Happy 2021

For a lot of people 2020 was pretty terrible. For our family it wasn’t so bad. We did, after all, adopt six kids so there was never a dull moment for us even in lockdown.

By the end of 2021 my kids will be 21, 20, 15, 13, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 2.

Four of my kids will finish 9th, 7th, kindergarten, and pre-k in June.

In August I’ll have kids in 10th, 8th, 1st, kindergarten, and pre-k.

Only Nicholas will be left at the preschool.

In April I will turn 43 and Jamie will be 46 in November.

Even with a pandemic going on, 2021 is sure to be another great year.

(I took these pictures on Wednesday which was glitz and glamour day at the boys’ preschool. I managed to get exactly zero with both of them looking at the camera.)

Happy New Year!

Christmas 2020

The kids went to bed easily on Christmas Eve so we got everything set out and headed to bed ourselves. Instead of wrapping the kids’ gifts (they each got an ornament, something to play with, a book, and clothes – except for Ani and Cameron who got a second thing to play with instead of clothes) I decided to just make one box for each of them. With ten kids that saved a ton of time!

Adrian knew about the kids’ scooters, but didn’t know we had also gotten two adult scooters for him and Fritz. The night before he had been a bit jealous about the little kid scooters. He was so surprised and excited when he discovered there were actually six scooters instead of four and one was for him.

The kids love books. Mayci opened hers (The Princess in Black) to look through it before pulling anything else out of her box. Adrian finished reading his entire book (The Odd 1s Out First Sequel) by the next day.

Mayci found a note from Santa in her box directing her to go to her room. She was so surprised to find Santa had been in there setting up her very own little vanity.

Fritz loves a good pun so he was quite happy with his shirt. It had a stick figure looking at a sign that reads BAD. Underneath the picture it says, “That is not a good sign.”

Noah was up at 4am on Christmas Eve for who knows what reason. We’d had this kitchen in a box waiting to be put together and reviewed since September. We hadn’t planned when we would give it to the kids, but I took the opportunity early Christmas Eve morning to put it together and so we ended up giving it to them on Christmas.

Once Noah figured out how to pull the paper off his box he was pretty excited to find some of his favorite blocks (the magnetic foam kind) inside.

The kids’ bio grandmother dropped off some presents for them on Christmas Eve. They opened them Christmas morning. Anthony was thrilled to find red shoes in his package. He absolutely loves those shoes.

The babies (really all the kids) really like Little Baby Bum. I don’t know what it is about Little Baby Bum specifically because other animated songs videos don’t capture the twins’ attention at all. Just Little Baby Bum. My parents gave them a Twinkle star that lights up and sings.

We often get clothes to dress the babies similarly but not identically. These little dinosaur outfits with knee patches are just too cute on them. The only difference in the outfits is the background color being yellow on one and blue on the other (we have a third one of these outfits, also in yellow, for Nicholas because he’s pretty much their slightly older triplet).

Nicholas is just such a happy go lucky independent little guy. When getting his picture taken he often wrinkles up his face and says, “CHEESE!” I just love that face. I’m going to be so sad when he stops making it.

Santa gave Elijah a car kit with a toy drill. I wasn’t sure if he’d like it or not, but it turned out to be a giant hit. He spent a long time putting it together (and taking it apart). My father was more than happy to help him with it.

Fritz has been having a bit of a rough time healthwise for months now. He was feeling pretty icky on Christmas so he curled up on the couch under his blanket to read a book my parents gave him.

Unfortunately Cameron and his girlfriend Tami couldn’t come over on Christmas because Tami was sick with what we assume is COVID (test isn’t back quite yet). We Zoomed with them to open our gifts. Anthony was especially happy to see Cameron on the screen. Anthony absolutely adores his biggest brother.

Becoming a Family

December 2010

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!

January 2020

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.

January 2020

The kids were living in a place without a yard so having space to play outside was so very exciting to all of them.

January 2020

There was quite an adjustment after the toddlers were placed with us. Four kids two and under is intense.

January 2020

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.

January 2020

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.

February 2020

For a church activity they wanted a picture of me with the kids. This proved rather difficult with four constantly moving little boys.

March 2020

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).

April 2020

All these boys love their father. This makes sense. He is a very awesome father.

April 2020

The kids are like puppies. They are always piling up on top of each other and rolling around playing.

May 2020

They also like to pile up on Jamie. There’s no toy better than your very own Daddy.

May 2020

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.

August 2020

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.

September 2020

The littles love taking selfies with their big sister. Also, can we talk about Anthony’s smile? That child has the most beautiful smile.

