Calling All The Pots

My history with slow cookers is long and complicated. I’ve had many kinds over the years, and enjoyed the convenience of them. When we moved to our present home, I began to have difficulty using my crockpots because I would break them while washing them in my sink. After two or three replacements, Carol got me a metal roaster/slow cooker that has fit our family, and our sink, well. The basin is non-stick, however, and starting to peel. Time once again to think about the next pot. I’ve seen the popularity of the Instant Pot lately, and started looking around the Internet for info. I priced an 8 quart on Amazon, then realized that I have that very thing downstairs in the basement, a pressure cooker Carol bought for canning. Now I’m wondering if I want to start using that in place of a slow cooker. It won’t ‘slow cook’ exactly, it isn’t intended for that. So, am I feeling like changing my lifestyle and cooking habits by this much, to use a pressure cooker from now on? So far I have seen great recipes for meatballs, ribs, and soup, none of which I make very often now. (Luke doesn’t even consider soup a meal.)

What are your thoughts?

With Him We Rise

“Want you outside, Mama.”

And that is how I am found here on our new porch, typing away. I don’t think I have talked about Luke’s masterpiece yet. We recognized the need for Carol to have an easier way up the stairs a while ago, but just over Christmas was Luke able to do something about it. He built a long ramp that follows the length of the house, then turns to the spot in the driveway where she parks. It is really nice. He had his new Christmas grill set up here where I am sitting, until it blew off, twice (no railings yet). It seems the cover of the grill turned it into a kite and pulled it into the air like Mary Poppins. While the grill was still in place, a stray cat would take up residence under the cover and on the shelf of the grill. I don’t think I have talked about Luke’s nemesis yet. This cat shows up on a weeknight, peeking in the screen door and meowing. I quickly took a picture on my phone and sent it to my cat loving neice. This cat looked a lot like her cat, Fixie, so I named it Tuxie, as it was all black with a white triangle down its chest. We knew never to feed it, and didn’t expect it to stay around long. But after a few weeks it was wearing out its welcome. Wednesday night of last week we came home from church to find it had gotten in the basement. The boys and Luke had a bit of an adventure getting that cat out of our house, and Luke was now ready to put it to sleep. A few days later, he did the deed carefully enough that most of the kids didn’t know. Over the next week he would make comments about his recent kill and how much he missed the little guy, chuckle. I told him gloating must not be as exciting because not enough people know what he is talking about. He pointed out its final resting place to me on the way to church and I didn’t know what I was looking for. A hunter? A bird? A piece of litter?

I heard this morning about someone, actually a few someones, needing prayer and encouragement. It is good to be reminded that we are all struggling, and good for those struggling to be reminded that we are all in this together. I have some ideas for ways I can encourage these folks. Hopefully I can pull it off during this busy week. Bible Study, church, track practice, a dentist appointment, a birthday party (not ours), and a field trip. Should be wild.

Be Mine

And a lovely Valentine’s Day it is, too. Temperatures have to be in the fifties outside, and the sun is so welcome. I cannot complain about this mild winter, although a rough one was much more expected after the multiple mild ones we have had in recent years. One of these days in September, that Indian will show up at the feed and seed, warning us about what is to come. You just wait.

Yesterday Luke was home sick from school. During our time of study, we again broached the subject of “why isn’t this going more smoothly?” since Carol is here and helps out, and since I am well past the postpartum excuses for lack of progress. Luke has especially been concerned with our lack of writing, and the kids’ consequent lack of writing skills. He admonished me that I should be going through the different writing styles with them and helping them get familiar and capable in writing. Aliyah is planning on taking the ACT soon, and will need some confidence writing-wise, as that is one area of the test that is looked at more closely. I complained how it would be difficult to take more time, looking up these things on the phone, and was about to go into (again) how inadequate of a teacher of writing I would be, anyway, except Luke cut me off with, “Well, that’s your job. I don’t necessarily like everything about my job, but I go and do it each day.” If I wasn’t immediately mortified, I might have laughed at the irony of him sitting in his pjs, home from work, saying this. But it was a timely rebuke.

I had just been reading over some notes from a Bible study lecture that said when we are troubled, like Christ, we should say, “Father, glorify Your name.” Now, I am not certain of all I could do to respond correctly, but I did know it would include picking up the phone and looking up some good writing websites, and planning future times of putting together good instruction for the kids. This would glorify God and not myself.

Today went okay; we brainstormed a thesis statement for an essay. I think the kids had a pretty good handle on how to do it, to where we should be ready to write the essay soon. There is a whisper of fear here, though, as I feel like I’ll come to a place I don’t know how to move forward. Consulting Luke will be my first stop, as he is sure to be able to help.


