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Is Anybody Normal?

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Halloween was all in for the Townsend family in Ellenboro. Dad, Dustin, is shown here with various fictional characters, including Spiderman. Mom, Sabrina, is in the back.

"She's raising four disabled children," Joyce Herring shouted across the parking lot at Willette Automotive.

But aren't we all disabled in one way or another?

Baby Annsleigh's disability is that she's a baby, can't talk or walk...yet.

Sabrina Townsend and her husband, Dustin, are dealing with autism, severe ADHD, severe global delay, oppositional defiant disorder, and a 13-year-old.

"She's totally normal," Townsend said of the teen, but she and Herring both laughed when asked, "Is anybody totally normal?"

Some thinkers have even joked, "Normal is a setting on your drier."

The Townsend home is a combination circus and tornado survival area.

"I can't clean the house on weekends. It's constant tornados. They spread clothes, towels, toys everywhere," Sabrina said as her companion, Herring, laughed and did needlework.

"She is a great mom," Herring said. "She tells them once and if they don't respond, she goes to the child. She's not one of those mothers who hollers from the next room."

The two women agreed that hollering from the next room usually gets zero results.

Most who have done it agree that parenting is the most challenging and most rewarding job in the world.

And the parenting at the Ellenboro home is faith-based.

"We're in church twice on Sunday and Wednesday night and at every church function," Sabrina said. And her husband, Dustin, is a deacon at the In His Hands Independent Baptist Church, where Herring also attends. Dustin often brings the message on Wednesday nights.

Sabrina's father, Rev. Donald White, is the minister.

"He preaches real easy to understand, doesn't change anything in the Bible, tells it like it is," Herring said.

The two women agreed that discipline and consistency are essential to raising good kids.

Sabrina said that Dustin was not always good at discipline but he has the vibe now.

"He's very good today," Sabrina said.

Their children's various disabilities have required a number of surgeries, but the real challenge has been just day to day, three meals a day and a snack, constant cleaning and straightening.

The six children: are baby Annsleigh, Dakota, Sammi, Hunter, Kenzi and Maggie.

And then came Covid-19.

"I went crazy with virtual learning. Each of them had a desk; and we've got plenty of school supplies, but keeping them focused, keeping them working on their school work? And they all wanted to talk," Sabrina said with what could have been an exasperated tone, but she was very matter-of-fact. It was what it was and she dealt with it.

Her oppositional defiant daughter has often said she hates her and can't stand her and worse. She heard that 20 years from now, she'll get a call on Mother's Day from the girl saying how sorry she is.

"I'm looking forward to that. That's the light at the end of the tunnel," Sabrina said.

"They're all jealous of each other. They fight and bite and give each other a really hard time, but sometimes they play together good. It just depends," Sabrina said.

Most of them are back in school face-to-face which prompted Sabrina to say, "Thank the Lord."

Herring said she had heard, "How come he got ten French fries and I only got nine and a half?"

A visitor doesn't have to look far to see plenty of evidence of love and encouragement for each child.

As the interview was winding down, Sabrina talked about how much she has to clean. When he heard it from nearby, Hunter shouted, "We clean our rooms!"

Herring and Sabrina laughed.

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