Gardnerville family has 14 reasons to be thankful during the holidays | NevadaAppeal.com

Gardnerville family has 14 reasons to be thankful during the holidays

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Amy, 5, and David Werner, 6, look through toys at the Department of Health and Human Services office Tuesday morning. They came in with their foster mom Karen Hartman to pick up toys from the department's Christmas program for 45 Carson City foster kids.

Children ages nine months to 17 years filled the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada Tuesday morning. The youngest tooled around the toddler area playing with balls and climbing on chairs. Under a mother’s watchful eye, they were dissuaded from putting everything within reach into their mouths.

The teenagers tried their luck at air hockey and a free-throw shooting game. Those in-between “cooked” in the museum’s play kitchen or took to the stage for an impromptu American Idol moment.

Some made train noises, some screamed and shouted out with delight as they gathered around an electric keyboard – still others found a special corner and sat silently – the sound of a page turning in a children’s book their only company.

A dozen in all, united in a chorus of preholiday cheer.

They had another thing in common: Their last name.

The Hartman kids of Gardnerville range from nine months to 20 years.

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Though a couple of the brood weren’t at the museum Tuesday (Oscar, 20, has a job as a cabinet maker and Brenda, 19, goes to school), the laughter, squeals and even pensive moments are all “in a day’s work,” mother Karen said.

“We take it all in,” she said. “My husband and I, we decided to adopt a group of siblings that were two, three, four and five – that was 15 years ago.

“They’re all but grown up now – but our family keeps growing.”

The family consists of … ready?

Oscar, 20, Brenda, 19, Cesar, 18, Lucero, 17 (all biological siblings), Natalie, 16, Joanna, 15 (also biological siblings), Gabe, 14, Arneesha, 10, Henry, 10, Zariya, 8, Davey, 6, Zsaneesha, 5, Amy, 5 and Mathias, nine months.

Gabe and Henry are the biological children of the Hartmans. Arneesha, Zariya and Zsaneesha are biological siblings, as are Davey and Amy, who still are technically fostered by the Hartmans, who intend to adopt them next year.

“It gets a little confusing, even for me,” Hartman admitted. “But it all works – as a family.”

All but two of the children are homeschooled, which gives the older children an opportunity to “mentor” the younger siblings, Hartman said.

“But the main thing is we’re a family, we learn as a family and we interact as a family,” she said.

Gabe and Joanna were playing a game of air hockey together at the Children’s Museum while talking about what family life means when it’s shared with a dozen other siblings.

“I never feel like it’s been a sacrifice,” Joanna said. “It’s always been, we share and we’re treated equally.”

Joanna, who said she wants to be a nurse someday, attributed a lot of her characteristics to her changing role in the ever-growing family.

“I remember when we came in – we were the youngest,” she said. “We learned from some of the older kids. And now that we’re there – it makes it easy to know what to do.

“I guess it’s nice to be a little older – for people to look up to you.”

Gabe Hartman said he doesn’t necessarily appreciate his siblings more around the holidays, but, surveying the room and smiling, he said he definitely “is appreciative of all of them.”

Grandmother Shirley Satterfield, also of Gardnerville, who was on hand Tuesday helping tend to her brood of grandchildren, said she “never imagined” she’d be a grandmother to 14.

“We had two children, and I remember Karen and her husband Dave said they didn’t want children,” she said. “My – how things change.”

The Hartman family receives a government subsidy and Medicaid for each child. Each is classified by the state as “special needs” based on age, ethnicity or other health-related issues. The Hartman’s home in Gardnerville is approximately 3,500 square-feet. Under state law, each inhabitant must have at least 200 feet of living space.

“According to state law, we have room for one more,” Hartman said. “So we’ll see.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.