It all started my sophomore year of college. I was in a class on space and environment for the early childhood classroom and had to design an ideal pre-school teaching class. There was a girl in the class I knew from my freshmen year flirtation with the Baptist Student Union (I joined The Navigators, attended the BSU, and crashed Campus Crusade more often than not that year). The girl (whose name I fortunately can’t even remember now) was in several of my classes, and we got along well enough to partner up for the occasional group project.

Ahhh, the dreaded group project. I’m not sure whose brainchild the group project was, but it was obviously somebody who never actually cared enough about an end product to worry much about it. Group projects are the bane of every perfectionist’s existence, or at least of this one’s.

Anyway, we were told to collaborate with someone on our project for class – not to do it together, just to get together and discuss doing it. The expectation was that we would all draw out our own classroom and write a paper to go with it.

Way before paper crafts were cool, I had a love affair with construction paper. I never was that skilled with a pencil (though I can copy fairly well), but I was halfway decent with a pair of scissors and some glue. I made a killer preschool classroom out of construction paper and was super-proud of it

Until this girl came over to my dorm to “collaborate”. Apparently she thought my project was killer, too, so much so that she duplicated it. The only real difference between ours was that she used different colors and had the audacity to have hers laminated. Lamination covers a multitude of paper sins (it highlights a multitude of them too, but it that’s for another post).

Anyway, she didn’t bother to show me her project ahead of time, so I saw it the day we all handed them in. She gave me a casual glance out of the corner of her eye as she placed hers on top of the pile circulating the classroom. I turned 5,000 shades of red. I was *that* angry.

I saw it again when they were handed back. She got a higher grade on hers than I did. I’m still convinced to this day it was the lamination.


That following summer, Craig asked me to come to camp a week early to help make some of the camp decs that year. He didn’t know me well enough then to know that 1) I work best alone, 2) I usually know what I’m doing when given a specific assignment, and 3) I work best alone. He assigned me to a team.

I’ll make that long story short by saying that was a super-stressful week for me. And for Craig. And by the end of that week, let’s just say the team he had assembled had been reassigned to other projects while I was left in the corner of the dining hall with piles of poster board, construction paper, scissors, and glue.

It’s just part of my personality: I don’t play well in groups. I, like Mr. Incredible, work alone.

It’s hard to be part of a community when you have this mentality. How do you nurture and include all the various parts of the body when someone wants to be the whole dang body?

It’s a struggle for me. Recently I’ve started helping with a sewing project. All anyone in the group knew about me was that I could sew. We assembled but I deferred; I really didn’t want to make the project all about ME. Could I do it really fast by myself? Yes! Would it, for all intents and purposes, be what was expected? Yes! Would I have to waste time undoing what others mistakenly did? No!

But I deferred. And I’ve since had to re-cut a few of the pieces that had been improperly cut, as well as rip out a pretty large mistake and do it over. One part of me was all, “Why can’t I just do this alone?” Another part of me was all, “I’d have never known these three people at all if we hadn’t just spent these 4 hours together working on this project.” It’s a trade-off, one that is hard for a perfectionist to make. Craig deals with the same thing, and it’s only by God’s grace we ever got married (and still are).

Three weeks since starting this project, I’m reminded that getting people to commit loads of time is also a tricky part of community; in short, you just can’t really talk a handful of ladies into giving up several Saturdays to gather for much. Enter the “I work best alone” perfectionist, who happily offered to bring all the supplies home and work on them in my “spare time” (which I’m now doing).

My guilt is assuaged enough to know I at least tried to play well with others, and my inner-perfectionist is relaxed because I’m able to do this the way I really want to. This all feels great.

The only problem is I know functioning in my “communi-me” shouldn’t feel this good. Still, if independence is a drug, call me an addict. I’m sure God has my intervention planned even now…darn it.


So You Had a Bad Day

You had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around

We went camping on Friday night. 24 hours of great fun followed by several hours of “Seriously? This again?”

Sin gets old, friends.

But here’s the thing – it isn’t relegated to just Craig or just the girls or just me; it affects all of us and, when our guard is down, sometimes it really really affects all of us – at the same time. When that happens, watch out!

