Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Are they all yours?

Our first mothers day I remember the sermon in Church, actually when we were living in Linden Hills, was about forms of motherhood. We had decided to adopt before having a biological child, but I was feeling unsure about how to explain our choice. Sheff and I remember the message of acceptance. The message that all children are meant for a family, that God's plans are bigger than our own if we had the courage to trust in a greater plan. That children can be born of our hearts and born of our bodies and be loved and embraced equally.

When someone asks incredulously, if they are in fact all ours, I know there are a plethora of questions behind the words. To me it is a chance to affirm all the children. To be proud in the declaration of family, to be territorial of my own, to teach them how our claim is as powerful a force as nature.

Sheff often uses it for a chance of levity, humor. I love us as a team because his "Do you have another one for us? We sure love kids." Is as important a response as mine. I am not as thrilled with the  "Why? do you need one?" That he has also been known to throw out there:)

Labor and birth is an amazing journey I have done 5 times in the last 8 years, adoption is no less powerful or painful having done 3 times in the last 9 years. I am grateful I may not look like I have had 5 children so close together or that the strains of international adoption have not turned all my hair gray yet, I think that might be the teenage years with 5 in high school at a time! And a future blog will be my theories on vitamins, water and how I wrap my stomach immediately after birth. But that is another topic!

Once at a pool a stranger asked the question and then proceeded to point out one of the children who she said was "darker" than the rest and the question came again " Are you SURE they are all yours?" You can see where my Irish temper flares up. With many eyes looking on I responded calmly "Yes, I am quite sure, I count my blessings each day, do you?" She was flustered but moved on, and the children smiled up at me knowing, fully they were mine regardless of the way God got them to my side.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011, Sweet Gratitude

new slippers!

Mom & Dad attempt a photo..together! Thanks James:)

New scooter, new slippers the poise is all her:)

Dino Box, a mommy Christmas creation that was a huge hit.

Boys hard at work putting together Uncle Ty's Race Course. NBA Wii games,
Legos and yo-yos were also hits for the big boys

So mom REALLY liked her new Ugg slippers from Dad

boxing gloves (yes a theme going here) and American Girl Doll Dog.
Everyone showed gratitude and joy, although gifts are not the reason of the season, a lot can be learned with the giving and receiving of gifts. For children to be enthusiastic, sweet and genuine in gratitude brings great joy to the gift giver. Not every expectation was met, but in a quiet and loving way to remind the recipient that we need to be thankful for what we receive and enjoy the day with loved one is a valuable piece of this blessed holiday.

Lucy entertained by all the flying wrapping paper!
This year for grandparent gifts we donated to heifer International and the children did readings and a play about the gifts. We learned about how a flock of geese can change the livelihood of an entire village and bees can give a family sustainability. All the kids made pictures and acted out being water buffalos and bees when we presented the gifts that were donations in a loved one's name.

                       Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Book of Memories

Our Christmas Memories Book
Since 2002 we have kept a Christmas Memories book. Each year has room for notes, pictures and recipes from the year. In 2002 We had adopted James, and were pregnant with Mickey. We were in a tiny house in St Paul near Nativity. We had worked so hard making that house ready. We had purchased as is. I cleaned the fridge, scraped jello off shelves and helped Sheff strip wallpaper on every surface. By Christmas time we were so ready to enjoy some down time. Not that James at 3 believed in down time. We figured out how to use fishing line to attach the tree to the ceiling so his tackling attempts remained unfruitful. One of the entries "I hope some day our Christmases are filled to the brim with children.."
The entry from the year Mark was our Holiday gift 2005
Almost 10 years later the house is filled with Children, a new house that we stripped of wallpaper:) James is not tackling the tree, he is tackling his brothers. I made 32 cinnamon rolls this morning and 2 are left, kids are counting down the minutes until Church, Sheff and I are enjoying our coffee and the baby is napping.

Life is good. Hope your Christmas memories are sweet and that Christmas 2011 is an entry to cherish.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All I want for Christmas..Is my van back!

We miss you huge van,  get fixed soon!
Well our Van seems to be broken. Things that are broken can be fixed, and my unflappable husband did all the right things and has gotten it to GMC dealer to get fixed up. BUT my van is broken and I feel vulnerable with out regular transport. Sheff left me his truck for part of the day so I can run and stock up on groceries and get ingredients for hosting Christmas. But I can't drive 8 kids in a truck, even a big truck!

Yesterday I was having a hard time. Thankfully good friends picked up my eldest, stopped by with cookies and forwarded me a beautiful song by Amy Grant. Having a worry in my life reminded me how rarely I am given an opportunity to show our kids how to deal with fear and stress on a real level. I could take the low road and say "Why me! and this stinks!" or I could rise above. Yesterday I did a bit of the self pity and felt overwhelmed. It is really hard to ask for help.

This stress is reminded me how essential it is to praise God when things feel impossible. How key it is to be a positive light for my kids when I feel worried. It reminds me to show them that when they have been unfriended, flunked or benched that the world does, in fact, go on. That in those moments of blue, especially in those moments of blue, we have to give thanks for the good stuff.

