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Q&A | Unorthodox + 3 more reader questions

It’s been a minute since we did a Q&A! So I rounded up a few from my inbox for today.

I’d love to hear what you thought about Unorthodox!


spoilers ahead, just so you know

The cover of Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman.

This book was fascinating and sad in equal measure and that’s reminiscent of how I felt after reading Tara Westover’s Educated, which is a story of growing up in an extreme Mormon home.

Fascinating: because it is incredible to me that lives have been lived this way, in my lifetime.

(Westover and Feldman are both younger than me. But as I read their stories, it sounded as though they had somehow grown up in the past.)

Sad: because, oh, the pain these women experienced as a result of the oppressive fundamental sects they were born into. Yikes.

I totally get that most Mormon and Orthodox Jewish families do not operate the way these fundamentalist ones do.

It’s just that no matter the religion, the extreme fundamentalists seem to always end up being rather cult-like and abusive, particularly to the women.

(For the record, I definitely count extreme Christian fundamentalists in with this lot; I see heart-breaking examples of power, control, abuse, and trauma there as well.)

I felt so happy as I read the story of Feldman’s escape, and I was happy to see that her ex-husband was eventually able to leave as well. I remember feeling the same when Tara Westover was able to get out and make her own life; I breathed a sigh of relief for her!

Feldman recounts a pivotal moment in her story on 09.09.09, a date that caught my eye because that’s the day my stillborn niece arrived.

Kristen helping a mom with a newborn.

I remember that day vividly, and it’s odd to think about what was happening to Feldman on that day; I’m still getting used to reading memoirs that happen in my lifetime.

Like…whoa. I’m reading about something in a book and I can tell you exactly what I was doing on that date.

I don’t know if that makes sense. But it feels wild to me!

One last thought: another interesting common theme between Educated and Unorthodox is how reading played a role in freeing both women from their former lives.

In both cases, it expanded their horizons and broadened their thinking about what their lives might look like, and ultimately, that led to them walking away to make a new, free life for themselves.

I noticed that everybody uses flat-sided jars in their yogurt-making. Is it okay to use rounded-side mason jars though?


Two jars of homemade yogurt in Mason jars.

Yup, that should work out just fine. I’ve used all manner of jars for my yogurt making, and the shape hasn’t seemed to matter in the slightest.

I say use what you have!

You taught piano for years… Did you find this easy to manage while home-educating your kids? I teach voice and piano, I have two young boys, and we have also embarked on the homeschooling journey in the last couple of years. I have found it very hard to keep up my own skills/have time to invest in my students while also raising my kids.

People always comment how great it is to be able to work from home like this, and assume that (because I work in the arts) I’m just living out my passion…both of which I find to be inaccurate assumptions in many ways!

I’d be curious to hear how your experience was (and maybe why you stopped teaching?).


A little girl in a pink shirt practicing piano.

In short, no, I did not find it easy to manage! I did fine when my children were all younger and homeschooling was not so labor-intensive.

But by the time I had all four kids doing school, piano teaching started to feel unmanageable.

Plus, this was at the time when Mr. FG was working a 2 pm-10 pm schedule, and the combo of that and homeschooling was too much for me.

The keys on a black Weinbach piano.

Mercifully, that was also around the time that my blog started to earn money, so I quit piano teaching and blogged instead.

Blogging is so, so, so much more flexible than piano teaching, and it worked better for flexing around Mr. FG’s odd work hours as well.

I don’t know if that’s a very helpful answer, but at least you know that you are not alone in finding this challenging.

Your use-it-up lunches… I have made myself many an odd meal over the years (and I agree – an egg or some cheese) can make anything into a meal!

An egg, bean, and veggie bowl.

But when your kids were younger and not finding their own breakfast or lunch, did you also make up odd combos for them? I can’t see this going over well in my house…


(She had two questions!)

When my kids were younger and I did more of the work of preparing meals for them, I did often try to do so with an eye to preventing waste.

