I stopped shaving my pits.

I started shaving when I was 12. The girls on my 6th grade basketball team, Desiree and Rosie, informed me that it was time for me to get rid of that leg and underarm hair.

I remember the night vividly. I called my mom into the bathroom AFTER I had done the deed and asked, “Did I do this right?”  Better to ask forgiveness than permission, you know?  Mom graciously explained that she wished I had waited and kindly laid out the scenario that I would henceforth be shaving for the rest of my life.

Although I have always been a little bit crunchy, the practice of pit-shaving has been part of my world for 3 decades.

In November, my daughter turned 11. Over Christmas, she revealed to me her underarm hair and inquired, “Mom, at what age do girls start shaving?”

“It varies for everyone.” I reply.

“When did you start shaving?” She pushes.

“I started when I was 12, but only because of peer pressure. In fact, I wish I had waited.”

She adds, “Aunt Tawnya doesn’t shave. And she is an adult. Do girls HAVE to shave?”

“Girls do NOT have to shave. In fact, IMG_1075I will grow out my armpit hair with you, just to help you see that it does not matter whether or not you shave. And we can go as long as you like.”

We discussed the topic at length – issues of gender, issues of culture and era. We discussed all the hair removal options available to women, as well as all the areas on the body where one might have the desire to remove the aforementioned, unwanted hair.

My girl is 12 now, and both of us are still sporting our pit-hair.

I share my story with you for this reason:

I had two choices in my response to my daughter. 1) I could tell her that yes, now is about the time that girls start shaving their armpits and their legs. I could have taken her into the bathroom and demonstrated how to use the razor. We could have shared a mom/daughter moment, not to mention that selfishly, I could redeem the experience I chose to cut my own mom out of.

2) OR, I could communicate the message that regardless of social pressures, her choice to shave or not shave is just that – – a choice; her choice. And I could seize a life-lesson moment, downloading her with the necessary education and tools to make an informed decision.

Will there come a day when she decides to go ahead and shave? Perhaps.  But when that day comes, she will know that her choice arose from a place of understanding and full knowledge, as opposed to a fleeting wave of insecurity brought on by outside forces.

But as for me and my pits, we have decided to remain au natural. 😉

Traditions: 4th of July at the Ranch!

For the 3rd year in a row, we have been at the ranch for Independence Day.  The first year, we just happened to schedule our visit for the first week of July.

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The second year was more intentional, because we had such a great time the previous July.  Isn’t that how traditions get started?

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This year is much different.  We are home, home on the range. We are here to stay. But now, we are inviting cousins, sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces to join in the fun!

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For July 2016, we will have even more of the family represented  –  already making plans.

Trying to be intentional about memories. Intentional about traditions.

The best kept secret on Easter Sunday

Sunrise service.

Welcome to my yearly rooftop rant about how the Sunrise service saved Easter.

Disclaimer: yes, I love Jesus and yes, I know that Easter Sunday is about the Resurrection and not about my distaste for girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes.

4 years ago, after having begrudgingly attending Easter Sunday 3 score or more, I decided to look into which churches offered a Sunrise service.  I found several, and two United Methodist services in particular.  A sudden wave of relief washed over my soul.

I did not buy an easter-dress-and-shoes-to-match for my daughter ($30+ purchase, for a single use). I did not buy two new button-down shirts, or clip-on ties for my boys ($30+ purchase for a single use). Forget about the money, 3 knock-down-drag-out-kicking-screaming-tantrums successfully averted.

And a new tradition was born.  And I love it. And my family loves it. And the dog loves it.

Our leisurely schedule for Easter Morn.

5:00am Wake up. Don’t shower or comb your hair. Just get dressed. Oh, and it is still cold so bring your fleece. And a blanket.

5:30am Grab the fold-out chairs. Load up. Don’t forget the dog (Apollo loves Jesus too, and this is the one time a year he is invited to attend worship).

5:55am jovially park the car in the uncrowded lot. Join 20-30 other brilliant, non-frantic, happy humans.

6:00am Worship the Risen Savior and watch in awe at God’s creation – the risen sun.

Hey, I hope this doesn’t sound judgy. You may enjoy the pomp. And that’s ok. I share your high regard for pipe organ and a 150 person choir – I really do. But I chose to leave it on Easter Sunday to free myself of all the other trappings that accompany it, things I allowed to trip me for many years. Now, I look forward to Easter. And I model to my children a good attitude on Easter Sunday! We attend the service. We shake hands and take pics against the backdrop of the morning sun. At 7, we head to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. We chat and feast, then sit on the porch in their rocking chairs and play checkers. By 9am we are back home, purposefully planning our day together.