So we may or may not have our van back soon. We may be arriving in sets and pairs for a bit. I may have gotten a bit sad yesterday but it has been a gift to remember that trials give opening to the greatest faith.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Staying Peaceful Amidst the Rush

As we enter into the rush before Christmas I am reminded how hard it is to maintain a feeling of peace. This is the time gifts are going to be discovered if not wrapped, everyone will bring Christmas cookies if you don't get the Christmas meal assignments out and those homemade gifts you purchased paint sealer for and about to get smeared.
Avoiding the Mall, making Christmas Cookies!

Today when I ran out to return a birthday gift that my 8 year informed me would be a wii duplicate for his buddy, I was amazed by the frantic feeling in the store. The desperate phone calls about color and type of gloves, the lamenting of lost coupons and confusion over type of Legos on the list. Its like we need a broken record playing along with Bing Crosby reminding people to take a breath and remember the meaning this time of year.

Every faith back round has that need to connect, a need to honor loved ones and a desire to reaffirm a sense of meaning. I noticed one of the boys was seeming particularly forlorn writing and rewriting a Christmas list. I asked him what was up "Mom, I just don't know what to ask for! Everyone else knows EXACTLY what they want!" I gave him a hug and said quietly "Sometimes when we are open to a surprise it is the best Christmas of all". 

The planning and the rush is a necessary part of Christmas, but expectations can be defeating if hearts are not open to meaning. For our family this is the time to celebrate that the best gift was the simple one that came from the heart. When I feel overwhelmed by my husband's long hours, my kids eating us out of house and home or failing to get the perfect birthday gift for a buddy I need to remember God's patience. I need to stop the rush hug all the kids and get out the well worn Christmas story. As we read in front of the twinkling tree that broken record remember the meaning of the season!! is playing loud and clear.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Honoring the sadness in the season of light

Tonight the kids had their school Christmas concert and they did a wonderful job.

After the concert children ran every which way finding family, racing off with friends and bee lining for the cookies. I saw a little guy crying, lost. He was a student I knew from volunteering and we made our way through the crowds to find a teacher who knew his mom. But as he held on to my hand and his eyes were so full of tears it reminded me of the moments of fear and sadness that can be present in times of celebration.

 Recently a dear neighbor of ours passed away. She was such a warm presence for us, she bought baby booties for each of the girls born at this house. As the children and I made cookies and wrote a card, we talked about how her husband must be feeling. They really wanted to know what could they do? I advised we needed to show kindness, offer to help and to pray for Grace in times we are confused about the purpose of loss.

This is a time of year for such joy. A time of year for the excitement of children and celebrating the mystery of our faith. It is also a poignant time of memories. A time to make sure we watch the crowds for those lost or lonely. A time to show compassion and generosity even when we are frantically busy. A time to reach out when we want to remain cozy in our own homes. I am grateful that little guy reminded me to take time to honor the sadness in this joyous time of year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Making time to work out together

From Mark's scrap book, after Daddy's first triathalon he did for his 30th birthday.
My workout was wrangeling 6 under six while he did his thing:)
Sheff and I are going to start working out agian.

We is the key here. Sheff often gets in good grooves with his man cave of weights but timing it so we are both getting in shape at the same time proves difficult as I am usually pregnant or nursing. Whilst nursing I enjoy things like hamburger cheese hot dish and whole milk. If Sheff asks if I want to work out I take it as a personal affront, my lip gets all wobbly and I ask if I am too "hearty". This is our joke because he, being a bit socially moronic, decided in our courtship to call me hearty. We had just ran trails North of Duluth, in Encampment Forest and had stripped down to dive headlong into Lake Superior. It was a compliment, we think now he was going for tough or amazing, but out came hearty and so we had a stomping march back to the family cabin.

Our first year of marriage we both studied and took tests to become personal trainers (little known Otis fact) I also took a certification test in nutrition from ACE. We explored our new neighborhoods by running, joined and quit gyms, taught classes and found ways to do strength training on a budget. It was really part of the foundation of our early life together.

Becoming parents and Sheff starting to work normal hours and do graduate work made our over the top fitness more difficult. We took walks with baby carriers and jogging strollers. I set goals with pregnancy and nursing, Sheff taught Phy Ed at a local school and ended up with a basement gym that had been downsized. Sheff explored working out with kids, even teaching Dadiator classes to motivate Dads to keep committed to family while getting fit.

Now 8 kids later, busy lives, commitment to church, school and sports we need to re draft what being fit looks like for us as a couple and as a family. Our kids seem to have inherited our love of movement. For me a chance to dance is heaven, for Sheff a chance to ski or train and complete a Triathlon is using time to the fullest. We clearly need to find a Triathlon that replaces the swimming section with dance and we can complete it as a couple:)

Wishing everyone rhythms of movement as we enter into a more sedentary time of year. Last night we went to Smash Burger to celebrate awesome report cards, today we are having a very cold family basketball game in the culda sac. As long as we all come in sweaty we did something right.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Out the door without stress!

