Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our Day

Two Thanksgivings in 4 hours.  Here's the recap.

Little dude made sure to get as many kisses (and cookies) as humanly possible.  Days like this, when we're around those who love him most, I am so thankful for the mounds & mounds of love that he receives.  Dude is spoiled.  And he deserves every bit.

Getting some lovin' from Uncle Chris
Carter was a rockstar.  He did awesome - I'd say it's our most successful holiday to date.  No melt downs, no crazy behaviors, no sensory overload.  He was so, so, so good.

I think the ipad probably helped with that ;)

Snuggles from Chloe
 This is Carter saying 'HOORAY!' :)

And this is Carter saying 'Cheese' :)  I'm not sure which one I like better!

We were laughing about this one - Cousin Nick looks like a 5 year old holding a giant baby!
What is it about this angle?! So very funny!  
On to Thanksgiving #2 - this is what we do.  Lounge.  Laugh.  Eat.  Watch the Packers.  Check out the Black Friday ads.  It's pretty great.

NaNa thought to bring some of Carter's faves from her house.  Smart!

Again, the ipad.  It's amazing, I tell ya!

I think Carter and Josie wear the same size shirt.
Josie is in 8th grade.
Snow!  Ugh.  Carter loves it.  We don't.  'Snow! Santa! Christmas! Ho, ho, ho!' every.single.time he looks out the window.


As our day draws to a close, I've gotta say, we're pretty blessed.  Family all around us, squeezing in tight and pulling in close.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Two posts in one day?! Oh, yes I did.  Read the one from this morning here :)

Thankful For...

{1} A little boy who stayed home from school and snuggled up close to his mama all day.

{2} Progress!

{3} Girls night out in 4 days and counting...

{4} Finding a planner I love, so I don't have to design my own...ain't nobody got time for that! (Okay, well, I started designing my own, and then life here I am)

{5} A warm home while we wait for ours - filled with love & babysitters (!) & good food & laughter (& sometimes snarling) & wifi for the iPad. What more do we need?!

{6} 20 Things We Should Say More Often - these are good.  Thanks, Kid President.

{7} That this little boy will be home with his forever family on Thanksgiving.

{8} A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live, by Emily P. Freeman.  I'm only on the second chapter - but so far, this:

Have you noticed how God does things?  Have you considered the way he colors the sky?  Or the smallest details int he blades of grass or grains of sand beneath your feet?  Is he only a God of right answers and right angles and acceptable behavior?  Have we exalted the will of God and the plans of God above God himself?  

He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us.  He loves us.  Is with us.  And believing him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like lukewarm water turning merlot red right there in the cup.  And hope sprouts new, because God doesn't give us a list.  He invites us into the story.  

God is not a technician.  God is an Artist.  This is the God who made you.  The same God who lives inside you.  He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.  

That's why there's freedom, even in the blah.  Hope, even in the dark.  Love, even in the fear.  Trust, even as we face our critics.  And believing in the midst of all that?  It feels like strength and depth and wildflower spinning; it feels risky and brave and underdog winning.  

It feels like redemption.  It feels like art.

{9} Finally sitting down to watch "It's A Wonderful Life".  Why oh why oh WHY have I never seen this movie before?  Favorite.  Want to watch it but don't own it? You can watch the whole thing, uninterrupted, right here.

{10} Tomorrow's freedom is today's surrender.  I heard it in a song the other day, and it's been with me ever since.  What does that mean for me?

{11} Doing less stuff.  Mostly because I don't have a choice this year - but this is a good read around the holidays for busy moms with little ones.  Just say 'no' to fussy stuff.

{12} A runner who, although we'll probably never meet, is dedicating her runs & workouts to our Carter boy.  This is a super fun organization - if you're a runner (or a special needs parent) - check it out!  They are in need of buddies (kids with special needs) - as lots of runners are waiting to be matched!

These shoes belong to Carter's runner, Andrea!
I almost cried when I saw this photo - somehow, this is so encouraging.
{13} Social media.  Sometimes I wish I could delete everything and forget about all of it.  And then I'm reminded that it's a community.  Much of my online community (again, people I'll probably never meet) has a common ground: special needs.  How hard would our journey be without this online community of people who get it? Groups like IDSC, Ukraine Adoption Groups, Inclusion & Down syndrome groups - filled with lots of people who get it.  And I'm reminded that we're not alone.

{14} Finally getting around to printing my blog book of our trip to Ukraine! Blog2Print is finally offering 20% off their blog books - if you're a blogger who prints, take advantage of this rare deal (they usually offer 15% off, but rarely 20%!). Also - a tip for bloggers who print - avoid using the photo signatures!  They take up tons of room in your book, and look silly on every page.  I've deleted mine from over 200 posts...manually.  Fun stuff. 

{15} You.  I don't know why you come back here to read about us, but you do.  And I'm grateful for that, friend.

{16} A husband who loves me and that spunky kid of ours.  He's pretty great, and I don't say it enough.  He's filled with Godly wisdom, too - just the other day he said "Our last name gives Carter everything he needs"  I'm still chewing on that one - and there's more to that story.  Maybe I'll share it someday.  Or maybe I'll keep it to myself.  Either way - it was a lightbulb moment for this tired, sometimes weary, mama.  Thanks, babe.  I really love ya.

