wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

The Country Mice Go to a Resort

Last weekend we combined two events and made a family field trip out of the entire works. Family field trips are so much fun, starting with “Are we about there?” every five minutes enroute to “Make her stop singing!” and “I am starving hungry. Did we pack any snacks?” Then you finally get there.

“Does anybody need to go to the bathroom? Where is Rita? Yes, we will eat just soon! Everybody stay together. We don’t want to lose you!” And so on. But it is fun, really. “Please don’t touch! Maybe you will have to save your money for the next 20 years so you can buy that. Yes, I know this display is boring for big boys, but humor us for a little. Where is Rita? Wow, that is a really neat knife with that bone handle, but we don’t have 45 dollars hanging loose right now. Where is Rita? Here, you hold tightly to my hand for a while. Yes, I know you are hungry. Shall we get some popcorn?” We did have fun. This is just my running dialog of the stuff that makes me feel like I am developing a twitch.

Wanna know what we did? Every year Gabe has to take an Outdoor Emergency Care refresher course in order to stay certified as a ski patroller in order to get a free family pass at the slopes. The course itself is interesting for him: what to do with a patient in shock from whacking headfirst into a tree, how to splint that broken-up person for the trip up or down the mountain to an ambulance, or how to assess why that person is coughing blood. It gives me the willies, just looking through the course handbook.

Fortunately for us, there was another event held at Seven Springs that weekend. The Mother Earth News is a magazine that we subscribe to for ideas to develop our small acerage. They hold various fairs across the country, and this one happened to be at the same resort as the OEC refresher course. We bought a pass online and a room for the night, making it a two day affair. A real field trip for our underprivileged homeschooled kids. ;)


The fair was held mostly outside on the hotel grounds from the bottoms of the ski lifts to the outdoor courtyard, but it meandered through conference rooms and hallways as well. There were hundreds and hundreds of vendors, the nicest people you will ever meet. If you are country and going to a resort with a family, this is the time to do it. Earth-mother types like children and they don’t really dress up that much. I saw a lot more turbans and hippie skirts and Ugly Shoes than I have ever seen before in one spot. In the middle of all the herbs and chicken butchering equipment and log splitters there was one lonely booth for flu shots. I nearly laughed out loud. What? I would have hated to be that salesperson.

There were about eight stages with different breakout sessions, all the way from Keeping a Family Cow to Worm Composting. We split up so that we could cover more information.

I took

  • Growing a Sustainable Diet (Very interesting talk by a woman wearing a linen vest she grew, spun, wove and crafted)
  • Eating the Whole Plant (Meh. You can eat carrot tops and beet tops… Don’t throw them away! There were two men in the session who were unabashedly snoozing in the A/C. Also my girls were down to the crumbs in the maple-syrup-popcorn bag and they needed to go potty and get drinks.)
  •  One Hour Cheeses (the most fun, as the children were watching How to Pack a Llama for a Hike and I could actually follow. It was fascinating. I bought her book.)

From various friendly vendors we got open pollinator seeds and useful information about saving seeds from one year to the next.. One woman bought corn seeds for meal 25 years ago and has saved them for her annual crop ever since. Another kindly dread-locked lady didn’t have the sweet pepper seeds we wanted, but she did have a few of the peppers and offered us one to save our own seeds. I turned around for a few seconds and looked at Rita just in time to see her eating the last of the pepper, ready to throw away the core with all those lovely seeds attached.

They showed us how and why we should grow mushrooms and explained the science of herbal remedies. I bought teas and tinctures that I usually pay lots of shipping on. My favorite vendors were the good folks from Beeyoutiful. They served the girls and I freshly brewed Immunotea and I bought my winter’s vitamin C supply for the children and essential oils called ProMiSe Blend. Some of you will get that. :)

The boys gravitated to the wilderness survival supply booths and the alternate power sessions. Alex has a list of supplies he needs to make an electric motor bike. Gregory now has a Life Straw for his bug-out bag. The girls got batik-patterned head bands and a tiny succulant plant for their windowsill. By the end of the day we were all funned out except for one more thing: the indoor pool. We went during the supper hour when it was deserted except for a few little boys. Alex cannonballed right in, just like at the pond, putting the lifeguard on high alert. So did Addy, only she didn’t have her lifejacket on and was too short even for the shallow end of the pool and had to be fished out. I realized that our children have hardly ever gone swimming in anything but creeks and ponds. They thought the clear water was a blast. By 8:30 they were all asleep and Gabe and I could sit on the balcony to compare notes and make a game plan for the next day.

