We are Ryan, Jennie, and four-year-old Van.
When we adopted Van (short for Donovan) at birth, we instantly loved him and felt overwhelmed with gratitude to welcome him into our family. We love being parents and look forward to adopting again, giving all of us the chance to surround another son or daughter with love, joy, faith, and hope.
As you consider adoption, we appreciate you reading about our family. We wish you the best, and pray for your strength and peace.
We met in college, at a church cookout, and started dating a few years later. We found that we both shared the same interests and values, from faith to music. After two years of traveling, camping and laughing a lot together, we got married.
We have lived in Chicago and England, and we’ve met a lot of incredibly fun and thoughtful friends. We’ve grown a lot together, and enjoyed a lot of experiences! But some of our interests, and all of our values, have stayed the same along the way.
We adopted Van at his birth in 2012. We have been amazed and grateful for the overwhelming love and support our friends and family have shown. As we embark on another adoption journey, we appreciate the excitement they are expressing and can’t wait to introduce our next son or daughter. We are so happy together, and we feel like we’re called to welcome another child into our family.
Our home is in a college town in central Illinois. It’s close to our hometowns, which means we have lots of doting grandparents nearby. We live on a beautiful old boulevard with lots of tall trees, and we frequently walk to the park a block from our house where Van plays with neighborhood friends.
Our neighborhood has a lot to offer and we enjoy the family friendly environment it is known for. Throughout the year, little kids swarm together at neighborhood parties. On Halloween, people from all around bring toddlers to trick-or-treat at the charming houses lining our street. Our local elementary school has award-winning programs in music and the arts. Van is anxious to start, after listening to older kids talk about all of their favorite classes and activities there.
There’s lots to do within walking distance and around town. We are lucky to have a community trail two blocks away, where we walk and ride bikes almost every evening from spring to fall. When we’re not out and about, we take the chance to just sit on our porch, listening to the crickets and watching people pass by. In the winter, Van has started playing hockey every week at the ice rink just ten minutes away. We also swim year-round, thanks to the indoor pool at the YMCA next to the ice rink.
Both of us value family and spending time with them and we are thrilled that most of our family lives close by. Jennie’s sister and her family live in a town nearby, and our kids still bounce excitedly whenever they get a chance to play with their cousins. Van loves to see his aunt, who insists on big hugs and kisses, and his uncle who brings him surprise presents and tells tales of superhero adventures. Our family is anxious to love and spoil a new baby!
Jennie’s parents still live in the house where she grew up, and they are very active grandparents who enjoy spending time with all of their grandkids and look forward to every visit. They’ve attended countless baseball games, plays, and other events featuring their grandkids. Grandpa is a lifelong fisherman, and loves the chance to bring a grandchild along. Grandma is a patient listener, and grandchildren have learned they can give her all the details of their most talkative stories.
Ryan’s parents still live in the house where he grew up, and Van jumps and claps whenever he’s about to see them. Ryan’s mom is a retired elementary school teacher who still substitutes, and she always brings Ziploc bags full of her fresh chocolate chip cookies. Ryan’s dad is a retired biologist, and is happy to take grandkids on bike rides, talk about birds and trees, or play “chase” in the yard.
For vacations, our family explores new places. This summer, we visited a beach and then a lake house, giving us lots of chances to feel the sun and swim in the water. We’ve been to a dozen countries all over the world, and we can’t wait to show our children the beauty that God’s world has to offer.
About Jennie by Ryan
Jennie is a special recipe of funny, loving, and passionate that is hard to describe. She’s the kind of person who always seems to be surrounded by people, and is often helping them learn how to become leaders.
Jennie and I were friends for a few years before we started dating. We hung out in the same group of people during college, but we didn’t know where the future would lead us. When we both moved to Chicago, we started spending more time together – just the two of us. That’s when I realized what a special person Jennie truly is and I fell in love.
As a mom, Jennie is always sensitive and understanding. She often tells Van how important he is to us, and how precious he is as a child of God. Jennie loves to cuddle him to sleep, and she has a way of helping him do the right things without making him feel bad about mistakes. When she talks with Van about a new sibling, he is as thrilled as she is!
Jennie is also nurturing, smart, and loyal. As a United Methodist pastor, she has helped many families through some of their toughest struggles. She cherishes her own family, laughs easily, and she loves helping everyone find God’s calling for their lives.
Currently, Jennie leads a college ministry, as well as a new church where most of the members are young adults and young families. This means we have a built-in community of support for kiddos! The college students cannot wait for another baby to spoil, and the church nursery is filled with babies who will get to grow up together.
Like me, Jennie loves family, music, and friends. She always wants her house to be the place where people gather and laugh, and our porch has seen countless times when friends, visitors, and family have spent the afternoon and evening sharing stories, thoughts, and dreams.
