Musical Monday: Tetris

This looks like it would have been a fun concert to attend. And, yes, I could play Tetris for hours.

How Do You Do It All?

I stay busy. I like to. We farm. I homeschool. I love to cook. I write as a freelancer and work at my church. I teach a weekly drama class and we put on two productions per year.

People ask me how I do it all.

Honestly, I don’t do it all.

I don’t create my own homeschool curriculum. I buy premade stuff and we do the next thing.

My high schoolers use the virtual school.

I don’t get caught up in “growing everything we eat, making 100% of our food from scratch with all organic ingredients.” I do the best I can to fill empty tummies with good wholesome food, but I don’t stress about it.

Our yard’s not pristine and weeds grow in my flowerbeds.

My house is livably clean but quite disorganized and sometimes messy.

I sew but only specialty items that are expensive and hard to find…which means a prom dress or two per year. Maybe a baby quilt for a gift.

So how do I do it all?

Well, I don’t do it all.

Nobody does.

No one can homeschool with nothing but a library card, raise all their own food, teach their kids three languages, sew their own clothing, teach at the local co-op, run a homeschooling group, cook from scratch, and run a part time business from home while keeping a sparkling clean, Martha Stewart home.

It’s impossible.

As an experienced homeschool mom, I’d advise anyone who feels inadequate to evaluate their own family and their own priorities. Focus on the two or three things that are most important to you and your kids, and let the rest go. Take into account the ages of your kids and don’t stress about it.

You don’t have to do it all, and neither do I.

Forget about Pinterest-perfect, and Facebook-flawless and just live your life to the best of your ability.

It’ll be okay.



Making Siblings Best Friends

“I’ve heard so much good about homeschooling. I have friends who tell me their kids are each other’s best friends. I want that for my kids.”

My friend confided in me about her yearning to homeschool. The above line caught my eye, and it kind of bugged me. I’ve heard it plenty.

Homeschooling will bring your family closer. Your kids will love the sibling closeness it brings.



Maybe not.

I’ve been doing this a long time. My kids have never been in traditional classrooms. I have four of them.

We’ve gone through periods of time when they’ve been close and were able to play all day together.

And we’ve also gone through times when they couldn’t stand one another. The simple act of breathing was enough to send one kid into orbit.

And this was all during one week. Of course my kids love one another. It’s interesting to see how their relationships play out. At different stages they’ve enjoyed one another’s company more and less. I can’t wait to see how they interact as adults.


But I’d like to address the above fallacy in logic.

Homeschooling is no guarantee that your children will be close.

Moreover, there are a few observations that I’d like to make about siblings.

First, educational style has little to do with sibling closeness. There are homeschooled siblings who are close and those who are alienated. There are traditionally schooled kids who are both as well.

Second, your kids’ closeness will wax and wane through the years, depending on stage of development and personal interests. Some kids are close as children and grow apart as adults. Others are opposites as kids and grow closer as they mature. Looking at your kids in childhood, there’s no way of telling whether they will be close as adults.

Third, you can’t force sibling closeness. Politeness, kindness, and basic respect can be enforced, but kids are all different. They may choose an outside of the family person to be their “bestie” and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong if your kids prefer to hang out with kids who aren’t blood relatives.

Fourth, there’s a special bond between siblings. This doesn’t mean that they have to be best friends. It’s not an either/or dichotomy. Siblings can have special relationships while also nurturing friendships outside of the family.

Don’t choose homeschooling as an educational decision simply because you yearn for them to be close as siblings. In general, if you provide a healthy, respectful home, they will love and care for one another as they grow up. You don’t have to homeschool to do that.

Forced togetherness will not guarantee that closeness. In fact, if  kids are complete opposites and they have no choice but to ALWAYS hang out with siblings, they may come to resent their sibling more than if they have a choice in the matter and a break from the siblings. This is why you need to nurture friendships for your kids.

More on that tomorrow.

Rude Kids? Grumpy Kids? It’s Okay!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten so down because of my kids’ behavior. Despite my best efforts, I look at my kids and they don’t look anything like the kids that I’d imagined I’d have.

They’re bickering and fussing.

