Nine is enough?
News: Nine is enough?
Story by Staff Sgt. Kim Snow
The family of Capt. Jean Paul Kruse, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 371st Sustainment Brigade, spends the day together at Olentangy Indian Caverns in Delaware, Ohio, on July 13, 2008, during the unit's annual family day picnic. Clockwise from top left: Jean Paul, Emily, ***e, ***l, ***r, ***h, ***n, ***i, ***x, ***r and ***h.
Emily and Jean Paul looked up at one another over the tops of their steaming coffee mugs as the pitter-patter of tiny feet overhead signaled the end of the morning calm. Emily stood up, pulled an 18-count carton of eggs from the refrigerator and began cracking them into a large glass bowl one by one. The task complete, she pulled out the paper plates and laid them out on the counter in three rows of three.
"I use paper plates a lot to cut down on the dishwashing," she said as she grabbed a stack of plastic cups and began searching for the permanent marker. "Plastic cups, too. I label them and they use them all day long."
'They' are the children of Capt. Jean Paul Kruse, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 371st Sustainment Brigade, and his wife, Emily. His, hers and ours, they call them; nine in total, including 'his' - ***x Kruse, 9; 'hers' - ***r, ***n and ***i ***s, 12, 10 and 8, respectively; and theirs - ***r Kruse, 3, who was conceived during Jean Paul's 2004 leave from deployment to Iraq, and their four adopted children, ***h, ***h, ***l and ***e Kruse, 9, 6, 2 and 18 months, respectively.
The couple always wanted a big family, Emily said. And although they had five children between them, they wanted more.
Specifically, they wanted to adopt. And they wanted children few others would consider.
"We knew friends who were adopted, and we believe God wanted us to do this," Jean Paul said.
So they started looking into the process. A married couple from their church, the Marysville Church of the Nazarene, provided them with a great deal of information about where to begin-and they should know; they have adopted 22 children from seven countries, about one quarter of them with special needs. They recommended some websites and the Kruses began looking.
While searching, they happened on a photo of a Vietnamese boy named ***l, who had a cleft lip and palate. Coincidentally, Jean Paul, the son of a Vietnamese mother and American GI father, was born in Vietnam and came to America at 2 years old. They realized the birth defect, along with the child's advancing age-he was already a year old-would be a deterrent to many potential adoptive parents and decided he was right for their family.
"The foreign adoption fee was reduced from $20,000 because no one wanted him," Jean Paul said. "It was only $4,700 because of the birth defect. And unfortunately, the older they get, the less likely the chance of being adopted."
In July 2007, about eight months after they began their search, Jean Paul flew to Vietnam and brought ***l home from his birthplace in the northern Lang Son Province near the Chinese border. Jean Paul's military health insurance covered the corrective surgeries and ***l underwent operations for his cleft lip in October 2007 and cleft palate in January 2008. He will undergo one additional surgery to fix his gum line when he is 7 or 8.
"***e's mom was 18 and couldn't take care of him," Jean Paul said. "She couldn't afford the surgery. It would have taken a lifetime of saving to pay for it and even if she could, she lived three hours from the hospital."
The couple maintains contact with ***l's mother, sending her pictures and exchanging letters, which they compose and read through a friend who acts as translator.
"If she could do this for us, we can let her know he's OK and what he looks like," Emily said.
***l's transition into the Kruse family was extremely smooth, Jean Paul said. And so less than a year later, the couple again began looking into adopting. At the time, the West African country of Liberia offered the most affordable adoptions at about $8,000 each.
"We wanted a girl because they have it so hard there," Jean Paul said. "They are often raped and molested from a very young age."
They decided on a 1-year-old girl named ***e. Although they had completed most of Ohio's formal adoption prerequisites, including home study, health checks, fire inspection and parenting classes, they had to complete a home study addendum to ensure they had the resources to accommodate an additional child.
