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I have a lot of kids. I mean, like a LOT of kids. Like the old woman that lived in the shoe. Except with a cappuccino machine.

Only two were gestated. The rest were gifts. Some were wrapped up nice and pretty, and some just sort of showed up alongside the others. Some are refugees. Some come from broken homes, and some from great homes.

I love them all, with a fierceness that surprises even me sometimes. When someone hurts them, or ignores them, it makes me really, really mad. I generally say something. There are generally expletives.

I didn’t realize that I was going to be mom to a lot of kids. It just sort of ended up that way because kids hung out with my girls and saw that my girls talked to me and liked me (generally) and I liked hanging out with them, and liked helping them figure stuff out. Little stuff like makeup. Big stuff like drugs and sex and abuse. Nothing really shocks me, and nothing shocks God. I remind them that He loves them more than I do and that talking about whatever the issue is usually diffuses the power it claims, and sharing a hurt or fear cuts it in half. And then I point them back to God and assure them that it is OK to trust Him, too.

Summer brings them all home from their various wanderings. Some are now in college and some come and go trying to figure out life. They know they always have a bed (or, at least a couch) here. I suppose that’s also my homage to my transient Daddy, too. I can wake up any given morning and find kids making eggs, drinking coffee, cleaning the kitchen. No keys needed. They know how to get in the house. The dogs bark, but quickly figure out they’re part of the tribe, too. They also know that I don’t tolerate any shenanigans – no drinking, drugs or smoking. So far, no one’s disrespected me by trying. Mild cussing won’t make me blush, but gratuitous cursing gets you time on the naughty mat. I also don’t allow you to bash your mom, or run away from your problems. Parents have it hard and I don’t judge. My house is safe, but your house is your home. Unless you don’t have a home and then this can be your home.

Years ago one of the kids named me Mama Chelle. I was in my early 30’s, so I wasn’t in love with the name, I have to admit. It conjured images of a stout frau-like old woman, which certainly didn’t match my brain’s self-image. Now, a decade later, I embrace it and the dozens of kids that call me that, too. I’m honored. I’m blessed. My heart is full and overflowing. I have a great relationship with my girls, and they come first… but it’s pretty amazing that God continues to trust me with some of his other kids, too.