celebrating women’s history month: The Harvey Girls

It is March 1 and today begins an entire month of celebrating women here at thatmom.com! I have chosen women from history as well as some contemporary women whom I greatly admire.  I will be sharing mini- biographies as well as links to podcasts and books for further study so grab a cup of coffee and join me for a whole month of women’s history!!!  

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Kicking off an entire month of celebrating women, we are beginning with not one but an entire regiment of women, over 100,000 of them, as a matter of fact. Today we are celebrating The Harvey Girls, the women who settled the western United States through humble acts of service and kindness to the weary train travelers on the Santa Fe Railroad, women who brought civilization to a pagan, godless environment that was, prior to their arrival, inhabited primarily by men and loose women.

During the mid to late 1800’s, rail travel to the Southwest and Great Plains was a common, though uncomfortable, way of life for those who wanted to be part of the Great Westward Expansion. The transcontinental railway was completed in 1869, thus opening the doors of opportunity to many who had previously been unable to travel west.

British entrepreneur and restaurateur Fred Harvey set out to accommodate the dining needs of these train travelers by establishing the first chain restaurants called Harvey Houses. Having traveled by train only to find the purchased meals contained rancid food that caused severe illness to travelers, Harvey brought the fine dining of Europe to both the exhausted train traveler and the hungry cowboy.

Eventually located in train stations from Chicago to California, the Harvey Houses were destined to failure until Fred Harvey placed ads in city newspapers looking for young women who would be willing to work as waitresses. Initially, Harvey had employed men as waiters but they often spent their time drinking, gambling and picking fights, even during working hours. Harvey realized that the secret to taming the wild west would be not only linen tablecloths and fine china but gentile women whose very presence would influence both the restaurant atmosphere and the general environment of the small towns popping up everywhere west of the Mississippi.

So Harvey began hiring young ladies who could meet his requirements. Fred Harvey wanted no “saloon” women; Fred Harvey was looking for virtuous, wholesome, high-minded young ladies who would be willing to work hard and live in chaperoned dormitories. Not only were their uniforms to be clean, starched, and perfectly fitted, but the duties of a Harvey Girl were clearly defined and slackers would soon be heading home with one way tickets.

The entire dining experience at a Harvey House was a pleasant one. Ten minutes before the arrival of a train, a wire would be sent to the Harvey House, alerting the staff. Tall pitchers of ice water were placed at each table along with fresh salads. Steaks were grilled and pies were cut into the standard servings of 4 slices per pie! Fresh coffee was made and any unused portion left at the end of one train stop was thrown out. Second servings were always available for no additional charge. And all of this was done by the hands of lovely young women who were there to serve others!

In exchange for their hard work, the Harvey Girls made a good salary and were given free lodging, train travel where ever they wanted to go, all their uniforms, a laundry service, and all their meals. Many of them sent home every penny they made to help support their parents and siblings. Others worked as Harvey Girls and saved money to put themselves through college.

Stepping off the train platform in Dodge City, the Harvey Girls might encounter the stench of 200,000 rotting buffalo hides piled in a city street. At other stops there were threats of Indian uprisings or the unbearable heat of the dessert. These young ladies were not only sturdy and determined, but because they had to meet the stringent requirements for wearing the Harvey uniform, were young ladies who had a vision for service and, perhaps, a greater vision for their part in setting up households in those small towns.

Many Harvey Girls were courted by and married ranchers and cowboys. As they joined the communities, they also were instrumental in seeing that schools were established. Because many of them were Christians, churches were soon built in small towns, circuit riding preachers came, and the Gospel was procalimed in areas previously unreached! These women brought a sense of propriety to their neighborhoods and to this day many towns and cities have Harvey Girls as “founding mothers” in their town histories.

During World War II, the Harvey restaurants were turned into way stations for troop trains and the Harvey Girls often served 4 meals a day, 100’s of men at each meal. The Harvey Girls had no small part in the war effort; during 1943 alone, more than 1 million meals were served each month to servicemen in Harvey Houses across the U.S.

Though riding trains, for the most part, was replaced by car and air travel, thus bringing an end to the Harvey House chain, the mark of these incredible women will forever be written on the landscape of the old west.


For more reading about The Harvey Girls, I would recommend the book The Harvey Girls, Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes.

For recipes for modern day Harvey Girls, check out my adaptations of some of their menu specialties!

“Fred Harvey realized that the secret to taming the wild, wild west would be not only linen tablecloths and fine china, but genteel women whose very presence would influence both the restaurant atmosphere and the general environment of the small towns popping up everywhere west of the Mississippi.”  Listen here for this amazing podcast entitled “The Women Who Tamed the Wild, Wild West….Those Amazing Harvey Girls.”