As I go to sleep at night I often design mud rooms in my mind. Sometimes these mud rooms come with built in maids who are also stellar Math tutors, but I digress. I do want a mud room, and having a contractor as a husband one would imagine at some point I will get one. On the optimistic side the lack of entry way space does teach stuff management skills. I am guessing that is not a correct term, but it is a thing! Being able to organize, keep track of and locate an assignment, a toy or a library book is a real life time skill. Having 10 people share a small entry way creates the need for "stuff management".

The more organized any area of our lives are, the less stress seems to happen in that area. For example, we have shoe cubbies in our entry way closet. Each of the 8 has a spot. Shoes, a basketball, a favorite hat go into the cubby. We then have a container for shared hats, gloves and mittens. When kids come in the door they line backpacks up under coat hooks, put homework on the kitchen table and notes or folders to me on the counter. Coats and snow pants have to be off the floor on a hook or hanger.

This "stuff management" usually takes about 5 minutes but it save me hours of catch up if all 7 kids do it. If shoes are left or coats piled up you can't actually walk from the front door to the kitchen so it is also a basic necessity for order:) Getting out the door to school, church or practice needs to be fast and prepared. Having the kids learn to do it quickly and efficiently I really think is a life skill.

The last piece is holy water by the front door. As kids barrel out into the new day I bless each one wishing them a personalized blessing such as "Good luck on spelling and let God help you make good choices on the playground" or "Try the double digit math problems before you get frustrated and sit by someone new at lunch today". Hopefully sending them out organized and blessed will lead to good days.  That said I should fess up I brought missing shoes to school 2 times this week so I may need to hold a refresher course in the Otis entryway:)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flying Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease

Many ducks to be kept in a row!
The Holiday season seemed to go off with a bang, like being shot out of a cannon.

Flying through the air at mock 10 trying to get projects done, collect for classroom parent and Catholic Charities family, juggle 4 boys playing basketball, decorating the tree and attempting to fill the house with cheer. Actually, it has been wonderful! Busy yes, but I am grateful to be able to work hard, to help when and where I can and to treat the Holiday season as a chance to get a little better at efficiency.

That said the blaring concern for me is making time for prayer. Making time for deep breaths and showing the children how powerful humility and grace can be in the midst of busy life. Seeing kids win and loose games, getting C and A+ work often happens at exactly the same time. I need to modulate my response, my encouragement, my firm resolve for trying harder and my praise for a job well done.

In church this week we talked about St Andrew being known for walking the talk, showing faith through his actions. As we get into a political time of year I worry about anger and judgment clouding people's ability to do good and be just in their actions. It is a test in character to discuss differences with poise, something I hope my children can learn to do.

Especially this time of year I hope to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, showing compassion and goodwill to those I encounter. Teaching my children that faith can be woven seamlessly into the daily life by walking the talk, going the extra mile to simply be kind people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lucy's First Tree

Christmas tree decorating is all about seeing the ornaments the kids have made over the years. Like many families the canvas handprints, felt stocking photo frames and Kindergarten projects are the most treasured adornments on our tree. I have a box in the basement that reads "Very Fragile! Ornaments to use when youngest is 6!" Not sure when that box will be dusted off:)

The kids know that our hope is to present each of them with a box of Christmas Ornaments for a wedding gift (Or other life commitment!) that have been made and collected over the years.

This year we painted ornaments and I made Lucy's first Christmas spangle. A tiny pink baby carriage.

L's first Christmas!

Our tree of handmade ornaments

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cooked Birds and Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day full of good eats, laughter and family. Markie is not so sure about the whole Turkey thing. "Are you sure we need to say thank you and eat a dead cooked bird at the same time?" We will see how that goes over.

Lots of love from our house to yours!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Date Night

The W Hotel is certainly glam and Manny's has beef. We went to a dinner in honor of my Dad and we had a babysitter on a school night, unheard of! I recently read a wonderful book by Melissa Faye Greene , No Biking In The House Without a Helmet. Greene has a story of getting ready for a holiday party that touched home. The rituals children get to share when mom and dad get ready to go out. For the Greene's Dad had cuff links, for us Dad has to trip over 101 Polly Pockets in order to dig out a dress shirt from the little girl's closet. His pants that had been spot cleaned with a baby wipe and were hanging in the shower were soaked inevitably by some basketball player decided to shower. My steam system now requires a toss in the dryer where John left a piece of bread in his sweatshirt. The pants in question are now out of the question and another trip past the world of Polly is required. For the Greene's mom has her mothers pearls, for us mom debates if she can actually walk in those heals that match the fabulous thrift store dress she scored. The part that touched home in Greene's account was how sweet and excited the children were. Seeing mom and dad step outside life as caretakers and have a night out. The kids lined up on the bed giving opinion to clothes wanting a dab of after shave or perfume. And of course crowding at the top of the stairs when we come in to see how it went, if we had as much fun as our clothes promised.

