Me with camera I’m Keri Riley, a backwoods mom in Ninilchik, Alaska where I shuttle around a passel of kids, fighting off moose, mosquitos and middle age.

My husband is an oilfield worker above the Arctic Circle and gone from our lives six months of the year, so more often than not I’m edgy, tired, and going it alone. We live in a fishing village an hour from anything.  We buy toilet paper and cereal by the case, haven’t had television channels for nine years, and are regularly chased by moose.

We live life on the edge of civilization where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past, a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Our kids come to us from other woman’s wombs, carrying baggage most people don’t want to deal with, and plop themselves into our lives every couple of years.  Some are lifers, many have moved on…all of them are ours.

So come along on this trip and look at life through my lens.

If you like what you see....share it!
43 Responses to "My Story"
  1. Nicole says:

    Hi Keri. I am supposed to be working on chapter 4 of my thesis but I found your blog instead. I come from the other side of the world, have only two of my own children and live in a nice suburb in South Africa where it has only ever snowed once. My favourite picture is of the lion in the Johannesburg zoo staring out at the snow and looking confused. We complain bitterly if the temperature falls below 15 degrees Celsius during the day. (No idea what that is in Fahrenheit.) I don’t think I have ever seen a real live moose but I have been charged by an elephant!

    I just love your blog. I love what you are doing and I hope you find it just a little bit gratifying that someone so remote from you is reading about your life and enjoying it so much.


  2. Frank Hatfield says:

    Keri,We have been facebook friends for a bit now,and I forgot to look you back up on Backwoods Mom.Every time I do,I am blown away by your gift of writing and of what a wonderful mother you are.Having grown up in Homer,I feel the exitement you share about living in Alaska.When I was young our parents let us bring home other kids to stay with us for a time,often when they needed it most.My mom had an open door policy.stay as long as you needed to,mind your manners and you were a part of the family.I really loved them for that.You remind me of my mother.Reading your stuff puts a smile on my face and a lump in my throat.keep up the good work,your FB friend.Frank Hatfield

  3. C. Anderson says:

    Thank you for sharing. My youngest daughter sent me a link to an article you wrote (about being a mom who does things kids remember) in feb. saying “a kewl article mom-made me think of you”! Reading it brought tears to my eyes. I chose to divorce her father when she was in the 5th grade and raise 3 daughters on my own. I’d always fearded that I traumatized my girls too much, so this was a complete blessing to receive. So thank you SO much for sharing. (ps: all my girls are mothers now…)

  4. Jessica Griffin says:

    Holy shit!! (am I allowed to say that here?) Your truck is AWESOME!! haha!!

  5. Anne says:

    looking forward to reading this

  6. Chris says:

    Hi, I just found your blog and I’ll be back again.  We have rasied seven children (yours, mine and ours), with the youngest just graduated this last week from high school.  We have been blessed to be raising a grandson for the past seven years as well.  We’ve seen our share of struggles but praise the Lord for His mercy.  I’m thankful to have been able to homeschool some of our children and will start homeschooling our grandson next year. As I sit here typing away, my grandson is sleeping on the couch, just home from the hospital…tonsils removed this morning.   I hope I’m up for the challenge of continuing to parent for the second time around.  Thank you for your blog.  It’s inspiring, helpful, and funny.  I look forward to keeping up with your family.  God Bless!

  7. guest says:

    Dear Keri,
    thanks for this great blog! I am a mum and journalist from Germany, working on a book about global parenting, different parenting styles and childhood philosophies worldwide. I would love to talk to you about your childhood philosophies. If you like to, just contact me by email:  thanks a lot, best regards, Michaela

  8. Karen Loe says:


    I am hostessing an upcoming Carnival of Homeschool Blogs and I would
    be THRILLED if you would submit a blog post for that carnival…

    The above link is to my blog.  It has links to examples of the
    carnival as well as to what is meant by a carnival.

    While I don’t have a date set yet, I assume it will be the first
    week of June or so…

    And, while I have no idea how to reach you personally, I do hope you get this in time!

    Kissing Feet,  And, I TRULY do love your blog,  *grin*

    Karen Loethen

  9. Larry Ketchum says:

    My wife has been following your FB post for a while now and I have been reading some of her post to you. I love what you are doing (Everything).