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perfect love casts out all fear

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“Love thinks no evil; love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” If we are living a life of love we will not dwell on those things that are wrong and that cause injury or injustice to be done to others. How we occupy our minds will certainly color our outlook on all of life. Instead of finding delight and joy in those things that are false or in defrauding others, true love rejoices in those things that are good and holy and righteous.

One of the biggest influences on homeschooling families, I believe, has been the penchant to arouse fear in us in order to get us to participate in some movement or to purchase some product or service. The continual setting of hearts and minds on those destructive things that we perceive to be threats to our families has proven to be quite effective to the point where e-mail updates from homeschooling organizations or blog articles about some cultural debacle will create a panic in the homeschooling community, and cause needless energy to be spent on worrying or making support group phone calls! Making a quick assessment of our culture and how debase it has become, especially in the last few decades, it is understandable for mothers and fathers to set their minds on the evils all around us. But God has commanded us to not entertain these thoughts or to be fearful. He tells us that concentrating on loving Him first and our neighbors as ourselves is the substance of perfect love and that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). If we are truly obeying His commands to love, we have no reason to fear what man can do to us.

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chicken fajita rice bowls


Mexican food is a favorite in our house and I especially love this rice bowl deliciousness!  It is the perfect comfort food for this cold weather and goes together quickly on busy days. This recipe freezes and reheats well and is even yummier for lunch the next day!

Seasoned Chicken

In crockpot, place 2-3 pounds of chicken breasts, frozen or thawed. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with minced garlic and 1 to 2  TBS taco seasoning.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Shred with fork.

Black Beans

Place 1/4 cup olive oil in skillet. Over medium heat, fry 2 large thinly sliced onions, 1 TBS. minced garlic, and 1 large green pepper cut into strips until soft. As they cook, sprinkle with 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. oregano, and 1 TBS. taco seasoning. When golden, add three can drained black beans and cook on medium for 8-10 minutes, until flavors blend well.

Brown or White Rice

Prepare and set aside 6 cups.

Set out on counter and have each person layer in bowls or can be rolled up in tortillas. Offer favorite toppings like tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa, and avocados.



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drawing a bigger circle


I have been contemplating many things of late. Everyone seems to have his or her list of what is required to measure up to this or that standard. I find myself weary…weary of the lists, weary of wondering if I have performed to someone else’s satisfaction, weary of pondering whether or not someone else has measured up to my standards.

I thought of this poem…I think recalling my grandma and her gracious spirit prompted the memory.

They drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win –
We drew a circle that took them in.

Edwin Markham

Oh Lord, it is so very hard sometimes. Help me not to take offense when I am shut out. More importantly, help me draw my circle bigger.

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bearing a child’s burdens

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“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”   Galatians 6:2


In the middle of one July with Midwestern temperatures soaring into the high 90s and humidity registering about the same, my three little preschoolers came down with the chicken pox. Their creamy Scottish complexions combined with the intense heat left them with nearly every square inch of their little bodies covered in the itchy, painful rash. For three weeks I spent most of my days taking them in and out of baking soda baths and feeding them popsicles and pudding. We camped out on the hide-a-bed watching Little House on the Prairie reruns and reading until my voice was hoarse. When Clay came home from work, he took over as only a daddy can do, and in the night we took shifts.

Every mom has similar stories of bearing the burdens of her family, some much more difficult than our chicken pox saga. I have friends who have children with physical struggles, others who care for little ones with learning disabilities. In reality, all of us have burdens and live with children who do, too. We live in a fallen world where physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual burdens are continually part of the ebb and flow of life. If this is true and burdensome for us, how must it be for children who do not have the context for understanding their woes or the maturity to face them?

Bearing the burdens of others, especially of our children, involves both sympathy and empathy. As Christians, we are called to come alongside others, sympathizing with them, even if we do not understand the struggles or the pain. As mothers, we have experienced so much of what our children face that we need to recall our own experiences as part of empathizing with them, thus helping them carry their burdens. Ultimately, we become a living example for them to see how Jesus bears our burdens and calls us to do the same for others.

In our parenting zeal, we often forget what it was like to be a child. They are shorter than adults and closer to the ground so they see things we miss. Everything is new to them and they want to examine and explore. Their concept of time is measured by events rather than a schedule. When they have teething pain they have no idea why. When they wake up alone in a dark quiet room, they are scared and just want to be with somebody else. Their little bodies do not comprehend a menu plan, they just know they are uncomfortable and eating makes them feel better. Bearing the burdens of our children is no mystery, it is meeting needs they have simply because they are children; it is seeing each one as someone in need of an advocate rather than as an adversary.

