As of this moment I have 10 children.
Four of them have skin that is smooth and creamy and slightly richer than a delicious chocolate brown. They have slim bodies and exotic features and they are extremely affectionate. Most mornings when they wake up I have a cluster of at least two giving me hugs or holding my waist while I cook.
I have three children who have been with me the entire time Andy and I have been on this adventure. Two are sweet and charming. A brother and a sister, they laugh and giggle and while they enjoy their time here, they talk frequently of when they will get to go home.
The sister, my littlest girl, has long, long brown hair that I braid most evenings. Tonight we were driving home from an outing and she feel asleep in the car, with her face squished against Joey's carseat. I carried her into her bed and didn't even bother making her brush her teeth. When I set her down she furrowed her brow for a moment and I felt my heart slow - feeling her worry and confusion. I prayed peace over her and stroked her hair and the creases that don't belong on a five-year-old relaxed as she snuggled into bed.
Her brother eagerly follows Andy's every movement. Coming to our house a little soft - he has suddenly taken to dropping down in the middle of the floor and doing push ups. Today Andy did an intense workout at the gym and his little buddy did a scaled version of it too. With a smile on his face!
Our oldest boy has also been with us since the beginning. In the first month of his being here Andy and I didn't know how to love him. He was caught twice with drugs, lead revolts against our authority, and tormented Jack.
Now, he is dropping "jokes" about us adopting him. He offers to take care of Jack and Joey. He lets me hug him. He told me the other day, he is starting to think about God again.
We still wrestle with him every day. He makes some good choices, and some poor ones, but he actually cares about what we think about his actions. He is trying and he is growing.
He is a boy who will probably be with us as long as we do this job. He will never be with his family again.
After many, many years of complete estrangement from his mother, he recently asked his case worker if he could try and see her on occasion.
It took almost four weeks to make a meeting happen. One day it showed up on my calendar and I was so delighted to tell him it had finally been scheduled. He nervously got dressed and when he was picked up for the appointment he was much more silent than usual.
He came home an hour and a half before I expected him.
His mom never showed up.
He has another visit scheduled tomorrow and I'm not sure what I will do if she misses it again.
Our eighth bed is filled by the only teen girl in the house. She has been with us about two weeks. I completely underestimated the drama a post-pubescent woman-child could create.
That is all I have to say about that.
Actually, not quite all. She spent FOUR HOURS on her hair one day. When she came out she told the teen boy in the house, "I think my hair is too fluffy."
When he refused to be baited into that fishing game, she asked directly, "Do you think it looks good?"
That was a bad day.
And then, of course, Jack and Joey have the run of the house.
I am extremely grateful that to this point I have felt safe having my children around each addition we have had in our home.
Jack has heard a few too many ghost stories and now knows that Sponge Bob exists (but is quick to tell me "we don't watch Sponge Bob"). But he also has friends of all nationalities, ages, genders and backgrounds. I always have someone to buckle him in his carseat and usually he is entertained while I make dinner.
Having Jack around always gives me a reason to reject music, tv or video games that are inappropriate. Even if the kids in my home don't understand why I would care about what they watch or listen to, they understand when I say that Jack can't.
I have to teach most of the kids how to play with Joey. One boy put Joey on the kitchen counter and turned around for a second - long enough for Joey to throw himself headfirst onto our tile. Joey was fine. I spent longer reassuring the one who thought he had hurt my baby, than I did calming Joey down. Joey is a gift to each of us living here. He smiles at nothing, he cries with people who cry and he makes everybody laugh.
I can't control my boys' worlds like I thought I would be at this point in their lives, but their worlds are now deeper and wider and richer than I could have ever imagined was possible.
This job would not work without both of us. Andy is steady, and fun, and a MAN.
When I look at my husband I am simultaneously amazed by his strength and filled with wonder at the ways he has softened through this experience.
I'm not sure how to describe it, except to say that I am so very glad that I am married to him and feel infinitely lucky to be the one he gives his love and protection and support to.
It is a good life I am living today.