The Port Arthur News
Jessica Carlin had prepared herself for visitors, but not this many.
Carlin’s mother, Sharie Autrey, told her daughter that a home-schooling magazine was coming to interview her Thursday, but the number of people standing on the porch of her Nederland home just didn’t quite add up.
“I thought, ‘Why would so many people from a homeschool magazine come?’” Carlin said.
Carlin opened the door to find not only her mother and grandparents, but three representatives from the Nederland Chamber of Commerce, who presented her with the 2014 Mother of the Year award.
“Your mommy is the best mommy in Nederland,” Jinni Akins, president and CEO of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce, told Carlin’s seven children, who immediately chorus their agreement.
Carlin’s home is surprisingly immaculate, given the amount of feet running through it at any given time, and there is no evidence of squabbling among her children. The oldest, 11-year-old Luke, patiently shepherds his younger siblings around the living room with a smile. Alik, 8, is never far from 7-year-old sister Raylen’s side.
“They’re like Siamese twins,” Carlin said.
Baby Caris, 1, never meets a stranger. She tirelessly toddles around the living room, stopping to “talk” to each potential new friend. Her 4-year-old brother, Kellen, is more reserved, burying his face in dad Josh’s shoulder.
Seven-year-old Daniel happily perches in a place of honor on great-grandfather Leroy Tompkins’ lap. Six-year-old Josslyn joins him, but immediately rises and offers to hold the baby when someone suggests a group picture.
Carlin never envisioned a life with seven children. She wanted five, and Josh wanted four. They decided to compromise and have three.
“We blew right past that,” Carlin said, laughing.
The couple adopted three of their children from Ukraine. Carlin always wanted to adopt, and learning about the inhumane treatment special-needs children are subjected to in Eastern Europe cemented that desire.
“It broke my heart,” she said. “Josh said, ‘We have to do something.’”
They decided to adopt Daniel —who, like Carlin’s uncle Michael, was born with Down syndrome. Alik and Josslyn soon followed.
Ruth Tompkins detailed her granddaughter’s dedication to her children in her nomination letter — from assisting Josh as Alik and Kellen’s soccer coach; to driving Raylen and Josslyn to lessons at Keely Jardell School of Dance; to home-schooling all children.
“I’ve always admired the way she’s a mother,” Tompkins said. “She stays so involved, and the fact that she has seven kids doesn’t matter. I couldn’t do what she does.”