With the addendum completed and approved, Jean Paul prepared to fly to Liberia to take custody of ***e. About a week before he left, they got a call from the orphanage. There were two girls who were similarly named and the Kruses had to let them know which girl they meant to adopt. They chose the younger of the two, but two days before he left, they decided to try to adopt both.
"If this is God's will, we'll do it," Jean Paul said. "He's just got to open all the doors."
However, they were still about $500 short for ***e's adoption and there were other issues. Their addendum was for one child only. It had to be approved and changed to include a second child, which normally takes about three months, Jean Paul said. It came back in a week.
Addendum complete, Jean Paul traveled to Liberia in mid-May to collect the children. When he arrived at the orphanage, he learned the second child's mother was out of the country and out of contact, and he couldn't adopt her in the time he had. However, he still had permission to adopt two children, so he called Emily. They figured an older girl would have less chance of being adopted by someone else, so they chose 8-year-old ***h.
"At the time, we didn't know ***h was the daughter of one of the workers at the orphanage," Jean Paul said. "We told her who we chose and she started crying. She was thankful, but no one wants to give up their children ... but she wanted a better life for them."
The following day, Jean Paul went back to the orphanage to help out with some painting projects. When he arrived, a worker told him the little boy named ***h was ***h's brother. So again, he called his wife.
"I told Emily, 'How do we adopt one without the other?'" he asked.
Although doubtful of receiving a third addendum in the few days before he was scheduled to fly home-both governments had to approve it - they were determined to try. They were encouraged when the Liberian government quickly agreed to process the third adoption, but the American agency, concerned with the disruption of three additional children in the house, held out. Two days later, they relented.
"Our friends told us that this is unheard of; this never happens that they make changes like that," Emily said.
Although both governments granted approval for the third addendum, the financial issues remained. By this time, the couple had come up with enough money to cover ***e's adoption fees and airline tickets for Jean Paul, ***e and ***h. However, they were still short one flight and two adoption fees.
"We were lucky because this agency's main concern was for the kids, so they agreed to let us make payments," Jean Paul said. "They never do this. This was God's will; we kept getting confirmation of it over and over again."
Unlike many adopting parents, the Kruse's had decided against borrowing to cover their adoption costs, opting instead to save up. And although they could finance the adoption fees, they still needed to purchase ***h's airline ticket. They tried without luck to sell Jean Paul's motorcycle and asked their friends for a loan, but none was in a position to help. They were running out of ideas when Jean Paul asked Emily about her uncle, an empty-nester who also volunteered at their church. Emily gave Jean Paul his phone number.
"I called him and he said 'OK. You'll have the money within the hour," Jean Paul said.
Addendums granted, payment plans arranged and flights purchased, the group of four picked up and began their trek back to the U.S. They experienced their first bout of culture shock during an extended layover in Brussels, Belgium, where they encountered many modern amenities for the first time.
"***h thought the water fountain was fascinating," Jean Paul said. "You could get bottled water in Africa, but it was very expensive, so water was usually sold in baggies."
The foursome finally landed late May 29, 2008, at Port Columbus International Airport, about 30 hours after their journey began. Awaiting them at the airport were Emily, ***r, ***n and ***i.
"They were all excited. The kids were screaming, there was a flurry of activity, it was pretty exciting," Jean Paul said. "***i was talking to ***h the whole 45-minute drive home."
Because rice is the main staple in the Liberian diet, Emily assumed it would be a safe choice for their first meal.
"I thought, if they didn't like anything else I cooked, they would eat rice," Emily said. "So the first night, I cooked a big pot of rice. ***h looked at me and said 'I not like rice.' So I asked her, 'Well, what did you eat when you didn't like what you were having for dinner over there?'
Today, ***h and all of her siblings do have an alternative if they don't like what's for dinner, although there are no special orders.
"I only make one meal," Emily said. "But they do have a choice - the only substitute they can make for dinner is peanut butter and jelly."