The night out was fun, coming home to a cozy house full of kids who were waiting to kiss us goodnight was the best part. Mickey told us before he drifted off to sleep "I love to see you so beautiful and Dad so handsome, you guys should go out more often I really like watching a movie on a school night!" :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Duggars did not consult us on number 20

I am surprised, although I shouldn't be, that the Duggars having number 20 has set up camp in conversations I have had in the past week. My take on the Duggars is that they could benefit from a NFP class, or ecological breast feeding  but that they are a self sustaining brood who have some great ideas. Awesome recipe for Tater Tot Casserole. That said we are not hoping to make it past nine, I think we both were excited and surprised along the way to put it mildly, but adore our big brood. Interestingly, having a large family has pushed us into a minority position. Comments, being ridiculed, being yelled at in front of the children "Stop over populating the earth!" It has made us a stronger family and honestly more tolerant of difference. Usually the comments now are kind and I am so grateful about that.

We receive much praise and admiration for our large family. Yes each of those kind comments after church does in fact make our day:) And now that the kids are starting to be a bit older they are receiving praise in their own right for the choices and accomplishments that they own. I adore our friends with two kids, we have oodles of them and I learn something from them as often as they do from me. I do not judge a families desire to have children as long as the children are lovingly cared for, educated well and able to have a rich full life. I talked to one amazing inner city foster mom who said that the real tragedy was the kids without a place to go, with out  love and faith of any kind. It could be argued that the Duggars could adopt, walk the talk about blessings and children being flowers. Well amen! Bring a few lost flowers into your fold. I agree hands down. That said I will try now and always not to judge, not to proclaim our way, your way or their way the best.

May God bless and keep your family whatever size it may be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Sheff using a child for resistance training, an entry into the world of sports.
Sports. I have entered the world of youth sports head on, rather like being catapulted into it. I really have no knowledge of sports. I love dancing, walking, even running. Understanding the rules of sports is where I am hopeless. I refer to a goal in basketball and a touchdown in soccer. I encourage the boys to pass down court when we are on a field and to shoot when they have a football. Hopefully they love me and my snacks enough to forgive such transgressions. Sheff loves sports. I was not aware of just how much until we had kids. He really, really enjoys throwing and catching things. We have 4 playing basketball this season, with Sheff coaching or assistant coaching 3 of the players, and will have 6 playing next basketball season. Football was blissfully light with only 3 in gear. Baseball is our highest level of participation. So far Daisy dances, I am better at this lingo. I should probably get a 101 book on each sport. But then I might care too much. Right now I fully buy into the idea of enjoying the game, having fun, being a good sport. If I understand the ins and outs I might start sounding like the parents who actually know what they are talking about and the kids might miss excited slightly confused mom on the field/court/rink.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adoption, biology & respect


Being an adoptive parent as well as a biological parent is an interesting balance. I'd say the best gift adoption has given me is the commitment to see each of our children as unique individuals. For example, one of my adoptive children is flat out awesome at Math. I take no credit for that so I really shouldn't take credit for one of my bio kids abilities artistically. Being open and excited about each child apart from my own or Sheff's abilities allows them to create themselves with out judgment. We have very high expectations for each of our children, morally, academically and athletically. Our expectations are not based on any preconceived notion of ability or genetics.

We spent a lot of time traveling when I was growing up and I would buy parenting magazines from around the world. Italy, France, Spain, Cambodia and Mexico all have different top 10 names, different baby foods. It created a global sense of family in me and a desire for adoption. As a mother now I am reminded of my early desire to teach myself about different cultures. It is very easy to slide into a framework of knowing best. Of believing what your own child eats is normal. Of thinking one way of sleeping or potty training is the end all and be all.

It is a privilege to be a mother to both adopted and biological children. It is an awesome (on all counts of definition) job. I hope I can instill a respect for things that are different from us in our children. I hope that we as parents can raise hard working, peaceful and accepting adults. I hope that our kids are fired up by the thought of the unknown and strive to find knowledge about things rather than rebuke them. I hope we can raise kids who are open to adoption and biology in their own families someday.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I love Mondays

A few years before I took on Mondays with zeal
In fourth grade we had a camping trip, all you Waldorf kids remember these, they were fun and a bit haphazard:) I remember we had these Garfield Dixie cups and there was a cartoon about Monday. It was along the lines of terrible, horrible, nothing good occurs on a Monday. In my tiny feisty Deirdre self I remember thinking "Well then! I am going to make Monday my very favorite day!" And ever since I have been a practiced fan of the start of a new week.

At my wedding one of my closest friends gave a speech that spoke to the fact I am never very complacent when something is amiss. If I am late taking a route to work I will google the heck out that route and find a better way, if I gain weight I will read books on healthy eating from around the globe to get motivated, if my brain felt dull I would rent foreign language tapes to at least be able to have a taxi cab conversation. I can say "How many kids do you have and what are their names?" in a lot of languages. Some things are just in me:)

Monday to me represents the start of the mundane. The beginning of another week, well wait! Why not spice that up a bit. Create new patterns, new goals, new excitement about that day. It can be the beginning of a new way to do the old, just better!