Tuesdays With Kenan

Ay yi yi. Last night, Luke and I  settled back on our pillows at 8:45, 8:45, and grinned at each other. How nice to be going to bed so early! We proceeded to watch about 3/4 of an episode of Monk, then the night began to unravel. First, Julia woke up. I went to get her out of bed and, since it was dark, only dimly saw big red splotches on her sheet. Is that the set with the polka dots, I wondered to myself. But when I got her where I could change her diaper, I saw her face was covered in blood! Earlier that evening she had fallen against my leg, and her upper lip bled a bit after the mishap. But since then she had nursed, took a pacifier, and gone to sleep just fine. Now, she was bleeding heavily. Luke helped keep me calm and instructed me on what to do (so thankful for his authority and first aid knowledge!), and we got her cleaned up and nursing again, to curb the blood flow.

Only then did Kenan wake up, crying that his ear really hurt. He had just taken medicine an hour prior, so we were at a loss as to what to do. I remembered something about olive oil to put in the ear, but lacking that, I went for the coconut oil and warmed up some. It did seem to help, for a short time. Luke then volunteered to go to Walmart for some of the alternate pain meds we could try in another hour. So, on the bed that only recently held two tired parents happy with their bed-early fortune, sat me nursing a bloody Julia, and Kenan wailing beside me. I’m so glad Walmart is close.

Once Kenan was tucked away with more meds and ear drops, and Julia tucked away with fresh sheets, at 11:00, we were able to finish Monk. Our night wasn’t funny, but we had the wisdom to laugh about it.

This morning I took Kenan to the doctor, and, sure enough, he had an ear infection. He was so cute on the drive there. I hadn’t heard him say so much before, and for a while I kept the music playing, but when I realized he wouldn’t stop anytime soon, I turned it off so I could hear him. First he asked what the numbers on the dashboard were. I started with the radio and the heating/cooling controls, hoping that would satisfy him. Then at Meijer for the prescription, he wanted to know what the numbers in the parking lot were. They were letters, I said, to help people remember where they are parked. Inside Meijer he wanted to ride in the cart, but at four years of age he is way too big. So, we found a cart with a bench on the back. It was like driving a semi through the store aisles; I constantly had to re-judge the distance ahead of me not to knock into displays or people. At the pharmacy, an older lady got in line behind Kenan’s semi, and asked aloud whose child this was, as I was up at the window. I turned and responded, and she proceeded to talk to him, about as much as he’d been talking to me. But now he didn’t feel much like talking, and was on the verge of being rude. The lady then turned to the girl behind her, and started saying something about how evil the world is getting and how she asks everyone if they are born again and they look at her funny. I  thought about how it is good she is so bold, but that she may come off as ‘that crazy lady’ more often than not. Hey, David and Paul were willing to look undignified and foolish, so I shouldn’t look down on her efforts.

Days like this are par for the course, with so many children, but I don’t like the beating our schooling takes every time it happens. Oh, well. The best we can do is try to get to bed tonight, early, and make the best of tomorrow.

In Good Health

Julia came down with something this afternoon. The illness was almost instant in its ferocity, where she was fine one minute and feverish the next. I gave her the decongestant first, because there wasn’t any apparent elevation in her temperature. Then, an hour later, I gave her fever meds because she was so miserable. Her eyes would roll back in her head and she could hardly stay awake. That shallow breathing, that stillness. Many sick children, but it never gets easier. I think of how I will do anything to make them feel better. Anything.

A lady whose blog I read wrote about having tests run and how expensive that is, along with the many treatments for disease and major illness we have now. Things like this have been on my mind a lot lately, too, not because I am sick, but because it seems like after every diagnosis follows a fundraiser for the medical expenses. What am I not getting about this scenario if I think there is something weird about that? Add to it that a man was in the news because he faked having cancer so he could take money from everyone. This past year, our two biggest medical expenses- Sam’s MRI and Julia’s birth- were ‘covered’ when I applied for charity with the hospital. So, how is it that illness bankrupts some and not others? Is it ever the case that someone chooses against the expensive treatment because it would not be a good use of (everyone’s) money? Should we act as if God wants us to choose chemo, every time? All of these are good questions to meditate on when I am not in a desperate position to answer them. One thing has come to mind so far, I believe from the LORD. My job is to treasure and to preserve life as far as it is in my power to do so. I suppose that would be a guiding factor in situations where I had to make a decision of treatment for one of my children. When Sam’s neurosurgeon was strongly recommending a surgery at a very young age, we decided for it because it would give him the best chances at a good quality of life. Of course, it had its risks, and its expenses. But the decision wasn’t hard.

