Friday, October 26, 2012

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 then tied the bag up, with a live mouse, and brought it outside. Annie would not let him kill the mouse "It would be a sin mom". Another sibling had kept the baby out of the room and then Nate had everyone sanitize their hands after the rodent adventure just in case germs were in the air (no one actually touched the mouse).

So there are things we need to work on, but these Otis kids are an amazing team. They work together and don't seemed phased by much. If I was home alone babysitting and saw a mouse I would have freaked. They simply made a plan and executed it while keeping little ones safe and out of the way.

A+ kids!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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 actually terrible at it. And hand me down costumes we gladly accept so I should be careful not to dis buying costumes too hard core:) But buying for 8 is just not possible so tradition is born.

Kids have an opportunity in this holiday to be creative, artistic and resourceful.

That said I bought a hippie necklace because I could not for the life of me figure out what to be, the kids are used to my one Halloween sweater (it's not that bad) and painting my nose to look like a cat. See? Not creative, but very frugal which is the other side of our family party. We want them to have traditions that are about family and fun and don't require spending a lot of money.

Starting our decorations
So cheers to a fun, safe and creative holiday! It is always such a TREAT to see the costumes and excitement. One of the best traditions around here comes the day AFTER Halloween but we will have to wait and see if the Great Pumpkin visits the Otis house this year:)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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 for him would be dinner & a sports game. Perfect date night for me would be a game night with close friends or dancing, weddings are the best! So we meet in the middle and try to balance it out. He needs down time and I need to talk things out. We both need to exercise and see this is something we would love to do more of, but with the kids we end up taking turns. Our best dates have been long walks and inexpensive coffee. This is still a work in progress, but a wonderful one!

He has gotten over the fact I don't drink beer (I really, really tried!) And he has accepted the fact that once in a while he has to sit through a very loud night at a bar so I can kick up my heals. I am not a big drinker at all but I love music and dancing, which has been hard as a mother to find places to dance. We both love a little Japanese restaurant in the St Paul wear-house district and anything that involves a new food we have never tried, the spicier the better. I really don't want to talk about building houses and if I share potty training triumphs he will zone out, and that's OK! We also turn to friends, guys nights, girls nights, couples nights. Church events we both love, and it is a wonderful way to be in community and re charge.  Time on quiet long walks to pray, go over the week and share a laugh can be a connection to hold us together when stress enters the week. Friends can be the best excuse to try something new & get out of ruts. It is also wonderful to get nights on the books with friends because it makes us get out and we are always so glad we did!

Who we marry is not the same person that stands before us 5, 10, 20 years down the road. One of the tricks seems to be getting to know, honestly and openly, the person in front of you now. It doesn't need to be upsetting, it can be a lot of fun. Some subjects are old news, try new subjects, new places. I am no expert yet but I really, really like my husband and look forward to getting to know him more in the next decades to come. As long as he doesn't offer me beer at Oktoberfest.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

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 for a workout room, allowing 4 to one room and 1 to another. That fluidity seems necessary with age and gender coming into the mix. But changing decor from horses to baseball is not the same as busting out walls and gutting a kitchen.

Sheff, like usual, is cool as a cucumber in the planning. I am actually the one having  hard time envisioning change. I guess the longer you live in a space the harder it is to creatively re think it!

We will be eating on the floor more often!
As we start down this road be careful if you offer to help out, you might end up with 10 people camping out in your kitchen:)