Little Otis kids balancing

Little Otis kids balancing

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Importance of Making Space for Quiet

I always bristle when someone comments my life, or our home must be chaotic. I think they are saying it will be messy, unruly or somehow lacking peace.

I think the intent is amazement and tiny bit dis belief. The idea of putting yourself with 10 kids who are not your own is not a calm image, I get that!

I have worked very hard to create space, create chore expectations, create rhythms that allow for calm. The nights that are explosive with events, energy and need throw off the balance for sure. But overall this house of 12 does make room for the quiet.

It took me a long time to understand I am an extroverted introvert. I love my kids around me, but I desperately need everyone to be quiet and read a book, immediately! My favorite days are when everyone is engaged in a project, a book or coloring but silently sharing space. It does happen!

We use "active breaks" for L. Rather than sitting for a time out, she is a high spirited child! We have her do something genuinely useful but that uses her body, or run the stairs on a timer. It allows for her brain to clear, get some breath and re start calmly.
Less stuff overall helps with creating a sense of calm. Clutter stresses me out, sunshine, open floor space is always soothing. My kids complain we have less toys than other families (it is true) and that their friends have bedrooms that are FUN. We have bedrooms that are usually pretty tidy, quilts, stacks of books and coloring things, some stuffed animals and a bin of toys, that is it. And of course a sibling or three to share your room. We play outside, every day. We use the big kitchen space together for homework, for prayer, for spending time together. We don't encourage endless hours in bedrooms, doesn't seem to lead to calm energy, it leads to angst and anxiety.

Being introverted together, being stubborn about wanting things clean and having less things, insisting on regular chores and individual responsibility creates a peaceful atmosphere. Of course there are nights, like last night, that remind me why we try to take on less! Remind me I need to make peace and down time together a priority even if it means swimming against the tide.

For now I am going to read my devotional, put some laundry on the line and wash my floors. A precious moment with 8 at school and two sleeping is very rare...and peaceful!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weeping, Laughter and Grace

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
Ecclesiastes 3 1-8

What a beautiful verse this is. Although I know we cannot choose our moments I have spent countless hours trying to! It is impossible to know when healing comes as much as you wish for it. The times I fall apart as a mother are not when I expect. Those small tipping points that in retrospect seem vivid, are in the moment painful and unexpected. This verse is a reminder of the importance to be holistic, the importance to allow for the dark and the light to be included in our walk with prayer and life.

I weep not knowing if this sweet foster baby will stay in my arms, not because he is mine or because I am a better mother, but because I love him. I weep because limbo for babies is life changing and it is my job to advocate without knowing all the facts. I weep because some days I am bone tired and need to make sure ten children feel loved wholly and completely. I weep because I want to do things perfectly and somedays I don't get even close. 

I laugh at those hilarious first steps a toddler takes. I laugh at those first crooked smiles. I laugh at my husband in his tough work clothes accepting a tiny cup of imaginary tea. I laugh at my teenagers ribbing each other in a way that only siblings can; the sweetness of family. 

I am finding I need to make time to laugh, set work down to embrace the biggest and the littlest children, make time to be ok with some weeping and amen to casting away stones. The beauty of living knee deep in imperfection is Grace with a capital G. Thank you God for mess, truly it is in the clean up I see the details. Imperfection that leads to laughter, the beauty of a full, well loved life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

And that Makes a Dozen!

This morning we picked a new baby up from the hospital. I had to wait in a side office while birth mom said goodbye to the little man. He weighs 7 pounds 2oz and carried such a heavy load of sorrow and love in his tiny life span.

After I received the call, I finished walking home with a friend. Of the 4 possible placement calls we have received, Sheff has gotten the call first on the two that have come to our home. And all four calls I have received have been while walking with the same friend at almost the same rotation on a loop in the woods. Perhaps God's sense of humor? The cocoon of the woods, a womb separating me from other needs of the world, and of the other children perhaps.

So yesterday we had court for our foster baby girl who is almost 14 months and we accepted a new born boy. We do not know his full story yet, his mother is young, another child already placed in an adoptive home--we would be open to him being forever one of our gang, but we start with loving him fully while we wait. His mother's pain is not to be discounted or washed away.

