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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Life Today & Foster Care


Having adopted three of our children, given birth to five and now fostering a baby girl, I love the quote from Judy landers above. I have found motherhood has pain and sweetness in each day. The ability to be a "good mother" has much more to do with doing my best than striving for perfection. I have made mistakes but the best connection with my children seems to be when we heal together after something hard. Expectations for a test that is failed bring out stories of my own failures, the kids open up about why something is difficult. We grow so much more on those days than on the A+ celebrations (those are fun too:)

Foster care is a privilege and a journey that is bringing our kids together in laughter and service. Cleaning up the floor in seconds as she crawls along, running a blanket up to mom, being quiet after baby is in bed and making silly faces at each other. It has been sweet and kind, the energy that joined us. There have been hard days, too much laundry, all 9 kids of the house needing mom right that second! Dad needing to work, yup, it would be great if Dad did not need to go at all, he is my champion and rock every day.

Thank you Lord for this new challenge, thank you for your guidance and most of all, thank you for the love this family shares each day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thankful for Mismatched Socks

Thankful Poem

Thankful for noise, because it means children are in the house.

Thankful for needing to budget, it makes the treats more meaningful.

Thankful for cold to remind me of the beauty of all the seasons and the warmth of a roaring fire. 

Thankful for too much to eat, when I know how many go without.

Thankful for family fights, with out the fights we would not have the humor of our token ice breakers. 

Thankful for mess, I de stress cleaning. 

Thankful for mess, it means creativity, good food and make believe.

Thankful for scratched floors, it means chairs were dragged to make a fort.

Thankful for my husband's cracked hands, it means he has been working hard to support us.

Thankful for my softer hands in means hours of hands coated in vaseline inside kitchen gloves scrubbing off the nourishment from the night before.

Thankful for hours of laundry, I always wanted a big family.

Thankful for crazed Sunday mornings dashing five minute late to Church, the service always holds extra peace and hope for the week ahead.

Thankful for baskets of mismatched socks, it gives the youngest a job to sort.

Thankful socks now come with different colored toes and that miss matched is "in"

Thankful for the pace of life, it means we have people to see and places to be.

Thankful to have muddy kids and muddy shoes, it means we were out there in it, nature as a playground.

Thankful for yoga pants, or "yogurt pants" as a young Daisy would say.

Thankful for new babies, just because.

Thankful for big kids, and those in the middle, still needing hugs from Mom.

Thankful that over sharing is alright with many so that saying I "need" a walk to a dear friend is entirely truthful.

Deeply thankful for those friends new and old, thankful for my husband and his strength of character  thankful for my children all eight on the days they ask me "do you still love me" (I always do) and on the days they make my pride spill over.

Thankful for the hardest of days, my faith is always strongest then.

Thankful.

Deirdre McCarrell Otis Thanksgiving 2014
I left the house a mess to go sledding with the kids, THANKFUL
for  being active so I can keep up with them &  run the hills.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015 ~ Traditions & New Stages

The highlight was Grandma Boo's skeleton made entirely of vegetables, it rocked! We carved pumpkins because wonderful neighbors gave us 9 from their garden. We roasted the seeds and had fun creating shapes, mom and dad can't help anyone so it was time intensive but they were so proud of their cats, minions and monsters. 


Banana created a "stick" man with neon glow sticks, J-L was a prison breakout, Big M was captain America and even went to a party with Miss Captain America! Great was a zombie skeleton, don't take his candy! Little M was "Michael Jordan Zombie" and Miss D was a fancy skeleton! Little Lu was brave and had a blast using her costume over the last month. 

Annual 8
Captain America x2

The other fun tradition that we made up when the oldest was a toddler is that the Great Pumpkin comes and eats all the candy and leaves a gift for each child. I had never actually seen the Charlie Brown special and totally messed up the idea of what the Great Pumpkin is! So the Otis Great Pumpkin is similar to Switch the Witch or the Candy Fairy. But our tradition stuck and lots of jokes about obese pumpkins not being able to fit in and out the door have been born, sigh. The candy "eaten" by the Great Pumpkin goes to soldiers over seas. This year our church is doing it for us (post Halloween Candy drive sent to troops) but in past years driving it to a local hospital completed the fairy tale.

