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By the numbers

I had the privilege of reading in Spokane’s sixth Listen To Your Mother show on Mother’s Day.  It’s been a highlight of the last ten years of my life to produce the show with Elise Raimi, to meet and fall in love with our unbelievable cast each year, to know and be a part of this national movement started by Ann Imig seven years ago.  My piece is below, but it was a small, small part of the whole.


By the numbers

How many children do you have?

It’s such a simple question.  I ask it often.  Odd, since I know quite well how complicated the answer can be.

Or I can make it simple. Five.  We adopted our fifth child in November – Four boys and a girl.

Saige, who taught me to mother a daughter and to mother a child with another mother, a first mother.

Garrett, who taught me what my mother meant when she said, “I hope you have a child just like you.”  There is a fine line, my friends, between a blessing and a curse.

Quinn, who taught me what it means to love a boy – an all-American, knight in shining armor. And who taught me to eat my words because, god help me, I am a hockey mom.

Nate, who taught me what four under four really means and also that if you invite a treasured friend into the delivery room you will poop on the delivery table, even if that has never, ever happened to you before.

I learned how much I need connection.  My friends. How lucky I am.  The lessons history knows … no one can do this alone.  A quilting group, a canning party, a PTG, a cooperative preschool, a coffee morning, a wine night, a book club.  These are just different ways of saying, I need you.  Of showing up and falling in love so we can show up when the shit hits the fan – and it will.

That’s the simple answer.

But do I count the child who made me a mother?  Who lay quietly inside me without a heartbeat for six weeks?  Who taught me after years of claiming I wanted nothing to do with children what it means to WANT a child.

Do I count Nate’s lost twin?  Who taught me how terribly joy and pain can be wrought together?

Or the little love, longed for, sobbed for, who I endured surgeries for, who taught me how random the universe really is.  How beautifully, perfectly cruel in its relentless disdain for our paltry attempts at control.  Who taught me fatal chromosomal abnormality and incompatible with life outside the womb.  What it feels like to wonder if I would ever take another breath that didn’t hurt and what if means to have friends who are still there when your heart starts to beat again.

Do I count our transient children?  Our foster babies?

The child who taught me my limits, who raged and lashed out and nearly broke my family and my marriage.

Baby J, who taught me how much love exists in families labeled “broken” and discarded by the system.

Brothers Lala and Baby M.

Baby Mateo. Baby Elvina.

Baby Azariah, who confirmed my pathological fear of choking.

And then Braiden.  The paragraph that closed our child bearing chapter.  Who taught me what resilience looks like in his ability to open his heart to a fourth mother.  And who reminds me daily that I am forever and finally cured of toddlers.

We adopted him on National Adoption Day surrounded by the friends who have become family.

He’s our fifth child.  Or our ninth.  Or our sixteenth.

Sixteen children have taught me the ultimate lesson – there is always something – some high, some low, some friend to meet, some task to do, some person to help, some sorrow to know, some joy to share, some surprise, some hand to hold – always something left to learn.



He’s so quiet, with his brown Carhartt hood shading his face and his heavy backpack slung over one shoulder.  He’s so quick.  His ten-year-old eyes seek mine for this tiny flash of a silver minnow moment through the open sliding van door.  He’s already pressed the button and it’s closing, shutting the space between us….

Two halves

Matt took a day off of work today.  It’s foul outside as only the Pacific Northwest can be.  Dense fog, ice crystals, dripping noses.  It’s beautiful if you have the resiliency for visibility a hair shy of deep depression.  He slept in, snoring softly while I turned on lights and dragged kids into the routine of…

A decade of motherhood

I couldn’t sleep one night a couple of weeks ago because I felt guilty that I hadn’t done enough for Garrett’s tenth birthday.  We had a cake and dinner, but he didn’t want a party – he isn’t a very social kid – and his one gift was expensive and on back order. I even…


They are people now.  People who can talk to me with cohesive persuasive arguments and fascinating insights.  People who can make me laugh. Interesting people with thoughts and opinions. Poorly emotionally regulated people, at times, with impulse control problems, who slam doors and hit each other and say hurtful things. I finally get it, why…

Pajama day

The kids had squabbled over the last of the good cereal at the kitchen island.  Milk puddled on the granite and dripped steadily down the side of the counter from an overfilled bowl.  She wiped with a wet paper towel, mid-scold, “not those pajamas, not the ones you slept in.” “But it’s pajama day,” Nate…

Invincibility cloaks

My only writing for months has been for a writing group that formed after last year’s LTYM show.  I adore it.  A lot of my words for that group of ladies don’t feel safe to share here.  I like the intimacy and the trust born in mutual vulnerability, but our recent prompt was “a time…

Shortcuts to intimacy

On days like today when the fog fills the deep, narrow valley to the west of us and every pine needle is individually coated in ice, I feel like the witless victim of an impending Stephen King plot.  The creatures in the mist are not going to get us this time though … we will escape…

Making a wish on a passing car

She’s talking to angels, counting the stars Making a wish on a passing car She’s dancing with strangers, falling apart Waiting for Superman to pick her up In his arms, in his arms Waiting for Superman — Daughtry   I finished cutting the construction paper parts for fifty-four parrots a few minutes ago and that’s…

My rugged heart

I’ll love you long after you’re gone And long after you’re gone, gone, gone. You’re my back bone. You’re my cornerstone. You’re my crutch when my legs stop moving. You’re my head start. You’re my rugged heart. You’re the pulse that I’ve always needed.  –Gone, Gone, Gone, Phillip Phillips   It’s funny how different a…