Life Lessons Learned from My Backyard Chickens

Geneva mom, Carolyn Haber, shared at the New Moms Coffee on August 27, 2021.

My ultimate joy would be sitting with you in my backyard, in the shade of my magnolia tree, to get to know each of you a little better. If we were at my house, you might be a little surprised by “my girls,” my feathered friends, my chickens. They are all named (at least, most of them are): you would see Wilma Jean (she’s the most friendly) and Fern (named by the art teacher, Mrs. Fraser); then there is Lurleen, Thelma, Libbie, Matilda, Eleanor, and the list goes on. This morning, I want to share with you five things I learned from my chickens.

Stick close to the rooster.

Our rooster is named Ralph, after Dan’s father. Ralph’s primary role is flock security, which includes flock advisor and flock counselor. His eyes and neck dart, as he is constantly on guard; he gathers the hens close and physically protects them from predators. He also is one that will alert and alarm his ladies when he finds good eats; the hens come running. Just as I notice my hens stick close to the rooster, I will say for you and me: Cling to Jesus. He will guide you and protect you. He loves you unconditionally, he is always available to you, he knows your thoughts and hears your prayers. The Bible says that he knit you together in your mother’s womb and he knows the number of hairs on your head. He equips you for every good work. Stick close to JESUS!

A mother hen’s love for her chicks is inspiring.

This morning, I watched my mama hen with six less-than-two-week-old baby chicks. The day she became broody, which means the day she decided to be a mom, she started sitting on eggs. Mama hens sit on eggs for twenty-one days: her clutch of eggs can be a mix of her eggs and some of her hen friends’. (Some chicken mamas have even died because they were so committed to sitting on eggs—they didn’t get up to eat). Once the babies hatch, the mother hen is a fierce mama, constantly clicking and clacking to communicate with their chicks. She is teaching them what to eat, calling them when they are wandering away, fussing with the other hen friends that get too close to her babies. I love to find the baby chicks resting underneath mama or on top of her back.

Look around—this room is filled with mamas! Each woman in this room is here because you are a mama, you have a child or children at The Geneva School. I know you are equally committed to your chicks. You are not new to motherhood yet you are new to this school; welcome to Geneva! We are glad you are here! Mamas, you are in great company. And what you don’t see is a greater company of moms that have gone before us and the moms that you have yet to meet.

Last year, I felt new all over again, as I had a little one in K4. I loved meeting a bunch of new moms; we were all starting with our little ones, their first time in real school, a full day. I am a believer that relationships need repetition and experiences. For me last year, while sitting on the sidelines with other new parents at the Friday night soccer games, volunteering together the day of SALT, seeing one another at birthday parties or school events, relationships were kindled. Get involved. You have a place at Geneva. We are glad you are here. As a mother, you love your kids fiercely so sometimes it seems like work to get connected; yet make friends, get to know other mothers and families, and link arms, and let’s do this together. Which leads me to my next point.

Chickens recognize the value of community.

Innately, chickens understand the importance of sticking together. Where one goes they all go. Separating from the flock can lead to danger or death. At times, one will find a worm in one part of the yard, and at a moment’s notice, they will all be scratching the same spot for good grubs. Periodically, I will introduce new hens to the flock; it takes a little time for each of them to make new chicken friends and figure out their role in the flock. Sound familiar as you are making new friends, figuring out a new school schedule (possibly with drop-offs at different campuses) and uniforms that might not have arrived on time and what after-school activity will work for each child? Thankfully, the teachers and staff know and are there to help in a time of transition.

