Just after 6 o'clock on a Wednesday morning, most of the Wilson family is already awake.
Griffin, 8, argues with his sister, Meron, 10, over how to properly cook their eggs. Meron nags him about the differences between frying and scrambling, while Griffin insists she puts too much oil in the skillet. Their mother, Shannon, 40, tries to soothe their bickering while helping their youngest brother, Yohannes, 7, pour the pancake mix.
In the living room, 12-year-old Evelyn asks her father, Jamie, 41, what subjects they'll study today. He's preoccupied grading another child's history test. It isn't until breakfast is nearly ready that Graham and Abe, 14 and 15, respectively, arrive downstairs. They gather around the table in the glass-covered sunroom that serves as their in-home schoolhouse. After a short prayer, with the blue early morning light just starting to emerge, they eat. Their oldest living at home, Firfirey, 20, never makes it down from his bedroom in time.
"It's a bit of a wild house," says Shannon. "You never know who's gonna be in it or what's gonna happen."
Shannon and Jamie have 11 kids: Three born to Shannon and Jamie and triplets from her previous marriage. A daughter from South Korea and a son from Ethiopia joined their family as college students. They adopted three Ethiopian siblings whose ages corresponded so perfectly with their young ones already at home that they saw it as a sign from God. They knew they were meant to be a family.
The Wilsons' home is filled with celebrations of their international origin stories, including mugs, cups, plates and coasters. Even Shannon's favorite pair of earrings are decorated with the outline of the African continent. Through family ties, she's teaching her children to appreciate differences and be open to love from unexpected places.
She and Jamie share the load, both working part-time as pharmacists and caring for the seven kids at home. Every day is a hectic mix of day trips, homework, lessons and activities — starting at breakfast and running late into the night. Sixteen hours after making pancakes and eggs, Shannon puts the "littles" to bed, still wearing her scrubs.
"I'd be so bored if I weren't a mother," she says.