Great Pumpkin Morning display
The oldest stayed home and handed out candy this year, his favorite treat was eating taco bar and being cozy by the outside fire. We said he should be a lumberjack, he said "how about a freshman too old to go trick or treating?" He won.

Wash seeds, spray cookie sheet with oil,  raw seeds in at 350 degrees and cover with garlic salt.
When golden brown they are done.


 

Pumpkin Carvers

Dad's Dancing Goat Pumpkin!


Pirate Pumpkin Carver


 




Our Brave Scottish Warrior
Mom with Pumpkins

Another great holiday in the books, I have to rally each year as it is not my personal favorite holiday. But I love seeing costumes and creativity. 

How many days until I can put up the Christmas tree? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Adding a Little Music to Our Home...What a Cool Organization!

https://shop.keysforkids.org

Today Lu, Grandma Boo and I, went on a treasure hunt for a used piano. I have wanted for a long time to have music lessons, but with life and sports we have not been able to make it happen. One of my prized memories of the holidays is that my mother could always get us started with "Joy to The World" on the piano. Now with budding singers, and kids who want to learn, it was time to find a piano. In true Otis fashion we decided to find something used but fabulous.

We found Keys4Kids on Grand Ave in Saint Paul, thanks to Grandma Boo. The sales person was lovely, so kind and even added on a stool because I was worried not enough kids could sit side by side on the piano bench.

There are also pieces of pianos and wonderful wood for sale and they will barter if you buy other items. I found a great piece of wood I am hoping to have Sheff add hooks to, you could also create a headboard with box springs.

Now to find a teacher to come to our home! Please contact me if you know of anyone who might come to us and do multiple kids lessons. Investing in music is new for us, and exciting.

Our new, used, piano! Keys4kids will tune, clean and deliver. 



Thursday, September 10, 2015

September ~ Celebration & Awkward Prayers

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

September is a month that is well loved. The images of apples, football cheers, leaves, rosy cheeks and new school supplies. As excited as every parent is to see their children hop on the bus, there is also the anxiety that comes with the new school year. 

This week we have tryouts for a new season of sports mixed in with orientations for 7 of the 8, football games and the start of skating lessons! It is a week of juggling and re booting homework systems in the midst of frantic schedules. We are happy, we are full and we are moving...quickly. The pace of September concerns me. I want to grab it by its jersey and tackle the month down to the ground, stop the play! Let us savor this gift of season change and new starts.

Along with the happy excitement comes the nagging anxiety. The kids have new friends and old friends coming together on fields, courts, classroom and at recess. It is a challenge to include close friends and welcome new faces. As an adult it is a time of year I am mindful to plan coffee dates, walks, dinners and slots on the calendar that are focused times of re charge and connection. Over the summer is family time, we are immersed in each other. It is blessed and necessary just as the unfolding into the community that naturally occurs when Fall descends is as equally important. 

This month I hope to savor the weather, connect with new and old friends and walk along side my children as they do the same. To find time daily for prayer and laughter, to allow workouts and coffee to be necessary, not a luxury. 

Anxiety comes in waves as our family leaves the house for their own interactions, adventures and challenges.  Hopefully our awkward prayers will be received with mercy. It is a goal to be an example of good humor and love as we all navigate this month of exciting change and new challenges. 



Monday, July 27, 2015

August, Top of the Ferris Wheel

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Summer has been sweet this year. The bridge between little and big is becoming slightly blurred. Voices changing, individual interests finding shelves and screens to occupy. Amazing vacations and time on the road. Seasoned campers pushing themselves with longer stays and first time campers learning how to be themselves out of the family group. 

