The Story of Us

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for a while now. Long enough that it’s become a sort of writer’s block, looming there in front of me, making me feel like I just can’t write anything else until I get this one right. Hence, I’m going for it, right here, tonight. I don’t know if it’s going to come out poignant, or funny, or extremely boring, but stick with me. I think there may be some relatively interesting stuff waiting after I get the story of us out of my system.

Before I begin, I have a disclaimer to add. Your mileage may vary. If you’ve read any of the previous posts on this blog, you may have noticed that for a long time I had one child, and then eventually I posted that we had been matched with three amazing kids and would be adopting them. And now there are five smiling kid-faces up at the top of my blog. If you feel compelled to tell any woman who is hoping for children about how I adopted some kids and then got pregnant, please do not. I am incredibly offended by the idea of our story being told in that way, because for every family who miraculously ends up with a biological baby post-adoption, there are many, many more who do not. If you haven’t spent ages wishing for a baby, you probably haven’t considered that it’s agony to hear “just adopt, and then you’ll get pregnant!” It doesn’t usually happen that way.

Second disclaimer (I did warn you this post might not be pretty, I just needed to get on with writing it): If you do happen to know someone who builds their family through adoption, and then becomes pregnant, please, I beg of you, DO NOT ever insinuate or wonder aloud if they will be keeping their “adopted kids” after the baby arrives. Yes, this happened to me. Yes, I’m still shocked by it. If you’re the sort of person who might consider asking such a question, let me ask you, before you read on…. When your second child is born, do you intend to get rid of your oldest? All clear on that? OK, let’s move on.

Really, The Story of Us, Not More Disclaimers

Maya StraddleWe had the one girl-child, Maya, when we were very young, newly married, and utterly unprepared for parenthood. She is now 12, and is a competitive gymnast. She loves everything outdoors, and is the first to come up with ways to get muddy. She hopes to become a veterinarian, and she practices her medical skills on her dad because she says she’s not really ready to work on animals yet. Here she is at the national trampoline and tumbling championships last summer. She can flyyyyy!

We always planned to adopt. Our plan, which the universe apparently found funny, was that we would have a few biological kids, and then we’d do the homestudy and the background checks and jump through all of the hoops to have a bigger family via adoption. The years passed. I got pregnant three times, but had three first trimester miscarriages. It was a terrible time, and I struggled to come to terms with the fact that my careful plans were maybe not so much going to happen. Before we could start working on adoption, I had to mourn the idea that I wouldn’t nurse another baby to sleep, or hold my newborn to my chest just seconds after birth. I felt like I should have savored those moments a little more with Maya, because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have the chance again. Eventually, I worked through the emotional stuff, and we decided it was finally time to move forward on building our family.

And so we did. All of the paperwork, all of the background checks, all of the proving that we’re OK people who won’t misplace a child in a hoarder-house. I talked about that stuff in a previous post, so I won’t rehash every bit of it here, because ohmygosh this post is getting ridiculously long already and I only talked about ONE of my kids. We signed an intent to adopt three siblings, and they moved in with us in early January 2011. Things got pretty crazy in a hurry. I had to learn to shop for groceries in bulk. I had to learn about BOYS. I don’t know if you are aware, but little boys are like an alien species, weird and awesome at the same time. So that brings us to:

spy6My Hannah. She’s almost 11. She is terribly funny without trying to be, and she doesn’t even realize how amusing she is. She loves to sing and dance, but is too shy to get on a stage. She’s a straight-A student and loves to read. Right now, she says she wants to be a doctor. I’m hoping she gets a little less squeamish before med school. She’s girly through and through, which is awesome, because although I adore my tomboy Maya, it’s very nice to have someone else in the house now who enjoys a good shopping spree and cute shoes. Here she is bringing the silly on our summer vacation to Washington DC.

levi rocketAnd Levi, who is now 8. Loves dinosaurs, rockets, anything with an engine, and ice cream. He plays flag football and hopes to be a kicker one day. He’s a special teams fan. :) Also a K-State fan. He wrestles, too, and has won a few medals in his weight class. Levi is the first to offer to help me make dinner, probably because he can get a little messy in the kitchen. He has not announced any career aspirations yet, but I suspect he will gravitate toward a fast-faced, work-with-your-hands type field. Levi never sits still for very long. Here he is, getting ready to launch the rocket he built for the county fair this summer.

