New York Times / Older people adopting older kids
A couple weeks ago I spent an entire day near Tower, Minn. for the New York Times capturing a day in the life of Rebecca and Jim Gawboy. The couple adopted 12 children ranging in age from eight to 19 and at an age when most people are retiring or slowing down, Rebecca and Jim are doing just the opposite. Sometimes I think our house with two kids is crazy. The nine-bedroom farmhouse that Rebecca, Jim and the kids live in is run like a well-oiled machine.
Chores are performed in the morning before or just after breakfast. Personal care attendants arrive around breakfast time to make sure things run smoothly and to shuttle kids to various activities in the community. There is always something to do or something that needs to be done, which is good for the kids.
That’s not to say each day doesn’t present its challenges. A number of the children were diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which results from exposure to alcohol in the womb and can cause developmental problems. To help with those special needs are personal care attendants that are covered by the state, which means, you guessed it, more people in the house. In the article, Rebecca Gawboy talks about the sometimes-zoo-like atmosphere in the house and the resulting loss of privacy.
I won’t get into many more details as the article covers much of that. You can read the story about the Gawboys here. It’s a great read. The Times’ article featured 11 images from my day at the Gawboys. Consider the below an extended cut.
Jim Gawboy plays a bugle early in the morning to wake up the 12 adopted children him and his wife Rebecca are caring for at their home near Tower, Minn.
As soon as the kids wake up, they come downstairs and check out these sheets of paper that list the daily chores each of them must accomplish.
Rebecca Gawboy takes breakfast orders while reminding the kids of their chores.
Rebecca Gawboy hands a finished waffle to eight-year old Lorenzo Gawboy (2nd from left) early in the morning.
Rebecca and Jim Gawboy need help taking care of their 12 adopted children. That help comes in the form of personal care attendants like Travis Bensk (red flannel) who hangs out with the kids, takes them to different events and helps manage the ups and downs that many of the kids face on a daily basis. Here, Bensk of Tower, Minn. jokes around with 11-year old Roger Gawboy shortly after breakfast.
Personal care attendant Travis Bensk (right) makes sure 12-year old Isaac Gawboy takes his vitamins after breakfast.
For a long time, Rebecca and Jim Gawboy have told their adopted children that they can have outbursts and blow off steam as long as it’s not in the house. They would encourage their kids to take a hike and walk off their anger or frustration. They said it naturally led to the kids being attracted to track and cross country. Rebecca and Jim encouraged all the kids to read the latest Runner’s World article about Bret Dunlap, a brain-damaged Wisconsin man who found that running improved his life.
Thirteen-year old Jasmine Gawboy (left) and her 12-year old sister Juanita Gawboy (right) return after a morning run near Tower, Minn. Jasmine has qualified for the Minnesota Class A state cross country meet as a seventh and eighth grader.
Eight-year old Lorenzo Gawboy enjoys a quiet moment with Molly the dog shortly after breakfast.
Pictures of Rebecca and Jim Gawboy’s 12 adopted children hang next to pictures of their biological grandchildren in the living room of their house.
For a few short minutes between the conclusion of breakfast and when they must start preparing dinner, Rebecca and Jim Gawboy enjoy some quiet time in a room that children can only enter in the presence of an adult. Rebecca and Jim have a schedule of time set aside for themselves. “I think we’d lose it if we didn’t have this time for Rebecca and I,” said Jim Gawboy on why maintaining this schedule is important for them and the kids.
Sixteen year old Miranda Gawboy pets Lightning the horse while Flower the goat sniffs the air. Miranda has been taking Lightning to horse gaming shows in Embarrass, Minn. for a couple years. It’s Miranda’s duty each morning to feed the horses and goats.
Sixteen-year old Miranda Gawboy (left) gives a long hug to her 12-year old brother Isaac Gawboy (right) before lunch. “I didn’t give you a hug in the morning so you get a longer one now,” Miranda remarked after Isaac commented on the longer-than-usual length of the hug.
Twelve-year old Isaac Gawboy rides his unicycle in front of the chicken pens.