{17} I could go on and on.  And that's something to be thankful for.

So there you have it.  A thankful/favorites post for your Thanksgiving reading enjoyment.  I hope you, too, have much to be thankful for this year.  I hope as you grab hands around the table with those you love most, you'll be reminded of just how much you have.

I hope you can say 'my cup runneth over'.  Mine does.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever!

Friday, November 22, 2013

21 Adoption Questions {Answered by 7 Adoptive Mamas}

A few days ago, a friend asked me if we'd ever adopt again.  And then a millisecond after she asked it, she stopped and questioned if that question was too personal.  I love when people ask about adoption in general, or our own experience.  And I wonder how many questions are waiting to be asked by people who are afraid of offending.

{Girl, if you're reading this, thanks for asking.  Your question sparked this post.}

November is National Adoption Month.  In honor of this special month, I'm tackling some of the frequently asked questions that we, and other adoptive families, have encountered.  

To help me, I've gathered some friends.  Because really, is anyone tired of hearing me talk?  Be honest. 

Meet my friends :)

Now that we all know each other, let's get down to the nitty gritty.  I've asked these ladies to be totally honest - no bending the truth for the sake of making adoption look nicer - cleaner - easier than it is. Some of their answers are long - but I didn't want to shave anything down, for fear of losing a glimpse of their heart.  Bear with us - we are mommies who love our kids, and love our stories, and are eager to share.

Here we go!


Jennifer - We knew other families who had adopted children with special needs from overseas.  Following their stories opened our eyes to the fact that there are so many children suffering for lack of having their basic needs met, let alone proper medical care for their special needs.  We came to the realization that we couldn't be so blessed - with our home, our lifestyle, our children - and say we didn't have enough to share.  We spent a long time in prayer and discernment before we moved forward with adoption.  We truly felt this was God's will for our family and we couldn't refuse.

Jeanne - We chose adoption after failed infertility treatments and one miscarriage.  While we didn't exhaust infertility treatments we were ready to move on to adoption.

Jacklyn - When we were having trouble getting pregnant, we went to the doctor.  After some basic tests, it came back that I had PCOS and my husband has MFI.  Our chances at getting pregnant naturally were given to be about 1%.  Our only option was IVF with ICSI which we were uncomfortable with.  We decided almost immediately to do an adoption, because we felt at the end we would have a baby, whereas with fertility treatments, we could spend almost the same amount of money with no guarantee.

Sarah - We were coming up on our 5 year wedding anniversary and were on the 'five year plan' for a family - meaning we'd stay married and childless for about five years and then have children.  We felt a lot of pressure through those first five years to have children - and it got us thinking - do we just do this because it's the next logical step in life?  We got married, bought a house, got a dog, and of course, life would not be complete without having children, right?  We sort of felt like we were going through the motions so began praying about our family.  We had done respite care for children with Down syndrome and really enjoyed it.  We thought surely there'd be a need domestically for adoption of children with Down syndrome, but we found out that there is a pool of approximately 300 families willing to adopt babies born with Ds in the US.  We were shocked!  Upon doing this research, we came across Reece's Rainbow, and learned there were thousands of children with Down syndrome waiting for families in Eastern Europe.  The treatment of orphans with special needs in Eastern Europe and the huge need brought us to our knees.  We couldn't pretend we didn't know the need, we couldn't pretend we weren't able to help, we couldn't turn our backs!  We knew we could provide a loving, safe home and family for a child with special needs who otherwise would not ever experience love and a family!

Teresa - We didn't choose adoption, adoption chose us.  It started out as a short-term foster placement and after it was evident the boys would not be returned to their birth mom and would be placed for adoption, we couldn't let them go.  This was the clearest direction to date that we have ever had from God.  We knew we had to do it.

Rebecca - After our oldest kids were moving out, we started talking about the future. We talked about traveling, we talked about buying stuff, and then we talked about having more kids. Since I can no longer have children, we talked about adoption. I started looking online at different photolistings. The first one was from a place called Rainbow Kids. I saw the cutest little boy ever, and it was not until I read his profile that I realized he has Down syndrome. This opened up a whole big talk between my husband and myself because when I had been pregnant for my son, the doctor had said he was suppose to be born with Down syndrome, and then he wasn’t. We talked about if we should adopt a child with or without special needs,  but then we talked about how our 17 year old has type 1 diabetes, which does not run in our family at all, and she was not diagnosed until she was 5. We talked about how even if we adopted a child who at birth might be perfectly healthy and have no obvious special needs, that maybe we should just adopt a child with special needs to begin with. We started talking about different special needs, CP, DS, HIV, and many others. During church one day we decided to pray about it. We asked the LORD to lead us, to show us what we are suppose to be doing. Five minutes after our prayers, a group of teens and adults with Down syndrome walked through the door of our church and sat down in the pew in front of us. That was the sign! We knew then that we were suppose to adopt children with Down syndrome.