Grant runningGrant is now 7. He’s my sweet boy, always asking for a hug, or offering to do something kind for Mommy. He also wrestles, and loves football, though he wasn’t old enough to play in the rec league last year. He’s always asking one of his brothers or Dad to go outside and throw the football around. When he played tee-ball, he made everyone laugh when he took the advice to “touch home plate” quite literally, getting down on all fours and making sure both hands and feet made contact with the base. Grant hasn’t talked about what he wants to do when he grows up. He’s too busy being a farm boy for now, spending time in the combine with Grandpa and driving his toy tractors all over the yard. Here he is chasing a rocket through the field of soybeans behind our house.

So, at the beginning of 2011, that was our family. We were happy but also really tired the way you are whenever your family grows, no matter how it happens. I was really, really tired. Like, REALLY tired. About a week after the kids officially moved in with us,  I was beginning to wonder if I was really cut out for parenting more than an average number of children, because I needed a nap pretty much constantly. Grant was not in school yet, and thankfully he was always up for a snuggle on the couch, where he could watch a cartoon and I could sleep for a few.

At some point in that week, it occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t just tired because I had to buckle up three more kids. After about 300 different brands of pregnancy tests said “yup,” I sort of started to believe it. I decided to ask G if he was seeing what I was seeing on one of the tests. ‘Huh,” he said. Not in a questioning way. It was the kind of “huh” you would use if someone suddenly punched you in the gut. It was a “huh” of utter shock. The joy was there, but for a day or two, it was hidden by befuddlement and terror.

Though the kids had moved in with us, it would be a while before we could finalize their adoption. 11 months, to be exact. Short in the world of adoption, but quite long if you don’t really want to tell your kids’ social worker that you’re pregnant for fear that she might decide you can’t handle that many children. There are some adoption agencies that decline to work with families who are expecting a baby. Some agencies will drop you immediately if you become pregnant during the process. So that was a somewhat awkward conversation with the social worker, but we lucked out with a wonderful, understanding case manager who was completely invested in what was right for our kids. I had worried for nothing, pretty much.

Collin paparazziFast forward to October 2011, and Collin arrived. He’s almost 2 now, and is quite a ham. He makes impressive goat noises, and screams with glee if you mention milkshakes. He loves chasing his big brothers around, and thinks his big cousin Tim (Mimmy, he calls him) is the coolest person on Earth. According to him, his siblings are named Yaya, Haha, Yee-eye and Gah. Collin has perfected the art of screeching “miiiiiiiine” at anything he wants, and he fully believes that works to claim said item. Here he is telling Mama to put the camera away so he can go for his stroll.

We were able to finalize our kids’ adoption in December 2011. December 5 is officially called Corley Family Day in our house. So that’s the story of how we went from having one kid to five kids in less than a year. It was a wild, bumpy ride, but also an exciting and delightful one. Though our middle three have traumatic pasts, they’ve all worked very, very hard to work through the bad stuff and focus on their futures. They’ve come so far, and taught me and G so much about ourselves and our parenting styles in the process.

Any questions?

First OfficialFirst pic as official forever siblings,
just after finalization.



  1. Paula Kastler says:

    I just found your website and read the story of how your family grew from 1 to 5 in a short time. Glad to have known such a wonderful family and been involved in the process! Through college graduation and a career change, I still have a special rose that sits on my desk in my office. A few people have asked about the rose and why it is so special to me. I tell them it is a reminder of a special group of kids who was lucky enough to live happily ever after. I look forward to the next time I get to see the Corley clan!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Paula! Our kids ask about you fairly often, and they ask when they’ll get to see you again. You’ll always have a special place in our family memory.

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