That included me taking the children for breakfast at the hotel restaurant while he did his refresher course, then meeting somewhere at the fair around lunchtime. The kids were up bright and early, bickering and giggling by turns. I made sure everybody was shiny and well aware of ettiquette at a breakfast bar. The dining area was decked out with white tablecloths and goblets, buffet lines with polished silver serving covers on every dish. I was the only adult with that many children. A buffet line with a child in tow is never easy. Too many choices, they can’t see what is up there, they want to touch stuff that they won’t eat, and the plates are too heavy for the little ones to safely manage without spills. Add in heavy lids on everything and you have a true white hair producing situation. Add in crowds of adults who only want to get their bacon already and don’t know that your kid is counting the strips he is getting because that is what he has to do at home when we have bacon and then you know where the twitch comes from. Here is the dining room, only this web image has flowers and chair covers for a wedding.

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Imagine my little country mice, freshly rested and full of ginger, there, around that table.

It did turn out to be a great breakfast. The only Where is Rita? moment was when she had ducked underneath the tablecloth for some privacy. They were very careful to only drink decaf coffee and choose their doughnuts wisely. I was proud of them. :)

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We spent a good while in the hotel’s backyard, a rock garden area with a fountain and trails. The twitch had almost worn off  when the acorn wars started. All this happened while many other guests were still blissfully sleeping and I could just imagine an errant acorn clattering against somebody’s window. I decided our best option was to hang around the animal tent. The little girls plucked up grass to feed the sheep and the boys examined all the rabbit options and chickens and pigs.

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When Gabe’s course was done, we wandered around for a while before heading home with our heads just packed with information.

I have been inspired to learn more about foraging for edibles in the wild and growing interesting foods. Next year we want to have a plot for broom corn and zuka gourds. I have been a little obsessed with the One Hour Cheese book, garnishing my end product with flower petals and herbs. I did feel ridiculously happy with that.

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We went on a hike yesterday and brought home some turkeytail lichens to make a tea in which “clever prodding helps us keep our systems on their toes, invigorating us in the process.” (Click on the link for an almost lyrical description of the benefits of the humble little turkeytail.)

I don’t buy into the theory that everything will kill you unless you do it the natural way, because I have noticed that everybody eventually dies, one way or another. Hopefully the weekend did open up some fresh neural pathways, possibly staving off alzheimer’s for a few years. Last week I had a vivid dream about an edible caterpillar foraging session that the boys and I were taking, complete with taste testing. I had to brush my teeth when I got up, just to get the taste out of my mouth. We aren’t quite that far gone, but I suppose if you see me coming around in clothes died with geranium petals and walnut hulls, subsisting on fermented vegetables and venison jerky, you may have cause for concern. :)


Pumpkin Pots and Paint

We are walking in fresh sunlight these days. I do not take it for granted. I marvel at it and try to store it up. An art book we are reading describes warm colors as orange and red, and cold colors as blue and green. I have been working on a game plan for winter, because I know it is coming and I dread the chill and dark already. Our basement rooms have been the same color for 11 years. We drywalled and painted it grey just before Gregory was born. It’s a nice neutral color, but back then I couldn’t even imagine doing school down there with 5 children and a dog who thinks she is a child. I didn’t dream how much time I would spend in my laundry room.

I decided to liven things up a little, and I am glad I did it every time I walk into the laundry/bath room. Less than $20 dollars worth of paint (because I got one on the mistints shelf…I am cheap like that.) really made a difference. This room was off-white for 14 years. May I present to you Sunbaked Orange with the light off and with the light on. Hey, I saw you blinking. Isn’t it cheerful? This was not the mistint. I deliberately chose it while in my right mind. And yes, that space between the washer and the laundry sink is really small. When I was pregnant, it was uncomfortable. But I like my large sink for scrubbing things and rinsing bits of our property off small children, so I put up with the crack.



(I did this painting while Gabe and the boys spent a week up north helping his dad dismantle a huge old barn. When they first talked about doing this, I weighed my options. I could sit and drink tea and read and write in a space of small appetites and little noise and bazillion paper snibbles, or I could tackle some projects on my list that I had despaired of ever getting done. I chose the latter and worked like a crazy woman. When Gabe got home, I had just finished showering off the last of the projects.)

The other room I painted Tavistock Green. I know. It’s not really a warm color, but it is a different color, and that is what I needed.


I don’t have a clear photo, so this will have to do. Maybe you think this is still grey, but you should see the difference beside the grey wall. It just occurred to me that, being a mistint, this color swatch is not entirely accurate. I think the paint mixer person dribbled a little extra bright green into my gallon, because mine seems to be fresher on the walls.

This is one of my favorite colors in the world, and I picked it up when I saw it on clearance because you never know when you will want to paint something Tavistock Green. That was five years ago. See, I was right!