Ali - We chose to adopt because we felt that was what God wanted for our family.  It wasn't an easy choice to understand. We found out at Elias' birth that he had Down syndrome.  It was a surprise but he was our son, and we were going to do whatever was necessary to raise him the best we could.  I looked at information on the internet and found a forum which I visited every day.  This is where I learned about adoption.  I thought it was crazy that some parents adopted their kids with Down syndrome!  I couldn't understand how someone could want to adopt a kid with special needs.  I loved my boy, but choosing one was something I couldn't understand.  But, I kept reading about adoptions, and without knowing it, God was changing my mind and my heart about adoption.

Ash - I think we didn't really choose it, but it kind of chose us.  It wasn't part of our plan initially, until God opened our eyes to the plight of the orphan, particularly the special needs orphan.  And once we knew, we just couldn't turn away.


Ali - Elias loved his sister from day one, even though he was jealous.

Jennifer - Every one of our children was thrilled with the idea and thrilled with their new brother.  The youngest, Daniel, had the hardest adjustment as he and Joshua are just 9 months apart.  And Daniel elected a brother who could *really* play - Joshua had some unexpected diagnoses that equal him being physically-mobility challenged as well as somewhat fragile.

Teresa - Our biological kids have been supportive throughout the entire process; however, we have noticed through the years a few little hiccups...nothing major.

Rebecca - It has been wonderful watching our older children play with and spend time with their siblings.  They get home from school and make sure they pick them up and hug them and they look forward to seeing them.


Ali - Elias and Eva fight like any other siblings! But we can see how they're good for each other.  They need each other.  Elias enjoys teacher her stuff, and Eva helps him a lot, too.  They complement each other, because their personalities are very different.

Teresa - For the most part, our bio kids have embraced our adopted kids.  Last summer, they took turns having sleepovers at one of their brother's houses which was awesome!

Rebecca - Our relationship with all of our children is very strong.  We have a family game night at least once per week with our older children, our youngest two are so happy and full of life and we are soaking up every single moment with them.

Jennifer - Today - 20 months later - it's all pretty normal.  We have new routines, but my expectations for all of my children are the same in terms of attitude, behavior, etc.  Joshua is very well-bonded, very happy - that is not to say we don't have issues of attitude/adjustment/behavior related to everything he has been through.  But he's my son.  Period.


Jeanne - He wasn't reluctant, maybe just cautious of the process and outcome?  Like 'would this really happen?'.  I believe in fate.

Jennifer - Prayer.  It was all about prayer.  I always joke that someday, when, by God's mercy, I get to heaven, I want to have a good conversation with St. Paul about this whole "submissive wives" thing.  But that is honestly what it took.  I shared my heart with my husband on adoption - but I did not badger/nag/beg/plead.  I asked him to pray about it.  Then I shut up.  I still shared stories about children - but I never pressured him.  I prayed for God to guide my husband in what was best for our family.  And I prayed for my own patience.  Went through it all again when it came to deciding which child we would try to adopt.

Jacklyn - I don't remember my husband being very reluctant.  We really had no other option.  But, he is a very practical guy, which is both awesome and drives me batty.  So, I tend to want to jump into everything head first and he wants to sit back and analyze it.

Ali - I told my husband I wanted a girl with Down syndrome so badly, my heart was in pain knowing our daughter could be somewhere waiting for us.  My husband thought I was crazy, and told me he didn't want to hear anything else about adoption.  He said he would never agree to adopt.  Not a girl, and definitely not a child with a disability.  I cried and prayed and told God that if adopting was not in our future then He should remove this desire from my heart.  Months later, we began a Bible study with a couple from our church.  They had two girls, the youngest was one.  For some reason, she always looked up to my husband, and my husband, with time, felt a genuine love and care for this little girl.  He eventually told me he could see adoption in our future, and this little girl taught him about unconditional love.  She was not his daughter, but he loved her like she was.  God used this little girl to change my husband's heart.

Ash - I prayed, a lot.  I didn't nag or beg, because I know my husband - and I knew it would only turn him off.  So I prayed, and God moved.


Ali - Her past.  The four years she lived in the orphanage gave her a fighter personality.  She came to us with no boundaries, no rules.  She was always on the defense.  But she has come so far in the past two years, and there is still so much to do to help her.

Jeanne - The hardest part to this point is knowing Aidan doesn't have a sibling to grow up with, and is that the right decision?  Are we done adopting?  Aidan does have biological siblings, but he's not growing up with a brother or sister.  This is on my mind daily.

Jacklyn - It's the same as any other parent.  We're just plain tired.  We're busy and we're tired.  This morning, my three year old came into our room at 4 am to announce she was ready to get up for the day and go play.  Umm, not if hell froze over.  But try telling her that.  Lol.

Sarah - Undoubtedly, parenting broken children.  And by broken, I mean children who did not have their needs met and who did not receive the love of a mother and father over their first year or two of life.  I often tell others that the 'Down syndrome' piece of our girls is easy in comparison.  It's the anxiety and fear issues that our girls face that have been the most challenging!  Teaching a 'broken' child to trust can't be done overnight.  It takes time and patience, lots and lots of patience.  Sometimes I feel lik ewe fail miserably, but there's always progress, even if it's in tiny little doses.  Each of our children are affected in their own way from not having their most basic needs met their first year or two of life.  There are lasting effects that we'll continue to chip away at likely for the rest of their lives.  WE'll continue loving them through the difficult times and love them for the children they are TODAY, each and every day!

