Valerie on July 20th, 2016

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.

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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

Valerie on July 15th, 2016

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.

Valerie on June 29th, 2016

Grrrrrrrind.

That is what you would hear if you rode with us in our van. And, as we have already outgrown it, the brakes are going to continue to do that, because we don’t want to put any more money into this vehicle. The last weeks have been a challenge, getting this person here and that person there with the two remaining vehicles we have. I realize this starts to sound like a first world problem; three vehicles, really? But we are thinking we do need to have a driving arrangement that could include all fifteen passengers (if Carol goes along), hence the search for a 15 passenger van.

There are many things to consider. do we get a nicer one with less mileage for more money, or a higher mileage one that costs less to just get us through the next four or five years? The former robs us of House Money, the latter seems like a big gamble that we won’t be hit with repairs every few months.

Luke test drove a few yesterday. The first was here in town, and he was able to bring it by the house so I could drive it and a couple of kids could ride along. It used to be a day care van, very inexpensive, had low miles, but was twenty years old! I told Luke it was difficult to keep some snobby feelings in check. Yes, it was cheap and might get us a year or two down the road, literally. And in nine year old Caleb’s words, a van like this was “awesome!” But could my older kids handle the embarrassment of the backing-up beeping (oh, yes) it made? Could I?

To Be Continued, at which time I describe our jaunt to Amish Country.

Valerie on June 25th, 2016

Time once again for our library’s summer reading program. The adult version has us reading up to 16 books, and various other ways to earn raffle tickets, to go toward prizes and coupons. Some years I am so not interested, but for whatever reason this year am totally hooked on reading as many books as I can and completing the ‘bingo’ card on the back of my tally sheet.

I expected to have plenty of time to read, as I nurse all day long and can’t do much else with that time. What I didn’t expect was how these books, as randomly chosen as I could have done, are inexplicably linked. let me give you some examples.

I saw on a blog I read where the lady recommended a book called Raising Real Men. I was able to get this from the library, and enjoyed it very much. It is full of great advice for raising boys, and one book they recommended in there was Now Discover Your Strengths, the manual that accompanies the StrengthsFinder test. I got that book out of the library, too, thinking it would help my older girls as well as my older guys.

Another way to earn a raffle ticket in the library program is to listen to an audiobook on Hoopla. While browsing titles, I saw a book called 5 Habits of a Woman who Doesn’t Quit. That looked like something I could use, for sure, so I began to listen. The author mentioned starting a workout program and, of course, quitting, and the morning I was listening to that, I was just about to head to Mommy and Me. I thought that was strangely coincidental, I mean, what are the odds that I would hear that right then?! Then tonight, I was listening to the fourth chapter, and in it she mentioned StrengthsFinder! Weird stuff. Something similar happened with another book last week, but I can’t remember it now. It might have even been a Little House book! Just some crazy stuff to keep this big part of my summer interesting.

Anyway, here is my book list. F means finished, S means started. Have a go at one or two and see if strange things  relate for you, too.

Raising Real Men F

Your God Is Too Small F EXCELLENT READ You can get this as a pdf, simply google the title and pdf.

Happy Wives Club F

Love Comes Softly series F

For The Love F VERY GOOD READ

Little House series F

Lessons From Madame Chic S FUN READ

In His Steps

In His Place

Joni

Prodigal Girl

Big Book of Homeschooling

All the Light We Cannot See S ¬†(I almost finished this a while back, but quit because of vulgarity. A friend gave me the all-clear to finish it, as I had already read the worst, so I plan to fill in the place on my bingo card that says “a book you never finished” with it. It really would be one of my favorite books without these blemishes it has.)

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit S HA HA HA

Now, Discover Your Strengths S RIVETING READ

 

Valerie on June 10th, 2016

At Mommy and Me today the ladies were talking about how meaningful it is to be able to stay home with their children. One mom put it, “You’ll never get that time back!” I look at Kenan, and Elijah, and now Julia, and though I of all people should realize how short this time is, I still find myself chafing, wanting the days to pass more quickly. My attitude stinks when it comes to the daily challenges that each little brings.

This week may not be the best one for introspection, what with my hormones still out of whack and VBS taking away all their playmates every evening. So we have had a Toy Story marathon! And tonight we go to a graduation party, one reason being I don’t want to be stuck home with them another night. The week has gone well, though. Last night I actually got Julia to bed for the night before the kids came home, so Kenan and Elijah and I could enjoy some outside time, watching for the van. We talked about what color the van was, and the house, and the shed..Elijah would run to Grandma’s car and call, “Mama, Mama” until I answered. He’d point to it and say something like ‘Grandma’s car’ then run back to me and do it all over again. Then we sat on the steps and the boys checked my hair for ticks. Pure country, let me tell you.

The girls got their first paychecks today, and it got me thinking about all of the ways we are blessed. I may not notice in the thick of it, but I know love can’t do anything but pay off in the end. Keep doing it, my friends.

