Family Fall

Family Fall

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mark's Published Poem, 3rd Grade

Mark Otis

Runs really fast
Fan of football
Happy, weird
Favorite color pink
Athletic, hairy, and pretty
Kind of smart
Can jump high
Favorite animal is a Tiger
Has a great arm, good at sports
Loves football
Hits far, steals bases a lot.
Favorite sports player Tim Tebow
Has a lot of friends, big family
Favorite food bacon
Shoot close
Good at dancing, good at baseball and good at soccer

Mark Otis, Grade 3

Falcon Heights Elementary School , MN Published by Poetic Power 2015


Monday, January 19, 2015

Basic White & Cinnamon Bread

Basic Soft White Pull Apart Bread

1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt 
2 pkg. yeast
2 c. flour
Combine first 5 ingredients in your mixer with bread hook attachment on slow speed, cut ingredients in with a butter knife. Turn off mixer and continue to mix. I hand the bowl to my youngest kitchen helper to get all the dry mixed up with a fork.
2 eggs beat in 2 c. measuring cup, then fill cup to 2 cup mark 
with hot water. Pour over dry mixture. 
Slowly add: 
3 c. flour
Cover. Let Rise 20 min. in warm oven. 
(I use this time to tidy up the first part of baking, or unload the dishwasher)
Pour onto floured surface.
Flatten with hands and cut with pizza cutter into squares. Place in greased pans leaving space for rolls to double in size. Cover. Let rise in warm oven at least 20 min. 
Remove from oven. Preheat oven. Preheat oven to 375. Bake 15 - 20min. depending on how dark you prefer. Immediately brush with small amount (1/4 cup arox for two pans) melted melted butter. 

You can keep pieces separated for rolls, I like the easy tear and place on places for our big gang. To make it a basic white bread knead into two loaves and up bake time by about 10 min each loaf, no need to add butter on top, for softer bread add a shallow pan of water on a rack below baking bread.

Cinnamon Bread

Use Basic Soft White Pull Apart Bread recipe OR 2 Loaves Frozen bread dough, thawed
cinnamon & sugar (equal parts mixed, 1/2 cup aprox)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

~After cutting dough into pieces above (or cut into small 2'2 inch aprox squares) roll pieces in cinnamon sugar mixture and place in greased pans. I use two large bread pans you could also use one bundt pan.
~melt butter in a saucepan, add brown sugar & cinnamon, bring to a boil, pour over dough pieces
~Bake at 350 for 30 min. IF using a Bundt pan invert onto a large place for serving. I use the stone large pans because I usually double the recipe and keep the pans to serve for breakfast during the week. ENJOY!

Nate cutting pears to can & make pear tart, baby Lucy looks on, 2012

 We often bake food to honor bible stories & Christian celebrations during the year
this was in honor of Mary, 2008
A mix of everyday and sweet breads
Mickey holding baby Daisy on the kitchen floor
so mom could..make bread! 2007
Marky eating the cinnamon, more of an eater than a baker 2007
Daisy checking out what to make next 2009
Bread pans from Pampered Chef we have been using for a decade!
Lucy making Banana Bread at the cabin 2014

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Highschool...Really? I think I just graduated.

Our oldest starts High School this fall. This can't be right but I am looking at a 9th Grade Registration booklet on my desk so it appears to be the real deal.

Tonight sitting in a High School for James, I felt that pressure of classes and choices as if they were my own choices. I thought about the process of time and identity and how the kids choices mean more to me now than my own.

What does James care most about right now? I would guess he would say basketball, girls, computers and girls. Choices about English 9 or English AP and electives, and how to connect what he does now with his future are as much in my court as his. Part of my job now is to be an advocate, to learn the system to help him make these choices.

He was sweet and easy in tonight's orientation. Some of his friends sat by us, and a good friend of mine with her daughter. As my other daughters and sons enter, they'll think about high school really differently. Our conversations, how we as parents need to support the kids, will be child specific for sure.

This feels profound, being a mother of a 14 year old, a totally new phase of both parenting and self perspective. He talked about being able to take classes that counted for college credits, not because of ambition but because of "getting it done."  He hugged me on the way out, rubbed my back when I said I was worried about the kids at home and joked that I could choose his classes. It hit me how grateful I was for this kid who loves me so much. Regardless of the challenges the next four years of navigating high school bring, I am game to figure it out.

James ~ Kindergarden

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Not all Merry & Bright but a Year Full of Grace

This has been a year of highs and lows, moments that brought me to my knees.

We started the year with two houses and financial strain, trusting the old house would sell, trusting we would cover the basics. We left a tight knit community and sat back more than ever before, allowing connections and support to grow slowly. Feeling lonely at times but being surprised at how much closer we became as a family in the process. The buds of connection have the first small leaves, and they are beautiful.

The house sold, such deep relief and gratitude. The teen angst descended on our oldest, trying to reconcile the loving brother with the door slamming kid suddenly my size. I prayed for patience and understanding while trying to measure my time between the other 7 and an overworked husband.

Then I got sick, really, really sick. The kind of sick that for a day or so was really scary. But man was it humbling. Having meningitis, an infection in your spinal fluid, can be fatal. I thought over mistakes I have made, socially, in my family, my being defensive coming from a place of insecurity. I thought about my own personal legacy, really my children. Who they were, how they would affect the world, how I, God willing, could support them.

We had been visiting churches, still part of a church we'd spent many years in Roseville supporting and attending. We missed many friendly faces we had come to know, but knew we needed to think as a family of 10 and find a place we could grow lasting roots and celebrate together. Finding that, feeling deep relief and gratitude once again.