They’re rude. They call each other hateful, ugly names.

Even though I’ve nagged and griped, their socks are still in the floor, they burp at the table, and they hate to share their stuff.

I think, “What kind of a mom am I? Why can’t I do something about these kids?”

After all, I’ve been in this job for years. And even though I’ve been consistent, bordering on rigid in trying to instill basic decency in my kids, sometimes, I look at them in exasperation.

My exasperation turns inward, and I wonder how badly I am ruining my kids.

This is pretty common. It’s too easy to believe the lie that good kids are made by good parents. You see polite well-mannered kids in public and think that the other moms know something that you don’t. Their kids don’t whine and cry. Their kids don’t call each other names like “booger lips” and “poop face.”

Let me tell you a secret.

Even the very best families have their moments. The moments when their kids are mean, hateful, unkind, selfish, and rude.

Some kids take correction better than others. Others can be a bit defensive and argue with you about everything.

Some kids are naturally more compliant than others. Other kids have more defiant natures.

Some kids are more empathetic and others are more naturally self-centered.

Some kids are better at picking up social cues and others have to be explicitly told things like “For the fifth time today, will you PLEASE get your hand out of your pants!”

Just like some kids are neater and others are sloppy, personalities are a huge part of how your kids behave and how they treat one another. None of them are born automatically knowing how to resolve conflict, treat one another fairly, and be polite.

It’s all too easy to look to the future and imagine your son calling his children hateful names and your daughter screaming and slamming doors when angry. And then you jump to, “It’s all my fault!”

Take heart, dear mama. Your kids don’t misbehave because of you. They don’t say horrible things, shove their siblings, tease, pass gas at the table, mess up the house, and argue because you can’t get through to them.

They do these things because they are kids. And this is how most kids act from time to time. Had Jesus himself raised children, he would have dealt with many of these same behaviors.

I have a few pieces of advice for you if you’re feeling like an utter failure in training your children.

First, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t out to get you and their behavior is most likely not a reflection of your parenting skills. It’s just kid stuff. And so often the bad behavior is just a reflection of their sin nature combined with immaturity.

Second, do your best. I’m not telling you to quit trying or to ignore bad behavior. Just hang in there, be consistent, firm and kind, and keep going.

Third, don’t draw conclusions about the future based upon today’s misbehavior. This will suck you into a weird place that you don’t want to be. You will panic, thinking that everything has to be fixed right NOW!

Fourth, read a few parenting books if there are particular behaviors that are troubling. But don’t get all caught up into one parenting philosophy that says “You have to parent this way.” or “Your children will only serve the Lord if you parent like this.” Remember that there are no guarantees in parenting. Better yet, talk to parents who have well behaved children, especially if they are older than yours. Ask them what they did about fighting, drama, undone chores, or tantrums. Always be flexible and go into these conversations looking for ideas rather than a magic bullet to “fix” your children.

Sometimes parenting is discouraging. But stay the course and remember that you can do this!

Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday, I took my girls to the Roxy in Clarksville, Tennessee to see a performance of The Taming of the Shrew as a homeschool field trip.

I loved it, and so did my girls. My youngest daughter, who is only 11, said ” Well, I didn’t understand a word they said, but by watching them, I knew what was going on. It was funny.”

See, that’s the beauty of Shakespeare onstage. Shakespeare was never meant to be read from a book. The full effect of Shakespeare’s scripts only occurs  when a troupe of actors takes those words and magically transforms them into stories.These stories, when done well, are interesting and often hilarious. Even a younger child like my daughter, who may miss some of the beauty of the words and dialogue, can follow the story.

Taming is my number one favorite Shakespeare play. I love wordplay and repartee and this play has so much of it. Another thing that a well done version of Taming of the Shrew contains is lots of physical humor. Yesterday’s fight scene between Petruchio and Kate was one of the best that I’ve ever seen. And yeah, I’ve seen many versions of this play.