    I grew up in Eagle River, Ak. My family moved there back in 64′ just after the Quake. I have been to Ninilchik several times throughout the years and loved every minute of it. I used to hunt, fish and pan for Gold all over the Keini. I just recently went to your blog. I think what you are doing is what I call living the dream. If everyone could experience what you have everything else would be a piece of cake. What some people deal with in a lifetime you deal with day to day. Yes I do know about the Ice Road Truckers and being gone 6 months out of the year. I work Lockheed Martin and I am out to sea 6 months out of the year so my wife has to deal with everything on her own. We have lived while in the Navy on Adak. I have done everything there is from trapping to King Crabbing in the Bering sea. It takes a SPECIAL kind of person to do what you do. So GOOD for you.

    I miss Alaska a lot. I now live near my mountains in Washington State.

    Keep doing what you are doing. ALL of your kids will be better people for it. The best home school in the world is Living The Dream In Alaska.


  10. Just found your blog while search for something else.  What a happy little detour!  Your kids sound like they keep you busy but happy.

  11. Jill says:

    no 8 second ride for you.
    You seldom mention your husband. When are the current 6 months up. That could be like a vacation…I guess.

  12. KateB says:

    I have followed your blog for a while now….(I am the one who discovered your doppleganger here in MN). I am a teacher of children with special needs, mostly behavioral in nature, as well as a parent to two young boys (6 and 7. My oldest has the “triple threat” of anxiety, impulse control, and anger management combined with an amazing mind. The other day he said something and I thought of you with your house full.

    We have been having a rough patch, spring often is, and Wednesday went well for him. School was uneventful and he overcame some major fears regarding water up his nose to pass his swimming lessons. As we were walking to the pickup he looked up at me and quietly said, “Mom this was one of the good days, wasn’t it?” and so it was….

  13. Robinevans55 says:

    Keri – greetings from an “old” Sterling neighbor!  You lived in the trailer on top of the hill when we moved to Sterling in 1995.  Heather and Lisa played together (Lisa is 21 now and lives in Anchorage).  I didn’t know you were living in Ninilchik!  Sounds like you have an exciting life with all those kids!  God bless you!

  14. Techgrl2000 says:

    I love your blog and wanted to share with you another blogger who has a large adoptive family:
    Thank you for putting yourself out there. 

  15. jillahodge says:

    I found you via a friend on FB.  I have to say that you are on my bucket list now!  If I ever get the money (lottery wining?) and time, I will definitely look you and your brood up!  My fiance would love to be an ice road trucker although he doesn’t want to live up there full time so here we stay in the Missouri Ozarks on 80 wooded acres (and a backhoe he tells every one of my daughters potential boyfriends!).  We are working toward a sustainable lifestyle as well – right now I live in St. Louis with my kids (my daughter has 2 more years of high school left) and Bill lives on our farm working on finishing the house and woodworking shop he has there.

    I’m enjoying reading about your life in Alaska and your many kids.  I think you are doing a great job – keep up the good work.  🙂

  16. shirley says:

    I am new to your blog via FB and not one but SEVERAL friends that love your words. I do as well. In fact, I have officially read every one of your posts! You are a wonderful writer and you definitely need to write a book about your experiences to those who don’t know what the hell facebook is!

  17. Kurt says:

    Greetings from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I just found your site via a link with your advice to teenage girls – wonderfully insightful stuff. Thank You! My wife and I are raising one son – a nineteen year old freshman/Cadet 4th Class at the Air Force Academy. Fortunately, USAFA is just a hundred miles south of home, so we get to see him more frequently than most of the other four-thousand families with sons and daughters, “living the dream” as members of, “The Long Blue Line.” My work is with youth and their families that are having a tough time being “successful” in modern Amerian culture. Assigned to a county social services agency from our church, I am one of ten members of a team that employs a multi-disciplinary approach in addressing a myriad of issues that have become barriers to living life well. What I have come to learn in my seven year tenure is that the primary causal element in our clients lack of success is that the children were not, or, are not , “wanted.”   It appears you and yours do not have that problem. What a blessing for you all. I look forward to learning more from you and getting to know your family. We love Alaska and hope to one day have a cuppa with you in your daughters shop. Until then, Happy New Year!

  18. Khill says:

    I am newly introduced to your site, but just spent 90 minutes getting to know you. I am drawn to your stories of ‘all of your children’! Like you, I’ve had many move through my home, but all remained in my heart. Your stories led me to reflect on my experiences as a foster parent and the lives of those families I intereacted with. Thank you–to you and the children –for reminding me that I was involved in the most giving period of my life, while acting as “Mom” for a child left behind.

