Foster Care and Parenting, What is in a Number

We welcomed eight children into our home between March 2020 and today, we have had twenty five children placed as foster children since 2015, and an additional five as respite placements. These numbers look so bland on paper. Thirty children have been part of our daily living in the last six years, we have nine of our own children. In putting some thoughts on paper about what these numbers mean, it boils down to acceptance and hard work.  If anyone is new to the Otis family speak, "our own" is a loaded term. We have five biological children and four adopted children. Early on one of our sons told us the power of the question "which ones are your own?" And the fact that I answered without hesitation all those years ago, "they are all our children" from birth or adoption, feeling fully accepted and claimed has become the way we walk in this family. This does not take away the respect and open conversation about birth families, first families and sacrifice. F

Pandemic Part Two, Adjustments.

Where we were in March and where we are today has evolved.  Sure there are great things, we all feel some of those. More time together, slower pace, perspective and pause. The flip side can be really painful. Isolation, feeling underwater, fear of the future, disconnection to loved ones and the list goes on.  Yesterday after a day that had foster care lows, disconnection from our oldest that I know I am not managing well, and frozen pizzas (with lots of jalapeƱos) for dinner, we needed a re boot. As a family we brainstormed some ideas to get us out of the "pandemic slump" that we have fallen into. We re wrote the chore chart to update days that work for the 7 living at home, we deep cleaned seasonal spaces to get out winter gear for skating, sledding and indoor space for skateboarding. We sorted things to donate and recycle. We washed and folded all the left over items that were used for our foster daughter that left, said a prayer over the pile, and put them in a bin. We too

Practicing Hospitality in a Pandemic

" Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13 Last week I had a text that someone had adult mens winter gear, could I possibly swing by and pick it up? At the exact moment the text came in I had just dropped my freshman off for football and was worried about his lack of winter athletic gear, I had two foster children both not happy in carseats, our four year old angry about loosing glow in the dark teeth from Halloween and a nine year old trying to sell me on tic tok, vying for my full attention. Deep breath. Why on earth would I drive to a suburb and pick this stuff up? For some reason I decided I should do it so we made the thirty minute drive. Fast forward 48 hours a text came in copied here: "Hi there I got your number from a case aid in Ramsey County. He said you might have connections for clothing needs. It is a long shot but I help with a prison release program and I have a van load of guys without gear." Come Holy Spirit

Family Plan March 2020, Wash & Help

Finding out our family of ten is going to be at home together for the foreseeable future lead us to brainstorm some structure. This schedule allows kids ranging baby to senior in high school some level of routine. We have a clear plastic tote for phones for the two hour afternoon slot in the kitchen. Our daily and weekly chores are not changing. Over the summer we are much more relaxed. For our family, accustomed to athletics, faith formation, and being on the go, this will be a challenge. We are doing our best to meet it head on with:  ~ 1 Hour Outside activity (at least, can combine another requirement such as chores) ~ 1 Hour Reading without a screen, can be a book, comic, printed out article. ~ 1 Hour Fitness, this can be walking the dog, weights, running, list choice: ~ 1 Hour childcare slot, or playing with one of the youngest three  ~ 30 min MATH related time, online games, worksheets, watch Kahn academy, Youtube ~Help the household r

Worthy Work

Someone came up to me after church today and asked about foster care, I could see the worry there. This was a kinship question, and I knew right away this would be a family I would be dropping off gear for, maybe a meal and praying for often. It made me think about the purpose of work, the value of productivity both compensated and non compensated. It made me think about how I am modeling work both at home, and in the world, to our children. When we started taking care of children, I did not think of it as work. I thought of it as a way to share our families warmth. Overtime I have learned, providing good quality care to vulnerable children, is indeed, work. I am able to help with multiple need based clothing closets, and have seen the need grow. We have had Head Start, foster families, single mothers and newly immigrated families, come in recently. Of course this is an unpaid job, and there are days it feels like really anyone could be doing it, so why me? When this person approac

Compassion & Teens

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”  ―  Plato In-between practice drop off and game start time I attempted to google articles on compassion for teens making decisions about their future. I found a lot of college versus trades information, some TED talks on taking gap years and how to work with fair test schools that do not require types of tests for admittance. These were all actually informative but not what I was going for.  There IS a beautifully written blog out there, but I am going to break my blog silence and attempt my own. Feel free to share with me things you find on this topic. We have extended community friends who lost a daughter to suicide in 2018 because she felt she was a disappointment. One of our kids has a friend who overdosed because he did not get into the college he hoped. These are just two stories whirling in my mind at 4am as I try to sleep.  How do I extend compassion on a community level, to teens I do no

Choosing Gratitude over Stress and Guilt

In a group today a great panel of women talked about how to create margin in family life. This goal rose to the top of the discussion for me. It aligned with a goal I have set for myself of replacing the word gratitude for the word shame, or the feeling of guilt.  I feel guilty at times I am able to be home with our children, when I stop myself and swap the words, it is a mind shift.  I am so lucky to have this choice.  I am grateful for this time.  There is also the feeling of shame if I did a poor job with my day.  I feel guilty if I didn't manage to find time to make that phone call (I hate making phone calls! Next year's goal) or if I missed an appointment or did not get the house tidy by the time my first child rolls in the door.  To replace that flustered feeling of annoyance with one of being grateful is not easy.  “Being grateful does not mean that everything is necessarily good. It just means that you can accept it as a gift.”  ―  Roy T. Bennett A gift