look ma, no hands

We had family pictures taken on Saturday by Ann Bennett. More on that next week.

Towards the beginning of our time with Ann, she asked how often Little One looks at her hands now. I hadn’t thought about her looking at her hands in a long time. I tried to answer Ann, but I couldn’t even think of the last time I had seen Little One lost in her hands. At some point the baby girl that spent a good portion of her days looking at her hands stopped.

Later I got out my computer and looked at old pictures. I try to capture my kids doing whatever they normally do – not just the stuff that seems ‘photo worthy’. Our early weeks with Little One included lots of hand time.

Her hands were the place she retreated to…kind of like a security blanket or favorite toy…which she had neither.

They were always with her in that crib and they were with her when she met us.

This is the last photo I found of her looking at her hands. It was taken 2 weeks after she came home.

She doesn’t retreat to her hands anymore. Maybe we will see her do it again in stressful times, but these days her hands are for playing and thumb sucking.

And hugging. About a week ago she wrapped her little arms around my neck and squeezed hard for the first time. I think she likes me.

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  • Michelle H. - Precious <3

  • Andy - oh my goodness that is to much sweetness. i love how she looked at her hands but i love even more how big she is hugging you around your neck

  • ari - Just lovely!

  • Kassondra - that last photo instantly brought tears of joy! i am so happy for you and little one

  • Kari Signe - Wonderful. Just so lovely!

  • the chronic utilitarian - honey, i think she LOVES you,

  • Lindsey P - You have a cup under your sofa. And better things to do than pick it up. Thanks for being so real!

  • Laura - So happy things are becoming normal for you. We knew the hugs and happiness would fall into place.

  • Heather - Ditto on the tears of joy at the last photo. Little arms around your neck. Nothing better. Blessings!

  • AshleyAnn - Lindsay, I’m surprised that is all that’s under there!

  • Alysa - That last photo, of Little One squeezing your neck made me gasp out loud. So much so that my little one beside me said, “What?” To which I replied … Little One gave her mommy a great big bear hug which is a great.BIG.deal!

    Your story continues to move me at a deep level. May God continue to heap on His love and joy and hope on your sweet family!

  • Leila - The healing power of love. Good for you, Ashley Ann! Simple. Not easy, but so simple. I admire you.

  • Michelle G - Reading your blog last thing before I go to bed (its 11.30pm here) always send me to sleep with a smile!

    Just beautiful.


  • Gina - I love watching Little One come out of her shell. Her smile is so incredibly sweet. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lori - A picture of love. I love it that she hugged you. She is a happy girl…you can tell in her eyes…God Bless you and the entire family.

  • danielle - So beautiful! So happy for you guys and her!

  • Rita - Ashley,
    I love your blog and am so enjoying watching your kids grow from the sidelines. Little one is adorable. I’ve also learned so much from you about photography, but I have a lot to learn and need to spring for a DSLR soon.

    Your post made me wonder. How do you store your digital photos? We have run out of computer space and I’m getting worried about losing photos, it already happened once.


  • jaime - this post makes me so happy. She is feeling loved, safe, and comfort.
    It also my heart warm to hear she hugged you with a huge squeeze. It really is the small things that matter most!

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - She probably loves you and maybe soon will call you Mama! How joyous that will be! May her little hands be used to do much blessed work for God.

  • Kristine - i get all teary-eyed looking at the last picture of the two of you. what a precious picture and how far a year has brought you all. 🙂

  • Emily - What a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes. My heart aches knowing she had to take comfort in her own hands, as if they reassured her of something. But it cracks open with joy seeing her holding on to her mama and connecting to your whole family. She is such an inspiration, as are you. God bless.

  • christie - Oh my, really glad I haven’t put on my mascara yet..beautiful post.

  • Debbie C - Aaaand you’re making me cry again. ;D She is so so sweet, love that she uses those hands to show her love now.

  • Kelsey Kautzi - I recently found your blog and have been loving it. We just started paperwork for a special needs adoption in China (after more than a year pursuing an Ethiopian adoption that was making little progress) and I think I cry at every story about Little One. Thank you for sharing your journey. If you think of it, please say a prayer for us as we are in the midst of tackling our second home study and dossier in a year and trying to raise the money we need to make this happen! I know you can empathize! (also bawled like a baby at your story of God providing all the funds for TWO adoptions! So encouraging. He is able!) Anyway, thought I’d crawl out of lurking and say that the thought of Little One volunteering hugs did much for my heart today!

  • brandi - I love to start off my day with something positive, so the first place I go to is your blog. Always filled with joy and happiness, even when you’re going through a hard time. Your heart shines through the screen like rays of sunshine. Little One is blessed to have you, just like all of your children. Well done, Ashley.

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - look at that sweet baby giving hugs! We are neck deep in our baby moon over here. She came home 3 weeks ago! Can’t wait until she can give hugs!!!

