Mother’s Day

We had a nice visit with family on Mother’s Day.   One of the highlights of the day had to be when all our grandchildren arrived at once, all hurrying toward the front door in great excitement at being here to visit.  What delight.  🙂

Arriving

Here’s a photo of my momma and me with one of those sweet grandbabies.  Hard to believe she is nearly 3.

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Many goodies were brought, and eaten, including WAY too much chocolate.  The Reeses’ cheesecake was my Mother’s Day gift from Zeytuna.  Didn’t she do a lovely job?

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Another highlight of the very lovely day was staying up late chatting with a bunch of the kids about all sorts of silly things– just sitting around enjoying each other. I felt very blessed.

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And finally, here’s a photo of our very first homegrown flower bouquet from this new house of ours, picked just today. Along with the flowers, I’ve been picking LOTS of cilantro lately.  We have so much that I even tucked some into this bouquet for greenery.  Very fun!

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A little girl and her heart

In August when we traveled to Ethiopia, we were blessed to be driven around by a wonderful man named Dawit. This was actually the third time he has been our driver in Ethiopia, and we couldn’t have had a better person to keep watch over us. By the time the two weeks of this trip was done, he felt almost like family to us.

With Dawit

With Dawit

On Mother’s Day I found out that his little daughter Yohana, age 1, has a couple of fairly serious heart defects for which she will need surgery.  For those of you with medical knowledge, she has a large atrial septal defect and a small patent ductus arteriosis. The problem is that this type of surgery (though commonly and easily done in the US) is not available in Ethiopia.

The closest place for this child to be treated is in Kenya, at a mission hospital where a visiting US surgeon will be next February. The cost is overwhelming for this young family, as you might imagine. She will need to travel to Kenya twice, once in August for an evaluation, and then again in February.  Just airfare and hotels will probably cost around $2000.

Thankfully a number of people have come together and already donated $2800, enough for travel, and for at least some of the medical care needed. But if you are inclined to donate to cover more of Yohana’s medical expenses, you can do so via paypal through a medical missionary in Ethiopia named Jodi Ross. Jodi is a trusted friend of my sister Sophie, and they lived and worked in Ethiopia side by side for several years. Jodi’s email is jodi_rss@yahoo.com.  Feel free also to email her with questions.  And whether or not you are able to help financially, would you consider praying for little Yohana?  This has to be a scary time for Dawit and his wife.

Thanks so much!

Our back yard

I’ve been having lots of fun lately working on our back yard. It started out as a very barren rectangle of grass and concrete, and even after a bit of work the grass is still in need of some help.  But in general the yard is looking lots more interesting these days, so I thought I’d show you some photos.  As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

I got the yard whipped into shape just in time– on Sunday we had a bunch of family over for a late Easter celebration.  Just for fun we did even more Easter egg hunting with the little ones, and thanks to the new landscaping, we had lots more spaces to hide eggs.

Tho some of course landed right in the middle of the yard.  After all, our little hunters range in age from 1 to 4.

My very favorite photo is this one of my momma with her youngest great-grandchild Meg, enjoying a fun little swing that I splurged on.

My momma

We may not have space for a whole swing set here, but a swing like this is a perfect fit.   One of these days I may even steal a little time to sit in it myself!  Preferably with a kiddo to cuddle.

Easter Vacation

We had a lovely escape to the ocean this past week.  Usually we go expecting lots of rain, because that’s how the Oregon beaches are, especially in the springtime.  But this week we had tons of sun mixed in with just a little rain.  It was gorgeous.  We even had a lovely Easter morning rainbow– a perfect reminder of God’s promises of provision and protection and salvation.  The tomb is empty! (more on that here)

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Our youngest two outside the house.
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Little Meg enjoying her great-grandma, John’s mom.
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John’s happy place is definitely the ocean.
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The house where we stayed had wonderful, huge public gathering areas, as well as 7 bedrooms and a theater room that slept 4 more kids.  We had 18-22 people in the house each and every night and were well and truly spoiled.
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The little ones had fun hunting for Easter eggs on Easter, and on the next day, and the next, and the next.  We may even have left a few eggs there for the next renters to find.
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My sweet grandbabies came shouting up to the stairs to greet me each time I came out of my room and down the stairs each morning. Talk about feeling like a VIP!
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Lidya and Ben clowning around
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John enjoying sweet Meg
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Ranger admiring the fish at the aquarium.
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Wilona showing off her treasure trove of eggs.
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My parents and John’s mom were able to be there for part of the time, along with a few other members of our extended family, and 9 out of our 10 kids and their families.  It was a great joy and a true highlight of the year.  For a few of the days we had 8 kids in the house ages 4 and under, with half of them being under the age of one.

