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Sunday, April 28, 2019

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 approached me at church today it was a reminder. I need to keep helping, doing this work of service, because it is needed. It is not about me as a person, but rather about the work being needed. Part of our families faith is deeply rooted in social justice and the commitment to find ways of serving.

When a set of brothers left our house I sent bags of clothing, rain boots, new matching rain coats from a friend, backpacks and sweet stuffed animals and blankets they had come to love in the month with us. The bags were packed with clothes from different homes that made their way to us, the backpacks were from a Together For Good backpack drive, the shoes from Once Upon a Child when we needed to try on many to get the right fit and fun character.

I received a text from a social worker that motivated me to jot this blog. Her note was as follows:
Thank you for your service to these boys. It is the most consistent routine they have ever had, I see it in their behavior. They are calmer, they use some self soothing that is new. You are one of the good ones. 

I have thought of those boys often this week as I go through the daily routine with our youngest, as I wash loads of dirty clothes from spring mud and line up rain boots. I think of them and I think of the other twelve placements we have had, truly hoping our families choice to work, in this specific way, has blessed them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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 not even know, to tell them they are worthy? How do we infuse compassion and acceptance into the stale idea of life being a journey? 

I am not sure if pressure is higher, or if social media highlights success in a way that makes failure more painful, but I do know I want to be vocal in choosing acceptance over expectation.

"Bear one another’s burdens, and  so fulfill  the law of Christ." 
Galatians 6:2

We have children who will get scholarships, we have children who will not attend a four year college. Our household has special needs and high academic achievers, some combined. As we move into choosing future paths, choosing class schedules, choosing what to focus on, I want to make sure the conversation is open to creative measures of success. 

To all those wandering, no need to think you are lost. To all those scared to make a bad choice, most of your choices are likely solid. To all those thinking they let their parents down, you didn't, they are adults with their own life, their job is to love and support you. Yes, set your own standards of excellence, never stop achieving and growing. But please don't over think what someone else is doing. What YOU are doing is worthy. If you need help, ask for it, shout for it, demand the help you need.

I will worry about my kids at 4am, and yours as well. But rather than judgment what I feel is genuine curiosity, compassion and excitement for what comes next. 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ―Albert Einstein









Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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 of the everyday is my desired outlook. As simple as it sounds I am finding myself working diligently to replace the word "Stress" with "Grateful" in my day to day patterns. I am grateful to be healthy, to have energy to worry! How can I shift that energy into a more life fulfilling direction? As I work towards this goal I am finding small slivers of new space and energy for renewal.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” 
― Laura Ingalls WilderWritings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues

I am so grateful for these children, look at how they have grown from 
this pumpkin day eight years ago! 
I want to give thanks for hard bits and the amazing bits. 
May the busy they bring leave margin for exponential joy.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Room On The Couch, Upsides to Downsizing With a Big Family


October, the world is getting colder and we had a day of rain. We have been working together to create space for our family, welcome in a new sweet Foster sibling and fix projects before the weather turns. We have a historically high number of schools as kids are in different stages nursery, elementary, junior high and different high schools. We are driving and juggling sports teams, trying as always to make sure being a big family does not become a burden to the kids chances of success.

But Moses' hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. Exodus 17:12

A shared project is a much lighter load. We have been working on house projects trying to fit twelve of us with efficiency and humor into a smaller space. I admit I think I (mom) have had the hardest time with the change, but as the weather turns projects are being finished up and I am seeing the gains. A laundry room with wall to wall drying rack was a huge hit this summer, now nine lockers and a curtain to hide the chaos of that many shoes, books and paper treasures. 
M is ready for action. Everyone helped!

Hide the mess with an entry way that serves as a mudroom. Sheff did a great job in two weekends so pleased with the functionality. Not sure about wet boots and coats but one step at a time!
Helps to hang clothes although this was in the summer when  two loads fit on the outside clothes line. 
Entry way/Mudroom.
Piping for curtain rods and  multiple panels so kids can use in a hurry.

Typical moment, love the hugs.
Like any mama it can be difficult getting things done with littles. As I imagine and explore adding in a small amount of paid work, I am mindful of enjoying this time and not wishing away the busy days of firsts with my last little ones. First steps, first words, first time of tasting sour and seeing rain. The moments that both delight and amaze me, and make me grateful for these years.

One of the goals in this move for us was to come together. I have been fighting this call tooth and nail. I want my cake and to eat it too, how humbling to see how God is working in this new time for our family. With one space for watching telivision we come together and have to debate and decide what we watch. We have an extra table at the back of this room for projects and folding laundry, mom rarely sits but is in the same space with everyone. This is also where forts are made and race cars zoom underfoot. 