Yes I am drinking coffee, but really I do like Mondays that much. I hope something mundane in your life can be turned upside down, inside out and made into a fresh start.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cozy Moments

M 2, N 3, D 1 :) Sweet Jammies

Today was a good day.

There are so many connections out there, people who know the kids or Sheff, or I have met once here and there. I am amazed by how much goodness is out there, the kind words in passing the hugs. This world is a good place, even on the hard days. It really is. Babies born, connections made, deals wrangled, diapers washed, scrapes kissed and prayers answered. There are hard days too, of course those I attest to openly and honestly but I am filled with gratitude for how far and few between they fall. Here are some photos that make me feel cozy, family highlight moments. Would love to hear other's family highlights sometime, even if it is in passing:)
Little J, 2 years old with his uncle
Group naps are the best, Daisy was Lucy's age now:)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hard Days Night

It is difficult to recover from a night where I feel like I just couldn't stay on top of everyone's needs. I remember being criticized for having a big family early on, being told I would never be able to keep up with all the homework and activities. I agree with the naysayer! Its true some nights just don't work. Sheff is coaching two teams this season and we are adjusting. He took the wrong vehicle and I couldn't get one to cub scouts. It stunk. Another has a math concept he just can't get. Two hours later I am seeing clocks in every portion of my brain. I managed to make a family favorite Tater Tot casserole and Pumpkin pie. I wish I could bake math problems and teach someone to fly to activities. Sigh. Usually I seem to hold things together. A bit of a vent.

I have a prayer journal I picked up before we were married that has notes through the years. I would flip open the journal, read the prayer and jot down what was going on. Now looking back over the last 11 years I find things like " Hope the adoption paperwork comes through before mothers day! 4-2002" and  "Worried about J learning to write his name" "Want to support Sheff, wish I couple help him more with Urban" " Feeling sick with this pregnancy how I am going to get M potty trained?"and so on. It is such a good reference point for the fact that this too shall pass and the beauty and forgiveness a new day brings.  

Me with little Kintergarden JSO
I think I will make a cup of tea, grab the prayer journal, leave the laundry, leave the mistakes and try to do a little better in the morning. Good night to all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Markie Quotes

Markie Quotes

"Mom I am turning into a Lion. I knew it would happen. See? I have blond hair on my ears. I know it is small but it will get bigger and then I think I might get my claws."

I was at school to volunteer and saw a green thing streak down the Hallway
"Hey mom! I am the Hulk!"
"Oh my! Are you supposed to be green?"
I see the principle come out of the office to walk him to the bathroom to clean up. I duck sheepishly into another room, Mark winks at me as he walks by. The principle is very patiently explaining that painting oneself green is not, in fact, part of the uniform policy.

The kids get number at school if they have not been listening. He came home last week with a number. I asked what he did. "I was kissing apples" He responded. I look confused so he helps me out, "They were not REAL apples". Huh.

Getting into the bath
"I love hot baths because I am hot stuff." He then does a little dance and pretends his finger sizzles when he touches his tummy. I ask "Hot like temperature?" He guffaws "Mom! Things I say are hot stuff, things I DO are hot stuff. Some choices aren't super hot, but maybe warm. Like hitting is a warm choice" Me: "No hitting would be a cold choice if we are running with this theme". Mom you shouldn't run with stuff, running with scissors would be a cold choice. He then goes back to his hot stuff dance sizzling away.

Last night to Lucy
"I think you should sleep tonight, mom worked real hard getting you out of her tummy so I think it would be  a fair trade to not cry at her tonight" He is a pint size baby whisperer Lucy's fever broke and she slept, ah bliss.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Overstuffed Chicken feeds the Great Pumpkin

Lucy is overstuffed, her nose that is not by the copious amounts of brightly packaged candy that she had fun kicking last night. The kids made a good haul. They had fun with costumes, oodles of coloring pages and finding Library books that were scary enough to warrant digging out an old nightlight. So on to All Saints Day today, Lucy has her first fever, it stinks and Mom is sleep deprived. Still the GREAT PUMPKIN still made it to our abode and ate all the candy. Well almost al the candy. The Great Pumpkin ate a whole stock pot of candy and the children each received a gift. We love this tradition. Hope everyone created some new memories & had a yummy treat to boot. Wish tidings of sleep for this mama pumpkin:)
Mickey's note to the Great Pumpkin and all the gifts left.
The kids all ate their fill before leaving candy for the Great Pumpkin to come eat.
We save a bit for treats and baking the other 75% is donated to food shelf.
Our Bumble Bee Princess

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mom why don't we have any food!

