Fresh Voices


This post talks about a country that contains approximately 1 billion people, most who are of one religion, one race, one color. There are some sweeping generalizations, but this post doesn’t even begin to describe the incredibly diverse and beautiful country that is India.

This December, I was blessed to experience Christmas in another country. The experiences and memories I made will never leave me. India is an incredible country, filled with the best kind of people. There is truly no culture or community like the kind you’d experience in India. I have a slight feeling of apprehension in sharing my thoughts about this trip, because it was so personal. I went alone, without my family. I was the youngest, out of a team of four other girls that I met a mere two hours before boarding our first flight. Within the next thirty hours of traveling, we quickly discovered that our team was meant to be. The dynamic was perfect, and we bonded so quickly over the two weeks we spent away from our home country.

travel team

We jumped into the deep end, you could say. We immediately immersed ourselves in a culture that is the in many ways the opposite from ours here in America. It’s terrifying and beautiful at the same time. Honor is put on a pedestal (pun intended), and money keeps the country going. One of the days on our trip, we went to visit the Taj Mahal (which is worth the visit)! We hired a local guide for the day, and as we strolled through the gate, we looked behind us in horror as our guide slipped one of the guards a couple hundred rupees-- a bribe that got him (and us) inside without having to go through security. Money is everything...although, that’s not so different than America, now is it?

People. I’ve never been a people person. Being a teenager, that doesn’t exactly help fight the whole “Millennial” aesthetic, but it’s just me. That was one of my biggest fears going into the city. As we were heading home, a team member and I stopped at a Starbucks in the Delhi airport. We got in line, ordered, and waited nearly twenty minutes for our drinks to be made. It took me a moment to realize that the employees were serving the males behind us in line first, before even starting to make our drinks. That’s just how the culture is. There isn’t a huge feminist movement in India. I was never upset directly at the people, because in fact, people are the best part of India. They are hospitable, kind, generous, and would move mountains to help or host a complete stranger.

mothers children

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Broadway star. I loved to sing, well, I still do, and who doesn’t love the idea of people paying to watch you sing? To quote Zac Efron from the first “High School Musical” movie, “My showerhead is very impressed with me.” So whenever Christmas came around, caroling was something I always wanted to do. Yet, with two autistic siblings, the idea of spending a night walking around in the cold and knocking on people’s doors, all while singing, didn’t go over well with me. So, when I learned that our team would go caroling, I pretty much exploded. We all crowded into a car, and drove around the neighborhood. We went caroling with the local bible college students. Most of the songs were in Hindi, but it was so fun! By going into the neighborhood, and into people’s houses, you really see the citizens in a new way. The tradition is such that you invite the carolers in, then offer them chai and treats. We would visit people who lived in one room houses, and yet they still offer food and tea. They have little to nothing, but generosity wins over selfishness. That’s the culture. Take care of others before yourself. You don’t see that in America so much.


I went to India on a mission trip, not a tourist trip. I went on this trip with extremely high expectations that were, frankly, unfair. I knew that Christians were not exactly welcomed with open arms in India, but it was still a big part of the culture shock to experience hostility because of my faith. I wasn’t allowed to wear any crosses. No shirts from church or Christian functions were allowed. When we went through customs, we were there for a tourist trip, not a mission trip. They wouldn’t let us in the country if we said otherwise. The area we were going to was safe, I wasn’t in immediate danger, but the mission family has had several run-ins with the government because of their religion. The mission family runs a huge ministry in a city with a large population. They have a bible college, church, health clinic, agriculture field, and they had an orphanage. Two years ago, the government came and seized all of the children in the orphanage. They accused the leaders of the ministry of raping the children and forcing Christianity on the children. This is all untrue, as these men are some of the warmest and kindest people I have ever met. The government then proceeded to redistribute the children back onto the streets-- all because the orphanage was Christian.

children on stage

Experiencing that brings freedom of religion into a whole new perspective. I’m allowed to wear a cross around my neck when I go into public, here in America. I advertise for my church with pride by wearing shirts and passing out welcome cards. I can listen to Christian music on the radio. Christianity is NOT illegal in India, but, it’s also not welcome. You have to legally register your religion with the government. If you grow up in a Hindu family, but convert to Christianity, you have to tell the government. That’s not free religion.

lighting candles

90% of the population is Hindu. That’s a lot of people. While I was there, I realized that some families were only Hindu because their family before them was. That’s not much different than America, when you compare and contrast. A large number of families decide to continue on in Christianity because the generation before them did.

