A Tribute to a Hippie, Mormon, Strong Willed, Free Spirit, Best Mom In the World, Mother of 13 Children

“Best Mom in the World”

“One in a Million”

Those phrases are thrown around a lot.  If you’ve ever wondered who has won the title of best mom in the world…  it has been bestowed upon me by my children in almost every homemade, handprinted, Mother’s Day card for the last 15 years.  Wait. You too?  Dang, I thought I was the only one;).

Really though… have you ever met a mother that truly deserves the title of “One in a million.”  I have… it’s my mother.   BUT, I promise she isn’t one in a million just because I’m biased.   If you don’t believe me, you will after you are done reading this. In fact, you might think she is one in two or three million; or perhaps “one of a kind” because I’ve never met anyone that has a story like hers.  Her story involves dirt floors, sponge baths, an outdoor kitchen, 13 children, and love, lots of love.  And just in case you are wondering, this story does not take place in the 1800s where those things were typical. It all started in the 1970s.

I love you mom. This is my, “You are one in a million, best Mom in the world card” to you.

Ruth was raised in an affluent home the daughter of a gifted pediatrician and loving mother. Though her every material need was met there was no affluence when it came to religion.  Her father was an atheist and her mother’s motto was, “I’ll keep my eyes open when I die.”

Ruth went against the grain of her upbringing since the day she was born and by the time she left home the term “free spirit” had been invented especially to define her. She backpacked by herself across Europe and did what every “good” hippie is supposed to do. You weren’t a real hippie unless you were at Woodstock, so yes, she was there too.  (Not that she or anyone else who went remembers it).

With all the things her free spirit wanted to do she knew from a young age that she would love being a mother.  She had an innate ability to nurture. Not just the normal “nurture” quality that many women possess.  Hers was a gift, her strength.

Her travels landed her in a hippie commune in Placitas, NM… nope, not quite the place to start a family or even the best stepping stone but it all worked out.

“I’m going to spend the rest of my life with that man.”  Those are the words that ran through her head shortly after moving to New Mexico and seeing Robert for the first time.  She was inspired, determined, or both because they were married shortly after.

They built their first make shift home.  When I say make shift I mean….

Motherhood | Hippie | Adoption | Addiction Recovery | Mormon | Big Family

Yeah, make shift. They called it “free form” and considered it a piece of art. I’m not sure if the neighbors agreed.  At any rate, they loved their home, dirt floors and all. There was one small big problem though.  They were surrounded by drugs and the lifestyle that comes when living in a hippie commune.  Though LSD/acid trips made for interesting art inspiration and counterfeit “spiritual highs”… she started to realize some changes were needed.

Motherhood was what changed her.

She had her first child and it was love for that child along with a seed of desire to get to know Christ better that gave her the strength to take action.  She was terrified that they risked having their children taken from them by living in a community that was being infiltrated by illegal drugs.  They felt their best option was to leave their lifestyle behind, move to another state, and clean up their lives once and for all.

Their resolve proved adequate.  In less than a year their life was turned around.  They were free from all their addictions… drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.  They found a home for their a faith in The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints and Ruth was baptized at 9 months pregnant with their second child.   (I tease my mom that if she ever wrote a memoir, which she easily could, she should call it “from LSD to LDS.” Ha! Another story for another day I suppose.) Oops, where was I?  Oh yes, they started on the path to grow closer to each other and their Savior.  Robert obtained a journeyman’s license to become an electrician and better provide for his family. Life was looking good.

Through the strength their faith provided they felt they could return home to NM.  They found a new house that wasn’t quite art and still didn’t have plumbing or electricity, but it would do for a while. So no more drugs, no more commune but…

What’s that saying?  You can take the hippie out the commune but you can’t take the hippie out of the girl?  I don’t think that’s quite it, but it applies here!  (Really, don’t ask me how I learned to shave my legs or do my hair and makeup because that was all so foreign to my mom.)   Ruth left a lot behind but she kept everything that served her children well from her hippie lifestyle.

