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.