They hear it all the time: “I don’t know how you do it.” So it’s no wonder Troy Johnson and his wife Jessica Thomas-Johnson are both quick with answers when asked just how they do it.
“A lot of practice,” said Troy, who has two daughters, 13-year-old Kianna and 10-year-old Kennedy, from a previous marriage, along with the six children that currently live under his roof.
“It comes with a price,” said Jessica, who seems more than willing to have paid it over the past 16 years since her first son, Kaleb, was born. Since then, she’s had another son, Kason who’s now 12, and four children with Troy: 9-year-old Kymora, 5-year old Karlins, 3-year-old Kroy (the only boy of the four) and 1-year-old Karter.
“We don’t have very much time to one another or ourselves,” Jessica said. “We could do things differently. We could not have our kids involved as much. But I don’t want them to have to suffer. I will do whatever it takes.”
What it takes, according to Troy, is a lot of patience. For a man with six kids between 1 and 16 running around his house and two tween girls coming and going, he’s remarkably laid back. Sitting in a coffee shop with Jessica on a rare morning off, he’s content to let his wife do most of the talking about his unique blended family.
Jessica calls herself a “master scheduler,” and she must be. She’s a nine-to-fiver at a local promotional products firm, but Troy works three different jobs—with the Boys & Girls Club, at the John Paul Jones Arena and for the City of Charlottesville—and the kids are into all kinds of sports: basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring, football, track. Jessica said she used to keep track of it all in her head, but in the past six months she’s discovered the efficiency of a color-coded Outlook calendar. Every member of the family has his or her own color, and full family events are another shade still.
Troy said he doesn’t try to keep track of it all. If he wants to know what’s going on some Tuesday, he walks to the fridge and checks the calendar print-out. His strengths, according to his wife, are in his ability to understand children. “Everyone that really knows him thinks [working with kids] is his calling,” she said. “Kids of all ages, races, economic backgrounds—he has an amazing knack for working with children that I don’t have.”
So just how did the Thomas-Johnson family come together? Troy came in to take out a loan from the financial institution Jessica worked for at the time and struck up a flirtation. The four kids already in the mix actually worked as “kind of an icebreaker,” according to Jessica. “We were able to introduce the children as friends,” she said.
Most of the kids were so young at that point that they didn’t exactly know what was going on, Jessica said, but she sought counseling for Kaleb about six months after she and Troy got together to help him adjust. Troy said his girls were “kind of iffy at first, but then after a while it was like, ‘Oh, that’s my brother, that’s my sister,’ so it’s cool.”
“We are just so lucky in that our kids love each other,” Jessica said. “They don’t always want to spend a lot of time together, but when new babies have come into the family, they’ve never been jealous or anything.”