Saturday, December 29, 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 difficult sides of things are the reality of having so many active people and only two drivers, homework assistants and coaches. Someday I envision a BIg coaching a Little in T ball or dance (Like Sheff coached his brother Ty) and already the reading time from Big to Little is a lifesaver on busy nights. I still struggle with Math help, but Sheff and I are working out a balance where I take over something he is doing so he can help with Math specifically. Hopefully 2013 leads to even more kid centered organization and study skills.

Mom & Dad
Sheff and I continue to get out although we are finding some of our favorite nights are hanging out in a friends kitchen with a bottle of wine. I have a goal in 2013 to find a decent dancing bar, tell me if you find one! To get a monthly dancing night fix. Sheff wants to find more time to get back to lifting, with business, coaching and kids he has taken one for the team donating his free time to family time.

Lucy's doll "Happy Baby" 
With major changes in Russian adoption law we also pause to be mindful things can change in a heartbeat. That the joy we have is not to be taken lightly, the challenges we face are gifts and the future as a family needs to be paved with gratitude. In that vein we are grateful for our community, our friends and our loved ones.

Happy New Year!

Thanks to Baylite Photography for taking our photos at the Minneapolis  club!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

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 loved ones honor with a Christmas ornament and even kids pitching in a few dollars each and choosing where their own money went. 

The kids researched, Oxfam America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America,  FEED projects, and of course in my Grandparents honor, Heifer International.

Hopefully educating the kids, and them teaching us, will be a life lesson they remember! I really want giving and service to be a lifetime goal for myself and as a family. I know I could be doing more, but this was a fun way to start thinking about what is out there. 

We hope to widen their minds to all the possibilities. To make social justice and service part of what makes our family tick. There are many, many ways to do good in the world. 

Finding a joy, an interest, or a passion can be a way to get kids excited to give!

Monday, December 17, 2012

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 more exciting, less stress and are looking forward to Sheff being able to take a few days off near Christmas to have some family R&R.

Baby Livie, little ones are the best stress relief around. 
Focusing on the good stuff, trying to breath through the stress. Thanks Lucy for the reminder!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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;)


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.

The second thing I am going to talk about is houses. I love houses because they keep you warm and dry. It would stink to live in a tent year round. Houses are all different in their own way. I love my house because it is near my friends. It is also nice and clean most of the time. I especially love when mom makes cookies or homemade cinnamon rolls and the house smells awesome. It is really interesting to know how houses are built, it is a lot of work to build a house well. 

The last thing I am going to talk about is family. I think that family is the most important thing ever. They keep you safe and help you if you are in hard times. They also love you with all their heart. They also make you have lots of friends. I love my family with all my heart. We have family movie nights, go to sports games together and church. My siblings can bug me but they are also great friends. I especially love having a baby sister who needs me. I can’t imagine not being part of a big family.

Today I wrote about three things I care about. I care about sports, especially basketball. I care about houses, and hope to start out working at my Dad’s company Urban Rebuilders and learn more about houses. Third I talked about family, I think that family is the most important thing of all. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

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 about being kind. The kids remember when he went to get Brueggers bagels for a family whose car had broken down in Saint Paul. It was cold they had four little kids and had to wait for a tow truck. It was Christmas time and he explained that this time of year you should always go out of your way to be kind. I adore this attitude and try to promote it.

In the business of life, when I get Saint Nicolas day timing wrong, I find it difficult to do as much outside our home as I would like. We participate in a program to purchase pajamas for families in need and always give Heifer international as gifts to some family members, a tradition passed on by my mothers parents. But it is not enough! I wish I could facilitate more giving, more energy towards others and less about the stress of gifts.

As our kids get older I hope to learn about more ways we can make a positive impact in our community. Right now I am a bit overwhelmed with the purchasing, wrapping and dream fulfilling of the 8 kids right here. While I know so many kids need, so, so much more this holiday season.

Wishing everyone a balance of giving and receiving this holiday season. And if you happen to run into an Otis kid today remind them Saint Nicholas can come ANYTIME of day, i.e. while they are at school and little girls are napping.