  19. Codingt says:

    That is great! Proud of your courage!

    LC in China

  20. Orygunmomof3 says:

    I came across your website off of another friends post.  When I got here, I just started reading bits and pieces and I had to tell you that home school IS THE BEST thing you can do for your kids and family.  this is our 3rd year and I can’t even tell you what a difference it has made.  The old adage, garbage in = garbage out…’s true and does apply to every area of our lives.  
    I was found in the fetal position a few times when we first started.  Make the first year FUN.  Get them LOVING to learn.  Not everyone learns the same and that’s what has been so great about having them at home.  They don’t have to have 4.0 gpa’s and go to ivy league schools to amount to “something”.  For us as a family, their salvation and relationship with Jesus is most important, family time/life is second and academics roll in around there somewhere.  
    Family time….electronics out, books in.  Saturday is the only day allowed for Wii or a video.  (we don’t have TV anymore)  Where I grew up, we used to play outside until dusk.   We had to be in by dinner or we’d be in trouble.  We rode bikes everywhere without a second thought.  We had exercise from outside play….didn’t need a gym membership to say we were “fit”.  I wish everyone had a chance to kow what is was like to home school.  You’ll get the standard questions like, “What about “me” time? Aren’t you worried about your kids socialization needs?”  My answer to that is…..”I don’t want your kid raising my kid, so yes I do worry about the social aspect of it.  Thanks for asking.”  Ha ha  There are AWESOME teachers out there.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are kids who only had teachers as role models in their lives.  Then there’s the double income family where both parents HAVE to work because their kids would either suffer without TV or they have to have the nice car/houses to feel like they are “successful”.   A matter of priorities is the problem.  When we rearrange our lives and live according to God’s family plan, problems start dissolving.  Stronger marriages, less stress, more family time, learning how to read sisters and brothers and respecting their thoughts and feelings… happens.  

    I’m rambling, so I’ll stop now……this wasn’t intended to be “in your face”  🙂  I did want to encourage you in the home school department though.  It sounds like you have a grip on WHY you are doing it and that’s awesome!
    Go for it and have fun!!!  🙂  Your choices and decision will bring blessings, tenfold!  
    Kim  🙂

    • Hello!  Thanks for the comment…and I didn’t think you were rambling at all. 😉  And I agree with you across the board! I too have to laugh when people say they are broke…yet they make sure to pay their cable t.v. bill. 🙂  If I’m broke, it’s because I go out to eat too much…but at least I admit why! haha

  21. Darcy H says:

    It sounds like you’re very invested in life being hard. And that’s okay. There are many paths to happiness.

  22. I’m going to save your Advice to Teen Girls.  My daughter is 8, and I want her to get every morsel of your advice.  (I’m an older mom & am afraid I won’t remember it when the time comes…)  Great blog!

  23. You must be my twin…though we have a 15 passenger van and 12 children, biological and adopted, and 2 grandchildren….Living in Hawaii we aren’t chased by wild animals though one time our son did spot a shark while surfing, got everyone out of the water and informed the lifeguards….I’m looking forward to more of your posts as it’s not often I meet another whose shoes I could share…..Here’s to loving life and living it large.

  24. Syd says:

    Love your energy & enthusiasm Keri!  I’m a mom of one….not sure how you take care of eight…everyone looks so happy!!!!  Love & joy to you!

    Syd Hoffman, Founder of  (Website to Inspire Women)

  25. Terry Quinn says:

    Hello, I am just reading this today and enjoyed the advice to teen girls. I also have many adopted children and two with FASD.
     I would like to take my two remaining kids to the hills, lol. THey graduate this year but with FASD may not move on quickly. Getting them away from the city would sure change things. I have chickens and gardens and love farming, so I would be in my element. We are praying about that and getting our house ready for a miracle. Blessings, Terry

  26. Meg says:

    Loving Fiction Friday and desperately awaiting the next installment! Just thought I would throw that whine out there and hope you post another chapter! xx

  27. Sarah says:

    Hi Keri,

    We’re looking for a few select
    bloggers in Alaska to do a product review of new offerings this
    coming November. We’re a local organic delivery service based out of a 400 acre
    farm in Carnation. Visit our site at and contact me for more
    Email Address:
    Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you!

  28. Bob says:

    I was looking at your pics and it struck me that the oldest boy was carrying. That doesn’t surprise me given whwer you are, just a little odd.

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