Showing posts from 2012

What a year! And photos to treasure....

2012 was an amazing year for our family. It was a year we tried new things, shook up habits and watched Lucy grow from a baby to a miniature person before our eyes. As a parent it is so much fun when someone else adores your child, having all these big kids delight in the baby's antics has been an unexpected highlight. Our five handsome guys She has taken to calling us first and last name, it is "Mama OOTus" at the top of her little lungs with a hand perched on her hip. She is bubbly and feisty and wakes up ready to see people, heaven forbid a quiet day at home. God knew she needed to be the youngest of eight. A rare moment of Daddy relaxing, Lucy sporting a necklace to give away the season The other kids seem to be finding their own grooves, own interests and curiosities. As the kids get bigger and we have more time to hang out and enjoy them as people Sheff and I are floored by how much we are already learning from them. Our three beauty girls The d

Teaching How to Give

This month Sheff and I have talked about how to get our children more aware of giving. The trick is that there are a lot of us and it is simply too much to manage all 10 of us volunteering at the same time. We also know many charities need resources more than anything else.  So what to do?  First off an Otis stand by, divide and conquer. Sheff took two kids along to work for two hours at Feed My Starving Children Annie and Mark told everyone about the boxes they packed and yummy the meal was they were invited to sample. I had Daisy and Mickey help me make cookies to donate to the St Rose bake sale which benefits our school and James, John and Nate pack new pajamas for local homeless shelters in our area. We made sure everyone had a chance to be involved, but not at the same time. Something new we tried this year was to have our kids teach US about organizations. We choose five organizations to donate to in different ways, facebook gifts, donations in a love

We All Fall Down

On those hard days when things seem to be unbeatable it is really handy to have a toddler. Minor car accident (Suburban side swiped by driver trying to turn before oncoming traffic on a green, no fault but high stress and need to fix the car) and school stress (2 out of 8 isn't bad, I know) and poor Lucy is sporting an ouchie eye. In the midst of a stressful moment Lucy grabbed our hands and pulled me and Daisy to the Christmas tree, running off to gather all the family members she could find into a circle. She pushed and pulled on back pockets and shirt hems until she had us where she wanted. Then she started singing a song. It took a moment but Mark guessed it! Ring Around the Rosie. She squealed with glee when all her hulking brothers and even Daddy fell when we got to .."we all fall down!" Long days, phone calls, paper work, decision, wishing there was a manual for parenthood is all paled by a toddlers game. We have changed our remodel plans to a build to be mor

Filling in for Mom, 3 Things I Care About

One of the boys decided to post a paper he wrote on three things he cares about. He has more heart than sass and is such a help when things get busy. His biggest mistake this week was trying to zip-tie the handle of the snowblower so he could get it started more easily. This was actually a pain for Dad trying to undo it later but heart in the right place and all that;) THINGS I CARE ABOUT by JSO Jr I am going to tell you three things that I care about. I care about sports, houses, and my family. Those are the three subjects I am going to write about. Each one effects me each day. The first thing I am going to talk about is sports. I think sports are one of the best things ever because they keep me in shape and give me something to do with my energy. Sports also keep you healthy and keep you from getting the flu. My favorite sport to play  is basketball. It is all right to steal something, the ball! I also play football and baseball but basketball is hands down the best.

Envy , giving and missing St Nick

One of the kids has been coming home with reports of a classmates Elf who leaves daily chocolate treats, like chocolate treats the size of the largest chocolate treat our kids receive from the Easter bunny. The green monster of envy has entered our advent. To add insult to injury I always mix up St Nicholas day and do the treat in the evening of the day, i.e. tonight rather than last night. In part I forget and in part when I was a preschool teacher we would celebrate the day OF St Nicholas day and I have not adjusted. To that I can hear James' voice in my head well, ya you have only had 13 years to adjust Mom. It is in every kid's nature to look through Christmas catalogs and circle their wish list. It is fun to watch commercials and see the latest invention in the world of toys. I totally get this and remember how fun the huge Sears catalog was to look through. That said it is stressful for mom. Sheff is more pragmatic. He is constantly reminding everyone to think abo

Packing & Road Trip Tips!

