Todd Wilson laughs thinking of the "organized chaos" he walks into after work.
He admits living with seven kids-three biological and four adopted-can get intense, but that the experience has broadened what he calls the "band width" of his emotions.
"The pains and the challenges are deeper," he says, "but the joys are higher."
Todd and his wife, Katie, first felt the call to adopt more than 13 years ago while living in Minneapolis, where Katie was teaching junior high English and Todd was working with college students in a congregation.
But Katie says it didn't feel like the right time.
The Wilsons moved often over the next seven years, including a sojourn in Cambridge, England, while Todd worked on a Ph.D. in New Testament studies. After returning to the States in 2005 and the birth of their third child, Katie says the time felt right to adopt.
They soon began the process of adopting two children from an Ethopian orphanage.
"It took a long time to finally get our children," says Todd, pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. "There are always setbacks, paperwork to fill out and immigration hassles. We had said on our application that we preferred babies, but that is what most adopting parents want, so not many are available right away."
In the spring of 2009 Katie received a call from Ethiopia saying that the orphanage had not only one baby for them, but two. Twins. The Wilsons flew to Addis Ababa and brought home the 6-month-old brothers whom they named Addis Andrew and Rager Ababa.
"When they first brought the twins out to us," Todd recalls, "I had the same feeling I had in the delivery room when our three biological children were born, the same feeling of affection and attachment."
There was no turning back after that. This spring, Todd and Katie increased their family when they brought back from Ethiopia 8-year-old Titus and his 6-year-old half-sister Marta Kate.
When Katie's father heard that his daughter and son-in-law were going to adopt again and go from five children to seven, he declared, "That's not a large family. That's a calling."
Katie acknowledges that adoption presents special challenges, especially when older children are adopted. "Like now during this time of transition, it takes a long time for (Titus and Marta Kate) to settle in. There are lots of issues to work through, like missing home and asking, 'Are these people really going to love us forever?' So there is acting out and testing of boundaries."
"That's why I think it was gracious of the Lord to do some of the things he did (which confirmed their decision to adopt)," she says. "I wrote them all down, so when there are those times of 'oh dear,' I go back and read them and say, 'This is what he has for us.'"
Friends, the church and family have been a big help in many ways, such as raising the $35,000 necessary to bring each pair of children to the U.S.
Asked if they would consider adopting more children, Todd and Katie look at each other and smile.
Tom Holmes is a contributing reporter for Chicago Parent's sister publication Wednesday Journal.