Adoption holds such a special place in my heart. I always planned on adopting babies from all around the world from a very young age. Later in life I would have two brothers join my family through adoption. I would argue that they were my first two babies, even though they were 11 at the time. With 10 years my junior I took a very active role in their lives. I would trace their eyebrows while we watched movies and count fingers and toes just like any new mother. Their arrival filled a space in our family that I never knew always needed to be filled. Their story is their own to share and I can't begin to give it justice. I can only share my version of reality.
My brothers were adopted from Bryansk Russia at the age of 11. They came for a month over the summer with a group of about thirty children. There were multiple events where we got to meet and learn more about the other families intending to adopt these children. In the end some children were adopted and others were not. Adoption is complicated. Sometimes the right answer is yes and sometimes the even harder right answer is no.
At the end of the month all of the children went back to the Russian orphanage. Those who were intended to be adopted would hopefully come back after the grueling process was completed. Those who would not be adopted would stay in Russia. I felt sick watching the children board the plan knowing who had families to return to and who did not. It was information I was not prepared to hold. I was unprepared for how their faces would haunt my memories.
My own sweet boys would return the following winter. We had a happy ending... Sort of. Life is complicated and people get to make their own choices.
This project is an attempt to share the stories that other families hold. Adoption is endlessly diverse and complicated. I am eternally grateful for the Palkowitsch Family for being my first official adoption story. Their home is filled with love, warmth, and life. It was such an honor to get to spend a bit of time getting to know them and hear a bit about their adoption journey.
WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY?
Chris, Holly, Jackson (2.5), and Charlize (2)
WHAT LED YOU TO ADOPTION?
Having a sister who is adopted as well as 5 cousins who are adopted, Holly has always felt very passionately about adoption. We had many conversations about adoption and we decided that we would like to make adoption a part of our lives.
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR ADOPTION JOURNEY?
We were married in 2011 and shortly thereafter, we tried to conceive. Over the course of about a year, we had several miscarriages. We looked to providers for any answers as to why these miscarriages were occurring, but there was no answer. It was at this time, that we both felt we needed to look into adoption.
We began researching different adoption agencies in the area. There was so much information; we did not even know where to begin. After feeling very overwhelmed with all of the decisions, I began to reach out to a few people for guidance. A friend referred us to her cousin who was passionate about adoption. She was hosting a small gathering at her home for couples who were interested in learning more about adoption, the process, as well as the ups and downs. That is where we met their Adoption Counselor. We immediately felt a connection with her and her agency.
We took the information home and processed. After a few days of soul searching, all signs pointed us in the direction to work with this agency. The application was lengthy and took some deep thought. After finally completing the application, we were ready to mail it when we found out that I was pregnant (again). Although we were hopeful with the pregnancy, we did not know if this pregnancy was going to last. We decided it was best to wait on mailing the adoption application.
When I was 9 weeks pregnant (with the longest pregnancy thus far), I received a call from a family member who knew we were looking into adoption. This person informed me that she knew of a Birth Mother whom had just given birth and was hopeful to find a loving family to place her child up for adoption. The Birth Mother wanted to meet us that very night! After processing this decision, we agreed that this was a calling from God placing us in this situation to meet this woman. We called our Adoption Counselor and she met us out at the hospital that night.
The Birth Mother was as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet her. We saw her holding this sweet, little, baby boy whom she had just given birth to the day before. He was absolutely beautiful! She told us that she loved her baby boy so much, but that she just could not give him the life she knew he deserved. She wanted him to have a loving family who could give him the life that she couldn’t. We felt so honored and blessed that she chose us.
We had confided in our Birth Mother that I was pregnant by only a few weeks and we wanted her blessing to still adopt her son. Clearly, you were concerned that this might pose a problem. But as it turned out, she was thrilled! She told us she was hopeful our pregnancy would last because than our sweet boy would have a brother or sister! After hearing this, we just knew that this was truly all God’s plan for our family. Sure enough, the pregnancy DID last and our sweet son has a little sister!
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING?
The most surprising thing that I have realized with adoption is that these little human beings, no matter what their age, choose us. There is a reason as to why our son is in our lives and we truly believe it’s because he chose us!
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT ADOPTION?
