Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anniversary Gratitude

Anniversaries have come and gone for us without enough pause. We have both been great about cards, and small meaningful things. Some long walks and a few of the last 13 years married, 14 years together, we have made it out of the house but this year was a concerted effort. We made it away, all 8 children were intact upon return. I had posted ideas about restaurants and Sheff wanted me to wait to talk about being gone until we were actually safely home. He is very nonplussed by social media and uses it sparingly and carefully. I can't say I always share his perspective, but in this case I agreed.

 Our hidden little both at The Melting Pot, they took our photo and poured champagne.

We ended up trying The Melting Pot, fondue restaurant. Really fun sweet date night idea. We usually go for as spicy as possible, Japanese or Thai food. This was a good out of our element place to try and  fun to be able to talk about our parents fondue parties of the 1070s, we were musing that the way everyone seems to be getting Kuerig machines now, then the hot ticket then was a fondue set.

Walking Minneapolis and the river, our favorite part of our time away!
The best part of our date was deciding after our early romantic dinner to lace up our running shoes and hike around the city, Nicolett Mall, down by the Stone Arch Bridge and along the river front near Mill City. We enjoyed talking, people watching and getting a workout so much we did the same thing this morning after breakfast. We logged well over 6 miles each time out, and think maybe for our next leaving the kids we will ask for advice on good little cabins with hiking trails nearby.

We are very grateful for the village it took to make this possible, and for all the times in the last 13 years we have gotten out for meals, kids have had sleepovers or even post baby meals, we feel so very grateful. We admire couples who make their alone time a priority and talked about ways to make this a regular yearly tradition.

We talked about the best times, the hardest times and what we want the future times to be in our marriage. This time away was a perfect time to reset, reflect and simply enjoy each other's company.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why it Might be Important to Care About What Other People Think

Driving, carpooling and late night talks give way to conversations with my teen, preteen and elementary school age kids and their friends. Fall tryouts, tense games and new middle school dynamics make for constant backseat chatter. A phrase I heard often this week was "Why do you care what people think?" This made me wonder when we should care about what others think.

As a culture overall I would argue we have gone too far in the direction of individualism. Not caring about how our actions impact others, impact the earth and choosing the image of self (selfies) over community. There are times when doing your own thing, trusting your gut or running with an idea are  commendable. There are also times to listen to other people's opinions, times to allow people you respect to be mirrors for actions in question and times to follow the guidance of another person.

On a teenage level there are many opportunities to worry too much about other people's perceptions. Finding close friends to trust, fostering faith communities and parent connection time seem crucial. I still care what my parents think, I care what my close friends think and I care deeply that my overall actions are pleasing to God. My children have different points of faith in their lives but I urge them to find space to pray when they feel anxiety or worry about peers.

I want them to care what others think of their actions, but not in a self despairing way, rather in a way that allows for personal growth and reflection.

I have done a poor job at times in my life of caring too much about what the wrong people thought of my actions. I have found that if I focus on people that truly love and care about me, if I focus on my faith base, I am far more content in my words or decisions.

As my kids toss around the phrase, "Who cares what they think!" I hope to enter conversations about the they rather than agree wholeheartedly. I hope to talk more about creating community and less about one for all and all for one. I hope to be mindful of pleasing those around me for the right reasons, reasons that bring me peace of mind and allow me to respect myself as well as others.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Could we ever host a foreign exchange student?

We have had two houseguests this week. Two boys who line up with our sixth grader and our third grader, two very nice boys. I was unsure how this would work. I knew the positives were the boys shared classes and activities, and the negatives would be more about how my kids acted. For example, would the boys treat this like a week long playdate? Extra snacks, wanting x box over homework and so on? So far it has actually been just fine, the boys are good kids who are very happy to be caught up in the daily flow of Otis life.

After school we always have a fun and a healthy snack. Yesterday orchard apples and candy corn mix, today homemade cookies and cheese sticks. Simple but enough fun to run from bus stop to home to see what is out. The visiting boys figured out this the only snack until dinner and then joined in with homework and getting ready for sports. We have plenty of beds for extras and the boys who gave up their own beds for the guests (John and Nate re located) think is fun to have new digs for the week.

After football, soccer and gymnastics the biggest difference with having ten instead of eight is noise level and finding it hard to end the day. Two new ghosts in the graveyard players and football team members in the back yard make it seem unfair to head in at dark. It has been positive to mix up the dynamic, change the typical partnerships. We have had to work on more modesty, closing doors to change or go to the bathroom for the little ones, but that is a good thing to learn. The kids like tossing the ball more than quizzing each other for spelling tests, but for a week that is ok.

Am I ready for a foreign exchange student? No not yet. But I think someday it would be a joy to do so. I am glad we are a home that can welcome two more in for awhile. I am glad the kids are able to welcome new personalities into the fold, to continue to be kind to each other for the most part and model cleaning up and helping out. They taught the boys our dinner prayer and how to handle a Lucy tantrum with ease and humor.

Sometimes adding more to a plate can bring out the best flavors! Week two back in school has been busy and full and one to remember.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Week one: Re-entry time

When one of the eight has a rare sleepover or is away at camp we always call the first hours home, re-entry. The physical change of adding a body back into the flow of life, the desire of the one away to share their experience while at the same time holding onto the time away as their own, sacred "me" time in a family of ten.

Going back to school is always both a re-entry experience for the kids and for parents, especially mom. To get stories, antidotes and obligations sorted out for so many different individuals is down right daunting. Some one needs a family photo, someone needs a different color folder, someone's teacher wanted proof we are actually related to Amelia Earhart (we are), someone outgrew their back to school shoes (in two weeks, how?!) and absolutely everyone needs money.

The first four days I have cried, celebrated, calculated, prayed and navigated with the kids. I have missed my workouts and missed my friends. I have attempted to be calm, all knowing and responsible but felt more young and emotional in the face of stress. Isn't this week supposed to be a monumental relief?

I have goals to create better file systems per grade, per kid, per school. I have goals to pair kids up for homework help and to find ways to manage the one family computer. I am hopeful that the three middle schoolers having school iPads will be a blessing rather than a curse and I know I need to get back to the basics with meal planning and managing driving schedules for our 7 activity schedules this fall.

A dear friend said yesterday "You sure LOOK like you have it all together my dear!" Well, I do not have it all together. I most certainly did not have it all together this week, but I am allowing this first week to be in the category of re-entry and look forward to the second week of school.