I did not go yard saling, even though it was Labor Day weekend and the roadsides were just littered with signs. I did not go shopping in Altoona, like I had hoped to do. But I did go up to Rome for 2 days to help out with cooking and whatever I could while the guys were so busily tearing down the barn. That was 8 hours of driving. And Olivia and I did our fall trek to Pittsburgh to see her specialist, so that was another 5 hours of driving after I counted in the detours and the missed exit and the bridge out at a very crucial point. One day I went to a party an hour away and back again for another 2 hours driving total. And I went to pick grapes 1/2 hour up the mountain, so I figure I put in at least 16 hours on the road in my “week off”. I also got pulled over by an officer for the first time in my life. Not that I never deserved it before, but this time seemed mild. I was just at the edge of a small town, speeding up now that I was through it, only I wasn’t through it. I was already past the “End 35” sign when I got pulled over for going 52. Bummer. There went that record. I got off with a warning because I looked harmless  wasn’t local.

The girls and I picked all our pumpkins. I wanted pie pumpkins when I bought the plants, planning to sell the extras out beside the road. This usually works out as a nice little cash crop for the boys. But this was the year for funny mistakes. Remember how the tomatoes turned out to be cherry-sized? Well, the pumpkins turned out to be Jack Be Littles. Ever so cute and decorative and… little. I roasted a bunch of them for pies and lattes, scooping out the minuscule bits of soft flesh and blending it. Then I made this one night:


It was the prettiest dinner I made in a long time and I spent a good part of it coaxing the children to eat. What is with that?

I think I will spray paint a few of them for decor and give the rest away.

You haven’t heard the end of our mistaken identities in the garden. This was entirely my own fault. I wanted mini bell peppers because I heard that they turn colors quicker than the big ones and it always seems to take so long to grow a beautiful sweet red pepper and then it frosts on them. I bought plants labelled Cherry Bomb because the picture looked exactly like Mini Bells. When we cut into the first brilliant red baby pepper, it nearly blew us away with its heat. My mom said, “What were you thinking? Bombs? That should have been a clue!” And she was right. But they sure are pretty. My yellow Bells are ticked off about something, but the red ones have finally started turning sweet. Those are the bombs at the bottom of the photo.


I turned a whole bunch of them into pepper poppers and they were fine, indeed. Then I called my sister-in-law Ruby for her hot sauce recipe. One bottle of Tabasco typically lasts us about 8 years, but last year Ruby gave us a pint of her homemade hot sauce, something I had never even thought of making. We are down to the last of it, in one year. It is that good. I used the Cherry Bombs for hot sauce, and in my humble opinion, I think it is even better than the stuff made with Habaneros. Still, we will need to convince the kids to join in if we want to consume 8 jars of it.

The garden is down to a straggle of late tomatoes and green beans, a total failure of a broccoli crop, some really slow pole limas, and lots and lots of sweet red peppers. And weeds. Unbelievable trees of weeds that helped themselves when we got all that rain in August and we couldn’t keep up with them. But in September we do not pull weeds. We mow them off. It is really fun.

Are you getting bored yet? Just one more quick story about this cabbage that Alex kept until it started to split. It was 18 pounds with three babies attached around the bottom. We sliced it up and packed it with salt where it is happily fermenting into sauerkraut, amassing healthful probiotics by the millions. The children don’t like kraut either, but Gabe and I don’t really care. That’s more for us. Hopefully if they see how much we enjoy the stuff, they can get past the stink. :D

That is about all the creativity I could handle the last few weeks. We are hitting the books with renewed vigor, finishing out 25 days this week. Ahh. It’s a long road is a school term. Rita misses her carefree outdoor existence. “Do you mean I have to do this for twelve years?” she wept one morning when the flashcards overwhelmed her. Because she just turned six this summer, I am letting her off with half days, taking it slowly, letting her go pet her bunnies and look for caterpillars. She can read, and surely she will know her facts by the time those twelve years are over.

Addy, on the other hand, feels left out because she is the only one without real school books. I bought her some wipe-clean preschool materials and that helps, but still is hardly official enough for her. Yesterday she sighed gustily, “I am so tired of this ‘yong, yong’ week! Because I am still not five!” The child talks in italics. Really. Talk about drama. It is just hard being the smallest, especially when you are dead serious about something and the other people at the table smirk. And especially if you still can’t say your l’s.

Well, look at that. I have managed to stay up until my husband gets off work. Thanks for listening!


Tyranny of the Urgent

So August is over and I have to admit to being a little relieved. August yells too much.

Everything yells. Back to School! Get on board! Buy your supplies! Come on, get excited! And yet.

The garden yells. I am ready! Eat me before I rot! Pick me! Pickle me! Can me! I am going to fall off and waste away if you don’t!

My flowers yell. Water! Then they subside into wilting gasps. Water please. Please. Please…. And even with loving ministrations that only forget them once in a while, they fade away.