As I think of the quietness of the woods, of choices people make when they are lonely or scared, I think of how I can be a source of healing. His mother has made his start difficult in some ways, and the state had no choice but to get him somewhere safe. Our job is to be respectful but also to celebrate. It is OK to rejoice that he is with us. It is OK for the children to run home off the bus excited to meet this little roommate. It is OK to say he is lucky, he is! He is here, he made it out of his own woods. He will be loved and cherished as we are his family......for now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The First Three Months as a Foster Family

Some things are very similar, the way I cook, the days I clean and how I respond to stress. When things get overwhelming I clean, I cook and I pray. I would like to work on reversing that order:)

Some things have changed. We have a lot more laundry, it is just a fact with eleven people I need to wash clothes and rags daily. One trick we have for health is we have a drawer of washcloths next to the sink and small towels in baskets in our bathrooms. Those are washed daily so any germs do not have a chance to live on with sponges or towels used by so many hands. This trick has worked for years but requires being on top of the laundry.

I also have found I have had to cut back on any commitments that require me to be solo. If mom is gone for a few hours it's hard on everyone. Dad is 100% capable but needed specifically for patching drywall (this has been a skill used far to often lately, little boys who love sports get bigger! Our basement should be a full on gym) math help and one on one time after busy days.

Above main photo is Mom holding baby Mick after geting home from adopting A and J, this photo is of Jr giving our sweet Foster Baby his rose from the Highschool Basketball ceremony. It was a great moment. 
I find that I have to rethink things I could have said yes to before in order to be present for the kids and keep up with food, laundry, homework and just plain time to talk.

The kids are thriving having a baby join us. It is wonderful perspective to put someone else first, to focus on the baby rather than friendship dynamics at school. They all
love seeing her firsts, smiles, shaking her head no to make them laugh, standing on her own and EVERYONE clapping. She is soaking up the love like a Minnesotan on spring break.

The logistics, the sense of respect for difficulty between birth family and foster family and time to fit in meetings and visits are very real. Foster Care requires being open to the unknown while responding with love and a gentle spirit. It has been a challenge to not be able to "power through" and just "get 'er done" that is often the way my personality leans.
The little girls now means three! D, L and Baby Girl

Many people have asked "how can you do this without knowing the outcome?" I think the honest response is, because it is good work, important work. Birth families need help sometimes, we ALL need support and prayer. Sheff and I have been blessed with 8 amazing kids, kids who WANT to give back and help out. Loving a baby, or kids, who come in our door will need to be one decision at a time. But it is worth it, that is why we can do it!

For now I need lots of Auidible/Overdrive and Netflix show recommendations to make the laundry go by faster, humor for the crazy days I share with friends and prayers for all the children we can't help in our home but who I wish we could!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pre-Teens, Teens and Communication

Communicating with teens can be frustrating because their own ideas and needs are so paramount. Having six from 10 to 15 in the house right now, we are loving the new personalities forming and finding new struggles. The glasses of self, filter out others more often then we would like. What I have seen lately with our teens is they often WANT to do better but do not have the tools. The first response might be frustration, but if we meet them with patience the outcome is so much better. 

If the teen is feeling like something is not fair, figuring out why he feels that way is step one rather than telling him our totally reasonable request. Logic, does not calm a teen down. Listening often does. We like the below re phrasing, found from a foster care resource "Teach Love" gives specific ideas. Times we try to think outside the box and look for new ways to communicate we are usually met with MORE respect and understanding from our teens. 

Lastly, humor is the best diffuser out there! Laughing about how poorly we as parents or they as kids, handled something leads to great conversations. Having our faith as our family rock allows for common ground, the fact that God is much bigger than our current struggle puts perspective front and center, always a good thing. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Life Today & Foster Care

Having adopted three of our children, given birth to five and now fostering a baby girl, I love the quote from Judy landers above. I have found motherhood has pain and sweetness in each day. The ability to be a "good mother" has much more to do with doing my best than striving for perfection. I have made mistakes but the best connection with my children seems to be when we heal together after something hard. Expectations for a test that is failed bring out stories of my own failures, the kids open up about why something is difficult. We grow so much more on those days than on the A+ celebrations (those are fun too:)

Foster care is a privilege and a journey that is bringing our kids together in laughter and service. Cleaning up the floor in seconds as she crawls along, running a blanket up to mom, being quiet after baby is in bed and making silly faces at each other. It has been sweet and kind, the energy that joined us. There have been hard days, too much laundry, all 9 kids of the house needing mom right that second! Dad needing to work, yup, it would be great if Dad did not need to go at all, he is my champion and rock every day.

Thank you Lord for this new challenge, thank you for your guidance and most of all, thank you for the love this family shares each day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

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 for new babies, just because.

Thankful for big kids, and those in the middle, still needing hugs from Mom.

Thankful that over sharing is alright with many 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.