Ah, but the moments of joy. There are times the stress, the strain seems to out measure the peace. Robin Williams suicide, happened and the rush of emotions, the eulogy I wrote after my biological Fathers suicide, realizing I have never told roommates, friends even some family members about what happened. Realizing I carried that shame on my own shoulders. Who am I that someone I loved would not want to stay here with me? Was I not enough? But the time of healing of understanding the importance of owning the joy. It is my right to remember Christmas with him, to see a fresh snowfall or hear Irish music and feel joy, I deserve that joy, and he would want it for me. My shame is not a gift to him. I am allowed to celebrate the amazing relationship I have with my step-father whom I call Dad, without reservation.

We celebrated an anniversary that gave hope to a strong future. We have not taken the time to mark our years, we have marked adoption and birth but not our own relationship. We walked for hours on our short getaway and talked about the last 14 years and the next 14 years. It was a pivotal moment. Standing on the stone arch bridge we prayed together, for our kids, for ourselves for the future.

This has been a year I will remember as a transition, Sheff calls it a year of humility. I became a bit quieter and intentional after being sick. Ann Voskamp writes, "Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear."

This is not a year I want highlighted on Facebook, but it is a year that has changed my path, our family's path. All ten of us have been healthy this winter, not a small thing. We are closer and more grounded than before, we are settled and grateful.

Wishing everyone moments of real peace, of lasting connections and prayer woven quietly into celebration.

Our fall trip to Ely, Camp du Nord, was a family highlight this year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful for Mismatched Socks

Thankful Poem

Thankful for noise, because it means children are in the house.

Thankful for needing to budget, it makes the treats more meaningful.

Thankful for cold to remind me of the beauty of all the seasons and the warmth of a roaring fire. 

Thankful for too much to eat, when I know how many go without.

Thankful for family fights, with out the fights we would not have the humor of our token ice breakers. 

Thankful for mess, I de stress cleaning. 

Thankful for mess, it means creativity, good food and make believe.

Thankful for scratched floors, it means chairs were dragged to make a fort.

Thankful for my husband's cracked hands, it means he has been working hard to support us.

Thankful for my softer hands in means hours of hands coated in vaseline inside kitchen gloves scrubbing off the nourishment from the night before.

Thankful for hours of laundry, I always wanted a big family.

Thankful for crazed Sunday mornings dashing five minute late to Church, the service always holds extra peace and hope for the week ahead.

Thankful for baskets of mismatched socks, it gives the youngest a job to sort.

Thankful socks now come with different colored toes and that miss matched is "in"

Thankful for the pace of life, it means we have people to see and places to be.

Thankful to have muddy kids and muddy shoes, it means we were out there in it, nature as a playground.

Thankful for yoga pants, or "yogurt pants" as a young Daisy would say.

Thankful I occasionally stress eat so that saying I "need" a walk to a dear friend is entirely truthful.

Deeply thankful for those friends new and old, thankful for my husband and his strength of character  thankful for my children all eight on the days they ask me "do you still love me" (I always do) and on the days they make my pride spill over.

Thankful for the hardest of days, my faith is always strongest then.


Deirdre McCarrell Otis Thanksgiving 2014
I left the house a mess to go sledding with the kids, THANKFUL
for  being active so I can keep up with them &  run the hills.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not All Days are Norman Rockwell

There were really hard moments last week. We had talked about, in my Nehemiah Bible Study, the gift of difficulty to gain both perspective and gratitude. Sometimes I wish there were an easier way to re set the outlook!

I had totally messed up my practice drop off times. Wrong child to wrong gym and then back across town for the next, forgetting to plug the croc pot IN and being totally out of bread or any usable starch for a back up plan! The worst part, was snapping the head off the WRONG child. One just happened to be in the laundry path (trying to clean up a bedding accident moments before a sleepy one needed to hit slumber). Others had been uncharacteristically sassy or rude in the midst of the chaos but this one was just simply THERE. Oh the regret in the moment. And then trying to be calm and let the day go in order to rectify the night.

I managed to check in with many of the kids before bed, but not all. There was not a happy ending or a bow tied neatly around the day but we got through it. Kids all ended up at the correct practice. Sheff worked late and finished what he needed to accomplish even if it was late and he has a bandaged hand to show for it. Wonderful Roseville families helped drive athletes home, and others ate scrambled eggs and canned pineapple for dinner.

There will be days like this my mama said, so true. And the perspective often comes the NEXT day or even later on. Gratitude came the following dinner time when I took the croc pot out of the fridge and plugged IN my stew. I let my self off the hook, apologized for being late to some and for being crabby to others, and we let the day go!

Nate put together a group of magnets for a Instagram post. Mark had asked why I don't put buttons on my coat like some moms do! Nate demonstrated why it would be tricky, too many! Lots of places to go and activities to support, 9 out 10 times we pull it off but there are THOSE days we don't manage "to plug in"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day~ What to Do & How to Talk to Kids!

Today as we celebrate Veterans day, I wanted to talk to the kids about both what it means to serve and how we can help our troops. Having family serve in the military can be a source of fear and pride. The kids do not have immediate family abroad but have heard from their Grandfathers and family friends about both war and leadership serving in the armed forces. We made a list of what WE could do from home.

~The kids' school has a program to send care packages to the troops. Shop, Ship and Share has lists of helpful things to buy and send to the troops. We got beef jerky, sunflower seeds and baby wipes for the kids to bring in to school for the program. Many locations participate, google to find locally!

Check out for more ideas and programs happening to support our troops.

~Sending Halloween Candy to the troops, google the closest locations. We found a local Hospital that has a program. It was a great way for kids to share their candy and know it is going to a good cause. Handy to have 8 buckets for sharing too;)

Another good list that also has items that the troops could use.

~ Lastly a great video for how to talk to kids about Veterans day!

What did I miss? How has your family marked Veterans day or thought of our troops?