Jennifer - The unknowns.  What has he seen? What has he been told?  What was done to him prenatal that impacts him today? What was his first word? What was his temperament as a baby?  How much did he weigh when he was born?  All of that pls the realization that I did not mold him.  I have no idea why he does/says/thinks some things...and there are questions I just cannot answer.

Rebecca - The guilt that we did not get there sooner, that we were unable to protect them while they were in the orphanage.  We expected delays with adopting a child with special needs, what we did not expect was how hurt our children would be from being in an orphanage.  We imagined that since they were so young when we adopted them (12 months and 10 months) they would not suffer from orphanage behaviors.

Teresa - The energy level it takes and their emotional trauma that we have had to deal with.  We have had to learn a completely new way to parent.

Ash - I'd say bringing home a three and a half year old who is more like a 6 month old was pretty hard. Add to that the fact that you're all practically strangers to each other and you've got kind of a messy situation.  Even though I would say it was love at first sight for us, it took us a long time to really learn each other and mesh together like parents and their children should.


Teresa - They are such a blessing.  To know that we are giving them a safe place to lay their heads at night is all the reward we need.

Jacklyn - The best part is just watching them grow and enjoying being their mom and dad.  I still get teary eyed when I thinkabout the wonder of how I get to have the two most amazing daughters in the world.  I love how snuggly my three year old is and how independent my five year old is.  It's awesome watching them develop a close sisterly bond.

Jennifer - I think, and I don't know if this makes sense, but seeing not only the difference we've made in Joshua's life - he was destined for an institution - he couldn't walk when we met him - to see this boy walk, ride a bike, roller skate (!) - to see him learn to read - to teach him to worship God - all that is HUGE - but what also strikes me is seeing the difference that Joshua and his story make in other folks' lives.  Joshua touches hearts.  He inspires.  And sometimes - in the trenches - in the midst of sorting out behaviors and settling sibling disputes and juggling medical appointments - it's hard to experience the beauty and joy of who Joshua really is - but to see that reflected in others' eyes.  God is using this boy and his story to change hearts.  I love that and it's a privilege to be a part of that.

Ali - To be part of her life every day.  To know how much she has learned with us, and how many people's lives have been touched by her.  Our house is now very noisy - full of laughs, music, and extra joy because of her.

Rebecca - Watching them come to life right before our eyes.  We have also been discovering things about ourselves that we never knew.  Having children with special needs has changed our lives, enriched our lives more than we ever imagined.  We thought when we started that we would be blessing them, it turns our they are blessing us.

Sarah - The best part has been watching lives be redeemed, including MY OWN life!  Looking back on where our girls started, and the progress they've made EMOTIONALLY has been awesome to be a part of!  Looking back on the person I was before the Lord brought our daughters into our life never ceases to amaze me.  THEY have changed ME for the better.  I often feel like we're walking around carrying a big secret! Our life is so full of LOVE and JOY and HAPPINESS because of our children.  When we're out and about with our 2 girls, we almost always get at least one look of pity.  some people look at our girls, then look at us with only half of their face smiling and eyes that say, "I'm sorry."  They can't see our secret at first glance.  They don't look long enough to see the happiness in our eyes and the love we have for one another.  They have no idea what they're missing.  But those people that look long enough and see this beautiful secret we hold...those that see the spirit of our girls and our family, THAT is the best!


Jennifer - Again, simply the unknowns.  And the conversations about his past - it's totally normal for Joshua to talk about his First Momma - and when he does he says, "My Mom," and I am called that same name.  It doesn't bother me at all.  But it's something that just doesn't happen with my other kids...

Ali - Raising Eva is in no way different than raising Elias.  Understanding each one is unique, and they each have different needs and personalities was the biggest part.  Every kids is different, no matter where they come from.

Jeanne - Aidan has been the best thing to ever happen in our lives.  We take the good with the bad, the challenges with the joys.

Rebecca - We are raising our adopted children the same way we have been raising our bio kids.  The only thing we are doing differently is working harder with our adopted kids in areas they are struggling with due to the orphanage and their special needs.

Teresa - It is different in the sense that we are dealing with some major trauma issues, which manifests in some significant behavioral issues.  This is new territory for us and something we never had to deal with in our biological children.  We have learned a lot.


Jennifer - We were blessed by the generosity of family and strangers for some of the funds we needed - but we did take out a Home Equity loan to finance the adoption.

Jacklyn - For Faith's adoption, we took out a home equity loan. For Sophia's, we did a 401K loan.  We also got a $5k adoption grant from my husband's place of employment and the adoption tax credit was refundable that year.  So, we were able to pay back our 401K loan within a year.  We're still paying on our home equity loan.  We're now working on becoming debt-free and are trying to do a third adoption without going into debt.  It's not easy.  I don't regret taking out the loans though.  We couldn't have adopted otherwise.  I wish we would have applied for grants, though.  We didn't think we'd qualify, and so we just didn't apply.

