This has been a busy year for us. I simultaneously can’t figure out how the time has gone by so fast and how we fit so much into just twelve months. Tomorrow will be 2022 and the start of twelve more months of adventures.

In January Fritz and Adrian got their first semester report cards for 7th and 9th grades and both did amazing for their first time in public school since kindergarten and second grade. We also continued trying to figure out just how much food to make to feed our small army (spoiler alert: it’s always too much or too little).

In February we put up a baby urinal in our bathroom and it’s been the best thing we could have done. There was more figuring out how to feed our small army (we’ve pretty much got it down now). We got a playground put up in our backyard. We ended up with COVID in the house and had to quarantine at the same time pretty much the entire state of Texas shut down due to a freak snowstorm and crazy cold (we got lucky and never lost power).

In March I started getting more creative with Mayci’s hair. All the adults in the house got vaccinated for COVID. Zeke turned six on Pi Day. The next day Noah had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids and have tubes put in his ears. We got brave and took all six kids to HEB for the first time.

In April I sprained my foot when I gracefully fell down the stairs of The Beast. We also discovered Zeke has hair like Fritz’s: It grows SO fast!

In May our six-year-old officially changed his name to Zeke. School got out and so Mayci finished pre-k, Zeke finished kindergarten, Adrian finished 7th grade, and Fritz finished 9th grade.

In June the kids were bored of their 11-week summer vacation within about 30 seconds so we started our summer schedule which continued the entire summer and worked great. We got Fritz’s end of course results (all three passed). We entered Birthday Season when Adrian turned 13 on Juneteenth. The end of the month the twins turned two.

In July we got Adrian’s STAAR test results (he did great especially because it was his first time taking that sort of test). On the 6th Nicholas turned 3. And then on the 11th Fritz turned 15. Adrian saved all year and enlisted the help of a few other people in order to give Fritz an Oculus Quest 2 for his birthday. On the 18th Anthony turned 4 ending our intense streak of five birthdays in less than three weeks. Fritz got all registered for the virtual school for 10th grade.

In August we finished birthday season on the 2nd when Mayci turned 5. Zeke and Mayci both took off in their reading (best decision ever to work on teaching them how to read over the summer). We found out who the three elementary schoolers’ teachers would be (they’ve all been the perfect teacher for each kid, especially Zeke’s). In the middle of the month it was time for four of the kids to be off to pre-k, kindergarten, 1st, and 8th grades (and Nicky moved to a new room at preschool). A week later Fritz started 10th grade. Just before the end of the month my beautiful mother turned three-quarters of a century old.

In September we started getting monthly boxes of Young Adult books from Literati for Adrian (love those books). Dance classes started up for Zeke and Mayci. I did the most complicated and beautiful hairstyle on Mayci that I’ve done so far (53 twists). The twins moved out of their cribs and into their big boy beds. We took four of the kids to the movies for the first time. Mayci went to dance camp at the high school and got to perform at halftime at a football game.

In October we pulled Nicholas out of preschool. We got the four littlest boys new church clothes. I did some fancy hair on both Mayci and Haley. We had some really cute costumed kids on Halloween.

In November Jamie and I went to see The Beach Boys again. Lola moved in with Cameron and Tami and it’s helped Nicky’s eczema so much (he’s allergic to dogs). We celebrated Jamie’s 46th birthday and one year since we adopted the kids by playing at a trampoline park. We got our family pictures taken. I started having more time to read again thanks to Haley playing with the twinplets six hours a week and the kids getting a little older and more independent.

In December Nicky suddenly started looking much older and bigger than his little brothers. Anthony’s dreams came true when we put a Christmas tree in our living room. My Daddy turned 77 on Christmas Eve.

And now here we are on New Year’s Eve looking forward to what 2022 will bring us. We know a few things like Trek for the big boys, Fritz being ordained to the office of Priest, Birthday Season ending with us having 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14 and 16-year-olds, Ani turning 22 in February, Zeke turning 7 in March, me turning 44 in April, Cameron turning 21 in October, and Jamie turning 47 in November the same day we hit two years since the kids were adopted, and having kids starting pre-k, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 11th grades in August. Whatever else 2022 has in store for us, I know it will be awesome!

