Otis Kids Hoodies

Otis Kids Hoodies

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sate Fair Time!

Matching in Yellow off to the state fair 2007
Snow cones at the state Fair in 2010

Sate Fair 2013

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taking time for conversations about suicide

When Robin Williams committed suicide my first thought, as I am sure many people had, was of his daughter. My worry in the moment was that she would feel that her love was not enough. The way it was covered, the way the story was reported may have been tactless, but it was also very real. There is no glamour in suicide and unfortunately no privacy. I do not believe suicide is selfish and I do believe the first reaction should be compassion. Compassion for those left behind and compassion for the pain in others we are not privy to. I hope this man's death, suffering and legacy creates inlets of change. I would venture to say for the person suffering they are thinking this is the only way to stop the pain, and perhaps this collective societal loss will allow more people access to help.

My biological father committed suicide when I was in college. Very few people knew about this at the time, even some of my roommates did not know. I had been living with a friend in Alaska and had to leave early, knowing from fleeting phone conversations with my father that things were changing and I was worried, although as a nineteen year old it was difficult to understand the depth of his hopelessness.

My father, committed suicide on Fathers day.

I traveled to California, met with his family, read a pretty beautiful eulogy and saved the tears for many, many years later. Thirteen years into parenthood my husband owns much of Fathers day, I still hurt but it is a soft hurt more of remembering. I have done some counseling, and read a lot of books. I have read letters my father wrote to me, I have longed for a sibling to talk to about the letters and found some solace in knowing how deeply I was loved. Focusing on the love rather than the abandonment, it has taken time but pain is a great catalyst for action. The desire to, as my father wrote me in his last letter, "plumb the depths of this life...." rather than feel shorted.

As I have thought about Robin William's death this week, and my children have asked about it, I wanted to share one perspective from a daughter who lost a father. My blessing of having an amazing mother, a steadfast stepfather who became Dad, and a faith that kept right on burning when I felt like wallowing in self pity pulled me through the early grief. I talked to our kids about pain, depression and hopelessness. How its not unseemly to feel things, really feel things. We can talk, yell and cry and still be whole lovable people. I talked about how "things" money and fame did not cure us of anxiety, how important it was to talk about worry or concern anytime. These were large looping conversations without proper punctuation, but I hope the older kids heard the bottom line: you are loved wherever you are, and if you are hurting I will be there with you to find the right help.

I hope this tragedy allows other families to have this conversation as well.

Little Deirdre by statue of James Joyce by his grave at Fluntern cemetery in Zurich. My parents were studying at the Jungian institute but anything Irish was a lifelong passion for my father.
As a toddler with my father

I miss my father on days punctuated by celebration, birthdays, holidays and
when ever a hear a Gaelic song fleetingly on the radio.

1-800-273-TALK  http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/minnesota-suicide-hotlines.html

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making lunches

This year Lucy will have lunch bunch at school somedays for her "Frog" preschool room. If she were to have cold lunch daily and join the ranks of the school age children we would have 40 cold lunches to prepare a week. This week we had our one week of the summer where each child had a camp, and needed a lunch packed. Often during the school year kids will choose hot lunch, but it is not a given and the stress of lunches can bring down an otherwise very sane parent.

Nathaniel is very often the master lunch maker

A trick we have figured out is much like pre-cutting vegetables on sunday afternoons, hard boiling 2 dozen eggs or making a big cold salad other weekly tricks I do. But this trick is pre packing the basics of all the lunches for the week. We use brown paper bags, write the child's name and date on the bag and put it in a box lined up. The perfect boxes are open, like a Costco box or any open topped box.

In that time of day when everyone seems to be mulling about not sure what to do after church, or before dinner time on Sundays, I have them pre pack bulk items into snack bags. Even the littlest loves to use a measuring cup to dump popcorn into ziplock bags. Then we pre pack all the bags with nonperishable items, juice box or mini water bottle, popcorn, pretzels, dried fruit, applesauce cup anything that would be fine for 5 days out of the fridge. We keep the big box out of the way on the laundry room counter and the morning of school each child can find their day and dump it into their own insulated lunch box. Then their only job in the morning is to make a sandwich or wrap, and if they wanted fresh fruit or yogurt,  they add that to the "starter" lunch.

This trick saves a lot of stress and has the kids involved in choosing what they have for lunch.

Any tricks your family does to make cold lunches fun, low stress & healthy?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back in the swing, runs and ER doctors

This morning I went on my first real run since I was sick in March. After having spinal meningitis I thought I would check back into full swing in about half the doctor's recommended time. That is usually how life works, I get an estimate and I have to change the measurements. For four children it should take twenty minutes to get out the door, five minutes per child of forgotten socks, needing to pee and homework in the recycling (by accident of course). I read this rule at some point and decided it was insane. I could not spend forty minutes trying to get out the door so I halved it, and twenty minutes is about right. Making dinner I need to change recipe amounts, back to school budgets I need to make that dollar stretch four times as far, and so on. So getting sick, and in turn getting better, should be a typical Otis conversion.

I was wrong, it is very difficult to get better trying to take care of so many other people's needs while attempting to honor my own. After childbirth I gave my self a little more slack. I took naps with the baby and drank my mothers green kefir concoctions (they work mum). After being sick I was disappointed in myself for being weak. I felt like I had somehow failed my family and myself for not being above average, for not being healthier and balancing my life with impeccable grace under pressure. 