October 2020

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!

October 2020

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.

October 2020

Halloween was fun trick-or-treating around our little neighborhood with Anna, two skeletons, two Toy Story aliens, and a fried egg.

Twinsies

September 2019

The twins came with this double boppy. It was an absolute lifesaver for the first few months.

September 2019

Feeding bottles to two babies at once is pretty intense. A friend commented that we must have been relieved when they started holding their own bottles. The thing is… they still don’t usually hold their own bottles!

September 2019

I really had fun shopping for twin clothes on Amazon. We ended up picking very few identical outfits, but instead coordinating ones like these adorable ketchup and mustard onesies.

October 2019

We had to quickly learn about bottles and formula and cribs, things we never dealt with when our bio kids were babies.

October 2019

At the beginning they ate about every three hours around the clock. That added up to a whole lot of lost sleep.

November 2019

When the babies were four months old, Hank Smith, who has school age twins, tweeted that having twins means it’s 3am and he’s holding a baby, his wife is holding a baby, and all four of them are crying. He was not wrong.

November 2019

Having twins isn’t like just having the work one baby twice. It’s like you have the work of 47 babies. There are just so many babies.

November 2019

Infant carseats are another thing we didn’t really do with our bio kids. We went right for the convertible seats. With twins infant seats are a downright necessity.

November 2019

I think the Harry Potter onesies I got for the boys were my favorites of all their clothes. Got to introduce them to an amazing fandom early.

November 2019

They napped a lot on that twin boppy. It was always really funny when they would end up laying the same way. They are definitely twins!

November 2019

After naps one day I put Joel in Noah’s crib to take a picture of them as the Hulk and Spidey. They immediately linked arms.

December 2019

Sitting on Santa’s lap their first Christmas did not even phase them. I’m not sure it’ll be so easy this year. Stranger danger is strong with these two.

December 2019

The best and worst thing about tiny twins is being able to dress them in matching clothes and having to buy two of each of those outfits. I was surprised how long they were willing to leave on their Santa hats.

January 2020

We didn’t expect to have the twins as long as until Christmas and definitely not into the new year. By the end of 2019 we had said we would adopt them (plus their older siblings) and it looked like that was really where things were headed.

January 2020

These two born together boys are indeed friends forever. They recognized each other early on and I think they realize at this point that there is something special about having a same age sibling. They really have a special bond.

January 2020

One minute they are planning some scheme to carry out together. The next they are in a WWE knockdown, dragout fight.

January 2020

Jamie’s gotten good at carrying the twins at the same time. That is a lot of baby. At this point we’re talking 50 pounds of baby.

February 2020

Church with twins means you hear and see nothing, but instead are just hanging out with the twins in a place you don’t normally hang out with them.

February 2020

These expressions are pretty common ones for the boys. Joel is always getting into stuff and Noah is always looking at him like why did you do that.

February 2020

This might be the moment the twins became friends. They sat looking at each other for a really long time “talking” back and forth.

March 2020

When one twin is sad, the other twin will often try to comfort him. This includes when the source of sadness is their twin.

May 2020

They egg each other on about carrying out plans like trying to get through the doggy door (poor Lola… she has to bark at the door when she wants to go out now since the doggy door almost always has to remain locked right now).

June 2020

They enjoyed smashing up their cupcakes and making a general mess at their first birthday party.

September 2020

I don’t get nearly as many pictures of the twins together as I used to because they are just always on the go and don’t tend to both sit still at once anymore.

September 2020

One day the babies were being entirely too quiet in the kitchen. Upon investigation I discovered they had gotten a thing of oil out of the cabinet (a cabinet they had previously broken the child lock off of), opened it, poured some out on the floor, and were having a great time playing it in. The oil got moved up high that day.

October 2020

Sometimes the twins divide and conquer. In October, Joel learned how to open our front door and quickly learned how to see if it was locked (can’t get out) or not (can get out). One day, as I chased Joel down in our front yard, Noah stayed inside happily banging away on my laptop.

October 2020

Having twins is fun, exciting, difficult, trying, and never a dull moment. I never wanted twins, but it sure is a blast having them.

November 2020

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!

Introducing… Nicholas James Alexander!

December 2019

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.

December 2019

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.

January 2020

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.

January 2020

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).

January 2020

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.

February 2020

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.

February 2020

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.

February 2020

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).

February 2020

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.

February 2020

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.

March 2020

Nicholas can sit and play on his own for so long. He’s got a crazy long attention span.

March 2020

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.

March 2020

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.

March 2020

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.

March 2020

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.

April 2020

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.

