The Wednesday Word: Birth Parents.


For the record, I am totally ashamed of myself that this is the most recent picture I have of Lev and Jojo and Dameon. We’re taking another asap. We also love that Jodi colors her hair fun colors.

This being our second adoption, and because we’ve adopted both domestically and now internationally, lots of people interested in adoption ask me questions about my experiences. Some conversations sometimes end like this:

Interested Person: well, if I ever adopt, it’ll be from somewhere where I don’t have to deal with birth parents.

There’s so much that swirls around in my head about that. And while it’s common for adoptive parents to feel this way, I want to challenge those of you considering adoption, in the process or thinking about how birthparents fit into your life, to think about these ideas:

No matter where you adopt from, or how you adopt, your child’s birthparents are always going to be with you.

If your child has completely round eyes and you don’t…. birthparents.

The fact that your child is with you, and yet didn’t come from you…. birthparents.

If your child is spirited and full of energy- and you’re chill and relaxed- birthparents.

When your child says, “why do my knees look like this?”- Birth parents.

When your child feels alone, like they don’t fit in, that there’s a giant hole in their personal or biological history? The absence of that knowledge can be eased by talking about personal history and birth family.

Birth parents. They matter, people. And so here’s the controversial statement:

Like it or not, you are your child’s first curator of their birth parents role in their life and how they came to you. How you approach their memory, or knowledge about them, or your relationship with them is going to form the foundation of your child’s link to their own personal history.  Honor their birth parent’s memory. Honor the things you both know and don’t know about them. Be thankful for them, and cultivate compassion and/or gratitude for them in the ways most appropriate to your child’s history and placement with you.

Anyways, I feel strongly about birth parents not matter if they were birth parents by choice, or through some difficult circumstance they couldn’t overcome. I want adoptive parents not to fear them ,and everyone else to honor the memory of their children’s birth parents.  I hope that we learn a lot of things about our new child’s past and birth family so that we can hang onto them until he is ready to do with that information what he wants.  I love Lev’s birth family, and I love that he likes to point out JoJo on the fridge and that we can talk about the things that he has that remind us of her: His determination, his enterprising spirit, his talkativeness, his nose, his feet, his hair color, and his love of Ice and video games. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

I could go on and on about this one topic. But I won’t. Not this week anyway.  I can only offer my thoughts on it, and hope that both people interested in adoption and adoptive parents come to feel the same way.

So that’s my word on Wednesday. Birth parents matter. Honor them and their memory.


It’s really been a while since I posted here. There’s a lot of reasons, and no reasons at all. It’s just how life goes, but I promise I will be better about it- and hope to update once a week.

Make sure you read posts below for:

1. The fundraiser update and a list of all the people whose names I drew from our adoption jar. Also, a cute picture of Lev with our dossier which we’ve sent off to Poland.

2. Frustration and Encouragement in Adoption.

3. Letters to my kids. A definite must in my book. Writing to my kids, while I don’t do consistently, is ultimately going to bond me to them in a time when they aren’t at home anymore.

So here’s some reading fun for you. I hope you enjoy and stay tuned for news of another possible fundraiser!

A Major Update!

Guess what??

We sent in our dossier and we’re happily waiting for that referral to come to us! Lev and I took it to the Post office on May 4th, and sent it off. He cried, and then we had this conversation:

Me: We have to send these huge envelopes to the agency so we can get a new family member. Don’t you want that?

Lev, sobbing: Nooooooo.

Me: Well what do you want?

Lev: A hot dog. 

Well, we can’t all have what we want when we want it. But Lev was excited about sending the dossier off, too, before we gave it to the postal workers.

Lev at the post office with our dossier.

Lev at the post office with our dossier.

We already have to update information, but whatevs- that happens to lots of people. What’s important is that it’s in Poland, being translated, and we couldn’t be happier.

So what’s next?

Adoption grant application. Lots of them. I’m applying to at least 5, plus one that pays for medical reviews of a referral. And then in between updating documents, we’re just enjoying our life and having those mature adult conversations you have when you’re a parent about adding kids to your family- should you get a better job? A new car? Nothing? All those answers will come.  For the moment we’re excited to be at this point. We’re looking forward to all the great things yet to come.


Here are all the people who won our giveaways:

the 4 polish pottery tea cups: Veronique, Emily, Charlotte, and Josie from Alex’s office.

The Handcrafted necklace and earring set:  Karen T

The Easter basket: CHrisha

The night at the movies: The James Family

The Halcyon Session from One Crazy Love: The Chilton Family.

The puzzle piece fundraiser has brought in almost $3,000. We’re blown away, and very thankful to all of you! Thank you so SO much.

On Frustration, Encouragement, and Such.

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would be real. And this is a real blog. And I put it there this time. Adoption is raw, and real, and hard.”

Adoption is not rainbows and unicorns

Everyone’s adoption should include Unicorns and Rainbows….

I wish I could say that adoption was all unicorns and rainbows and that’s it a season in my life where I’m always smiling and happy, and full of nothing but smiles and rainbows- I mean, I’m adopting a child, right? I should be blissfully floating along on a cloud of awesome.

