HOLMEN, Wis., - If you glance across the front yard of the Steinhoff home in Holmen, you'll start to get an idea of what a wonderful, slightly crazy life this family leads. We go through two gallons of milk a day. Ten loafs of bread every week."
When Rick and Rona Steinhoff got married back in 2004 they never could have guessed that their family would look like this in just a few short years. "I came into the marriage with four boys, he had two. And we were content having the 6 boys."
But 'content' is a long way from 'complete'. And they weren't yet complete, not by a long shot. "If God would have opened up this little window and showed us 'this is what I have for you!' We would have been like...'yeah right. You're kidding me!'"
You see, even before the marriage, they opened up their home to foster children. Sisters Hannah and Allie were first through their door. "They were 3 and 6 months when we got them." For two years they worked with the 'tummy mom' as they called her until one day, she asked Rick and Rona to adopt her girls...and they agreed. "We new we would keep them at that point."
After that, they decided... "We're done. We've got our two little girls."
Then in 2005 they got a call about another set of siblings that needed a *temporary* place to stay. Hayden and Rebecca were 3 and 1 when they first arrived. "Another case where mom said after 6 months...'I really want them to stay with you. And we agreed. Prayed about it. Agreed about it."
And then, just like last time... "We're done of course. We're content. We're done."
"And that's when she started going online. And one day at work she calls me and says, 'I found our daughter in Ethiopia.' And I'm like - excuse me?!" "The minute I saw her, I knew." "She sends me a picture and as soon as I see the picture I just called her back and said, 'you're right. That is our daughter.'"
Plans were underway to pick up little Abby from Africa. But a week before they were scheduled to leave, the phone rang yet again. A one year old little red head needed foster care for just a *few days* while they found her a more permanent location. "Isabella! Guess what folks....Isabella is still here. We were the permanent place they found!"
And when Abby arrived finally arrived from Africa, the tally totaled 12. "But then Abby can't be our only child from Ethiopia. (of course not!) So we decided to go back 4 months and found Simone. And then there was this little girl that was very sick that the family had backed out on. Our Zoey. Can you even imagine life without our Zoey?"
At 14...they swore...SWORE they were finally done for real this time. "You can say you're done but then God says, 'Hey Guess what...Surprise!'" Surprise was right.
Last year, they learned of 5 siblings from Africa who had recently been adopted by a U.S. couple. That couple was struggling to adjust and it looked like the children might be split up, a scenario the Steinhoff's just couldn't bare. So 14 year old Samuel, 12 year old Noah, 9 year old Mariah, 7 year old Faith and 3 year old Grace we're welcomed in to the family last year. "The house was so empty when we first moved in, it wasn't full. It wasn't home yet. It's full now. Our Quiver is full. Our Quiver is full."
Well, not quite full. Believe it or not, in January they will start the paperwork to adopt 14 year old Addy, another orphan from Ethiopia already in their care. "Everybody brings something different. You don't know what you're missing until you have that child in your family and you're like 'how was I happy without you?!' How did I think we were done?!"
"So are you done now? Hallelujah, yes! Stick me with a fork. That's on tape, right?"
20 kids. 20 kids from all walks of life have come together to make one very big happy family. "No matter what, you're there. And no matter what mom and dad are going to love you. And that's one thing are kids are always, always going to know."
Here's a couple of interesting family facts: in a few years, there will be 10 teenage girls in the house at once! (Rick says he might move into the garage for awhile!) They also have a 15 passenger van and they still have to take 2 vehicles to go somewhere together.
Now the Steinhoff's wanted us to stress the importance of not just adoption but also the big need for foster care in this country. If you are interested in learning more you can call this number for La Crosse County Foster care information: (608) 789-4834.