Otis Kids Hoodies

Otis Kids Hoodies

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Could we ever host a foreign exchange student?

We have had two houseguests this week. Two boys who line up with our sixth grader and our third grader, two very nice boys. I was unsure how this would work. I knew the positives were the boys shared classes and activities, and the negatives would be more about how my kids acted. For example, would the boys treat this like a week long playdate? Extra snacks, wanting x box over homework and so on? So far it has actually been just fine, the boys are good kids who are very happy to be caught up in the daily flow of Otis life.

After school we always have a fun and a healthy snack. Yesterday orchard apples and candy corn mix, today homemade cookies and cheese sticks. Simple but enough fun to run from bus stop to home to see what is out. The visiting boys figured out this the only snack until dinner and then joined in with homework and getting ready for sports. We have plenty of beds for extras and the boys who gave up their own beds for the guests (John and Nate re located) think is fun to have new digs for the week.

After football, soccer and gymnastics the biggest difference with having ten instead of eight is noise level and finding it hard to end the day. Two new ghosts in the graveyard players and football team members in the back yard make it seem unfair to head in at dark. It has been positive to mix up the dynamic, change the typical partnerships. We have had to work on more modesty, closing doors to change or go to the bathroom for the little ones, but that is a good thing to learn. The kids like tossing the ball more than quizzing each other for spelling tests, but for a week that is ok.

Am I ready for a foreign exchange student? No not yet. But I think someday it would be a joy to do so. I am glad we are a home that can welcome two more in for awhile. I am glad the kids are able to welcome new personalities into the fold, to continue to be kind to each other for the most part and model cleaning up and helping out. They taught the boys our dinner prayer and how to handle a Lucy tantrum with ease and humor.

Sometimes adding more to a plate can bring out the best flavors! Week two back in school has been busy and full and one to remember.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Week one: Re-entry time

When one of the eight has a rare sleepover or is away at camp we always call the first hours home, re-entry. The physical change of adding a body back into the flow of life, the desire of the one away to share their experience while at the same time holding onto the time away as their own, sacred "me" time in a family of ten.

Going back to school is always both a re-entry experience for the kids and for parents, especially mom. To get stories, antidotes and obligations sorted out for so many different individuals is down right daunting. Some one needs a family photo, someone needs a different color folder, someone's teacher wanted proof we are actually related to Amelia Earhart (we are), someone outgrew their back to school shoes (in two weeks, how?!) and absolutely everyone needs money.

The first four days I have cried, celebrated, calculated, prayed and navigated with the kids. I have missed my workouts and missed my friends. I have attempted to be calm, all knowing and responsible but felt more young and emotional in the face of stress. Isn't this week supposed to be a monumental relief?

I have goals to create better file systems per grade, per kid, per school. I have goals to pair kids up for homework help and to find ways to manage the one family computer. I am hopeful that the three middle schoolers having school iPads will be a blessing rather than a curse and I know I need to get back to the basics with meal planning and managing driving schedules for our 7 activity schedules this fall.

A dear friend said yesterday "You sure LOOK like you have it all together my dear!" Well, I do not have it all together. I most certainly did not have it all together this week, but I am allowing this first week to be in the category of re-entry and look forward to the second week of school.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy Birthday to the Otis Dad!

For his birthday Sheff is getting a ridiculously gooey monster cake from the kids, with a side of minnie mouse cupcakes from Lulu. Some snapshots of an amazing father, a fantastic husband and a man who's patience, fair mindedness and enthusiasm make the world a better place. 

We love you Sheffer/Dad!!
Aug 27 2014

Family first
Many little ones have gone to sleep this way:)



Teaching 5 sons how to be a man

A man who loves holding babies, did our nighttime feedings around here.


Working out with babies as weight 2007

A outdoorsman and his ballerina 2009

Date night! One coming up, we will make it happen for our 13th anniversary this year, pinkie promise. And goal to do an overnight away from the kids before we hit 15 years:) We always miss them so maybe 15 is about right but great long walks in the dark to fit it in, runs, hikes, Sunday morning church as a family, the little Japanese noodle shop we love with sake and black coffee early outside before the kids wake up.  Love you!

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


2014

2014

James now serves as the "adult" to take the little girls on rides!

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