A circus for all seasons

Recently, I was posed a very serious question in which I have now decided to reply with a very serious answer.

“So tell me the truth — the honest truth.  What is it like?”

“What is what like?”

“Your house — what is it really like at your house every day?  I’m trying to imagine it.”

As usual, “the word” was off my lips before my brain could even finish contemplating what she had said…

“Chaos.”  (Isn’t that stating the obvious?)

I am asked this question in some form or another all. of. the. time.  For instance:

“Are they all yours?  How’s that working for you?”  Yes, and you know?  Not so good today.  We have a few going to auction next Saturday if you’re interested.

“You do know how that happens right?”  Haha.  Absolutely and we enjoy it so much we aren’t willing to give it up.

“How do you do it?  Bless your heart!”  Oh, it’s simple.  We invested in strait jackets…for ourselves.

“All boys?  No girls?  I am so sorry!”  Not last time I checked and really, it’s okay.  God knows better than I do.

Of course, at that point during the exchange, both parties generally chuckle and I move on with my posse — but on this particular day — that didn’t happen.  The lady was standing there staring at me…waiting.

“Never a dull moment around our house.”  (Mentally adding another tally mark as to how often I have used that go-to gem.)

Still staring.

Oh, wow…she’s dead serious.

“Well, maybe you should just come over and observe for yourself.”  Smiling I grabbed my groceries and hurried out with the kids before she had a chance to ask me for my address.

With a week-long vacation bringing an opportunity for my brain to actually process new information, I spent a greater part of my quiet time reflecting on our family.

What is it really like at our house? 

After running through a long list of descriptive words, I have decided using television shows would probably be the best way to help paint a more accurate picture of our lives.

1)  Billy the Exterminator.  It never fails.  Whether we’re at the dentist or talking to some random stranger, anytime my kids are around the conversation goes something like this…

What my boys hear:  “Yeah yesterday I was out cleaning the yard and found a nasty black widow spider underneath my daughter’s toy lawnmower.  I quarantined the area until I could get back with a full body protection suit and dynamite to kill it.”

Their response:  “The other night we waited until it was really dark and snuck out onto the front porch with a flashlight.  You see, that’s when all the black widow spiders come out onto their webs.  We caught over twenty of them in a jar!  It was awesome!”

What my boys hear:  “I want you boys to come look at this five foot rattlesnake I ran over on the road in front of your house.  The snakes are really on the move right now and this thing could swallow a man whole!  I crushed her with my tires several times and she still tried to strike at me when I got out of the truck.  It’s a good thing I’m in my armored vehicle.  Those fangs could have punctured my door!

Their response:  “Uh…that’s not a rattlesnake.  It doesn’t have a rattle or a viper’s head.  It’s actually a coachwhip, sir.  They kill rattlesnakes.  We thought we found one the other day, too.  I grabbed the shotgun (rock, paper, scissors with mom…it was my turn to shoot) but when we got out there, we realized it was actually a huge hognose snake imitating a rattler.  We caught it and after playing with it for a while moved it back behind the barn.  It was so cool!

What my boys hear:  “I hate to say it but I think we’re going to have to burn the house down.  Last night we saw a mouse the size of a panther creeping across the kitchen floor.  I was so scared I couldn’t move!  We ended up sleeping in a hotel.  My husband called an exterminator but I just don’t think I can live here anymore.  I know it’s going to attack me in my sleep…those things chew people’s faces off.”

Their response:  “I got this awesome live animal trap for my birthday.  So far I’ve caught seven packrats in it.  The other night it got too cold outside and one of them ended up with hypothermia after it was trapped in the cage.  My mom put a heating pad in an aquarium for me to warm him up and try to save him.  He didn’t make it.  I felt really bad.”

2)  Bizarre Foods and The X-Files.  Truly, the goings-on of our kitchen deserve a post of their own.  I should probably refer to this area as the “science lab” instead.  It is the most used and abused place in the household.  There is always something cooking around here.

