In January, Angela Simpson was planning a Mother’s Day surrounded by eight children.
Instead, the Spokane mom wakes up this morning to nine: Emarc, 18, Ezekial, 15, Mackenzie, 14, Elvanie, 13, Dane 9, Christelle, 8, Eckahelo, 8, Kobe, 7, and baby Lucy, 2, and not necessarily in that order.
Simpson and her husband, Brian, who have four biological children, have adopted five from Haiti over the past six years. The last two Haitian children arrived in February, after the devastating earthquake there.
The Simpsons’ oldest adopted son, Emarc, went to Haiti right before the earthquake to work in the orphanage from where he and his siblings were adopted. After the quake, the Simpsons couldn’t reach him, throwing their household into a chaos of worry and fear.
When he finally returned home in February, Emarc was able to bring his sister Elvanie, whom the Simpsons were in the process of adopting, as well as Ezekial, who was the surprise addition to the pack.
“It was a mad dash to get it all in order,” Angie Simpson said.
Since then, things have slowed down, as much as they can in a house with nine busy children – some still learning to speak English – who range in age from 2 to 18.
“She’s like an air traffic controller,” Brian Simpson said of his wife. “She keeps things moving.”
School days start at 6:30 a.m., when the troops rise and eat.
“We do eight lunches, round up the backpacks and the uniforms,” Brian Simpson said. Then it’s a mad rush to school. Six of the children attend Cataldo Catholic School, and the two older boys go to Ferris High School.
Then there’s the return trip, with athletic practices, homework, reading, language lessons, play dates and chores.
All the kids except Lucy play soccer, and some days may include three practices. On Saturdays, there may be eight soccer games that need attending.
“We just threw the kids right in, total immersion,” Angie Simpson said.
And then there are the quirks when you bring a child of a different culture into the home, helping them make the transition to life in America.
“I had to figure out the best way to be a mom to all the kids,” Simpson said.
It’s second nature to Simpson, who was herself part of an adopted family. The Simpsons considered adopting after the birth of their second child, Dane. There were five years between Dane and Mackenzie, the oldest of the biological children.
“We just felt blessed and we wanted to open our home,” Angie Simpson said. They started an adoption through South Africa, but during the process the country closed all adoptions. Then the couple connected with the the Haitian Children’s Rescue Mission, an orphanage in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.
“Don’t go to Haiti if you don’t want kids,” Angie Simpson said. When they arrived at the orphanage, they were met by 100 needy children begging for candy and attention. It was little Eckahelo, 2 at the time, who came up and grabbed her hand.
“We knew instantly … they were meant for us,” she said of her adopted children.
The experience has allowed their family to grow, both in number and in heart.
“We get to experience something that other families don’t get to experience,” Mackenzie Simpson said.
The Simpsons’ home is one that isn’t divided; it’s a home that transcends race and culture. It’s a place of love, acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness.
As sibling rivalry goes, it’s hard to tell the adopted from the biological – the oldest tease the young, and the young beg to stay up just a little later. Hugs are plentiful, as are giggles.
Dane drives everybody crazy with his love of video games. Ezekial, the newest addition, loves ketchup. Elvanie likes snacks. Emarc is talking about college. Mackenzie is looking forward to high school. Christelle is the mother hen. Dad, who’ll get his day come Father’s Day in June, makes sure everybody is reading.
And mom keeps the train running.
“She’s loving and she’s funny,” Mackenzie Simpson said. “She makes everybody laugh. We’re never bored around here.”