Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Toast to my Godmother Sally Dixon

Sally with her 8 Great GOD Children, the Otis Kids Jan 2012

My Godmother Sally is turning 80 this year and she has been a wonderful source of light in my life. I use her quote that I believe was her mother's almost daily, "The truth will suffice." 

After college I started working as an assistant to the executive of a nonprofit organization and was brought into the busy pace of office life before I even graduated. I remember the hectic transition and taking time weekly to meet with Sally and read psalms together. We shared a simple meal, often fasting beforehand and would read and talk about the verses. It was a bit of a spiritual cocoon for me, a time to nourish my spirit quietly in communion with a gentle guide.

I am often poked fun at good-naturedly for my optimism, or for my desire to see a positive around something difficult and I see that so deeply in Sally. Where is the beauty in a person, how can we turn this experience into dance or into art? Is God not with all people, is there not true goodness in all things? I have not seen Sally turn against the dark or reject difficulty but rather take it on with enthusiasm. 

Now I only wish in our time together I had learned all Sal's tricks in the kitchen! So my dear Sally this blog is a toast to you, you have lived your 80 years beautifully, forgiving, dancing and creating. I hope to see you dance well into your 90s. 

Here is psalm 61 we memorized together in 2000: 
Psalm 61
Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mess VS Breath

J-L writing in his journal in Maine
I need to get better at balance in stressful times. I guess it makes sense that things get busier and frantic when so many people have events at the same time. Games, Reconciliation, riding lessons, dance, a birthday party and then....the van breaks. Lucy did relatively well for the reconciliation service today but still it was busy and I wished she would be a bit less explorative. That was peanuts as the day went on. Doing my best to get to Costco in-between game 3 and 4, before birthday party 1 and during nap 2 the van's new transmission went kaput. So toddling along at 65 suddenly its like I am sliding on ice doing my best to navigate to the side where of course my only option was an off ramp going up. Sigh. It worked and I made it home, but clearly frazzled. No food for Lucy's first birthday and a van I was scared to drive.

I did stop and pray. Sometimes, or often, I get wrapped up in the events. Concerned with who I was able to connect with, which child was happy, which child did not play well, and I simply forget to check in above. That prayer time, that check in is like the wind off the ocean, calm and uplifting.

While Sheff was calling the dealership, looking up blue book values, calming children's hysterics about canceling Lucy's party I decided it was time to check in. I had to move the Strawberry Shortcake wedding party off the kneeler and let the noise fade back. I prayed for safety, I prayed for patience, I prayed for a chance to do a little bit better tomorrow. Honestly, with the stress I did not feel connected to God but I prayed anyway. I let the children see me check in with God.

Sheff made it work, somehow, someway. The dealer responded to the fact this van had already been overhauled once and the transmission went out. We traded it in for above blue book value and were able to get a SAFE extended SUV that with an ordered fourth row bench, we all fit into.

Todays lessons are still a bit muddled for me, trust my husband to fix something, trust God to pull through, trust my mother to show up when I need help, trust my own need to slow down and pray, and trust the children to keep things chugging along no matter what. They cleaned the house, they held Lucy, they cleared out the van  and scrubbed the car seats while Grandma Boo came hoping we would have something to put them into.

I am humbled by this day, it kicked my butt. Here hoping Sunday will be a bit of wind of the ocean.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Terms of Endearment

Markie to me: Hey Baby, could I get a Tiger Tattoo?
Me sputtering: What? What did you call me? And no, no tattoos.
Markie: Well when Dad wants something, like a sandwich, he calls you Baby, I thought that might be like a special trick.
Me:  Well, no its a term of endearment. Something to say that's sweet, like me calling you sweetie.
Markie: Bummer. I didn't think I'd get a tattoo but I thought maybe a cream cheese sandwich.
Me: I'll make you a sandwich sweetie.
Markie: Thanks Baby Mom!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Singing while we work

Getting the big boys to sing while they work is harder now, but they do still work hard:)
Kids pair 100% of socks around here. No they don't always match but it gets done!
Learning how to be productive in the middle of the baby phase is likely the only way we are still standing 8 kids in. I remember having a couple toddlers and an infant for the first time and thinking "Uh Oh! How the heck am I supposed to get anything done" Then I started ...singing. No not in a Deirdre peppy way but in a survival keep little ones entertained while running around getting things done. Songs for clean up, songs for meal time prayer (Johnny Appleseed is awesome!), songs for rumbling tractors to make the vacuum fun, songs to find and fold socks to.

