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The Eblen family gathers in Matt and Michelle's bedroom to help fold clothes, a responsibilty for each of the children.

Instant Family

story by Griffin Moores

Over the course of a weekend, Matt and Michelle Eblen saw their heartbroken home turn into a full house.

After three years of ineffective fertility treatments, they gave up and decided to become foster parents, with the longer-term hope of adopting one young girl to call their own. They got cleared on a Friday. By Monday, they had two brothers. Just four months later, they also had the boys’ two sisters. They couldn't stand to see the siblings separated.

“I thought it would be weird at first, that we would just sit here and stare at each other,” Michelle says. “But it wasn't, it was instant family.”

Fast forward six months. Michelle was cleaning out the bathroom cabinet and found an old pregnancy test. She figured, “Why waste it,” and was floored to see a blue plus sign appear. Ten tests later, the couple finally had to admit Michelle must be carrying child number five.

“First thing that came to my mind was the kids and how they were going to react,” Michelle recalls. “At first I was excited, but then it was quickly gone.”

Their oldest, Hadilynn, struggled with fears that she would be displaced. Hadilynn’s birth mother had given her up not long after having her younger sister. “She was old enough to know what her mom did but not old enough to understand why,” Michelle recalls.

Hadilynn did have the most trouble adjusting; she often threatened to run away. Now she helps change Bentley’s diapers and loves keeping him entertained.

As a farm-owner and businessman, Matt is constantly moving. He jumps seamlessly between managing workers and paying bills, fetching lost lunchboxes and traversing thousands of acres of farmland in his green John Deere combine. At home, the parents are a pair of orchestra conductors, directing their children through chores and bath time with grace, delivering discipline with a kiss, and celebrating a complete day with a few quiet minutes of TV, then sleep.

Despite all that, Matt jokes that he’s the one with the easier load – something Michelle is more than happy to agree with. She spends the day with 2-year-old Bentley under her wing, running errands, doing seven people’s worth of laundry, and keeping all her children feeling loved and happy.

She’s always 45 minutes early to pick them up from school, to make sure she’s first in the pick-up line.

Michelle says she’s determined to make up for the time in their lives that she and Matt missed. It makes her listen to them constantly, just in case that one time she doesn't listen, is when they end up needing her the most.

“I feel like if it were different kids, it wouldn't be the same feeling,” Michelle says. “I just feel like we were meant to be.”


Michelle Eblen (left) gives her daughter Annabelle a smooch before she leaves for school.


After struggling with Hadilynn for being antagonistic toward her, Michelle has gotten to the point that she can now be trusted enough to help put in her daughter's contacts. "I couldn't even talk to her, and she would be like, 'I hate you!'" recalls Michelle.


"You're aggravating me!" huffed Annabelle to her brother Collin (center), prompting a quick nose-poke from Aaden (left).


Matt Eblen helps harvest soybeans at his family's multigenerational farm, Triple E Farms. Early mornings and late nights spent managing farm production limit the amount of time the 27-year-old is able to spend with his wife and five children.


Colin Eblen (front), 7, Hadilynn Eblen, 8, and Annabelle Eblen, 4, ride their toy four-wheelers around their yard after getting out of school.


Annabelle playfully tries to grab Bentley's diaper as he crawls on top of Michelle Eblen. Since Annabelle is young enough that she only has half-days at school, she is able to spend about two hours with just her mom and brother every day before the other three siblings have to be picked up.


Bathtime is "boys time" in the Eblen household. Whenever he's home from the farm in time, Matt Eblen gives his three sons a before-bed bath. Bentley Eblen (left), 2, Collin Eblen, 7, and Aaden Eblen, 5, wait their turn for Matt to wet their hair.


Hadilynn Eblen (left) and her siblings Bentley, Annabelle, Collin, and Aaden all dance together to Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO while they play Just Dance 4 for the Wii along with their babysitter.


The Eblen family listens to Collin read "Are You My Mother?" the story of a confused baby bird seeking a parent after a happy accident.

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