Three years ago, I received a breast cancer diagnosis on August 1, 2018. The next day, I met with a breast surgeon and she said, “I have you on my calendar for surgery for August 14”—exactly two weeks from that day. She saw the surprise on my face. She remarked, “Do you have a conflict on that date?” I mentioned that my boy would start kindergarten on that day, and she said, “You look like you have people who can help you.” The day Richard Daniel started kindergarten, I had a double mastectomy. And Mrs. Geer, his Geneva kindergarten teacher, texted me that day, “Your boy is doing great, we are praying for you!” Dan and I, somewhat new to the Geneva community, were surrounded by new friends, teachers, and Geneva faculty that helped us. One Geneva mama put a mini fridge on my front porch for meals to be dropped off, another sent her housekeeper to clean my house, another mom arranged pickups for my children every afternoon, countless meals were enjoyed, another mom took my son to soccer (I think I only went to one game that season). Dan and I were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the Geneva family. In the last three years, I survived fifty-two weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, countless infections, five more major surgeries, more infections, and we could not have survived and thrived without the Geneva family as they cheered for us and embraced us. The hard days solidify our love and commitment to the school and the community. And you are now part of the Geneva community.

Next, and I almost hate to mention it, yet it’s true.

Predators are everywhere!

Yesterday, as we were rushing out the back door trying to get to school on time, Ralph, the rooster, and a few hens were squawking. John Doster, my youngest, noticed on the neighbors’ roof, watching the chickens, a beautiful hawk. He was eying my flock and he was hungry for breakfast, doing what he knows best, hunting his prey. I would prefer to see him with a fish in his talons, which he caught out of the nearby lake. John 10:10, a familiar passage out of the Bible, reminds us that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Watch out: the enemy wants to distract us, cause dissension in relationships, destroy … but the second part of the verse reminds us that Jesus came into the world to give us abundant life. Not just mediocre, okay life but abundant. Beware, the enemy is flying over; alert and alarm your people, be on guard, look up, rebuke, run, and hide.

Even as I close this talk, it’s likely there are one or two hens singing.

Sing a thankful song, all morning long.

Every morning, before noon or so, I can hear my hens—some of them sing better than others. Hens squawk and squeal; it’s not exactly melodious, yet they celebrate their accomplishment of laying an egg or they sing for their hen mate who laid an egg in the basket before them or they sing when someone is in their laying basket and they want to sound alarm that they are ready to lay their daily egg. I guess they are trying to make a joyful noise. How easy it is for me to be distracted by the squawks and the squeals rather than appreciate the hard work of my hen to lay an egg and celebrate with her. Sometimes I have to choose to be thankful in all circumstances. Sometimes it is not easy or natural to see the good in the hard.

During the dark days of my chemo and surgery recovery, I was given a journal and challenged by a friend to write down five things I was thankful for each day. Such a journal is a gift I now pass along to newly diagnosed cancer patients, as I know it was a little exercise that helped me when my days were long. I also found great joy in friends’ visits when I didn’t have the energy to go out, yet loved for new friends to come in to see me. One friend of a friend called to say she had just tried a new recipe for banana bread with a mascarpone cheese spread; something so little was something that was a great encouragement to me, and I was thankful for that encouragement. Celebrating in gratitude makes life more fun. At Geneva, we have a number of opportunities to come alongside one another and our children to celebrate their work, their soccer goals, their theatre performances, and their accomplishments.

Ladies, there are five things I want you to remember from my time this morning:
  1. Stick close to JESUS! He loves unconditionally and cares about all the details of your life.
  2. You have a unique role as a mother: Be a Mother Hen and take it as a compliment!!
  3. Welcome to the Geneva family—you are now part of a fabulous community! Get involved.
  4. Watch out, be on guard against the enemy.
  5. Sing a thankful song. Choose to be thankful in the sometimes-hard journey called life.

Mamas, welcome! You are now part of the Geneva family.

In closing, you are invited to my backyard. It’s always shady under my magnolia tree and the Adirondack chairs are perfect for a friend (or two) and me! My girls will be thrilled to meet you in hopes you will feed them treats. And I will likely send you home with some of their fresh eggs to eat.