We are creating gathering space in our yard, piece by piece. A difficult start leading to a really cool creation. Still in progress, stone becoming welcoming. 

New charts, new chores because we have kids who are adults.....almost. This is the summer of almost, the top of the ferris wheel, I love that image. We are waiting and watching, seeing the kids grow and ask questions that are new. 

Grateful for this time, slowing down to see them. The heat seeps un-delicately into our bones. Our minds muddled with too many options and not enough time. Making time to pray has been a way to come together with our Proverbs daily readings. Making ourselves ease out of structure has brought unexpected insights. Sweating together at rest stops, laughing together over miss played games, teaching each other about our own quirks. Our family is growing up together.

All this, rolled into summertime.

The Ferris Wheel is Spokane WA








Thursday, June 18, 2015

Water the Simple Cure

The kids are all home for the summer and seem to always have a need or a question for me. As I was brainstorming creative ideas I realized so many of my responses have to do with...water! How lucky we are to have fresh water to drink and to play in. So simple, but so true water is the number one cure all advice that comes from the Otis mom.

Feeling sick
Go drink a big glass of water!

Athletic performance (learned from Sheff)
Hydrate! Drink a full pint glass of water before your game, practice or event.

Cleaning i.e. Mom I can't get this clean!
Soak it! Let it soak, put a little water on it and come back it will scrape right off.

Fun in the summer
Go run through the hose, go drink from the hose or bike to the pool!

Sadness
Take a bath and drink some water, a little lavender oil in the bath and hugs afterwards

Hosting/being a friend
Offer someone a cup of tea or water if they are over

Injury
Wash it off and keep it clean

Faith
Always be thirsty, strive to learn more and drink in knowledge, never give up that thirst.

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” Mark 9:41


Friday, May 15, 2015

Balancing May ~ The Work of Spring

Establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17
https://achildgrows.com/blog
Walking with a friend I mentioned I missed cloth diapers just because of the feeling I had having my rectangles of cotton lined up and pinned up one by one. A row out my window, clothsline with the simple labor of love, soiled to sunshine. She did not laugh, but understood the pleasure in a type of work. With May comes work, but everytime I see clothes on the line I feel a community connection of coming out of our winter blankets and getting to work, seeing the blue sky and pleasure in the first load swinging in the breeze.

This May feels like a moving light board under my feet. Fields to get to, concerts to attend, decisions for pre school and highschool while balancing the art of homemaker. We are doing well, happy  in our day to day, but running and flexing our muscles of quick thinking and nightly strategy for our sixteen plus activities each week. As I pray for a discerning mind, a calm heart and a patient spirit I was remembering this poem I first read in college. It is the heart beat of amazing work, not all mine, but work I admire. 

I am sometimes surprised that the work of spring gives me deep, and restoritve pleasure. The work of planting in black dirt, washing muddy socks, clapping sandy cleats and making food for hungry kids fresh in from playing in the rain.  

Woman Work - Poem by Maya Angelou

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Baking Soda & Bee Stings

Today M got stung by a Bee. He made it inside before crying, flanked by Little D being his spokesperson  I quickly did the "Bee sting routine" and thought I would pass it along!

~Remove the stinger with tweezers if you can see it, try not to pinch the stinger (that can inject more venom)
~Control swelling, ice the area. One ice cube is perfect.
~Apply a mixture of baking soda and water.
~Keep the area clean it can take about 3 days to heal. You can use Arnica gel for swelling.
~ If the child/person has a reaction (swelling, trouble breathing) call 911
After that I had made extra paste from the baking soda and water so I gave the three youngest kids each a cutting board, a dollop of paste and they had at it. Then I poured a little vinegar on each "palate", like a square volcano board! They loved it.  As M declared at the end while we were scrubbing everything clean with the leftover drops from the experiment we turned pain into gain!
More great ideas, for fun with baking soda the ice cubes are great in Ikea's shaped ice cube trays.

http://teachingmama.org/5-baking-soda-experiments/


A good list for cleaning with baking soda, many of these are standbys for us! Little ones love putting on swim suits in the winter and scrubbing the tub with baking soda :)


http://www.christianforumsite.com/threads/51-uses-for-baking-soda.28767/

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Re-Setting After Small Storms


Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51

In talking to friends this week I realize we ALL have those moments of anguish right there mixed in with the normal and with the joy. The small storms of life that can wreck an evening or cause a perfectly decent day to be checked off as on par with Alexander's terrible, horrible , no good, very bad day.