Mickey to me: Mom we don't have any food, WHY don't we have any food?
Mom: Mick we have food
Mickey: We don't have FOOD food, only like the parts that make food
Mom: Mick you guys EAT all the food, you know...
A gleam enters my eye, Mickey backs up calling for reinforcements
Mickey: Ah, guys Mom looks weird. GUYS! Mom is coming up with a project, or a job or SOMETHING
Mom: You guys should really learn how to cook! So when you are hungry you say Viola! I can cook!
John: Viola? Like we are Spanish
James: No numbskull French, Mom seriously I can't cook with him!
Mom: Ah, ha! But you WILL cook!
James hedging a bit now realizing he agreed to cook puts Mark squarely in front of him self and responds "Mark can't cook! He'd hurt himself. He is really small"
Mark: I am not small! I am huge like a Tiger.
Mark roars ferociously, Lucy claps from one rug away where Daisy is playing Barbies. Lucy goes back to eating the barbies hair and coughing intermediately. SHE should probably eat something other than Barbie hair too. Annie enters into the foray
Annie: We can make macaroni and cheese but I don't know how to make like a snack.
Nate: Lets make fruit snacks! Do they have glue in them?
James: Ha! I am telling Grandma Boo that you made us eat glue!
Mom: Nobody is eating glue! No Nate fruit snacks are not made with glue, well maybe a little glue but you may not eat glue EVER, Ok?
Nate shrugs non committally still figuring out a mental fruit snack recipe. Daisy pipes up "You all know I can cook, mom teached me everything because you guys have to go to school" Everyone is getting distracted, paper airplanes are being folded, a comic is opened, someone is braiding my hair. I feel like we had a semi family meeting that turned into a hippy convention.
Mom: sigh. Lets go make some bread.
Everyone agrees they love bread, pumpkin is the fave. Now everyone wants to crack the eggs, there are only 4 eggs and 7 willing volunteers. Mickey wanders off to the pantry.
Mom: Mick do you want to help?
Mickey: No Mom I want some FOOD!
The kids made a cake in honor of a feast day for Mary, a few years back that is baby Daisy:)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pepito over Diego any day

I just found my now very cold coffee precariously balanced on a stack of Dora and Madeline books. Those two types really shouldn't be stacked together. The Dora books I detest reading, the Madeline I love to read. But that is the stack of motherhood, the parts I adore, rhythm, rhyme, beauty, fun and the parts I detest, too bright primary colors, false cheerfulness, materialism and the whining. OK so those don't ALL encapsulate poor Dora but still she is just too glossy and her head is just so big. My coffee is cold but I can brew a new pot. My list of to does makes me feel a little fuzzy around the productive edges and my baby just figured out steps. Back to that brew a new pot, off to do that and tackle the day. Hope you have a bit more Madeline than Dora today:)
A cozy photo I love

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do we have one named Danny?

Moments this week....

At dinner this week as we were doing our highlights and low lights, James excitedly shared the latest news from 5th grade drama. "It was crazy guys, Danny* got sent to the principles office 4 times in one day!" Everyone is properly aghast until Sheff chimes in, "well why the heck did he do that? Doesn't he know he needs to represent the family? Set a good example for younger ones? Show self control in the classroom" We are all watching him perplexed.  A slightly uncomfortable silence. Sheff clears in throat, "huh, we don't have one named Danny do we?" We all shake our heads smiles forming. James responds blithely "Dad, I will be sure to tell Dan he needs to represent our family from now on". Sheff chagrinned laughs.

As many know Mark cut his hair last week. To my credit it was not on my watch he came home from school with a lightning bolt cut directly front and center. We buzzed him, he was upset. The cool, odd thing is once buzzed we noticed he has a perfect arrow part on the top of his head, having never been fully buzzed before he is delighting in his Avatar status and claiming super powers. Nothing as powerful as Daisy's cooking prowess but super none the less. He is the leader of all Lions, he runs the cozy blanket club in his room and the king of the playground at school. I miss his hair. A lot. But it will grow back. He told me sweetly "Mom I will be your little blond guy again soon but right now I am Avatar king of the cozy blankets".

Lucy has started crawling. She goes this way and that, finding bits of string so siblings jump and grab it, tiny pieces of paper that look delectable just past the pillow and a tiny ball two steps up. Each adventure she has someone next to her giving encouragement ready to grab her or an unknown edible object if necessary. What a wonderful house to be a baby in! I love watching them watch her, the way they all take pride in her firsts. Daisy plays with her gently teaching her songs and Lucy claps along. I just love this phase and everything sweet about it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cooking for Spite

Daisy often helps me with cooking when the bigs are at school. Today as we were making bread dough for pizza she asked me "Do you know why I love to help you cook mom?" I smiled and drifted away to thoughts of her valedictorian speech in college, things about her loving mother and the smells that make up childhood. She brought me back to the task at hand with "Because of the HA!" I looked at her perplexed "The Ha?" I asked. She nodded sagely handing Lucy back her raw cucumber we use for teething biscuits and replied "Yes the Ha! Like I was a big green guy with Daddy muscles and jump them and say Ha! I can make food and you were at school and YOU can't make food, HA!" My fantasies are dwindling down and I remember I ought to pick up that book on sibling rivalry I recently put on hold at the library. I ask with trepidation "So, big green guy, like the hulk? And Ha, as in Ha Ha?" She nods pushing tiny fists purposefully into the dough and replies "Yep I have super powers and the big kids had to go to school. So ha ha in your face I can COOK!" Ah yes, lovely just the childhood mother daughter memory I was going for. We did get the dough done, and even a few pizzas made, Ha!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Our baby is better than a bike!

