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).
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!
A few months ago we got Nicky allergy tested and it turns out he is very allergic to dogs. So we began trying to find a home for Lola. No one wants a cranky ten-year-old chihuahua. A couple weeks ago Cameron decided to see if Lola and his dog could get along. She really has always been his dog anyway. We were all surprised when the two dogs quickly learned to at least tolerate each other.
In the time since Lola moved in with Cameron Nicky’s eczema has improved at least 90%. He had some nasty patches that developed once we pulled him out of daycare (so he was around Lola 24/7). Those have pretty much all resolved. We’ve always suspected his eczema is related to allergies since Zyrtec helps, but now we know for sure.
We had Fritz allergy tested at the same time Nicky was. He is not allergic to dogs, but he is allergic to most pollens and is very allergic to leaf mold. Lola would go out and roll in the leaves and what not and bring in the allergens for Fritz to breathe. Long Haul COVID for him has included an intense increase in how his body reacts to allergens. With Lola at Cameron’s, he, too, is breathing so much better, is not as tired, and is even talking a little clearer.
It’s weird not having Lola around after 8 years, but Cameron is so happy to have her. He just loves that little dog. So between his happiness having her live with him and Fritz and Nicholas being so much healthier now, it was definitely the right choice to have her move.
Every time people come over to our house Zeke runs to the shoe hallway and hides. Because of COVID the only people in our house for most of the year he’s been with us were caseworkers. Even when we prepare him ahead of time and tell him who will be here, he still runs and when we have him come out where everyone is he is very grumpy for awhile until he gets used to them being there.
Now that people come over a little more frequently, we’ve realized that people he doesn’t know coming into our house is a huge trigger for him. Caseworkers, who sometimes are reassigned giving even less stability to a foster kid, showing up meant he’d be examined, have his picture taken, and be questioned. Sometimes it meant he’d be removed.
For a foster child, his time in the system was remarkably stable. He stayed in a shelter for a couple months, was with his grandmother for over a year, and then has been with us since last May. But it still left him with a clear fight or flight response when someone walks through the door.
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?
Jamie got his first COVID shot last week. He went to one of those mass vaccination events at the Alamodome. They’ve been doing those several weeks now so they’ve got it quite efficient. But it kind of felt like we were in a dystopian novel with the cars going through specific checkpoints and the Army tents set up for breaks for the people running it.
The first checkpoint they scanned the QR code people with appointments were emailed and IDs. They wrote on the windshield the number of shots that would be given in the vehicle and handed him four pages of paperwork to fill out. He immediately handed that to me as he does. Later he commented that if it wasn’t for me filling it out no way would he have gotten it done before they did his shot.
They have enough lanes that they can do 8 people at once. Three were running the day Jamie got his shot. It’s all done in your vehicle. You never get out. The police guided everyone into the three lanes the were using and kept order as people drove up to the tent where they administered the actual vaccine.
Jamie is not a fan of needles. He hates getting his blood drawn. He hates getting shots. There was an incident when he was little where several people had to hold him down and he’s had needle issues ever since. So he was going to look anywhere but at the guy administering the vaccine. He barely felt it when all was said and done. The anticipation is always worse.
They wrote the time of the shot +15 minutes on the windshield of the van. They had us pull up out of the administration tent. They had people checking over and collecting the paperwork (the guy commented that his job was made easy since it was filled out so well… yeah, that’s me… I love filling out forms) and setting the appointment for the second shot. They asked a couple times if he felt okay. And then, once we hit the time written on the windshield, we were free to go and Jamie had successfully gotten his first Pfizer COVID vaccine. (His arm was a little sore for a few hours, but he had no other issues from it AND he got to take administrative leave rather than use his sick leave while he was getting it.)
Last week we learned that we live on a critical circuit. There’s a nursing home across the street so we assume that is why. We never lost power. Our water pressure was down for a day or so but we always had water. We also live across the street from a water tower.
We were already quarantined for COVID so we had planned on not being able to go anywhere all week anyway. It was a bonus that other than a little bit of asynchronous stuff on Monday the kids had no school all week. It was too cold to go outside much so by the end of the week we definitely had some cabin fever going on.
Now to wait and see what our electric bill is going to look like…
Last Wednesday I took Mayci to urgent care because she had a fever and vomiting and just felt generally icky. Her rapid strep, rapid COVID, and urine dipstick were negative. Her strep and urine cultures were also negative. But her COVID PCR test was positive.
So we’re quarantined. And the “burnt tastebuds” from wasabi peas and the stuffy nose I had due to allergies weren’t from those reasons at all. Yeah, the loss of taste and smell and the muscle aches and nasty headache I had the week before Mayci got sick? COVID. Thankfully we are all fine. Everyone who has gotten sick has had a very mild case. Mayci was literally only sick one single day.
Mayci gets to go back to school on Monday. Anthony and Nicholas get to go back a week from Thursday. Adrian and Elijah don’t get to go back to school until a month from yesterday. Our ISD requires siblings to quarantine for the ten days the positive child has to stay home plus 14 more days to be 100% sure they won’t get sick. This puts them able to go back to school just before the week of spring break.