Undesirable, but normal, behaviors

Kids adopted from foster care all have trauma of some sort. This means we’re always wondering if various behaviors are trauma responses or not. All kids do things that are not okay in polite society. More and more our kids’ behaviors are just normal, undesirable behaviors.

For example, Zeke is constantly telling his siblings he’s going to go into someone else’s garden (the fact he calls people’s yards their garden is adorable). This makes Mayci and Anthony cry every time so of course that encourages him to say it more. Ironically, the only kids who actually have gone into someone else’s yard (by using the trampoline ladder to climb the fence) was Mayci and Anthony. Zeke has never even so much as attempted to do it. He just likes teasing his younger siblings.

Another example is Anthony walking past a siblings and smacking them upside the head. He mostly does this to Mayci because it’s sure to get a huge response out of her. He’s a bit of a chaos creator anyway so it’s pretty exciting for him when she melts down. He’s really fast at smacking his siblings and really good at waiting until the moment we turn our backs so we almost never see him actually hitting.

There are other things they do as well that we’d rather they not do, and we’re working on getting them to stop, But they are just normal kid things. And as undesirable as those behaviors are, sometimes we are happy to see them because they are so normal.

46 and One Year

Forty-six years ago Friday the most important guy in my life was born. One year ago Friday we doubled our flock when we adopted the most amazing six kids in the world.

To celebrate, we went to a trampoline park and jumped for an hour (in between interviews with the news and meeting with some people from the adoptions unit of DFPS – a year later we are still very weird). Then we came home and had cake and pizza (in that order). It was a good day.

Meet Zeke

Elijah’s working through some stuff related to his old life, his new life, and getting adopted. He’s been struggling with being called by a name given to him by his bio parents.

We told him he could pick any name he wants. We gave him the second middle name of Ezekiel when we adopted him so he settled on Zeke.

He’s been visibly more relaxed since we started calling him Zeke. So meet Zeke, one awesome six-year-old boy!

Trauma, different ways

We’ve had all six kids in our home for just under a year now. It’s very interesting how trauma from what they experienced will work its way out every so often, generally when we least expect it.

Ani took Mayci to spend the night with her while she was pet/housesitting a few weeks ago. Mayci fully believed she was now living in that house. She even referred to our house as the Duks’ house. She was very little when they moved very often and were homeless at times, but clearly it left her not fully secure or totally understanding when we say “this is forever.” Who knows how long it will take her to truly internalize it.

The older two boys show the most signs of what DFPS calls “neglectful supervision.” This makes sense. They were almost 4 and 1 1/2 at removal and so had been in the situation longer than Nicholas who was only 6 months old (the twins were born after the older four were removed and so never lived in that situation).

Mayci, however, doesn’t show any signs. Instead she was horribly spoiled. This also makes sense. She was the only girl. At removal she was 2 1/2, but she was spoiled by her caregiver after removal as well. Being overly indulged can cause just as many problems for a kid as being neglected.

You wouldn’t think being spoiled is a trauma that needs to be worked through, but it really is. And we are very excited to see her begin to show remorse for breaking rules and understanding why sometimes she has to take a time out or say sorry for what she has done.

Trauma is a strange thing. The same experience can affect different kids very differently. One thing is for sure about trauma, though. It will work its way out eventually and that can be very hard.

Would you skip from 2019 to now?

Speaking in Conference, President Nelson was talking about the pandemic and how things have been and lessons learned and said some would probably like to skip from April 2019 to now avoiding the whole thing altogether. Adrian said he would, but then I reminded him that means he wouldn’t have six little siblings and he said in that case he definitely wouldn’t want to skip.

Adopting six kids in the middle of a pandemic has definitely been odd. Until things shut down we were having Elijah and Mayci over every other weekend. For a couple months we only ever saw them on Skype. Several planned visits to see their bio grandma and aunts and uncles have been cancelled due to exposure. We didn’t take them out in public all together for about an entire year.

I agree with Adrian. No way would I skip. Can you imagine what we would’ve missed out on if 2020 never happened?

I’m 43 today!