All of the family's children-his, hers and theirs-have had to make adjustments. The older kids must help out some with the younger kids, although Emily tries to keep that to a minimum.
"You don't want the older kids to raise your kids, but they have to help, especially when we're out," she said. "I buddy-up the older kids with the younger kids. They don't have to always be with them, just know where they're at. I think it teaches them responsibility."
At 12, ***r is the oldest of the Kruse brood, and although the pre-teen shoulders most of the extra responsibility, his demeanor with his siblings betrays no resentment. He doesn't wait to be asked for help, he simply acts. This morning, he helps his mother get the younger kids dressed, then plays with them in the family room while she cleans up after breakfast. He lays belly down on the family room floor, laughing and baby-talking with ***l and ***e as they crawl, squealing and giggling, up onto his back and legs for a "ride."
"***r is very sensitive," Emily says with a smile as she watches their interaction. "He sobbed when Jean Paul came home with ***e."
The others also help out-***n mows the lawn and takes out the trash when Jean Paul is away for military training and schools, and the others help with making beds, laundry, picking up after themselves and getting the younger siblings ready to go.
To keep order, Emily has devised systems for nearly everything. Shower and laundry schedules are posted on the linen closet door along with instructions as to who does what and when.
Because ***l and ***e came to the United States at such young ages, their assimilation was nearly instantaneous. ***h and ***h, at 8 and 6, however, don't yet understand all of the American cultural norms to which they must eventually adapt. They're also still becoming accustomed to the simple amenities most Americans take for granted.
"***h would get drinks out of the faucet every ten minutes or so. They didn't have running water in Liberia," Emily said. "And she wouldn't stop turning the lights on and off, even in the day. I would find lights on all over the house and have to shut them off. ***h has a habit of throwing trash on the ground. It's just the way things were in Liberia. We were outside one morning and ***h saw a big trash truck coming and his eyes got big - he didn't know what it was."
The kids are finding some things easier to adapt to than others. ***h likes to chew on ice, a luxury he never had in Liberia, and he just learned how to ride a bike.
"In the orphanage in Africa, there were no TVs, no bikes, no gaming systems, toys - they don't have that," Emily said. "They would play with trash, form a makeshift ball out of discarded plastic. When (***h) gets in the shower and the water is warm, he starts smiling real big. He never had that."
With the Kruse brood finally fed, dressed and ready-well, almost - "***x, go get your shoes," Emily said patiently - the couple starts shuffling kids outside to the well-broken-in two-tone blue 15-passenger van that Jean Paul recently traded his motorcycle in on to help purchase. The large "troop carrier" is still cheaper than driving two vehicles.
Keeping expenses down is paramount for a family of 11-not to mention their two dogs, two cats, two rabbits and three fish. Oh, and the two hamsters - one male and one female-who bred and spawned an additional 15-20 (most will be taken to the pet store to be sold). As such, both Emily and Jean Paul have become adept at stretching their dollars. Despite chewing through about five dozen eggs, 50 bananas, five gallons of milk and two gallons of juice per week, Emily manages to keep her weekly grocery bill down at about $200, largely by buying in bulk.
"We don't eat out much, and we teach the kids not to be wasteful," Emily said. "The kids take good care of their clothes so they can be passed down. We make sure lights are turned off and set the thermostat at about 74."
Although she makes a point to enjoy dinner with her family, she doesn't usually get to sit down at the other meals. Nor does Jean Paul enjoy leisurely meals as he feeds ***l and ***e.
Despite the demands on their time and finances, the Kruse's wouldn't have it any other way.
"Our children are a blessing from God," Jean Paul said. "We only have them for a short time."
As for any future plans for adoption, for right now, it appears nine is enough.
"I've always wanted a big family," Emily said. "And these kids had nothing. It is work, and it costs money, but over there they have nothing. But you have to have resources. You have to know when enough is enough. I'm content for now. We're done for now."