Sometimes it is a half hour, when as a mother we leave the house for a drop off and return to tears and chaos. Or it is a situation at work that seemed fine and suddenly exploded into a huge mess. There can be challenges with children and with personal goals being derailed. These are moments that are small in the scheme of things but feel very BIG when they happen. 

When a kid fails a test, are on the outs with a friend or loose a big game it can feel like the world is ending. Praying this week I realized how key it is to imagine some one else's perspective. I was brainstorming how to teach and model being able to weather the small storms in our days.

A's idea was to text mom, she will sometimes need to check in. She told me it is nice to have a safe place to vent and take space from a situation. Little M said it is harder when you are in public, or in a group to change the energy. At home he likes to draw sports comics in his top bunk looking out at the trees. N said memorizing some Psalms and prayers he can say silently in his head gives him a calm feeling. Jr would always choose to shoot hoops, but he has started having paper in his pockets and backpack to make Origami (ask him for a frog or a swan, pretty cool). J-L likes to re-set with music and used to always climb trees when he was overwhelmed. He misses the tree from our old house! Big M likes to watch sports, play sports or find a way to laugh. Little D wants to talk it out or do her nails. I have no idea where she learned those stress relievers. 

Miss Lu usually pulls all nine of the rest of us into whatever mood she is feeling. Being four makes it  hard to calm down when things do not go your way! This conversation has helped us talk to Lu about taking deep breaths, yelling into her pillow or re phrasing something upsetting. For example instead of saying she hates this shirt and will never ever wear it and it should be hit by lightening, she can say she would really like the purple dress instead. This is a work in progress.

To re-set as an adult can be difficult when you are meeting the needs of so many others but these conversations with the kids reminded me of how important it is to brainstorm our own "re-set" tools. For so long rocking a baby, just that cozy time has been both my therapy and re-set. Long walks, checking in with my own mother and dear friends and laughter are solid standbys as well. Reading both prayers and especially passages from the Bible, like stolen moments of Grace in the whirlwind of daily life have served me in times of stress. All these ideas I hope are ways to absorb the negative, filtering with prayer and action, allowing it to be swirled into positive. What a gift it is to have the power to change, to have ownership of our moods and choices. Not an easy gift, but a gift just the same.


Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19







Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Simple Kid Pleasing Food & Cooking for a Crowd

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in Matthew 25:35

Today after my grocery run I decided to make chicken drumsticks...for an after school snack. Usually after school is when I do fun, inspired kid snacks. Lucy's friend asked the other day if they could "play playdough in my baking time" as if it were a measurment during the day. It is often true I bake in the afternoon to have things fresh when the kids start coming home from school between three and five, activity dependent.

Easter candy IV's have started to turn into emotional meltdowns, so I decided to jump on the Paleo bandwagon and serve some serious protien instead of peeps. It reminded me of how, as a young mom, I really wanted to know how other mother's fed their children! Did they learn from their mother's? Their grandmother's? Their father's? Did they cook in college or with friends for fun? One of my closest friends would go get ingredients and cook for a fun date.