The Silver Lining

Two years ago Trump was throwing a temper tantrum which was the longest government shutdown in history. Jamie, being essential, was working but not getting paid until it was over. So many people, known and unknown, were incredibly kind to us. So we decided to pay it forward and that’s why we became foster parents and ultimately adopted our six little ones. So now that Trump’s reign has finally ended, at least there is one positive thing that came out of his presidency.

Introducing… Joel Aaron Malachi!

September 2019

The first time we met Joel he had a big head on a tiny body and a pacifier labeled with his name (still not sure how the first foster family managed to only have two pacifiers, labeled with their names, and didn’t lose them).

September 2019

I don’t think Fritz had ever held a baby before. From the time he held the first twin, he was in love with his new baby brothers.

September 2019

Joel loved sink baths right from the start. He’d get in there and just totally relax.

September 2019

Joel is pronounced Joe-el. Most non-English speaking people in the world pronounce it that way.

September 2019

Oldests and youngests always have a special bond. That, apparently, applies in our family with both the oldest and youngest bio and the youngest adopted kid.

September 2019

Joel cried a lot when we first got him. He was still getting through his withdrawals (which were thankfully never too bad for him).

September 28, 2019 – 3 Months Old

Most of the time, though, Joel has always been a smiley, happy little guy. He started smiling about a month after we got him and has hardly quit since.

October 2019

I love that Joel’s middle name – Aaron – is the brother to Noah’s middle name – Moses. Giving them those names was pretty creative.

October 2019

My best friend came to visit over Christmas last year and she and Joel just totally bonded. So that’s why his second middle name is now Malachi. She always wanted to name a son Malachi so he’s named in honor of my best friend.

October 2019

Like his brother, Joel got huge very quickly in our home. At the CPS Christmas party our caseworker showed them to her supervisor, who helped bring them to our home, and he was so surprised they were the same babies.

October 2019

Often while Jamie was holding tiny Joel, the baby would be completely fascinated by what Jamie was looking at on his phone. You’d think it was a game or something brightly colored the way he was so into it. Nope. The news.

October 28, 2019 – 4 Months Old

It’s always been easy to get pictures of Joel. He smiles on command and will usually stay still while you take the picture.

October 2019

Even before he started eating table foods, we’d have Joel in a high chair at the table playing with toys. Sometimes he’d just fall asleep.

October 2019

Around four months old Joel’s hair started growing. And growing and growing and growing.

November 2019

The funny thing is the bald spot he had rubbed on the back of his head like most babies do stayed so much thinner than the rest of his hair.

November 28, 2019 – 5 Months Old

Even after cutting his hair short recently (which made him look so big!), that formerly bald spot still has less hair than the rest of his head.

December 2019

Joel has loved solid food since the moment he first tried it. He is one of the most unpicky children I have ever met.

December 2019

He has the most beautiful eyes. They are the darkest of all of his siblings and are just so full of life.

December 2019

Adrian and Joel both get to be the youngest, Adrian of Duk Family version 1 and Joel of Duk Family version 2.

December 2019

One of Joel’s favorite people is Fritz. Fritz is amazing with the babies so that is not surprise.

December 28, 2019 – 6 Months Old

The twins are fraternal, but without their hair as a clue, it’s actually not super easy to tell them apart if they aren’t right next to each other.

December 2019

Like his brother, Joel was sick at his six month checkup. He minded the breathing treatments significantly less than Noah.

January 2020

Starting at the time they began to eat solids and then continuing for several months, we let them play with bits of food during dinner on bath nights. They’d make huge messes. Joel absolutely loved food playtime.

January 2020

He didn’t, however, like the getting clean after playing in the food part. It took him a long time after switching to the big tub from the sink for him to start liking baths.

January 28, 2020 – 7 Months Old

I love Joel’s curls. Even with his hair cut short like it is now, he’s got the cutest little curls above his ears.

February 2020

Joel has always been the winner in the sprouting teeth contest. He’s already got all the teeth he will get until his 2-year-old molars.

February 2020

Like all of his siblings, Joel loves books. He pages through them and studies the pages spending much longer than I’d expect for a baby his age.

February 2020

Once Joel started being able to army crawl, we’d always find him staring out the back door. He loves the outside.