Sometimes we go hiking. Sometimes we see a movie in the afternoon. Sometimes we simply stay home and play games do crafts. But EVERY TIME, we experience a low-stress, high-touch intentional family Sunday.

You’re welcome.


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As parents, one of the things we always try to be mindful of is the idea of Anchors. What anchors are we planting into the hearts and minds of the children?

When they look back at childhood, what are the memories that will stand out to them? Hiking on Sundays?


Once a year trip to the same beach/beach house? Once a year trip to a random destination? And what about holidays? Easter? Thanksgiving? Christmas?

My point is: we talk about it.  It is always on our minds. We want to provide a childhood which offers anchors for our children to hold on to.  Anchors that allow them to navigate the chaotic times, knowing that there are also moments of stability, stasis, sameness, and believability. Anchors to sit and breathe. Anchors for calm and meditation. Anchors for dreaming and visioning.

Ponder the anchors you are providing for your people. Be intentional. Be authentic. Be.

Who knew this one thing could make all the difference?

I read somewhere that kids like checklists.  I’m not much of a checklist person, but when we are cleaning or have a long day of running errands, I occasionally jot one down – particularly because my detailed and meticulous 11 year old enjoys working from them.

One monday, on a whim, I decided to make a checklist for school work.  Using a blank piece of copy paper, I sectioned it into 3, and wrote down the day’s assignments, and threw in a daily chore task list on the bottom.  When the kids woke up, they’re eyes lit up with excitement. They all three got straight to work, eager to accomplish a task and check it off.

A couple of months have gone by now, and I have modified the list.

Each child has their own list now, individual, customized list. We gettin personal here y’all.

Whitby’s list

We print the list weekly to make it relevant to our current school schedule. But I try to keep the majority the same – believable and achievable.

This one practice has revolutionized my school day.

I know, if you are thinking DUH, “I have been making lesson plans since kindergarten.” Well, then this post isn’t for you. You are obvi the ascended homeschool mom who has no need for my mind-blowing insights.

Homeschool mamas working on the physics of balance….

When you plan a playdate for the children, take the opportunity to go play with your friend!  Do some #yoga, or climb a tree! Play in the sand or swing on the swingset.  Not only will you have WAY more fun than just sitting at the table drinking coffee, but the kids will love that you are being active – – you might even join in a game that they are playing.  Now that’s a novel idea!!

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Dear homeschool mom who is opposed to everything…

You are opposed to so many things. It must be exhausting. How are you still functioning? Do you see goodness? Do you see beauty?  Or is life a boxing ring where you are constantly having to put up your dukes?

You are opposed to yoga. Oh, and yoga pants.

You are opposed to Minecraft (a children’s video game in which the player builds stuff out of blocks).

You are opposed to wine.

You are opposed to anything OBAMA.

You are opposed to wearing jeans to church.

You are opposed to science – at least to all science that does not support your young-earth creationist construct.

You are opposed to Warriors books (a children’s fiction book series about cat clans).

You are opposed to Pokemon (a vintage TV series about strategy and friendship).

You are opposed to tanktops.

You are opposed to organized sports.

Newsflash. You might be the reason people have a stereotype about homeschool moms. You might be the reason I want to lose my religion.


(Edited Tuesday Aug. 26th: DISCLAIMER – I apologize for negativity. I was just feeling a bit frustrated yesterday when I wrote this post)


Sometimes I fantasize about a post-apocalyptic lifestyle

The Walking Dead #TWD will start back up in October. The show always sparks something inside us that makes us believe we are invincible. Survivalists. We talk a big talk.

So we camped out for 3 days, trying to experiment with what life would look like “Post-apocalypse”. We tried to make our meals without the use of the refrigerator.  We slept in #ENO hammocks in the trees and keep all activities outdoors. The truth is, CAMPING is hard! Even when we are only camping 50 yards from the house!  We soon realized that we are no match for zombies.