My house yells. I have dirt everywhere! There’s fly poop on the windows! There are spider webs in the curtains! There is fur on the fans!

There are picnics and family reunions and a frenzy of things to do. Now! While the weather is nice!

The insects even yell. Have you heard them? Its like they have to get in all their decibels really quickly before the Long Cold.

My children yell in sheer barefoot delight, and that is the only yelling I don’t find wearing. As long as it is outside.

It’s just too much yelling. I find it hard to stay serene with so much racket. My diary reads like a sprint through August. I am not sure whose fault it is, but it’s time to slow down a little before I have heat stroke. How about you?

My friend has a wedding anniversary in August. They have been married 25 years, I think she said, and hardly ever can they manage to celebrate until later when life slows down, and how her mother consented to an August wedding, she has no idea.

Still. There was a day when I was doing bushels of tomatoes and it felt so surreal because I knew my sister-in-law was at her mom’s bedside in the hospital, watching her suffer in acute pain while she waited for a diagnoses. Cancer.

Sometimes something yells so loudly that all the rest seems relatively quiet.

I do have some defenses when life gets so urgent. I fix my coffee exactly how I like it, and if I am fortunate if I got up early enough, I get to drink the whole cup in quietness while I shore up my soul for the day. Some days I have to reheat a couple times, and it is still in the cup at lunchtime. I just try not to think about it.

I go on walks by myself whenever I can. Even a half hour is rejuvenating. Sometimes it is the only time in a day that I can think an entire thought to myself and I spend the first 15 minutes just trying to get used to the sensation.

I stop what I am doing every day after lunch and read my little people a story. I need it as much as they do. Sometimes I even fall asleep. One day I woke up at 4 o’clock and felt oddly gratified that nothing yelled that entire time. That was the day Gabe took the boys along to Ag Progress.

We are not supposed to let the urgent dominate and squish out the really important things. I struggle with that. We had a speaker at church recently who talked about about redeeming the time. It comes down to priorities and soul care, first of all. Everything else flows or gets stopped up there. He suggested that the best question is: What does God want me to do right now?

It might not be the house or the tomatoes. What is going to keep my head above water, cleaning the ceiling fan or taking a breather to quiet my heart? Being a self-confessed Martha, I know what yells loudest, and I know what He wants me to do right now, too.

Here’s to a Serene September!


Impeccable Logic

I reproved my ten year old son tonight when he was stuffing his face with popcorn, both fists employed busily. “Hey, Borg,” I said, “we don’t eat popcorn that way! You need to be civilized and take only what you can with one finger and thumb at a time.”

“Seriously, Mama!” That being the standard phrase to express incredulity or just plain disagreement. “I am conserving Therbligs, you know. This is much more efficient.” It was my turn to be unenlightened. My thirty-eight year old brain couldn’t come up with a definition for “Therbligs” or even a reference to them. “What?” I asked the obvious, “are Therbligs?”

He was ready for me. “They are the 18 motions that the Cheaper by the Dozen people studied when they did their efficiency evaluations in factories. It’s Gilbreth, spelled backwards. See, when I eat popcorn like this, I am conserving motions. It’s more efficient this way.” He was really on a roll now, and I knew that he had just finished reading “Cheaper by the Dozen” for the third time last week because I found it out under the tree that he climbs to become invisible while he is reading. I settled in to listen.

“There is even a Therblig for thinking about things and often if you do that first, you can save a lot of the other steps. That’s why I think so much.” I wondered if he was thinking about the most efficient popcorn eating method when I asked him to bring the bag of 5 dozen eggs in to the house and he let them sit in the hot Suburban all afternoon. But I digress. After he had made his case for eating popcorn in great gobbling fistfuls, I made my case.

“Someday,” I said. He sighed gustily and settled in to listen. “Someday you will be sitting with your girlfriend, eating popcorn, and when she sees you stuffing it in like that, she will tell you good-bye politely and you won’t ever see her again.” He was not convinced. Because obviously a ten year old boy will never have a girlfriend and it only makes sense to eat popcorn like a caveman to stave off that awful calamity.

“Are you saying I may not ever eat this way? Ever?”

“Only on the far side of the moon, when you are all by yourself.”

“Okay,” he agreed. “Only where not even astronauts can see me.”

We called it a truce.



Tomato Peights

Tomatoes. All kinds of tomatoes. Big ones, little ones, red ones, pink ones, yellow ones. If it’s true that, “you are what you eat,” the Peights are by and large tomatoes. The Peights have a predilection for tomatoes— a predilection that some would say borders an obsession.

