Monthly Archives: October 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship with Adoption

I feel like an emotional ping pong ball lately. I am ecstatic at how well the big kids are doing but cry often when the weight of what they’ve endured to get here comes crashing down. And so it goes. Extreme joy to debilitating grief.

I hate when a language gap the size of the Grand Canyon is between meeting my kids’ needs and me.  I love that so many things in this life transcend language.

I love when they tell stories from their past that tell about what they love and who they are.  For example, our son used to own a small flock of homing pigeons.  I hate when they tell stories of their past that drip of anguish and pain no person let alone child should ever experience.

I love the diversity and culture in our family.  It is helping to shape our kids into compassionate, sensitive, and adventurous kids who handle race issues better than most adults we encounter.  I hate that we have a cross cultural family because our kids’ birth countries weren’t equipped to care for them.  I hate that their culture slips away a little more each day unless we play an active role in re-capturing it every day.

I hate that we have kids who have suffered emotional trauma which forever and completely changes their perception of the world.  I love that we’ve been stretched where parenting is concerned.  We’re so much the wiser for our troubles and have been able to use our experience to come along other families as they adventure through adoption.

I love watching them experience new things with the wonder of a toddler but hate thinking about how much they’ve missed.

I love hearing them chatter as they catch up with friends using the latest video chat technology.  I hate that video chat is the best we can do socially right now because social situations will be the last and most difficult thing to overcome.

I love that every time we adopt our diet expands.  I hate that food can be so alienating.  Thank goodness for berbere!

So goes our adoption adventure right now.


Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and 3 big kids from Ethiopia (adopted at 12 to 14 years of age). They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

Cognitive Tests…Make it hard to come with a title

My afternoon yesterday was most likely your night…since I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean. I read through Facebook posts and tweets about the Cardinals losing, Monday night football, Dancing With the Stars and some pretty nasty comments about the presidential debate. My mind was on other things. I was googling “mental retardation.” I engrossed myself in stigmas and causes. defines it this way, “Mental retardation: The condition of having an IQ measured as below 70 to 75 and significant delays or lacks in at least two areas of adaptive skills. Mental retardation is present from childhood.”

I read about studies done in orphanages in Budapest. Some said that for each month a child spends in an orphanage up to age three, their IQ score goes down 1/2 point. I read about stigmas of each name. How retard has become a dirty word. I know, I used it on just about everything growing up in the ’80s. Now, the politically correct phrase is developmentally delayed. Huh? That’s Jack’s special need according to all his paperwork.

Why am I bringing all this up now? I just left Jack’s cognitive assessment. I won’t have the results for several weeks, but I know the test the psychiatrist was using needed to be changed to fit his level more than once over the three hours we spent in that little room. Jack was awesome. I think in the same situation I would have been irritated with someone asking me the same question in a sing song voice repeatedly. I didn’t do so awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lost my composure. Here’s the thing. It’s a standardized test and Jack, well, Jack’s not standard. We call those little wax things colors. Dolls are babies. I’m Mama, not Mommy. Grandpa is a bear. Things like that tend to skew a test. I can’t think of a time I’ve said, “Jack give me the _____.” I say, “Can I have ____?” or “Hand me the _____.” “Get your shoes.” “Find your cup.” I wanted to yell, “You aren’t asking the right way!” I did finally say, “In our house those are (and then I spelled out) B-A-B-I-E-S.” That’s when I got the standard rules for standardized test speech.

Jack can count higher than half the kids on Bria’s class but he won’t answer if you say, “Jack, how old are you?” He just learned to say “Mama and Daddy” not that long ago. Jack parrots our behavior. Matching something is an abstract concept for him. He shares. He tries to do what we ask. Today I was overwhelmed leaving the test when he patted my shoulder and said, “Woook! Is a train!” He is getting it, ever so slowly. The fact is for whatever reason he is delayed.

