For years, Kindred and Meredith Howard talked about adopting a toddler.
There was never a real deadline to accomplish their goal but “one day,” they told themselves. Then in the winter of 2010, years after their own three children entered the world, their conversation seemed to intensify. Even then, the only thing they knew for sure was, well, no diapers.
“Been there, done that three times,” is how the couple put it.
But by the end of that year, after an email from an adoption agency and much research, the Powder Springs, Ga., couple found themselves in an Ethiopian orphanage and ― you can guess what happened next.
They say little Samuel and Asher, then 6 months old, looked every bit as frail as they had in the photos they had seen. When they were brought to the orphanage at 10 days old, they were small enough to hold in one hand. Asher suffered from meningitis, and Samuel had sepsis and was extremely malnourished.
Doctors predicted they would be developmentally delayed, special needs kids. No one could have guessed they’d one day ― less than 14 months later ― land a leading role on the big screen opposite, yes, Jennifer Lopez.
The Howards knew these were their boys ― special needs or not, that if they could just get them back to the States, to good medical care and the love they needed, they’d be OK.
When they left the orphanage that November day, they immediately went before a judge and became the twins’ legal guardians.
“I think we’ve just won the Ethiopian lottery,” Meredith told Kindred.
The Howard family sits on the sofa in their Powder Springs, Georgia home on April 4. From the left, William, 6, Samuel, 23 months, Meredith, Emerson, 8, Asher, 23 months, kindred, and Carson, 4. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
Meredith, 38, works part time and is predominantly a stay-at-home mother. And Kindred, 43, is the founder and lead coach for Family Upward (www.familyupward.com), an organization devoted to helping couples and parents protect their most precious relationships.
He is also the author of “Cavemen in Babyland: What New & Expecting Mommies Should Know About New Daddies (So That They Won’t Kill Them)” (Rameses, $17.95 ).
When the couple initially decided the time was right to move forward with their adoption plans, they wanted another little girl. They worried how their only daughter, Emerson, might react to having more brothers.
“What do you think about two more brothers?” her father asked.
Emerson at first rolled her eyes. By the fifth time, she told her dad, “Let’s just adopt and move on with it.”
In less than a month, Kindred and Meredith were on their way to Ethiopia.
This month, as they retraced the road they traveled to bring their twins home, the twins played easily with their three siblings, Emerson, 8, William, 6, and Carson, 4.
It was hard to believe, watching them run from room to room, that they were the same twins who just 22 months earlier almost died in an Ethiopian orphanage. Within six months of coming here, they were sitting up alone, and their weight and height had inched onto U.S. growth charts. Within a year, they were discharged from physical therapy. They were normal in every way.
“They exceeded the expectations of every one of their doctors,” Meredith said.
On May 28, Samuel and Asher will celebrate their second birthday.
Also in May, they will make their debut in a movie starring Lopez, and all the Howards can do is marvel ― at how one email led them to their twins and another email has helped give them purpose.
The couple is hoping the twins’ part in the movie, scheduled for release May 18, and their own personal story will help raise awareness about the need for adoption. They have created a blog ― www.oursammyandasher.com ― to share their twins’ story, one that may have played a role in Asher and Samuel landing at the top among thousands vying for a part in the upcoming film “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” based on a New York Times best-seller of the same name.
The twins were chosen to play Lopez’s infant son in July after Meredith responded to an email about a casting call in Atlanta.
“As soon as I saw the twins, I felt that they were perfect to play the part, but what interested me was the story of their adoption and their parents, Kindred and Meredith,” director Kirk Jones said. “Their real-life story of the adoption was very similar to that of Jennifer Lopez in the movie.”
Jones said he wanted twins so that he could continue filming when one of the children needed to sleep or be fed or had simply spent his allotted time on the set.
“The twins were great on set, and of course everyone fell in love with them,” Jones said. “I even managed to include Meredith in some scenes where she can be seen in the background.”
Although the filming ended in August, Jones said he has kept in touch with the Howards and “will always be keen to see updates of the children as they grow up.”
Guided by their parents, he said, he expects them to play a significant role in the world someday.
“I was full of admiration for Kindred and Meredith and the wonderful journey they took which ended with the most adorable baby boys,” Jones said.
For now, the couple just hopes someone will read their story and be able to take the next step toward adoption.
“Do what’s right and you can’t begin to imagine what will happen,” Kindred said. “There is something very special about these little boys, and we’re just along for the ride.”
By Gracie Bonds Staples
(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
(MCT Information Services)