Sometimes it’s actually food…

My oldest son (many times assisted by his brothers) prepares most of the dinners.  Despite their fantastic (and very much appreciated) culinary skills, we are still working on the concept of cooking without having the surrounding area blowup.

It didn’t take long to realize they are just like me.  We are creators — which means the end product comes with an explosion while the brain is mid-inspiration.  Even though this method often throws our messy kitchen into what I have termed a “situation” (acute intervention level), new dishes like French toast eggs are born daily.

I am also — blessed — to have my countertops continually showered with gifts and valuable treasures.  Our kitchen is special in that it exudes the aura of a safe-haven where hunters and collectors alike feel the desire to hide (or display) their booty within her endless spaces.

It is not uncommon to find things like a rotting coyote skull next to the Rice Chex box.  (I was very appreciative the giver so graciously attempted to rinse away the maggots and decaying flesh first.)

Or the remnants of a grasshopper — dissected into several pieces with a butter knife — scattered lovingly across my granite surfaces.  (How many times do I have to tell them to use a cutting board??)

I have even been left a dead tarantula; dried stiff with such perfection that he appeared to be alive.

Secretly stashed on top of the glass plates in my cabinet, this spider’s lifeless body was flung onto my arm as I was setting the table for supper.  Thankfully, someone removed the tarantula and relocated him…to the towel drawer where I was again greeted by his hairy body as I reached in to grab my car keys.

(Unfortunately, I am sad to report that because of the recent untimely dea…disappearance of Snowflake, our solid white parakeet — guardian of our lab and blanket of sanity around my one-sided conversations while cooking — the bird cage hanging from the middle of the kitchen chandelier remains empty.)

3)  Clean House.  Mine is not.  While summer allows me to actually see my floors more than once a week, I spend a lot of time cleaning and reorganizing in an attempt to stay afloat.  Homeschooling means our house is very lived in and every room has a purpose.  Some contain cesspools with things like mosquito larva and tadpoles.  Others sparkle like diamonds from concoctions of glitter dust, glue, and paper.  Still others are packed with thousands of books and collections of rocks, dead bugs, and homemade weapons.

Our house is also the unfortunate recipient of reoccurring plagues in the way of flies, moth puke, cat hair, and worms (pinworms, ringworms, inch worms…live or dead we’ve had them all).

And scrubbing the bathrooms?  Just plain scary!  Anyone would be crazy not to go in decked out in a hazmat suit but I boldly brave the elements.  The smell is something akin to a port-a-potty mixed with a bubbling sulfur spring and decomposing carcasses.  I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not.

To little boys, the bathroom is a magical kingdom where the water runs freely and things flush.  The tub can easily double as a large toilet and running out of toilet paper just means you’re off the pot that much quicker.  Flushing?  Why would anyone do that?  We are all about water conservation around here.

My couches have morphed into a second pantry, dusting happens during Christmas when I hang the stockings on the mantle, and our yard…I think I’ll stick to just shaking my head.

Sure, I have been known to cry over an afghan that just will. not. stay. folded. no matter how many times I carefully spread it over the arm of our graffitied recliner (hey, we all know it’s not about the afghan) but as my dear friend Sarah often reminds me, “We are giving our children a good childhood.”

4)  WWE’s Raw and Ultimate Fighting.  I still don’t understand why it’s fun to be flung into the air and pinned with your arms and legs twisted behind your back but apparently, that’s exciting stuff.  Yes, I’ve read the hype on gender profiling in children and no, I’m not buying it.  God designed boys to be completely different than girls — that’s a fact — and if you don’t believe me, spend a weekend at my house sometime.  Boys are just…well, boys.

Boys are intense — and wrestling is the same as sleeping or eating.

“You took my favorite stick.”  —  Let’s wrestle for it.

“You ate the last of the Choco Chomp cereal.”  —  Let’s wrestle.

“Your foot is one inch on my side of the couch.”  —  Let’s wrestle for it.

“You were staring at me three seconds too long.”  —  Let’s wrestle.

“You can’t sit in the front seat twice in a row.”  —  Let’s wrestle for it.