I heard all about the orphanage delay. I had delusions of grander. Apparently what I heard loudest was, “he will catch up.” Instead of that, can’t speak, low muscle tone, missing fine motor skills points. I heard he’ll be like everyone else. He’s not. Neither is Arleigh, or Hanan or Bria. We all come with our own set of kinks and quirks. Low IQ was off my radar. I thought this would be, show him a car, say car, he’ll learn car sort of deal. It’s not. I’m mad right now because I hear some people saying, “I told her so.” I hear the naysayers in my head saying, “Do you know what’s going to happen to your family?” or “Did you really count the cost.” When I am overwhelmed with Jack’s delay I’m reminded that there were people along the way of our paper chase who wanted to tell me it would be too hard. When I’m struggling, sometimes I wonder what they are thinking now.

This is what I would say to myself of almost two years ago when we were just getting Jack’s file…

Dear Self,

If you think the paperwork is scary now, you don’t know what scary is. Wait until they take him back for an MRI to look for brain damage. It is going to get a whole lot worse. It’s not blue skies and rainbows and sisters loving on brother the second you get off the plane. It’s hard. He’s going to get mad because he can’t tell you how he feels. You are going to get mad because all you want is a day at the beach and the beach is going to be the most terrifying place on earth the first few times he goes.

During this paper chase there is something about it. You are broken and want your boy home but you also feel like you are part of something bigger. You somehow really see your place in God’s plan. It’s easy now to shirk off naysayers. It’s a bit harder when Jack is in your arms and you want him to act like a normal little boy and he’s not. When you are holding him and he is tremoring like a seizure is coming on just because something is new and people are giving both you and Jack funny looks, try to remember that Wonder Woman feeling you have right now. It’s a bit harder to hold on to these days but it’s still there. Remind yourself that you are still part of God’s plan. You are helping the world see God’s love in a little boy.

Don’t quit. Jack will teach you so much about yourself. Some good, some bad. Jack is going to show you and those little girls a bigger world. He is going to win EVERYONE over even though he doesn’t talk much. The random guy at the school will come to love him. He will make people laugh out loud on a regular basis and you get to watch as he touches their hearts. Jack is going to open up compassion in Arleigh, Hanan and Bria like you’ve never seen. Bria will walk away from her little sister role to become a champion to her brother. You’re going to cry over all the tests. It’s going to be hard to watch him fail. Hard isn’t impossible. In his failing, he just gives himself more room to grow.

Jack isn’t going to be what you thought. He won’t be perfect. He’s going to be better. He may be with you until he’s 18 or forever. Either way it’s okay because you’re going to learn that when he’s around, you’re better. Delays are hard to swallow. It’s just one more mountain to climb. God wouldn’t have sent Jack to you if He thought you couldn’t do it. Somedays you may think you can’t. Remember that with God, you can.

Don’t quit! Sincerely,



Brandi Stiff

Brandi is a Christian, military wife and mama to four true blessings. After living in Iceland and Maryland she started blogging so their extended family could keep up with their life on the east coast. Two moves and two kids later, one brought home from China, it’s about faith and family, dealing with developmental delays and their misadventures in Hawaii. You can read more here.

Once you were fatherless, but now…

One month from today we will have our little man.

We will drive to the baby home for the last time,
sign in at the front door for the last time,
shake the director’s hand for the last time,
take off those communal clothes our little man’s been wearing for the last time.

We’ll dress him up in the outfit we so carefully picked out just for that day.
We’ll roll up his pant legs which I’m sure will still be too long.
We’ll zip up his brand new winter coat and slip warm mittens onto his little hands.
We’ll walk out those heavy metal doors,
down the cement steps,
and outside the black gate.

We’ll climb all three of into the backseat of the car.
And we’ll drive away, forever.

The words on the chapter in our little man’s life-without-a-family, all written. Finished.
The proverbial page, turned.
A thousand empty pages waiting to be filled with a hope and a future.

A year ago I found this one couple who had chronicled their Russian adoption journey via youtube videos. The video of this couple leaving the orphanage with their little boy for the last time contains one incredible, poignant moment: as they head down the staircase to leave the baby home, their translator tells them to open the door and bright, white light from outside floods into the dark hallway.

“The door to the world. To a new life.” she says.