February 2020

At seven months he started crawling. He had been army crawling for quite a while by then. Getting places on his own was so exciting for him.

February 2020

The first time – only time thanks to COVID – we took the littles to Taco Cabana, he thought it was the best thing ever to be able to sit up in a high chair where he could see everything that was going on.

February 2020

Dinnertime before the babies started feeding themselves involved them sitting at the table in their high chairs and playing with toys while the rest of us ate (they were fed before we sat down at the table).

February 28, 2020 – 8 Months Old

By eight months, Joel’s hair was hitting peak craziness. I’d brush it down every morning and within a half hour it was reaching great heights once again.

March 2020

The circular thing Joel is holding is a mirror. He still loves looking at himself in the mirror.

March 2020

He was never much of a thumb sucker, very much preferring his pacifier. But when those back teeth started trying to come in that thumb was often in there providing the pressure he needed when he bit down to help his gums feel better.

March 2020

Sitting up on his own was the coolest thing to Joel. It was extra cool when he figured out how to go from laying down or crawling to sitting up.

March 2020

Joel is super smart. He and Noah come up with plans and then totally carry them out. The things they come up with are pretty impressive.

March 28, 2020 – 9 Months Old

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby quite as happy as Joel. He is truly the perfect baby of a ten child family.

April 2020

Joel thinks it is great fun to climb into the dishwasher. Bonus if he can pull out a few dishes before we get there to take him out.

April 2020

By nine months old he knew just how to pose in cute ways. As soon as he sees our phones in the picture taking position he immediately makes sure he looks cute.

April 2020

Eventually Joel’s hair got long enough to put up in a little spout ponytail while was seriously the cutest thing. That’s the only sad thing about his current short haircut.

April 28, 2020 – Ten Months Old

Joel is constantly moving. He’s so busy and tests the limits of his little body all the time.

May 2020

Banging doors is one of Joel’s favorite things to do. He has broken so many child locks.

May 2020

Joel loves food. I don’t think there’s a single table food he has rejected. He really, really loves pizza.

May 2020

He likes to eat his feet and thinks it is one of the funniest things ever.

May 2020

Every time we put him in the big bathtub he just screamed and screamed, so even though he was pretty big compared to the sink at that point, we went back to sink baths for a while.

May 28, 2020 – 11 Months Old

When we stopped putting the babies exclusively in onesies and started dressing them in shorts and t-shirts sometimes, they immediately seemed to become so much bigger.

June 2020

When Joel was ten months old he started walking. That’s when things had to be moved just a little higher and out of his reach.

June 2020

He has the fastest fingers in Texas. He can walk by something and grab it before we even see him move.

June 28, 2020 – 1 Year Old

He will also reach up on top of counters and pull whatever his little hands can reach down.

July 2020

If he thinks he’s done something cute, he’ll say, “Awwww!” just like we do. Which of course makes us say it back to him because, really, that’s just cute.

August 2020

All of his big siblings got backpacks for school and Joel felt very left out so we got the twins little toddler backpacks. Joel was quite please with his tiny backpack.

September 2020

This picture is a re-creation of a selfie Ani took with Joel right after he was placed with us. He took up a lot more of the screen at 14 months than he did at two.

September 2020

Then there came the day when I heard suspicious noises coming from the dining room and upon investigation found Joel up on the table. Once he could climb, absolutely nothing was safe anymore.

October 2020

One day I had to take Anthony to the ENT and left Ani in charge of the twins. Clearly they were all tired since when I got back all three were asleep on the couch.

October 2020

Joel loves the giant bear as much as his brother does. It’s a comfy spot from which to watch Little Baby Bum.

October 2020

This was the day, waiting for the doctor to get in the room, that Joel started saying “cheese” when he was getting his picture taken.

October 2020

For Halloween Joel went as a fried egg. He sure was an adorable fried egg.

November 2020

Ani often get fries from McDonald’s and Joel is always quite happy when she does. He’ll grab a whole handful and eat every bit of it.

November 2020

He was so incredibly well behaved when I cut his hair for the first time a couple weeks ago. He sat nice and still for me.

November 2020

Welcome to the Duk family, Joel Aaron Malachi!