, is punctuated by various emotions but the adult-version of Melissa can honestly tell you it's is a rare situation when I let negative emotions control my actions. (Happy emotions are another story. Put an N'Sync reunion on the TV and you'll see what I mean.) 

So, when, within two months my beloved grandfather, rather unexpectedly, passed away and  my mom was diagnosed with cancer and underwent major surgery to remove the tumor during the busiest & most stressful wedding season I had yet to experience in my eight years of business? I adjusted and dealt in the only way I knew how to in my adult life. Compartmentalize as much as possible to survive and get from Point A to Point B, no matter the cost.

When we found out just a few months later that after 3 years of trying for a baby that something was amiss and biological children were unlikely to be in our future, I did what I felt was needed to survive that next task, that next wedding, that next thing; despite the fact that my heart felt like it had shattered into a million pieces, been run over by a steam roller and then flung out to sea - never to be able to be made whole, ever again.

I genuinely don't write these things to say LOOK AT HOW STRONG I AM; really, it's just the opposite. Compartmentalizing didn't do anything for my ability to grieve each of these loses and heartaches but, instead, just added a ticking time bomb to those emotions. 

Because that is where I positively fell apart. 

I told myself I could hold it all together until I had time to truly grieve these things. Keep it under control until I could give grief a can-do attitude and process through the emotions of a 4 month period that positively ravaged my heart and arrive at the other side; a happy, grateful gal with the full, complete life I was used to seeing. 

Turns out, grief doesn't work that way. 

I don't know if it was movies or tv shows or my own limited knowledge of the human brain that set unrealistic expectations but grief, for me, was never linear. I wasn't moving from Point A to Point B like my logical brain had learned to operate from. I didn't transition through the stages in any version of the order you can see on any website on grief; rather, what actually happened was a total, head-first dive into both anger & depression, all at once and over everything.

When one day, months (and months) after the diagnosis, Matt kindly, softly and in the most gentle way a saint of a man who had put up with a disaster of a wife for far longer than any man should ever have to, asked me if I was ok? It genuinely was the first time I realized I wasn't. 

THAT is grief to me. 

Instead of acknowledging and feeling each those "stages" individually and then moving on - I ended up stuck in the middle of two very powerful emotions that played ping-pong with my brain. They infiltrated who I was, down to the core of my soul and affected every action, every non-action and everything in-between. 

And the most deceptive part of it was the story I was telling myself. 

I had truly convinced myself that I was fine. That was making it. Surviving. Thriving, even. I outwardly said nice things about how God has a purpose and how we were finding ours. I told everyone I was fine. I blamed my lack of interest in things that had formerly brought me joy as a priority shift. I overlooked obvious and flashing warning signs and I didn't even realize it until I was knee-deep in depression. 

(Also. Really. It just needs to be said. Matt is a real-life hero. The way he navigated his way through his own grief and then helped me through mine is something to be marveled at and brings me to tears every time I think of his strength in my utter weakness. THAT is truly a man of God, right there.) 

It took doctor's visits, a massive reality-check of truly trusting Christ in a way I had never before, honest & real conversations about really impossible and ugly feelings with both Matt and close friends alike and, frankly, the passing of time for me to start to feel like myself again.  


Now, here, on the other side of it all, I still have days where I find myself adrift in emotions I thought I had worked through. Sure, some days I sail through the hours; high on life and love and the many, many things that bring joy. But other days, I still feel like I'm navigating a landscape of emotional land mines, off balance and on my tippy-toes, and I have to remind myself - yet again - that grief isn't linear. And that getting to another stage doesn't mean I won't find myself right back in those same emotions that consumed me the first time (albeit slightly easier to recognize and navigate). 

I think in some ways, they will always be a part of me; a piece of my history. And yes, sometimes I still deeply feel them but not in the way that, even just 9 months ago, would have felt like my world was imploding with every new step.

We get a lot of questions asking how we are. How this adoption process is going. How we are feeling. Most days, my answer revolves round the to-dos and where we at in the process itself rather than the emotional side of it but the honest truth of it is that we are still taking things week by week, and sometimes, just day by day. 

It is truly thrilling to be making progress towards starting a family. After years of feeling thwarted in advancement towards something we desperately longed for, every little step we complete, form we sign and approval checkpoint we reach is entirely rewarding and encouraging in and of itself. 

And as we hustle to put everything in place to officially become a waiting family by the end of 2017 and walk into the unknown waiting period, those are the pieces I want to hold tightly to. Knowing that every day is another day that gets us closer to a baby. If that is 60 days or 365 days or 1,090 days; all of those numbers carry purpose and at some point, will have an end.  

So, where are we at emotionally? Really? 

We're excited. We're nervous. We're joyful. We're terrified of the unknowns. We're guarding our hearts. We're scared to say or do the wrong thing and lose a potential match. We're anxious. We're aching. We're ready to give ourselves completely to a baby. All of those things. All of the time. And all at once.

But most of all, we're hopeful. Ready to be parents. Ready to enter the next stage of life. And entirely hopeful that happens soon. 


Melissa OholendtComment
No. 1 // We Out Here. Now What?

I've given a lot of thought about how to use this space. About how to tell our story - the triumphs, the lows, the in-betweens - in a way that does justice to it. Mostly as a record for our sake; to remember the journey to our Mini Oho when those days are behind us and we're in a fog of parenthood. But the thought occurred to me that maybe it could be bigger, too. Infertility. Adoption. Faith. Grief & Loss. Premature Menopause. Good days and bad days and how sometimes it's both at the exact same time.  You know... The type of topics that rarely come up at dinner parties because it's not always rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. (I'm a fun person, I swear.) 