And in the background of the video, a song with these lyrics:

Sin has lost it’s power,
Death has lost it’s sting.
From the grave you’ve risen
Into marvelous light I’m running…

This moment- this moment of leaving the old and starting the new- this is the picture of salvation. In my son’s story, I see my own. I see my rescue. I see my ransom. I see the life I’ve been given, the gift of the Father. For I was once fatherless, but now I am a child of God.

When John and I walk through those orphanage doors with our son in our arms, we will be living in a moment we’ll remember forever. A moment that will forever cause us to worship. A moment made of new clothes, and footsteps on tile floors, and the weight of a child in arms, and cold winter air, and three in the back seat….

but mostly it will be a moment made of grace.

Through the door. To a new life. Into marvelous light.

This is all of our story, who know the Lord. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people.

One month to begin a story that has been written for all eternity. Praise the Lord.


Jillian Burden is an expectant mama; she and her husband are expecting their first child by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not be expanding, her heart and her faith sure are growing! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

Just like it but different

I sat on the footstool in the middle of the dark garage bawling my eyes out.  Exhausted, obviously emotional and the proud new mother of a four year old.  I had dreamed of this season of life for years, and after months of paperwork, I should have been over the moon.

I was….but so much more.

I had a good silent cry and was considering the half gallon of cookie dough ice cream in our freezer.   On the way to the freezer my dear hubby said a few words that jolted me.

“You felt just like this when the other two were infants.  It is just like having a newborn.”

Those two simple sentences helped me so much.  I just needed to label it.  I was exhausted from being up in the night with a child who was trying to adjust to a new home and a new family.  It was like fighting a world war to get the sweet girl to sleep and then we threatened everyone within miles who might make noise.  We were trying to figure out how much she ate, what she wanted to eat and when.   I never knew when she would cry and I was learning how to soothe her.  Just like having an infant.

Like my dad used to joke….just like it but different.

(Besides no diapers!) The major difference was the lack of grace extended.

When you have a newborn everyone bends over backwards to help.  They peek at your screaming bundle, smile, and call him cute.  You are expected to get up in the middle of church.  You are called a good mom when you stand at the nursery door to “check one more time that he is okay.”  Even the dark circles under my eyes and the few extra pounds from late night ice cream snacks were accepted.

Somehow when the same things were happening with my new daughter….the grace wasn’t extended.  No smiles when our new daughter was having a meltdown at the library and I had no idea what to do.   And I certainly wasn’t showing myself grace as I wept in the garage.  ”What was wrong with me?  How could I be so tired and so emotional?” I moaned as I went for my comfort snack.

Heading into our second adoption I joked that it was like a paper pregnancy.   Here is the other side of the story. It takes your body some time to bounce back after that paper-pregnancy.  Okay, okay this might be extending the metaphor a bit too far, but hang in there with me!    I am in the midst of an emotional adjustment.

Kinda cool actually.

I love that I am going through this adjustment right alongside of them.  They are not alone.  I am in this messy transition too.

What helps when my two year old is pitching the tantrum of the century in the grocery store parking lot because he doesn’t like the car seat?   As I am getting the stink eye from the whole town who seem to be at the store at that blessed moment – I remember that he is only 6 weeks old.   He has the family age of 6 weeks….he is learning that I will meet his needs just like I am learning that shopping right after nap times doesn’t seem to work well.    We are learning together.

Give us a few more weeks.  The bags under my eyes should be gone and we will shop with more confidence.  Until then – I need to go sleep when the toddler sleeps.



Tammy Williams

Tammy has an amazing husband and four fantastic kiddos who keep her hopping. She counts it a blessing to have such a family and is burdened by those in the world who don”t. After living in China for several years and volunteering as an art teacher in a local orphanage, she is changed. She learned that orphans in China are normal, sweet, loving children who are hoping, wishing and praying for a family to call their own. She couldn”t adopt all of her students so she is on a mission to tell others about the joys of adoption. Check out her blog Casting A Stone.

Share your story {Waiting}

Though there are many different types of adoptions, there are few things inherent to all of them. One of those things is waiting. While some struggle through it for a long time, others embrace it and enjoy the time of preparation. Some expect a long wait, and some are surprised when the wait ends and the real journey begins.

Here’s your opportunity to share your story because we’re all about stories and community and sharing.