1. Food:

Living off the land is a lost art. I can’t imagine trying to find food while being on the run! The first night, we cooked a delicious feast of meat and potatoes on the fire. Made monkey bread for dessert.  We discussed our meal with the children.  If we were survivalists, the meat we are eating would have to be trapped or shot, skinned, and cleaned before we could even put it on the fire.  These potatoes MIGHT be available to us, if we stayed in one place and could tend a garden.  Oh and forget about the monkey bread! The next morning I woke up at sunrise, went to the hen house and collected eggs (plausible), stoked the fire back up and prepared scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Then it hit me, I NEED COFFEE.  So, I went upstairs, got my coffee pot, and plugged it in at the camp site.  Hardly the way a survivalist would make her coffee! The rest of our meals, while consumed outdoors, made use of the fridge, oven, and microwave. It took me 3 meals to realize that I very much rely on the convenience of my kitchen!

2. Sleep:

We love our hammocks. We love setting them up, swinging from the trees, competing to see who can get their hammock the highest and tightest.  However, when it comes to sleeping in them all night for 3 nights… wow.  Not only did it get cold, but it was also creepy!  I would have to get used to all the night noises.  I kept two of the dogs outside with me, which helped me feel secure. They kept watch over us all three nights. But still, the places my mind wondered off to – it’s amazing.  I had all kinds of visions of how we might die if I close my eyes.  Needless to say, I did not get very much sleep!  Lastly, I desperately missed my bed.  Each morning, I got up and hobbled around like an 80 year old woman. Humans need rest!  I began to understand how living on the run would not only be exhausting, but without good rest, everyone would be grouchy and on edge!

3. Higiene:

We did make all three days without a shower or bath. But we sure were foul when we finally came in!  As I scrubbed the soot from my face and washed the sticks and ash out of my hair, I marveled at how someone could live this way everyday, for weeks, months, years. The children and I laughed at all the gunk between our toes and behind our ears and under our fingernails.  And we each enjoyed a long HOT bubble bath.

As a homeschool mama, I am always looking for opportunities for learning.  This 3 day camping experience  gave us much to discuss.  Our discussion generated three main themes.  1) We realize that the only way to get good at camping, is to practice.  2) We have a huge new found respect for survivalists.  3) We are immensely grateful for our creature comforts.

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Like a girl

I have raised my children intentionally to see girls and boys as equals- equals in voice, intelligence, and potential.  My husband and I have always been extremely careful about our words and actions regarding differences between boys and girls.  For example, we have always bought gender neutral toys and games for both our boys and our girls. We have encouraged and allowed the children to play with whatever they might find around the house. If the boys carried around my purse, or pushed a baby in the stroller, no big deal. If my daughter played with balls or trucks, no big deal.  Our goal in modeling gender mutuality has been purposeful and calculated.

You can imagine my shock yesterday when I heard my daughter tell me a story about how “when Daddy snuck up and scared Canon, he screamed like a girl.”

I’m sure that she was equally as shocked by my extreme response! “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”, I interrogated. “I never want to hear something like that come out of your mouth again.” Poor child probably had no idea what she even said!  We talked more about it and I encouraged the children to come up with some other simile for the intensity and pitch of scream she heard. We all giggled as we went through a whole host of options and then came up with, “Canon screamed like a howler monkey!”

What is the big deal? 

It is a big deal to me that we make insulting distinctions for boys and girls. The language we use shapes their image of themselves. Everyday. All the time. Girly girl. Tom-boy. Princess. Like a girl. If we only paid attention to the gravity of our flippant classifications.  Last year I confronted a 9 year old boy when he ridiculed his friend on the playground after being beat in a race by my daughter, “You got beat by a girl!” AH no. Mama don’t play.  Don’t worry, I was kind, but what I really wanted to do was kick him in the shins. The phrases we think are ok in referring to boys are a big deal as well.  Boys will be boys. He’s a mama’s boy. He’s all boy.  Man up. Really people?  These cliches are both dismissive and damaging.

Influence of culture

We don’t even realize the sludge that slowly seeps into our psyche. My daughter could not even remember where she heard the phrase, “like a girl”. She doesn’t know who first told her that she was a “tom-boy”. What does that even mean?  You may think I am overreacting, but I steer my family away from the tween and teen trash that hollywood cranks out.  I can not shield them forever, I understand that. But I can for a while at least, while they are in my care, and while their mind, will, and self-understanding are still in development. With fierce effort, I kick out the walls of the boxes that american culture tries to stuff my kids into.

Under normal circumstances, I would not necessarily commit free advertising for a panty liner company, but #ALWAYS has made a brilliant commercial on the subject of #LIKEAGIRL. Enjoy!