Valerie on June 3rd, 2016

I was going to do a weekly play by play of the last weeks since Julia was born, but balked at week 1. My memory of it is already faded like an old photograph. Just as well, as I had a great deal of anxiety the first two weeks. I don’t think I have ever put into words what those first days postpartem feel like to me, though I have had 12 opportunities to do so. But the pain was so acute this time I want to document its existence. First comes this tightness in my gut, like something horrible is happening or about to happen, and it matters not how many times I tell myself everything is fine, it doesn’t lessen. It has some small connection with the sleep loss accompanying a new baby, because it is noticeably better the first night he or she sleeps for 3-4 hours. I was also helped this time by singing hymns and praise songs. I remember with Kenan listening to Matt Maher and Laura Story constantly. I to this day have a sort of crush on the former that Luke doesn’t understand; hey, he helped bring me through a tough time.

That part of the darkness has passed, but I still deal with some emotional, hormonal effects. All to be expected. The Lord has been so faithful, from reminders of His blessings to the knowledge that He is here, He’s got this. I want a t-shirt that says God’s Got This. My birthday is in 18 days; would someone work on making this happen, please?

Luke and the boys just left for a backpacking trip. It will be short, just overnight, but a way to work out the kinks before they travel to PA for the real thing in July. I appreciate his desire to be with our sons, and his activity level. He is still running and cycling, along with the hiking.

At about 4 weeks postpartem I felt well enough to try jogging again. It is going pretty good, and I hope to run in a couple 5Ks this summer. I’m also doing Mommy and Me, a fitness class that meets a few times a week. This fills the summer schedule fast, but I need to commit to things like these to help get back into shape. Unfortunately this will not happen on the couch!

Aliyah and Sarah are working girls now- they have a job at a local grocery store for the summer. Another evidence of them growing up way too fast. They needed id’s for the job, and the bank account, so we got Aliyah her temps (wow, already?) and Sarah a state issue id. They just got their debit cards in the mail today. So cute.

Sam and Noah are also going to work this summer, helping a man from our church keep up with his yard. I can see Sam doing this full time by next summer, if he wants to. Luke is going with them currently, to show them how to use stuff and be there if they need help, so it isn’t an official ‘job’. But they will get paid a little and at the end of the summer will have some cash for their labors.

Next weekend I am taking the kids to an event in Millersburg called Compassion Experience. It appears to be an interactive look at what homes and villages are like in impoverished countries. Should be special. I was talking to Luke about who should go and who should stay, because we have outgrown our van completely (after Elijah I could still squeeze between the front seats, illegally), and he suggested taking both cars and giving Aliyah some driving time. I am not sure about that. Weren’t we going to start in parking lots?

It is time to fix dinner. I made pulled pork in the oven last night (it bakes at a low temp all night) and now some fries are calling to me, “Make us!” This summer is getting off to a good start. Thank You, Jesus, for these days.

Valerie on April 30th, 2016

He was a boy who was a little too old to be buckled into the cart with seats at Target. I recognized right away that he must have some disabilities. But I also noticed his smile right away. This was a happy, beautiful child.

Dear mama, thank you for giving him life. Not just allowing him birth (although that is becoming less common and destroying life that might be imperfect more so). Thank you for giving him the best life. Do you know how I know?

His bib.

It is bright white, not a stain on it. He must soil them with drool and food, but you take care of even this small detail. Thank you for caring.

We walk out to the parking lot together, you carrying your child and me carrying my purchases. It is raining, so you pull his hood up and over his head. By his wide grin and upturned face, though, I don’t think he minded the raindrops one bit. Another lady is headed in the same direction and we share a smile at your son’s joy.

As I watch you buckle him up while I pull away, I pray for you, Dear Jesus, gird her with strength for this day, and the days ahead. I am guessing even the difficulties of his care can reach a monotony. If she does not know You, I pray that You would reveal Yourself to her; may she see You in that precious boy’s smile.

I know I do.

Valerie on April 9th, 2016

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Just when I have the opportunity to write, the words don’t want to come. I’m almost a day out from Julia’s arrival; at this time yesterday I was trying my darndest to get an epidural, not knowing that she would be born in only forty more minutes. That is the rough side of many hard experiences in life- we know not when they are to end, we want to give up… when the answer, the reward, is just around the corner. I didn’t mean to go all devotional on us, but it is true.

This had to be the shortest labor of any I have had. They didn’t even start the pit until 7:30, and she was born at 11:55. I think this is what I expected Elijah’s induction to be like, and when it instead became an all day affair, I decided I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Julia. I packed the Mitford book I was reading, my phone with Spanish app for practice, my iPod with music, trying to provide plenty to fill the hours (I thought). This did turn out to be a good tactic- I read for the majority of the time, then did my Spanish. In other labors I have avoided time-fillers, and I am not sure why. It definitely helped me keep distracted from the mounting pain.

She’s a sweetie. There are no words to describe how undeserving I am and how grateful I am of this gift from God. May He find me faithful.