Sarah - My husband and I both worked extra hours.  I took on after school tutoring and we saved as much as we could!  We used our previous year's tax return to put toward our first adoption.  We broke down every single penny we were spending and cut back on our spending immensely.  We met with a financial advisor.  We sold lots of our belongings on amazon and ebay and at yard sales.  We held fundraisers.  People generously donated to our grant account on Reece's Rainbow.  The Lord provided!

Rebecca - We held car washes, bake sales, did many fundraisers, auctions, we did a LOT of praying, worked overtime, sold things.  No eating out, no fancy dinners, we ate a lot of rice and beans for a while.

Ash - We had a live auction/silent auction fundraiser, and we also sent out support letters.  The fundraisers brought us to a place of being fully funded.  We put tons - and I mean TONS of work/time/energy into the big event.  In the end, it paid off.


Jennifer - We have been blessed.  From start to finish - even today - we have the most incredible support system of any family I know.  We had so many offers for childcare while we traveled, meals brought to the home, help with the other kids when Joshua has is amazing.

Rebecca - My side of the family stopped talking to me during the whole adoption process.  They were not supportive at all.

Jacklyn - We adopted transracially.  We're whiter than white and our girls are African American and biracial.  We went with our agency's minority program and knew our children would not be white.  We worried about if it would be awkward with family or friends.  My husband's mom is older and never said anything really, but you could tell she felt a bit funny about it.  We worried a little.  My husband is an only child so these would be her only grandchildren, but what if she didn't love them?  It would be awkward.  The day we came home from the hospital with Faith, she came over.  The moment she walked in the door and caught sight of the baby in my arms, she just burst into tears.  It was love at first sight.  Everyone has been very supportive.

Sarah - It was obviously very hurtful when others didn't understand our hearts and why we were adopting.  We just continued showing love, and when those people met our children, their attitudes were changed.  We found that those with the non-supportive attitudes were speaking out of fear, sometimes, because they cared so deeply for us and thought they knew better than the Lord what was best for our family.

Ali - We had some families that weren't supportive.  They ignored Eva and weren't happy about our choice.  It took them time to adjust to our new life, understanding this little girl was a new member.  It hurt so much, we were almost at the point of telling them that we wouldn't see them if they keep ignoring her.  We decided to give them time and see what happens.  I can't say they are adjusted totally, but they share a lot with her, too, and I can see their pride of her accomplishments.


Ali - I imagined having Eva with us would be easier and smoother.  Our Elias is a very easy child, and Eva isn't always.  We had one and a half years that were very hard.  I cried.  I was exhausted.  I doubted this was the best choice, but I knew deep in my heart that she was the daughter we were missing.  She completed our family perfectly, but I had to understand the four years that she was at the orphanage and how much that affected and shaped her.  This was the hardest.

Jacklyn - The children we brought home are so much better than what we imagined.  They are just simply amazing.  We have our challenges (hello strong-willed three year old!), but oh, how awesome these kids are.

Jennifer - No.  We totally underestimated the inaccuracy of medical records - even though we knew we could be surprised - we were still caught off guard.  Personality? Fitting into our family?  I don't know if Joshua is who we imagined he would be - but he's a perfect fit. Medically - nothing we cannot handle - but nothing we expected.  We didn't plan on doctors/surgeries/wheelchairs/etc. being a lifelong issue for Joshua.

Teresa - For the most part, our expectations were realistic.  We have the privilege of having raised 3 children so we have learned to take it as it comes - expectations usually lead to trouble.

Sarah - We did all we could to prepare ourselves for parenting children with Down syndrome who had lived in an orphanage setting.  We read books, blogs, talked to families who've been down the road before us, and PRAYED.  I think prayer really helped prepare our hearts for the children that we'd have the privilege of parenting.  You can never be 100% prepared, even when your children are biological, if you ask me!

Rebecca - The children that are home NOW are the children we imagined we would bring home.  While they were still in the orphanage it was a total shock.  The condition of our son was horrific and while our daughter's physical condition was better, her physiological state was not.


Sarah - By the third time through, I was doing the dossier in my sleep practically! ;) The first time was a bit overwhelming but the support we had through Reece's Rainbow made it a much smoother process! It was a bit like having as second job, but I'm a 'to do list' kinda gal, so I made a list and Shawn and I checked off items one at a time.  There were some tears and sweat involved, maybe even some blood (that was just from a paper cut, though) ;)

Jeanne - It wasn't that bad in my opinion.  The agency we worked with had us do it in steps, the directions were very clear.  It wasn't so overwhelming that way.  Be very detailed oriented!

Rebecca - Yes and no.  With our first adoption of Veronika and Gavyn, we did not have an agency.  On the other hand, our current adoption dossier FEES are killing us.  Because we have to use an agency for her country, we have to come up with the fees before we travel.  The paperwork side of it has been okay - but raising money before we go has been the hardest part.