Carolyn Haber’s adventures began when she studied in China after graduating from The University of Alabama. While living in China, she was captivated by the people, challenged by the food, and changed by the culture. Carolyn worked on the university campus with college women until she moved to Orlando, to travel the world alongside the late Vonette Bright, cofounder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Twelve years ago, she met and married Dan; they have two sons, Richard Daniel and John Doster, both students at The Geneva School. Her work outside the home with The JESUS Film Project allows her to continue to be involved in helping people around the world see and hear JESUS in their heart language.

Athletic Disciplines—Work, Diet, and Motivation

By TGS track and field team members Ella Raesly (’24), Charles White (’23), and Josh McKay (’22)

Tony Ross and Gary Evans used our Geneva track and field facilities to train a number of elite Olympic athletes. Three of our varsity track and field team had the chance to interview a couple of them this summer. 

Samantha Dirks

This past summer, we had the incredible privilege of meeting a couple of professional track athletes and interviewing them. The first athlete we met was Jessica Beard. Jessica specializes in the 400-meter dash (one lap) and had a phenomenal track career at Texas A&M University, winning two NCAA titles, a pair of relay golds, and the Bowerman Award (top collegiate track athlete). We also interviewed Samantha Dirks, who represented Belize, where her mom is from, at the Olympics in the 400-meter dash. When we first met these two athletes, we already had a basic assumption that they had been training for track since youth, or at least the beginning of middle school; however, when we asked the two of them when they began, Jessica told us that she did not start until her freshman year of high school, and Samantha did not begin running until twelfth grade! Both played basketball when they were younger, and Jessica only began track because she was told that it would help her with basketball. So what does it take to become a successful athlete, even after starting late? Surprisingly, both athletes hit the same three categories.

The first part of a successful track career is work: if you don’t grind day in and day out, you can kiss your dreams goodbye. Both athletes started late, but by putting in the time and effort, they’ve risen to the top. The work is not always fun, though: after a workout, Jessica will sometimes say, “Coach, you are crazy,” but she doesn’t argue because she’s seen the results of difficult training. Jessica told us, “I think we make it look easy, ‘cause all people see is the end result, you know? They see you when you’re out there at a conference, or when you’re at a meet, but they don’t see all the hard work that you do behind the scenes, and whether it’s injuries that you’re battling and you have to overcome, or whatever the case may be, people only see the end result.”

Jessica Beard

The second important discipline for a professional athlete is diet. Samantha Dirks is a pescatarian (no, that is not a denomination), which means that she does not eat meat but does eat fish. While most of us probably love bacon too much to give up meat, Samantha understands that discipline, no matter how harsh, is necessary to hit her goals. “In terms of my diet as a whole,” Samantha told us, “I’m very conscious of what I put in my body, so I eat out as little as possible, and if I do, it’s something that I know will be fuel for my body. So that’s my number one thing: focus on fueling your body and fueling for whatever sport you’re going through.”

The last part of becoming successful is motivation. When it comes to motivating themselves, neither Jessica nor Samantha lacks enthusiasm. For Jessica, it is important to continue to have fun, whether or not a race or a practice goes well; she mentioned multiple times that she is very competitive, but she knows that she can’t let that get in the way of enjoying a sport that she loves. Samantha finds her drive in her underdog story, having started track much later than most anyone she races. Both were also motivated by their friends, family, role models, and even country. Jessica Beard and Samantha Dirks prove that you don’t have to be an immediate prodigy to excel in your field. Just stick with it, and who knows? Maybe you will represent the United States in a future Olympics.