Things I liked about the version we saw yesterday:

  • Kate, played by Margaret Eilertson, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. She did an excellent job of demonstrating the subtle shift between “Katerina the Cursed” and “Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate” who comes to love Petruchio. Also, Eilertson’s presentation of the Kate’s final monologue, scolding the other women for their selfish, disrespectful attitudes toward their husbands, was the absolute best I’ve ever seen, including the one that Liz Taylor gave in the 1967 movie version of the Taming of the Shrew.
  • I loved the costuming. The Roxy presented this play in the style of the 1920s and 1930s. I love it when people adapt Shakespeare’s works to other time periods.
  • Petruchio was masterfully played by Jonathan Whitney, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Flynn Rider from the Disney movie Tangled . With Kate having such a strong personality, it takes an equally strong one to stand up to her and make it believable. Despite an unfortunate pair of pirate pants (I could feel myself blushing…yikes), Petruchio was very well done.
  • Sometimes in these plays much attention is given to the lead roles and the supporting cast is rather mediocre. However, the other actors were great too. We especially loved Jay Doolittle’s Baptista (he was so cute!) and Michael Klug’s Gremio. Bianca was played by Emily Rourke, and we all wanted to slap her, which is a sign of a well-played Bianca–she’s supposed to be a manipulative, little snot.

A few cautions. First, King James English is used in Shakespeare of course, and the three letter word for donkey, considered crude in modern times, is sprinkled through the play. I just talked with my girls about that afterward. The make-out scenes between Bianca and Lucentio are ummm…very realistic. One of my friend’s daughters commented, “That kissing stuff isn’t as gross in the movies as it is in real life.” Considering that the Roxy is a small theater and we we sitting near the front, my 11 year old was about 10 feet away from some rather amorous behavior. I think she’s decided that kissing is  really disgusting and she’s going to avoid that for pretty much forever. I was a little nervous about taking my youngest to the play since Shakespeare can be a little raunchy, but overall, it wasn’t too bad.

Now that I’ve seen the Taming of the Shrew onstage, this weekend I am planning on watching my favorite movie version of this story, McClintock, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. While this movie was made a very long time ago, it’s still fabulous. This is a Western, cowboy version of Taming and I so love Maureen O’Hara in it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Taming of the Shrew as presented by the Roxy. I hope in their next season they include another of Shakespeare’s comedies, because I will be there.

Book Review: 40 Days of Decrease–Fasting at a Whole New Level (I’d rather give up food)

Usually when people talk about fasting for Lent, it’s about giving up a luxury or a fun item as a sacrifice to remind them of Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

However, the book that I just finished reading this past Lenten season takes fasting to a whole new level.

Forty Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole is a 40-day-long daily devotional book that walks the reader through Jesus’ ministry, especially focusing on the final few weeks of his life. Each day, a short devotional is presented along with a Scripture reading. A few thought provoking questions are given with some journaling space for a few reflections. Also, the author includes an interesting history of various Lenten traditions.

But that’s not what makes the book special. At least for me.

The author challenges the reader to participate in a series of fasts, a different one each day. And these fasts go above and beyond giving up chocolate, soda, or television. She asks us to fast other things.

Things like a critical spirit.



Guilt from the past.

Honestly, I think I’d rather give up food. These fasts are HARD! I mean, how many times a day do I mentally (or verbally) complain? How many times do I mentally compare myself to someone, usually so I can prop up my ego with pride or beat myself up?

But, isn’t that the point of fasting? Not only to give up some treasured luxury, but to make us as Christians grow closer to Jesus. These fasts really do this. In fasting one bad habit at a time,(okay…sinful habit. There. I said it.) I learned that I really do have some hard work to do in my Christian life.

See, I must confess that I usually feel pretty good about my Christian walk. I don’t swear. I don’t typically lose my temper. I don’t cheat others, I dress modestly, and I read my Bible every day. (well…almost every day.) But, Christianity is so much more that just avoiding the BIG sins. Those “little” sins, ones like pride, complaining, and anger, affect me just as much as the biggies. In fact, in just considering them as no big deal, I am making a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.  These fasts really made me conscious of how wretched I am without the blood of Christ covering my sin.

Now,  this book is not designed to make you beat yourself up. Many of the fasts are positive in nature, focusing on loving others, and the common thread that runs through each daily devotional is a great rejoicing in the Grace given to us through Christ. The author seems to hope that in reading this book we can come back to the true meaning of Lent–a time of meditation, rejoicing and sacrifice which reminds us of our wondrous Gift of Grace.