Now, if I had cancer. That is tougher, because how far do I go to treasure and preserve my own life? Selfishly, I go all the way, no expense spared. If I am thinking of children still to raise and a husband still to belong to, I still go pretty far to take those chances at a better quality of life. I think. There’s Heaven to consider, though. How much should Heaven factor into this? Not that I am eager to get there like I should be. I mean, there’s still much to be done here in this city, right Chris Tomlin?

What a burden it is for parents of sick children and people of sick selves to make these choices. God is faithful, I know, and will pave the way for us as we go, and bear us up on His wings when we can’t go further.

He found Jacob in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness. He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, so He spread His wings and caught  him, and carried him on His pinions.


Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burdens.

-a Psalmist


This book about habits that I am reading is really hard to finish! I think there is a psycological component to it, as if I don’t finish it, then I don’t have to put any of the good things I have learned into practice. Plus, I’m having no trouble analyzing other people and their different habit tendencies, but am not as quick to judge myself and the areas I need to improve. A question in my BSF lesson this week asked, “What truth (of Jesus) have you ignored or rejected this year and how might you begin now to act on it?” Ouch. Judging others and not treating it like disobedience and repenting of it. That is what I do very well. Right now I feel like I am in a crucible of sorts, where I daily, even hourly, must let go of my expectations, not judge according to them, and even forgive when those expectations not being met. The latter must happen because there is wrong being committed, but it is not up to me to fix it. Only God can fix this. I need to love and give. This is easy to say and hard to do.  I learned from this habits book that I am particularly affected by disappointment. It can often make me angry, and even make me bitter, if I let it. Relationships are the important thing- with God, with others. Disappointments will come, but my response can build up in love or tear down in hate.

Luke changed my blog some, but kept enough of it the same to let me still use it easily, ha. I hope to try to get in the habit of blogging again. We’ll see how I do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The eggnog has flowed, the casseroles dished, the stuffing stuffed down gullets. Ah. I am feeling good, NOT feeling too full, and feeling really good about my practice of self control this year. A few factors: Candace Cameron Bure’s book about eating right mentioned a great principle to use during dinner- am I satisfied? That answer will come before- am I full? so we must eat intentionally, eat slowly (this one is hard for me!), eat thoughtfully. That one question is huge. Another factor is having a scale in the bathroom that I have been weighing myself on each morning. I am pleased by what it has been reading lately, and I think that sticks with me through the day. Not THE still, small voice, of course, but an important voice nonetheless.

My Thanksgiving menu this year included turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. I decided to make the latter from scratch, even frying the onions, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. It was fantastic! Will have to make this all winter for a new comfort food staple. Two cold salads often find their way to the table, waldorf and oriental cabbage, I realized originated from one person, a good friend from our church plant days. Thank you, Jenny! I don’t have many friends, but the ones I do have are excellent cooks! The older I get, the better of a cook I get, too. This is because I have learned to only make the things I like. Ha.

My Garmin watch is showing that red line across the top, signaling when I have been inactive for close to an hour. Honestly, Garmy, what more do you want from me? I took 13, 600 steps today, from a mile run this morning to multiple trips round my kitchen this afternoon. I’ve earned some down time.

I want to hear about your Thanksgiving! What did you make? Where did you go? I will try to open comments here, but if you can’t get in, email me and I’ll post your comment.

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me, and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.  Psalm 50:23

It Is What It Is

So, I left off with a rather smug letter to Marlin, a kind car salesman who has been in consistent contact with Luke about a 15 passenger van. Now that time has passed and the van honeymoon is over, well…

Let’s just say you don’t know what is coming down the road, pun intended. This vehicle is beautiful on the outside, but has required some major repairs on the inside. What a good object lesson for us in our own journeys through life. That outward appearance doesn’t charm us as much now that we’ve put so much money into it. But, it is what it is.

I wrote that phrase into an email to my dear friend, and got to thinking how simple, but good, this statement really is. I’m all for making goals, but sometimes in life it is more about being content in the place you are. I went to a ladies’ workshop at a church a few weeks ago, and the main takeaway for me was the truth from Acts that says, “God determined” people to live in the times and places He put them, so that they would seek Him. There are a lot of loose strings in my life right now, things I wish were different, or better, or at least DONE, tied up, so I could move on to a next thing. The popular “When my ship comes in, then…” brand of wishes are big in my brain. But the way this verse was shared that morning, it was like God saying, “I determined this, and this, and that, to all be up in the air right now, for some specific purposes of My own. I determined…even this.” So, all glory be to God, in the desert, in the wilderness, in the waiting. I want that to be my response more and more.

