CANONSBURG, Pa. (AP) — At an age when most mothers are empty nesters, 56-year-old Cetina Hendal finds her nest expanding.
In May 2014, Hendal and her husband, Troy, 55, of Strabane, adopted their grandson, Bryce, now 7.
And their house won't be quiet anytime soon: The Hendals' biological daughter, Kaylie, 18, is at home, along with identical twin sisters the couple adopted almost four months ago, and a 6-year-old foster daughter, Ashlynn, whom they are in the process of adopting.
The Hendals also have five other biological children who are grown and living on their own, and six grandchildren.
"It was in my heart to adopt," said Cetina. "We love children and we wanted to continue to have children in the home. Our purpose is to bring joy to their lives, to help them understand there is goodness and there is happiness, and there is security and safety."
Initially, the couple didn't plan to expand their family after they were granted guardianship of Bryce following a lengthy legal battle.
But having a youngster in the house again "was kind of cool," Cetina said, and in 2017, the Hendals decided to update their foster parents' license.
Since then, they have opened their home to seven foster children.
They took in the twins, Gwendolyn and Angelina, 14, in December 2017, and adopted the girls Jan. 30.
Troy recalled the twins approaching him and Cetina the first week they moved in and asking the Hendals to adopt them.
"They had been in the system a long time. In our hearts and minds, we knew before they came through the door that we planned to adopt them," said Troy.
Ashlynn came to stay with the Hendals nine months ago.
Cetina said their children's home lives before they were adopted was not good.
When Bryce was 7 months old, he suffered a brain injury following an abuse incident that left him with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, vision deficits and other medical and cognitive issues.
The girls ended up in the foster care system as victims of the opioid epidemic.
"These children have come from places most of us don't even comprehend or understand. They have suffered in many ways, and they've been left with fear and anxiety, and feeling rejected," said Cetina. "Regular meals, clean clothes, regular showers, these are things they didn't get."
A routine and church have provided stability, said the couple, who attend Central Assembly of God in Houston and teach an adult class on Fridays.
The children are involved in the church youth group; Kaylie takes voice lessons and has a part-time job, and the twins - who performed at their school talent show - also enjoy singing.
Cetina said she is used to having a loud house filled with people, but she has noticed her endurance slipping.
"By the end of the day, I'm tired," said Cetina, laughing. "I remember when I was in my 30s, I could go full bore until midnight or whenever. I can still go pretty strong, but I get tired and my body's like, 'That's it, you're done.'"
Cetina, a stay-at-home mom, is working on a bachelor's degree in biblical literature online through Oral Roberts University.
She acknowledges that parenthood is challenging.
"It's not all peaches and cream. Obviously, there's work involved," said Cetina. "But when that child calls you mom or dad for the first time, or they say they love you, that's priceless."
Cetina is happily embracing motherhood, and the Hendals have not ruled out adopting more children, if they are led.
"Being a mother is just who I am and what I do," said Cetina. "For me, it's easy to just continue in that path of being a mother, a nurturer, someone who guides and encourages and teaches, and helps these children understand they are part of a family, that they are important, they're worthy and they're valuable. That's huge."
Information from: Observer-Reporter, http://www.observer-reporter.com