Jennifer - You know - the biggest headache was the homestudy and the state approval - but we are in Illinois, which is known to be a tough state for international adoptions.  Our home study killed several trees - so many forms/questions/assignments - hours of classes that weren't really relevant.  We love our social worker - but, sheesh!

Ash - Guys, it's not that bad.  I promise.  Just do it - just blow through each stinkin' document, and be 'that lady' who is super obsessive about how the notary stamp needs to be perfectly straight.  Just do it (and make your husband help) and when it's done, you'll be like "Was that it?!  That's it?!  I just compiled a dossier!".


Jennifer - Folks will say that we adopted "out of birth order" - because Joshua is 9 months older than our youngest - but we kept the baby as the baby and the oldest as the oldest - in many ways a good thing - but hard because Joshua is the "big brother" and yet Daniel is so much more capable, savvy, etc.

Sarah - We adopted in birth order, but have two children that are 6 months apart.  The two of them have really encouraged one another developmentally and it's been great for our family.


Jacklyn (our only 'open adoption' mama) - Our agency really encourages open adoption.  I remember sitting inclass and the social worker talking about inviting the birthmom to your home after you had the baby so she could see where the baby would live, the nursery, etc.  I turned to my husband and said, "Well, maybe we could meet at like McDonald's or something, but I just couldn't have her in my home."  I felt like open adoption would be co-parenting and I was NOT interested in that.  I alreayd have a co-parent.  I was also an insecure mom-to-be.  I didn't want to share *my* baby with another mother.

But, I had this kind of ah-ha moment before we were matched, where I realized you can never too many people to love you. I grew up in a divorced home and there was a lot of competition over who loved who the most. I didn’t want our children to feel caught in the middle or like they were betraying us if they also loved their birth-family.
Fast forward to today, and we have very open adoptions. I actually just got a voicemail from Faith’s bmom asking about our availability for a get-together in December. And this weekend, we are meeting her birthfather to go bowling. We are very close to Faith’s birth-family. They attended her dedication at church, her first birthday, been to our home and we have been to theirs. We get together every few months. We send pictures and updates and are friends on Facebook. We got to attend Faith’s birthmom’s wedding last fall, which was beautiful. And this summer, we spent an entire day with her extended birth-family boating and picnicking. I got priceless pictures of Faith with her birthmom, bgrandma and bgreat-grandma…four generations! What a treasure.
It wasn’t always super comfortable. There were times where it was down-right uncomfortable. But, we pushed past that because we truly believe that it is in our children’s best interests. I am so glad we did, because we have such a warm, open relationship. It’s also really nice to be able to just shoot off an email when you have a question and to know that down the road if the girls have questions about their adoptions, they can go to the source.
We have a semi-open adoption with Sophia’s birthmom, per her choice. We stay in touch through social media. We adore her birthmom. Even though we don’t see each other in face to face visits, we stay in touch and Sophia has the option to ask questions when she’s older.

Ash - We've all heard some doozies.  "How much did you pay for him?" - "Is he yours?  Who are his real parents?" - "When he's 18, will you send him back to Ukraine?".  I try to remember what I was like before I knew better.  And I try to think about how I would want someone to respond to my uneducated self.  And then I do that.

Jacklyn - Oh, my gosh…the dreaded nosey questions. Because we are a transracial family, we’re a walking billboard for adoption education. People approach us all the time to ask questions. Sometimes shyly and other times very directly. I’ll never forget the day we came home from the hospital with Faith. We stopped to eat at a restaurant. I walked outside with my three day old baby while my husband paid. An older woman stopped me to admire the baby and ohh and ahhh. When my husband came up to us and put his arm around me, she looked from Faith (who is biracial) to my husband and back again. Finally she coo’ed at the baby, “Well, your daddy’s pretty dark too, isn’t he?” Ummm, he’s about as white as you can get. We were new parents and it took us aback, so we didn’t say anything, but it was so interesting how she tried to make it make sense in her mind and adoption never even crossed it. We didn’t realize until we adopted Sophia (who is full African American) that many people assumed Faith was our biological child (when she was out and about with just one parent) or was one of ours from a previous relationship. So, we didn’t get a ton of questions until after she joined our family. Now, it’s so obvious we adopted. The question we get the most (and it drives me crazy!!) is, “Are they real sisters?” When I say, “Yes,” they always, always, always respond with, “Well, you know what I mean.” We also get asked a ton where the girls are from. Most people assume we adopted them from Africa and are so surprised when we say Wisconsin. We get other comments like people assuming that they’ll play basketball because of their ethnicity. People wonder how much they cost and how long did it take to get them. Pretty much any thought that crosses their mind, comes out their mouth without any real censor. People will wonder out loud about their “real mothers” and how anyone could give them up, because they’re so cute. For the most part, we try to be very educative in our responses. We understand that most people don’t understand the rudeness of their questions or proper positive adoptive language. But sometimes you just want to give a good come back like, “Yes, they’re real sisters. We keep the fake siblings locked up at home.”

