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Mom times 9

Laura Rookstool is a mother times nine, with child number 10 arriving in July.

Blessed with such a brood, it’s probably no surprise that Mother’s Day starts a bit early for this Coupeville woman. She has already gotten her first Mother’s Day greeting earlier this week.

Her younger children wrote love letters to mom in a home-schooling class and have already presented those presents to Rookstool.

“It’s neat to have them write from their heart, not just sign a card,” she said.

Like many other mothers, she likes to relax on Mother’s Day with the family and enjoy the simple things.

“My favorite thing is to go to church and then they take me out. Some years we just barbecue hamburgers,” Rookstool said.

“My favorite Mother’s Days are when we get to hang out together,” she added.

The Rookstool family is a bit larger than most families in Island County. With nine children between the ages of 2 ½ to 25, Rookstool and husband, Bob, of Coupeville are well above the size of the average family in Island County. The average family size here is 2.93 children per family, according to the 2000 Census.

While Laura Rookstool looks forward to a laid back day with the family Sunday, the kids have their own favorite Mother’s Day tradition.

Five of the children were born on Whidbey Island and delivered by midwife Cynthia Jaffe of the Greenbank Birth Center. Each Mother’s Day, Jaffe organizes a party for all the moms she has helped over the years. Among the highlights is a clown to entertain the kids.

After all, Sunday is a day to celebrate. Even the younger ones know it.

Abigail, 9, said her mom is caring and loving, but she has other qualities, too.

“I love her blueberry pancakes,” she said.

Luke, 4, had a short answer for what he likes best about his mom: hugs and kisses.

And little Isabelle, 2 1/2, said she loves to snuggle at bedtime. Of course, that’s what mom’s are for.

Grace, 6, was at first a bit shy to talk about her favorite things to do with her mom. Later she said she really enjoys it when her mom takes her on special trips to Seattle.

“I like to go to the Mariner’s games with just my mom and me,” Grace said.

Rookstool manages to coordinate school, play and extra-curricular activities.

Yet she manages to give her children the individual attention they need to feel like they are the center of mom’s universe.

The two youngest ones, Isabelle and Luke, argued recently about sharing their mom.

Isabelle proclaimed: “No, she’s my mommy.”

Rookstool said it was a special moment.

“It was funny that Isabelle, being number nine, thinks I am her mommy, her’s alone,” she said.

Running a large successful family operation like the Rookstool’s requires lots of planning.

Rookstool plans out a menu and an activity schedule each week. She coordinates who has to be where at any given time and everyone sticks to the plan.

Rookstool also homeschools her kids.

“If we wouldn’t homeschool, we wouldn’t be able to do as much (extracurricular activities),” she said.

And there are many different activities to be tended to. The family has musicians, artists, dancers, soccer players and a homebody.

“She supports us in all our activities,” said Emily, who is a dancer at Island Dance in Clinton.

“She makes sure we have what we need,” sister Katie Alice added, also a aspiring dancer.

And Rookstool has her own schedule of activities. She is the treasurer of Whidbey Island Dance Theatre and a La Leche leader.

“We have chaotic moments. It doesn’t mean we’re never spontaneous, but you have to plan,” Rookstool said.

Rookstool also said that the kids have to do chores and take on responsibilities.

“They do things I never had to do as a kid,” she said.

“We have a buddy system,” Rookstool added. “The oldest helps the youngest. The second oldest is paired with the second youngest and so on.”

The system works and it has also helped forge a strong bond between the siblings, despite the difference in their ages.

At 25, Melissa is the oldest and is married. Brian, 24, is attending law school in New York.

“Melissa will come after the baby is born,” Rookstool said. “She’s excited about the baby. I think she’ll be sad that she can’t pop over on the weekends all the time.”

And even though he is a teenager, Kevin, 15, likes being part of the big family that comes with responsibilities.

“My favorite thing (about mom) - that she’s given me lots of brothers and sisters,” Kevin said.

However, the time-proven buddy system is in jeopardy with the arrival of the next baby in July.

Kevin is the oldest at home, so his new buddy would be the baby. But the girls next in line Emily, 13, and Katie Alice, 11, are eyeing the baby duty.

“The buddy system has fallen out of the window because the girls want their turn with the baby,” Rookstool said.

Which just goes to show there’s another big bonus with a big family. Rookstool doesn’t need the “I Owe You” coupons some kids give on Mother’s Day because she has a houseful of helpers already.

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