I am cute, adorable, lively and sweet. Really I am, even at 2 am I still get cuddles. When anyone has a hard day I give a smile, pat a back, gurgle. I do seem to eat all things, especially paper but we are working on it. I clap my hands and pee in diapers you can wash right in your washing machine. My folks haven't actually been in a Toys R Us but I think I am way better than anything you can find to entertain kids. I can even take a bath in the sink, see? This was motivated by my big brother saying "we have the best baby ever, I think she is better than my bike!" Yes I trump 2 wheelers too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This is my image for today. As I run around navigating preschool, cafeteria duty, football practice, adoption advocacy paperwork and the daily chores of life this image is a burst of breath. I tell my kids that stress is simply energy if used correctly. Let what worries you turn into fuel for something better, more meaningful. Often its physical, bringing a friendship issue onto the field or court. Allowing a bad dream to turn into an amazing drawing or story. Sometimes a fight can weave its way into a make believe game for the little ones. And through the bluster of our daily worries and responsibilities comes new life, new ideas and fresh moments. I find an image, a prayer, a song can bring peace to a busy mind. So today my image is of the rainy coast of Maine. You are welcome to share mine for today, and I hope your worry turns into something better than anticipated.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A tidy house might be overrated

Lucy in front of a daily pile of laundry
I have decided it is OK for the house not to be perfect. I just asked M to straighten the blocks as I write this so I might be a bit off base but overall I am trying to let go a bit more on the household ambiance. I still try to keep clothes put away and the front room and kitchen tidy before I sleep. I have decided forts can be left up overnight, animal zoos left for playing with after school and clean diapers left on the bed for future folding. I have more fun hearing about a school story or having Daisy teach me ballet moves than vacuuming and washing the windows seems to happen a couple times a week rather than a couple times a day (as is actually needed, imagine 16 hands you get the idea). Sheff woke up early the other day and announced that life is short and we need to enjoy each day more fully. I squinted open one eye and wondered if an odd alien reversal had happened when we were sleeping. Usually I am the one with the lists and ideas and annoyingly peppy demeanor at 7am, what if my husband took on this persona? I wasn't sure how I would like it. But as luck would have it Sheff's epiphany has led to a "man cave" in the garage equipped with a new lat pull down machine and the desire to gain lots of pounds of muscle. I am not longer worried we switched personas. But I have decided to let up on the perfectionist leanings. I will make sure the house is tidy and kept up but I will put off vacuuming for a good story, let wash go an extra day and have a stack of papers on the counter at all times. Life is precious, kids grow fast, husbands build man caves and I don't want to miss any of it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

10 years today!

I suppose it is in part our fighting spirit that makes it seem like 10 years has been a breeze:) I think our road to family, the fight behind having those around us accept adoption and our faith based approach to living has made us feel like we have something to prove, in a good way.

As we hit 10 years today I looked at the inscription on my wedding ring, Sheff's has the same " Forever intertwined we grow together" We were fully cognizant that we married young (I was 22, Sheff 24). On our first date (after meeting as children and being thrown back together by our parents) we talked about faith, money, divorce and education. We actually went bowling. He thought I was a bit too New York (Had just moved back from Brooklyn after a stint there) and I wondered if he was actually handsome under the fisherman beard. I relaxed back into colors falling in love and he shaved the beard. And, um, he was handsome.

Sheff joined the Catholic faith and I went running in the rain and learned how to cook. Other than that we have basically grown up together, not a whole lot of compromising, more co creating our life and dreams. Our commitment to each other feels very easy, it is what is is, our roots grew together and the trunk is strong. Our children will hopefully reach fully to the sky and trust the base beneath them as they do.

When we hit 20 year married I hope we still have a full house, a little Irish temper, some good gospel country to get the work done tempered with MPR so our brains stay sharp, time to brainstorm our next adventures, clean food, a few pews at church and long walks together. And maybe a party. For 10 years Sheff is having  gold anniversary band made, and we are having a marriage blessing.

If anyone has a moment today I ask for prayers for strong loving marriages and families, I am greatful and humbled by our own.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bartered Pears

We had a garage sale. It went well. For one item we were paid in pears. Lots and lots of pears.

This left me in a quandary. On one hand, who doesn't enjoy pears? On the other, I have a weekends worth of housework, kids who need focused jobs to put things back in order and bins to re sort and store. What I did not feel I had oodles of was time to deal with a mess of fruit. Saturday night the four grocery bags of pears sat ominously on the counter. Before church they greeted us. Taunting my holistic mommy self to be creative, to be resourceful, to honor the tradition of barter.