I have some recipees really down, banana bread, pumpkin bread, chocolate chip cookies, a roast chicken (or two), a few classic hotdish recipees, garlic white fish, fresh stir fry, perfect steamed white rice, homemade granola and a few more. These are staples for us. As I expand I remember the rule that kids need to try something seventeen times, before it is familiar. This is why when families try to re do health habits, introduce greens or start baking their fries it can be tough going. Ideally a baby tries things over and over, and by the time they are a teen they are happily eating their baken salmon and salad without making "kill me now" faces. Our kids still make those faces sometimes, but rarely:)


Today's recipee is so simple it is likely already a staple for you and yours, here it is:

~2 flats of chicken drummies, about 6 pounds
~1 envalope onion soup mix
~ A few pinches of flour (lets say 1/4 cup but play with it)
~ Spice to taste, I mix kosher salt, ground pepper, a teaspoon fresh garlic or garlic pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (skip for littles)

Fry the drummies in a skillet. If they are frozen defrost over night and put on paper towels while getting the kitchen set up to cook. I start this around 10 am to be able to put in the crock pot.

IF you want the nice crispy skin do the first step in the skillet and then put on a wire rack (sprayed with pam) on top of a baking sheet (which will catch the grease) for about 35min at 425 degrees.

For the crock pot, after frying the drummies and getting a golded skin on all, dump into a pam sprayed crock pot. Mix in drippings and 1 cup boiling water with the flour and onion soup mix. Leave on low for 5 hours.

Serve with buffalo sauce, BBQ, katchup, ranch.....each kid likes a different sauce! Leftovers pull apart for chiken salad, chicken enchaladas or chicken wild rice soup. We never have any leftovers but that is for you guys. Costco now sells rotisserie chicken bagged which is great for those ideas.

For a fun easy kid friendly side we put fresh broccoli under the broiler for five minutes after tossing in a bit of olive oil and garlic salt.

Part of cooking meals, snacks and breads is creating an inviting home. We love having others over to eat, have fellowship or simply just to plain old feed you! It is a way to show love in a busy, often chaotic world. Hope to see you soon at our table.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chicago! Photos From A FUN Spring Break~

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 
Mark Twain
Train buds, so fun to have sleeping cars. 
Some waiting was long, but overall the train was a very smooth process.
Michagan Ave Bridge & truly good Chi town deep dish

Stans is worth a visit
Lu was pretty excited about the American Girl Doll store!
How wonderful to travel with Grandparents!
Bulls game! Such a fun game and entertainment with Benny the Mascot's Birthday!

A fabulous trip exploring Chicago. We took the train from Minneapolis/St Paul to Chicago and spent most days walking all over the city. What a wonderful city to explore. It is not always easy to travel with kids, especially a big group but we had so much fun.

We only took 2 phones, no other electronics, i pads and i pods stayed home. We took photos, talked, read books, played lots of word games and drew on paper placemats. It is a great tradition to be as unplugged as possible and made us much more connected as a family.

MJ #23


City Kids for a few days, they walked and played and rode the bus!


We managed to enjoy ourselves in the midst of it all!
Kids named the chick "Otis" after watching it hatch!


Now time for laundry and the re-entry period! One quick tip is after any trip I make a list of notes for the next vacation and keep in in our largest family suitcase. I have a note for camping, a note for hotel stays and for cabin vacations. I also keep an updated plastic bag in the suitcase with things like first aid, a hardcopy list of phone numbers, a box of crayons and toss in new small toiletries the week after we get home so its set for next time. I also have index cards that I can hand to kids for packing, such as 4 t-shirts, 1 pair of jeans and so on. I always have them pack one "church" shirt in case of a nicer resteraunt, if we happen to travel over a sunday or need to be presentable on the fly. 

I covered the cards with packing tape so they can be re-used. Then they can check things off with dry erase marker as they pack things in their own packback. 

We started doing this after Big M packed three pairs of fleece pajama pants, and nothing else, for a week stay for a very hot summer 4th of July at a friends cabin. We ended up cutting them and they were swim-trunks and shorts for the week. So, it worked but I figured a system for future packing would save me time and teach them independence! 


An amazing kids park near the water on the other side of MillenniumPark by the loop,
a true highlight for everyone.