April 2020

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.

April 2020

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.

May 2020

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.

May 2020

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.

May 2020

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.

June 2020

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.

June 2020

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.

June 2020

His favorite toy on the playground at preschool is this ride on toy. He drives it around and around and is just so happy.

June 2020

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.

July 2020

Nicholas turned 2 the beginning of July. He’s just such a happy child. Life really is good for this guy.

July 2020

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.

July 2020

He thinks it is great fun, as most kids do, to steal people’s glasses and wear them.

July 2020

Books and cars. The two true loves of this guy. It certainly makes him an easy kid to buy presents for!

August 2020

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.

September 2020

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.

September 2020

I love it when the kids lay in their beds and “read.” Sometimes Nicholas will fall asleep looking through a book.

October 2020

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.

October 2020

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.

October 2020

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.

November 2020

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.

November 2020

Welcome to the Duk family, Nicholas James Alexander!

Introducing… Anthony Michael John!

December 2019

The first time we met Anthony, the first weekend we had them for an extended sibling visit/respite, he was so shy and quiet. I’m not sure he said even a single word to us that whole weekend.

January 2020

Soon after he was placed with us on January 8th, he became very attached to Jamie. Having a daddy was pretty much the best thing in life for him.

January 2020

He loves books. He loves to look at them on his own and he loves to be read to. We spent a lot of time the first few weeks reading to him. It really helped calm the storm raging inside him.

January 2020

We we first got him he wasn’t a fan of baths. He much preferred to wash himself using baby wipes. Over time he started to enjoy them much more. This picture was taken seconds before he took that cup full of water and dumped it over the side of the tub all over my legs.

February 2020

When we first got Anthony he was in nursery at church. He always wanted one of us to stay with him in there. Since we haven’t had in-person church since March, the next time they have primary he’ll already be a Sunbeam!

February 2020

Anthony has trouble with speech. When we first got him this caused a lot of meltdowns. When try to tell someone you want something, after a while you get really angry that they don’t understand you.

February 2020

He’s a good helper. He helps clean up toys with just a little direction. He loves to help in the kitchen. He is even helpful with his baby brothers.

February 2020

He started preschool at a place near us a month or so after we got him. He has been in daycare since birth and loves the structure and learning. He even says one girl in his class is his “girlfriend” (he’s actually quite popular with several of the little ladies).

February 2020

Over time we’ve gotten better at understanding him and his speech has gotten better. He’s on three allergy medicines to try to help since a lot of his issue is non-infected fluid stuffing up his head.

March 2020

Understanding him better has really helped with the meltdowns. Sometimes we still don’t understand him (about 25% of the time at this point), but he can show us what he needs now without words when can’t figure out what he’s telling us so that helps a lot.

March 2020

The first time his hearing was tested, he had moderate hearing loss (that’s when the third allergy medicine was added). He’s still at the bottom of normal, though.

March 2020

At first, Anthony did not like me at all. He depended on me to feed, clothe, and diaper him (he was attached), but he was very angry that he had yet another female caregiver in his life (he was not bonded). After a couple months he decided I wasn’t horrible. It took another couple month for him to start really liking me and another couple months after that for him to actually begin bonding to me.

April 2020

Because Anthony bonded with Jamie very quickly, a lot of the non-technical part of caregiving fell to him which was exhausting for Jamie because Anthony was understandably high needs at that point and Jamie was dealing with what the doctors believe was the after affects of undiagnosed COVID.

April 2020

Sleep is a big issue for Anthony. He wakes often during the night. At first he would cry for 2-3 hours every night. Eventually he stopped crying when he woke up but he was just awake. He’s staying in his bed until at least 5 now 3-4 nights a week.

May 2020

He had a sleep study a couple months ago and he has mild sleep apnea. The theory is he wakes up from that and is hungry and can’t fall back to sleep quickly (he has delayed sleep issues no matter when he goes to sleep). Even if we feed him in the middle of the night it still takes a while for him to go back to sleep.

May 2020

Since his sleep apnea is almost definitely related to his giant tonsils and his speech issues are likely related at least in part to his swollen adenoids, he is having surgery next month to remove those so hopefully we’ve got a plan that will help his speech and sleep to improve.

June 2020

Most of the time Anthony is truly a joy to have around. His smile just lights up the room. His belly laugh is super contagious, too.

June 2020

He’s a big fan of sweet things. Ice cream, cake, donuts, you name it, he likes it. He was really picky when we first got him, but that is getting better over time as he is introduced to different foods and finding his actual likes and dislikes.