This year, Jennie was awarded her doctorate in ministry, writing her dissertation about how churches can best communicate with Millennial congregations. She truly has a passion for helping people find and follow God’s vision for their lives.
About Ryan by Jennie
Two of my favorite things about Ryan are that he’s hilarious and approachable. His friends all find him hysterical and I’m often amazed at how many people will laugh with him, or at him. Even though he’s quiet sometimes, I’ve seen new people gravitate to him and become his friend right away.
When Ryan and I started dating, I had just told my dad that we were “only friends.” I had to call my dad back the next week and change my story. We had so much fun spending time together and thinking of the things we wanted to do, and we had so much in common, that it really wasn’t long before we knew we’d be together forever.
As a dad, Ryan is fun and supportive. He runs and plays with Van almost every night, then often goes to one of the local libraries for books, activities, and educational games. Ryan encourages Van in each new activity, and helps him meet new people. Both of them are known at the swimming pools, libraries, and restaurants all over town.
Ryan is also dedicated, creative, and kind. As an advertising writer for IBM, he is always finding exciting ways to think about the future and technology. Ryan works from home, and he’s been writing about new technology for most of his career, but he still uncovers amazing new stories almost every day.
As a writer and a storyteller, Ryan absolutely cherishes the chance to read bedtime stories. He loves to see Van’s eyes light up, and to hear him laugh at goofy voices, faces, and surprise changes. Ryan still has every Dr. Seuss book from his childhood, and he can’t resist when Van wants to hear a silly story one more time. OK, two times.
Ryan loves family, music, and friends. All of his friends are funny, and they know how to share who they really are. He always wants friends and family to gather and talk late into the night. As an avid cyclist (even a coach), he is even happy to continue conversations on the next day’s ride.
As a Christian, Ryan tries to help others find creativity and depth in their faith. He has led volunteer opportunities for years, and he also leads book studies where people talk about the meaning behind a story to find the meaning, feelings, and thoughts behind their own lives.
Van is sensitive, articulate, and never stops moving. He loves everyone. He loves being around babies, kids, grown-ups, and anyone who’s willing to share toys, talk, play sports, or just hug. When we help take care of babies, Van is always waiting to talk to them and help however he can.
In addition to people, Van loves God. He has grown to see everyone as a child of God, and talks about the kindness he perceives in people. Van learned to pray as soon as he learned to talk, and the things he says sometimes shows a child’s pure view of just what God might be thinking. He prays every night for our new baby.
Van adores baseball. And swimming. And hockey. And dancing. At every wedding, his dancing inspires adults to form a circle around him. Seriously. It’s happened at five weddings! He’s an active little guy.
Van is thrilled at the thought of a new brother or sister. He tells us each day about how he wants to help care for the baby. Recently a friend shared a conversation with Van when he decided he should sleep on the floor of the baby’s nursery so he can be there immediately if his new brother or sister ever needs him. Nothing matters more to him than family, and Van surprises us at least once a day by choosing a moment to stop and say “I love you.”
Thoughts on Adoption
We truly cherish adoption and the joy it’s brought to our lives. We have talked openly with Van about adoption since the day he was born, so much so that he wonders if all of his friends are adopted (and some of them are).
Respecting your desires, we would love to keep an open adoption. You are and will always be an incredibly important part of your baby’s story. We would love to keep in regular contact through text messages or email. We want our children to feel secure in the honest love that surrounds them – and there can never be too many people who love a child.
We have had a very positive experience with open adoption. We talk about and honor Van’s birth mom regularly, and have enjoyed our continued relationship with her. Van happily refers to her as his birthday mom! Though we live states away, we text regularly and sometimes, when she is thinking about Donovan, she will text to ask for a photo. We immediately text a picture of whatever we are doing at that time, so she’s felt part of the everyday moments in life.
Van hears us say that she is both selfless and courageous. Our clear message about adoption to Van, our family, and our friends, is that a birthmother’s decision to choose an adoptive family is because of her unconditional love for her child.
Adoption is the miracle that has created, and will continue to create our family. Every day we tell Van that “We love you very much, and we always will, no matter what.” We dream of sharing this message with another child, too.
When a child hears a promise like that every day, they might start to take it for granted. And that’s what we want. We want our children to assume love. We want them to hear that promise in their mind no matter where they are, when, how, or why. We want them to know that we love them, and God loves them, absolutely forever and no matter what.
As you make the choice that brings you peace, please know that you are loved, that you are a child of God, and that God wants the best for both you and your child.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about our family. If you’d like to get to know us better, please call Cindy anytime at 800-556-5635.
Wishing you peace,
Ryan, Jennie, and Van