  • Tracy - I have decided something, next time you update your blog again you need to add 3 buttons, one for “Like,” one for “Love,” and one for “You made me cry …AGAIN.” 😉 I can’t say it enough, SO happy for you guys! <3

  • Amanda @ Our Humble A{Bowe}d - Aww, she has changed so much already. And my heart completely melted at the sight of her hugging you. Beyond adorable. How could she not like you? 🙂

  • Amanda - This is so precious, I love how you can see the light and happiness in her eyes in the last couple of pictures!

  • Molly - I think she loves you!!! She definitely has a sparkle in her eyes…she is home!

  • Serene - How that must have melted you when she hugged you. It makes me happy she’s found comfort in your arms and not just in her hands anymore.

  • angie webb - so sweet. i melt.

  • Amy at Fig Milkshakes - Oh my goodness. She is so precious. God is so good. I’ve been telling my friends about this amazing baby and how resourceful she is that when she didn’t have toys to play with she was just like, “It’s cool. I’ll look at my hands.” It is what has stuck with me the most about following your journey – I love LOve LOVE this post. Thank you for sharing! I think I’ll go send links to some of my friends I was telling.

  • sarah j - “You make all things new.”

  • Amy at Fig Milkshakes - Cute shoes, by the way.

  • Kiki - Oh my goodness! That hug is precious. And I love to see all the changes and growth in Little One. 🙂

  • Emily - Those first hugs are precious and priceless. So, so happy for you all.

  • Alisa - So much fun getting to follow you on this journey. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

  • Teresa - Likes you? That photo shows some serious love. So very sweet!

  • Stefanie - Wow… incredible to see her ‘journey’ in photos! Amazing what love can do 🙂

  • Jen - She sure does. A first hug. So very wonderfu.

  • RachaelB - Sigh. Another post that brings tears to my eyes.

  • shayna - tears….so sweet.

  • Julie - Tears Mama! What a beautiful experience – thank you for taking us along!

  • Angie - Crying again. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. God Bless!

  • Amy @ Paint Wine Repeat - “I think she likes me” – that just melted my heart.

  • Kara M - LOVE that she initiated a hug!! Did you burst into tears?

  • jennie - i love the photos captured of her looking at her hands…the last pic is a tearjerker. i know she likes you…actions speak louder than words!!

  • Jill - Love it. So glad that she 1: had her hands and 2: doesn’t need to retreat to them anymore.

  • Abigail C - LIKE! That’s really cool. I’ve enjoyed watching her face relax as time has gone on. Not that you would say she looked tense at first, but when you get to the end….the shadow has fallen from her face.

  • Mary@FindingHealthyHope - oh my. this is just the sweetest thing i have read in a looong time.
    God is so good to have brought you all together!

  • Casey - Beautiful! I love that someone pointed out the cup under there, I don’t even want to look under my couch right now…

  • JenD - Ashley-I follow your blog constantly but rarely comment (so sorry-i’m here loving it all, i should comment more) BUT I just wanted to say how much this makes me smile. I love how you capture your children. And I love that you have allowed us to watch little one bloom. So many people cheering on your family and her in particular so thank you for allowing us to continue to do that and sharing your life!!!!

  • Brooke - Such a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing how much she is growing and changing. Just more proof on how resilient kids are. She is so precious (just like all of your others).

  • Ingrid - that last bit made me cry – so beautiful xx

  • Amber Campbell Hibbs - I’m all teared up. Baby hugs are the BEST! 🙂

  • Jessica Colvin - She is previous!!! Thanks for sharing these moments with us!

  • Maria - I’m not very tearful, usually, but getting to this bit where you wrote she hugged you and put up that photo, I went “Hhhkk….”, quivering lip and all, and totally teared up.

  • Michelle W - It is wonderful to see what God has blessed you all with. You all are such a gift to one another and to the many you inspire.

  • Ruth - Thank you for sharing stories of your journey together as a family. I agree with everyone else – I think she LOVES you! What you have done is amazing to me and I think of you and your family often x

  • angie weldon - got me all misty at that last photo…what a little love bug she is 🙂

  • Catherine - Oh, you made me cry with the last two lines and the last photo. I would love to give her a big hug myself!

  • Jen - Oh my. So beautiful. 🙂

  • Jenni - Ahh! LOVE this! She is just amazing. I bet you will never forget that first big squeeze!:):)

  • Lisa - Love the last picture – she knows you’re her mama. Just beautiful!

  • Amber - Oh my goodness…what joy I for you and your family. Praise God for your daughter and her love for you!

  • MelissaM - What Joy! What a difference!

  • Charla - Thank you for taking us on that journey…It’s so beautiful to see how far she has come…I would say she is THRIVING with all the love attention and care! How exciting to enjoy those squeezes!