As I was growing up on the farm at home in rural Pennsylvania, there were always tomatoes in one form or another about the house. Since our cravings were not seasonal, tomatoes claimed a dominant place in our garden and on the shelves in our cool, damp cellar. We canned tomato soup, spicy tomato juice, and tomato sauce in prodigious quantities. Other tomatoes we cut into large chunks and canned. With all these resources, we were able to regularly incorporate tomatoes into our diet throughout the year. Whenever we had fresh tomatoes, we ate them on our toast for breakfast and on fresh, homemade bread for lunch. Tomato slices with a layer of creamy Hellman’s mayonnaise and diced hard-boiled egg on top was a favorite salad dish for dinner. For a snack at bedtime or after church on Wednesday nights, we ate canned tomato chunks poured over a piece of bread and drank tall glasses of iced tomato juice.

This universal passion for tomatoes in my family was actually not original with us. My dad’s family was perhaps even more obsessed with tomatoes than we were. Dad came from a family of thirteen boys and two girls. To help feed a family of this size, they raised over a hundred tomato plants each year. The first ripening tomatoes of the season never made it to maturity. With so many tomato-lovers about it was entirely too risky to let them on the plant until they were completely ripe—they had to be grabbed while the grabbing was good!

Grandmother canned four hundred quarts of tomato juice and five hundred quarts of tomato chunks in “family size” two-quart Mason jars. In the wintertime, my uncles’ school lunches consisted of canned tomato chunks over homemade bread topped with sweet onion and course pepper. To drink, there was tomato juice. The story goes that on one occasion they had the normal— tomato chunks, and tomato juice—and, for a special treat, fresh tomatoes. In the summertime it was not unusual to have a single-course dinner of tomato sandwiches. One enormous stainless steel bowl of tomato slices was set at each end of the kitchen table along with a few loaves of fresh white bread. The highlight of the meal was the fight over the juice in the bottoms of the bowls. Again, every man was on his own. The timid got none.

Dad made a wise choice when he married Mom because she was able to support Dad’s well-established tomato habit in a very special way. Her family raised a pink, non-acid tomato that was handed down from her grandmother. Seeds from the best tomatoes were preserved every year to be planted the following year. These heirloom tomatoes became know as “Mother’s” tomatoes. Today, the “Mother’s” tomato crop defines the success of the summer.

For me a tomato is more than just a vegetable that adds color to a tossed salad. Tomatoes add color to my identity as a Peight. Every year as I now nurture my own tomato plants with my children, I am flooded with happy memories of my childhood as a tomato Peight.

-guest post, essay written by my husband Gabriel

And a photo of one small Peight enjoying her heritage



Things I Don’t Know About

I love a great pun. Reading a children’s book with the line, “I love you doggedly, like a flea,” just delights me. Clever words tickle my ears and I absolutely love that my four year old describes herself “rushing across the backyard” instead of the conventional running. So why, I ask, do I groan every time I see a church sign that is so punny?

Last night I drove past two different churches and both gave me a pause and an inner wailing noooo-just-please-nooo. The first said, “Son screen prevents sin burn.” A few miles down the road there was another, “Gardening with God brings peas of mind… Lettuce be kind. Squash gossip. Turnip for church.” I wonder who invented church signs, anyway? And could we stick with profound and simple instead of brain twisting word play? question_2


Summertime here is synonymous with lost shoes. Every time we want to go away, someone ends up weeping that they can’t find anything to wear on their feet. Each little girl has sandals, crocs and flip-flops. You would think at least one complete pair would be in their shoe box, but we end up doing the rounds of the sand box, play house, Suburban, etc until everyone is properly shod. We met out-of-state friends on Monday night to visit for a while. When we left it was dark and I didn’t think to check for the girls’ sandals. We left not one pair, but two. A few days later, while I was driving to retrieve the missing shoes, I got a text from my mom: Girls left their flip flops here–Will drop them off later.

I feel like Little Bear’s mother, who kept making him more and more clothes to stay warm, but finally he stripped down to just his own little bearskin and was perfectly happy without any other clothes. What a relief that was! Having said that, I have to admit that bare feet are not always good, as Rita discovered when she was picking wild raspberries and cut a deep gash in her foot that required stitches. And I am certainly not suggesting letting our children run around in just their little skins, but hey, it was the first plan in Eden! Still. Imagine how much time we would save if we weren’t constantly washing things in a ceaseless effort to stay clean. ???

My boys are on a camouflage kick this summer. They wear their camo shirts and pants day after day, until I insist strenuously that they have to change. It seems to be the last word in tween boy fashion and it sure does save on laundry, but it’s a little monotonous. I wonder how long this stage will last?

I myself have been losing things the last few days. I couldn’t find my glasses one morning, searching until I had a headache. So I got out my spare pair with black plastic frames, very modern and hot they are (as in, they make my face feel hot), but at least I could see without strain. It was days before someone pulled my favorite pair out of a crack in the couch and how they got there, I have no idea.

