KINSMAN - Maddox, Zahara, Pax, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne, the adopted and biological children of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, are almost as famous as their parents. Madonna made headlines when adopted son David Banda joined her children Lourdes and Rocco.
Those are well-known examples of celebrity families with adopted and biological children. But what is it really like when families outside the media spotlight come together?
Busy, if the Detwiler household is any example.
Drs. Sam and Julie Detwiler have three children, ages 3 and younger. Ethan and Ava were adopted from Guatemala and Evan was born last November.
"Sam and I always had the desire to adopt," Julie Detwiler said. "We just had to decide which to do first, and when I had some health issues, we thought God was leading us to this."
Sam Detwiler, D.O., has a family medical practice in Kinsman, and Julie Detwiler, D.C., is staying home full-time with their young family.
Ethan came home to Ohio when he was 7 1/2 months old. When the Detwilers went to Guatemala to get him, they met Ava, who was 2 weeks old at the time. They visited her again at Thanksgiving and brought her home when she was about 7 months old also, in March of 2007.
Evan was born two months prematurely and had to stay for a month at St. Elizabeth Health Center in the intensive care unit.
Julie's sister remarked about the difficulty leaving him there but Julie reminded her that she had to leave her other babies and get on an airplane to return to a different country, so knowing Evan was being cared for in a state-of-the-art health care facility only 30 minutes from home eased her concerns.
The Detwilers have a great resource in their own office. Robin Meardith, the office manager/medical assistant, also is part of a family blended together by adoption. Robin is the middle daughter in a family of three girls. She was adopted as an infant and is a lifelong Kinsman resident.
"My dad was at work when my mom got the call to come to the hospital and get me," Meardith said. "There was no crib set up, nothing prepared, and my grandma came and watched my older sister while they came to get me."
Adoption was an open topic in the house, according to Meardith, and her parents always were willing to answer any questions about it that she or her sisters had.
That's the feeling the Detwilers are encouraging in their household as well
"A Mother for Choco" is one of the books the Detwilers read to their children. It tells the story of a bird who needs a mother and discovers that a loving mom is a loving mom no matter what she looks like. It was a gift to them from Meardith when they adopted their children.
"When they were going through the adoption process, we wrote letters of recommendation for them," Meardith said. "We talked about it with them, and I encouraged them, above all, to be open with their children."
Julie Detwiler knows her children will face challenges and is aware there will be issues for them in the future.
"I just want to prepare and protect my children from being hurt," Julie Detwiler said.
She believes people don't mean for the things they say to be hurtful but she never wants any of her children to feel they are "less" or "second-best."
Meardith acknowledges that the middle-school years were challenging for her, especially recalling a difficult assignment in eighth grade requiring her to create a family tree.
"My parents met with my teacher and worked it out, and I made a Gross (Meardith's maiden name) family tree for them," she said.
Both Meardith and Detwiler said they believe it's important not to make adoptive children feel different. Meardith said she never felt she was treated differently by her parents or her sisters. The Detwilers say their children will know about the day they were adopted but don't plan to focus on being any different than any other family.
"Research as much as you can," Detwiler recommended. "Read books by experts but also by people who were adopted to get a different perspective."
She tries to foresee what issues will come up but attempts not to concentrate on it too much.
Meardith acknowledged that there will be issues as time passes. But the Detwilers are committed to the adoption process. Sam is going to return to Guatemala to do medical care at the New Dawn orphanage there and they are sponsoring the salary for an orphanage worker.
And every day at work they see a fine example of a blended family all grown up.
"People say to me 'You're just like your mother,'" Meardith said. "And I take that as a compliment."