Monday news

I only have a minute to check in today, because I’m hard at work getting ready for the two talks I’ll be presenting at the Refresh adoption conference in Seattle at the end of the month.  So excited to be going for my second year.  I have no idea how to pick which breakout sessions to attend– there are so MANY good ones!  Overlake Church does an amazing job at orphan ministry, and I’m so honored to be a part of their plans this year.  Are you going?  I’d love to hear from you.

I did want to tell  you who won the free samples of the Drain Wig— I had no idea so many people would be interested in this gadget!  According to the winner is commenter #47, Alea.  Alea, email me your address and I will get your Drain Wigs to you.

And for those of you who buy (or who have bought) Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families (my just-released e-book!), remember to email me to request the 5 free bonus pages of transcript-writing info.  I’d love to send it your way.

I’ll check back in with you Wednesday– hopefully I’ll be all prepped for Refresh by then and have a bit longer to write!  Thanks, as always, for reading here!




a story of Saturday

After a long sleep-in and a quiet morning and a walk in the afternoon with my girls, mid-afternoon came with a scurry of pizza-making.  We were having the whole clan over for dinner, so we made three big pizzas, and then while waiting for everyone to arrive, we set the tables.  Not quite everyone would be there – two teens had to work– so that brought our total to 17.

They all seemed to come in a flurry–Daniel alongside Erika and Israel with their two toddlers in tow. Then came Jared and his fiance Erika bearing a huge salad to go with the pizza.  Into the oven went the pizzas to cook hot and fast.  By the time pizzas were done, Amanda and Ben had arrived with their two (going on three– they’re expecting a new little one in April!)   I alternated sitting on the floor with little ones all over me, and hopping up to check pizza, usually with a little one on my hip.

Then it was time to cut pizza and  fill plates for little ones, cutting food bite size and putting on bibs and finding sippy cups.  And eat.  And visit.  And fill plates again.  And let little ones down to run and play.  But all evening, wherever I went, wherever I sat, there were toddlers holding arms up to be picked up by me, coming to sit on my lap, bringing me their stories to read and their Hot Wheels to admire and their sweet cheeks to kiss.  When they’re here I’m a celebrity surrounded by affable beaming cherubs. Who occasionally swipe toys from each other and fight over my lap.

a story of Saturday

We bejeweled little ones with hair clips and necklaces and bracelets.  We played Ring around the Rosie until I had to sit down and let my stomach recover.  And in the middle of it all, we looked at Jared and Erika’s just-done wedding invitation, and heard about Daniel’s homework, and told funny electricity stories  (horses and people zapped by hot wire fences and parents zapped by kids coming down plastic slides and a computer tech with so much static electricity in him that he shut down a computer screen.)

Near the end of the evening, John gave flashlights to the little guys and we tromped out in the dark  with the four little ones to feed the cow whose dinner had been forgotten in the flurry of people-feeding.  The little boys (both almost 3) took great delight in shining their light toward the cow so grandad could see while doing the feeding, and the little girls were big-eyed in the dark, sitting in the arms of Emily and me.  Then we came back inside bright-eyed and pink-cheeked, with the feeling of having had an adventure.

Soon bedtimes were approaching and little ones were tucked back into shoes and jackets and goodbyes were said, with hugs and kiss-blowing and waves from the front step.  The few who remained came back into the house, living room littered with Hot Wheels and baby toys, and spent a few minutes putting the house back together before sitting down with a sigh. This I want to remember always.


PS– Today is your last chance to get Practical Homeschooling at the super-low price of  $3.49.  Anyone who shares about it on facebook and then sends me their email address will get a 5-page bonus supplement with extra information about creating a homeschooling high school transcript.  Thanks to all of you who’ve already spread the word.  I really appreciate it!   I’d also hugely appreciate a review of it on amazon once you’ve read it. (Crossing my fingers for 5 stars!)

Have a great week!



Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families

Practical HomeschoolingHooray! Finally, after years of living only in my head, my very first e-book is complete and officially releases on Monday. It’s called Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families and is chock full of my best tips for doable homeschooling (translate: ideas that won’t make mom nutty trying to do them).

I think every mom benefits when she has at least a little time for things she enjoys doing.  But to find that time, we need to work smart at homeschooling–otherwise it can very easily take up the whole day.  And that’s not good for parents or kids.