I have been reading this lady’s story of how she went minimalist and sold and sold stuff and got rid of everything that wasn’t nailed down or made her truly happy, like her children. They pulled out the shrubbery so they wouldn’t have to waste time trimming it. She keeps saying, “You can always buy another [insert material good here] if you find you need one.” And she got rid of almost all her clothes and went and bought what she calls a “capsule wardrobe” which is just about fourteen pieces of clothing that pair well with each other in endless combinations. I think it sounds fascinating, but I have concluded that this is sort of a first world thing to do. If you are not wealthy, you don’t go buy all new clothes from name brand stores so that you can always look pulled together and your closet looks coughed out of Pinterest. No, you go to Goodwill and enjoy the treasure hunt. So your grill isn’t the last name in sophistication. The hamburgers taste great and you know you will not be replacing it just because it doesn’t quite make you as happy as that other one on the market. Except in the quite unlikely event that you find one at a yard sale. Or unless you have plenty of money. So there is this disconnect with simplicity and lifestyle that bugs me. And if we got rid of our two freezers that hound energy and hog space, where would we put our green beans? I just don’t want to live in a Tiny House, thank you very much.

Speaking of beans, has anyone ever experimented to see if green beans will keep making baby beans forever if you don’t pull them out? I am just curious. We knew we planted extra and have sold about 3 bushels of them, just because we really want some other stuff in our freezer too.

It’s August. I cannot believe it, but my ears insist it is true. The fall insects are in full cry outside my window, serenading the waning blue moon. I saw some bright red leaves beside the road, so naturally I just ate a bowl of ice cream with fresh raspberry sauce to reassure myself.

The children wanted me to join them in the pond today. I had 17 things to do, but I chucked them all and went and floated in the sunshine. The wash is ever with me and I can scrub the fly specks off the windows tomorrow. Addy keeps asking me if we can blow up balloons, if we can buy ice cream, if we can have friends over, if we can roast marshmallows… I have a habit of absent-mindedly murmuring, “Oh, maybe.” She had enough of it and asked in exasperation, “What does maybe mean?”

I hope your summer is just as amazing and cheerful as ours!

Next up: a guest post from my husband!


Five Things You May Not Know About Nurses

Tonight my husband came home 8 hours later than we had expected. The relief nurse didn’t show up and there were emergencies and problems tying him up. Other people’s problems. That’s the thing about nurses: they spend their entire day caring about problems when people are in the most susceptible places. I didn’t like that he couldn’t come home at lunchtime, but it was okay. Four o’clock wouldn’t be so bad. Then I got the text that he was going to be detained until 7:00 and that meant not going to church tonight. When he told me that he got to help stabilize a critically ill child, I was really glad I hadn’t spent any energy being mad about the hours. Sometimes I do that, you know.

A while ago I wrote this list and was reminded of it tonight. I would make a horrible nurse. It isn’t my gift. But I have observed my husband as he exercises his gift and I feel some recognition is due. So here you go,

Five Things You May Not Know About Nurses

  1. Nurses work extremely hard. They routinely take more than the 10,000 steps recommended for daily fitness. That is five miles, by the way. They lift tons of people and I mean that literally. They do this in 12 hour shifts with about 1/2 hour break if they are lucky. They work at night and on holidays and on weekends when everybody else is out camping. One time another lady and I were discussing packing lunches for our husbands and she mentioned that I probably don’t have to pack as much food as if he were working hard. Well. I didn’t tell her how often he didn’t even have time to eat the stuff I packed because other people’s needs were more important than his own. Nurses are knackered when they get home. They need food and drink. They deserve to use the bathroom in peace, take a long hot shower. It is best to wash off all traces of MRSA.
  2. Nurses really do enjoy sticking in IV’s but nobody wants to hit that vein the first time more than they do. That is why they like to stroke your arms, looking for good veins. It’s a funny way to show affection and practice their craft at the same time. If you have great veins, you will occupy a special little place in their hearts. If you don’t have good veins, you represent a challenge, and they can think of lots of places to try next while you shiver in horror. Probably I wouldn’t need to mention this, but I have an extreme aversion to needles.
  3. Nurses have an unorthodox sense of humor. “Hey Hon, come check out this neat Youtube clip,” instantly raises suspicion after just one look at “World’s Biggest Booger” or “Boil Popping on Back of Neck”. I mean, ewwwww. One can never un-see these things. It is my opinion that this dark humor is a way to cope with all the yuck and gore, a chance to laugh at things that are even stranger than the stuff they dealt with that day.
  4. Nurses have vast repertoires of interesting stories, most of which you will never hear because of patient confidentiality. They might tell you about the patient who was crawling with bugs or the man who had no idea who he was, but you have a much better chance of finding out on Facebook that your friend was in the hospital than from that friend’s nurse. And that fear that women have, that somehow the nurses will leak how much they weigh? Not even a chance. They value their jobs and the patient’s dignity much more than that. As a nurse’s spouse, I really don’t find out much about his work unless I listen to the stories when a bunch of nurses get together. That is when the tales come forth that would make a stoic sniffle. Or a maggot gag. It just depends on what is being discussed. You can’t really shock a nurse, and they aren’t afraid to talk about anything when with their own kind.
  5. Nurses are not in it for the money. This is a myth that I would like to dispel. The vast majority of people wouldn’t even touch this work without a lot more pay. It may be a cliche, but it’s true: Nurses are kind souls. They are trained to cheerfully respond to the irritating person who is constantly ringing the bell for attention. They change diapers on adults. They have to be able to care about their patients, yet expect little thanks. Many times they provide care for those who are dying and carefully explain what is happening to distraught family members. These are not really things one does for money. When a patient returns to the hospital, healthy and full of gratefulness, thanking their health care providers for attending their needs in a vulnerable time, it makes a nurse’s day. That is why they do what they do. They really like to help people.