Not. Even. Close.

In reality, my emotions are all over the map some days and it’s hard to keep my head on straight. And adoption being the roller coaster that it is often finds me sitting and staring out a window after I put Lev to bed and fighting the urge to eat my emotions: fighting past fear, and frustration, and anxiety, and fear again- around and around. In between, there’s excitement and happiness and planning.  It can be brutal. But so much wonderfulness comes at the end that I just hang on, and know that the Lord will bring me another day closer to that child. When I come to that place,  the place where I know there is nothing left to hope in except God, I know I’m the safest.

The last 2 months have been somewhat difficult. Fundraisers take a lot out of me, putting myself out there, when I’d rather just sit at home and read books with Lev and people watch at the park. And while I thought people would be happy for us, and be excited about our fundraiser, and participate how they felt most comfortable, I caught a really surprising amount of negativity about it. For some reason, I was rather unprepared for that. People think we’re crazy (Isn’t one adoption enough?). Or they think we should be adopting only black kids (John Piper has black kids- well darn it, so should I apparently). Some people think having a fundraiser is dumb. They questioned why I had  giveaways and why I didn’t spend that money on it instead of using toward our fees. (FYI-I spent $40 on the fundraiser. $40 doesn’t get you far when you’re adopting, so I invested that $40 in something fun, and the Lord turned it into almost $3000. ) It’s frustrating beyond belief some days. But ultimately, my reaction was the only I could control, and I didn’t exactly do a whiz bang job.

In the end, I let the naysayers get under my skin. And that was lame. I can do better. I should have shrugged those comments off, and played it cool and asked those people to pray for us. But I didn’t. I slid into a funk and didn’t emphasize enough the encouraging things- the stuff that really mattered most:

1. A note from a girl I don’t know well, really just encouraging me to keep going. I loved that.

2. All the people who took time to comment and email and text, and call, to say they were praying for me, because they know that I hate putting myself out on a limb and really reaching for things and that it was all going to be worth it in the end.

3. All the people who sit with me and hold my hand so to speak while I talk about frustration and pain and the total emotional and financial drain that I’ve felt throughout Lev’s adoption and this new one.

4. All the other families I know that are adopting who understand the the highs and lows I experience. It calms my heart a little bit when people to say, “Girl, seriously, I know that feeling well. You are totally normal.” It helps me to realize that what I am feeling is OK, and that I’m not extra insane, or losing my mind completely.

5. The fact that our fundraiser garnered almost $3,000. People you have no idea how exciting that was. I was convinced that no one would sponsor a single piece. Alex said it was going to be awesome and to chill out, but I was terrified. TERRIFIED. Half our puzzle pieces are sponsored and while we work on putting it together, I look at all those names and I am thankful for all of you!

It’s really amazing to me that the Lord would choose our family and entrust to us these awesome kids. We’re just these two people, you know? We don’t do special things, we don’t know tons of people, we aren’t social butterflies, and our adoptions are always long and arduous. But He still entrusts us with these sweet kids. That’s pretty fly.

Letters to my Children

Raleigh DUrham Adoption

Lev Struts his stuff in Bar Harbor

Dear Lev,

As I’m writing this, it’s 9:30 AM and you are still in bed. We came home from Maine last night, where you basically lived in the woods for a week hiking and throwing rocks, and running around hugging trees and picking up sticks, and attempting to make a Cat do what you tell it to. You came inside only to eat 4 bites of food or to go to bed (or watch TV on the afternoon it rained.) You are my adventurous child. You are also very kind and helpful. When we went to the beach, you befriended a little boy and played so nicely with him. You help clean up cheerfully, and give tons of spontaneous hugs and kisses. My life and Pop’s life is infinitely richer for having you in it. I love you so much that I miss you when you go to bed.

All your huge social strides give me great encouragement that you will be an awesome brother. You’ll show your new sibling how to be an awesome Starchenko, and to be his friend when he needs one, and to encourage her when she’s down. I know that not every moment will be cheery and rosy, but they will all be great moments because they are ours, given to us by God.

In our last few month together as just Mama and Lev, I hope that we can forge memories that will last us a lifetime- playing, reading, traveling, and learning more about the Lord. This is a very special time for us, pal, all these days where we do everything together from wash windows to go to the gym to watching Curious George. Soon it will be three of us doing it together, and I hope that you’ll be as happy about it as I am.



For my second child,

My first letter to you is always the easiest and hardest to write. It’s easy because I can already tell you lots of things, but it’s hard because I haven’t met you yet. Does that make it bittersweet? I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.

We really can’t wait for you to join our family. You are highly anticipated, and already loved. People ask about you constantly, and we’re looking forward to the day when we can show them a picture of you and say, “this is our new child!”

You are a true gift to us, and we hope that your life with us is filled with fun and laughter, and love and learning to really know God and learn to love him. Lev is very excited about you. He can’t wait to show how to be a Starchenko.