I’m Fontevrault, a medievalist by training, former teacher now homeschooling mom of 6 – ages 25 to 2. I’m a proud grandma, chief cook and bottle washer, and a baby blogger.
My husband is Pilgrim, another medievalist, former teacher, now a university professor teaching from home. He’s a wood worker and home brewer in his spare time.
Our first daughter, now 25, was one of my students who came to us when she was 12. We have had the honor of watching her grow up and blossom into an extraordinary woman, a wonderful mother, and the teacher of what was once my own class – the class where we met many, many years ago. She has our first grandchild: a precious baby boy, born when my youngest was just a year old.
Back when I was teaching, we had many miscarriages. We still mourn the loss of those precious children, but those losses led us along the path of adoption. Through that pain came tremendous love and joy. Seven years ago, we brought home three precious children from Russia, some of the last children to come to the United States from that country. It was the hardest thing we have ever done, but the most rewarding as well.
Back in 2008, we decided to adopt and started raising money to bring home just one child – all we could hope to afford. At that time, the typical adoption took 18 months to 2 years. We had our home study done, did background checks and fingerprinting, prayed and waited, and waited and waited. There was hope of one little girl, but the judge in our chosen region refused to adopt to Americans because of some horrible abuse stories coming out around that time. Everything went on hold. We cried, we prayed, we sat in limbo and held on to hope.
Everyone around us knew of our adoption hopes. Our students, their parents, the nuns at a local convent, our parish priest all joined us in prayer. One day after Mass, Father J pulled me aside and said, “I have to tell you this! Keep your hearts open; it may be more than one.” It was a prompting of the Holy Spirit. Shortly thereafter, we got a call. Would we consider more than one child? Of course! Why wouldn’t we? Then came the hard part. The fees were triple what we had planned for. Our whole community came together. Our families were generous beyond measure. Our whole life savings went into that adoption.
Our first trip to Russia was in May of 2011. We went to court and confirmed our desire to adopt. Then came a horrible paper pregnancy that lasted 9 months – yes, really. The judge wanted to make sure we were able to handle an adoption of so many children. There were additional health screenings, visits to a psychiatrist, trips to a CPA to prove our income was sufficient and above average. We jumped through so many hoops that we had to redo paperwork several times. We finally made a second trip to Russia in December of 2011 to go to court. I remember only two things about that overwhelming court hearing: the paperwork we had submitted to the judge was so tall that she struggled under the weight and I ended up begging her to let us become a family. Those pleas worked: we were allowed to adopt. Unfortunately, we had to go home just before Christmas without the children and wait until late January of 2012 to finally bring them home.
They told us that the children were potty trained, so we packed underwear for our twin 3 year olds and their 20 month old little brother. That was a huge mistake: the kids were not potty trained in any way. We had a 12 hour train trip to Moscow with three frightened children who ended up filthy as a result of that little fib. No sooner were we back at the hotel then a doctor arrived to certify their health for the American embassy. Each child went into an exam straight from the bathtub. Just two more days in Russia and we were flying home with our precious treasures.
Of course, about two weeks later, I was pregnant and so stressed out that I didn’t know it. This time, miraculously, I managed to stay pregnant. So within one year, we went from having one senior in high school to having four children ages four and under. Those were hard days but beautiful ones too.
Our latest precious gift came two years ago, shortly after our eldest daughter’s wedding. He was born at 29 weeks and spent 65 days in the NICU. I have nothing but profound admiration for the people who work in the NICU; they provide such tender care for their patients! I received countless hugs and amazing support from a community of therapists, doctors and nurses. My littlest son needed their help and I needed it too – just to get through it.
If this whirlwind has taught us anything it is that God has blessed us beyond all measure! We struggle, just like any parents but we have so much to be grateful for. I hope you’ll join us as I chronicle our story and our attempts at homeschool, Catholic daily life, and all the nitty gritty that comes with a larger family.
I don’t have all the answers. We’re making it up as we go along. But I will share what works for us and what doesn’t.