This is my favorite nurse. I am so grateful that he is using his gift to help bring healing and comfort to the world. (The schedule does stink, though, but that is just my personal opinion.)


Schlabach Family Camping

I guess it wasn’t actually camping. Since my siblings have all procreated fairly steadily in the last decade, we have given up on rough camping. We found a cabin large enough to accommodate our needs and converged there. This post will be mainly pictures, for those of you who know my family and are interested. Apologies to anyone else.

Here we have my parents, affectionately known as Pops and Mama. We are so glad they fell in love a long long time ago. We are even more glad that they kept on loving and raised us in a happy home.


Here is a line up of the offspring. It appears that we have now exceeded the bounds of one photo frame, so I have it in two. You can splice them in your mind right there by the little blue boy. There are five boys and twelve girls. Lots of drama in this family!

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I remember doing photo shoots like that when I was little. It was never as much fun for the children as the grownups. Oldest in our family is my brother Nate, who is turning 40 this year! Hi Nate! He and his wife are raising four lovely daughters.

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That’s Gabe and I with our crew in the second photo. Kenny is third in the line. We had the honor of meeting Jenica, the youngest of the entire crew, for the first time on this trip.

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Last, but certainly not least, there is Rachel and her family. She is turning 35 this year. Yup, that’s right. My Mama had four babies in less than five years. It was probably a lot of work for her, but it sure was a blast for us. For some reason Nate and I used to refer to Kenny and Rachel as “the little children” despite the fact that they were right on our heels. Probably that is why Rachel resented it so much when we called her the baby of the family.


I have one photo that deserves a spot as the most delectable meal I have eaten in a long time. Kenny’s wife Carma served us this plate full of flavors that were just delightful. I can’t remember what it was called, but it involved chicken and mangoes and cilantro, among other ingredients. Isn’t it so purrrty?


It was great to get away for a few days and just visit and eat and eat and visit. You know how it goes. It is also quite a bit more relaxing now that the most of the children play nicely together. The older ones found a game that kept them occupied for hours and hours. And the little girls… well they just kind of trolled around being mostly sweet.

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We are so blessed!


Living it Up In the Garden

Our family had a weekend with the in-laws in Rome, unplugged by necessity, but actually it is a relief to be unreachable. Well, they do have land lines, but you have to take a walk up the hill for cell service and while you are doing that you feel the ridiculousness of constantly glancing at the bars on your phone when there is a panorama of rare beauty in the Endless Mountains.

I got up this morning with one thing on my mind: laundry. We had some full hampers when we left, so there was plenty of it! Then I opened the washer lid to see the load of towels and washcloths I had put in so they wouldn’t get stinky while we were gone. Alas, they had not gotten transferred to the dryer and were just plain… searching for a word here…. putrid. Wow, I thought to myself. What a great start!

Then I took a walk outside, checking on the gardens. I noticed that the weeds grew about 18 inches while we were away. Seriously, if you take your eyes off those things… As I strolled further, I saw that the tomatoes are in full bloom. And the row of Amish Pastes that I planted for sauces, they appear to be cherry tomatoes. Wow, I thought to myself, that little green house lady just messed with my summer. We can never keep up with just one cherry tomato plant. How about a whole row of them??? Gabe said hopefully they will get bigger, like develop into Amish Pastes after all. I am not holding my breath. Oh, the drama that can attend gardening.

We have whopping big broccoli heads ready to harvest, and the constant flow of green beans. But the best of all are the raspberries right now. We eat all we want, enough to make us sick, and still there are more. It is lovely. Wanna see the new variety Gabe planted?


Aren’t they amazing? Five berries filled the palm of my hand. I am so grateful that Gabe takes care of the pruning and staking. Picking is more fun.