 

Valerie on April 5th, 2016

I haven’t actually “packed a bag” for the hospital in, I don’t know, ever. But I thought it might be a good idea this time to set aside the clothes and things Baby and I would need while there. What a ridiculous plan; every day I go to that bag and remove something I need out of it. Perhaps that is what fuels some of my angst this time around; if I wouldn’t have a dwindling-sized bag sitting there reminding me…

Oswald Chambers was in Revelation the other day, and he talked of how we all are asked to “come up here” like the Apostle John. He challenged the reader to think back to the previous year, and consider in what areas we have grown spiritually, we have come up to higher ground. I can honestly rejoice at such a question this year. While in the past I might struggle with an answer, a couple of things popped right into my head now, times where I knew it was God calling me to higher, to better, than I was doing it before.

I wish I could remember the first example of this, because the second instance of this happening is kindof silly. Last week, I was shopping for a few more things to outfit my diaper bag, and thought I would like to find a Huggies travel wipes container. I noticed the stores around me weren’t carrying the kind I like anymore, so I looked online. I did find it at BabiesRUs.com, but they were only $1.50 and I would pay $7.50 before I was done, with shipping costs. And no, I have no use for 20 of them, the amount that would give me free shipping. The thought came to me- why am I fighting this? Why am I wasting time fretting over getting the thing I want, when there are plenty of other options out there, at my local stores? So last weekend, I simply purchased the newly designed Huggies travel wipes ‘clutch’- I don’t like it, but I know where I can get another one easily when it rips.

Fast forward to Monday morning, pre-dawn. I didn’t sleep well all night, preparing my mind and emotions for the induction. By three o’clock, it was evident that Luke would not be able to leave the house with me; he was sick with some kind of stomach thing. I began to go over my options. I began to feel guilty even thinking about going to the hospital wihout him, though- it is his baby, too, of course! And the thought again came to me- why are you fighting this? It is obvious this plan to induce is falling apart. We must simply cancel and work out something else later. Once I called and canceled, I felt much better, and Luke and I both got a few more hours of good sleep. Sam called us on Grandma’s phone at about 8, not knowing we were in bed at home. That was hilarious.

Later that day, I would be challenged higher again, this time by Luke’s words. My focus had become how to avoid the (what I thought were) needless doctor’s appointments that would happen all this week if I didn’t go into labor. I thought if we rescheduled the induction for Tuesday morning, that would be a good way of doing that, and staying clear of other things we have going on this week, like the kids’ first track meets and such. But Luke said no. “We’re pushing too hard, we’re rushing this. It is as if we are trying to make this baby fit our tee time.” Ouch. Again, the thought came- why are you fighting this? Why are you wasting time on the phone with the surgery scheduler when you could be on the couch with Elijah, reading him another book on borrowed time?

Okay, Lord. You win. I went obediently and humbly to my non stress test yesterday, I did my kick check this morning, I will do another non stress test Thursday, and will meet with my doctor to schedule the induction on Friday. I will be back and forth to Mansfield way more than I prefer, because that is the way You have marked for me. Plus, who knows? Maybe there is a person in that doctor’s office I can encourage or help in some way.

One faith hurdle jumped, one step higher. But the next one is upon me already. All of the wrong thought patterns I get into when overdue are fueled by one thing. I have come to believe, since having difficulties in labor with the last few, that I cannot do it on my own, and worse, that God is powerless to bring this baby forth in His perfect timing. Regardless of my body’s abilities, God is in control, and can do whatever He pleases. Psalm 50:1 speaks of how He summons the sun, moon, and stars. ‘Summon’ is a great word, isn’t it? If He can summon the sun and heavenly bodies to do what they do every day and night, surely He can summon this little one when the time is right. So today I woke up saying to myself, “I believe You can summon this baby at any time. I believe You are powerful in this.” The more I say it, the more I can unravel the lies I did have stowed in my mind, and replace them with God’s truth.

Here’s to going higher. The view from up here is spectacular.

Valerie on April 1st, 2016

Interestingly enough, the last post for which I allowed comments on this blog was when I was overdue for Elijah.

Here I go again.

There must be something going on inside my womb that is causing this- I hesitate to say that my body is doing something wrong or that it doesn’t know how to have a baby, because of course it does. But these last few pregnancies have given me pause. A friend suggested that maybe my womb is tipped and that is affecting its responses when it would be time for labor. I don’t know.

I am glad, however, that I am not ‘in the dark’ this time like I was with Kenan and Elijah. The last weeks with them both were difficult for me emotionally, to where I felt spent even before labor had begun. This time, though, I feel strong. I feel like this will go okay.

So, the plan is to go the weekend, waiting for Julia to arrive. If not, then I will be induced early Monday morning. I like this plan; I love this date. First, it is the birthday of the little girl we sponsor from South America. It would be fun to have one of our own be celebrating that day, too. This is also a day for mathematicians- Perfect Square Day, 4/4/16. The last one was 3/3/09, the next won’t be until 5/5/25. We must make the most of this opportunity!

It never sinks in that in a matter of days, maybe hours, I will no longer be feeling WWF roundhouse kicks, but will be nursing my baby. Such good things to think about. Thank You, Lord.