So we made some pears. I have a bed full of laundry to fold but bins are stacked, bags neatly label for the spring St Rose kids sale, front room vacuumed and oodles and oodles of sliced pears.

To make freezer pears:
Wash and slice. Compost your skins and cores. For every 2 cups of pears add aprox 2 tablespoons RealFruit Pectin and sugar and lemon juice to taste. Let sit for about 30 min stir well and store in freezer containers or jars with a half inch for expanding fruit.

We had a big dish for dinner with homemade pizza and I have stacked freezer pears for the fall. Bring on the barter. But please don't bring me any more pears.
We washed the pears with a bit of vinegar in a pot of water.
                                 Nate helping, Lucy eating.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I will do better tomorrow, I will serve a dinner that requires a plate

Do you remember the book " Alexanders terrible, no good, very bad day"? A little boy wants to move to Australia after everything goes wrong. I felt for Alexander today. It's like my whole day was a hiccup off step. The highlights of absurdity included forgetting a kid at school, I made it a full three blocks before asking sweetly " So Nate how was your day? I haven't heard a peep out of you" well mom that's because he is in the office waiting for you. Yes perfection. Earlier in the day I managed to spill things, drop things and serve Daisy chocolate milk for breakfast. That was it no usual slow cooked oatmeal or creative quiche, nope just chocolate milk. Whilst rinsing the cloth diaper in the toilet I managed to spray myself with very questionable water. A highlight was how utterly unperturbed Lucy was during my mutterings. Another prime moment was after school hearing John say" why would you put your baby sister in the doll house?" sure enough Lucy was happily sitting in the downstairs of the doll house gumming a Barbie bike delightedly. Then in a quiet moment before dinner I thought I would sneak upstairs and read while I nursed Lucy, it was very quiet. To the big kids credit they were studiously working on homework and Nate was working on kitchen duty but then I heard Mick's voice "Mom Mark is really pink!" I finished nursing and came down with my sidekick, Lucy shrieked in glee seeing Marks very sparkly pink hair and face. No I did not take a photo, the camera battery is dead. Really why wouldn't it be today? Daisy won lip gloss at the fall festival that clearly is not intended for blond boys heads. Needing to get Daisy to dance and James to football Mark had to stay pink for awhile. Dinner was pure gourmet, bagel bites frozen pizza. I had made my almost daily broccoli slaw for myself but ate at 4 after Lucy was in the dollhouse and before Mark turned pink. James and John managed to forget to bring home daily planners with homework so I had to greet Sheff with the need for a parental lecture on responsibility. To my husbands credit he did not remark on Mark's coloring, the fact I had a left a child at school or that dinner was served on paper napkin I do realize I have made my point but as icing on the cake I tried to push the mountain of clothes off our bed in order to try a new library book only to discover I had chosen a terrible romance novel not even fit for escapism. I vow tomorrow to clean my bedside table, to make a breakfast other than chocolate milk for my children, to not forget anyone at pickup, to do my best to keep the baby out of the doll house, to keep all my children regular colors and great my husband with a smile of accomplishment. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 2011

Back to school! It was hard to say good by to summer this year. This was my favorite summer of all time, really! The next up was likely biking in Europe with Lauren but that was a whole different feel and more than a decade ago:) This summer was wonderful because...yes edge of your seats, it was...organized. We had a rhythm, a daily routine and it worked so well for us. Sending them off yesterday was hard because we had worked together as a unit for 3 months. The only camp they went to was Bible camp where I worked to off set the cost.

The night before school started we sat around a campfire and went over our summer highlights. Most everyone listed Maine, climbing on the rocks and finding crabs. A close second was the Bible Camp hosted by Nativity, Gloria Dei and Holy Spirit in St Paul. I worked in the Nursery with one of my closest friends so it was actually a fun week for me as well. Spending time with the Corniea family is also a summer highlight. For me its invaluable to compare notes with another mom to 8 (almost 9!). We talk about how to make meals healthy and low cost, about sleeping arrangements and the way kids learn. We try to support each other in faith and really care about each other's kids.

Daisy 4years Starting Pre K
Another highlight was playing with Auntie Lauren, Oliver and Juliet. The fact that Lauren and I have been friends since we were 2 is amazing. Her mother Milne, was in the same book club that Sheff's mother Caroline and my mother Nor were in back in the early 80s. Sheff was a big 5 when Lauren and I were toddlers. I had not pegged him as my future husband:)

So summer highlights noted and fall hopes outlined. The kids had sticky fingers from marshmallows and memories jumbled up, spilling out into combined stories. One child would start, another would interject and a third would finish. Its amazing to watch them tumble through adventures together.

James is off to 5th grade, Annie and John-Luke 4th, Mickey 3rd, Nate 2nd, Mark started Kindergarden today and Daisy Eleanor is starting preschool. Thankfully I have Lucy home to keep me company while I cook, wash, write and prepare to hug them at 2:10.

Mark 5 first day K

Happy back to school everyone! May God bless your (and your children's!) year with learning, love and friendship.