While I was in India, I had the opportunity to pray over the local women. They have grown up Hindu, but that didn't matter. They realize the power of prayer, and they realize that they are in need of it. Some of the women bring their children to be prayed over, so that they can be healed from sicknesses. That’s what a lot of the women ask for, healing, that is. One of the women had scraped her knee, and as she lifted her dress so we could look at it, we noticed that it had become infected.


I guess you could say I’m an introvert. I like the quiet, reflection, and earbuds that block out all outside noise. Having anxiety doesn’t help so much either. My senses get overloaded really easily, so panic attacks were a common occurrence while I was there.


India is not a country for introverts. We spent the majority of our time in a city with a population of one million people. India has an estimated population of one billion people. That’s a lot of people! On one of our last full days, we visited “the land.” The mission family is planning on moving their whole ministry out onto this chunk of land they bought several years ago. It’s away from the city, and the best part is that you can’t hear any honking horns! No, just kidding, the land was so much more than that. We were surrounded by trees, cotton fields, hills, crops, and several monkeys. I almost like India more in the country, it’s more...well...India. It’s like she puts on this personality front, but then you get to the natural land, and you see the real India. We walked around the land, and saw the wells they were building and the crops they were growing.


Coming back. I was only nervous about one thing. The question, “How was your trip?” What an open-ended question! How am I supposed to answer that? I went to another country for the first time. I flew by myself for the first time. I even ate Indian food for the first time (it’s incredibly good food). It’s not fair to summarize an experience like this in several paragraphs. And while I did experience many firsts, I’ve realized that I did not experience many lasts. I know that I will go back. I know that I have not seen my new friends for the last time! I even know that my last time eating Indian food is a far ways off. And I mean a FAR ways off. That stuff is so amazing. Firsts and lasts can be intimidating, but hey, they’re part of life. So just go with the flow and take in as much as you can!


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Barbie, Love Her or Hate Her?


Barbie is known for being a toy, just something that girls (and some boys) play with. Yet, she is so much more than that. She has been both praised and condemned. Like every one of us, she has a history.

The Barbie doll was invented in 1959; Ruth Handler is credited with creating her. Barbie is named after her daughter, Barbara, and Ken, named after her son, Ken Handler.

Well, now that you have a little bit of backstory, I want to prove to you that Barbie is more than just blonde hair and blue eyes. I’m going to convince you that Barbie is more than her dream house and wardrobe. She is more than her cars and horses, too!!!

I want to focus on the positive effects that she has on the youth of every the whole entire UNIVERSE!!

While I am (very) pro-Barbie, even I can admit it’s easy to see the cons related to Barbie’s character and her giggly attitude, not to mention the way she looks. With an impossible hourglass shape, MASSIVE blue eyes, unbelievably pointed feet, and arms and legs the width of a toothpick, one of Barbie’s greatest enemies is herself and her figure. Also, her character is questionable in the more modern shows where she is featured. She can be played as a spoiled brat, who spends all day shopping. In the somewhat new show, “Barbie, Life in the Dream House”, I feel she is portrayed as someone who doesn’t have a brain, and is only worried about her next date with her boyfriend, Ken. Also, her obsession with pink can become quite obnoxious.

Many doctors and therapists have repeatedly cited Barbie as one of the most negative influences on girls’ body image due to her impossible hip, waist, and chest measurements. Along those same lines, Barbie is never out of money, food, or friends, and she is always happy, drives the best car, and lives in the best house in the best neighborhood. This makes most girls, me included, mostly jealous.

But, let’s talk about how all of these traits actually can make Barbie a positive influence on girls today, especially me! Barbie is so kind to everyone. She is even nice to people who are mean to her, like Raquelle, who is always nasty to her. Barbie always makes good choices! She can do anything! Some of the best jobs that Barbie has had include being a veterinarian, a teacher, and an airline pilot. She helps animals, kids, and helps keep people safe while traveling. Barbie even takes care of her sisters and friends. She has even run for president a couple of times! Her character, I believe, is actually really good. She is generous, ambitious, smart, and a strong leader.

barbie violin

I think Barbie is actually a great female role model for girls, because I don’t just see a pretty girl wearing lots of make-up, high heels and a really fancy dress. I see a strong, brave girl. I see a girl who isn’t afraid to work or get her hands dirty if she needs to. I see a veterinarian helping animals. I see a doctor helping people to feel better and stay well. I even see a strong woman running for president of the United States of America! Barbie is one of the most positive role models available to girls today. She is beautiful, and not just on the outside.

