Adoption Stories

The Geiske Family

Maggie and Karl Gieseke were completely taken with their three daughters, Anna, Mary and Lily. But still something was missing. It occurred to them that maybe if they added a boy or two, it might do the trick.

The thought grew slowly, over time. They began the process to adopt in early 2002 and brought Jamie home from Guatemala the following year. Henry’s adoption was completed two years later.

Jamie loves people, boy does he. Every new person, no matter who or where, is his potential best friend. As soon as he could speak the words, he would introduce himself to anyone and everyone he met. “Hello, I’m Jamie,” he would say to the cashier at the grocery store, the bank teller, the lady at McDonald’s, the guy at the gas station.

Now that he is a couple years older, his introductions have become more extensive. “Excuse me,” he’ll say politely. “I’m Jamie and this is my mom, Maggie. Right there is my little brother, Henry; that’s my big sister, Lily, and I have two more sisters...” In this gentle way, he asserts himself. He makes it known that it’s not just Jamie — it’s Jamie and his mom and dad and sisters and brother.

Henry is round and happy. Around the neighborhood, he’s known as his mother’s sidekick. At the age of eights months, he planted himself on his mom’s hip and stayed there for the next year and a half. He learned quickly that he is really good at making people grin. He does this with a flash of his dimply smile or simply by arching his eyebrows, which seems to be turning into his signature expression.

Jamie loves to wrestle. He likes to pretend he’s Buzz Lightyear. He has taken on the role of defending his family from the evil Emperor Zurg, an invisible bad guy who for some unknown reason has commandeered the Gieseke home as his base of operations for conquering the universe. “You need me to keep the family safe,” Jamie tells his mom. Then he darts around a corner in pursuit of Zurg.

Henry is all wrapped up in his collection of Matchbox Cars. His pockets are usually spilling over with them. On occasions when he finds the need to pack more, he holds one car in each of his chubby fists and tucks a third under his chin. He seems so serious as he marches along, pockets and hands full, head down, shoulders scrunched up, until he raises his chin and out falls a tiny automobile. He usually falls asleep with one in each hand.

Henry hasn’t given a lot of thought to what he wants to be when he grows up. Jamie’s plans for the future vary depending on his mood. Sometimes, he wants to be an architect like his dad, drive a white car like his dad, go to an office like his dad and talk on the phone like his dad. Other times, he leans more toward becoming a superhero who would fly around saving people from tornadoes, fires and whatever else they need saving from.

“We needed our boys complete our family as much as they needed a family to help them grow,” Maggie says.

“They were both a perfect fit. It was our best decision ever to add to our family through adoption. We give our children as much love as we have, a family and a home. And they give that same thing back — plus something extra.

“It’s that wonderful feeling that comes from having a full heart.”

The Staat Family

For anyone thinking about adopting a child from a faraway place, Mary Staat has three wishes.

First, she wishes you will see the child as a gift from God and find joy in all you would learn about yourself through the ups and downs of parenting such a child.

Second, she wishes you would focus on what you can add to your child’s life instead of thinking about how your child will fill in the blanks in your life.

Third, she wishes you would remember to enjoy the experience without worrying too much about what might not always go exactly right.

Mary is a pediatrician. She also is founder and director of the International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The IAC exists to help U.S. families adopting children from other countries address medical issues, developmental concerns, emotional needs and whatever else might present itself in the adoption process.

Mary hopes you would have the great good fortune she has had.

Mary’s eldest, George, is sensitive, insightful, easy-going and unusually thoughtful for a fifteen-year-old. She recalls coming home one day in a stressed-out state, tearing into anyone in reach about clothes on the floor, toys not put away, garbage not being taken out, all the normal stuff.

George was five or six, and Mary was getting on him in a big way. After a few minutes of listening to her vent, he calmly interrupted. He said he didn’t think he’d done anything to get her so riled. So what, he wanted to know, was the real problem?

“I stopped in my tracks and realized I was taking my work troubles out on the kids,” Mary said. She took a deep breath and told George about the frustrations of her day. He listened, nodded. Then together, they straightened up the house. She remembers it as the beginning of what continues to be a policy of open communication between them.

Then there’s Emily, twelve, energetic, competitive and fun. Giving up is not in her nature. One story that stands out in Mary’s mind was when Emily was in first grade and wanted to be a Brownie.