It can be tricky to find the right balance– the place where you’re getting enough school done to keep everyone moving forward, but not so obsessed with homeschool perfection that nobody’s happy.  A huge goal of this book is to help you find that happy place for your family.

What’s in the book?

In Practical Homeschooling, I’ll talk you through selecting curriculum that works for you and share my favorites, including lots of ideas that don’t cost a penny. You’ll learn about homeschooling short-cuts, games for little ones, tips for teaching essay-writing, ways to encourage resistant learners, and even how to create a high school transcript.  And along the way, you’ll hear more of my family’s homeschooling story.

What if my kids are in school?

This book also contains tips useful for non-homeschooling families.  There are homework helps, ideas for choosing books to suit your kids’ reading level, and lots of tips easily applicable to summer enrichment.

Here’s the link for pre-ordering.  Order between now and Monday, and you’ll get a special sale price.  So grab it now!

Share, please?

Will you take a moment and click the buttons below to share this post on facebook  or  on Pinterest ? Thanks so much for any help you can give me getting the word out!

P.S.– Here’s a special deal just for my readers. 

Order this week and share about it on social media, and I will send you a sample transcript — just like the one I’ve prepared for my five kids who’ve already graduated.  You can fill it in (and modify it) to use for your own children during the high school years.  To get the freebie, email me at, put transcript in the subject line, and tell me where you shared about the book.  I will get that sample headed your way!



Recipe: Bacon Lentil Soup

The other day when it was cold, I decided to make lentil soup for dinner, and as I was sauteing the veggies, I realized I hadn’t ever shared my recipe here on the blog. I often tweak it based on what veggies I have in the fridge at the moment. I happened to have a beet the other day, so you’ll see that in the photos along with the spinach, onions and carrots that the recipe mentions. Also, if you don’t happen to have bacon, you can use a cup or so of chopped pepperoni instead. Soup recipes are easy and forgiving like that. So don’t hesitate to adapt what I’ve written here to use veggies in your fridge or suit your family’s preferences.

Sauteeing Veggies

Recipe: Easy Lentil Soup

Recipe: Easy Lentil Soup


  • 1 12-ounce package of thick-sliced bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups dry lentils (green or brown)
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
  • 4 cups broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
  • 3 cups water
  • a couple of generous handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Dice bacon. Fry in a heavy stock pot, watching carefully and removing it gradually from the heat as it is done. Set cooked bacon aside in a bowl.
  2. Dice onion and slice carrot.
  3. Drain all but a tablespoon or so of the grease from the stock pot.
  4. Add onion and carrot to the stock pot and sautee for 5-7 minutes, until both are getting soft.
  5. Meanwhile mince garlic and rinse lentils.
  6. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt to stockpot. Saute 1 minute.
  7. Add broth, water, tomatoes, and lentils to the pot.
  8. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  10. Chop spinach and add during last couple minutes of cooking.
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Stir in cooked bacon and serve!

Easy Lentil Soup

Goodbye, old gold. You served us well.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened yesterday was the arrival of the new light fixture that I ordered at Joss and Main.  A friend who is a home stager  (is that a word?)– anyway, she does home staging to help houses sell—mentioned that she loves the site, and while checking it out, I spotted a really fun light fixture.  I immediately thought of the aging light hanging in our entry, and since the price was fairly reasonable, I snatched it up.

Here’s a photo of my fearless hubby taking ‘old gold’ down.  Why, yes, that is dust on his shirt due to my fabulous (lack of) interest in dusting.

Taking out the old fixture


Here’s a photo of the new fixture from about the same angle.  It proved to be ridiculously hard to find an un-busy background against which to get a photo.

Seen from the front door

Here’s the fixture in the dark.  I forgot to get a photo showing the very cool light that this throws on the ceiling due to all the criss-crossing lines, but it is really fun– and crazy-bright for only fitting tiny 60-watt bulbs.  The entry is a great place for a little more light, since we have a small desk there where teens often do homework in the evenings.

Love the chandelier bulbs- this fixture is very bright!

Then here’s a shot of the light from the stairs– such a nice difference.  It’s really fun to look at.