Mondays are long, good, long, hard, long. I already know to be careful on Tuesday: I need to let myself sleep in; I need to let the girls have a slow start; I need to not schedule anything extra. I know this already.

Yet, even knowing this, today I was snippy with everyone – short tempered, hard to be around, that kind of award-winning fun-loving mama.

I started the day off by posting this on Twitter: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Trying. Really trying this morning.

Three hours later, this: Ravioli out of a can today. It’s just *that* kind of day.

And three hours after that, this: Debating btwn
private school or cable TV subscription. I need someone else to step in
and help. Settling for PBS and a Little Debbie’s.

I don’t know what to do when this happens. I’m not used to feeling so out of control, so border-line depressive. I joked today that maybe I needed to get a prescription. I’m not sure it was that funny of a joke.

Maybe we started the school year at a full-speed sprint. Maybe I didn’t help pace us very well. Maybe we’re crashing too early.

Maybe it’s time for a fall break.


Because the Little Debbie’s didn’t really help that much.

Did I Mention We Need a New Freezer?

We had a couple of household issues over the past couple of weeks. I wrote about them at


Last week I went downstairs to pull some meat out of our deep freeze and noticed the seal on the door was no longer working. Our deep freeze has been on its last legs for a while, so I knew this moment was coming; I just didn’t expect it to arrive at 9:45 on a Tuesday morning. The last thing I wanted to do that morning was haul a quarter of a frozen cow upstairs to my sink, simultaneously announcing my plight on Facebook in hopes that somebody would come to my rescue by offering some freezer space.

The freezer needed to be defrosted. I just kept putting it off. But when the emergency hit, I sprang into action.

Just last night I took a closer look at my kitchen counter and saw a clear sticky substance gluing down everything from the food processor to the stack of small white boards I had left on the counter. I couldn’t quite figure it out, until I opened the cabinet above and realized that the last time my daughters experimented in the kitchen, they didn’t tightly close the lid on the corn syrup. Of course, the bottle got knocked over in the cabinet and now I have a(nother) mess to deal with.

The cabinet needed to be reorganized. I kept meaning to get to it. But now that there was an emergency, I sprang into action.

I’m sensing a theme here that I really don’t want to extrapolate into my relationships with my kids; yet just yesterday, one particular daughter and I had some relational struggles. At the urging of my husband, I decided to take her out for a little one-on-one time after picking her up from choir practice. It’s in these times that we’re both removed from the triggers of everyday life that tend to set us off—we see each other’s hearts and are able to catch a better glimpse of one another’s perspective.

Living this way isn’t easy; it’s much, much easier to close the freezer door and think, “I’ll just deal with that later,” or to look at the disorganized kitchen shelf and again, close the door for another time. But if I do that with my kids, I may find one of these days that not only is the mess still there, but the meat has spoiled and there are ants in the cabinet.

I don’t want to parent out of emergency. I pray God will attune my heart to the proper daily maintenance and initiative my family requires. Oh, and if anybody knows of a good deal on a deep freeze, let me know.

6 is a Serious Number

When you go to as many baseball games as we did this summer (ahem), you sorta get the advertising stuck in your head. Case in point:

We’ve heard this Mobile on the Run ad so many times we started singing it to Millie in honor of her upcoming birthday. It only made sense to turn it into the official party theme:

Millie's Birthday

This will be her first friend birthday party. Can you say, “Excited?”

Now then, to figure out how to get some corporate sponsorship on this thing… *grin*

So I’m a Seminary Dropout

Four years and two months ago, I started on a course to what I thought was a reasonable goal: Masters of Arts in Theological Studies in four years. Seemed reasonable in theory: we lived on campus when we began and Craig didn't have a job. All we would do for four years would be to live in the world of educational bliss.

That dream came to an abrupt ending the following March, when I realized that homeschooling four girls (well, homeschooling two and tending to a toddler and baby) while also trying to begin some writing jobs AND take two classes/semester just wasn't one of our better ideas. It sounded good, but the implementation lacked.

In short, I gave up the goal of the Masters; instead I switched to the Graduate Certificate, which really isn't even a Masters at all – just 30 documented hours of Masters level work.