  • Rachael - I love it!!!! God is good! That photo of Little one in the white and red hat is priceless!!! She is gorgeous!

  • Jacci in Ohio - Are you trying to make me sob?!!!! 😀

    I am SO, so, so thankful for the comfort she took from her hands during the transition. I prayed and prayed that, somehow, our gracious Father God would give her a deep security, a steadiness within, a peace that didn’t make sense. I’m crying now… ha ha… par for the course on your sweet blog lately!… anyway, when I see these photos I see GOD comforting her. I see HIM leading her through and giving her security in such an unexpected way. I see that HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN HER FATHER… Oh, amen and amen! Bawling now.


  • KIMBERLY - Just beautiful ! She is such an amazing little girl. Bless her and her forever family 🙂

  • Stoich9 - PRECIOUS. PEANUT.

  • ~abi~ - tears again!! so sweet. 🙂

  • heather from life made lovely - crying big wet happy tears.
    this is the best.

  • Megan - She is HOME! What a neat thing to have all the pictures of her looking at her hands, and now to have vastly different photos of her! Amen.

  • Katie - SO sweet. The last picture just gets me right at the heart. Sweet, sweet, sweet baby girl.

  • Lisa - Oh mercy! I can’t imagine what a gift that first hug was. I’ve been following you since just before your sweet Little One came home and I cry almost EVERY day reading your posts! Your photography (and life) is so beautiful. My husband and I are in the process of adopting from China too and your sweet blog has been such a blessing to me. Thank you!

  • Ali - Beautiful!! Tears of joy over here too!!

  • tracy a - sweet friend…it’s not like, it’s LOVE!

  • Melissa - While her hands are the sweetest little things I’ve ever seen, I’m so glad there are a million other wonderful things for her to see now in her life with you and the rest of her incredible family . <3

  • Sharon Osborn - sigh…

  • Joy - OH MY! this post makes me cry! she LOVES you. this is, simply, the best thing for a mama’s heart.

  • Manu Tessinari - I have no idea how I became to your blog, but I have to say I love it! You always make me think how strong and good a person can be. God gave us a big big heart and I am sure that you use it in the biggest way you can. I admire you a lot!

    (sorry about my english! I’m a brazilian living in Peru. :-))

  • Stephanie - Thank you again and again for breathing life and love into Little One. What a very emotional post showing how you have become her comfort.

  • Sanyu - This just made me smile. I am so glad that things are working out for you and your family and that your Little One finally has people to love and people who love her.

  • Lyn - Love this update. Love the picture with the hat!

  • Mindy W - The first pics are almost painful to see; my heart sort of hurts. But as I’ve watched her these last weeks- oh my! Her smile! The life and light in her eyes! We, from across the web, can literally see her bloom!!

  • Anna - This brings me tears of JOY.

  • rachelc - awesome.

  • Natalie - So happy for all of you but especially for Little One’s progress. She is an angel!

  • BethAnne - She sure is a little beauty.

  • Melissa - Long time reader first time commenting. Amazing. You are going to give this babe such a great life. She is lucky to have you and your whole family! This post touched my heart.

  • Thalita Dol - Oh, my! This is one of the sweetest posts ever!!
    I’m sooooo glad for you all! And specially for little one, happy and lucky girl, surrounded with love, finding confort on her family!

    hugs from Brazil!

  • Kelly - That last picture….. Precious!!

  • Jami Nato - this made me smile so big and then cry. it’s all so beautiful. her sweet companion hands.

  • Amy - My heart just swelled to overflow reading this! What a sweet blessing that little girl is! I’m so glad God chose you to be her Mommy!!!

  • Kaylyn - Ok. Last pic makes me want to cry. Lovely post. Absolutely heart warming.

    kaylyn / theweirhouse.com

  • Jenifer - These are great pictures. Wow what a pretty girl with a lot of love. We were thinking of adopting one day but we don’t have funds or patience right now or another little one.

  • MrsCao - The part about your little one wrapping her around your neck and squeezing hard got me all teary eyed! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  • Fliss - So glad to see all is going well and that her ‘hand’ gazing is now being used to play and hug 🙂 It has been a while… sorry about that… life has been busy… hugs

  • Michelle - So beautiful!

  • elizabeth H - ohh, that hug just melts my heart!!! especially a *tight* hug…
    there’s not much to compare w. that!

  • Chrissy - I often take internet breaks….to rest and center and find better balance and I have to say your site is the first place I return to and every. single. time. I cry my eyes out. I love this so much I can’t even tell you. Oh this girl……and her beautiful mama. XO

  • Kimberly Dial - Oh my goodness, this post killed me. Little One is so precious & it makes my heart so happy to think that her life is so happy & full now that she no longer thinks of her hands … she’s got so much love & pretty of action with all her siblings. God bless your sweet family Ashley … I gotta find some Kleenex! 😉