Little Cousins

Little Cousins

(Yes, it was loud!)  But, oh, the cuteness!  And there were lots of babies to share around.

The first few years that we did a big gathering on the beach like this, I planned the food like crazy.  This year we just made sure there was easy breakfast food for breakfast, and lots of sandwich fixings for lunch, and really only fussed over dinner each evening.  It worked beautifully– I think we hit just the right mix of structure and relaxation.

One day we took the kiddos to the aquarium, and another day John and I went house hunting.  (We are still trying to decide whether to build on the lot we bought or possibly buy something already built.)  But most of the rest of the days were filled simply with walks on the beach, pinochle and Up The River and other games in the house, and just hanging out, eating snacks and being together.

It was very good.

This afternoon I’m off to the store to reprovision the food in the house here, then (ready or not) tomorrow it’s back to work.  I am also thinking about what I want to do next in the back yard.  I have a few pictures that I hope to show you soon!

 

More on the 36 hour sell

So. The house passed inspection and we’re on target to close by the beginning of March.  Crazy how fast this process is going. I’m holding my breath, aware that delays could still come.  But, wow it is looking good.  What a huge blessing.

After the inspect, we do have a second round of workers plowing through the house fixing things, but it’s minor stuff like broken window handles, and a wrong-sized breaker, and a singing toilet.  Hooray!  We feel really blessed.

Today we went to the house and grabbed a few of our last things out, including Em’s new bed that we’d used for staging– she was so excited to finally bring it home!  Next week our awesome staging company Graceful Designs is picking up the furnishings they added, and then it will be all up to the new owners.

I’m completely convinced that redoing the kitchen and then staging the house were a huge key to getting TWO full price offers within 36 hours of listing.  It just made it all that much more obvious that this house is a good place to live, a place to really be welcomed and comfortable.

We’re thankful also to our real estate agent brother in law Scott Dykstra, who helped us price it right– AND talked us into shelling out a couple thousand bucks to upgrade the sliding glass door and repair the foggy old windows in the house the day before listing.  We dragged our heels for a while– because $2200– yikes!!  But I’m sure that the sun shining in those lovely windows just sealed the deal for the folks whose (full price!) offer we accepted.

Speaking of the new owners, I hear that they are planning to raise goats and chickens, which makes me really happy. The place needed some new energy. We want it to be used and enjoyed and loved, and we’re thrilled to hear that they’re excited to get going with their life there.

As for this new house of ours, I could not be more in love.  It took mere days for it to feel comfortably ours.  It fits our furniture and it fits our people, and it’s just good. Right down to our dining room table– the one I was hot to replace while prepping to move.  Turns out it matches the new kitchen’s cabinets perfectly, and it was just perfectly made for the space.  I think we’ll be keeping it around for awhile yet.  I sigh in contentment each time I walk down the stairs in the morning.  It all just feels right.

There’s a bit of chaos going on in the garage right now, with John still working on getting his shop set up.  But glory hallelujah– it all fit in!!  And even the current mess feels completely doable.  John is planning on building a small additional storage shed in the back yard to handle the garage overflow, which I think will really help to make this last bit of moving in go smoothly.

And my kitchen.  I didn’t really realize how few cabinets I had at the old house.  This new kitchen has probably twice as many, along with having at least double the pantry space.  It is really nice to not have half my small appliances out in the garage– especially with John still working to get his tools stashed away neatly there.

So much to be thankful for.

I’ve been thinking about this past year, with getting adjusted to working again, and I am planning to write in a few days more about the ups and the downs involved in going back to work after 17 years at home.  But I think I’ll leave it at this for now– happy that another family is going to get a homestead adventure like we’ve enjoyed during the past couple decades, and grateful that we have exactly three tiny flowerbeds to weed this spring.

Life is good.