Sarah - I think I get most upset when the comments come from 'professionals' who should know better. We've been asked if the girls are 'step sisters' since they're not 'real sisters' and that one still bothers me! We've been referred to as 'caregivers' instead of 'parents' and I could write a whole book on that one alone, but I won't.  I try to be as graceful as possible, gently educating those that don't mean to offend and those who are just ignorant.  I never want to come across as unapproachable or over sensitive, but there are certain times I will draw the line and educate those who speak the hurtful comments.

Teresa - The most unique comment we received was actually at an adoption conference.  A parent asked how our biological children were dealing with the fact of knowing they'd have to split their inheritance.  Really?  I was speechless.

Jeanne - The one comment that stands out most in my mind was from a coworker I met in the store when Aidan was about a year old.  She stated, "Oh, my, you did it the easy way!".  Then she laughed and laughed.  I wanted to hit her.  But I knew her statement was more about her need to tell me she thought pregnancy was very difficult.  All I thought was, lady, you have no idea who difficult the adoption process is, and I'm not gonna stand here and explain it to you, cause you won't believe me anyhow.

Rebecca - People make comments about us having our hands full, we just tell them that they are full of blessings and we wouldn't have it any other way.  During the adoption we heard lots of comments about the burden that we would have, or that once we passed away we would be leaving our new kids to our bio kids.  We explained that there are no promises in life, and we never know what tomorrow will bring.


Ash - Nothing! From making the first call to our social worker until the day we landed in Ukraine was SIX MONTHS!  Which basically means that the next time we adopt, normal timelines for different countries will feel like an eternity...

Jennifer - The time we spent away from home was hard.  Good for bonding with Joshua - but hard on the kids at home.

Sarah - Not a thing.  Even the really trying and stretching moments served their purpose.

Teresa - The length of time it took for the State to make the decision to terminate parental rights.  It was extremely traumatic for all 3 boys to have to endure weekly visits.  There were so many "legal" hoops to jump through before the actual adoption proceedings could begin.

Jacklyn - Nothing.  The only thing I wish was that we could move forward on a third adoption at this immediate moment.

Rebecca - Nothing other than the time it took to go get them.


Sarah - Our 5 year old knows she was adopted and knows she was born in Ukraine.  She knows Jesus protected her and stayed with her until we could get there.  She often asks me to retell her adoption story.  Our two year olds are too young to understand much about it at this point.

Jacklyn - We’re very open, but due to the ages of our girls, they don’t really get it yet. But, we talk about adoption the same way other families discuss what to have for dinner. It’s just a part of our everyday life.

Jennifer - Joshua knows his story top to bottom.  We made him a book of every picture we have from his First Family and what we know of his story.  (We paid for a family search after we got home - best decision ever.)  He looks at it often.  Recently, Joshua asked why we picked HIM.  He is old enough to be aware that we could have chosen any waiting child.

Teresa - Our 11 year old will occasionally make reference to his birth mom.  The other 2 boys were too young and don't remember.  It was interesting that the 11 year old called us by our first names from the time we got him at age 5 until the day we were in court for the actual adoption when he was 9.  The minute we walked out of the courtroom we have been "mom" and "dad" and he has never called us by our first names since.

Rebecca - They're too young to say anything about it.  But we keep a book about our time in country, our journey to them, and we have not made it a secret the they are adopted.  However, we treat them as we would our bio kids so we do not talk about it all the time (just as we did not talk about childbirth all the time with our bio kids).

Ash - I don't know what he knows, but we talk about it a lot.  The other day, we saw a picture of Carter in the airplane coming home from Ukraine, and I said 'look - this is when you came home!'.  Carter made the cutest surprise-face and said "Home!".


Jennifer - A lot of the blogs that got us through are no longer kept current - too many darn trolls...Julia Nalle is amazing, though -

Jacklyn - Book: Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jaime Lee Curtis. Our girls love this and read it over and over. In fact, they read it so many times our copy fell apart. Blog: ChocolateHair/Vanilla Care (caring for ethnic hair). No Greater Joy Mom (Amazing adoptive family!).


Rebecca - We just reply that WE are the ones who are blessed to have them in our lives.

Jacklyn - We don’t get this so much with the girls, but we do as a foster family. We became a foster family 18 months ago and have had two placements. I usually just smile. I don’t feel like a saint. I feel like a mom who lacks the ability to parent as awesomely as I long to. Fostering is so worth it and the rewards are rich, but it is exhausting and can be heart-breaking. I also hear, “I could never foster. I’d get too attached.” This says to me, and every other foster parent, that we must foster because we don’t get attached. I mean, come on! We’re not robots with hearts of steel. I had an 18 month old foster child for eight months who has attachment issues. I cried for almost eight months straight, it was seriously that hard. And, I had many sleepless nice worrying about this child leaving our home. I cried and prayed and loved on and cared for this child for eight months. Your heart is never the same.

Teresa - It's very humbling.  We don't feel like saints.  We fail every day at something.  We did what had to be done at the time and have no regret.  Our lives are full and we are loving every minute.

Jeanne - A saint?  That's crazy.  I wanted to be a mom. We don't call people saints when they have bio kids, do we?