I made peace with that decision and have been fine with it ever since…until this year – this, our fifth year of seminary, and my last year in which I could finish my Grad Cert for free. I have completed 26 hours. I'm just four short of that coveted piece of paper for a frame that will get put in a box and forgotten about two months later. Four hours short.

I enrolled in a three hour Access class for this fall, which meant I didn't even have to go to campus – I could listen to the lectures right here at home. I wouldn't really have a problem with getting the lectures listened to; it's all the joking reading and discussion forum requirements that ate my proverbial lunch.

I can't do it. Uncle.

Craig and I had a long talk the other night about all the various roles I've assumed over the past months/years. When we moved here, seminary was the only thing on our radar; now, we have a fairly established life and seminary gets a spot on the check sheet, but doesn't dominate the whole dang chart.

Tomorrow I will go to the seminary and sign the form that drops me from the class. Dropping the class means I will not complete the requirements for graduation. I will not get the piece of paper for my attic.

I am totally at peace with this decision, will not think less of myself, and will not cry.

I may have learned a few things these past 4.5 years after all.

Fall Fail

I once imagined myself to be the type to change out decorations with the seasons. I had an autumn bin, a Valentine’s bin, an Easter bin, several Christmas ones. I still have some of these, but for sure the Valentine’s bin is long gone and the Easter one just holds four pastel baskets and a plethora of mis-matched plastic eggs. I’m secure with who I’ve become. It’s totally fine.

But here’s the thing: while I do still have an autumn bin, I usually forget I have it until something pressing comes up that requires me to unearth it. That happened tonight. I needed to access the spools of fall colored necklace plastic stringy stuff (see? I lost my craft queen status a long time ago too) for one of the tutors for Classical Conversations tomorrow. While I was digging around for the string, I found my fall wreath for the front door (which proudly adorned our front door last fall…and winter…). I also found this cute fall pillow my friend, Monica, gave me a couple of years ago. I didn’t want to pull everything out of the bin yet, but did grab the door wreath and the pillow.

And then I did a double take on the pillow. Guess who accidentally packed an actual pumpkin last year? Any guesses? Care to know what last year’s small pumpkin crop looks like 12 months later? It looks an awful lot like this:

Moldy Pumpkins

Who needs The Moldy Peaches? I’ve got the makings for a band name right here. Maybe even an album cover.

Monica, I bring shame upon your crafting essence. I’m sorry I ruined your sweet gift with what can only be construed as mother-without-a-head sometime last year.

I’m a little scared to look into the rest of the box. I have no idea if I decided to pack just one live pumpkin, or a whole table set. Maybe it can wait until next year to find out? Okay, maybe not. I’ll look. Tomorrow.

Woody’s Demise


Dear Woody,

You’ve been a good family friend for many years and we’ve appreciated you very much. I know there was that one time when it didn’t really seem like we did and you got taken to Goodwill, but believe me: Katie seriously missed you. She missed you so much that you made another appearance into our home when she turned 5. You held a prominent place on her shelf right next to the red Cardinals Build-a-Bear, Molly the American Girl, and a few miscellaneous WebKinz. You were loved.

Then something happened; I think it could be age related, but I don’t know. You know we would never put you out simply for growing old, but there’s a reason they put that pull string in your back. It’s so you only talk when someone initiates conversation with you. When you choose to yell out, “THERE’S A SNAKE IN MY BOOT!” at 6 in the morning, I’m not exactly sure with whom you are talking. Your shenanigans this morning woke up both Katie and Millie, and can I just tell you that those two need a little extra sleep? And, while I know you’re just trying to be sweet and all, telling us we’re your favorite deputy at 6:15 a.m. just doesn’t serve anybody.

Woody, the time has come for us to part ways. May your road stretch ever before you, may your memories be sweet, may your toy story be one in which you find your way in this world…in a place far away from our bedrooms early in the morning.

Peace to you, Woody. So long, Pardner.

Science Buddies

Of all the subjects we do here at home, science is the one that is usually the easiest to drop. I'm not exactly sure why, but by the end of the day, if we still hadn't made it to science, I'd be all, "Oh, we'll catch up with it later."