“Your breath touched my face.”  —  Let’s wrestle.

Almost everything is resolved by a wrestling match.

I have considered wearing a referee shirt as part of my wardrobe because that’s what I spend a substantial amount of time doing.  Lots of dialoguing…lots of separating sparring bodies…lots of kicking them outside to work it out on their own.

Granted I often find myself, the innocent bystander, being unwillingly pulled into a mass mob of sweaty little boys by a grown man (aka, dad) and have learned some moves of my own.  Unfortunately this type of behavior has also muddied the boundaries of how to treat girls so we had to set some ground rules:

—  No “credit carding” mom (or anyone else) in public.  (This has happened on more than one occasion.)

—  No passing gas while sitting on girls.

—  No sitting on girls.

—  No shanking girls.

—  No mooning girls for fun.

—  No putting creatures of any kind in girl’s clothing.

We still have a long way to go in this area but after a lot of hard work have finally driven home the point that underwear (or lack thereof) and cowboy boots do not constitute appropriate play gear for outdoor baseball games or hunting lizards.

5)  Saturday Night Live on steroids.  I live with five comedians.  Their sensei (who also happens to be their dad) is very committed to training them in this area.

  Scaring people is invaluable.  Never let an opportunity pass…no matter what.  Biting and growling in a split second must become second nature as is being able to move in stealth mode — in the pitch dark — bearing plastic snakes and spiders for unsuspecting victims pulling into the driveway.  (Along with the ability to run…fast.)

—  Dancing, singing, and loud music is a way of life.  When you hear music (no matter where you are) you break it down and dance.  Period.  Shame is non-existent.  If you don’t know the words to a song — fantastic — making up your own is much better anyway.  Head banging to loud music (especially if it’s What Does the Fox Say?) is therapeutic and invigorating.

—  Entertainment comes in many forms other than something that must be plugged-in.  Having a catapult contest with contraptions made from Lincoln Logs and rubber bands is awesome — as is packing five giggling boys into a four by two foot horse trough to “swim”, intense Knockout games in basketball, impromptu talent shows, and seeing who can be bitten and whiskered all over their belly without even cracking a smile.

—  “Becoming an adult” means simply getting taller…and wider.  Growing into a responsible individual with integrity is important but around here, maintaining the ability to be easily amused, laugh at yourself, and act silly is touted as the key to lifelong happiness.

So maybe using the word “chaos” to describe our small world isn’t as accurate as I once thought.

Sure there are moments (upon moments) we sit there in a daze and think, “Just throw a tent over it and charge admission.”

But as I often say…

God knew what He was doing when He decided to bless us with five boys. 

What is our home really like?  Perfect — wild and untamed — designed with a brood of boys in mind and a mother who enjoys dirt and critters just as much as they do.

(Once again, I publicly apologize to their future wives.)  

Boy, (n) 1. noise with dirt on it.

Boy, (n) 1. noise with dirt on it.

Why are we losing our kids?

There seems to be a running dialogue within conversations and articles recently addressing the subject of parents “losing their kids to the world” when they leave home.  While this discussion has been thrown on the table before, the growing number of statistics citing numbers as high as 75% of teens setting their Christian faith aside after graduation is enough to compel any parent do a double take.

I’ll be honest with you–for the last (almost) thirteen years of being a mother, there are nights I’ve lost sleep over this one.  A people watcher by nature, witnessing strong, godly parents struggle with a child who has made the decision to turn away from their faith can shake your confidence to the core.

I know what you’re thinking: We can’t parent in fear.  Oh, I’ve been there a time or two…okay, A LOT over the years and am in complete agreement with you.  I have also grown to understand that there comes a point when our children are responsible for themselves and will make their own choices completely independent of us.  I get that.

BUT…in the same way that physical death (say a funeral) has a way of prompting us to consider our mortality–giving perspective to our fleeting earthly life; spiritual death of someone can often bring similar reflection.  When I read the statistics and observe the deep sorrow that arises in the “loss” of a child, I feel the desire to reevaluate myself as parent on occasion.