June 2020

Anthony is less than a year younger than Mayci. Not only do they have practically the same face, they are very close. The first thing they did when Mayci was placed with us was hug for about 5 minutes. They had missed each other so much.

July 2020

Anthony’s birthday is a palindrome which is almost as awesome as Elijah’s birthday being Ultimate Pi Day. He was born on 7/18/17.

August 2020

In August, he moved up to Room 7 at preschool. He loves his class, though he’s sad he lost his favorite teacher last month. He’ll get to see her again next year, though. She’s now working as an assistant teacher in Mayci’s pre-k classroom!

August 2020

He loves playing on the playground. Slides are his favorite thing. He is pretty happy that he gets to go out and play on the playground at school a couple times every day.

September 2020

When Anthony gets frustrated he doesn’t exactly cry, but rather fuss hums in a very irritating way. When he first arrived he was almost constantly doing that. As the storms inside have calmed down, he hardly does it anymore.

October 2020

For Halloween he was a skeleton. He loved dressing up both for the parade at his school and for trick-or-treating.

November 2020

Anthony enjoys all aspects of school. He likes playing in the center and he also likes the seatwork. They don’t push at the preschool he goes to and if a kid wants to scribble instead of trace, that is okay. They are still very little. At first Anthony would just scribble, but he’s getting really good at tracing now.

November 2020

A few weeks ago, he had to get his blood drawn in preparation for his surgery. He was so good about keeping his mask on and he was cooperative when they actually took his blood even though it hurt. He’s such a good, sweet kid.

November 2020

Welcome to the Duk family, Anthony Michael John!

Introducing… Mayci Celia Kerry!

December 2019

Mayci is the princess. She’s sassy and funny and full of life. She can be very dramatic, especially when she doesn’t get her way. She’s got a beautiful smile and a dimple in the wrong place.

January 2020

She loves pink. She’d wear pink every day if we let her. She is seriously the most girly girl.

February 2020

Mayci’s original middle name is pronounced with a short e. Sell-ee-uh. She was born on August 2nd, the same day as Jamie’s mom. She turned 4 this summer, but she keeps asking if she is 5 yet.

February 2020

Mayci loves having a daddy. She’s not sure what to think of Jamie’s stubble. She always tells him he can’t kiss her if he hasn’t shaved recently because she doesn’t want her cheek to be scratched.

March 2020

Mayci is super smart. She’s already got most of the letters down and the sound most of them make. She’s a leader in her pre-k classroom. Her teacher has nothing but good things to say about her.

May 2019

When she arrived at our house permanently, she was wearing size 3T. She quickly progressed to size 4T and now, just 6 months later, she’s in size 5.

May 2020

When she got here I had no idea how to do it or care for it. I’ve learned over time and now her hair is growing and so healthy and is cute, too.

May 2020

When she arrived at our house, Mayci had been extremely spoiled and was used to getting her way no matter what. Elijah even told us the most important thing was to keep Mayci from crying no matter what.

May 2020

It wasn’t easy for her to get used to not always getting her way. Sometimes she didn’t want to be here. She regularly told us we just weren’t fair to her. Over time she has gotten used to our rules and has become a much more pleasant little girl.

`July 2020

Ani always wanted a sister and was really annoyed I never produced one for her. Little did she know her little sister wasn’t to be born until 2016 and she wouldn’t meet her until she was 3. They are both pretty happy to be sisters forever.

August 2020

For her birthday we got her hair braided. She loved picking out the beads to go on the ends of her braids. She just picked random colors and loved the result so much.

August 2020

She was just ever so pleased with her braids and beads and felt super pretty. I am working on learning how to braid (with the help of a haircare course I highly recommend to white adoptive parents from Tutus and Tennis Shoes) so next time I can do a fancy braid myself.

August 2020

In August she started pre-k. All kids who have been or are in DFPS custody get free pre-k in Texas. She absolutely loves going to school. She loves her teacher and she loves learning. She’s disappointed when the weekend comes and she can’t go to school.

September 2020

Mayci loves anything related to beauty. She more or less willingly wears her satin bonnet at night to keep her hair from getting frizzy and to protect styles from getting destroyed over night. She loves getting her nails painted and watching Ani do her make-up.

September 2020

She loves bows so much. Big bows, little bows, one at a time, two at a time, matching or not, she just loves to have bows in her hair.

October 2020

When Mayci first came to us she really needed a nap every day. Over time she no longer absolutely needed it so when she turned 4 we told her it was up to her now whether she naps or not. Sometimes, though, she still needs a little extra sleep.

