Coolest kid in the 7th grade

June 2022 · Forward in Hope, Foster Family Features

High school sweethearts, Melani and Colton have lived in Pleasanton all their lives. It’s home in the most meaningful of ways because they are connected to the community through extended family, former classmates, and the neighbors they’ve known since they were kids. Theirs is not an unusual story in that regard. But shortly after their marriage five years ago, it became plain that their lives would be anything but usual.

Like many newlyweds, the Lammers hoped to build a family, but circulatory issues in her legs discovered about a year prior to their marriage made giving birth a big risk for Melani.

“I’d had some freak blood clots in my legs, and no one could figure out what was going on,” she said. “Once we were married, we started seeing fetal medicine doctors and going through a bunch of tests. We ended up seeing a new cardiologist who said I shouldn’t go through a pregnancy because there was no way my body could handle it. I ended up getting stents placed from the bottom of my heart down to both my legs.”

It was tough news for the couple who had envisioned a large family like Colton’s for themselves.

“His mom has twelve brothers and sisters, and they’re all so close,” said Melani. They see each other all the time, and they’re all so happy. It’s kind of what we wanted.”

While in junior high school, they’d heard of a family situation in town that had ended tragically. They wanted to stand up for children in similar circumstances, so they decided to become foster parents. Licensed in July 2020, they received their first placement in November – twin newborns direct from the hospital. Two months later, they received their two sisters (both under two years), and then in the following July, they got their three older siblings.

“So then we had seven kids from August to November, when the four little ones went home.” Seven children. And Melani and Colton were both just in their mid-20s. Although Colton worked for his uncle’s well drilling service so Melani could stay home with the kids, “it was chaos,” she says with a laugh.

Eventually, the four youngest half-siblings were reunited with family members, but the Lammers still have a 12-year-old boy and his nine- and five-year-old sisters. Things are much quieter around the house, but still far from quiet. Yet, Melani and Colton love fostering, and they love the children in their care so much that they’re now in the process of adopting all three.

“You know, we both grew up in very good homes and have good parents,” said Melani. “Seeing our 12-year-old hug our nine-year-old and tell her that they’re safe here … I mean, it just gives me goosebumps because we never had to think about that. But growing up in the system, that’s what they’ve had to deal with.”

“(Fostering) definitely makes you grow up fast,” adds Colton. “Don’t get me wrong, we are both adults, but you know … adulting is one thing, and adulting with kids is a completely different story. I work full time, but Melani, bless her soul, she holds this house down like a fortress because the amount of training, paperwork, appointments is quite time consuming. These kids, though, they need all the love we can give them, just like all the love our friends and family have given us. We’ve grown so much through this, and it’s been cool to grow alongside these kids.”

It helps to have a strong support system, and the Lammers have that in abundance, along with new insights about themselves, their marriage, and life as parents.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without Saint Francis and the caseworkers and the GAL’s (guardian ad litem), along with our families, everyone that we work with, and everybody on the kids’ case teams. It’s great to have that support,” said Melani. “And we also support each other. I mean, our marriage has grown so much. It’s crazy to think that – because he was 15, and I was 17 when we started dating – we now have a 12-year-old. I just didn’t know it was possible to love someone as much as we love these kids.

“Still we’re too young to have a teenager,” she adds with a laugh. “But I tell him he’s going to be the coolest kid in the seventh grade because he’s going to have the youngest parents.