I also brought in our first cucumbers and sliced them up to eat with our breakfast eggs. They are so delightfully fresh that I think I will just throw out the store bought ones in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

On my way back into the house I noticed that the portulaca planted in the window boxes is nearly bursting itself with effort these days. My grandma liked these flowers, so in her memory I planted some this year. I had forgotten how sprightly and durable it is. I forget to water the window boxes too many days, yet it thrives. And every time I look at these flowers, I think of my grandma’s cement walkway scuffed by manurey chore boots going to the back door, yet bordered the whole length with a cheerful row of portulacas. That’s how my grandma was, and it makes me happy to think of her.


I just read recently that the purslane that is the bane of my garden is a relative of portulaca and it is edible. I bet my grandma knew that too. I remember when she showed me a cheese plant with its diminutive seed pod that looks like a tiny wheel of Swiss. She urged me to eat it, and after that the play with the cousins included some foraging for snacks in the weeds. If you like edible wild plants, check this out. Here is how it looks.


Now that the lettuce in the garden has bolted, I am considering a salad of purslane and mallow (cheese plant) with a generous side of freshly sliced cucumber. We could kill two birds with one stone, pull weeds and harvest lunch in one fell swoop. Sorry. It’s late and the idioms do tend to get out of the bag.

I LOVE this season even more than reading and writing. Maybe you noticed? I think heaven will be like May and June weather with the harvests of July and there won’t be weeds. I think heaven will be walking with my grandma through gardens that have no Japanese beetles endlessly chewing and making out in the raspberries. I think heaven will have plenty of zucchini for everyone but not too much.

What is your favorite thing about summer?


June Recap

Wow. Two whole posts in June so far. I have missed this creative outlet, but not enough to stop washing lettuce and picking daisies. I want a whole year of May and June sometime. Oh wait, that would be heaven, yes? So I will get it someday. Minus the weeds, but flooded with berries.

Speaking of berries, I promised some people a recipe. Every time I make strawberry jam, I feel shocked at the quantities of sugar. It just seems wrong to use more sugar than berries. Technically that should be labelled “sugar jam” in the freezer. One day a few years ago I got to chatting with my favorite greenhouse ladies over in the Cove. (The same ones who served me rhubarb punch this spring… What can I say, we like each other.) The one with 8 children told me she was making strawberry jam that morning, and when she got back into the house her children had eaten most of it with spoons. She seemed very jolly about it, but my eyes must have betrayed my shock, because she hastily reassured me, “It’s the kind with hardly any sugar! Have you tried that?”

I hadn’t even heard of it, so she filled me in.

Crush or chop berries in the blender until you have 4 cups.

Mix 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup thermoflo, (the bulk food variation of clearjel that is formulated for canning and freezing)

Mix all together in saucepan and cook until thickened. I always add a splash of lemon juice as well.

It sounded too easy not to try, so I went home and did it. My children love it! I think that is mainly because nobody polices how much jam they put on their toast when they are eating “Kid Jam”. I took this jam along to the school hot lunch. One of the boys sheepishly admitted to eating six bread rolls, just for the jam. And he wanted the recipe. That was the first time ever that a 7th grade boy asked me how I made something. :D Gabe doesn’t care for the texture, almost like a very thick strawberry danish, but I use it to sweeten his Greek yogurt in his lunch, and for that it is great. So I usually try to make normal jam too, for him. We go through a lot of kid jam in a year though. This year we bought cheap berries at Aldi’s for the jam, since we would be cooking them anyway. It isn’t as bright red as usual, but here you are, visual proof in the form of grainy cell phone photos:




Now that berry season is almost over, I helpfully give you the recipe for Kid Jam. Maybe you can try it on the overflow berries at the supermarket, too.

In the past few weeks so many things have happened that could distress one. The White House spotlighted in rainbow colors, ISIS atrocities, church people mown down with a gun in prayer meeting. More locally, my parents’ neighbor was tied down to a chair with wire ties by a person desperate for drugs. She sat there in her house, alone, for 2 days before her daughter found her. And now the news that my cousins’ Amish grandpa was brutally murdered in his home and his wife beaten severely.

The world is going mad. People are crazy, hopeless, dangerous. I hate the news.

God gave me this in Psalm 33:8-11, 20-22.

  Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
 For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.

 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.

 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

We just sang “Shout for Joy” in choir this spring, so this Psalm means more to me than before. I read it and hear the music in my soul. That part about the plans of His heart for all generations, that is the intimate hand of God over the unwitting, stubborn people of all nations. He hasn’t lost track of anybody, even the ones who seem to have lost their minds. My hope is in the steadfast love of the Lord!

I wish I could see the big picture, like, what? is going on here? But since I can’t, I rest in the assurance that God always has the final word.

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