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Snow Day!

You wake up and rush to the window, quivering with excitement. There was a 95% chance of snow when you went to bed last night, and big fat flakes are still falling past your eyes.

You rush downstairs and ask, “Is-there-school-today-I hope-there-isn’t-school-because-it-is-snowing!”

You’re thrilled when your mother answers, “No school today, the county just called. It’s a snow day!”

How to get a snow day

  • Do the snow dance. Be creative, do it your own way.
  • Flush an ice cube down the toilet.
  • Wear your pajamas inside out and backwards.
  • Eat some ice cream, freeze the spoon, and put the spoon under your pillow.


Things to do on a snow day

  • Run around your neighborhood and sled down all the hills.
  • If you have a neighbor who has a steep hill, ask them if you can sled on it. (Works even better if they are nice and older).
  • If you have an older sibling, wait until they get up and go outside, get a friend and make a legion of snow balls and a huge snow igloo; be prepared, siblings fight back fast. Pelt them until they run back inside to tattle, now quick, run to your friend’s house and hide out there until the sibling/parent rage is over.
  • Warm up inside with some hot cocoa and snacks.

 snowball fight

How to make money

After you finish your cocoa and snack, get off your butt, bundle up again, and go from door to door asking people if you can shovel their driveways. (If there is like 8 inches of hard packed snow, it may not be the best idea, but if there’s 2 inches of a kind of powdery snow it’s like white gold!). Ask the older nice people who can’t get up to shovel. Earlier this winter, my friend and I made $35.00 each and we only had to shovel 5 driveways! It was great...I still have money left over.

Fun sledding farther away

If the snow is starting to die down you can ask your parents to take you to a nearby sledding hill. If they refuse because, “Oh we don’t have 4 wheel drive. It could be dangerous,” ask them to call a friend who does have 4 wheel drive to take you. If they say it’s rude to invite yourself, call, hint a little, and hope they invite you. Ask your mom or dad to offer the other parent that if they take us sledding, then you and your friend can play at your house afterwards. (This should work because both parents think that they’re getting a good deal).

We haven’t had much snow yet this winter, but I’m still hoping! If we do get a good snow, now you know what to do!

Robert Calvert is a 6th grader who lives in Stafford County with his family. In case you couldn't tell, he LOVES snow days!

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Top 5 Reasons Why Parents Need to Be OK with Minecraft

Hello, my name is Katie Schroeder, also known as the daughter of Kristen Schroeder (We’re All a Little Mad Here). Since I’m a big part of her life, to say the least she encouraged me to write a blog post for Fresh Voices. So let’s get started...

Today, I want to tell you tales of a place made of blocks, a place where anything is possible. You know it, you heard it, it annoys your parents, yup, I am talking about Minecraft. Why did I choose Minecraft as my subject for this blog post? Because (number 1) I’m a freaking genius when it comes to Minecraft (I can even hack into it) and (2) because I want to help out the poor kids whose parents won’t let them play it, and to hopefully make those parents be more reasonable about this great game.

So here we have the ...



Have you ever struggled to find the perfect curriculum to teach your kids or to make learning fun? Well, I went through the same problem with my mom until we started to use Minecraft as part of my homeschool. You might be thinking, ‘’how can a game teach my kid(s)?’’ Well, it’s quite easy! I use this curriculum called Do-It-Your-Self Curriculum Fun- Schooling with Minecraft.

minecraft curriculum

Also, you can make your own curriculum work with Minecraft. Anyway, in my curriculum it has drawing, and building. It also has challenges like ‘’Build a fort with only 200 blocks’’ or ‘’Make a castle only out of wool’’ then there is history. For example, if you are reading about the Romans, then you can make a building in Minecraft from Roman history, such as the Colosseum or a Roman Amphitheatre.

Now time for...


If you have been reading my mom’s posts then you should know that (1) I am her youngest child, (2) I have autism, OCD, dyslexia, ADHD, and some more conditions that I don’t even know the names for. I get really angry very quickly and how I deal with it is: Minecraft. I know a girl who has autism just like I do and she uses Minecraft to calm her down.