New fixture seen from the stairs

Now I’m looking at my dining room light cross-eyed– isn’t that how this type of thing always goes?  But  since I still like the shape of that fixture, and don’t have a budget to replace things around here willy nilly, I think what I’ll do is try spray-painting it in a color similar to the oil-rubbed bronze.  Then it will match my entry light tone-wise if not in style.

I’ll probably also paint my front door handle.  It is bright brass too– but getting worn looking– and a fresh coat of paint would really improve its looks.  Here’s a tutorial I saved with info on how to do it.


Walking up the driveway to your front door yesterday, the very first thing I spotted was your face down low, peeking through the tall narrow window next to the front door, grinning out at me with your million candle-power smile, delighted that I’d come to visit you. You, the person in the world who first made me ‘Nana’.  Your hug after I walked in the door was as big as toddler arms could give.


I turned to hug your sweet sister and chat with your momma.  You hung close, waiting as I spoke to others, but then grabbing my hand to pull me in and show me your airplane and be certain that I intended to stay for awhile.  I sat on the floor and you bopped around, playing and showing me things.

Later we went into your room to play, and you were all exuberance, all appreciation, all shrieky-happy laughter as I made an over-the-top silly gasp each time a ball popped out of a slot in your toy.  You came up to me and turned around and backed up to seat yourself on my lap and I whispered in your ear that I love you, that you’re a good, good boy.  You didn’t look at me and you didn’t speak but you pressed your ear close, and your body was quiet as you soaked in my words.

When your sister came to sit on your lap, on my lap, making you the unwilling middle of a lap sandwich, you pushed her off.  But when I asked you to scoot over, to make space for her too, you did so willingly.  As long as I kept space for you too, you were happy.  It’s hard being an older sibling, isn’t it?  From one first born to another, I know how hard it is when you’re little to have siblings pressing in close, competing for everything.

Later when it was time for me to go, I didn’t want to leave.  But you were resigned, and came willingly when I asked for yet another hug. You opened your arms wide for me and snuggled in.  I whispered in your ear that you’re an awesome boy, and that I love you so much.  You turned your face to me and I thought you were going to say something, but instead you kissed me right on the lips, and my heart melted into a puddle.

You’re not the only child-of-my-child who I love as if you were my own.  With each new grandbaby, my heart expands a little more and each time the love is just as big.  But you were the first one to show me  that’s how it is to love a grandchild.  There’s a special Ranger-sized place in my heart and it will always only be all yours.

I know God made you for great things, but I’m convinced that at least one tiny purpose in your life, and in that of your sweet sister and your precious cousins, is because God knew I needed your kind of love. With my house full of wing-flapping, boundary-pushing, squawking-on-the-edge-of-the-nest teens– people who seem perpetually displeased with me- – God knew my battered heart needed toddler-love too, the uncomplicated, wholehearted embrace that teens just aren’t in a place to give.  I needed little ones to see my heart truly, to affirm who I really am.   To show me Jesus-love in a way that only you can.

Oh, what a gift you are.    Straight from Jesus.  I am so blessed.

Weekend happenings and book winners

Somehow I got through the weekend without ever getting to Frugal Friday.  There was a wedding in there, plus three meals where family came to visit.  Good times there.  The teens had some cousins over and they made pizza together– always fun.  We had a nice chat about wedding details with our oldest son and his fiance.  July is coming!  Also we had grandbabies over to play– oh, the sweetness.  The photo here is one I took a couple weekends ago.  The four of them can destroy a living room faster than anyone I know, but they are shining lights in my life. Pure joy.

toddlers everywhere

I also made some serious progress on my homeschooling e-book.  Still on track to get that done by the end of the month– hooray!   I’m really excited about it and am trying to cram in all the secrets and wisdom and shortcuts that I wish I’d known in my early years of homeschooling.  It’s funny– I envisioned this as a short lil 20-page thing.  But each time I start in on a topic I get long-winded, thinking of more and more that could be useful to other mommas.  It’s looking like about a 40-page book at the moment, but I’m sure there’s still more to write.

Despite being a 20-year veteran of homeschooling, the first week (month?) after Christmas break is always painful.  Sigh.  It is SO hard to get back into the habit of rising dragging teens out of bed at 8 AM.  And I do think that is a lot of the pain– just getting so many sleepyheads moving. Other years I have let kids sleep til 9. But a couple of them have jobs, some starting as early as 2, plus they’re juggling college classes that happen two days a week.  We really need those morning hours to get things accomplished.  Ironically, the younger ones who could afford to sleep later pop up like daisies every morning.   Figures, huh?