Someone popped by and asked why on earth the house was clean (they only looked at the front room)! And a huge part of it is the old whistle while you work adage. Singing also seems to make us all work faster, weird but true.

The trickiest part with a baby for me is needing to get up and down stairs and not being able to carry her when I do so. If big kids are here, great I can get a lot more done but with the little girls once a day Lucy goes in her crib and Daisy sings songs while I sort laundry and get a rotation set up in baskets.

Daisy pretending to read songs, actually a good little singer!
If Daisy becomes a performer we can trace it back to the crib performances!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pre Teen learning curve

I guess we officially have a pre teen, not the easiest stage we have had, not the hardest. The oldest truly is the litmus test for the other siblings. When do they get a phone? An I pod touch? The ability to babysit? To stay up late or make their own calls? We run on the conservative side of these questions but that is in part due to size and family dynamic. No phone yet (oldest turns 12 this summer), no i Pod touch, no phone calls, lots of staying up late:)

We had an incident where a group of boys was disrespectful in class, moms received an email and were told to talk to their sons at night. Great teachers, great quick response. I decided to pick my son up. In part to have one and one time to talk about what happened, and in part because respect is such a paramount value for our family. Mouthing off to a parent or teacher is absolutely 100% not OK, in any situation. I am not your friend (as much as I am working on that this year:) I am my child's parent. End of discussion. That said it was great to talk about respect and group dynamics immediately after this class had happened.

My son's take on this was it was a group dynamic that got a bit belligerent, out of hand with silly energy. We brainstormed getting out of that energy, getting a drink, finishing some homework, helping a student not involved. He wrote a half page apology, outlining where he knew he made mistakes, taking responsibility and saying he was really sorry. Before school today he brought that apology to the teacher.

When we were talking about it, over a bowl of tomato soup, he was telling about when he feels contrary. He said sometimes he just wishes he could go shoot hoops right in the middle of a class or switch desks. These were not the same example so we talked more. He and I are learning part of being a pre teen is needing breath, needing to get a moment to stop and think, to change the current dynamic. New hormones, new energy is pulling him in multiple directions and it takes work, actual work, to stop and think before he makes a move. He is a great kid, he was so receptive to talk it out, apologize and set goals.

This phase is a learning curve. I am doing my best to tackle it head on with love.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Brothers, sometimes the best of friends:)
One of my goals of 2012 is to foster friendship. To support and encourage the friends I have, and get to know new people better.

Seeing the children navigate the world of youth relationships can be wonderful and heartbreaking on the same day. Overall I think being in a big family has made it much easier. The built in play dates, the referees who love the deviants equally, the activities and adventures with built in partners in crime. Still, school and sports teams take a road map, and as lucky as we are to be in a wonderful parochial school and supportive athletic teams, we need to model the importance of relationships, even at a young age.

Markie (5) is already a force to be reckoned with if you step on his buddy's toes. He has gotten in a scuffle or three already in kindergarden but it seems he is the go to man if someone is bugging you. Sheff and I were able to go out to meet some new friends for drinks last night and I noticed Markie was looking pensive. He then went and put on his full baseball uniform, Knights hat and all. He told me "You are getting pretty to go see friends, I am getting dressed for my friends. Mom I just love my team." He still has 3 months before baseball starts up again, but it was a great example of how our need for friendship is so strong, the need to be included and supportive of others, even when you are five.

2012 is off to a great start, we brought in New Years with friends and are prioritizing being social and connected as a couple, and as individuals. I am doing my best to facilitate more play dates (yes Mark seems to be leading in this area, you try saying no to those green eyes) and leading by example on how to have fun, be respectful and loving to the friends we have.

So cheers to all friends new and old, the whole Otis family seems to have hit many the jackpot in the amazing people we know and care about. So bottoms up in the new year be it a cold one or chocolate milk:)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Daisy Explains Time

Daisy serving tea, which is likely perfectly hot
Daisy (4) handed me her sippy cup saying "Mama please heat up my hot cocoa it got cold in the middle of a sentence." I asked what she meant. Really trying to buy time cuddling with Lucy. "Well, everything happens when other things are happening. My Hot cocoa was hot, then it got cold." I nodded and asked "Whose sentence was it when it got cold?" She rolls her tiny eyes, "MOM anyone's sentence silly! Its all about TIME like the commas, now can you heat up my cocoa?"