We will periodically offer an opportunity like this to share a link from your blog about a particular topic related to adoption. To join in, simply include a link to a post that you

Waiting: Month Three

This waiting, it sucks.

You’re shocked I know.

But here’s the thing about waiting for three plus years – sometimes your pride tricks you into thinking you’ve actually gotten good at it. Like you’ve conquered it and are so content and experienced at it you’ve got it under control.

Then you get smacked upside the head with what seems like an impossible weight of waiting you can’t possibly live through. For us, that smack came last week when we learned we are still 12 or so months away from bringing “J” home.

And here’s the thing about that weight – we can’t carry it. We must wait on the Lord. Not in a cheesy just stand on the sidelines and pick daisies all day while something in the Heavens magically comes together.

We have to wait on Him. Lean on Him. Ugly cry out to Him.Get on our knees before Him.Give it all over to Him.

Only when I am crushed by God, do I truly wait on Him. It’s sad but true. My humanness can’t do it otherwise.

So here we are: crushed and waiting. Thankful that He’s got this. He’s not finished writing this story, it’s just going to take a little longer than we thought it would. Like three years longer. But who’s counting?

p.s. For those of you who are reading because you’re in the DRC process and care about the logistics – there were more errors found on our Consent to Adopt and our attorney was robbed at gunpoint. He lost his cell phone, computer and passport. (he was out of country) Therefore, we don’t know if the Consent to Adopt has been signed by the mayor yet or not.

The reason for the additional wait is because we have an amazing agency who cares about the children of the DRC – ALL of them, not just the ones who can be adopted, and is working hard to build a relationship with the government officials instead of working around them. Building relationships takes time but they are committed long term to the care of the vulnerable children of the DRC.


Lindsy Wallace

Lindsy and her husband William lead the Orphan Care Ministry at Antioch Church in Louisville, Kentucky and are passionate about sharing God


“After the third kid people stop congratulating you. Then they just look at you like you are Amish.”
-Jim Gaffigan

We can relate. When people find out we have four kids their response is usually something along the lines of, “Really? Four?” or “Wow, that’s a lot.”

But more often than not I hear the following question: “So are you guys done?” Sometimes I can’t tell if they are asking a question or pleading for us to stop.

We have to be done, right? With our income and in today’s world it was borderline irresponsible to have four, much less five children. We couldn’t possibly afford more kids could we? Besides, where would we put them? We are still trying to figure out where to put Jude’s bed for goodness sake. Don’t even get me started on how we are going to pay for college in the years to come.

We should really do the responsible thing and focus on the kids we already have. But then again, whose definition of responsible am I using? The world tells me that it’s responsible to have a beautifully decorated home, nice cars, college savings for everyone, expensive hobbies, well invested retirement accounts and kids who excel in academics and sports. If I can’t give each kid their own room, own television, own smart phone, own computer, their own this & own that then it’s pretty clear what am I: irresponsible.
It’s not that any of those things are bad. In fact, many are good. But does checking everything off of that list make me responsible? Or wise? I am starting to think the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.

No doubt, we all have a responsibly to provide for our families. But an even greater responsibility exists to spread the Good News to the ends of the world and to reach those in need: the poor, the abandoned, the foreigner, the widow, the orphan.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that my family isn’t done. I don’t know if that means we will adopt more sons and daughters into our home. It may. But even if we don’t we will never be done fighting for the millions of Rylies & Judes who are waiting, literally waiting to come home & waiting to hear the Gospel.

The more the world looks at my family and cries, “How irresponsible!” the more I’m convinced we are finally being responsible to the call that a Jewish carpenter made some 2,000 years ago.

Jennifer Middleton

Jennifer and Rush Middleton have been married for 11 years and have 4 kids, Jonah (8), Reagan (5), Rylie (3) and Jude (2). Rylie came home from China in 2010 and Jude just arrived earlier this year. The Middletons have been through the easy and the hard of bringing a child into their family, yet the awesome gift of adoption has rocked their worlds in more ways than they can count. You can check out their blog about family, life, adoption, cleft lip/palate and other randomness at Apple Pie and Egg Rolls.