But as the years tick on and the older I get (and feel), the more I want to talk about those topics openly. Just as I found a community of women who had/were experiencing infertility when I swallowed my fear of vulnerability and started conversations about it, I believe the vulnerability creates a pathway to community with couples and families and just all human beings who have experienced hardship of some kind ( all of us, right?). 

To be clear, this isn't about the sadness or the (capital) F-E-E-L-I-N-G-S. There will be that, because it wouldn't be honest writing without it, but even in the midst of darkness, there was always light. There was always hope. There was always God. 

There was and is still so much beauty, even in the difficult times. And that is the story I want this little corner of the web to tell. 

(And, yes, absolutely there will still be plenty of Oho-style adoption updates along the way. Because we are PUMPED to be that much closer to our Mini Oho and want you to be pumped too.)

PS - if you are a couple waiting to adopt, I'd love to hear your story and pray for you and cheer you on. Send me a message, leave me a comment or shoot me an email at 


Melissa OholendtComment
Ohos Adopt. OHOS ADOPT!
The early dating days. 2003.

The early dating days. 2003.

If you would have asked me 12 years ago, I didn't know if I would ever feel that longing for motherhood the way my friends seemed to. Kids seemed messy and chaotic and the thought of sharing my body with another tiny human seemed about as far away a concept as the sun is from Pluto (so...just really, exceptionally far away). So when we told our families in that first year of marriage, "don't ask us about kids until year 10", there was a lot of truth in that semi-joke. Ten years of marriage meant kids in our 30's; a decade meant 10 years to build a solid foundation of marriage before children entered the picture and even better, it equaled ten years of solidifying career and financial plans. 

Somewhere between year six and year eight, we started to notice a shift in our conversations from "if we have a baby" to that ever-hopeful "when we have a baby" and by year nine, we felt as ready as a couple could ever be to dive headfirst into a life you know you are vastly unprepared and under-qualified for. (And even better with a pregnancy taking a solid 9 months, we'd pretty much nail that ten year semi-joke, not-totally-a-joke.) 



So, we pulled the goalie (yeah, that goalie), we bought the big house with the extra bedrooms in the quiet suburb. We purchased a coffee table with round edges and padding instead of that sharp-edged marble coffee table I preferred. We added the puppy with the reasoning that we wouldn't want the challenge of a new puppy and a new baby at the same time. We started looking at the calendar and planning what potential maternity leave might look like around wedding season and then we waited.

And waited. 

And waited. 

Celebrating Ten Years of Marriage in Chicago. 2015.

Celebrating Ten Years of Marriage in Chicago. 2015.

And since then, the puppy has turned three and a half, the padded coffee table has (rather miraculously) stayed and twenty one gorgeous, new babies have been born to those couples who's weddings I had hoped photograph with a pregnant belly.

Late last year, we found out that we wouldn't be able to have children the old fashioned way due to a previously unknown genetic condition that caused my egg supply to go bad and my body to start menopause at the ripe age of 33. 

My gosh, the grief & loss were REAL those months following. Bigger and more consuming and more treacherous than anything I had ever experienced in my life.

One day I will write that story; how we dealt with grieving a loss without a physical loss, the rampant emotions that crash like waves when you least expect it and always at the worst time, and those menopause hot flashes (YOU GUYS, THE HOT FLASHES). One day I'll dig in and write it all down but, for now, lest you think this is a sad story, it really is one of redemption. 

One where God is working to mold whole, new and complete hearts for Matt and I from the ashes of lost dreams and failure. One where God so plainly showed us a new path; one we never would have walked down without walking through a valley we couldn't see the end of. A story that is already filled with beauty and love and - yes - brokenness, but brokenness that has revealed His glory. 

Annual North Shore Trip. 2017.

Annual North Shore Trip. 2017.

So what's next? 

Well. This past Friday, we completed the final piece of our Home Study to become adoptive parents to a yet-to-be-known little one. 

Adoption is the exact opposite of how I saw our original journey to parenthood but now that we're in the middle of it, I can't imagine we had planned to do it any other way. We still have a long ways to go; a birth mom letter to write, a website to create, books to make, rooftops to shout "WE'RE ADOPTING" from, pictures to take, social workers to meet, and then? 

Well, then the real waiting begins as we await a mini-Oho. 

So now, on my 34th birthday, one that I might have envisioned differently but one that is so very blessed to bear witness to the work of God so plainly, I ask for only one gift (unless your name is Matt and then you had better come home with flowers), we covet your prayers and your love as we walk into the undetermined period of anticipation to be matched with a birth mom. Something I suspect, yet again, we are entirely unprepared and unqualified for but something I desperately long for in a way I never could have imagined 12 years ago and with a fierceness I didn't know I had within me.

I'll share more on this journey, I promise, but in the in-between, we owe a massive debt of gratitude to those of you who walked this road alongside us without any expectations. Who grieved with us, cried with us, prayed with us and loved us through our heartache. We couldn't have gotten here without you.

And this story wouldn't be complete without a shoutout to the most (and I can say this with authority) amazing and wonderful husband there ever was - who shouldered both of our grief when mine was too heavy for me to carry, who has shown me the depths of God's love every single day, especially the days when I felt undeserving of that love, and who is going to be the best dad in the whole world to any children we are blessed with through adoption. I love you so intensely. 

We're waiting on you mini-Oho. 


Melissa OholendtComment