Sarah - I say, "We are blessed to have THEM!".  If people want more of an explanation I tell them all about how OUR lives have been enriched from living life at a slower pace with our beautiful girls.  I know most people don't mean anything negative when they say that, but the underlying connotation is that they're thinking THEY'D never do this, which ultimately means they don't see the true beauty of our family.  When people say to us "YOU are so blessed" that is when I know they get it!

Ash - Well, I'd say you really don't know me.  And I'm just a mama doing her darn best to love this kid.  And if I can do it, so can you.  Yes, you.

Jennifer - I've responded with, "We are just obedient, and because of that, we have been blessed."


Ali - When we got Eva, she was four years old, so we missed many big milestones.  But I'm always filled with joy when she learns something new - like being potty trained, crossing the monkey bars, doing a dance performance at school, and learning to read.

Jacklyn - We’ve been so blessed to witness all of the girls’ milestones. I even got to cut Sophia’s umbilical cord. We don’t take it for granted.

Rebecca - We got to see them sit up for the first time, crawl, and take their first steps.  With our daughter that we are working on adopting now, she is already doing all of those things.  We cannot wait to discover what her "first" will be once she is home!

Sarah - This was different for each child.  For Zoya, we thought she might not walk because her legs were so atrophied from laying in her crib.  So those first steps were pretty darn exciting!  As first time parents watching your child walk for the first time...there's just something pretty amazing about that!

Jennifer - Joshua lost his first tooth just about two or three weeks after he came home - that was fun.  Too - because of his condition - he hand never walked - so we did get to - even though he was seven years old - witness his first steps.

Ash - We were so glad to know that Carter was not walking unassisted when we met him in the orphanage.  We were able to teach him to walk while visiting him at the orphanage, and then we refined those skills once home.  Being first time parents, it was amazing for us to be part of this huge milestone.  I still wish I could have rocked his teething-self to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, or been there for first smiles or giggles - but I know God was there.  And that is so very comforting.


Rebecca - We never questioned if we were doing the right thing, we just questioned why it was so hard when this is the path that God put us on.

Ash - YES! I often stopped and thought "Wait - what are we doing?!" and sometimes even now I'll look back in amazement.  But it's so, so good.  Did we seriously adopt a boy with Down syndrome from Ukraine?  Yes, yes we did.  How did we get so lucky?!  Is this seriously our life?!


Ali - Yes

Jacklyn - Absolutely! We’re working to try and adopt baby number three. In fact, if anyone of you, dear readers, knows someone wanting to make an adoption plan for their African American or biracial baby, and they want a really fun, laid-back, pretty dorky family, please send them my way. We couldn’t be more blessed than to welcome a third child into our home. We’re super open on needs. Down Syndrome, HIV, drug exposure, premature, twins, etc.

Jeanne - Yes, we'd consider adopting again, but we're getting old.  My advice is don't wait.

Sarah - We feel very blessed with our three daughters and we're very busy making sure each of their needs are met to the fullest extent.  We've already said "we're done" twice now, so I won't proclaim that again, but we feel comfortable that for this season in our lives, we need to focus on the beautiful blessings the Lord has given us!

Teresa - No, we're too old :)

Jennifer - In a heartbeat.  I would walk across the ocean.

Ash - For sure.



Ali - hard it would be and how to be prepared for all that we went through.

Teresa - ....the roller coaster we would embark on.

Sarah - my heart would be so broken for orphans.

Jacklyn - amazing adoption is. How incredibly blessed our family is by it. How much my husband and I completely adore and fiercely love our daughters’ biological mothers.

Ash - much I would fall in love with his country and his people. Huge shocker.


Teresa - ...we would raise these boys the same way we raised our first 3 boys.

Sarah - ....we would only adopt one child!

Rebecca - ....the hardest part would be once they were home.

Ali - would be a walk by roses.

Jacklyn - ...that by adopting my longing to conceive a child would go away. It comes and goes in waves. I’ll have months upon months where the infertility doesn’t bother me and then I’ll have a period where I’m washed anew in the grief of infertility, angry at the unfairness of it, choked by the desire to experience pregnancy. I feel guilty about it, because I feel like those feelings take away my great joy in my daughters. But, they don’t. I don’t wish to have biological children more than adopted. I just wish to experience both.


Jacklyn - ...nothing. I long to have a baby with my husband, but I do not regret the amazing way God is building our family.

Ash - ....thinking he didn't understand what was going on in those first months home.  I would have handled things differently.

Rebecca - ....that we weren't able to bring more kids home.


There you have it, friends.  Twenty-one of the most frequently asked adoption questions, straight from the mouths of adoptive mamas.

Here's what I learned from this.  Each story is different - from beginning to end.  There is no right way or best way.  We all fought a hard battle to rescue these kids.  We'd all do it again in a heart beat.  

That's pretty much all you need to know. 


Thanks, beautiful women, for participating.  

Dear reader - do you know someone who might have questions about adoption?  I hope you'll share this with them.  When I was starting the process, nothing would have helped me more than sitting down with 7 sweet mamas who have been there, done that.  

One Thing I Know For Sure: Have more questions? Each of these moms are waiting to hear from you! Email me at gibsons 1 5 (at) sbcglobal . net and I'll hook you up!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...