I’ll leave you with a photo of tulips from the old place, and a promise to keep you up to date on the adventures we have planned in this new place.  John has been teasing me because I already have a hummingbird feeder set up and ready to go at this new place, in hopes of luring the hummingbirds back unseasonably early.  But I, like the groundhog, am convinced we are in for an early end to winter this year.

Happy spring!

Tulips

Whew!

Happy New Year!  It’s been a whirlwind 2 weeks around here– probably the craziest Christmas we’ve ever experienced.  After planning for a month to close on our new house Dec 18th, we had all sorts of delays.  At one point the expected close date was looking to be as late as Dec. 29th.  But then a mini Christmas miracle happened, allowing us to close the 23rd. Too late to do Christmas at the new place  (which turned out to be utterly fine).  But soon enough to move a few things over on the 23rd, and a few more the 25th–  “Merry Christmas, kids!  We’re putting your mattresses in the van!” And then on the 26th, the moving van rolled into our new neighborhood, and it was time to unload that beast.

Thanks to fabulous help from all our kids  (not just the ones living with us)  that entire semi truck was emptied in two hours flat.  And then the slow work began– unpacking all those boxes.  I’ve done little else in the week since Christmas.  But we’re finally winning over all those boxes, and I am just thrilled with how it is all coming together.  Here are a couple shots of our new living room….ahhhhh.

Looking from Front Door Looking from the dining areaWe had most of the kids over for Sunday dinner this week, and instead of the usual press of a mob of us all together, we actually had space to move, even after John and the grandkids dumped out alllll the Legos!  I think it will be a wonderful home for us.

I will show you more photos  soon.  But at  the moment we don’t have internet (it’s coming FRIDAY– hooray!!!  Finally!!!)  so I am very limited in my blogging time. I will call this post good for now, and plan to write much more regularly in this new year!

Oh, and here’s our whole clan on Christmas Eve!

Christmas Ostyns

 

 

buzzing around….

Hello!!  Yes, I’m still here.  Just buzzing around doing all sorts of interesting things.  At least once a week I’ve been enjoying that sweet new grandbaby and playing with her older siblings so mama can nap. We’ve been homeschooling and keeping up with all the normal stuff around here, including 2 night shifts a week at the hospital.

As an addition to our homeschool learning about refugees, the girls and I have been volunteering with a local ministry that helps new refugees settle into our community.  We have very much been enjoying getting to know a family that just arrived in Boise from Malaysia, and have had fun learning bits of each others’ languages.

Along with all that, John and I have been noodling around the idea of selling our place here and moving to a place in town.  And after 22 years of beating down the weeds and doing the upkeep on our three acres, we are realizing we may be getting a little weary of having so, so much land to tame.

The chickens and the cow and the huge garden and greenhouse have been lots of fun.  But we’re wondering if maybe we’d like to shift some of our time in other directions during the coming years. This house is just about paid off and the difference in property cost between here and a place in town would be a great jump on the start of our (someday) ocean dream.  And a smaller yard is sounding more and more appealing.

So we’ve been dipping our toes in the local real estate waters. We’ve begun looking at houses to see what we might be able to get in town that would leave us some equity to put toward our beach house dream.  Lots of house-hunting has netted some possible options.  But nothing so far feels decidedly ‘ours’. I’ve fallen in love with a house or two.  So far we haven’t been able to find out that would give John some good shop space.  Maybe we’ve lived here too long to get that ‘home’ feeling about anyplace but here. But maybe there’s something out there.  We’ll keep looking.

We’ve also been looking at our own house with resale value in mind, just in case we do find a good place in town.  We bit the bullet and replaced the elderly furnace. I did some major decluttering in the garage, with the plan of eventually texturing all the walls and shooting a fresh coat of paint on everything out there.

I’m cleaning out closets and giving away all sorts of things that we don’t need. The linen closet with half its contents removed looks incredibly more spacious and well organized. I need to paint the shelves and put the door back on, and then next on the list is a similar makeover of the master closet.

Useful grey by Benjamin MooreI’ve repainted all the doors and much of the trim on the main level of the house. The trim is just a plain white, and for the walls I chose a Benjamin Moore paint in a nice soft neutral tone called ‘Useful Grey.’  Funny name, eh? To the right is the color in someone else’s home.