Scripture talks about bearing the burdens of each other in terms of a weight that prohibits someone from being able to function, that presses down on them or around them. Sometimes we can see that burden, like chicken pox or a swollen gum hiding a new tooth. Other times there are hidden needs, an emotional or a spiritual burden. As children walk through their teen years, in particular, it is natural for them to struggle in ways we cannot see. But if we have purposed to carry those burdens we do see, being free of judgment and full of tender mercies toward them, our children will be more likely to allow us to carry the heavier burdens they bear as they grow up. And we cannot pick and choose what we will bear; we are called to bear all things (1 Corinthians 13:7)! And what is the result of bearing the burdens of our children? We fulfill the law of Christ, to adequately complete our service, literally “to fill in” as in filling an empty ditch to overflowing!

In John Bunyan’s famous allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, the protagonist, makes his way along the path to the Celestial City but falls into a miry swamp, “such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.” Christian struggles to near exhaustion when a friend named Help comes along and, looking from a different vantage point, is able to see steps that come up out of the bog. He shows them to Christian, who is then able to get free of the entanglements of the slough and they both go on their way.

I believe this has a particular message for parents as we mentor our children. We, ourselves, are further down the path than our little ones. We know the dangers and the trials associated with sin as well as life’s struggles; we, too, have wallowed in the Slough of Despond. So when our precious children fall and are tempted to despair, we can come alongside them and are able to give them steps to returning back to the path! What a privilege it is to be called to such a glorious ministry of encouragement in their lives!


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celebrating forty years

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Clay and I celebrated our 40th anniversary this month. Where has the time gone! I have had so many thoughts but this quote from one of my favorite books really describes what I believe is absolutely the heart of being a good wife!


“The greatest asset a woman brings to her marriage is not her beauty, charm, her feminine wiles, or even her ability to bear a child. It is her theology. Every wife is her husband’s partner, pastor, spiritual counselor, motivational speaker, and his fellow soldier in the war zone. With her eyes fixed on Jesus, she is less inclined to make her husband, herself, or her children the center of the universe. With head and heart filled with the knowledge of God, she will find strength to enter the fray and wrestle with all of life’s problems alongside her husband. As she lives in the light of God’s sovereign goodness, she will radiate hope and courage to him in the darkest hours. With her feet firmly planted on God’s holy character, she will find boldness to stand up to her man when his disobedience is tarnishing God’s glory. And her husband will only be the better for it.” – Carolyn Custis James from When Life and Beliefs Collide 

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truly loving God


“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Loving God means we must acknowledge that He is sovereign and that nothing we are or have is of ourselves. Oh how difficult this is sometimes! How often are we tempted to believe that because we have achieved some measure of success as a homeschooling family, either academically or spiritually, that it is because of how well we have performed!

I often think of the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked how he could inherit eternal life. “He asked Jesus, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’

Consider that for a moment. This was the first part of the test for this young man. Of course the only correct response would be “I call you good because YOU ARE God.” But that was not what happened, which tells us that this young man still didn’t recognize Jesus as God. Jesus went on to say: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And the young man replied, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, the young man became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “’How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:18-23).

Here was a young man who had attained status in his community and had accumulated great treasure; he claimed all of it for himself and was not willing to part with it for eternal life. And you notice that, though he claimed he had never broken any of the commandments, in essence, he had broken all of them by not acknowledging the Sovereign God who had given him everything. Perhaps he had obeyed the letter of the law, but he had missed the point. Unless you are willing to acknowledge the source of your riches and recognize that what you have is not a measure of your righteousness, you cannot love God. You must be willing to give it all up for the sake of Christ. If you are unwilling to do this, you do not love God. God and His sovereignty over all our lives MUST be first.


~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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valentine goodness

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Looking for some new ideas for Valentine’s Day treats? Here are some of my favorite easy recipes!


Easy Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts

1 package spice cake mix
1 C. all-purpose flour
2 Tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. oil
1/2 c. molasses
White and pink icing for decorating (You can make your own or to make it a quick and easy job, use the icing in tubes from the grocery store.)

Mix together cake mix, flour, and ginger in a large bowl and stir until blended. Add remaining ingrediens and beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Cover and put in fridge for 2 hours. Place dough on floured surface and roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out with heart shapes and placed on greased cookie sheets or ones lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, depending on the size of the cutters and being careful to not let them get too brown around the edges. Cool on wire racks and decorate. I like to place the decorated cookies on cookie sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes to set the frosting.

