Family Fall

Family Fall

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Limbo Time

Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.  -- Aaron Saul

Yesterday I had coffee with my oldest friend. We have known each other since we were both toddlers and I stole her book from a bookstore where our mothers were likely attempting sanity by getting out of the houses with toddlers. 

We met on Ash Wednesday and talked about limbo, about the darkness of this time of year and of how to make goals to both grow and better ourselves in the months and years to come. 

How fitting for the start of Lent. 

Christian traditions, families, individuals on journeys of their own, celebrate this sacred time of waiting differently. I hope to allow limbo to be a gravitational pull toward action. I have always looked forward to the Lenten season as a time to re-boot, to re-set and shake away the complacency. 

I would like to be a friend who knows a re-do is possible, that connection and support is healing to the soul. I hope to be a mother who allows change to be real and lasting. And to be a wife who understands how important it is to let go of grudges.

Over coffee we talked about an idea my friend has for a podcast all about the limbo time. The time between bus and dinner, or after nap and before bed with younger ones. The time of day caregivers are zapped, working parents enter into chaos and kids feel their ability to hold it together after big days, vanishing into fights with siblings and slammed doors.

My hope is to turn to prayer, for energy. To take a deep breath and allow the light of hope shed a warm glow on this gloomy time of year. To use my hunger to read scripture and be fed. 

Lent comes at a time that is like 4pm. A season of limbo, slush after snow and mud before bloom. We are drained, weary, hungry and discontent.

I would always love to hear how you, or your families use this time OR get through this time of year, regardless of your tradition it is of deep interest to me, wishing you peace, the light of hope & the power of transformation in this time of waiting.

First day of Lent 2011, baby Lucy

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sweet Words after Icy Sweat

“Kind words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT).

Healing to the bones. We are enjoying our ice rink, Sheff's huge creation and hours of flooding have produced back yard play in zero degree temperatures this winter. The ice is not healing to the bones. The kids fall, I slip getting gear on and off, have cut my hands on skates, sticks have left bruises on shins and feeling have been hurt by opposing teams intimidation tactics. A quote by Nate to Mark I will unplug the night-light tonight if you do that again!

But overall the opportunity for a physical outlet has given way to more kindness than combat.  Shared high fives, laughter at face plants over the low boards, hot cocoa and re telling the latest match outside. I have learned that by working out at night (the 9 pm treadmill whir in our household) it saves me from the time of night I loose my patience. It is the time of night I yell for bedtime to happen or homework isn't done yet, really? 

Breaking a sweat is healing to the bones. Putting energy onto the ice this winter for Sheff and the kids, or into the small basement workout room at bedtime for me, gives way to kind words. 

Knowing the limitations of ourselves and finding an outlet is not ignoring anger or frustration, but embracing, allowing it to fuel our movement. Allowing darkness in the gloomy days of winter to become fresh, like rosy cheeks after sledding, the perspiration under a wool hat.

Kindness, choosing to let negativity go dripping into the freezing air, allows for sweet family time. 

Making the rink 2014

Winter walk, Mom & little girls
Dad's ideal moment in winter

A tiny Daisy happy to be in the cold

Mick & John boot Hockey

The year before we stared rinks still driving to skate with the crew

Dad bringing a kid with skates laced from the car to the rink

Nate & Ann

An early Dad workout pulling kids on sleds while he skates

Skating James, amazing we do not have Hockey players!

Uncle Ty on our small rink!

Evergreen's rink

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.