Ranger

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.

Ranger

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

Book ideas for kids

Books

We’re down to the last full week before Christmas–does that seem crazy to you?  I’m getting close to done with my shopping, but have at least half a dozen more items to find. If you’re in the same boat and are on the hunt for books for your kids, I thought I’d share some my kids have loved over the years.  Some of these I’ve shared here in the past, and some are new additions to the list.  And just a heads up– amazon is currently offering 25% off any book (or book set) if you plug in the code BOOKDEAL25 when you place your order.

READ-ALOUDS  FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

1. The Napping House
2. Tacky the Penguin
3. You Are My I Love You
4. MRS. TOGGLE’S ZIPPER
5. Five Minutes’ Peace
6. But No Elephants
7. Dinner at the Panda Palace
8. Hedgehog for Breakfast
9. Henry’s Awful Mistake
10.Shoe-la-la!

 

CHAPTER BOOKS FOR NEW READERS

1. Junie B. Jones

2. The Stories Julian Tells

3. Amelia Bedelia

 

BOOKS FOR JUNIOR HIGH AND OLDER

 

1. Inheritance 4-Book Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini is about a farm boy who discovers he is really a dragon rider.

2.Percy Jackson and the Olympians (5 books) by Rick Riordan is a story about a boy who has adventures with Greek gods and sea monsters.

 

3. Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix is based on the premise of a society where each family is allowed only two children, forcing any subsequent children to live in hiding.

 

4. Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke is about a girl catapulted into peril when a story read by her father surprisingly comes to life. These books have some language, but the storyline is utterly intriguing.

5.  The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games. This series is about a boy who discovers a world under New York City where he is forced to fight giant rats, spiders, and bats, and in the process becomes an unexpected hero.  the later books in the series get somewhat violent.


6. Warriors series: Volumes 1 to 6 by Erin Hunter  This series is about cats who have great adventures.  It was the very first series my 12 year old daughter really loved.

 

I hope some of these book ideas help you with your Christmas shopping.  If you know of books that are inspiring and interesting for teens, I’d love for you to tell me about them in comments, below.  As always, I encourage you to do some research and don’t be afraid to trust your instincts when deciding  what is appropriate for your kids to read at various ages.

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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase them on amazon, I will earn a few cents for each purchase.  This does not increase the cost of the books to you, but it will help support all the free content here on this site. And don’t forget to use that 25% off code-  BOOKDEAL25

My baby is 10!

No frugality post this week– sorry, today we decorated gingerbread houses instead. I did remember, however, that I hadn’t yet shared any pictures of a very momentous event in my heart– my sweet and sassy lil Julianna turning TEN years old.  Be still, my heart.  We ended up celebrating twice, once with friends and then again the next night with family. Here she is having fun with her sister and their friends who spent the night.
10

Here’s Julianna and her friends again, getting ready to pulverize a pinata.  They had lots of treats, including BBQ chips (her fave) and stayed up late to watch TWO episodes of High School Musical.  The next day we even fit in ice skating and frozen yogurt.  Whew.

10 Yrs Old

Here she is with her little nieces and nephews, getting ready to blow out candles at the family party.  As the happy birthday song was winding down, Ascher puckered up to blow Julianna’s candles out all by himself, which idea Ranger nixed by covering Ascher’s mouth just in time. We all got a laugh at him policing his cousin.  Crazy how much kiddos learn in less than 3 years on earth.  They are so much fun. I’m so glad that even tho my baby is getting so big, we still have plenty of little ones to enjoy.

10YrsOld (1)

 

Talking with our adopted children about their first family

Joy for the Journey panelAt the adoption retreat that I attended last month, the organizers put together a fabulous panel of birth parents and adult adoptees who talked about their experiences–  Robyn Afrik, Dr. Fran Edwards, and Darrick Rizzo were just some who spoke. Very often in the adoption ‘triad’, the voice of the adoptive parent is heard loudest, and birth parents and adoptees are sometimes not heard, or are marginalized, so it was really meaningful and rich to hear from others about their experiences with adoption.