North Florida 2021, Day 3

Today the boys went to the beach and the girls went on the 7 mile hike….we did it!
Kudos to Mr. Frazer who did the 7 mile hike TWICE.
The boys found a snake and a turtle at the beach, played football in the water, and had a great day all around.
The girls powered their way through the hike! After the half way point it began to rain. But wow did that rain feel good!
We continued our evening chapel theme on change and growth. As we each had a handful of clay we talked about the ways God shapes and molds us to become like Christ.
The boys went on a silent hike in the dark after that and the girls had a little pajama party.
Can’t believe we only have one more day in North Florida. Caverns and canoes up next!
by Amy Heidmann, parent blogger

North Florida 2021, Day 2

We were up early on Day 2, thanks to the Central Time Zone! After breakfast the girls headed to the beach at a State Park. Mr. Clark led us on a hike through the park. We saw the usual suspects of Florida wildlife here—gators, cranes, pelicans, turtles… but then it got interesting! Mr. Clark turned over a rotted log and discovered a broad-headed skink! Before we knew it he had caught that skink with his bare hands and was showing it to us all. What is a skink you might wonder? Its not a typo for skunk. A skink is a reptile in the lizard family. This one was about 8 inches long and 1 inch wide. See picture below! This is rare find in these parts and we were excited to see it!


We went for a long walk around the peninsula beach and enjoyed the beautiful emerald water and white sand of this region where sea cucumbers and sand crabs abound. And at the end of our walk, it was finally time to swim!


On our way home we stopped for an extra special surprise treat—Ice Cream, curtesy of a generous, anonymous donor. Thank you! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this delicious snack after a long day on the beach!

While the girls strolled along the beach, the boys went on a 7 mile hike. Here is how the boys described the hike: Long. Hot. Your legs are sore. Painful. A bunch of steep hills. Steep. Hot. Exhausting. I’d do it again.


Mrs. O’Driscoll led our evening discussion, continuing our theme of change. Some change we can control, and some we cannot. We are image-bearers of God, with gifts to share, but we are imperfect. God loves you in the midst of change—even on your worst day. He knows all your thoughts. You are not the same person today that you were last year, and you are not the same person you will be next year.

We finished off Day 2 with a game of “Murder” (Like “Wink” or “Mafia”) and popcorn…. And a good time was had by all.

 

by Amy Heidmann, parent blogger

North Florida 2021, Day 1

Our seventh graders are spending the week in North Florida.

Our theme for the week is change, and the weather was no exception! We began our journey in cloudy misty Orlando and ended in the Panhandle sunshine! After 6 hours on the road we spent the rest of the afternoon with free time to explore, play games and sports, and relax.  After dinner, Mr. Clark led our evening chapel. We learned about the changes that God brought about in the lives of Jacob, Solomon, and the Apostle Paul in the Bible. And lest you think this group would turn in after that… our fearless leaders led everyone in an all out game of flashlight manhunt under the stars!  The competition was fierce but fun — the perfect way to end the day.  Tomorrow the girls are off to the beach and the boys will be hiking!

by Amy Heidmann, parent blogger

The Geneva School
The Geneva School
February 24, 2024
  • High School Archery Meet on Lopdrop field

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 7:00 am- 3:00 pm
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  • Middle School Archery Meet on Lopdrop field

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 7:00 am- 1:00 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity Track Meet MDCA Invite

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 8:00 am- 12:00 pm
    See more details

  • Kindergarten Parents Knight Out

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 5:00 pm- 8:00 pm
    See more details

February 26, 2024
  • 9th Gr - Everglades Trip

    Date: February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

  • Moms in Prayer

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 8:15 am- 9:30 am
    See more details

  • Lower School Chapel

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 8:20 am- 8:45 am
    See more details

  • Auction 2024 Volunteer Meeting

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 10:30 am- 11:30 am
    See more details

  • LS NHS Tutoring

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 3:25 pm- 4:10 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity Beach Volleyball Home Match vs. Timber Creek

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity Baseball Away Game vs. Legacy Charter

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 6:00 pm- 8:00 pm
    See more details

February 27, 2024
  • 9th Gr - Everglades Trip

    Date: February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

  • Chamber Orchestra

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 7:15 am- 8:15 am
    See more details

  • US Praise and Prayer

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 7:30 am- 8:00 am
    See more details

  • Little Sprouts Garden Club (K4)

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 1:30 pm- 2:30 pm
    See more details