As I type this, Julia sleeps in the Ergo strapped to my belly (it is like she never left!), and the littles play Loaded Questions at my feet. Some of the kids are pre-readers and writers, and don’t know left from right, so just figuring out how to play is an entertaining listen. We are in Lynchburg for Liberty’s homecoming. Since Luke’s sister moved here and it is the second year we have visited along with his other siblings, it is becoming more of a family reunion/photo option than about Liberty. But many are at the football game right now, others out shopping, and that leaves me home babysitting the rest. I’m not really complaining; getting out with Julia in tow on a gusty 50 degree day is not desirable anyway. But it has been hard these last few months still having ones so young, but needing to interact with those who have teens, too. And, I don’t really fit in with either kind of moms. But, it is what it is.

This morning I was able to visit an old friend from Word of Life and Liberty days. I remember when I went on a College for a Weekend tour at Word of Life, Rebekah was the one that immediately approached me and took me under her wing. I couldn’t wait to get to school in January, because I knew way cool Rebekah was there waiting for me. We stayed friends through our time at Liberty, until she started dating a man that I didn’t like. This was completely my problem, her now-husband is a wonderful person. I was jealous, and didn’t have much tolerance for people who were different than me (99.999% of the population, I am coming to realize). He was there today, and so kind and outgoing to me, that I felt like asking his forgiveness on the spot for my stupidity back then. Jesus, and twenty years, can change a person, thankfully. Rebekah is well, living an inspiring and fruitful life in the mountains of Virginia 400 miles from me, but as we talked today, I realized that we both are having some of the same deep thoughts about life, and dealing with some of the same issues in home and family and spirituality. A good reminder that everyone everywhere has much in common with everyone else, though we are all different. And, I could conclude to my mother-in-law when I got back from my visit, Rebekah is one person I know who is a lot like me. Learning as we go. It is what it is.

We head home tomorrow, back to the daily school routine. I look forward to it in some ways, as Julia has been very erratic and offbeat in her napping and feeding while gone. But, these kinds of breaks are good for me, too, to provide times of reflection and examination of things going on in my life right now. It is what it is, and I want to make the best of it.

Eye Vandy

Dear Marlin,

After my last blog post, I had everyone thinking, including myself, that we were going to buy a van from you. Luke had called you back last week about one, but you had rented it out and it wouldn’t be back until Luke had gone on his backpacking trip. As it turns out, waiting another week was a good idea.

A van came up for sale on Craigslist Sunday night, in Circleville, with make, model, miles, and money asked all aligned as the stars. Only trouble was it was an hour and a half away, we didn’t have two drivers to go down there, and the owner was leaving for vacation Tuesday. What a scramble we made, asking my mom to drive with Luke and hurrying down there before the kids had Running Club Monday evening.


And, we pulled it off! Luke got home at 5:30, and we all piled in the new van at 6:00 to head south again. I think you can appreciate, Marlin, the excitement we felt as we made that maiden voyage in this new (to us), beautiful, spacious van, after spending weeks at home opting out of many activities. Our son, Elijah, when someone is leaving the house, runs for his shoes and asks, “I go?” Most of the time the answer is no, but we could say yes on Monday night.

I don’t know if you have experience working on cars as well as selling them, Marlin. The man we bought this van from had a very sobering story to tell Luke about his experiences with it. He had bought this van in 2005, and was doing some work on it one day. While he was under the van, he asked his wife to do something with the key or the gearshift, and she reached in while standing outside the vehicle to do it. When she put it in neutral, the van began to roll. Since she wasn’t in the van, she couldn’t reach the brake, and the van rolled over her husband. He had many bones broken including his neck, and fractured his skull. It took a long time to recover from his injuries, and he went on disability because he couldn’t keep his job. He sued GM, but that became null when GM went bankrupt. He also sued the hospital, because they missed his broken neck (?!) That lawsuit had only just been settled, so he could now sell the van. So, this vehicle stayed in storage for a long time. Can you imagine, Marlin? I wouldn’t be able to even look at that van for quite some time after something like that. I bet he couldn’t, either.

Luke tells me you are Mennonite, Marlin, and that you are pretty strict in your lifestyle. You might think, as we do, that God was in this all along. I know He has given us more than we could have asked or imagined! But there is this surreal piece, that takes into account what tragedy has struck at the wheels of this van. I don’t want to think of it as ‘cursed’, of course. You and I know there is no such thing and we are not to be superstitious as followers of Jesus. But it does make me cautious, sober, thoughtful. May I be a grace-filled steward of this great gift.