We made it on family holiday to Colorado and home with one large duffel bag. This is our family bag! Everything else (like fleece blankets and books) fit inside the Suburban. This trip we had 11 people with our 11 seat belts because uncle Ty hitched a ride. As a child I grew up traveling. I remember in 5th grade at Saint James Catholic school we were asked what type of food had preservatives in it that we ate often. I raised my hand and exclaimed   airplane food ! Mrs Porath scolded me, but then later apologized saying she supposed eating something every 4 to 6 weeks counted as often. I remember feeling so much better that I had not been dumb and also realizing perhaps I flew more often than others. We traveled all the time and my parents said I had to bring whatever I needed in carry on bag. I learned to pack things that dried quickly, matched interchangeably and items of entertainment that could tide me over during long drives or lectures. All these years later I find the sam

Follow up results

On Friday after our last night of oatmeal we had a family round table meeting. More like a large rectangle meeting with parents on stools, but we met. Kids talked about respect as the primary lesson. We asked about the food side of things. James (12) summed it up I don't think this was as much about food as being nice to mom. Sometimes I am really nice abut food, sometimes I am not it has to do more with me than the food . We asked him how he could be consistent having manners during meal times, rather than the pre teen slump and eye roll. John-Luke (10) jumped in If we just always say thanks for the meal we are not lying or anything, I mean if we don't like it we didn't say we did just said thank you to mom for making it. And that is the idea folks! I realize not every meal will be perfect, or beautifully made BUT it is the effort and love that went into getting it onto the table for 10 people every day that I need respected. Markie (7) had his own ideas I wi

Our Week of Oatmeal

The week of oatmeal. I am very much hoping my kids talk about this week for years to come. Presenting our children with meals has become tedious lately. "What is this?" and "Could you make this any healthier?" and "Seriously mom this looks like it grew feet and walked out of the garden, can we have something with a crust?" Ok so that insult was actually creative, but usually it is more along the lines of a turned up nose or rolled eyes. And some of these meals were basic fare not lovely baked fish or eggplant parm, the last straw was roasted chicken! SO not a mother to be a martyr, the Otis kids are enjoying oatmeal for the week. Yes they will have veggies and fruit for snacks and other meals, I am quite sure they will not perish  (although I have heard arguments that they might). Old fashioned oats with raisins, cinnamon and real cream. 5 nights this week. No meat, no veggies, no spices and no curve balls. Oatmeal it is. Day 3 kids wer

Election Day & MCHO

This time of year I am always reminded of the deep need our world has for respect. As our kids talk in classrooms, hear campaign adds on the radio and collect flyers from the front stoop it becomes conversation. We have friends and family on both sides of the party line. Debate is healthy, opinions and the right to have them, are the backbone of this great country of ours. As we navigate the political waters I hope to show moderation and kind language, especially around our kids. Keeping the language clean and the prayers calm help teach our future voters to be fair and reasonable. And those who know me well know I never swear (unless Tequila or Pepper Vodka are involved which is another blog:) Mark Chappell Hall Otis was born on election day 7 years ago! We gave him an election worthy name just in case:) His initials MCHO remind me of macho which may prove more fitting than a candidate run! It is so tempting to judge others, to condemn other choices but that simply is not my

Conferences & a mouse!

I made it through 7 conferences. Sheff couldn't leave work to join me, I stacked my papers, talked to wonderful teachers (true gems) and made my mental to do list. With a large family it is hard to get everything done, everyone's needs met, everyone's social studies homework corrected. At the same time I am amazed at how well the kids are doing overall. I have a list of goals, a list of things to congratulate each child and a list of challenges to tackle in the coming months. Part of team Otis! After a long day Sheff and I both had to be out for a couple hours when the kids were on their own. Converging at the end of our time away big drama had happened. A mouse in the house! We have not had one since we moved in and weatherized so not thrilled BUT the kids handled it. Annie, our animal lover, created a humanitarian mouse trap. They got a large zip lock bag and she put peanut butter in the bag. Then John-Luke crouched down and nudged the mouse in with a hanger. He

Here is the box, now get creative!

Trying to get kids set for Halloween can be expensive and frustrating. Early on we started the Halloween family party tradition. The weekend before Halloween we choose a night of the weekend for a party. Kids decorate, we choose Halloween themes for a charades game and bring up a big box of costumes and another of craft supplies. We light a fire, make spiced apple cider and let the creative juices flow. My rule is I never buy a costume, never have, hope I never will. After kids present their ideas we can see what is missing. We can run out during the week to add teeth to a vampire or white face paint to a geisha but only after the kids have created and presented their idea. After trying on costumes at a Halloween store this week I was amazed at how pre packaged this holiday as become. Find a plastic bag and inside will be the grossest or most inappropriate poorly made outfit. Where is the creative fun loving spirit in that? Now I am not saying I am a master costume maker, I am actu

