Archives for August 2010

Mucho randomness

The tail end of summer is roaring past me at ridiculous speed.

We opted to skip the ‘big’ fair this year– it costs so much!– but had a great time going to a church carnival on Saturday. They had 50-cent hot dogs, corn dogs, burgers, ice cream, snow cones and cotton candy, if you can believe it, plus free drinks and watermelon. We gave the kids 3 food coupons each and they had great fun eating their way around the place and hanging out with friends. There was also face painting, a bike demo, a car show, a Boy Scout rope bridge and other coolness. Good fun.

My tomatoes are finally coming on– got 9 quarts canned with the able assistance of the kids today. Hooray for them! I’ve done my fill of cucumbers already…might do a bit more relish later this week since my family really loves that. Am also planning to buy peaches this week for canning.

My $700/month pay-only-cash-for-groceries went well this month. I’m feeling like it is doable long term, tho I will definitely benefit from meal planning to keep it feeling easy and not tight. Sometimes I just fly by the seat of my pants with meals, which results in more trips to the store. Much better for the budget to have a plan. The other day I made 3 lasagnas, which felt like a nice accomplishment, and reminded me how nice it is to have prepped food in the freezer. I’m thinking of doing a major cooking day in the next week or two– make a bunch of casseroles, brown some burger, cook some chicken, so I’ll have a bunch of easy meals handy as we start school soon.

Speaking of school, this summer I had the kids continue to do a bit of math and reading all summer, and I really liked it. No one had the chance to forget things, and we definitely fit in learning, albeit at a more relaxed pace. This summer we’ve worked through a couple of the Little House books with the youngest girls, and I’ve so enjoyed it. This year I want to do more reading aloud TO the kids– interesting books that we’ll all enjoy. And having done some school all summer, I’m not dreading jumping back in like I often do near the end of the summer. It’s nice.

We’ll be butchering one of the cows at the end of the month. I’m looking forward to getting my freezer stocked again. John is wondering if we should just butcher both, to save on hay (and livestock hassle) this winter, but I really have no idea where we’d put two cows. When we butchered one a couple years ago, I had to borrow freezer space from my dear MIL, and I’m pretty darned sure she doesn’t have that much space… Am thinking maybe the butcher might rent us space? But I have no idea how much that might cost…

One final bit of news: I’ve been asked to speak at the Oklahoma state homeschool conventions next April. I’ll be leading 3 breakout sessions, which is pretty exciting. Among other things, I’ll be talking about grocery budgeting, streamlining your kitchen time, and prioritizing time when you’re homeschooling multiple children. Speaking of prioritizing time, I’m also trying to figure out how many of my Oklahoma friends I can meet up with while there. It should be really fun!

Together for Adoption

I’m sooo excited to be attending the Together for Adoption conference!  It’s Sept 30-Oct 2nd in Austin, TX.  Are you going?  Are you thinking about going? If you live anywhere near Austin, please do–I’d love to meet you there!  Turning in your registration before Sept 1st will get you the lower early bird registration rate.  To give you more of an idea of what the conference is about, here are the conference ‘tracks’:

  1. Your church and the orphan (how to launch an orphan ministry in your church)
  2. Church-centered international orphan care (how the church can meet the needs of orphans around the world)
  3. Post adoption  (Karen Purvis, author of The Connected Child will be talking about attachment, a hugely important adoption issue)
  4. Missional communities and orphan care (church planting, meeting inner city orphan needs)
  5. Orphan care and pre-adoption issues ( for those considering adoption or supporting adoptive families)
  6. College students and the orphan (advocating for orphans on your college campus)
  7. The arts, media, and advocating for the orphan (how photography, music, and writing can be a voice for orphans)
  8. Foster Care (offering foster care, supporting foster families)
  9. Adoption 101 (how to adopt, how to afford it)

And here’s a sampling of some of the actual break-out sessions. You can attend all the sessions in one track, or you can pick and choose sessions that interest you within any of the tracks. I  am also attending the pre-conference workshop with Karen Purvis. I’ve read her book and really liked it, so I am looking forward to hearing her speak.

Funny thing:  as I was writing this post, my 5 year old came wailing into the house to show me her owie, and I was freshly reminded what a miracle adoption is.  Yes, our decision to adopt her met the needs of one orphan.  But adoption isn’t really about activism, it’s about family.  She’s my daughter.  A treasured, precious member of my family.  And I can’t even describe what a gift that is.

Back to the conference:  I’ll be live-blogging about the event and sharing it with people who aren’t able to attend.   There will also be a featured blogger meetup session, so if you are coming, you and I really will have an opportunity to meet.

I’d love to hear from you if you’re coming.  Just for fun, I’m also including a linky in this post.   If you’re going, will you plug in your blog address? That way we can see who’s going and visit each other ahead of time!  If you don’t have a blog, just comment, OK?


Our God He lives forever
He reigns in power and love
Let Earth bow down before Him
For He is exalted

We look to Yahweh Yahweh
Forever Yahweh Yahweh

Our hope is God Almighty
His love is greater than all
Lift high the God of Heaven
Give all the honor

We look to Yahweh Yahweh
Our hope is Yahweh Yahweh

And He shall reign forever
He shall reign forever
He shall reign
Forever and ever (Our God)

Adoption: Our older girls (part 2)

Our older girls (part 1)

Although John and I were in immediate agreement when considering adopting these 9 and 11 year old girls, the journey had its share of obstacles. Money, amazingly, was not one of them.  Between a tax refund and the sale of my first book, God had that covered.

