For the past 11 years, Oprah's cameras have documented many milestone moments for one Hollywood couple—actress Holly Robinson Peete and retired NFL quarterback Rodney Peete. From Rodney's public proposal to the birth of their twins, viewers have watched this famous family grow.
It all began in 1994 when Rodney popped the question on the set of Holly's television show, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper. And when the couple said "I do," cameras captured every magical moment. Then, a month after becoming first-time parents, Holly and Rodney's twins, little Rodney and Ryan Elizabeth, made their television debut on The Oprah Show.
Although it's nice to have videos of these special moments, Rodney says he dreads seeing the tapes lying around. "That's how I know I'm in trouble...when those tapes are out and she's watching," he says. "I know I'm in the doghouse, and I have to get out of it."
Holly says she wanted to have a third child to see what it was like to have one baby at a time. "Every time we went out of the house [with the twins], it was a three-ring circus," she says. "So literally five years later I started saying, 'Well, I wonder what that would be like just taking one baby out.'"
Their fourth child came as more of a surprise. "[I think] Rodney put something in my drink," Holly jokes. In fact, Roman almost surprised a room full of celebrities the night he was born. Holly and Rodney were attending a glamorous Ebony magazine party when Holly's water broke!
With four children under foot, Holly says she doesn't want any more babies. Now, she's just waiting for Rodney to stop putting off his vasectomy appointment with "Dr. Snippy."
The birthday madness began early in the morning when the Peetes, their children and a group of friends arrived at Universal Studios.
After three hours in the park, the kids were still in full swing, but the grown ups were worn out. "It was total chaos," Holly says.
Like many parents, Holly and Rodney say they've gotten used to having a house full of kids. "We like being the cool house where the kids are all hanging out," Holly says. "I'd rather them come over and be wild. It's a little loud but it's better than, you know, [them] going next door and [Rodney and I] trying to figure out what's going on over there."
"We do hotel runs," she says. "We'll run down the hill and go to the quiet little [hotel]. ... [For] one night, [we] pretend we just got married and don't have any kids."
To commemorate their 10th year of marriage, Holly and Rodney renewed their vows in Las Vegas with 70 friends and family. All four of their children participated in the ceremony. "We were proud," Rodney says. "Where we live in Hollywood and L.A., people are breaking up left and right. For us to be together for 10 years we were, like, 'Let's celebrate that.'"
This special ceremony also signaled a new chapter in the Peete household. After Rodney retired from the NFL, he stopped traveling as often and is now home year-round with Holly and the children. At first, Holly says she had a tough time going from "alpha parent" to co-parent, but now she's happy to have him home 12 months out of the year.
"I have a really good husband, and every now and then husbands, no matter how nice or great they are, can just irk you," she says.
Ten years of marriage have taught Rodney to be a better communicator. "We have to understand where the women are coming from," he says. "We have to express our feelings and not just run out the door and just keep everything inside. ... She's my best friend, so who else better to talk to about [things] than my best friend?"
In 2003, Lysa and two of her daughters attended a performance by a boys' choir from an orphanage in Liberia, a West African country ravaged by 14 years of civil war. At the concert, Lysa learned the 12 boys in the choir, and 400 more children abroad, were left homeless after an attack on the orphanage.
As they sang, Lysa says she felt God speak to her. "God just clearly spoke to my house and said, 'Lysa, two of those boys are yours,'" she says. "And, of course, I just went to hear a concert. I didn't go that day for life interrupted."
After the concert, Lysa and her girls met two of the boys. "They wrapped their arms around me and gave me a big hug and they just called me Mom," she says.
Lysa left to call her husband, Art. "I had to get in the car and call him on the cell phone and say something like, 'Hi, honey. Do we need milk? And by the way, there are two teenage boys from the other side of the world now calling me Mom.'"
Still, Lysa convinced her friends to attend a choir performance and listen to them perform. After meeting the boys, each of her friends had a change of heart. "As they started to sing, something happened," Genia says. "I just realized that there is a strength in them that resonated with me." Genia and her husband Rob already had two adopted children, but after some thought and discussion they decided to add Robert, another Liberian orphan, to their family.