For instance:

  • I made smoothies
  • I heated up leftovers for them
  • I made sandwiches for them to use up what needed to be used
  • I used slightly sour milk to make pudding for them
  • I made French toast casserole with dry bread
  • I made croutons for their salad
  • I made rice pudding with leftover rice
  • I used up dairy goods in bread that I made

Basically, I felt free to offer them any food-waste-fighting foods that they would enjoy!

Also, sometimes I would make a snacky meal for them; odds and ends of cheese, fruits, veggies, and so on.

But the very vegetable-heavy bowls I make for myself?

Hungry Harvest veggies

I didn’t make those for my kids! Even to this day, no one else in my house would be interested.

(Except for Lisey. And she is at aviation mechanic school!)

This is an example of what I wrote about in my post, “Care about something? Be prepared to do most of the work.”

I care the most about food waste at my house, so if there’s something not universally appetizing that needs to be eaten? That’s gonna fall on me, which is ok. 🙂


Readers, feel free to weigh in on any of these questions!

P.S. Got a question? Feel free to email me.

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Thursday 26th of August 2021

Another excellent book about growing up well in spite of your parents is "The Farming Life" by Sara Frye. I finished it in a day muttering OMG the entire time.


Friday 27th of August 2021

@Candy, yeah, that’s another one that didn’t really ring true. But I was kind of excited when I saw watermelons with Fry Farms stickers on them at Jewel last week here in northeastern Illinois.


Thursday 26th of August 2021

Well, Kristen, you didn’t solve my problems - drat! But your answers do show me that some of your struggles (with teaching) were the same and also that we approach food waste with children in a similar way. Guess those veg/cheese/egg meals will have to continue as a “mom only” thing...

Oh, but you have me worried with your comment about homeschooling becoming more work as the kids get older! I’m hoping for some aspects to get easier, at least as they gain independence in reading! It’s a great life, though, for sure.


Thursday 26th of August 2021

Well, the homeschooling ebbs and flows a bit. I think the hardest time was those few years when Zoe was first starting school. All the older kids still needed a decent amount of help too, and of course, Zoe needed a lot of help.

So that was kind of the maximum effort stage of schooling. But that was only for a year or two; by the time Zoe was in second grade, she didn't need nearly as much help, I didn't have any new kindergarten students, and my older three were getting more independent.

And of course at my current stage, homeschooling is quite easy! 2/4 have graduated, Sonia is doing all community college classes at this point, and Zoe's doing a few things at home plus some tutorial classes.

So, it doesn't stay this labor-intensive forever!


Wednesday 25th of August 2021

I'm actually just reading Educated at the moment. It's fascinating so far. I'll check out Unorthodox after reading your review and the comments, Kristen. To Annette, I also taught piano from the time I was pregnant with my youngest until now (30 years!) There were things about it that were awesome and other things that were really hard. My kids mostly went to school, and they would come home and I would start teaching at pretty much the same time. I homeschooled my youngest for grades 5, 6 and 7, and wished I had homeschooled them all. It solves the problem of not having enough time with them, although not that of how to look after little ones while teaching. Are you a member of Piano Teacher Central? (It's a facebook group.) There have been many discussions about this on there and lots of people have some great ideas about how to manage. Good luck with your decision!


Thursday 26th of August 2021

@Jem, the decision to homeschool was based partly on this reality - that private music-teaching hours would take over all the time I had with the kids outside of public school, if they attended. Interesting to hear your experience with this. And thanks for the FB group recommendation!

Connie Abbott- Foster

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

Reading through the comments brings me to the plight of the women and girls in Afghanistan. Horrendous abuse of them under absolute power of men. Misogyny is rampant throughout the world and every major religion I know of is based on it. Men fearing the undeniable strength, power, and ability of women.


Wednesday 25th of August 2021

@Connie Abbott- Foster, you hit the nail on the head.


Wednesday 25th of August 2021

I just finished listening to The Glass Castle (I had read it many years ago). It is another example of a memoir of someone that escaped their crazy childhood mainly through education. Jeannette Walls is somewhat older, born in 1960, and her father did want her to be educated but mainly to his way of thinking. I have read all those books and they are eye opening for someone that grew up in a "boring" family.


Wednesday 25th of August 2021

I have concluded there are much worse fates than living in a "boring" family!

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