You’ve heard the story before: Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl fall in love, marry and raise three children. Boy and Girl adopt ten more children. Ok, maybe this story is unique. Once, a young woman named Beth Garlock was raising a toddler son from a previous marriage, when she met her now husband, Jon Krehbiel in the Findlay hotel where she worked as the dining room manager.
“When we met and talked about our hopes and dreams for life, we both agreed that having a large family would be FUN,” Beth says. They fell in love, married, had a son, then a daughter. Their story took a turn, however, when their daughter was eighteen months old, and their doctor delivered the news couples often fear—they would have no more children.
They were saddened but in time made peace with this chapter of their story.
The Krehbiel’s oldest kids attended public school, and before long, the kids were driving. All was well, but still something felt unfinished.
“When our youngest was 16, we…began to think we still had some parenting in us, so we decided to pursue…adoption, thinking no one would want to let us adopt kids since we were so OLD!” says Beth. “We believed that if God wanted us to have another child, He would open the doors.” The doors did open—to a sibling pair. The family welcomed a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl into their home.
Once again came bedtime stories, bikes, and board games. But parenting now had a backstory—one of “trauma and loss,” says Beth. “We had never dealt with those parts of parenting in such a deep way. But, we have a huge support system, lots of fellow adoptive families, who look just like us and deal with the same issues we see.”
In the last eight years, the changing economy led Jon, who works in the computer industry, to contract employment. The family now often travels with him where he can find work, moving between their home and a secondary residence at Jon’s worksite for months, or sometimes up to a year. The children are growing up, learning to read and do long division, taking their education on the road through a church-related school.
The older children loved their new siblings. Those who had already left home chose to move back so they could get to know the little ones more closely.
“[T]here was definitely an adjustment period after the honeymoon, that felt like, ‘Oh no, can we REALLY do this?’ But…like in marriage…you stick to your commitment, even when it gets hard! And, the blessings will outweigh the hard things,” says Beth. Eventually the older children married, beginning new chapters of their lives. Still feeling they had more love to share, the Krehbiels considered another adoption, possibly a sibling pair.
Once again their offer was multiplied, and they were presented with four Ethiopian siblings—an older girl, boy/girl twins, and a younger girl. Instantly they were the large family they had always envisioned. And yet the family kept growing—with another adoption of twin, two-year-old Ethiopian sisters. “They were so sweet and melted into us immediately!” says Beth. “If you would ask them about their life before, they would tell you this is their only life. Still we keep their home country in our lives through stories from the bigger Ethiopian kids and through foods, clothing, jewelry and music from their country, etc.”
By this time, the Krehbiels also had a third grandchild on the way, and they enjoyed watching the grandchildren and their newly-adopted children grow and play together. Later came the family’s final adoption—this time of two more boys. With a family this large, one can imagine the Krehbiels receive their share of unsolicited opinions. “We have heard…‘are you crazy?’ from our (older children) as well as extended family and friends,” says Beth, “but, they always…learn to love these precious kids. It’s easy to question whether you should spend so much money to adopt or not, before you’ve seen their face and know their story, but, once you KNOW them, it is much clearer what is the right thing to do!”
Still Improving Their Parenting
Raising young children all over again after having raised three could be stressful, but Beth says, “(We) are so much more relaxed this time around, that we feel we are doing a better job. We are much better at not sweating the small stuff!” The children know they are loved and play a special role in developing their family’s unique story. “Our family motto is: ‘If I could choose again, I’d still choose you!’
Maintaining such a large household requires sticking to a routine, little tolerance of picky eating, and assigned seats at the dinner table and in the car—ahem—bus. There are shared clothing items and hand-me-downs, “I HATE socks!” jokes Beth. “Think 22 feet a day times seven days a week! Did you do the math? Now imagine pairing them!” The Krehbiels have a large home with a pool on two-and-a-half acres of land, but the children do share bedrooms. “They NEVER complain that they want their own rooms,” says Beth. “We hear them talking at night, singing, telling little inside jokes…making memories that will last all their lives.” The children rotate chores, are expected to pick up after themselves, and learn life’s values. “(T)hink of others first…if it isn’t yours, don’t touch it! Be kind, loving, speak with respect…follow the Golden Rule!”
When the family is out and about, Beth, now 58, and Jon, 57, admit to receiving some stares from strangers, but they realize folks are usually just curious, and they encourage empty nesters to consider adopting and making a home for hurting kids. “We have had many comments about our family, but, we take those as an opportunity to be advocates for adoption and to show humility. When we see people looking at us, we smile and welcome their questions. We hope we represent adoption and big families, well.”
Beth says they always feel welcome when they return to visit family in Findlay or Bluffton, where they both graduated from high school. “We love Findlay and feel it has the best of everything in regard to raising kids,” she says. “We will always think of Findlay as HOME.”
Three of the Krehbiels’ children now are married, with five grandchildren among them. “We have only just begun, with ten still unmarried…we can envision a HUGE family in the future!”
So yes, when Boy meets Girl, neither can predict their future story. The Krehbiels, however, are thrilled with how their unique plot has evolved. “Overall adoption is a blessing…even when things are HARD! The hard times give you something to gauge how great the good things REALLY are! We have told the kids that adoption is another word for love.”