The other three friends also decided to take these boys into their homes—including empty-nesters Debbie and David who adopted six kids!
Cindy and her husband Mark say that adding Nyan to their family has been more rewarding than they could have imagined. Nyan has bonded with their daughter Sophie, but he's formed a special relationship with their son Dominick, who has special needs. "Everyone looks at us and sees us and says, 'Wow, you guys have done a great thing,'" Mark says. "And it's so funny because, really, the blessing's been ours."
Although these children found happy endings, there were still adjustment periods within each family. "Some of the adjustment is having a mom and dad and realizing these people are committed to me for life," Genia says. "Part of that has to do with setting boundaries and disciplining and just communicating."
Lysa's husband, Art, had to adjust to having two preteen boys enter their world of pink dresses and Barbie dolls. "Honestly, I was a sergeant about the whole thing," Art says. At first, he assigned the boys and girls to stay in separate parts of the house. "But I think that lasted all of about two weeks," Art says. "The girls and the boys were interacting as if they had been brother and sister all along. There was an innocence there that was real and that was genuine."
As for getting older brothers, Lysa and Mark's daughter Ashley was thrilled. She says her friends at school thought it "was really cool" when they found out. "I really like my brothers. They're fun to play with," she says.
Lysa describes the time the pork tenderloin she wanted to make for dinner went missing. "The kids were helping me unload the groceries and my son, Mark, inadvertently put some pork tenderloin and a frozen pizza underneath his bed," Lysa says. When she asked about the roast a few days later, Mark ran and got it for her. "Of course, we did not have it for dinner," Lysa says.
Lysa and Art's son Jackson says he's always prayed for a mom and dad. Now that his prayers have been answered, Jackson says he has an easy response when asked about having a white mom by friends or classmates. "It's God's plan because God has a plan for everybody," Jackson says.
"Love knows no color and you guys are great examples of that," Oprah says.
Go behind the scenes of our North Carolina photo shoot with the boys and their families!
Read the full story on the group of Liberian orphans who found homes, love, and family in North Carolina in the December 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
The couple decided to apply to be foster parents. "There were a lot of children out there needing families," Andy says. "We figured, why not us?"
After they submitted their application to an agency, they received shocking news. "The agency director called us and said no state case worker would ever place children in a gay or same sex couple home," Andy says.
Devastated but still determined, Mark and Andy found a second agency that accepted their application. "It was the first glimmer of hope that we were going to be able to start our family," Mark says.
Grateful for the opportunity, they opened their home to the children no one else wanted. The couple cared for children of all races and needs, including autistic children, sexually abused children and children who had been severely neglected. "Our first year at the [agency we were working with] we were named foster family of the year," Mark says.
After living in two other foster homes, the couple's oldest child, James, came to Mark and Andy when he was 11 years old. "My dads are totally perfect," he says. "They're everything I could ever want and then some."
With six kids at home, Mark and Andy's days are hectic, but they wouldn't have it any other way. "I know without a shadow of doubt that there are these six little souls in my house that are no longer lost," Mark says.
It also helps that Mark's mom lives right across the street! "That's wonderful for us. She's our little emergency babysitter," Mark says. "She's their mom, too."
With only 44 sets of identical quads ever recorded, Adele, Bonnie, Chloe and Daphne—who were conceived without help from fertility drugs—made headlines.
Though the quadruplets are growing up happy and healthy, the family is dealing with one dilemma...even their mom, an identical twin herself, can't tell them apart. "I look at them and I can't tell the difference to save my life!" Shelly says.
To prevent mix ups, the family created a "dot system." Each baby now has a pinpoint tattoo on the bottom of a different toe.
Keeping up with the quads and their big brother Logan may be exhausting, but Shelly and Eric wouldn't have it any other way. "I look at all of them and love them so much," Shelly says. "I can't imagine not having them."