HIGHLAND -- Bobbi Gibson rushed to a baseball field on a Mother's Day a few years ago. Her pinball-like life had the Highland mom bouncing all over the place.
It's almost a miracle that Gibson's game has never tilted.
Her son, Anthony, was playing baseball. She got there a couple minutes late. All the other parents told her that Anthony had just hit a home run. He promised her earlier in the day that he would.
Doubling down on his gift, Anthony hit a second homer when she was in the bleachers, whispering "Happy Mother's Day" while rounding the bases.
"I didn't promise her I'd hit a home run, I just promised her I'd do my best," Anthony said. "But it was really nice to do that on that day. It meant a lot to me."
"It meant a lot to me, too," Bobbi said.
All around the Region and America today mothers will be honored at a table full of food that they didn't prepare. Flowers, candies and hugs will be distributed to millions on this special day.
But Bobbi Gibson's embraces could take awhile. She is the mother of 12 kids, from ages 41 down to 13. Like a coach or a fan looking at a roster, she went through her family tree pretty quickly Friday afternoon at Highland High School.
Anthony is a senior on the Trojans baseball team. Olivia is a freshman on Highland's softball team.
And now for the rest. Kelly is 41. Terri is 38. Petere Jr. is 37. Jamie is 34. Christopher is 32. Michael is 27. Megan is 24. Daniel is 22. Curtis is 19. Anthony is 17. Olivia is 15. And William is 13.
"I've just looked at each new day is a new adventure," Bobbi said. "We use a lot of old-school techniques to get by. We don't go out to eat. There's always a big pot of something cooking on the stove.
"I walked a lot when I was younger because we could only afford one car. And I stayed home because we couldn't afford child care. It was always a group effort."
Things got much tougher for the Gibsons in 2009, when Pete, Bobbi's husband for 30 years, got sick and died. Bobbi is now working, helped by the fact that most of her kids are on their own now.
But this family is tighter than a glue ball in a gravity pit.
"Each one of the kids have their own story, even though we're all intertwined," Bobbi said. "And when we get together we share those stories and pass them on to the next generation."
Bobbi graduated from Highland in 1978, when athletics was a part of her life. She and her husband passed that love to their offspring. All 12 kids played either baseball or softball, many of them with the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports organization.
With 12 mouths to feed, paying the high cost for travel softball or baseball was never an option.
But this group has talent. Curtis advanced to the IHSAA state track meet in 2016 in the discus.
Anthony is batting .333 for the Trojans baseball team, also pitching and playing the outfield. Olivia is batting .360 for the softball team. Both programs have broken through, enjoying great seasons this spring.
"They have a lot of athletic kids in their family," Highland softball coach Sarah Funston said. "We started Olivia at third base at the start of the season, but we had a hitter for her. But now, she's hitting and has become one of our better hitters. She has a great attitude, she's a really great kid. She asks questions and is very coachable."
Highland baseball coach John Bogner has two sons. He can't even imagine all the bottles and diapers and midnight cries that 12 kids could bring to their parents.
"Anthony put a lot of time in during the offseason," Bogner said. "He's become a much better player this season. He's done a great job for us. It's been nice to see him develop this year."
With the rising cost of life these days, both Olivia and Anthony said their teammates always ask questions about what it's like growing up in a family this big. This "old school" is quite uncommon these days.
"When I told some of the girls, their jaws dropped," Olivia said with a smile. "But we manage it. We have a lot of fun. And no matter what is going on in your life, there is always someone you can lean on, which is nice."
Bobbi has 19 grand kids and her second great-grandchild arrived this weekend. The family, like always, will get together. And share their stories.
"It's chaos, it's love," Bobbi said. "We sit back and tell stories about the past, and we hear the stories of the younger kids. It's beautiful."
Most weekends were spent at baseball and softball diamonds around the area. The younger kids ran and laughed at the playground. The older kids were competing in their games. And mom was shooting back and forth with a smile on her face.
"It's amazing the way she's raised 12 kids," Anthony said. "It's been great to be a part of it. There's always been some chaos, but we've always worked it all out. She's a pretty special lady."
Besides the home-cooked meal, there's another tradition the Gibsons have on this day. They only buy "Mom" one card for her day. Just one.
"Everyone signs the card," Olivia said. "There's enough room. We find a way to make it fit."