We received so many different responses from people when we told them that we were taking the steps into adoption. Everything from “That’s awesome!!” to “Wow! I had no idea you wanted to do that! Congrats!!” to “Why? Are you not able to conceive?” and “Are you sure you’ve exhausted all your other efforts?”.
I want people to know that there is a very simple explanation as to WHY people adopt. It’s not because something is or isn’t wrong with us. It’s because there is a little person out there who needed us and we needed them. That is all.
TELL ME SOMETHING FANTASTIC ABOUT EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY.
Chris is honestly the best dad to his kids. He comes home from working hard as an architect and immediately turns off the “work mode” to focus on the kids. As soon as he walks in the door, the kids run to him giving him the biggest hugs. The “wrastling” then ensues! He will always find time to make sure that his kids feel loved.
Holly is a loving and caring mother that fills the kid’s days with learning, sharing, singing, and compassion. She is also the glue that keeps the family centered. She organizes the calendar of activities, she does all the grocery shopping, prepares healthy meals from scratch, cleans and organizes the house (well, as much as she can) and creates a household dynamic of love and safety.
Jackson truly is one of the sweetest kids I have ever known. He is very even tempered and is so thoughtful. His favorite things are trains and playing outside. No matter what, he watches out for his younger sister and wants to make sure that she’s happy.
Charlize is like cayenne pepper. This spice is known to give tacos the biggest flavor. Well, that's what she's like. No matter what she’s doing – singing, talking, dancing, organizing, cleaning, screaming, fighting – she’s doing it to the best of her ability, or shall I say, with the most “flavor”!
WHAT IS SOMETHING SPECIAL THAT YOUR FAMILY DOES THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Our primary family ritual is to share dinner together as often as possible. This is a time filled with love, sharing and learning as well as home cooked meals. Some other things we like to do together are go on family hikes, have picnic style meals outside, and just share time together.
HOW HAS ADOPTION CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
At the basic level, Jackson was our first child so it changed our world as it transformed us into parents and transformed the focus of our lives. It also gave us a deeper appreciation of love. Jackson is a special boy and we are so happy to be his parents!
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Using a great adoption agency really helped us understand the process, alleviated some fears and prepared us for the potential challenges it may bring. Additionally, it gave us the peace of mind that the process was handled thoroughly and correctly. Special thanks to Kristin Goodreau and Anita Ruthenbeck, formerly of God’s Children, now with Legacy of Adoption, for not only their time and dedication, but also, for the love and compassion they expressed throughout the whole process!
I was invited on a creative and inspirational trip to Paris when the Pen & Paper Society was just beginning. Was I interested? HELL YES! I was, however, about to give birth to my second child and she would only be a few months at the time of the trip. The reality sunk in that I was in a different stage of life than these talented ladies. My days are filled with play dates, nap times, kissing ouches, and a lot of diapers. My evenings are filled with trying to squeeze in a few hours of work and getting ready to start the next day all over again. Most of the time I am thrilled that this is my existence. Other times I would rather fly off to Paris.
A few months later I had the opportunity to take pictures once again for their wonderful blog Pen & Paper Society. We had a wonderful plan to have all afternoon to run around Minneapolis and take pictures. Life happened and our leisurely afternoon was condensed into a quick hour. It may not have been Paris, but it still was magical. Without traveling abroad I can still explore a city, laugh, enjoy the company of creative individuals, and get a little lost. Most importantly it reminded me how much I love to take pictures.
Allie, Kendall, and Stella are three beautiful, talented, intelligent, and creative individuals. They remind me that we all struggle sometimes with where we are in life in comparison to where we want to be. We are all capable of so much. Often one act of bravery inspires the next. Their leap reminds me to jump in. I look forward to seeing where this blog leads, and of course to our next inspirational trip ...Iceland perhaps?!
“Stillness is the flower of winter, all hope waits beneath a blanket of white.” - Unknown
Every time I do a photo session outside I find myself in awe of the beauty around me. Without fail at some point I think "This is my favorite season to take pictures." Each season has its' own unique beauty. Winter has such a quiet stillness. These photos were a happy accident. We were on our way to another location when we saw a blanket of white snow covering a field. Cold fingers and toes were worth these beautiful images that remind me that winter is in fact my favorite season to shoot outside. That is until spring comes!