New paint and door knobsAnd here’s a picture of our hallway showing the contrast between grey and white.  So clean and crisp.  (It proved crazy-hard to get the paint to show up as the right color on my camera, though– thus the photo above.)

This photo also shows our new door knobs. I bought new doorknobs and hinges for the whole house, to replace the brassy ones we’ve had since the 90’s. The grand total of that project was $280, and they really update the doors, I think.

We have new living room carpet coming soon.  Our current carpet is a very worn teal green that just screams 1990’s.  🙂  I got bids from a bunch of places but settled on RC Willey since their cost was the absolute best, and their work has been recommended.

As is typical for me, I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS. at once.  (Except, apparently, blogging–oops!)  It could be that after more house hunting we will just decide to stay put here– who knows?  Or maybe just the right house will show up during the next few months and we will make the leap to a new place.  But in any case these new fix-ups on our house are really fun and fresh, and (except for the boring furnace) not even all that spendy.  I keep forgetting to take pictures of my projects, but I will share more soon, because there’s lots happening.

Until then, thanks for sticking with me and checking in even when life gets busy and I don’t post often.  I appreciate your visits here!

 

Sweet Meg

Erika and Israel had their baby last week, sweet little Meg.

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She joins brother Ranger, 3.5 and sister Ali, 2 years old.

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All went well and we are so thrilled!

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If you want to see more photos, visit Erika’s blog and tell them congrats!

On growing up in a big family (a letter to my children)

CampingAs your momma, there are always things buzzing in my mind that I hope each of you will remember, or know, or understand about what’s most important in this life.  But in this particular moment I’m thinking about how it’s been for you growing up at the beginning, or in the middle, or as the tail-end charlie of our big-ol crazy family.

I hope in the future you’ll remember life with us, your clan, as the great adventure that it truly has been.   There’s always someone around to watch a movie with you, or to loan you a belt, or coax into helping you drag the trash out to the road. (“Quick, the trash truck’s coming!”)  In adulthood often that looks like helping each other move, or bringing each other dinner after the arrival of a new baby.

I’m hoping you’ll feel close enough to share those favors around, and to help each other out in the many transition times life doles out.  Family adds a blessed cushion to all sorts of challenging days, whether those days involve hard things like illness or car breakdowns, or joyous things like new babies and wedding planning.

I know it’s not always been easy to parent-share in this big clan. I wish there’d never been times I dropped the ball, missed a clue that you needed to talk about something, or wasn’t there for you.  I always desperately long to be there, whether I can be or not.  Not being able to meet everyone’s needs Brothersperfectly….honestly, that’s what I hate most about being a momma of many.  (Though I suppose even moms of one or two feel that way sometimes.) Each and every one of you is precious.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Worth focusing on.  And it kills me to think there are moments when you didn’t feel like you were in the very center of my heart.  Because you are. Oh, you are.  Never doubt that.

SistersBut even in hard moments, God is there.  When you’re feeling lonely or sad, or like people don’t quite understand,  remember to lean on the only One who understands you perfectly.  The One who hears every thought before you think it.  The One who gave His life for you. In good times and in hard, I pray you will lean on Jesus for your best, truest companionship.Having fun

People these days have funny ideas about scarcity and wealth, and sometimes they make assumptions about families like ours. I hope you see it clear.  Even though we’ve always had more than enough of the essentials, truthfully there’s still been  sharing, making space, releasing something for a time to be a blessing to someone else.

Some people think a kid having to share anything is a shame.  But understand this clear:  poverty is not about that last hamburger getting split two ways, or last night’s leftover dinner getting warmed up for today’s lunch.  There’s nothing poor or shameful about a bike getting passed down four times, or a favorite t-shirt going through three kids before it finally becomes a carwash rag.

At the beach house

No, the worst kind of poverty is the relational kind– getting to adulthood without people around you who really care about you.  It’s possible to get through your whole life without ever having to share a bedroom or a t-shirt– have every luxury known to man, in fact — and still experience that kind of poverty.  The best and most lasting wealth on earth, aside from being in relationship with Jesus, comes from being in relationship with people who really care about you. Knitting sisters

Sure, those friends aren’t always siblings– there are precious friendships to be had with people who don’t share our last name or our DNA.  But wow, there’s a special power in a friend who is also a sister or a brother. So as you go out into the world, remember to also hang onto the family God’s given you.