Add in below freezing temperatures because Mother Nature got lost on her way north and ended up in Texas and this is turning out to be a very memorable quarantine.
This is the first picture I took after the older four arrived at our house for the first time. We barely knew each other. We didn’t quite know what to do with so many kids. We didn’t even know how old they were!
This was way before we rearranged rooms to fit four more kids. This was even before Cameron moved into his apartment. We packed them into what was then Fritz and Adrian’s room those first few overnight visits.
The kids were living in a place without a yard so having space to play outside was so very exciting to all of them.
There was quite an adjustment after the toddlers were placed with us. Four kids two and under is intense.
Something else that’s intense is feeding all these kids. They eat a whole lot of food. Our monthly grocery budget for the 13 of us in the house is $2000.
Taking the kids to church (pre-pandemic; we home church currently) was quite an adventure. Just getting them dressed for church was a bit insane. Anthony and Nicholas were in nursery (the babies are still too young), Mayci was in Sunbeams, and Elijah was a CTR4.
For a church activity they wanted a picture of me with the kids. This proved rather difficult with four constantly moving little boys.
I got pajamas from Carters for the four littles plus Fritz and Adrian. They were quite adorable all wearing them (some have no been passed down to younger brothers).
All these boys love their father. This makes sense. He is a very awesome father.
The kids are like puppies. They are always piling up on top of each other and rolling around playing.
They also like to pile up on Jamie. There’s no toy better than your very own Daddy.
It’s funny. The babies now wear the onesie Nicholas is wearing and Nicholas wears the clothes Anthony is wearing in this picture. Elijah has outgrown the shorts and Mayci has outgrown the whole outfit. They have so incredibly much since we’ve had them.
Anthony and Nicholas needed family pictures for their classrooms at the beginning of the school year so we sat down before dinner one day and my mom snapped this one with my phone.
The littles love taking selfies with their big sister. Also, can we talk about Anthony’s smile? That child has the most beautiful smile.
We’ve gotten tie dye clothes from Vine for me, Mayci, and the twins. one day we decided to all wear them and that’s when we discovered that the base colors are all completely different!
We got little pumpkins for the four bigger little ones. They were so excited about them and immediately asked for me to take a picture of them holding their pumpkins.
Halloween was fun trick-or-treating around our little neighborhood with Anna, two skeletons, two Toy Story aliens, and a fried egg.
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).
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.
Joel loved sink baths right from the start. He’d get in there and just totally relax.
Joel is pronounced Joe-el. Most non-English speaking people in the world pronounce it that way.
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.
Joel cried a lot when we first got him. He was still getting through his withdrawals (which were thankfully never too bad for him).
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.
I love that Joel’s middle name – Aaron – is the brother to Noah’s middle name – Moses. Giving them those names was pretty creative.
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.
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.
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.
It’s always been easy to get pictures of Joel. He smiles on command and will usually stay still while you take the picture.
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.
Around four months old Joel’s hair started growing. And growing and growing and growing.
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.
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.
Joel has loved solid food since the moment he first tried it. He is one of the most unpicky children I have ever met.
He has the most beautiful eyes. They are the darkest of all of his siblings and are just so full of life.
Adrian and Joel both get to be the youngest, Adrian of Duk Family version 1 and Joel of Duk Family version 2.
One of Joel’s favorite people is Fritz. Fritz is amazing with the babies so that is not surprise.
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.
Like his brother, Joel was sick at his six month checkup. He minded the breathing treatments significantly less than Noah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once Joel started being able to army crawl, we’d always find him staring out the back door. He loves the outside.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The circular thing Joel is holding is a mirror. He still loves looking at himself in the mirror.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joel is constantly moving. He’s so busy and tests the limits of his little body all the time.
Banging doors is one of Joel’s favorite things to do. He has broken so many child locks.
Joel loves food. I don’t think there’s a single table food he has rejected. He really, really loves pizza.
He likes to eat his feet and thinks it is one of the funniest things ever.
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.
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.
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.
He has the fastest fingers in Texas. He can walk by something and grab it before we even see him move.
He will also reach up on top of counters and pull whatever his little hands can reach down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joel loves the giant bear as much as his brother does. It’s a comfy spot from which to watch Little Baby Bum.
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.
For Halloween Joel went as a fried egg. He sure was an adorable fried egg.
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.
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.
Nicholas is the only one of the The Six that I wasn’t sure if I could successfully parent. This is because he has eczema and every time we saw him he was so red and swollen and blotchy and I had no idea how to take care of skin like that.
The first time we had him over for the weekend he was only 17 months old. We weren’t actually sure how old he was. He cuddled right up to me which in hindsight is not a good thing since I was more or less a complete stranger to him.
When I look at pictures of Nicholas from the first few months we had him, I have to wonder how much pain that sweet little boy was in because of his eczema. It took a bit to get it right, but it’s easy to take care of his skin. I needn’t have worried.
Nicholas loves cars. He loves Cars (the movies), too. When we first were placed with him, he called them kies. When he’s really tired even now he’ll call them kies. Same with wahwee (water).
