Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Choosing Gratitude over Stress and Guilt

In a group today a great panel of women talked about how to create margin in family life. This goal rose to the top of the discussion for me. It aligned with a goal I have set for myself of replacing the word gratitude for the word shame, or the feeling of guilt. 

I feel guilty at times I am able to be home with our children, when I stop myself and swap the words, it is a mind shift. 

I am so lucky to have this choice. 

I am grateful for this time. 

There is also the feeling of shame if I did a poor job with my day. 

I feel guilty if I didn't manage to find time to make that phone call (I hate making phone calls! Next year's goal) or if I missed an appointment or did not get the house tidy by the time my first child rolls in the door. 

To replace that flustered feeling of annoyance with one of being grateful is not easy. 

“Being grateful does not mean that everything is necessarily good. It just means that you can accept it as a gift.” ― Roy T. Bennett

A gift of the everyday is my desired outlook. As simple as it sounds I am finding myself working diligently to replace the word "Stress" with "Grateful" in my day to day patterns. I am grateful to be healthy, to have energy to worry! How can I shift that energy into a more life fulfilling direction? As I work towards this goal I am finding small slivers of new space and energy for renewal.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” 
― Laura Ingalls WilderWritings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues

I am so grateful for these children, look at how they have grown from 
this pumpkin day eight years ago! 
I want to give thanks for hard bits and the amazing bits. 
May the busy they bring leave margin for exponential joy.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Room On The Couch, Upsides to Downsizing With a Big Family

October, the world is getting colder and we had a day of rain. We have been working together to create space for our family, welcome in a new sweet Foster sibling and fix projects before the weather turns. We have a historically high number of schools as kids are in different stages nursery, elementary, junior high and different high schools. We are driving and juggling sports teams, trying as always to make sure being a big family does not become a burden to the kids chances of success.

But Moses' hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. Exodus 17:12

A shared project is a much lighter load. We have been working on house projects trying to fit twelve of us with efficiency and humor into a smaller space. I admit I think I (mom) have had the hardest time with the change, but as the weather turns projects are being finished up and I am seeing the gains. A laundry room with wall to wall drying rack was a huge hit this summer, now nine lockers and a curtain to hide the chaos of that many shoes, books and paper treasures. 
M is ready for action. Everyone helped!

Hide the mess with an entry way that serves as a mudroom. Sheff did a great job in two weekends so pleased with the functionality. Not sure about wet boots and coats but one step at a time!
Helps to hang clothes although this was in the summer when  two loads fit on the outside clothes line. 
Entry way/Mudroom.
Piping for curtain rods and  multiple panels so kids can use in a hurry.

Typical moment, love the hugs.
Like any mama it can be difficult getting things done with littles. As I imagine and explore adding in a small amount of paid work, I am mindful of enjoying this time and not wishing away the busy days of firsts with my last little ones. First steps, first words, first time of tasting sour and seeing rain. The moments that both delight and amaze me, and make me grateful for these years.

One of the goals in this move for us was to come together. I have been fighting this call tooth and nail. I want my cake and to eat it too, how humbling to see how God is working in this new time for our family. With one space for watching telivision we come together and have to debate and decide what we watch. We have an extra table at the back of this room for projects and folding laundry, mom rarely sits but is in the same space with everyone. This is also where forts are made and race cars zoom underfoot. 

We used to have four telivisions I am embarrassed to admit. With almost everyone sharing bedrooms kids talk into the night and support each other more visibly during the day. Some patterns that worked before continue to do so here, chores, spending most of the time playing outside. The new patterns are born of less space, more work for mom, more connectedness as a family. I continue to pray for a gentle spirit in this change (not my feisty Irish one that needs to question the sanity of thirty two pairs of tennis shoes by the front door) and work on my ability to welcome the imperfection that comes with less space and a big family. I struggle feeling less able to host (something we enjoy) with out more space. But I know this is exactly where we need to be right now! 

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the ufading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1 Peter 3:4
I love these photos, with lots of open seating, the majority of the family squished onto one couch. As the world turns in grief and pain with historic shootings and political turmoil, what a comfort it is to snuggle in with family. Not to take this closeness lightly, but rather, to give thanks.
A whole extra couch:) 8 Otis people in a row, I guess we CAN host!

So peacful around here Dad fell asleep!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer of 10 ~ We made it to Aug!

After a long break my mind is whirring with thoughts to get down on paper and notes I have made about organizing, traveling and making it through the summer with ten children in the home ranging from newborn to 17 years old. It has actually been a great summer! I say actually because sleep deprivation is hard, navigating new jobs with teens is hard and having three kids with permits but no extra hard!

Traveling with the kids was an adventure. We slept in one tent and packed everything to fit in a duffel on the back and a topper on the top of the van. We picked up deodorant on the way and new socks at the Nike outlet in Maine. Amazingly the only major thing we forgot were batteries for the camp lanterns night one. We had coffee (key people, key) fun foil pack food, a clothes line, enough mats and blankets to make up for 5 sleeping bags for the 10 of us. It worked! Time on the Island was wonderful, salty, rich with seasonal food and laughter connecting to Sheff's college roommates.