There was a wide range of experiences among the adoptees. It was moving to hear about the hard and the good, and about the variety of relationships they experienced. Some adoptees shared stories about reunion with their first family. Others talked about rich relationships with adoptive siblings, or parents.  Some relationships with both first family and adoptive family were excellent and others were less satisfying. But I got the impression that those who were able to make contact with first family were glad to get some questions answered and know at least something about the people from which they came.  Even if someone is very happy with his or her adoptive family, it’s a really big, hard thing to not know anything about your first family.

Also hugely interesting to me were the words of the birth parents. There was so much longing in their voices as they described the agonizing decisions that led to not being able to parent their children, and also so much pride as they talked about their children now.  It seemed so obvious that they’re still parents in their hearts, even though they made the hard choice not to parent. One birth dad, Darrick Rizzo, signed papers as a teen because he was promised an open adoption including contact with his son, only to have the adoptive family disappear and not allow any contact.

I know that it can feel intimidating to adoptive families sometimes– the idea of having open relationship and contact with birth family, and in other cases it isn’t even an option.  But I came away from that discussion convinced that it was deeply appreciated both by the adoptees and the birth parents who were able to be in reunion.  I’ve read that it can be a key to emotional wholeness for many adoptees. I think we as adoptive parents would be wise to understand that, and to foster connection whenever it is safe and possible, even if it can sometimes feel scary to us.

Those brave story-tellers also left me remembering how important it is for us as adoptive parents to be honoring in our words about our children’s birth family.  I know there are birth parents out there whose choices are less than stellar.  Some children even need to be removed from family due to neglect or abuse.  Especially in situations like that it might be tempting to lay blame, or to be less than honoring in our descriptions and words. Our momma-lion instincts rise up and feel angry on behalf of our precious ones, and all that they endured before they came to us.

But still we need to remember this:  our children came from their first family. Their very DNA is entwined. If we disparage their first family, we’re also disparaging our children, whether we intend it or not. And our children will feel it. For the sake of our children, it’s up to us to find ways to honor the very real relationship that already exists between our children and their first family.

Denying it doesn’t make it go away.

Talking about it doesn’t make us less their parents.

It just shows our children that we’re brave enough and strong enough to be trusted with their feelings and wonderings and thoughts. Not all kids will choose to talk to us about those feelings.  In fact, some of the adoptees that I spoke with said that many adoptees feel disloyal even broaching the subject.  But that truth makes it even more important for us to be the instigators (at least sometimes) of such conversations– proving to our children that it’s okay to wonder, and to have questions, and longings for the loved ones in their mysterious past.

Maybe even to be brave enough to take steps to help our kids unshroud some of that mystery.

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Our son’s meeting with his first family

Friends and Ferguson

yes, they're sisters

A few weekends ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at the Joy for the Journey retreat for adoptive mommas.  Some of the most memorable and sweetest time on the trip turned out to be visiting with a new friend named Adrienne who drove me to and from the airport, a drive of about two hours each way.  As embarrassed as I am to admit it, this was probably the third time in my entire life that I’ve visited at length and talked in depth with an adult African American woman.

As a momma of Black kids, it hasn’t been anything I consciously chose.  It’s just how it happened. We live in a predominantly white area.  I am surrounded by white friends.  It feels awkward to try to hunt down African American women in our area with whom to form friendships that in the beginning might be based just on color.  And yet I do long for more diversity in my life, and wish that my past efforts to connect hadn’t been so ineffective.

I saw such humor and beauty and strength in the women that surrounded me that weekend in Pennsylvania.  I long for more connection with adults who look like my own children.  And if I long for it, I can only imagine my children must wish for it even more deeply. I came away from the weekend with a deep conviction that I must do better at broadening my world and my friendships. Be braver. Be bolder. Step out of my little comfy white box.

I actually wish that for all of us– that we all could live more integrated lives- the type of life where we’re just as likely to be friends with someone who doesn’t ‘match’ us in skin tone as one who does.   I think we all would be blessed to know people of every color who we honor and value, whose opinions we respect, and whose hearts we know and trust.

That’s actually one of the cool things that adoption has done for our church family.  In a Sunday school of 40+ children–ours is a tiny church–  there are 8 African American kids, along with a couple Korean Americans. I really hope that the early friendships all these children are enjoying will make them less likely to later make snap judgments about the people around them on the basis of skin tone.  I want them all to grow up to be the type of people who know and love people for who they are, and who will base merit on character and worth in Christ, not color.