  • Typing Class (4th–8th Grade)

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:20 pm- 4:20 pm
    See more details

  • 1-2nd Grade Basketball Practice - RA Gym

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Gardeners Explorers Club (1st & 2nd)

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Philharmonia Orchestra

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • MS Tennis Home Match vs. Masters

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 7:00 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity beach volleyball Away Match vs Lake Mary High School

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • MS Baseball Away Game vs. Orangewood

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
    See more details

  • MS Baseball Away Game vs. Orangewood

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
    See more details

February 28, 2024
  • 9th Gr - Everglades Trip

    Date: February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

  • US Chapel

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 9:25 am- 10:10 am
    See more details

  • 2nd Gr - Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (Bagnoli/Warner)

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 10:00 am- 1:30 pm
    See more details

  • 3-4 Grade Boys Youth Basketball Practice

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Brioso Choir

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • NHS Tutoring

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Stitch Lab (3rd–6th)

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Developmental Beach Volleyball Home Game vs. Real Life

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 5:30 pm
    See more details

  • JV Beach Volleyball Home Game vs. Real Life

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 5:30 pm
    See more details

February 24, 2024
  • High School Archery Meet on Lopdrop field

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 7:00 am- 3:00 pm
    See more details

  • Middle School Archery Meet on Lopdrop field

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 7:00 am- 1:00 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity Track Meet MDCA Invite

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 8:00 am- 12:00 pm
    See more details

  • Kindergarten Parents Knight Out

    Date: February 24, 2024 - February 24, 2024
    Time: 5:00 pm- 8:00 pm
    See more details

February 26, 2024
  • 9th Gr - Everglades Trip

    Date: February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

  • Moms in Prayer

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 8:15 am- 9:30 am
    See more details

  • Lower School Chapel

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 8:20 am- 8:45 am
    See more details

  • Auction 2024 Volunteer Meeting

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 10:30 am- 11:30 am
    See more details

  • LS NHS Tutoring

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 3:25 pm- 4:10 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity Beach Volleyball Home Match vs. Timber Creek

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity Baseball Away Game vs. Legacy Charter

    Date: February 26, 2024 - February 26, 2024
    Time: 6:00 pm- 8:00 pm
    See more details

February 27, 2024
  • 9th Gr - Everglades Trip

    Date: February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

  • Chamber Orchestra

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 7:15 am- 8:15 am
    See more details

  • US Praise and Prayer

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 7:30 am- 8:00 am
    See more details

  • Little Sprouts Garden Club (K4)

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 1:30 pm- 2:30 pm
    See more details

  • Typing Class (4th–8th Grade)

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:20 pm- 4:20 pm
    See more details

  • 1-2nd Grade Basketball Practice - RA Gym

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Gardeners Explorers Club (1st & 2nd)

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Philharmonia Orchestra

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • MS Tennis Home Match vs. Masters

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 7:00 pm
    See more details

  • Varsity beach volleyball Away Match vs Lake Mary High School

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • MS Baseball Away Game vs. Orangewood

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
    See more details

  • MS Baseball Away Game vs. Orangewood

    Date: February 27, 2024 - February 27, 2024
    Time: 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
    See more details

February 28, 2024
  • 9th Gr - Everglades Trip

    Date: February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

  • US Chapel

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 9:25 am- 10:10 am
    See more details

  • 2nd Gr - Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (Bagnoli/Warner)

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 10:00 am- 1:30 pm
    See more details

  • 3-4 Grade Boys Youth Basketball Practice

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Brioso Choir

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • NHS Tutoring

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Stitch Lab (3rd–6th)

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm
    See more details

  • Developmental Beach Volleyball Home Game vs. Real Life

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 5:30 pm
    See more details

  • JV Beach Volleyball Home Game vs. Real Life

    Date: February 28, 2024 - February 28, 2024
    Time: 3:30 pm- 5:30 pm
    See more details

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