At home I need more bins. I ALWAYS need more bins. I adore a new label and new bin. The possibility of total streamlined family motion. In the door shoes in the bin, papers in your folder, athletic schedule pinned to the board, leftover food in the fridge. Does this happen? Sometimes it does! Other times I look around and instead of defeat I think "More bins!" and off I go to shuffle already filed baskets and create a shiny new label. Ahhh labels.

So, we made it to August. September will bring brand new things, 4 in high schools, 1 private, 2 public, 1 homeschooled! Yes, a new thing we will take on with gusto (and likely some bins) and fresh hope.

As we enter into the dog days of summer I am feeling deep relief that we have a 9 week old baby who sleeps a 6 hour stretch, that we have a toddler who adores books and says new words that me me smile and want to leave the mess to read one more time, that we have healthy children. I even give thanks for kids who are bored, praise be school and books that have never been found are just around the bend.

~ Fathers day with the 10, such an amazing bunch~

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April ~ Robert Frost

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months ba
ck in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926  

When I was little my Dad would read poetry as I went to sleep and stay up late into the night. When the seasons chnage I think of him and this poem came to mind. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prayers in the Margins, Time and Documenting the Hard Stuff

When I was a sophomore in college I purchased a prayer book at Sam's club of all places. Some roommates from college had memberships. I had never been in a warehouse store and it was fascinating, now it is a weekly habit. At 19, the idea of needing 10 pounds of hamburger at a time was unfathomable. Now it means two meatloaves and spaghetti sauce for weekly meals. 

The prayer book was already dated when I picked it up in 1997, the pages featuring women with pastel dresses, lots of wicker furniture and primary color clad kids. Hidden with the photos were sound advice and biblical verses. 

I started to jot down worries and moments of answered prayer. My biological father passed away and I wrote about my final conversation with him, simply writing Phoned Ken, he sounded like he was thinking about God. He said he hopes where he goes next will have the sound of birds. I'm sad.  Later on a new note on the same page jotted 5 years later, Praying for an easy birth, thank you Lord for all our blessings. 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Without context these notes are difficult to understand, as a whole it is now 20 years of quick notes. No note is more than a few lines, sometimes a piece of paper is in-between the pages. One is about MMO coming early, praying a bump on his wrist was harmless. It was not, it was a staff infection, he ended up with a broviac IV at home. That same baby caused the entry 14 years old, and six feet, thank you God for our little fighter who has gotten so big.

Many entries are during Lent over the years, things given up and things taken on. Least favorite was giving up coffee in 2010. Most favorite was taking on daily blessings for the children as they left for school in 2009. As I read through these moments of reflection I am awed by the power of memory and grateful for the promise of hope in difficult times. 

Time turns forward today, daylights savings 2017 and I am thanking my teenage college self for taking the time to grab that prayer book. Thanking my younger self for trusting in the collection of tomorrows and writing down snapshots to give my older self perspective.

Psalms for Women, God's Gift of Joy and Encouragement
Published by Honor Books 1989

Monday, February 13, 2017

Science Blog, What We Wish Other People Knew About Fostering

I would use different language than the blog below, but I agree with these points especially #12 :) We really want to help our community in this specific way. I want to take on kids who need hands on healing and stubborn love, Sheff loves me and loves kids enough to not only support this but dive in with humor and amazing boundaries that are consistent. The other children are learning about privilege, learning about nutrition and basic medical needs. They are also having to share, and I am very aware of trying to balance their rights and space with our desire to teach compassionate hands on giving.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Different Paths: Together

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me........ 
Psalm 25: 4-5

When we started out this parenting journey I think we both thought it was best to be a united front, same sports, same schools, same childhood books and songs. As an only child the idea of having a community of people with traditions, inside jokes and wacky car trip memories was my highest dream. Those things have happened, but not in the ways we imagined.

New Years tradition of bubbly juice & an appetizer dinner. We try for food from around the world. Then we choose things that the others (in our family) can pray for in the coming year. A way we can support each other as a family, this makes it more of a group movement rather than individualistic pursuit. Happy 2017!

This winter gave punctuation to the need to support very different paths while staying connected and supportive as a family. As we grow and evolve and serve, this need allows us to be compassionate and aware of difference. Hearing aids, speech help, concussion recovery (all different kids) and finding the right high schools to support emerging adult thinkers. With teens researching college to foster babies where mama is researching formula, to our sweet boy we are in process of adopting, life continues to flow.

I am doing my best to sleep when I can, accept help, eat my greens, enjoy my apple fritters, laugh at my children's jokes and clean when no one is watching.

I pray for the strength to support our children differently, the wisdom to trust my husband and love him where he is and the grace to be a foster mother trusting in the Lord's greater plan.