While I did receive this book for free from in exchange for my review, this is one book I will probably read again and again. In my opinion, it was a wonderful way to usher in the Lenten Season and refocus my heart on what really matters–pleasing my Jesus and growing to become more like Him.


Piano Guys Concert!

My family doesn’t spend tons of money on entertainment. Ball games, movies, plays, and concerts seldom happen. But when I saw that The Piano Guys were coming to our area this spring, I knew that I had to go.

My oldest daughter turned 18 in December and I gave her 2 tickets for the concert.

My second daughter turned 14 in January and she got a ticket too.

Of course, they needed someone to drive them….so I *had* to go too.

And I gave my brother a ticket too.

My daughter invited her very best friend and we made an evening of it.

It was totally worth the money. We had an amazing time, and if you ever get the chance to go, you will enjoy it too. I really love how John Schmidt totally embraces the dorky dad role.

Here’s one of my favorite pieces that they did last night.



In Christian circles, no discussion can get more contentious than the modesty debate. And yet, I am going to wade right into it. This is a minefield, and I hope I don’t blow it!

Modesty discussions make me want to scream.

There are two extremes generally presented. One extreme (this is a slight caricature!) goes: Men are hormonal creatures, who, when presented with the image of an unclothed (partially or fully) female form, lose all control of themselves. While many times, they may never act out on these impulses, their brains replay the visual and they fall into lusting constantly. These ladies, to try to help their Christian brothers with their proclivity to sin, wear long skirts (pants outline the legs which may cause lusting) baggy tops and never show bare arms, anything close to cleavage, etc.

These women take responsibility on themselves for the thought lives of others and worry about tempting someone else all the time. I understand the angle at which they are coming, and I appreciate their consideration, but I do not agree that someone else’s thought life is my full responsibility. I also fear that young ladies raised in this mind set can be overcome with guilt if they accidentally have a wardrobe issue or are sexually harassed or even raped.

The other extreme of modesty (another caricature) is “Wear whatever you want. Heck…go naked if you like. Let other people worry about their own sin and you enjoy yourself.” This view is the opposite extreme and I feel is a little inconsiderate and somewhat unrealistic. Of course, people can be distracted by our clothing. This is why in professional environments, there is a dress code for men and women alike. Also, this view can set up, in Christians, the idea that we have no responsibility to those around us, to portray ourselves as God-honoring people.

And yet, in my own family, the idea of “modesty” as a reason to choose or not to choose a certain item of clothing just doesn’t register very often.

Thankfully, my daughters have plenty of sense when it comes to how they dress. We do have a few issues here and there, but it’s not because of “modesty” per se.  Generally, it’s due to my middle school aged kids figuring out what works for their own bodies and what items of clothing are both cute and functional.

See, that’s one thing that frustrates me about “modesty rules.” Different body types look different in certain styles. What works for the tiny, 5 foot tall skinny girl, looks totally different on a curvier, taller, more mature body form.

Here’s another problem with “modesty rules.”

My daughter gets very frustrated at the summer swim rules at Christian camps. She wears a tank top type swim top with board shorts. Nothing in her midriff ever shows, and she’s covered from shoulders to mid-thigh. But because her swimming attire is two pieces, she has to wear a t shirt over it. However, a young lady in a traditional one piece swimsuit doesn’t, despite the fact that more skin is showing.

Ladies sit near the community swimming pool: Fort Lauderdale, FloridaRules don’t take common sense into account. They don’t take individual body types into account.

Modesty rules can’t make a person with a lustful, flirtatious heart pure.

Modesty rules can’t keep men from lusting.

Modesty rules can make young ladies ashamed of who they are and how they look.

Modesty focus helps men (and women) avoid their responsibility to “not look”  and avoid the blame for their own undisciplined minds.

Modesty rules make people judge the hearts of others without getting to know them, based solely upon the clothing that they wear.

And most modesty rules focus solely on women and how they dress, while permitting guys to dress however they want. They deceive women into thinking that lust is only a sin that guys commit.

