After the last school bell rings, the real work begins for the Becker family.
On a recent Wednesday, mom Amy was on the go. She rushed to get her 6-year-old from a Brownell-Talbot after-school program. She met her other daughter along the way. Amy teaches at the school her daughters attend, which is a convenience.
Within minutes, she was down the road to get her 3-year-old twins at day care. Then she made a beeline for their Benson home.
Amy helped the children get settled inside their Tudor-style brick house while the middle daughter started dinner. On the menu: Baked chicken and potatoes.
Thomas, her husband, hadn't arrived yet. He was at the cleaners, then headed back to Duchesne Academy, where he teaches, to pick up their oldest daughter. She fell ill and left the school's swim practice early.
We first were introduced to the Becker family two years ago when they adopted three children from Haiti. Mary Beth, 15, and Anna, 13, welcomed 6-year-old Vialancia and 3-year-old twins Jean (now John) and Jeannette. Their heartwarming story is a prime example of how adoption changes lives.
In honor of National Adoption Month, an appropriate time to celebrate family and blessings, we revisited the Beckers. The couple shared what's happened since they adopted — their sweet, tender moments and the sometimes chaotic life that comes with having five children, including three from a different culture.
Amy and Thomas Becker had gone through three slow years of paperwork and interviews to adopt Haitian orphans.
Then a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, and all of a sudden, the adoption moved at lightning speed.
The family got only a couple day's notice before the children were to arrive in the United States. They scrambled to buy tickets to Miami, where they were to pick up Vialancia and Jeannette. Jean (pronounced John with a soft J) was missing. He was left behind in Haiti. A week later, Thomas returned to Florida to retrieve him.
The Beckers had zero baby supplies. Friends and family took up collections. Several community baby showers were held. As they pieced together cribs, beds and changing tables, they reflected on how they came to adopt.
Amy's husband saw the need during a service trip to the Dominican Republic years prior to the earthquake. After giving birth to Anna, Amy had a hysterectomy. So adoption was always the plan. However, she didn't expect to receive all three children at once.
When the children first arrived, they barely spoke. Vialancia, nicknamed Via, spoke only Haitian Creole and some French. To communicate, the kids sang their ABCs to one another.
Now, on that recent day after school, a visitor would see that Via speaks perfect English with a faint accent.
"I had hoped they would continue speaking Creole," Amy said as she prepared dinner and played with the kids, "but after some time passed they stopped."
They've also experienced other transitions. They legally changed Jean's name to John, for example.
"We had major problems with the insurance companies and pharmacies who would mix up Jeannette and Jean," Mom said. "Not to mention everyone kept mispronouncing his name."
John is cool with it. But he's known as "Mr. Man" at home. He really loves that.
"I brushed my teeth," Via said, interrupting the conversation. "Are they shiny?"
"Yes, they are," Amy replied.
"What's for dinner, Mom," Via asked. "Mom... dinner?"
For a long time, Via feared the family would run out of food. It was a common problem at the orphanage. When she was first in her new home, she hoarded food in napkins, hid leftovers on a bookshelf and gorged herself at meals. The Beckers constantly had to remind her there was plenty to go around, though she didn't easily grasp that. She still grabs the last slice of pizza or scoop of mashed potatoes whether she's hungry or not.
Given that, it's not hard to imagine how special feasting holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays — are to the children.
Via turns 7 on Wednesday. She's been counting down since Day 92.
She loves cake so much she's getting two for her birthday celebration — pumpkin cake and pink cake.
Amy has a soft spot for Via, who has witnessed horrible things, including the death of her father.
"We had a lot of emotional work to get through," she said. "She used to throw huge fits, seven or eight of them a day. Slowly, we got down to four. Now we have normal 6-year-old issues."
Jeannette, aka Bruiser for her aggressiveness, gets into everything. She hangs from door knobs, climbs walls and scales a laundry chute.
She has extraordinary strength for a child, and she's not one to cry.
On this day, John was getting into things. He reached for a knife to cut an apple.
"No," Mom said, darting for him. "No, thank you."
"I need to cut," he insisted. "But my apple."
He's 100 percent boy, Amy said. He loves to get ooey-gooey dirty and get into things he's not supposed to touch.
Jeannette teased her brother for getting in trouble, then asked Mom for a manicure.
"When the twins get going, they divide and conquer," Amy joked.
The family lives month-to-month on two teacher salaries. Sometimes it's a struggle, but they get by. They know God will provide. The three youngsters share a bedroom. The teenagers each have their own room. Mom and Dad sleep upstairs. Eventually, John will get his own room in the basement. For now, the couple likes that the close quarters have forced the three Haitian children to have a tight-knit bond.
Via had some trouble adjusting to the twins at first.
The Beckers had planned to adopt only her. While visiting Via at the orphanage, they met the twins and decided to adopt them, too. Since it took nearly three years before Via was approved and matched with the couple, they thought they had plenty of time before they got the other two.
It didn't work out that way, and Via wasn't too keen on sharing Mom and Dad. She's still possessive of who sits on Mom's lap or holds Dad's hand.
Mary Beth and Anna are big helpers around the house. They cook, wash dishes, play with the kids and pick up toys. The girls adore their siblings.
Each child has learned to carve out special mommy and papa time. Sometimes that means having to share Mom's lap.
"People used to ask if we were out of our minds," Thomas said. "Or would we do it all over?"
"I don't think I would do three all at one time," Amy said.
"If there was another earthquake, you would," Thomas insisted. "You'd do it."
"You're right. The love we get from these guys," she said with a big smile. "Absolutely, I would."