Not doubt–biblical examination–the use of God’s Word (our road map) to make sure my parenting is lining up with scripture.  

2 Timothy 3:16-17 — “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

So this:

2 Corinthians 13:5 — “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?”

Ends up looking something like this in my mind:

“Test yourself as a parent, Krysta, see if you are in the faith; examine yourself as a parent!  Or do you not recognize this about yourself, that Christ Jesus is in the way you parent–unless indeed you fail the test?”

Often, I fall short.  It’s in those moments of realization that I am all the more thankful for God’s grace and mercy.  Do I think I’m a “bad” parent?  Absolutely not.

But when I consider the virtue–striving for “moral excellence“–that 2 Peter 1:5 instructs us to add to our faith in order to cultivate a true and living faith, I can’t help but think of the positive impact applying this same principle to my parenting will have.

Virtue within parenting means that we are always seeking to hone our skills and make changes if we need to–never settling with just getting by.  (Ouch!  My toes are really getting stomped on at this point.)

After many years of contemplating the question from every angle, I still don’t have an answer as to why so many Christian teens are leaving their faith.  With endless amounts of books and articles being published on the subject, it’s clear that no one does.  We live in a fallen world.

As I look into the eyes of my own sons and ponder their child-like faith, I imagine the day I will release each one of them into the world with these words…

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

In that moment…that single step in which Will and I hand them back to God as He leads them into a life of service for Him, I pray that as parents we have lived and used His Word everyday of their lives to equip them in the best possible way.

For that is what God has asked of us.

May we as parents find perfection through Christ and may our imperfection be swallowed by God’s grace.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 


Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”


But am I enough?

(While fear is something all mothers face, this post is dedicated to the many wonderful homeschooling moms, some that I am blessed to know personally, and meant to address my experience with fear as a homeschooling mother in hopes of helping someone else struggling with the same issue.)

It was the fall of 2012.  Several weeks into our homeschool year, I found myself sitting cross-legged up in our attic.  The hot tears tracing a long path down my face emerged out of flashes of sheer anger towards an unknown offender, deep sorrow, and utter confusion as to where this new path was headed.

Sorting what seemed to be endless stacks of papers, priceless memories left undefined by ink raced unrepressed through my mind.  Grimacing, I experienced what it meant for the human heart to hurt; enduring an emotional pain that left me unable to catch my breath as I mentally tried wrap my thoughts around the question, “Why?”.

“Why God, am I so sick?  Why have I been brought to this place in my life?  Why must I do this?” 

Engulfed by boxes of worksheets, writing assignments, tests, drawings, crafts, and pictures; it was the image of a mother’s hands, my hands, diligently weaving Truth and a love only I could provide into the very hearts of my children that filled the emptiness of that hollow room.

I was in the process of being taught the most valuable lesson I have learned thus far as a homeschooling mother; a lesson that would drastically (and permanently) alter my perspective as a home educator.

Yes, Krysta, you are enough…

Many years ago, a lady asked me how long I’d been homeschooling and I explained to her that we were just starting. After glancing at the boys and curiously back at me she said, “Well, it seems to me as if you’ve been teaching from the time they were born.”  I realized there was a lot of truth in that statement.

As mothers, we are nurturers the day we are blessed with the arrival of a new baby.  Even from the time they are in the womb or simply a dream carried deep within us, we cherish a life we cannot yet hold and begin a relationship of love that is unconditional.  The greatest attention is given to shaping tiny hearts and guiding curious hands through an unfamiliar world.  We delight in our child’s innocence and laughter as they discover the beauty of a flower or experience the feel of water splashing through their fingers.

But somewhere in the beginning, tied up in our desire to “mother” properly, we begin to separate being the mom and the teacher.  This women, this nurturer, no longer exists as the same entity within our minds but two completely different beings.  Suddenly, the title of “mom” is not enough to educate and instruct.  As a homeschool parent, we begin to doubt our abilities and often find ourselves in a needless struggle to prove our competence to outsiders and please an often insatiable critic…


Shouldering a pack full of impractical expectations and unrealistic goals that were formulated in an attempt to smother doubt and alleged inadequacies, we step out onto an invisible battlefield.  Rooted somewhere within our minds, an unseen war is begun where we will never stand victorious.