Whether you realized it at the time or not, you learned lots about good relationships growing up in our clan.  Those experiences have made you stronger, kinder, and more generous.  Remember those lessons, and be on the lookout for the lonely, the people who need the kind of wealth, of friendship, that you can offer.  In this hard world, I want you to be a friend.  And knowing each of you, I’m sure you will.  Each of you in your own unique way is generous in heart and spirit.

Finally, I need to say this again:  I love you.  You are amazing and precious and special, each and every one of you.  I have been so blessed to share this life with each of you.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.  Go forward with confidence and enjoy everything that God has given you!

Ostyns at Christmas 2014

 

 

 

 

Part 6: Talking to strangers

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The plan for Saturday was first to  visit Julianna’s family, and then to do a little investigating to see if we could find anything at all about Emily’s family. Since all we knew about her was the police station where she’d been relinquished, that was a very big question indeed. We’d sent a searcher out a few weeks earlier to that town. He had spoken with a government official who had asked for $200 in exchange for information about the father, who he claimed to know.

Now, in Ethiopia small bribes are not uncommon at all. In fact, police pull drivers over regularly asking for money. But $200 is a very big bribe around here. And Sophie and John and I didn’t like the fact that the only information he had was about the father. Right or wrong, our instinct was that a man might claim to know something in exchange for money,  whereas a woman might be more motivated by the heart. What we were most hoping for was information about Emily’s mom.
So on that Saturday afternoon after leaving Julianna’s joyful family reunion, we were willing and eager to hunt for Emily’s family. But we all, including Emily, understood that the chances of finding good information were slim. Our searcher had been able to get the phone number of the man who claimed to be Emily’s father, which would enable us to talk to him without the government official’s involvement. But our searcher himself was not available that afternoon to talk with the supposed father.
Oh, we didn’t know what to do. But we had to leave Soddo in 36 hours, and we had come such a long way. I couldn’t stand leaving without trying for something at least. We decided to have our trusty driver Dawit call the man, and ask if we could visit him in the village where Emily had been relinquished. So on our way back to Soddo from Julianna’s village Dawit did so.
So there we were in the van, pulled over at the side of the road next to Sophie’s favorite hamburger place in Soddo, listening in on Dawit’s conversation with a stranger who might be Emily’s dad, but probably wasn’t. When asked if we could go to his village, the man said he was actually in Soddo working today, at the bus station. The same bus station that was just a few blocks from our location now. He could meet us there, he said.

At the bus station
A nervous conversation ensued between Sophie and me. We so much wanted to ensure we were getting reliable information for Emily. We didn’t like the idea of meeting this stranger at a bus station—we couldn’t quite even figure out why he was there since supposedly he lived out in the country. But maybe if we talked to him awhile, and everything seemed ok, he could take us to his village to meet more family? We were so uncertain. But what else could we do?
We drove to the bus station and then our driver Dawit called him again to tell him we were there. This time the man told Dawit that he was very close, that he was taking a bajaj to the bus station and would be there very soon. Again we were uncertain. First he’d said he was at the bus station and then he wasn’t. As we waited for him to show up, we realized we didn’t know his name, or anything really about him.
After a few nervous minutes of waiting, a young man appeared at the driver’s window. So young. Sophie and Lidya and I all guessed he was maybe 25. After a quick hi at the window, he appeared to reconsider, and stepped away from the van to use his phone. In seconds Dawit’s phone rang and we all laughed, even the young man. Apparently before talking with us, he had wanted to be sure he was approaching the right people.

Dawit opened the passenger front door and invited the young man into the van to talk with us. He pulled out the paper and the pictures that our searcher had shared with him.

We had decided before he even got into the van that we would not identify Emily to him unless we came to be reasonably sure that there might be a valid reason to believe he was a relative. And we were so eager to know the truth that thinking back I’m not sure we even introduced ourselves properly but just began asking him questions. What do you know about this baby? Why do you think you are the father? Tell us the story as you know it.

We were wanting to know if his story would match what we knew, and as he spoke, all of our intuition was on high alert, trying to judge if he seemed trustworthy and was telling the truth.  Above all, we wanted our precious girl not to be hurt. You can bet we were praying hard for all the wisdom and guidance that God could give us.

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