Homemade bread and cheese, chickens, a garden… living the all-natural life.  She provided opportunities for each of her 5 little ones to be creative and explore their talents.  She let us express ourselves in however we chose without judgment.  Her every joy was spending time with her children.

Motherhood | Hippie | Adoption | Addiction Recovery | Mormon | Big Family

Reading,  telling adventurous bedtime stories that challenged the edge of imagination,

camping out in nature at every chance, art,

fishing, hiking, rope swings,

homemade capes and life-size dolls,

staying home “sick” for some extra mom time,

a bed that was always open when nightmares came,

FIERCE momma bear that would strike fear in the hearts of anyone that dare hurt her children. (When a teacher told her that her child didn’t have a bright future, she looked her straight in the eye and said, “Well, I guess she could always become a teacher like you then.”  She turned and walked out the door, head held high.)

Motherhood suited her well but her ability to have children ended too quickly. She was told she couldn’t have anymore children after the birth of her 5th child. That didn’t stop her.

Ruth and Robert applied to adopt though I don’t think they were quite expecting what would come next.  Ruth got a phone call asking if they would be interested in meeting a sweet baby boy. He was 5 months old but adoption had not been an option. With his multiple physical and mental disabilities the doctors weren’t confident he’d live to leave the hospital until that point.  Ruth had never considered adopting a child with that many disabilities, but she was willing to go meet him in the hospital.  The rest of the that beautiful story must be told in my moms own words to do it justice. She has written it and it will be posted here soon; you will love it.

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To put it briefly. They adopted a baby boy (Billy) after being warned that he would most likely never walk, talk, and may not even live past the age of 5.  I can’t even imagine the faith it took to do what my mom did especially when her plate was already full with five children ranging in age from 1 to 9. Just so you don’t have to be in too much suspense… Billy defied all odds.

Shortly after Billy arrived my parents decided it was time for their family to leave Placitas completely behind. They moved to  a very humble mountain home.  It was a rectangle of about 1200 square feet with a loft to sleep in. It had no running water or electricity.  When it comes down to it I guess those things aren’t essential to raising healthy, happy children;  I’m proof of that.

I’ll divert for a second here because as a child, to me my life was normal.  As an adult, and especially as a mother, I’m blown away that my mother did everything I do, except…

without an indoor kitchen, but with a wood stove

without indoor pluming, but with an outside spigot, a fluorescent green outhouse, and a horse trough to bathe in.

Nope, I can’t imagine living that way as a mother though I loved it as a child.

Yep, my mom was amazing.  The house was NEVER clean, but she was still amazing. (Thought I’d throw that one flaw in there just in case you were starting to feel mom guilt.)

I would have looked at my mom’s life at this point and said, “You get a gold star. You’ve taken on enough. All done!”  Not so much.  Her heart had more love to give and she especially wanted to help keep siblings together that would otherwise be torn apart to be adopted. Maybe a brother and sister.

Before they could adopt there was work to be done.  Four bedrooms were added to the house.  We got indoor plumbing! Yay! I HATED that outhouse. We also needed something other than gas lanterns for light so the house was wired for electricity and my dad hooked up a generator so we could at least have power at night.

Then came the call that there was a group of five orphaned sisters from Calcutta, India who needed a home. FIVE? My mom’s number of children was  going to double overnight. When they arrived they told my parents about a boy cousin who was also orphaned. Of course my parents couldn’t leave him behind.

Motherhood | Hippie | Adoption | Addiction Recovery | Mormon | Big Family

Other children were in and out of our house as they needed a loving place to stay. My mom got her degree to be a teacher so she could have the same hours as us. She started teaching once we were all in school and she loved her students. One in particular was in foster care so why not add more to the family?  He rounded out our family as the 13th child… 8 girls, 5 boys.