Dating with 8 under foot

When I was out last week someone asked how we do it, assuming she meant parenting I responded with "Somehow it all happens, I use a lot of labels." She laughed but went on to ask about the relationship side of things. Ahhh, that side of things. The reality of busy parents at this phase in life is it is really, really hard to make time for being a couple. Before we had Lucy we met with a spiritual leader we respect. The mother of our babysitter has heard this story many times. Because after meeting with counsel we had a prescription to get out once a week and that required a babysitter! Part of seeking guidance when 8 was on the way was figuring out how to honestly prioritize time. There simply are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything so we had to make a game plan and do our best to follow it. Part of that plan was letting go of our worries both job and home and spending time as a couple. Sheff and I re charge in different ways. Perfect date night

Space Changing

Our basement is currently set up to workout and play space, soon it will serve as our interim kitchen & family room After deliberating this summer and early fall we have decided to start a home remodel. A tear down, bust through, re create space project. Sheff has promised kids can hold sledgehammers, color on walls and save pieces to make a stellar fort in the back yard. This is all very exciting but I get a bit woozy imagining running this family of 10 without an entry way (think jackets, hats, boots, back packs) or a kitchen (think, well life all revolves around the kitchen counter!) for months on end. I am sure it will work out beautifully. And having a kitchen twice the current size, a mud room and family room that work for our gang will be life changing. But I am predicting some highs and lows staging a kitchen in the basement  and a temporary mud room in the garage. I often have initiated changing how we use the current 6 bedrooms, shuffling kids, kicking some out

Lucky for Mess

Thank you Lord for all the gifts in my life, for all the mess. This morning finding baseball pants while tripping over football gear while searching for winter clothes for the little girls I felt a bit overwhelmed. I have 10 bins of clothes to switch, uniforms, winter gear, church clothes, a whole bin of khakis, and then the sports and dance bins that keep multiplying. It was a moment of "I really can't do this all and still be a balanced human being!" You know those moments,  when the sheer to do list outweighs the looking forward to list by a page. I found the baseball pants, tossed shoulder pads into the labeled football baskets (They have the bins, why don't they use them?) and found fleeces to put off turning on the heat one more day. Downstairs Sheff had made coffee. He had to hobble to do it, if anyone has noticed he looked a little gimpy Friday night he had a nail go through his foot during the day, he pulled it out and is good for tetanus (yes he went

Sports Highs and Lows

Sports start early around here:) One of the kids received some sports news today that was mixed. Initially I went the direction of a "little league mom" and thought the breakdown did not seem fair. Then the more I thought it out I realized how key my reaction to the news would be. When he emailed me from school (a new development!) it was my turn to spin the news. Great news, you are going to have a rock solid B team this year! Not A not C, this will be a fun year. When they got home from school he was feeling a little disappointed, said his highlight was seeing Lucy. We talked on the front stoop. He said a plus of family is you can feel bad, mess up, and say all the wrong things and there is still a house of people that love you. In this case he really did not do anything wrong, but that is how he feels which I need to respect and process with him. We talked about how to work out disappointment and how to celebrate the parts that are good. Not making the team he wa

Mom Might be an Alien...or Immigrant?

Feeling the back to school burn. After kids are in bed I try to run on the treadmill to clear my head. Wednesday night I hear a conversation start up in the hallway. Kids sitting outside bedrooms. I run in the spare bedroom at the end of the hallway. Spare bedroom? They all prefer to share rooms :) They think I am tuned into my music and not able to hear them. I took notes. John: I think mom might be an immigrant I can hear the pause, maybe James did not hear him, James doesn't pause he talks. Mark: Mom is an alien?? Mickey : No dummy, an immigrant, like you know from Ireland. Mark : Oh, she does eat a lot of green things but she is not green. James : What are you morons talking about? Annie : John thinks mom is an immigrant John : I was reading this book... James : I guess miracles do happen.. A pointed silence or someone whispered Shut up, can't hear perfectly over the treadmill whir John : Anyway the mom in this story always tells the kids "Remember! You rep


I had two phone calls from the nurses office today. The first the nurse was taken aback because James came in with a cut up knee. I figured if he was walking he was likely good to go. She was appalled he did not break a sweat and asked "for something sharp to dig some gravel out" before he put Band-Aids on the cut. I talked to him, he sounded fine.  The second call Nate had hit his head. She had him laying down for a bit. He had a big egg she reported, he did not cry but was eager to get back to class. So far we have had no broken bones, we have had 1 fracture in the last decade of parenting. Some stitches, major and minor. And lots, and lots of cuts. The kids don't cry when they get hurt very often, and if they do I run because it is rare. I really appreciate their ability to clean out a cut, put ice on a fall and dust off their hands when they wipe out. Kissing an ouch on a little James age 5, now I have to get him in a headlock first:) Hopefully tomorrow no O

