Newlyweds Tamara and Cody Vivian had planned on starting their family in a year or two.
Then, their niece and nephew needed a home.
The couple made it official Friday, adopting Skylar, 6, and Brayden, 5, during the ninth annual Denton County Adoption Day.
"We had about 20 of our friends and family there," Tamara Vivian said. "The kids loved it."
Many local lawyers, businesses and volunteers sponsor the event each year. During this year's adoption day, 16 Denton County children were officially adopted into their forever families. Participating courtrooms are decorated with toys and teddy bears. Adopting families receive welcoming gifts, including quilts, piggy banks and their first family photo.
The effort helps draw attention to the continuing need for families to help children who need a home, said Brook Stuntebeck of the Denton County Bar Association. The association organizes the event each November as part of National Adoption Month.
Tamara Vivian said she understood why some families might be reluctant to become foster or adoptive parents to someone else's children, whether from their family or not.
"We weren't prepared at first," Vivian said. "But it's a blessing.
"The kids are so resilient," she added. "It's been so inspiring to see how far they've come. They are doing so well."
This year, the children have played soccer, baseball and basketball. Skylar is also going to gymnastics and tumbling classes.
"They weren't around a lot of other kids before, so we want them to enjoy some of those childhood experiences," Vivian said.
Early on, the couple established some routines for meals and bedtimes to help the children feel comfortable — once they figured out that's what daily routines provided.
"They were used to being up at all hours," Vivian said. "It seems the greatest gift we've given them is that they always know they are in a safe place."
At bedtime, they read stories. A year ago, when the children first arrived, Cody Vivian, a former U.S. Marine, scooped them up like babies and rocked them from side to side, singing "Rock-a-bye Baby," at bedtime.
When he reached the point in the lyrics where the "cradle falls," he dropped them into bed.
"They loved that," Tamara Vivian said. "They still ask for it."
For more information on becoming a foster parent or adopting a child in foster care, visit adoptuskids.org.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.
FEATURED PHOTO: Tamara Vivian and Cody Vivian speak with Judge Bruce McFarling during the proceedings for the adoption of the couple's nephew, Brayden, and niece, Skylar. The Vivains adopted 6-year-old Skylar and 5-year-old Brayden on Friday morning at the Denton County Courts Building during the ninth annual Denton County Adoption Day.