I really appreciated listening to this 30-minute podcast In Wake of Ferguson:  Brant and Sherri talking about racial tension.  In the podcast they spoke frankly about reality of racism and racial profiling, and our place as Christians living in this imperfect world. Sherri acknowledged the frustration that can come from hard experiences but says that any anger and hostility is best placed in God’s hands.  It’s well worth a listen.  I also really appreciated these thoughts from Journey Mama.

Have a blessed Monday!

Books, frugality, birthdays, and an awesome pencil sharpener (do these topics actually go together?)

My birthday girl, a few years ago...time flies!Life has been nutty around here.  Wednesday alone I had three different interviews for Forever Mom.  By the end of the day both of my phones had dead batteries and I felt certain I had lost all ability to construct a complete sentence.  Whew!  What’s really cool is that people are interested in Forever Mom–here’s a review on adoption.com. (By the way, if you go read it, will you also share it on facebook so more people can see it?  Thank you so much!)  I am so humbled and so grateful that folks are appreciating the message of the book.  And also relieved.  Because, honestly, my heart went right out there in every page. I’ve never felt so trembly-kneed when sending something out there.  So thanks for all your support.

I don’t have many frugal thoughts this week– it was kind of a fish sticks and corn dogs and cereal kind of week around here with all busyness. I did bookmark this great-looking blog post sharing 52 Meatless Meals so that I can intersperse all the rich holiday food with some frugal and good-tasting meatless dinners. I also earned a free turkey at Winco.  (They have a promo where if you spend  $100, you get a free turkey– yeehaw!)  The man in line behind me looked in my heaping cart and told me I should have gone through the line twice and gotten two turkeys.  He was right.  I actually ended up spending $300 on groceries yesterday– apparently I’ve skipped shopping lately too, because we were out of so many things.  So I could have gotten THREE free turkeys, but ah well. Now we are stocked up and I hope that I remembered most of what I’ll need for the next couple weeks.  Potatoes were on a screaming good sale 99 cents for 10 pounds– so we currently have about 4o pounds in the pantry, and I am signed up to bring mashed potatoes to every Thanksgiving gathering we’re attending.  (That reminds me– I still need to buy sour cream.  Because in my opinion, mashed potatoes reach greatness through butter and sour cream.  And maybe garlic.  But I’m aware that not everyone agrees about the garlic.)

 

For those of you who asked, I am in the process of getting an email subscribe feature added to my blog.  I should have done it a long, long time ago but somehow never got around to it.  I will let you know when it is up and running, since I know a lot of people prefer to read blogs in email form.  Thanks to those of you who emailed me lately and encouraged me to get it together.  :)

 

Finally, I have meaning for awhile to tell you about a REALLY neat pencil sharpener. Let me tell you, as a homeschooling mom of many, I have bought SO many pencil sharpeners over the years– from the old fashioned manual kind that you mount on the wall to the really nice electric kind.  I don’t know if it is just a function of having a lot of kids, but every sharpener I’ve ever owned til now has always ended up disappointing me. So when I heard about this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies, I was all attention.  This sharpener is different in that it holds the pencil for you, which I think makes it much more likely that the pencil will enter the machine straight and be sharpened properly. (Watch the video to see what I mean– it’s a little different.)  I also need to disclose that I was given a sharpener for free in exchange for a review. The bottom line is we’ve been using this sharpener for several months, and we really like it a lot.  It makes pencils SO sharp! The only thing I don’t love is that the clamp that is supposed to hook it to a counter is a little chintzy– we can’t make it stay. But since the sharpener holds the pencil for you, it’s not a big deal to just hold the sharpener steady with one hand while turning the handle with the other.  I am working on getting a freebie to give away here on my blog, but I don’t have it yet. I will keep you posted.

Anyway, we are off to homeschool craft day and then we are celebrating my BABY’s tenth birthday– oh be still my heart!! There she is above several years ago with a PENCIL in her hand, which is my very best attempt at making this post actually hang together.  Pencils.  Birthday girl.  Books. You get it?  OK,  that’s all I have for you today. But as usual, I’d love to hear about your frugal successes for the week! So comment away!