Sheri Carlstrom used to joke about how she'd never get the mother of the year award.
Then she won it.
The self-deprecating mother of four won the national Young Mother of the Year award in 2010. No one was more surprised than Carlstrom, who has two blogs, "Mother of the WHAT?" and "What?! Who, me?," which is on www.moms.fortwayne.com.
Carlstrom will be the keynote speaker at Mom's Night Out on Aug. 25, sponsored by Moms.FortWayne.com and Fort Wayne Newspapers.
Her path to the award began in October 2009 when the Indiana Chapter of American Mothers asked if she would represent Indiana Young Mothers at the 75th annual American Mothers National Convention at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
When her name was called as winner, she was so stunned she had to be nudged to stand up.
She says she instantly knew two things: She didn't deserve the award, but she would accept it and try to be as authentic as possible.
Sitting in a chair in her attractive Aboite Towship home, legs comfortably tucked underneath her, Carlstrom is good to her word, sharing both the joys and heartaches of parenting.
"I don't know everything as a parent," she says. "For me, I'm constantly growing as a mom."
Carlstrom and her husband, Kevin, are parents to four children: Courtney, 19, a sophomore at Purdue; Zach, 16, and Erin, 14, students at Homestead High School; and Kyler, 13, a Woodside Middle School student.
Kyler came to the Carlstrom family when he was 8 as a foster child. Kevin and Sheri adopted him two years ago.
Sheri Carlstrom, 46, does not micromanage her children's lives, saying if she managed everything for them they wouldn't have the tools they need to cope with life as they grow up.
"I'm not raising kids," she says. "I'm raising future adults."
She does believe in "parenting with intention" -- parenting with goals in mind and trying to instill certain traits in her children.
Carlstrom also is an advocate for "logical" consequences to teach children the reality of making bad decisions or bad behavior. For instance, if a child is often late to school, maybe the consequence should be an earlier bedtime the night before.
Faith plays a big role in the Carlstrom family life, with members getting together on Sunday nights for devotions.
The Carlstroms' marriage is attended to, as well. Sheri and Kevin find time to be alone together, even if it's just walking the dog a couple times a week. They also have two chairs in their bedroom next to a window, and those chairs are where they often sit to talk about parenting issues.
Carlstrom's tenure as Young Mother of the Year ended in May when a new mother was named, but she's continuing on with her blogs and now the speaking engagement at Mom's Night Out to reach out to other mothers.
She won't be offering advice on how to be the perfect mother because she knows that doesn't exist. But she can share her stories about issues and struggles the Carlstroms have faced in raising their own children.
"We're just a normal family," she says.