This is why I steer away from a set of “rules” about modesty.

So how does it look in my family?

We try to dress appropriately for the activity. Jean and tees are for around town or working on the farm. It’s not modest to climb fences and ride horses and jump on a trampoline in a dress. Swimwear means we wear clothes that work well in the water (a wet, clingy tshirt is not any more modest than traditional swimwear). If we took ballet or gymnastics, we’d wear clothing that was appropriate to that activity. Trying to cover up with yards of fabric at an activity when everyone else is wearing something form fitting draws more attention to oneself than just wearing the appropriate attire. (of course that is a generalization, I know. Use common sense in this area)

We value comfort.

Prom dresses= no strapless. We’ve been to weddings and parties where we’ve noticed ladies continually pulling up the tops of their strapless dresses and that’s just tacky. So we find something that won’t fall down when my girls move. And we don’t throw out our common sense about our clothing just because it’s prom season.

We wear long tanks under certain shirts because nobody wants to see back/crack. We wear tanks so when we bend over so people aren’t flashed. Skirts—When you cross your legs, what shows? When you bend over, what shows? If you’re going to be onstage in a skirt, you need to wear a longer one, so the audience won’t see up your dress.

When we choose clothes we think past just “Does this look cute when I’m standing in front of the mirror?” but also, “How does this look when I move like most normal people move?”

I focus less on “modesty” or “messages we send to guys” as I do on what looks lovely. What works for the activity. What portrays respect for those around me and for my own body. What’s comfortable without having to be constantly tugging. What won’t be distracting to others. (Including both guys and girls because too much of anything showing on a male or female body is distracting to everyone) What will help others take me seriously as an intelligent person.  And here’s my biggie: What is flattering? Because many styles, while they are stylish, just aren’t flattering to most body types.

So that’s my take on modesty. It’s not only about certain types of clothes. It’s really about the heart.

Book Review: Who Are You To Judge?



Sound judgement.

These things are often in short supply in 21st century America. Sadly, they are seldom found where you’d think they would be easily found–in Christ’s church. One of the most misunderstood Scriptural quotes in modern times is Christ’s command to “Judge Not.”

In his book Who Are You to Judge?, Dr. Erwin Lutzer addresses the topic of discernment and judging. This timely book boldly takes the whole of Scripture to discuss sound judgement and its place in a Christian’s life.


Modern America proclaims that all versions of truth are equally valid. Right and wrong are simply a matter of opinion and there are no moral absolutes. In fact, the only judgement that is acceptable is to judge other people who have the nerve to be judgmental!

Sadly, these attitudes have crept into Christianity. Even Christians have been deceived into thinking that unity and love are the most important thing. They believe that love and unity are even more important than doctrinal purity, truth, and holiness.

And yet, even those Christians who do have sound judgement struggle to understand the balance between love and unity versus truth and righteousness. In this book, Lutzer takes on the challenge of parsing out what the Bible says about sound judgment and discernment. That’s one thing that I liked about this book. It’s not just one man’s opinion. This book is saturated in Scripture and wisdom, sharing God’s view of truth.

Lutzer not only talks about how we got here, recounting the slow slide from our nation’s Judeo-Christian roots to post-modernism, but he addresses specifics that Christians may struggle with in developing a God-centered basis for sound judgement. Some topics included are:

  • Doctrinal purity–I enjoyed this chapter. Lutzer rises above some of the different interpretations of certain Scriptural passages to describe the “deal breakers” of Christianity.
  • Judging false prophets
  • Judging miracles
  • Judging entertainment–This chapter is spot on. I don’t understand why Christian families often allow such vile things into their homes under the guise of “entertainment.”
  • Judging appearances
  • Judging witchcraft and fantasy
  • Judging character

One part that I especially appreciated is in chapter 10, when Lutzer discusses judging the conduct of others. The challenge is to reconcile “becoming a stumbling block to others” versus being confident in your own judgements. Lutzer does a great job of explaining the differences between the two and when we as mature Christians should abstain from certain “gray areas” to help other “baby Christians” not falter in their faith. This has always been difficult for me to suss out, and Lutzer explained clearly how the two views can logically co-exist.

