Just hearing Karen Moyer talk about her day is enough to leave the average listener feeling exhausted. This traveling mom has seven kids, runs a successful foundation, has started her own business and does it all without the presence of her husband, Philadelphia Phillies pitching ace Jamie Moyer, eight months out of the year.
“I’m a person who gets a lot out of a day, that’s for sure,” she says with a laugh.
Moyer says she has “always preached about making it a good day instead of having a good day.” That’s important advice coming from a woman who just moved her family from Seattle to Florida so her older kids could hone their athletic prowess at the IMG Academy, a school for kids who are serious about their sports.
There was never a thought about sending the older children to live at the school, as many of the school’s international students do, while the rest of the family stayed home in Seattle.
“We’re doing it together as a family. That’s what’s so important,” Moyer says.
Seattle was the longest the family has stayed in one spot. “We’ve literally packed and unpacked boxes 75 times,” she says. Her secret? “I just throw it all in boxes. What you learn when you move around so much is that everybody is adaptable and you don’t need everything around you all the time.”
But this cross-country move means she’s on the road even more. Thanks to a long-time live-in nanny who feels more like a member of the family, she can travel back to Seattle for meetings at the Moyer Foundation or to oversee her company, Go Legs Cycle Studio, a gym that offers Moyer’s favorite mode of exercise: spinning classes.
She started the company three years ago, at age 40. “For the first time in my life, I felt like I had something of own,” says the woman who has spent her life being been known as the mom of someone, the wife of Jamie Moyer or the daughter of Digger Phelps, the legendary Notre Dame basketball coach.
While she loves being a mom and a businesswoman, Moyer says her passion is the Moyer Foundation. It offers free weekend bereavement camps for children ages 6-17 who are grieving the loss of a family member or friend. The weekend is filled with traditional camp activities as well as grief education and emotional support facilitated by grief professionals and trained volunteers. This year the foundation will offer 28 camps in 18 states. (Watch the Camp Erin video on the Web site and see if you can keep a dry eye. I couldn’t.)
Camp Erin is named in memory of the Moyers’ friend, Erin Metcalf of Washington State, who was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 15. While she was fighting the disease, Erin often expressed concern for other children and how they would cope after a death, according to the foundation. She died in 2000 at the age of 17, and the Moyers founded the camp in her name. The first Camp Erin was in Everett, Washington in 2002.
The Moyer Foundation’s newest effort is Camp Mariposa (named for the butterfly, this is the “camp where kids transform”) for kids who live in a home where someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol. It gives those kids a chance to be around others who are just like them and gives them the support they need to return home.
For the first three years, Jamie and Karen Moyer supported the foundation. Even today, she doesn’t take a salary for her work there, she says.
Having seven kids and husband who travels for work eight months out of the year can make it tough to stay connected. Moyer says their life works “one week at a time.” At the start of the baseball season, that meant a trip with three kids to Philadelphia for opening day, a trip to Washington D.C. with another child, then back to Philly with yet another. She likes traveling with her kids individually, she says.
“It’s nice. I get this one-on-one time. When you have a lot of kids, that’s hard to do.”
When each child turns 16, they get some major one-on-one time with Mom: a mission trip somewhere in the world. “This is something I have wanted to do. When you marry a professional athlete, you have no idea how long his career will be. I couldn’t wait until he retires. So I decided a couple of years ago that it would be good for the kids to think about needs all over the world,” she says. “I could do a mission once a month. I feel closest to the Lord then.”
She took her first born, Dillon, a Spanish speaker who’s about to turn 18, to Guatemala. While they were there, she found the seventh Moyer, a little girl named Yenifer, who was 13 months old and had special needs. “I said, ‘That’s what the Lord is calling me to do.’ I said yes [to the adoption] before I told my husband about her.”
This August, she will take son No. 2, Hutton, to Africa. She doesn’t expect to bring home another child from Africa, although she believes there is an eighth Moyer waiting for her somewhere in the world.
The Wife of a Major Leaguer
Being married to a professional athlete such as All Star pitcher Jamie Moyer can be a “one-way street,” Karen says. “I can unglamorize this life for anybody in three seconds. It’s not what anybody thinks it is,” she says.
“Once February hits, any broken bone or broken pipe is my issue,” she says. “Every holiday from Valentine’s Day through Halloween–if he makes the World Series–you’re alone. A normal summer cookout with neighbors doesn’t happen. And it’s tough raising kids with good work ethics when Daddy throws a baseball.”
This year, for the first time in 18 years of motherhood, she pulled Jamie out of the dugout for a family emergency. Their son was having bad headaches and had been taken for an immediate MRI. Even so, Moyer says, she wouldn’t have done it if he had been pitching that day. (It was a false alarm–their son was fine.)
Their entire married life has revolved around baseball. Jamie won his first World Series on their 20th wedding anniversary. All six of her biological children were born during the baseball season and her labor had to be speeded up or slowed down to work around his pitching schedule.
Still, she says, Jamie has always been supportive of everything she has wanted to do, from starting the foundation to adopting a seventh child.
Moyer keeps some balance in her life by getting together with girlfriends and focusing on what’s important. For her, that includes her faith and going to Mass. “We have to recognize the things that make us complete and fill our souls to fuel that constantly,” she says.
The downside of her hectic schedule: “I’m late for everything because I’m always trying to get one more thing in,” she says. “I have a really strong faith. I believe I can balance things with the grace of God. I don’t look down the road. That would be overwhelming.”