As I was running this morning I was thinking about the process of healing, about how my priorities were re focused, my fault of judging myself and others was quieted, my faith challenged and lovingly tended and how getting sick was well timed in my motherhood journey. It has FELT slow for me, the doctor said 6 months until I am 100% but was happily surprised to see my health index back up at 6 weeks. At the time of my sickness I had a condition characterized by low white blood cell count, or low blood levels of infection fighting neutrophils, Neutropenia. By the end of April my blood counts were great, all other vitals were right where they should be. But it took time to trust my body again, to allow my downtime or take the time I needed to workout. 

Today, as I did my second lap around Como I passed the Emergency Room doctor that helped me in March. She took the time to do the right tests, admit me with as little fear as possible and get me on the road to getting home to the children and Sheff. She did not recognize me but seeing her was a sign for me. As I did the last half mile I offered up the experience. I allowed my mind to do a loop of gratitude for being down and out. For the chance to re think my habits, the reminder to spotlight health and prayer. And lastly, to allow my self the gift of imperfection.

For the photo of Como Lake sunflowers, thank you nonizamboniblue.blogspot.com

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Ends and Transition

We have a teen and a toddler creating the book ends in our family. I have been so behind in jotting down our family triumphs and tribulations in part because of the exciting journey of raising these two and of course everyone in between.
LuLu & James

This morning I woke up early to see James off. He is in Jr high now, seventh grade, and leaves an hour before the rest of the kids. He is self sufficient and we rarely get up with him but today I just wanted connection time. I made him waffles and hot cocoa and got to hear a bit about school, his week and winning the basketball championship in Duluth this past weekend. He gave me a big bear hug before he left. Almost the same size as mom and the doc said he has just started growing! He hugged me and said, "Thanks for everything mom, love you" and heads out into the cold morning to walk the couple blocks to his bus stop.

In a big family it is rare to have quiet one on one time, it is also rare to have mom wait on you. That said all the kids are so grateful and expressive with their love and it makes all the hard work it takes to raise a big brood doable for me.

This has been the best start to a school year we have ever had with our eldest, I think more responsibility and independence has made him think about what kind of man he wants to be (other than on the court, watch out he ain't pretty and his manners go out the door, just saying) and his role in the family.

The book ends continue to have an amazing bond. We had a rare date night (we have GOT to get back in the habit of getting out)! And James babysat the crew as usual. We got home and he was passed out next to Lucy with a barbie on his head and hand resting on LuLu's back as she slept. He has already said he will come home from whatever college he attends to see her play games or have school concerts, he visited her nursery school group, well all the kids did, before Lucy started.

LuLu at Children's Circle Waldorf 
The new house!

We have had a massive time of transition. The children all started new schools. Lucy a Waldorf nursery group, Daisy, Mark, Nate, Mickey, John and Annie a new neighborhood elementary and James the local Junior high. We also moved and are attempting to sell our old (lovely) home now. There are moments of stress and balance each day. The new school was the right choice for us and the children have made their way very gracefully and happily into the new friendships and classrooms. The new house gives us more family and personal space and makes daily tasks simply more manageable, like cooking and laundry.
Daisy is Thankful for her dolls
Halloween 2013
Nate & Mark celebrate being 9 & 8 with mama

As we move into this Thanksgiving week I am reminded to focus on the amazing gifts of each of our kids. How raising children is really raising people you want to hang out with for life, and to focus on the joy not on the stress as we kick off our holiday season.

Friday, September 27, 2013

First Conversations

John to Mark: What do you think the best part of the new house is?
Mark: Well, my bed is really comfortable.
John: I think it is the same bed you already had.
Mark: Oh, good point. I guess that we are all here together.
Nate: Ya, the best part is we didn't loose anyone in the move.
Mickey: Like loose a kid?
Nate: I don't know (giggling) I guess it doesn't matter where we are as long as we have the 10 of us.
Daisy: We have the bestest family.
James: Best, and we could use an xbox to be the best.
Daisy: I SAID best
Annie: OK everyone, lets leave it as we are super lucky, for this house, for everything, ok?
Mark: I think we should live in a cabin next.
Nate: Ok, but all together.

A picture Mickey announced they might need future therapy after taking, dressed up at the farm building at the MN State fair. They all went in for Lucy, who consequently loved it!
An actually conversation, I guess they are not as impressed by the beautiful woodwork, floors, paint and new roses out front. But they seem to have gotten the point, we are together. Lucy was busy unrolling toilet paper quietly during this exchange.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We are Getting Really Close!

It is a crazy time packing up a family of 10, cleaning, fixing and planning. As with many stressful situations the end result is a deep sense of gratitude. Being thankful this is possible, being so appreciative of the friends and family who are helping us along the way and knowing what an opportunity it is to create new space for our family.

Forgive our business this month, lost phone calls, missed practices or a dropped responsibility. We will be up 'n at 'em again soon in our new digs. We look forward to having a wonderful excuse for hospitality, come see the new place! Sheff and I talked about trying to have different friends and families over on Friday Pizza night. That way mom does not stress about the perfect meal but rather we get to enjoy friends and feed a gang easily. Hope you can join us sometime, can't wait to settle in to this beautiful home SOON!