Back to School & New Routines

We are back in school. Lunches being packed, folders being checked, kids being quizzed and uniforms being washed. This first week is always such a blur of activity, I think I should feel more on top of the new routine than I ever actually do a few days in. The kids all seem to be in great spirits. James is now middle school, in 6th grade. I have to get him a locker divider deal today! John & Annie are in 5th and poor Annie is already reminding John about everything he needs to get done. She stays up late after sports and goes over everything twice,  he gets oatmeal on the pages rushing through in the morning while Annie raises disapproving eyebrows. Mickey is in 4th with new kids in his class, this seems like a big year for him. Nate is in 3rd and over the moon to be back in school. Markie is in first and had 2 green light days and one yellow (warning). James' sage advice to Mark,"Dude get green in class and save red for the football field" So far so good. The

Leaving the Blues, Enjoying the Sun

Having pulled out of a four day funk last week I am amazed at how rarely I feel actually overwhelmed. Honestly last week was more about feeling underwhelmed. The lack of things to do, the lack of motivation on my part or the kids and the lack of a fun spark to break the mundane created a stressful pressure cooker without a release valve. So what did we do to shake things up? I asked for a little help from my friends. I am doing a trade this week, signed up for a few days of school day camp half day and prioritized getting adult time. For the trades I take kids here T/Th and my friend has them M/W, we swap back at noon sometimes sharing lunch. With the school camp program we are swapping roughly the same numbers and it is a fabulous way to get a handle on life. I also got out, amen, hallelujah. I made it to weekly Mass for a holy day, took the kids to park dates and got out for a girls night. I have no desire to be a martyr, I love working hard but no judgment when I need to play

Irish Angels

My own little Irish Angel Woke up to Lucy having figured out how to get out of her crib. She sat on my tummy and gave me a kiss. Have to admit it made me laugh and I was already on the right side of bed for the day. Having only 4 kids home this Saturday feels like a welcome ease. Hot cocoa, cinnamon rolls and mom's beloved coffee. The sun is out, the kids are playing and I know there is a good book to read I just have to find it. In Ireland when I was there as a child I remember walking outside Trinity College and seeing a quote similar to this one, must have been carved in a bench or on the wall. I just remember thinking it was so simple and I loved it. I went to sleep imagining angels with thick Irish accents playing outside the door, ready to whisk me to safety if a boogyman arrived. Now I keep it written down for when I need a shot of good cheer. May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door

Need to Get My Perky Back

As a general rule, I wear coffee infused glasses. I see the caffeinated side of life. Sure it is possible, well why not? A recipe with week old veggies could be fabulous! Invite the other kids over, we can beat the Duggars for the day. I am sure I can handle that, and so on. Most days things wash and I am not peed on. Read on to see the details. This is one of those days when the recipe did not turn out, the clothes washer and the dishwasher broke  and I had lucky charms for dinner. The kids & DH had spaghetti and meatballs which I always forget is one of the messiest clean ups known to a kitchen floor, sigh. This was not a prize winning day. How are other moms handling these long summer days ? The kids are happy & healthy, but I am struggling to stay upbeat & creative as August arrived. My workouts need a kick in the booty, I am not finding time to read and I am doing a terrible job seeing friends enough. I usually don't complain much, my closest friends can atte

Enjoying the Summer Days, Weeds and all.

As July hits each year the weeds strive to take over our walkways & yard. Each year they usually win for weeks at a time. Then we go out as a force and with muddy hands pull them out the best we can, make a bonfire for sticks and fill the compost up with garden debris. This year after a big lightning storm we were left with multiple huge trees down in the yard. After feeling a bit hopeless to tackle so much we went out with a bag of marshmallows as reward and armed the bigger boys with saws. Three hours later our yard was on the way. We still have a weekend of burning, cutting and stacking ahead of us but that first day of work is always the hardest. Getting our vegetable garden ready to plant last year Seeing the kids work so hard, and all that Sheff can accomplish so quickly reminded me to be grateful for all we DO get done and stop worrying about the weeds that always seem to win. We are going to tackle the yard jobs the best we can, buy some extra s'mores fi

Being Fit, ENERGY as a Family Priority

Last night as I was sweating on the treadmill I was thinking about how to raise daughters with a positive sense of self and a healthy desire to be fit. It is not an easy thing to do. I actually see the influence of their brothers being the motivating factor in playing pick up games, races and eating what they want. Growing things, taking care of flowers and gardens are a wonderful way to teach daily health, I am trying to do more every year! I would think everyone at some point is found worrying about food and fitness. The happiest I have ever been in this area is now as a mother. In part the context is so important. My happiness is based less on my self than any other phase of life. Being a good wife, being a good mother and being a good friend are the building blocks of daily life. Finding time to pray, exercise, make good meals and keep a clean home map out my day. A good book, show or conversation are the icing. Looking back at being a girl growing up, I wouldn't go ba