Not only was Ruth a mother to 13 children, she also obtained a master’s degree in counseling and continued helping children by working as a school counselor and providing family counseling.  Though she recently retired from school counseling she still counsels individuals. Oh, did I mention that she has never charged people for her services? She wanted to make sure anyone that needed help could get it without worrying about the cost.

What a life. What a legacy. What a mother.

So do you agree with me now?  One in a million or one of a kind, I’m so grateful to have known this incredible woman.  I feel lucky to call her my mother. You’ll be reading more stories about her and my crazy blessed childhood!

I love you mom! You’re the best mom in the world!

If you enjoyed this story I’d be so grateful if you shared it on your social media accounts! What do you love about your mom? Tell me in the comments!  🙂

Do you have a story about your mom you’d love to share?  Send it to [email protected] to have it published here!



Motherhood | Hippie | Adoption | Addiction Recovery | Mormon | Big Family


  1. Nicole | 10th May 17

    She is amazing! So blessed to have her in our lives! She raised great kids also! 😊

    • Amber | 10th May 17

      I know someone else that has a pretty cool mom that could share her story here. wink wink:)

  2. DeAnn | 10th May 17

    I have never seen a photo of your mom when she was younger. She was gorgeous! She is still, but it’s just to see.

    My mom is fearless, she doesn’t worry what others think, she doesn’t talk badly of others, she just lives live her way!

    • Amber | 10th May 17

      I’ll have to tell you the story behind that picture DeAnn. I love your description of your mom!

  3. Margy | 10th May 17

    What to say in a couple paragraphs? Ruth was an awesome friend. She and I had years of sharing and caring for our family members.
    I am grateful my sons had a safe haven at your house as did your brothers at our house
    Your mom and I taught early morning seminary together. What an experience! !
    She was my best friend. Lots of laughter and tears were shared.
    I am sorry I have not kept in touch with her .
    She is one of the best kind

    My own mother was a great lady. She showed unconditional love and rendered service to many
    She and my father served five missions.
    Her children and grandchildren love and miss her.

    • Amber | 10th May 17

      I’m going to share this with my mom. She will love to read it! I remember how good of friends you were. Your family was a blessing to us! Thank you for sharing!!

  4. Annamaria | 10th May 17

    When I think of Ruth tears of joy fill my eyes. She gave me the gift of an understanding and a compassionate heart. Her love and discernment opened doors for me and my heart was able to heal. Thank you, Ruth.

    • Amber | 10th May 17

      OK reading your comment brought tears to MY eyes. Thank you. You described her well!

  5. Ragena Palmer | 11th May 17

    What a wonderful story about your mom. She was, indeed, “one of a kind.” There must be something about the name of Ruth, which was also my mother’s name, who was also, “one of a kind.” She gave birth to 12 children, and helped in many ways with the 8 children my father brought to their marriage (making a total of 20 children whose lives she impacted, not to mention all of the grandchildren and great-children–and on and on who remember and adore her). She was born in the Mexican Mormon colony of Colonia Morales and left there when Poncho Villa started a revolution. She was a gifted story teller, gardener, and very active member of the church, at one time serving as the Relief Society President of our little branch in Colorado for 16 years. So much more! Not enough room. I love your stories!

    • Amber | 11th May 17

      Wow Regina! I had no idea you came from such a unique family! 20 kids?! Thanks for sharing, I bet she and my mom could have given each other advice. Ha!

  6. Marissa Lorette | 11th May 17

    Amber, I’m sending you and your mama Ruth big mama hugs. You two were there when I needed love and I will always be grateful. Tell your mama I said hello

  7. Kathie Clifford | 13th May 17

    Hi Amber, thank you for the fun, inspiring story about your mom Ruth. I agree she is on amazing woman.

  8. Terri | 1st Jun 17

    I’m behind in reading, but so glad I took the time to read this. I have only met your mother briefly. She was so warm and kind. Her humble nature didn’t reveal how amazing she is. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    I have been blessed with a wonderful mother and a wonderful stepmother. They have provided the best examples of just what I needed in my life.

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