Over the years, the Gawboy family has amassed dozens of bikes. Neighbors and strangers will often drop off bikes at the property for the kids to use. Many of the bikes are broken, but most of the kids can simply walk around and find a needed part on a different bike and swap it out.
Here, 14-year old Dezmond Gawboy talks about his plans for the bike he pieced together from at least four other bikes. The plans feature a new paint job that will transform the bike from blue to green.
Jim Gawboy enjoys a piece of fresh-baked bread early in the afternoon. It’s tradition for Jim to eat the first piece of fresh baked bread.
As the day wears on, Jim Gawboy retreats to his bedroom and blankets for some much needed relaxation and quiet time.
Twelve-year old Juanita Gawboy (left) and her 18-year old sister Shawn Gawboy (right) laugh at their hands sticking together from the oatmeal cookie mix they’ve prepared. The cookies are for the family, but also for a community bingo event. It’s part community service and part re-stocking of the household cookie supplies.
Eleven-year old Roger Gawboy (top right) swings a golf club while his eight-year old brother Lorenzo Gawboy, Flower the goat and Jackson the dog hang out. When the kids aren’t doing chores or schoolwork, they can often be seen playing outside. The kids spent most of the day outside as it was the first warm day without snow on the ground since spring began.
Flower the goat interrupted the pitching motion of 15-year old Tim Gawboy during a kickball game.
Eleven-year old Roger Gawboy couldn’t escape the throw from 12-year old Juanita Gawboy during a game of kickball. At the beginning of the week, there was over a foot of snow on the ground, but warm temperatures finally prevailed to melt away the last reminders of winter and open up the field for the family to play outside.
Fifteen-year old Tim Gawboy (black sweatshirt) drags 12-year old Juanita Gawboy after she made fun of him during a game of kickball.
Thirteen-year old Jasmine Gawboy yells words of encouragement to Molly the dog as she makes her way up the slide. The slides and other playground equipment on the Gawboy’s property were donated to the family by the city as long as Rebecca and Jim Gawboy signed a waiver saying they wouldn’t sue if someone was injured playing on the equipment.
Eleven-year old Roger Gawboy sails through the air before landing on home plate to give his team the go-ahead run during a game of kickball. To Roger’s left is his 13-year old sister Jasmine Gawboy and to the right is his 16-year old brother Jordan Gawboy.
Jim Gawboy surveys the garden that will provide a lot of food for his family this summer. Everything from turnips to carrots to corn and more will be grown in the garden that was under a foot of snow then standing water in the days before warmer temperatures finally arrived.
Rebecca Gawboy enjoys a quiet moment after dinner with Jackson the dog.
Sixteen-year old Jordan Gawboy carries five-year old Rogelio Noyes on his shoulders as they walk through the woods behind their house. “Should we free the vampire?” Jordan asked Rogelio upon approaching an old cabinet that was tossed in the woods next to an area where locals once abandoned vehicles and other items of trash. Rogelio is Rebecca Gawboy’s grandson.
With the skeleton of a deer perched upon a discarded metal tank, 16-year old Jordan Gawboy carries five-year old Rogelio Noyes past an area the family calls the “Eagle Feeder.” The area is called “Eagle Feeder” because it’s where they discard deer carcasses, which attracted eagles who ate the discarded meat.
Twelve-year old Isaac Gawboy tiptoes his way across a submerged layer of ice at the family’s pond while his 16-year old brother Jordan Gawboy watches. Isaac and Jordan were tasked with retrieving shovels, basketballs and other items left on the ice from the winter. With warmer temperatures in the forecast, it was important to grab the items before they sank to the bottom of the pond that reaches depths of four feet.
Twelve-year old Isaac Gawboy smiles after making it across the submerged layer of ice without falling through on his family’s small pond. “I’m a man!” Isaac exclaimed again and again shortly after crossing the pond. A few minutes later as Isaac was hopping on the ice and continuing to talk about his successful crossing, he fell through the ice and was soaked up to his waist.
With soaked pants and boots full of water, 16-year old Jordan Gawboy leads five-year old Rogelio Noyes back home after collecting items from a small pond on the family property.
With darkness creeping in, 14-year old Dezmond Gawboy sneaks in a few laps around the house on his bike before he has to go to bed.