Not this year. This year, my friend, Susan, and I got together and decided to do the same book: Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany. They also put out notebook journals to go along with it, and let me tell you, it's worth every penny. Why? Because I'm the kind of mom who says, "Sure, I can do that!" regarding all things homeschool and notebookish, but when it comes right down to it, I don't. We also each got a copy of this Botany Lapbook at the last conference we attended. 

All that to say this: in August, Susan and I mapped out which lessons we would do on which weeks. We planned to get all 8 kids together every Friday afternoon to do the big projects and experiments. We take two weeks to do one lesson and the same family takes care of those two weeks' worth of projects and experiments.

We just finished week 4 of our homeschool year and we've done science every single week now….including experiments and projects and everything. I like to call it "science accountability for homeschoolers."

Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about: I had the responsibility for the last two weeks and the experiment was to do a leaf skeleton. I needed to find washing soda for this experiment, but I had no idea what washing soda was. Normally I would have been all, well, let's just skip this one and read about it instead. But I had this pressure of knowing our friends were coming over, so I started hunting down some washing soda (Target doesn't sell any, in case you wondered). Dierbergs does, and it looks like this:


Even if I had resolved to do this alone, I would have given up after the first attempt to find it. I was pretty thankful I found it at the second store I went to. Here are the science buddies getting ready to attempt a leaf skeleton:

Science Buddies

Unfortunately, we experienced an experiment fail of highest proportions. But you know what? Experiment fails are much, much easier to handle when your good friends are over experiencing the same fail with you ("Oh, it didn't work? No matter. Want to go upstairs now and play?"). Besides, failed experiments are part of the scientific process, right?

We work on science for one hour (from 2-3pm) and then we release the kiddos to their own devices while Susan and I grab a drink and unload the week's troubles have the living room to ourselves where we reminisce about what a great school week we just had.

It's beautiful, really, and I have a feeling we're going to complete an entire year's worth of science this year because of it.

Following Up

In an attempt to follow up on all the Obama school speech stuff from this week, I put this up on today.

And that’s about all I have to say on that.


So did everyone survive this week? Obama’s school speech debate over now? OK, moving on . . . kind of.

One thing that really struck me in this week’s hubbub over the President’s speech to schoolchildren was how many parents were so volatile about their kids hearing it. It seemed many did not trust their schools (public or private) to adequately handle the speech and any potential discussion.

Here’s what I don’t understand: If you don’t trust an institution to do a good job of handling discussion in response to a 15-minute speech, what makes you trust them with the whole of your kids’ education the rest of the day/week/year? Especially if those teacher-led discussions are on the origin of the species or the great classics of literature?

My husband and I have always said we aren’t opposed to putting our homeschooled kids in public school. We believe that, with parental involvement, they could get a decent education at the ones in our area. But what will motivate me to put our kids in a Christian school if or when the time (and money) comes can be summed up in one word: trust—in the teachers, in the curriculum, and in the leadership.

If my kids are going to spend entire days with other adults in these formative years, I want them to be with teachers who have freedom to interact openly in spiritual discourse . . . with curriculum that doesn’t avoid hard questions and the accompanying hairy answers . . . with leaders who will challenge and mold my kids into leaders as well.

If trust isn’t firmly in place at the institution you’ve given authority and responsibility to teach your children, I’m genuinely curious: Why are your children there? Is it for financial reasons? Convenience reasons? Other reasons for a season? What is it?

Ac-cent-tchu-ate-ing Something

I've been on a teeter-totter this past week of both ends of the emotional/competent spectrum and I don't do the mood swing thing very well. No ma'am.

When I get stuck in this range of craziness, it seems I can't move past it; it's as though I'll never again move past it. Shut down, close the shades, stay in jammies, stay in bed.

The problem with this, though, is where my focus is: on me. Seems the only way to move past me is to just keep moving. It's hard to shut down and pull the covers over my head when I know I'm the one responsible for four girls' educations (not to mention their general well-being altogether). I can sleep until 8 on occasion (like today), but I can't stay in bed and read all day….eventually someone has to make lunch.

It also seems the only other way to move past me is to default to Lamentations 3:22-23: "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness."

Thanks for that, God. Now, some sleep. And tomorrow we begin again.