Beach time

Here’s a snap from a quick trip we made to the beach this week.

Beach in July

Felt weird to be traveling with only two kids, but all our bigger kids were working, and so we took the plunge and went off to play without them.  We missed them all lots, but had fun with the youngest two anyway.

And if you’re interested, here’s an update on the great beach house adventure.

Summertime party!

July4-2016 (14)We have the family tradition of a big 4th of July party complete with a barbecue, games, prizes and a water balloon fight.  Since we moved into the new house, I’ve been puzzling how we could pull all this off in our tiny back yard.

So in planning for the party, I hunted for games that took a little less space. Pinterest came to my rescue as always, and I settled on a plastic horseshoe game, a ring toss game made with kiddie swimming tubes and pool noodles on stakes, a squirt gun/cup race, and a relay race using kitchen spoons and water balloons.

 

 

Also, a BIG bowl of candy to improve teen participation in the kid-games. Here are a few pictures of the festivities.

Thanks to a little breeze, the ring toss and horseshoe games were surprisingly challenging even at close proximity, enough that several adults played for quite awhile.

Ring toss game

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The teens clustered around the candy bowl. And soaked friends with water toys. And also stole mom’s phone for a selfie or two.

Sisters

 

 

 

The little ones loved the tub full of water balloons, somehow even managing to resist throwing water balloons until it was time for the ‘big’ water balloon fight.

 

Cousin fun

Treasure

Below, behind Julianna, you see the cups on string that the kids had fun shooting down the ‘track’ with squirt guns.

AllwetAnd as always, the water balloon fight was the highlight of the party.

Water balloon fight
See how big my tomatoes are getting there in the background?  Not to mention the kids– it blows my mind that our little grandsons are already FOUR.

Getting wet

Along with the usual family group, several of the teens invited friends, which added to the fun of the party.

Wild water

Here you see Ascher and Ranger delightedly soaking Daniel with their squirt guns, and John in the background playing horseshoes.

Spraying DanielOur little back yard proved very up to the water-party challenge.  We only tossed things over the fence once, and lots of good fun was had by all the participants!

Sweet babies

Our next adventure

I looked at my blog the other day and was shocked at how long it’d been since I’ve last posted. We did just get back from church camp, which with all the cooking and prep that I do each year, does take a bit of time. I was also working extra before we left to make up for the days off.

But there’s also another thing that’s kept us busy lately, and I’ve been itching to tell you about it. You may remember that awhile back we bought a piece of land on the Oregon coast, with the big audacious dream of building a house there someday? Well, that day is coming soon!

OurHouse

We lined up a contractor and nailed down our house plans, and talked through the nitty gritty details of cost, and decided that 2016 is the year!  We hope to have a building permit by mid-July, and if plans come together as our contractor is predicting, we could have this house built by the end of the year.  Squeeee!

It has been a whirl of phone calls around here lately, mostly between our contractor and me, working out all the many details.  There’ve also been lots of text messages with the wonderful Becky, my friend who staged our previous home so beautifully that it sold in 36 hours.  She is giving me advice regarding flooring and furnishings, with the goal of making this home a stylish, comfortable and family-friendly retreat.  Our plan is to use it for our own family several weeks of the year, and then rent it out to other families during the rest of the year.  I’ve done a ton of thinking and research to make it functional for groups with a variety of sizes and needs.

The house is 6 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths, which includes 3 full master suites.  There’s also some fun bunk space planned for kids in the family room downstairs, allowing the house to sleep 16 in beds, with 4 more possible on cots if your crew is really big.

The outdoor living space will include a hot tub, a fenced yard, and a big deck with gated stairs for kid-safety.  We’re also planning a wheelchair ramp, an accessible bathroom, and a stair chair to cater to folks with mobility issues.

The neighborhood has a pool, good beach access, and tennis courts, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium is just 20 minutes north, so there are many good outdoor options nearby.

I’ve rambled long enough for now.  But I’m so excited that I want to pinch myself, so you can bet you’ll be hearing more about this adventure very soon!

 

Summer Movie Ideas

If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to some serious down time this summer, both for you and your kids. But you also don’t want your kids’ brains to completely stagnate in the process.

My girls will be reading at least an hour a day this summer, and will also continue to do just a tiny bit of math.  Emily is finishing Algebra 1 and Julianna will be reviewing her hard-won multiplication facts at least once or twice a week. Beyond that, we’re wide open.

AmericanGeniusBut I am planning to sneak in a bit more learning with the help of Netflix. One show that the girls are already enjoying watching is called American Genius. Here are some great lists of other interesting and educational moves that are available for kids these days:

Movies for kids about real scientists

Historical movies for kids ages 6-12

Nature documentaries for kids

Not-boring history movies for kids

Read the book, watch the movie

 

Just these five lists alone would keep your kids in movies for weeks, I’m pretty sure!  What educational offerings have you enjoyed on Netflix with your kids?

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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)

EasterRainbow

Our youngest two outside the house.
EmJul

Little Meg enjoying her great-grandma, John’s mom.
GreatGrandma

John’s happy place is definitely the ocean.
HappyPlace
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.
House
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.
Hunting

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!
Kiddos

Lidya and Ben clowning around
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John enjoying sweet Meg
MissMeg

Ranger admiring the fish at the aquarium.
Ranger

Wilona showing off her treasure trove of eggs.
Wilona

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