Crock Pot Peanut Clusters

1 (16 oz.) jar unsalted peanuts
1 (16 oz.) jar salted peanuts
1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (12 oz.) bag milk chocolate chips
2 (12 oz.) bags peanut butter chips
2 (1 lb.) packages White Almond Bark, broken in pieces

Layer ingredients, in order listed, into (4 quart or larger) crock pot. Turn the pot on low, cover it with a lid, and allow to sit for two hours. Remove lid and stir to combine. Check to see if almond bark is melted, and if so, stir and spoon mixture onto wax paper or into miniature valentine papers. Decorate, if you wish, with miniature valentine sprinkles or additional chopped peanuts. Allow to harden 1 hour or so before enjoying.


Simple Sugar Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together flour and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add in flour and salt. Divide dough and roll out on cookie sheet between 2 sheets of waxed paper. (about ¼ inch thick) Place cookie sheet in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. Cut out shapes and place on another cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-14 minutes, depending on size of cookie cutters and your oven. Be sure to take out before they are browned. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes and finish cooling on rack. Decorate as desired. Can be frozen and decorated later. You will not be disappointed in the results!This recipe makes about 4-5 dozen smaller cookies or 2 dozen large ones.


Homemade Gumdrops

1 cup white sugar
¾ cup apple sauce
1 3oz package strawberry Jell-O
1 .25oz package of unflavored gelatin
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar for coating

Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and place in the refrigerator. In a medium sized saucepan, combine sugar, applesauce, jell-o, unflavored gelatin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Allow to boil for 1 minute. Pour mixture into cooled baking dish. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm. Once the mixture is firm, turn out onto a baking sheet sprinkled with granulated sugar. Using a sharp knife or cookie cutters cut out your gumdrops. Give the gumdrops on last good coat of sugar and allow to dry overnight. Store in an airtight container.



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are you qualified to admonish?



Teach and admonish one another.”   Colossians 3:16

When we consider our natural role as teachers and life-long mentors of our children, we recognize there are three aspects of this process that are crucial in relationship building: encouraging each other through good and bad times, challenging each other to obey Christ, and making sure everything we say and do is bathed in love. For most people, understanding how to biblically deal with conflicts is the biggest challenge. Whenever we are in relationships with others, addressing issues is always necessary. It is, in fact, the process we must go through to assure our personal and spiritual growth!

The words “teaching” “admonishing” and “instructing” are all facets of the same gem. Whereas teaching often implies instructing and explaining with an exhortive bent, admonishment more often involves a warning or pointing out pitfalls and the natural consequences of taking a dangerous course of action.

Admonishment comes with very clear prerequisites for the one doing it. In addressing his Roman brothers and sisters, Paul stated: And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another (Romans 15:14). In other words, to be qualified to admonish someone else, you must be a spirit-filled and spirit-directed believer who understands the specific area that needs to be addressed. He goes on to say: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted“(Galatians 6:1). Admonishment is never done in a way that humiliates another but rather is approached with kindness and gentleness and its end goal is always restoration.

In the past year, I have seen repeated examples of parents who thought it was wise to publicly shame and punish their children, using social media to do so. One couple paraded their young son around a department store wearing a sandwich board declaring him to be a “thief.” Another mother forced her teenage daughters to stand along a busy street holding poster board that revealed their lack of respect for their dad. Advertising these “discipline” methods on their Facebook pages, their actions were met, for the most part, with admiration and encouragement, even among Christians who gladly republished these stories. Every time I see this, I cannot help but think of how much different Jesus was in His approach to those who sinned. Though He was direct and truthful, He was never unkind or harsh. He did not seek to expose another’s sin in order to shame them into obedience.

If we are harsh in our approach to others, we are demonstrating that we are not qualified to admonish anyone because it shows our lack of spiritual maturity. The opposite of harshness is the spirit of gentleness, which in the Greek means “with humility,” lest we also be tempted. If we look at this verse in terms of relating to our children, we have to ask how we can be tempted. I think it could be when we forget that we are sinners, too, and that we, ourselves, are overtaken daily in trespasses. When we reject a humble, gentle attitude toward our children, we are tempted to mistreat them, physically and verbally. We can either build up and restore a child by our words and actions or we can tear down and lord it over them, showing no spirit of humility whatsoever. We, too, are sinners in need of a Savior, and are still a work in progress ourselves. How we respond to sin in the lives of our children will have lasting consequences and if we are harsh might even cause them to give up altogether.


from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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