Life's a Beach

There is a country song that has the refrain "Some beach, somewhere..." I am on that beach with the kids this week. I am choosing the literal interpretation, beaches are a highlight of family time. We have been getting out daily to swim, build sandcastles or splash in the wading pool. Look out world James is 12! Last week when the heat hit advisory highs we hunkered down and felt very American in our multi TV air conditioned home. Sheff whipped up 3 levels of wooden storage in the basement so the kids have been helping me sort clothes and holiday decorations so everything can be stacked in the new storage. Love it! Feels like I am shopping at Costco finding the new size Ballet slippers. Finding sea treasures in Maine Doing summer activities with 8 kids is so much fun. Sheff took kids to John's game last night (I was at Church book club, it included wine and was heaven talking about books with smart women). Sheff said  at the ball park they found an empty fiel

17 Kids for a Hike!

All of us other than Mrs. Otis, taking the photo! Yup, we took 17 kids on a 3 mile hike. 1.5 miles each way. It was hot, long and ...we did it! This weekend we went up to our friends the Corniea's cabin near Backus MN. Mickey holding Lucy with Mark on the tree swing at the cabin The trickiest part are the bookends of getting away. The packing, cleaning and subsequent unpacking: whew, it is a workout. But the time hanging out as two families just having fun are truly some of our kids best summer memories. The kids pair up beautifully they have 6 boys and 3 girls, we have 5 boys and 3 girls. Can you tell Otis vs Corniea? Some are tricky from  the back! I attempted to have the kids pack for themselves (Gretchen does this with her brood but admitted it does work better to pack for the youngest 5 ). Mickey packed 2 pairs of sweatpants. Yup, that is it,  no boxers, no shirt, no swimsuit, no toothbrush and mind you it is 90 degrees out this weekend. Thankfully I had pa

Summer Pros & Cons

Watering the daisies Best parts of summer so far: Using fresh food from our garden, radishes with garlic salt, mint in our water, basil & green onions on our fish, popping strawberries and cherries when we walk by. Playing in the neighborhood, sprinkler, beauty shoppe on the front steps, dodge ball, medic, pushing babies in strollers (real & plastic), basketball & pitching to little brothers. Watching baseball & soccer games. James being an Altar Server for the first time and seeing what a gift a strong faith foundation is when you have a child entering the pre teens. Being together. Cozy Fathers Day moment Patio & porch nights with friends for mom & dad time. Worst parts of summer so far: Getting TO baseball & soccer games. Cleaning. How many wet suits and towels can 8 children create? Lots apparently. Cooking, we are all getting sick of sandwhiches but really 3 meals a day a gal can only get so creative. Our table works wel

Happy Fathers Day!


Welcome Summer

This year I am feeling special gratitude for summer! Lucy followed a butterfly around the front yard for 5 minutes yesterday. She blew it kisses when it finely flew on to the next yard. Mark & Daisy made a calendar of countdown to summer that listed all the things they were looking forward to in summer (including eating freezies on the back of Dad's truck). The older children are high fiving for being able to sleep in, have their windows open and read comics. Mickey declared summer his favorite season (each season makes this prized cut yearly, but I love his enthusiasm). Nate is learning prayers for ordinary time. I am still trying to tackle this desk, I really should post a photo of it clean when I manage to get it ship shape :)  Sheff finished fixing up our screen porch for summer nights and has a busy summer at Urban Rebuilders. Wishing you lazy reads, sweet tea on the porch and memories with those who save quarters for the ice cream truck.

Getting 10 Runned as Mom

I am exhausted, feel guilty saying so, but it is the truth. Normally I have a day here and there when I don't get it all done, but this season I feel like quick sand is taking over the high ground. I did add frozen mixed veggies to the macaroni and cheese tonight, but that's as good as it gets right now folks. No homemade bread, the oats ain't slow cooked and the cloth diapers are neatly stacked and ignored. How can I be better at this spring season? I know when school is out I will have a better rhythm. I am having the hardest time finding time to work out, Sheff and I have to be ships passing in order to keep the right kids on the right fields at the right times. To top off this week Lucy is doing an up at night stint with 4 back molars arriving any day. I know it is possible but I wish I could find a little more joy in my work right now. I wish I could get a little more on top of my game. Spring seems to be 10 running me weekly. That said I am, we are, so gratefu