October 2020

Every weekday she does great walking about a half mile home from school. She does great wearing her mask in school keeping it over both her nose and mouth, too.

October 2020

For Halloween she dressed up as Anna. She loves Frozen so much. And, man, she is one beautiful little girl!

November 2020

Welcome to the Duk family, Mayci Celia Kerry!

Introducing… Elijah David Ezekiel!

December 2019

Elijah is the sweetest 5-year-old ever. He’s so loving and caring. He was born on Ultimate Pi Day which seems so perfect for a member of our family.

January 2020

The first time he spent the weekend during a pre-placement visit, he did not want to come. He didn’t know us and had barely seen us when we dropped off and picked up the twins for visitation.

January 2020

Before COVID hit, he came to stay four weekends. He eventually got used to us and our house. He started getting comfortable. And then COVID hit.

February 2020

Because of COVID we no longer were able to have him come spend pre-placement weekends with us so we started visiting via Skype. Elijah does not like to visit via Skype.

May 2020

Finally, on May 15th, he arrived at our house permanently and was officially placed on the 18th. The children were reunited and our family was all together.

June 2020

When he arrived, he had a hurricane going on inside his little body. Meltdowns had been a near daily occurrence for a long time for him. He was an angry little boy.

June 2020

Slowly, he relaxed. Slowly, he started to trust us. From the start he and I just clicked. He’s a words of affirmation like I am so showing him love the way he understands it just came naturally.

July 2020

Soon his meltdowns pretty much disappeared (he still had a couple related to CPS visits, but that’s because he was afraid they’d remove him from our home and so totally understandable). He settled into life as our fifth little Dukling.

July 2020

When he arrived at our house, he had long, beautiful hair that he would use to hide behind when he was feeling anxious. After a month or so he always wanted his hair in a ponytail with his face showing. And then he asked to get his hair cut.

July 2020

I was so surprised when he picked a short style. I was thinking maybe he’d go for shoulder length since he was used to it long. But no, he wanted it short. As adorable as he was with long hair, he’s super adorable with short, too!

August 2020

He started kindergarten, virtually, in August. He’s working so hard learning his letters and numbers. He has a few educational struggles related to his early years, but he’s catching up so fast.

August 2020

Elijah is so much fun. He is enjoying learning taekwondo. He loves to organize his very large car collection (especially the cars from Cars). He enjoys drawing and coloring, both things he is quite talented at.

October 2020

He has grown so much since we got him. In May size 4T was loose on him. Just 6 months later and I’m thinking it won’t be long until he moves up to size 6!

October 2020

His favorite color is red. He looks amazing in jewel tones. He’s just a seriously happy kid now. The hurricane has been calmed.

October 2020

For Halloween he was an alien from Toy Story. He got so excited when I found that costume in a pile given to us by a friend because there was also one that fit the babies so his little brother could match him. He still asks if we can go trick-or-treating again “tomorrow.”

November 2020

Because of COVID, we’ve been having church at home. Even though we could go to the building for Sacrament Meeting now, we’ve decided to keep doing it at home for now. A couple weeks ago it was Elijah’s turn to give the talk in Sacrament Meeting. He told us all about who Jesus is.

November 2020

He and Fritz share a first middle name (Fritz was given the name David after my brother) which is pretty cool. Ezekiel is because my dad had a hard time remember his name is Elijah and it just fit. We almost picked T’Challa, though.

November 2020

Welcome to the Duk family, Elijah David Ezekiel!

This is Us

A few signatures and we doubled our flock. We are now a family of 12! The photos that were taken Saturday turned out amazing (I seriously cannot say enough good things about Jacqueline Eldredge Photography.)

ALL of us including my parents
Just the Twelve of Us
Here we are!
The Chaos of Us
Where we started
Aren’t my parents cute?
Then Came The Two Of Us
We’re cute, too
Then there was Ani
Dukling 1, age 20 years 9 months
And then Mr. Photogenic Cameron
Duking 2, age 19 years 1 month
And then Fritz
Dukling 3, age 14 years 4 months
We thought we were done when we added Adrian
Dukling 4, age 12 years 3 months

But we weren’t done. Introducing our new Duklings!

Elijah David Ezekiel
Dukling 5, age 5 years 8 months
Mayci Celia Kerry
Dukling 6, age 4 years 3 months
She’s such a little beauty
She loves her biggest brother
Anthony Michael John
Dukling 7, age 3 years 4 months
Nicholas James Alexander
Dukling 8, age 2 years 4 months
Noah Moses Christopher
Dukling 9, age 1 year 4 months
Joel Aaron Malachi
Dukling 10, age 1 year 4 months