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.
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
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 jalapeños) 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
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