We will lose.  Our children will lose.

As we trace each lie back to its origin, they hinge on one word–one solitary word that stands to rob us from obtaining the infinite blessings of homeschooling our children:


FEAR makes us disregard our purpose for homeschooling in the first place.

FEAR wears us out as we desperately try and mirror another homeschool family, instead of trusting God to show us the design He desires for our own.

FEAR drives us to take on too much within our classes so we don’t “miss” anything, causing everyone to become overwhelmed and burned out.

FEAR compels us compare our children to others.

FEAR finds us concerned about how people might perceive us.

FEAR lures us to give heed to Satan’s whispers of, “You’re ruining your kids.”

FEAR says, “It’s just not enough” until we believe the lie and throw in the towel.

Fear is paralyzing — rendering our homes unproductive.

Fear is NOT from God!

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Choosing to safely tuck away a painful memory, I sometimes allow myself to crawl back up those attic stairs and reflect on the day I realized I was homeschooling my children from a place of fear.

Swallowed so deeply by that unforgiving monster, I had traded in prayerful direction for the ugly lie that I was incapable of providing my kids with what they needed.  Compensating with ridiculous standards, my tainted view eventually transformed “success” solely into what could be seen and impossible perfection.  In short, I had created a situation where I was incapable!

Anytime fear is given a voice in the choices we make, there will always be toxic consequences that bleed into every facet of our home. 


Being saturated in a daily, self-inflicted stress, I eventually ceased finding joy in homeschooling.  The normal conflict that occurs as a child is trained to stay on task and complete their work cheerfully became a sign that I was failing.  Instead of working through those times and seeing them as an opportunity to produce lasting growth, I stood overwhelmed and consumed by a constant feeling of inadequacy.

In truth, my spiritual body was riddled with parasitic fear long before my physical body began to struggle with illness.  Our homeschool was in a tailspin–we were on course to crash and burn!

I may never fully understand the “whys” of sickness, “whys” of being brought to a crossroads, and “whys” of having to send my children to public school but those unanswered questions no longer matter…

I praise my God, my Refiner, for His purifying fire!  For it was through difficult trials–a road I would never have chosen to travel–that I was finally set free from fear!

1 Peter 1:6-7 – “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

As Christians, we readily acknowledge that we will undergo hardships, obstacles, sadness, growing pains, uncertainty, and at times complacency.  While each of these things may present a variety of challenges, we recognize they also serve as a means of cementing our reliance on God and an increase in spiritual maturity.

James 1:2-4 – “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

What I have learned is that homeschooling is much the same.

We will endure rough spots, high walls that appear to be impassable, frustrations, low points, muddled priorities, and in moments, the temptation to cry out in defeat.  Yet full reliance on God, replacing fear (lies) with complete Trust in Him, will carry us through those tribulations.  On the other side, we will emerge strengthened and refreshed in Him as through our weakness, He is able to accelerate spiritual growth within us.

We will be victorious.  Our children will be victorious.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

May we as homeschooling mothers embrace that as God’s intricate handiwork, we were situated carefully within His design–our homes–for a supreme purpose.  That special place crafted for us is lovingly called, “Mom”.  God has provided moms with His Word and a Spirit that intercedes, to equip them in all tasks.  He created “Mom” to be enough.

You are enough! 

Psalm 107:1  "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever."

Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”

[If you find yourself struggling as a homeschool mother (and we all will), prayerfully assessing your decisions for curriculum, schedules, extracurricular activities, and goals is a wonderful way to weed out problems.  In practicing this, I often discover I am forcing a piece that doesn’t fit our family in that particular season.  While homeschooling is not always easy, the blessings that flow from implementing God’s superior framework for our homes instead of our own are priceless!]