Emily is a joiner. With each paper that came home from school that year announcing something else to join, she would beg to sign up. By the time the forms for joining the Brownies arrived, Mary reached her limit. But Emily was determined. Some days later when Mary went to pick her up at after-care, Emily wasn’t there. Her caregiver told Mary that Emily was down the hall at the Brownie meeting.

Mary marched down the hall, introduced herself to the Brownie leader and informed her that Emily did not have her permission to join the Brownies. “Oh?” the leader said. But leader had all the forms, with all T’s and I’s crossed and dotted. Except that Emily had filled out all the paperwork herself — and in a tidier hand than her mother’s. Mary wasn’t happy at what her daughter had done, but she was mightily impressed that she’d figured out how to get it done.

Mary’s third, eleven-year-old Katie, is creative, generous and compassionate. Of the three, Katie is the artist. She’s especially good at “found art” — getting an idea and finding something around the house to make it happen.

Like the time she thought to create a pair of matching Bible cases for her and her mother. She put a great deal of thought into locating just the right size boxes, as evidenced by all the empty cereal and cracker boxes Mary found in the kitchen. Then Katie decorated the boxes with felt and made handles of ribbon. She included compartments for pens, highlighters, notepaper and other items one might want when reading the Bible.

These children have changed their mother. Mary admits she was once a driven, competitive person, one who didn’t set aside much time for just plain living.

“They have made me a better person,” Mary says.

“They brought me back to God. They gave real meaning to my life and helped me find purpose.”

The Larkin Family

On a snowy December day, Bob and Jane Larkin found themselves in a tiny village in the mountains of Transylvania. The foster home was humble, with no running water, but it was clear that the boy, Jozsef, had been cared for lovingly.

The moment Jozsef was in Jane’s arms and their eyes locked, they arrived at a mutual understanding: He was hers, and she was his. It was just as true with his new father. Even now, eight years later, just how it happened is a bit of a mystery to Jane and Bob. All they know is that the power of the bond between them and Jozsef was instant and as profound as anything they had ever known.

Emese came along six months later. It was a coincidence that she was in a foster home in the same village. Like Jozsef, she was two years old. And like Jozsef, she has been Bob and Jane’s child from the moment they met.

Emese had an enormous smile and chattered in Hungarian, not Romanian. She remains bubbly and curious about everything. She talks in exclamation points! This past year, she was picked to sing a solo at the school Christmas concert. The teacher asked Jane to dress her in an angel costume. Seventeen years earlier, Emese’s big sister, Kerry, was supposed to sing a solo at her Christmas program. Kerry’s grandmother had made her an angel costume for the occasion, but Kerry never got to wear it. She died after a short illness, at the age of ten.

As far as Emese was concerned, there was no question she would wear her big sister’s angel costume. She and Jozsef have both talked about how Kerry gave them their first kiss in heaven. In every family picture Emese and Jozsef have ever drawn, there’s Jane and Bob and their big brothers, Sean and Brian. And hovering over all of them is Kerry.

Jozsef makes his parents crazy and laugh at the same time. He has a knack for picking up different ways of speaking. When he comes home from visiting Jane’s family in Mississippi, he talks with a southern drawl. He recently began building a tree house in an apple tree, complete with a sign specifying who’s allowed and who isn’t. Jane and Bob don’t want him to grow up too quickly, but can’t wait to see what he does with his life.

Emese has the gift of compassion. When the family drives through the heart of the city, she wants to bring every homeless person home with her. It hurts her to see someone unhappy. If an idea occurs to her where she might help someone, she does it. She has had her shiny black hair cut once already to be made into hairpieces for cancer patients through Locks of Love and can hardly wait for her hair to grow out so she can do it again. Jane and Bob imagine Emese will mother her way through her life.

None of this is to say the Larkin kids are perfect because they aren’t. They battle over who takes out the trash, who gets the bathroom first and who gets to sit in which car seat. “Chaos reigns most days and sitting on the steps occurs daily, but we are truly a family through and through,” Jane said.

“Our differences make us stronger, and our similarities are endless. I wish I had the words to express what a joy it is to adopt a child. You don’t have to be rich or young. You just have to love unconditionally and without reservation.

“So many children are out there waiting for their own mama and daddy.”

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