Be cool: a few words about adoption referrals.

It’s a big deal to get an adoption referral. There’s one part of you jumping up and down and celebrating, and the other part of you that thinks,

“Ok, Starchenko, let’s dig in deep and see what’s going on here.” Becuase there will be something. And it’s ok. Expect that.

When it comes to Eastern Europe, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

1. It costs money to use public restrooms. They are zealously guarded by little old ladies, and if you don’t pay them, they get mad throw your gloves in the snow. Trust me. Maybe I’ll tell that story one day.

2. Most everyone drinks. every day.  There’s a man I used to watch from a second story window in Alex’s aunt’s village. He would stumble around drunk at 10 AM, and then fall off the curb and lay there in the middle of this dirt road until he woke up. It was awful to see.

3. People don’t always have enough to eat. This is not true of every eastern european country, but of many of them. Malnurishment is a huge problem. Combine that with drinking, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for general unwellness.

4. Kids suffer the consequences of these conditions.  Premature birth, low birth weight, FAE (Fetal alcohol exposure) and later, possible FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). Kids in institutions have these labels. Almost all the way across the board. And then they don’t have parents to help them over come them or the stigma of them. Double whammy.

Does it make your heart hurt? It makes mine hurt.

When I first read a few of those words and phrases on Violets referral, I was a little worried. But we feel confident that God has chosen this child for us, and that she is our daughter. So we’re committed to helping her face whatever challenges develop in her life, becuase the way we look at it, if she’s going to have challenges, it’s better to have them with us than with out us.  We took her referral to an IA doctor, and he said that she looked wonderful- to prepare for the worst, but that it probably won’t happen. Basically, he agreed with us that we need to keep in real, and check ourselves for pie in the sky expectations. We assured him we don’t have any. We’ve accepted her on the basis of what that paper said not on some strange illusion of grandeur that she’s in “Perfect health”. I’m not in perfect health. Alex has his issues, and lately, I’ve been looking at one of Lev’s legs and toes and thinking to myself, “I should ask about that at the doctor.” Not one of us boasts health to brag about.

So my point is, If you want to adopt cute kids from eastern europe, go for it! We’re so thrilled to be part of the program we are. But leave behind your western ideas that you’re going to have a kid with clean, label free bill of health. That referral will have something will make your heart lurch. But Be cool and take heart: Your kids are created in the image of God. They are created in a certain way to reflect his glory.  They have as much potential as any kids in America if given the chance. But they need that chance. I’m looking forward to what Violet becomes. She’s coming to a good place and to a family that eagerly awaits her.

We don’t know what it will look like to parent Violet. But God does.

We don’t know what her needs will be. But God does.

We don’t know anything about girls- I’m not very girly, so the idea of tea parties and dress up, and bras and hormones worries me a little. But God will show us how to parent her.

We do know that we put our yes on the table with confidence and had a hearty fist bump afterwards. She’s ours. And we can’t wait to meet her.


Well Then….

I really don’t know where the time goes. Between being a mom, attempting to the keep up with the house, and my photography commitments, I have a full plate.

And now it’s even fuller.

Becuase we got a referral people!  I know, right? That was fast. Crazy fast. Like, so fast, I never even thought about it much becuase I assumed we had LOTS of time left before a referral would show up. Here’s what happened. It’s the real deal at Casa Starchenko people.  Before I dish juicy details, everyone has to just read the story.

At the end of July, on a saturday, I’m siting on the floor in the office with Lev, while Alex fixes my computer and I see a stray form for an adoption grant. I think to myself,

“Self, you should really fill some of that stuff out and send it in.” 

To which I replied to myself (Yes, I’m a little nutty), “Nah, I’ve got plenty of time”

But  I fill one out anyway, and friends graciously agree to write references for us. Then I let it sit, because all the brides I talked to in June, came back in July and booked me to photograph their weddings in the fall, mostly September. I book them all becuase I assumed there’s no chance whatsoever of a referral showing up before october. None. zilch. nada. I even say this to people regularly:

“Hey, Girl, hear anything yet?