Nicholas did not like baths when he first arrived. I think they hurt his skin. I started adding epsom salts (and some toys) to his bathwater and suddenly he began to love baths and would play and splash for a long time. We don’t need to add epsom salts anymore since his skin has healed so much over the last few months.
Nicholas is a pretty chill kid. He does hit when he gets frustrated by a sibling (usually Anthony and almost never the babies), but usually he’s just a sweetheart.
It’s hard to get a good picture of Nicholas. He’s pretty much always in motion so so many of the pictures we take are blurry.
Ever since he moved in with us, we’ve called Nicholas Nicky. His bio family calls him Nico, but he just seemed like a Nicky to us. He has no trouble with any of the names he’s called and answers to all three (as well as Nick-o-Nick or just Nick).
He’s a really good eater, but he has a bad habit of tossing his food on the floor before getting more food and eating it. Not sure why he does that. Kids are weird. He often goes around the table after dinner sample everyone else’s leftovers.
Nicholas shares a middle name with Cameron and Jamie. That makes two of our new kids who share a middle name with an older brother.
Nicholas can sit and play on his own for so long. He’s got a crazy long attention span.
He loves one-on-one attention. Pre-COVID we’d often take one kid out with us. Nicholas got to be the one to go vote in the primaries this year. He was so good waiting in line and charmed everyone. And then they gave him a sticker so it was pretty much a perfect adventure.
I worked hard to get Nicholas to like olives. At first he thought they were gross, but since I like them he wanted to keep eating them and eventually he decided he likes them a lot. My dad likes pickled anything so sometimes the two of them have a feast together.
He talks so much. He’s been speaking in sentences since soon after we got him in January. Some of the things he says make me laugh so much.
For a while I kept saying how he talked so much and everyone else was like he really doesn’t. It turns out he was mostly just speaking to me. Now he talks to everyone.
Nicholas loves his biggest sister. When he actually stops moving for a little bit he likes to climb into her lap and cuddle. Bonus points if she’s willing to take selfies with him.
When you have little kids, silence is not golden. Silence is scary. One day the toddlers were quiet for a few minutes and we found them fully clothes in the tub with half a roll of toilet paper and the water running. Silly boys.
Nicholas has grown so much since we got him. He’s gone up a shoe size. The babies now wear the clothes he arrived in.
He’s super interested in using the potty. He’ll usually go when we ask if he wants to. Sometimes he takes off his own diaper and demands to go sit on the potty.
Ever since we got Nicholas’ skin under control and stopped his eczema flares for the most part, I’ve just been amazed at how beautiful his skin is. We worked hard to get it here.
When the toddlers arrived, they were very attached to their blankies. Over the months they’ve needed them less and less and now they mostly just stay in their beds.
It is not unusual to find Nicholas sitting and looking at a book. He will page through them one page at a time and spend a long time inspecting the pictures on each page.
Nicholas likes bubble baths now. We have to be careful since any soap at all left on his skin will leave him prickly and itchy, but it just shows how far he has come since any water made him scream.
His favorite toy on the playground at preschool is this ride on toy. He drives it around and around and is just so happy.
As part of his love of cars, Nicholas has claimed our minivan as his own. He’s pretty convinced it belongs to just him. He also often hugs our giant van good-bye when we drop him off at school.
Nicholas turned 2 the beginning of July. He’s just such a happy child. Life really is good for this guy.
We gave him a little police car for his birthday. Of course he was thrilled because it’s a car. We haven’t even had to put the batteries in yet. He just likes pushing it around.
He thinks it is great fun, as most kids do, to steal people’s glasses and wear them.
Books and cars. The two true loves of this guy. It certainly makes him an easy kid to buy presents for!
In August he moved up to Room 5 in preschool. He has easily gotten used to working in centers and even doing a little seatwork, tracing and making art projects.
When the COVID lockdowns happened, Anthony stopped going to preschool for a while and Nicholas’ body reacted by increasing his eczema flares (his are very related to consuming too much gluten and also stress). I think he had just gotten very used to being the big man on campus in charge of the babies and didn’t like his position to be disrupted.
I love it when the kids lay in their beds and “read.” Sometimes Nicholas will fall asleep looking through a book.
After several months with us Nicholas’ hair was getting pretty long. He sat so nicely watching Cars while I put lots of braids in his hair. He was so adorable and it lasted several days. A couple weeks ago we cut his hair all one length, but I’m thinking we’ll let it grow out now that it’s all even because he is so cute with the braids.
His two favorite books! He just loves that little blue truck. One book we gave one of the twins for their birthday and the other my parents gave Nicholas for his birthday. Nicholas has claimed them both.
For Halloween, Nicholas was a skeleton just like his big brother. He refused to wear it for the parade at his school, but tolerated it for trick-or-treating. He thought it was pretty neat that he and Anthony matched.
This picture is Nicholas in a nutshell. Getting his hair cut, something many kids do not enjoy, but Nicholas, with his happy-go-lucky personality and zest for life, thought it was the best thing ever.
Welcome to the Duk family, Nicholas James Alexander!