The first big question was whether or not a social worker would approve our moderate home and our moderate income for two more children.  At that point we had 5 bedrooms. Since then we’ve added another bedroom.  But our initial plan was to have the new girls share a room with their almost-5-year-old sister. The 2-year-old was still sleeping with us at the time.  We figured that when the time came, we’d add more bunk beds and put all 4 girls in one room.  Question was, would a social worker see that as reasonable?  Adding to our concern was the fact that we were going to need to switch homestudy agencies, and get a social worker we’d never worked with.

Next concern:  we knew that at least one other family was interested in adopting ‘our’ girls.  We’d need to get our paperwork done first if we wanted to be given first consideration of the girls.  Our old homestudy agency had been fabulous about doing rapid homestudies.  All four of our previous homestudies had been completed in 2-4 weeks, which is practically unheard of in adoption circles.  We had no idea if this new agency could get our homestudy done quickly.

Final, biggest, hugest concern:  the Ethiopian government was becoming unhappy with large families adopting multiple children.  The rule was on the brink of being changed, and we didn’t know if we could get our fingerprints and homestudy and all the other portions of our dossier done in time to be approved under the old laws. But we did know one thing:  God was in charge, and He’d already opened crucial doors by blessing us with agreement and money.

And so in April, as soon as we got some basic information from our agency about the girls, we hit the ground running with adoption paperwork.  Anyone who’s put together a dossier for an international adoption knows what a daunting prospect it is.  Fingerprints and references and doctor’s letters and financial statements, and on and on, all needing to be properly stamped by notaries, the whole thing full of nitpicky details.  We jumped into it all, feet first.

We were hoping against hope that our new homestudy agency would be first of all, willing to approve us as an adoptive family, and second, be able to pull together a good homestudy quickly.  The answer was a yes on both accounts.  We got a wonderful social worker who understood our family, appreciated our strengths, and blessed us with her approval of our dreams.  And then she plowed right into the writing of the study.  She was so quick and efficient that by early May we had all of our paperwork pulled together, ready to submit to the agency.

We later found out that our paperwork arrived at the agency literally a couple days before the Ethiopian law was changed.  If we’d gotten things pulled together even a week later, we would not have been allowed to move forward.  But because our paperwork was already complete, our agency was able to count us as an already-in-process family.  And we were approved to adopt the girls.

Traveling families blessed us with more pictures of the girls.  We sent pictures of our own to them.  I was touched to get letters from them as well, one containing a sweet beaded necklace from the older of our new daughters.  Always in previous adoptions we’d been expecting babies or toddlers, children too young to understand the way that their life was about to change.  But here we were, with these precious kids on the other side of the world, waiting for us, wondering about us just as much as we were wondering about them.

Canning Recipes

Don’t miss: Avoiding the Back to School Wallet Pinch (by me) at


This is the time of year when people get busy canning garden produce.  Just in case you’re looking for a few good easy canning recipes, here are some of the recipes and videos I’ve shared over the years.

Mary Ostyn: Canning tomatoes the easy way from Mary Ostyn on Vimeo.

Mary Ostyn – How to Make Grape Jelly from Mary Ostyn on Vimeo.

Other canning recipes:

Spicy Salsa

Homemade Applesauce

Apricot Jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

What other canning recipes would you like to see?  Weigh in with your requests and I’ll pick the most-requested one and do another video!

For more easy recipes:

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My lunch today.

From the store: watermelon

From the garden: tomatoes, cukes, canteloupe, and CORN!

Also: this french bread – it has a secret!

Heading off…

Third child.  Third time I’ve sent a child off to college, and still it is not easy.

Friday I got Jared settled into his dorm room for his first year of college. Made his bed, stocked his dorm fridge with yogurt and OJ and milk, bought him cleaning supplies and ravioli and trail mix and Kleenex. Went with him to pick up his books. Then he and I rode bikes around on campus so he could scope out his classes. Good company, good fun.

Since he had things going on near home all weekend, his first night in the dorms didn’t come til last night. Last night home felt lonelier. Not empty by any stretch. Amanda and her husband Ben were here for dinner, as was Ben’s sister. 13 people around the dinner table still, plenty for pinochle and Settlers of Catan and Killer Bunnies. But he wasn’t there, and I barely made it half an hour at a time without thinking of him, wondering what he was doing, missing his presence.

The only advantage of having done this twice before is the knowledge that resignation will eventually set in, that his absence will begin to feel normal. The missing won’t always be this sharp. And yet somehow sending this third child out is also a reminder that all of our children will be out one day, living their lives, making our home only a stopover point and no longer a place to reside.

I’m thrilled for Jared. He’s going to enjoy this. He’s well grounded and smart and hard working and friendly and ready for this adventure. I’m proud of him, and I wouldn’t have him miss this for the world.

But still, the ache.


Let Your light shine
And fill this earth
With a beautiful story
Let Your rain pour out
And fill this world
And reach out Your hand for me

Book review: Cooking for Geeks

I love it when I’m asked to review cookbooks!  Most recent is Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food, written by Jeff Potter.  I don’t really consider myself a geek, but I lovelovelove this book.  It’s part cookbook, part science book.  The science is presented as a series of engaging essays written by cooking experts. Essays explain so many little and big details of cooking– stuff like the interaction of seasonings, the science of caramelization, an intro to beverage pairings, how aroma and taste interact, how yeast works, and on and on.  I’ve only read about 1/3 of the book so far, but am very much looking forward to reading more.  I’m not sure if this book would enthrall everyone, and I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but in my mind the book is totally worthwhile just for the explanations.  I think that better understanding will help my  food experiments turn out more predictably good.  Maybe I’m more of a geek than I realized.