Nah. NOthing’s really going to happen until October, which is fine, because I’m busy.”

That’s how every conversation went. Becuase in my mind that’s how it was going to go.

Best laid plans and all that. And at the beginning of august, I tell Alex,

Hey babe, “can you believe that it’s already been 3 months since we sent in our dossier, and 2 months since we’ve been waiting? That went by fast. I haven’t even had any anxiety or anything about it yet.”

And he says, “Wow. That’s amazing. When are we supposed to hear something again?Please don’t call me babe. I don’t care for that.”

I tell him the usual speel, Probably october, yada yada… and we go back to our regularly scheduled lives. I’m not planning, or thinking about it, other than to pray for this little boy, who we planned to name Paul. He and Lev were eventually going to share a room, and he already had clothes, so I wasn’t shopping, wasn’t decorating, just listening to songs that helped me think of him: Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline, and Nothing is Wasted by Jason Grey. It was all good times around here. It still is.

And then came August 14th. Mind you, this is 2.5 months after our dossier has been out of translation. NOthing is happening, remember? It’s not october.

Lev and I are doing our usual morning routine, Gym, Target for something I forgot earlier, then home for lunch and naptime. I’m in the car, and my phone rings. I assume it’s one of my brides, so I answer the phone and turn into our subdivision (no judgments about talking on the phone while driving I rarely do it).

I answer the phone. It’s the director of our agency. I naively assume she’s calling to tell me somethings wrong with our paperwork, because that’s how adoption is: there’s always something that needs fixing in the paperwork. It’s enough to make your brain melt and roll out your ears.

“I’m calling becuase I have information about a little girl and I’m wondering if you’d like to hear more”

You know that sound a record player used to make when you pulled it across the record real fast? That’s the sound I heard.

She said little girl. And she didn’t say anything about paperwork? WHERE IS THE PART ABOUT THE PAPERWORK?

So I stop in front of my driveway. Lev is asking for milk and tv. Poor kid has no idea his world just expanded a little in the front seat. All he wants is his milk.

“Umm… sure? Imean YES! We want to hear about her! I’m sorry, I thought you were going to talk about paperwork with me. I don’t know what to say right now.”

I’m babbling like a brook. My hear is pounding out of my chest.  Thoughts are racing through my head, which thankfully I don’t say out loud.

Also, why is it a girl??? Does it matter? Not really.  And this isn’t October, either. What’s happening? Is this real? Is someone going to call me back and say, Haha, you’re so gullible, girl. 

But no. This is the real deal.

It’s a referral, after only 3 months.

And it’s a girl, not a boy.

Holy. Cow.

I call Alex:

“Hey Babe, sorry, I know you hate when I call you that. Guess what happened?”

Did lev use the potty? 

No. It’s better than that?

What’s better than that at this point in parenting? 

A referral. 

Shut up. 

No seriously. It’s a referral. 

What’s his name. 

It’s not a boy it’s a girl. 


Are you still there? 

Yes. You’re sure it’s a girl. 

Yes. I’ve seen pictures. 

Wow.  Awesome.  I thought this wasn’t happening until October. 

Me, too, babe. Me, too. I need to go lay down and process after I forward you the email. 

Please don’t call me babe. 


We accepted her referral on Friday the 16th after talking it over with my parents, hyperventilating a little, starting at her, and talking to an International Adoption Doctor. That’s going to be it’s own post. Lev almost knocked over  ficus tree during the consultation.

It’s girl. We’re over the moon. And I started using pinterest, and looking at girl clothes, and generally remaining as calm as possible.

We can’t tell you her name right now, but I can say that her middle name will be Violet. So that’s what we’ll call her for the most part on the blog. Lev’s been calling her Baby. Or sissy, or “Who’s that?” He’ll figure it out.

Please pray for us as we get ready for her. I’ll write more soon.