CEDAR GROVE - Home is where the heart is, and for two boys a Bullitt County family features a lot of heart.
Misiker, 2, and Kenean, 1, officially became United States citizens as of Mar. 31, adopted from the Harrar region of Ethiopia by the Cochran Family.
Their new father, Greg Cochran, is pastor of Cedar Grove Baptist Church. He and his wife, Vickie, recently flew to Ethiopia to bring their new children home.
"It really hit me when our plane landed in Washington, DC (on the return flight)," said Vickie. "That was the moment that we were told they would officially become citizens. I was flooded with emotions."
The boys are not biological brothers, but were adopted from the same orphanage outside of Harrar.
On a day when the rest of Bullitt County eagerly awaited the NCAA Final Four dream match-up between Kentucky and Louisville, Greg and Vickie introduced their new children to about 100 friends and relatives waiting at Louisville International Airport.
"It was moving to see that many supporters," Greg said.
Among those waiting were the Cochrans' five biological children. Greg reminded that the adoption was completely a family decision.
Greg said the family approved an international adoption after looking at the difficulties and roadblocks that local and national processes entailed.
The gathering was extra special for the family because all five children were able to attend. The Cochrans' second child, Hannah, was in town from her stint as a student at Auburn University.
Living in America
Misiker and Kenean's first day in America included the Kentucky-Louisville game. They experienced the event but paid little attention.
Their first full day came on the following Sunday, which included an Easter program hosted at Cedar Grove Baptist.
"We had kids' games and they got candy," said Greg. "Misiker played the first game and got five pieces. That was a major score and he didn't see any point in playing anymore."
In fact, Misiker held the chocolate candy in his hands until the pieces melted and had to be replaced.
The parents said their new children acted very similar to any other infants. Vickie said they played well together and understood voice tones even with the language barrier present.
"We vocalize everything we do for them," said Vickie. "We go overboard with it but to help them pick up on the language."
The boys seem to take everyday life in stride, even with the special attention they are receiving at church.
"They're a spectacle," said Greg. "But in their orphanage everything is kind of communal, so Misiker is used to it. They're very comfortable to go up to people. (Misiker) doesn't understand boundaries yet."
"We were trained for any behavioral problems, but so far they've done well," Vickie added.
Two young Ethiopian children with the original family makes for interesting stares from strangers, Vickie admitted.
"People look but they usually smile," she said. "It is different, and I've been more conscious of it, but people have been kind."
The family also create a major shift in family member alignment. The other children have stepped up in their new roles.
"I never got to handle a little kid, because I'm the youngest," said Rebekah, 12.
"My friend is here a lot and he got to see Misiker," said Andrew, 20, the oldest. "He told me Misiker was his favorite Cochran."
Andrew mentioned that Rebekah feels more accepted by her natural siblings, now being among the older members.
Rebekah shares a bedroom with Misiker, while sister Polly, 14, has Kenean sharing her room.
"(Misiker) surprised me, I thought he would be everywhere," Rebekah said. "He has toys in the room, so he pays attention to his stuff."
"We thought about how how we would be able to love these two as much as the other children," Vickie said. "But we fell in love with them right away. I was surprised with how the siblings fell in love with them right away just like I did."
Return to Parenthood
Five children make Greg and Vickie experienced parents. Some things change and some things remain the same.
"My energy level is better now, but I have more back issues," said Vickie.
"My energy level is not," Greg said.
Among early surprises, and for unknown reasons, Misiker does not like cheese.
Both boys had no interest for milk upon their arrival. The veteran parents changed that attitude with the introduction of Ovaltine.
Andrew was surprised in the similarities between Misiker and the other Cochran boys at a young age, himself and brother Johnny, 16.
"We have this big semi truck toy, from when I was little," said Andrew. "We used to ride on it, even though that's not what it was for. That's exactly what (Misiker) did with it."
With the older children the family is busier now, with more places they have to travel. Vickie said a family schedule was developed for drives, feedings, etc.
Another issue is transportation; currently the entire family needs two vehicles to go somewhere.
"We have to have a nine-seater," said Greg. "But with older kids it's not as often."
One obvious bonus for the parents is having grown children to help out with the new additions, with everything from play time to diaper changes.
The medical side of parenting is different with adoptees. Greg said a lot of medical procedure was involved, such as specific vaccinations.
Vickie planned to homeschool the boys as she did with the other five children. She will be giving up a job as an adjunct teaching professor with Indiana Wesleyan College.
As part of the education the Cochrans will maintain knowledge of Misiker and Kenean's native country.
"The judge in Ethiopia stressed that people from Ethiopia want their citizens to know Ethiopia," Vickie said. "We'll try to do special things to celebrate their heritage."
The Cochrans hope to travel to other states, offering Misiker and Kanean an opportunity to see parts of their adopted country as well as to visit various family members.
Until such time, the boys will continue to acclimate themselves among their new parents and siblings, along with their adopted community at Cedar Grove Baptist Church.