Anyone else struggle with homeschooling in the winter time?  What keeps you going?

Finally, the winners of the book More Love (Less Panic) are commenters #18 Katie P. and #30– S.  Email me your addresses, ladies, so I can get those books headed your way. Thanks for commenting and sharing your parenting wisdom.

Book giveaway!

In Ethiopia with our two youngest daughters

I haven’t done a book giveaway for awhile, and I’m really excited about this one. The book is called More Love, Less Panic: 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Son from Ethiopia.  Claude Knobler and his wife adopted their son  just five months after we brought our first Ethiopian daughter home, and a year before we brought home our second daughter  (pictured on the right).   So it was really interesting to read about their experience in Ethiopia, and also about his parenting journey since then.  As it turns out, his book is more about parenting than it is about adoption.

While reading the book, I found myself nodding (sometimes ruefully) because so much of what he’s learned is also part of my own learning curve.  So often early on in parenting I think we see it as our job to somehow ensure that our kids will be successful by making all the right parenting choices.  And then we discover that they’re already so much their own people (especially when we adopt them past infancy) that our best hope is simply to influence them.

I really enjoyed this book, and I’m excited to have two copies to give away.  If you’d like to win one of those copies, just comment below and tell me something that you’ve learned along your parenting journey.  Or if you prefer, you can share something that you vowed you’d never do as a parent.  (Do you find yourself slipping up and doing it anyway?)  Parenthood is such a learning journey, isn’t it?  For an additional entry, ‘like’ this post (using the buttons below) on facebook or twitter and then comment again, telling me you shared it.  I’ll pick a winner on Friday!


Looking back, looking forward

We had a lovely Christmas with our family.  With more of our kids growing up and getting married, I’m thankful for each time that we’re all able to get together.  Here are a few of the pictures we took.  Light was dim, so there’s lots of blur, but the people are cute anyway. You should be able to click on photos to enlarge them. We’ve had some hard times this year, but we are so blessed by all the precious people in our lives.

John and I are looking forward to some exciting things in the future as well.  Our oldest daughter Amanda and her husband Ben are expecting their third baby in April. (They’re the ones in the ‘I Spy’ picture above.)  Lidya will be graduating from the dental assisting program in May.  Our oldest son is getting married in July!  We also have several trips planned this next year, including some time on the beach, and hopefully a homeland trip to Ethiopia this summer with four of our daughters.  What an adventure!

To help fund that trip, for the first time in many years I’ve applied to work as a nurse again at a local hospital.  Some of you may remember I was an OB nurse for 9 years.  That’s what I’m hoping to do again– just 4 or 5 night shifts a month, so I’ll still be home most of the time. Kind of crazy to think of working outside the home again.  The last time I worked was in 1998, just before Josh arrived, so it’ll be a job to catch up on the new technology.  But it will be a nice boost to our income, and to tell the truth, I’m excited.  I love helping women in labor and those first hours after birth.

On the blog/writing front, as I mentioned (I think) last year, I’m working on a couple of e-books. My homeschooling e-book is 80% complete and should be available on Amazon by the end of January.  I’m also putting together a supplemental planner for Family Feasts for $75 a Week
with a focus on affordable gluten free food — grocery lists, recipes, and everything else you need to plan gluten free menus a week at a time. I’m excited about that project and will keep you posted!

Do keep praying for my friend Lisa who lost her daughter Kalkidan in a car accident. Lisa broke her hip and suffered nerve damage in the accident, and their van was wrecked.  If you’re inclined to support them, there’s a fund to help with their expenses.  Money won’t heal their hearts, of course, but it is nice to think of easing their financial burdens at least a little.

Tonight some of us are going to a New Year’s Eve party at church, and others of us will be staying home– we’ve got colds running around the house, and not all of us are up to partying late.  I already took down the Christmas tree but the twinkle lights are still up and we won’t start school again til the week after next–so we will hang onto Christmas break for another week or so.

Do you have interesting plans for the new year?  I’d love to hear them.  Thanks as always for visiting me here.  And if you’re interested in getting a newsletter with more details about coming projects, just sign up in the sidebar on the right side.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

Ostyns at Christmas 2014