I love that Lutzer is kind and loving in his statements, yet he does not shy away from being very, very direct. Additionally, Lutzer’s tone in this book is humble. He does not judge arrogantly, spouting his own opinions as the absolute truth, but always points the reader back to Scripture. In places where the Scripture is less clear (such as in the chapter about fantasy and magic when he discusses childhood fantasy fiction like Harry Potter) he does present his own views, his logic on how he came to that view, and allows the reader the freedom to read the Scriptures and come to his own conclusion.

I am actually hoping to share this book in Bible study form with a some teens that I know. I feel that it will be very helpful to many of them who are just a few years away from leaving home and attending college, many of them secular colleges. I’ve been looking for such a book for awhile as my oldest daughter will be attending a state college come this fall.

I did really enjoy this book. If you are wondering how you can stand firm in the landslide of post-modernism, this book will probably help you immensely.  While I received this book for no cost in exchange for a review, my opinions are my own honest ones.


Getting It Done

Over the past few years, my part time work has gradually ratcheted up. I’ve also taken on some duties at our church and began a drama class that consumes at least six hours a week. Despite my other interests, we still have to tackle schoolwork and take care of our farm animals. All that to say, we’re pretty busy people and I have to be quite intentional about getting important stuff done.

So how do I do it? Well, here are a few tips that I’ve used through the years to stay on top of things. Of course, I frequently get behind, but when things are working well, these are the things that I do.

Make a list. I usually make a couple lists. I make a weekly list and a daily list. Sometimes, if I don’t have a pile of stuff on my weekly list, I just check things off of it and don’t do a daily list. But, if there’s a ton going on, I tend to get overwhelmed with a huge list of my whole week’s chores, so I need it broken down into daily tasks. Furthermore, I will break down my daily list into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks to keep myself on track. Everyone know that “If mom doesn’t write it down, it doesn’t happen!” so, my family makes sure that things get jotted down on mom’s notepad. These lists aren’t complicated, but I usually make them on a steno pad or other notebook that lives on my counter. Otherwise, the lists get misplaced.

Delegate. First thing in the morning, I decide which chores will go to which kid. If I don’t consciously make these decisions when I am planning my day, I tend to try to do too much while the kids sit around and do nothing.

Use Pre-Planned curricula. As much as I love the idea of curricula that combine library books, art projects, printouts, and lots of informal learning, I’ve figure out that they are not for me. I need things that are open and go. If things get crazy, those planning-intensive programs will not happen. So, I’ve chosen things that don’t require lots of prep work from me.

Simplify where at all possible. My meals are tasty and nutritious for the most part. But they are not extravagant. Most of our meals are 30 minutes or less of prep. On days that I have to leave the house in the afternoon and won’t get back until late, I plan a quick and simple or crock pot meal. Also, my kids eat (gasp) cereal for most breakfasts. I like to cook, but I don’t have time for extravagant at this time in our life. At least not on school days.

Use little chunks of time. Many tasks can be broken down into 10-15 minute increments. Don’t have a huge block of time to clean the living room? Tackle it ten minutes at a time. You can clean out the couch, dust, or wipe the baseboards in ten minutes at a time. If you do this a couple times per day, your living room will be clean by evening. Don’t waste those tiny fragments of time that come your way. If I pay attention, I can use them to get things knocked out quickly. I timed myself once. It takes me less than 5 minutes to unload the dishwasher!

Don’t get behind on dishes or laundry. If I do nothing else with housekeeping during the day, I always do dishes before bed and a full load of laundry, including folding and putting it away.

Don’t get more than a week behind on grading papers. I hate grading papers, but it’s worse when it’s a huge mound that takes an hour and a half to plow through.

Just one more thing. I know, at the end of the day, you’re tired and so am I. But sometimes, I need to push through and finish that one more thing before I quit for the night. Clear that counter. Fold that laundry. Straighten up the living room. Just do that one more thing before you quit and that’s one less that will be staring at you in the morning.

I still get woefully behind on certain tasks. However, by using the above tips, I generally can avoid my work becoming overwhelming. Remember, if everyone has clean socks and undies, and a full belly, you can live to fight another day.





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