The art of mom
Though Alexis Culp may be one of countless moms deserving of recognition on Mother's Day this Sunday, to five little girls, she is their world.
Culp is an art teacher at Good Shepherd School and a Boring native, but above all else, she prides herself in being a mother to Evi, Amelia, Corinna, Quincie and Scarlett.
It's typical for people to assume those who have grown large families come from large families, but this was not the case for Culp, who is one of two children.
"It was just my brother and I," Culp said. "I always felt cheated. ... When (Jeff and I) got married, the deal was I wanted four (children). God saw my plans and then we got Scarlett, and she's been a surprise all along."
All of Culp's first four children were healthy babies. Scarlett, however, was not only unexpected, but unwell. She has a severe congenital heart defect called hypo plastic left heart, which means she's missing a left ventricle. She had already undergone her first heart surgery eight days after her birth.
"It was scary," Culp said. "They gave us a 32 percent chance of survival."
Fortunately, Scarlett fought her rare defect with rare strength and is now a happy, bouncy 2-year-old. She is still receiving treatment, but Culp noted, "she seems totally healthy and fine."
For many mothers, parenting involves a learning curve. Culp's ranged from everything from how to change a diaper and communicate with toddlers to how to withstand five-week-long hospital stays and provide home care to a baby in need of multiple machines and IVs.
Through it all, Culp stays positive and gives thanks to God for all of her girls.
"I'm still learning I'm not in control of anything," Culp admitted. "God is. I think patience is my No. 1 thing, and I wouldn't say I'm patient, but I'm learning."
Another lesson that has presented a challenge to Culp is learning to tailor parenting.
"I think one of the biggest challenges for me is parenting to each specific child, because they're all so different," Culp said. "It makes life fun, though. It's an adventure."
Two of Culp's daughters have taken in her posed and pointed footsteps and become dancers. Culp took part in ballet throughout her childhood and even danced two tours with a ballet company in Portland. Her other two daughters — those old enough at least — are total tomboys and love everything related to horses and animals. Regardless of their hobbies, Culp is very close to all of her girls and finds great joy in being their mom.
"What isn't rewarding about parenting?" Culp asked. "Watching them love you? Watching the big ones grow up into your best friends? It's so rewarding watching them grow in independence and learn new traits like empathy and compassion. Watching them turn into who they're meant to be. It's just fun."
Culp's mother, Ronda Kimble, took a very similar approach to raising her children, and she and Culp are still very close.
"My mom started this tradition with my first girl," Culp explained. "We do a girls' trip once a year."
The idea of a girls' trip was originally conceived with the idea that Culp may have boys one day and the females in the family might want something special to do. They've made several meccas to the American Girl Doll store, vacationed on the Oregon coast and much more.
When the Culp girls are at home, though, they appreciate the simpler things and just being together. Several of the Culp family's days together are spent outside kayaking, camping, hiking, tubing, roasting marshmallows in their backyard — you name it. For Culp, who has taught now for seven years, summertime with her daughters becomes one big field trip.
"I love it," she said. "I guess that's why I'm a teacher. I get to parent all day. It's what I was made for."
Fittingly, Mother's Day is Culp's favorite day.
For the Culp family the May holiday means barbecuing and strawberry shortcake. The day usually also includes a few quirky gifts from her girls, typically new garden gnomes to add to her yard and breakfast, care of her husband, Jeff.
"Everyone tries to do something for your birthday, but I like Mother's Day," Culp noted. "I like celebrating our mothers (and) I look froward to (Mother's Day) the most because I'm so proud of it. All of my pride is in being a mother."