Marlin, it’s been real. Maybe we’ll call you up in a few years when our family’s need dials back to a minivan or SUV.

Your Friend,

Valerie Burton

Can’t Find A Better Van

Luke and I are still dating. At least, we try. Right now Julia occupies the position of third wheel, but a chance to get away is still a great deal, so we go.

After we had test-driven the old Dodge van with back-up beeping, Luke said he’d like to go see a van over in Mt. Eaton, in Amish Country. They were asking more than he wanted to pay, but it couldn’t hurt to look. We buckled Julia in the car, and off we went to Holmes County.

We arrived at the place the van was parked, and waited for the seller. He drove up quite a bit later, with a six month old baby boy in his lap, a la Brittney Spears! Needless to say, this did not give me a great first impression of him, or this van.

Luke, Julia, and I climbed aboard and buckled up (Julia in her carseat and me in mine), then headed for the highway. My husband knows all of these things to try while driving a vehicle to check its maneuverablility and alignment. Things were appearing to work ok for a while. But when he would brake hard, the van would pull really far to the right. It was so freaky! Then Luke asked if I wanted to drive it. Um, no! Not with it pulling like that. He turned around in a cemetery, and one hard right almost landed us on someone’s grave.

When we met back up with the seller, Luke described what the van was doing and made a low offer. The man was actually selling the van for someone else, so he wouldn’t budge from the asking price. We thanked him for his time, and were back on the road.

People who don’t live near Amish Country think it is charming, hence the explosion of commerce there. As we drove along, I thought of how there is nothing about the Amish I find charming. Except maybe the way they stack their wheat and oats with little straw hats to shed water. A whole field of these mounds is quite picturesque. Luke was unhappy that we had driven all the way out to this quilt-buggy-barn mecca for nothing…

Wait. What were we passing every few minutes as we headed to Millersburg? Yes, there was another 15 passenger van, shuttling Amish people from one place to another. Though most have rules against owning a vehicle, many Amish may pay to ride in one, and ‘hauling Amish’ is a lucrative business. We have a neighbor on our road that does this in a van he won’t sell to us.

Maybe we weren’t wasting a trip after all. Just then we saw a van for sale on the side of the highway, and quickly pulled over to look. The vehicle looked good, the price looked even better, and the owner came to meet us right away. Luke said to me, “This is our van!” It did look like a great buy, but as he and the owner opened it up and tried out the a/c, they found it didn’t work. Augh. Always something. This man was really nice, though, and told Luke he would have it looked at the next day. It was suppertime by now, and Luke asked the man where a good place was to eat in Millersburg. He directed us to a pub that had good burgers. It also had a great bleu cheese salad, awakening my interest in bleu cheese. On another date to Delaware last year, we went to a place that had a phenomenal bleu cheese salad, and ever since I have been on and off bleu cheese kicks.

We talked over dinner how as we get older, we get comfortable in our skin and don’t care as much what people think. I said that is mostly true for me, only I have been so many different clothing sizes that it has been hard to keep to a ‘style’ of dress. So that aspect of my personality is still largely changeable. Still, I like nice things, and all through this van search I find myself turning off whenever the candidate is old, dirty, rusty, crumbly, etc. At first, I thought I was being a snob. But the more I think about it, there needs to be a balance. We have the money to not have to buy the dumpiest vehicle on the lot. Yes, the more we spend on the van, the less we spend on the House, but many things about this House-building project have been Providentially delayed, and the need for a bigger van is one of those Providential delays, to my way of thinking. Who could have known we would have 12 children needing vehicle space as well as House space? Only the Lord knew this. And, He knows we need to have a van where we all can go somewhere, together. We have been missing that lately, bigtime. The activities we have had to turn down in the past few weeks only fuel my desire for a better van. Not too old, not too broken; something that will cost us more, but also bring us more joy hopefully, as we are able to venture forth as a family again.

As Luke drove home from taking the kids to camp last month, he passed a used car lot that had some vans for sale. He met and spoke with the owner, and even had him over to our house (he was on his way back from Columbus) to look at our van. His name is Marlin Zimmerman and I really like him. (Mennonite, not Amish.) Marlin has called Luke back repeatedly, thinking of new ways he can use our van for parts and knock the price down on one of his. This kind of keeping in touch has certainly impressed Luke, and now, after weeks of clown car antics when we go to church or anywhere, I think he is ready to deal with Marlin. No, it is not the cheapest van we could go with, but it seems to Luke and me to be the better choice.