(LifeSiteNews) — A New Jersey couple in November shared the awe-inspiring story of how they “fell in love” with and adopted seven Ukrainian siblings into their biological family of eight this summer, bringing their kids to a count of 13.
Michelle and Wade Torppey, who were both born into large families (Michelle is one of six, and Wade is one of eight), told People magazine in an exclusive interview how it all began when they agreed to host five of the children for a month during Christmastime.
“Our church works with an organization called Open Hearts and Homes for Children, which brings children that live in orphanages from Latvia and from Ukraine to stay with a family for Christmas, just so they can have a family love on them for four or five weeks, and then they go back to the orphanage,” said Michelle.
When the couple heard a family of five kids might be split up among two families, Michelle showed a picture of the children to her husband, who “took one look” and said, “‘Let’s take all five of them.’” Michelle recounted, “In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘It’s a month, I can do anything for a month.’”
“My kids were like, ‘Mom and dad, you guys are nuts.’ But once they got here, my whole family just fell in love. My husband will tell you that he knew from the minute he saw their picture and invited them to come for Christmas, that they were going to be ours. I didn’t see it that way at first. But he knew that it was more than just a month,” said Michelle.
Michelle shared how when they sent the children back to the orphanage that winter, her family “was heartbroken.”
“I’ll never forget us all standing at the airport; everyone’s crying their eyes out. When they left, they said, ‘We love it here, we love you. Can we come back again?’”
Since the program is repeated for a nine-week period during the summer, the Torppey family arranged to have the kids visit again in the summer of 2019.
Michelle said that while her husband was ready to adopt them from the start, feeling it was a “no-brainer,” she was still “thinking through the logistics: How are we going to pay for this? This is seven more education expenses, and seven more mouths to feed, and seven more everything.”
“We prayed hard for a long time. My husband said, ‘Yeah, I’m sure of it. There’s no doubt in my mind.’”
The five Ukrainian siblings, who had five other siblings — two of whom were too young for the visit program, two of whom were too old for it, and one half-sibling who was living with relatives — wanted to know if the family could adopt their two little brothers as well.
“We told them, whoever wanted to come, we were happy to keep them together,” said Michelle.
They started the adoption paperwork that summer, planning to take in the youngest two boys as well, while the older sisters stayed in Ukraine. After the family visited Ukraine to spend Christmas with all of the siblings, Michelle said the sisters told them, “Thank you so much for taking care of them, and we’re happy that they’re going with you. We know they’re going to have a better life.”
After jumping through many paperwork hoops, and a delay due to COVID-19, they finally took the children home on July 2.
Michelle told People, “When you hear the number 13, it’s like, ‘Whoa, how do you get that many kids out the door?’ But my six are incredibly helpful and supportive — they’re like the pit crew. They shop for me, they help me get the kids ready for school, they drive the kids back and forth.”
Her daughter Kairos helps prepare meals and “get everybody dressed” in the morning; Anna drives two of the adopted girls to school and to and from soccer practice; and Carla is her mother’s “personal shopper.”
Her daughter Taylor and son John taught themselves Ukrainian and Russian when they began the “process,” and translate when needed. “The kids’ English is getting better every day, especially since they started school, but the translation is a huge help as well.”
“Everybody has jobs, and we have a rotating schedule of who does what. Everybody chips in. It’s chaotic, but they come home happy from school every day.”
“Dinner is a project but everybody’s helpful. I’m usually in charge of cooking the dinner. Everybody comes flying in from soccer and starts taking turns in the shower, and doing homework. Dinner is usually like 40 tacos. I make sliders a lot, so it’ll be like 30 sliders or 30 hot dogs. Whatever I used to make, I doubled everything: It’s just kind of like everything I did before, but do it a little bigger.”