by Peter Schmidtke / photo by Peter Di Antoni

The young 24-year-old couple responded by moving out of their Bremen Street apartment into the Kadlee’s home in West Allis with the children and their grandmother and assuming legal guardianship of Kacie, 6, Kyle, 11, and Kip, 15. Although they had lived on their own for fewer than six months, Matt and Melissa said they didn’t give a second thought to moving in with the children. “It was just a given thing for us to do,” Melissa said from the spotless kitchen of her new home, surrounded by cartoon Halloween decorations. “My family is small– it’s now just my brother and my mom and my grandma and Aunt Caroline and Uncle Louie. We were the only ones who were renting who could just up and move.” Beyond that, Matt and Melissa both say it was natural to move in with the kids. “They used to come with us on camping vacations up north, and over to our house on weekends,” Matt said as he tried to rock his three-month-old son Connor to sleep. “They already knew our rules,” Matt said. “Not that authority is a problem. The real challenge has been with the newborn and Melissa and I getting enough sleep.” Matt said Kacie, Kyle, and Kip actually squabble over what they can do to help with Connor. Melissa, who works part-time on the weekends as a laboratory technician at St. Mary’s hospital on the East Side, moved into the Kadlee house off of Lincoln St. in West Allis immediately after her aunt Constance passed away at age 40 last Valentine’s Day from an unexpected brain hemorrhage. Matt, a marble counter top craftsman at Lippert Tile Co. in Menomonee Falls, followed a month later with their belongings. Their lives, since then, have been nonstop activity. “My aunt and I were very close, but I just didn’t have time to grieve,” Melissa said. “That was the hardest part. For the kids sakes, I just couldn’t show it.” Matt and Melissa visited the children’s schools and talked with teachers. They said they received multiple offerings from teachers and principles to stay after school with the children if either one of them had to stay late at work. West Milwaukee Middle School and Longfellow Elementary pitched in by staging a penny war, a dance, and a silent auction that together brought in $5600. “Actually, that penny war bought us the minivan that we needed for all of the kids,” Melissa said. “The social security checks hadn’t started coming yet, and we didn’t really have a dependable car. And when all this was happening, my doctor told me I was having twins, so that would have been five kids.” Matt’s mother, Janet Szalewski, isn’t surprised at how well Matt and Melissa and the kids have adjusted to these changes. “I wasn’t shocked when they announced their plans. They’ve always had giving hearts. And they were always close to the kids.” “I get emotional when I think of how much they’ve done,” said Emilia Scholler, Melissa’s mother. “Melissa went to Kip’s homecoming dance last week and took pictures with the other moms. I hemmed and hawed when she first told me she was going to take care of the kids, but everything seems to have worked out.” Life-altering changes for a couple who little more than a year ago were mistakenly told they would not be able to have any children. “It’s a lot more hectic now,” Matt said laughing. “But it’s also a lot more fun; we have all the activities with the kids. Football, gymnastics, the boys are in bowling at the Falcon Bowl [Fratney and Clarke] and Kacie is in gymnastics. We go back down to the East Side every MONDAY for that — and the Pizza Shuttle if we have time.” They credit their families with helping– Matt’s mother baby-sits Connor on Saturdays, while Melissa’s mother looks after him on Mondays when Melissa and Matt and the kids head to the Falcon Bowl. “My whole family lives over on the East Side, except for a couple of aunts and an uncle,” Matt said, again rocking Connor. “We both have tight-knit families.” Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 11 – December 2002