We used to have four telivisions I am embarrassed to admit. With almost everyone sharing bedrooms kids talk into the night and support each other more visibly during the day. Some patterns that worked before continue to do so here, chores, spending most of the time playing outside. The new patterns are born of less space, more work for mom, more connectedness as a family. I continue to pray for a gentle spirit in this change (not my feisty Irish one that needs to question the sanity of thirty two pairs of tennis shoes by the front door) and work on my ability to welcome the imperfection that comes with less space and a big family. I struggle feeling less able to host (something we enjoy) with out more space. But I know this is exactly where we need to be right now! 

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the ufading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1 Peter 3:4
I love these photos, with lots of open seating, the majority of the family squished onto one couch. As the world turns in grief and pain with historic shootings and political turmoil, what a comfort it is to snuggle in with family. Not to take this closeness lightly, but rather, to give thanks.
A whole extra couch:) 8 Otis people in a row, I guess we CAN host!

So peacful around here Dad fell asleep!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer of 10 ~ We made it to Aug!

After a long break my mind is whirring with thoughts to get down on paper and notes I have made about organizing, traveling and making it through the summer with ten children in the home ranging from newborn to 17 years old. It has actually been a great summer! I say actually because sleep deprivation is hard, navigating new jobs with teens is hard and having three kids with permits but no extra driver...is hard!

Traveling with the kids was an adventure. We slept in one tent and packed everything to fit in a duffel on the back and a topper on the top of the van. We picked up deodorant on the way and new socks at the Nike outlet in Maine. Amazingly the only major thing we forgot were batteries for the camp lanterns night one. We had coffee (key people, key) fun foil pack food, a clothes line, enough mats and blankets to make up for 5 sleeping bags for the 10 of us. It worked! Time on the Island was wonderful, salty, rich with seasonal food and laughter connecting to Sheff's college roommates.


At home I need more bins. I ALWAYS need more bins. I adore a new label and new bin. The possibility of total streamlined family motion. In the door shoes in the bin, papers in your folder, athletic schedule pinned to the board, leftover food in the fridge. Does this happen? Sometimes it does! Other times I look around and instead of defeat I think "More bins!" and off I go to shuffle already filed baskets and create a shiny new label. Ahhh labels.

So, we made it to August. September will bring brand new things, 4 in high schools, 1 private, 2 public, 1 homeschooled! Yes, a new thing we will take on with gusto (and likely some bins) and fresh hope.

As we enter into the dog days of summer I am feeling deep relief that we have a 9 week old baby who sleeps a 6 hour stretch, that we have a toddler who adores books and says new words that me me smile and want to leave the mess to read one more time, that we have healthy children. I even give thanks for kids who are bored, praise be school and books that have never been found are just around the bend.


~ Fathers day with the 10, such an amazing bunch~

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April ~ Robert Frost

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months ba
ck in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926  

When I was little my Dad would read poetry as I went to sleep and stay up late into the night. When the seasons chnage I think of him and this poem came to mind. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prayers in the Margins, Time and Documenting the Hard Stuff




When I was a sophomore in college I purchased a prayer book at Sam's club of all places. Some roommates from college had memberships. I had never been in a warehouse store and it was fascinating, now it is a weekly habit. At 19, the idea of needing 10 pounds of hamburger at a time was unfathomable. Now it means two meatloaves and spaghetti sauce for weekly meals. 

The prayer book was already dated when I picked it up in 1997, the pages featuring women with pastel dresses, lots of wicker furniture and primary color clad kids. Hidden with the photos were sound advice and biblical verses. 

I started to jot down worries and moments of answered prayer. My biological father passed away and I wrote about my final conversation with him, simply writing Phoned Ken, he sounded like he was thinking about God. He said he hopes where he goes next will have the sound of birds. I'm sad.  Later on a new note on the same page jotted 5 years later, Praying for an easy birth, thank you Lord for all our blessings. 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Without context these notes are difficult to understand, as a whole it is now 20 years of quick notes. No note is more than a few lines, sometimes a piece of paper is in-between the pages. One is about MMO coming early, praying a bump on his wrist was harmless. It was not, it was a staff infection, he ended up with a broviac IV at home. That same baby caused the entry 14 years old, and six feet, thank you God for our little fighter who has gotten so big.

Many entries are during Lent over the years, things given up and things taken on. Least favorite was giving up coffee in 2010. Most favorite was taking on daily blessings for the children as they left for school in 2009. As I read through these moments of reflection I am awed by the power of memory and grateful for the promise of hope in difficult times. 

Time turns forward today, daylights savings 2017 and I am thanking my teenage college self for taking the time to grab that prayer book. Thanking my younger self for trusting in the collection of tomorrows and writing down snapshots to give my older self perspective.

Psalms for Women, God's Gift of Joy and Encouragement
Published by Honor Books 1989