Now it’s time for REASON 3:

People normally have 3-10 fears. Me, I have 2 (I am totally not bragging). Fear number one is elevators, and fear number two is STORMS. I don’t know why, but I just HATE storms!! They scare me so much and if I see a tiny gray cloud in the sky I start to cry. If I hear a noise in the summer that sounds like thunder, I run to my basement. I can’t even look at a picture of a storm without getting freaked out! If there is a storm coming, all I can do is cry and hide... but since I have started to play Minecraft, I can do semi OK during storms. You see, Minecraft is so fun and interesting, that when I play it, I’m thinking, ‘’Oh, I’m just going to play for a few minutes.’’ HAHAHAHAHA -- that’s all I say when people say I’m just going to play for a few minutes... instead of a few minutes, it’s a few hours. Like, I have played Minecraft before during a storm and I thought I only played for a few minutes, but I actually played for three hours and then the storm was over! It was a win- win.

minecraft image

Reason 4:

I don’t like people. When I see people I get scared. This, folks, is what we call these days, shy. Maybe your kid(s) is (are) shy, too, and they don’t like to talk face-to-face with people. Well, let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, in a house long, long ago (more like a few years ago), there was a young girl named Katie. She did not like people but she loved to play Minecraft. One day, her friend moved away, but they wanted to keep in touch and play Minecraft together. It seemed like the end, but her friend told her about SERVERS. And they played together and lived hopefully happily ever after!.

If your kid(s) only stays inside and plays videogames (or Minecraft) then make them do servers. Once I started to use servers I made friends all over the world! For example: I have a really good friend who lives in Norway who tries to talk in her language to me and I just stare at her like *what* and I have a friend in Australia who tells me all the time about his pet dingo. Be careful, because some servers might be more for grown-ups, and some are even inappropriate, but most are good and fun and safe. Here is a picture of my two friends and me on a Disney server:

minecraft image2

And last but, of course, not least:


Yes, there are a lot of good reasons to not let your kid play Minecraft, but have you ever thought of just letting your kid(s) try it? Minecraft is a teaching game in disguise. One time my mom was teaching me art and she was just about to talk about how colors were made but for some reason I already knew how they were made. ‘’ Mom,’’ I said, ‘’ I already know. Most colors are made from crushed up flowers or rocks.’’ She stared at me like, ‘’How do you know that?’’ and I said, ‘’Minecraft’’.

And Minecraft doesn’t have to be just about learning; it’s fun to let your kid(s) build what she/he wants. You will be shocked about what they learn about or make! Also, definitely don’t try to find another game like Minecraft because you won’t find one that is better. Minecraft is not just for boys, either. Come on, girls! We don’t always have to play with dolls and watch guys play Minecraft. And NO ONE should say that Minecraft is girly or boyish! It’s for every one...

minecraft image3

Webmaster's note: My son is a computer science student at Christopher Newport University. When he took AP Computer Science in high school, much of what he learned made complete sense to him because of what he had learned playing Minecraft! It's not just a game. It's teaching logic and coding as well!

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Sofie’s Scoop: Harry’s Alehouse

Just after the first snow of the New Year, my family decided to go to Harry’s. This new alehouse is located in West Fredericksburg, in Harrison Crossing. We were seated in a side booth as soon as we walked in the door, but no one came to take our order for a while. By the time someone came to ask what we wanted to drink, we had already picked what we were going to eat. The waitress apologized that no one had come to serve us. She brought our drinks and took our orders.

I ordered the grilled salmon BLT, Jack, my little brother, ordered the black bean burger, and Luke, my youngest brother, ordered the Steady Eddie grilled cheese. They all came with a side of home fries. The waitress was very nice to us, and she referred to us as “sir” and “ma’am”. The grilled salmon BLT is made with grilled salmon, apple wood bacon, fried Granny Smith apple slices, lettuce, tomato, and lemon aioli on herbed focaccia bread. The Steady Eddie is fried green tomatoes, applewood bacon, and melted pimento cheese on toasted rye bread. The black bean burger is a black bean burger with Granny Smith apple jicama slaw.

While we waited for our food, I read the restaurant’s “story” on the back of the table tent menu. The story is about a dog named Harry who saw the need for a restaurant in Harrison Crossing and gathered a group of people to build a family-friendly restaurant. Luke thought it was hilarious. He also thought the kids’ menu was hilarious because they named the options “I don’t know,” “I don’t care,” “I’m not hungry,” and “I don’t want that.”

My BLT was delicious. The salmon was grilled perfectly. I thought the apple would taste weird in the sandwich, but it added a flavorful sour taste. The fries were also very good. You could taste that they were hand cut, not slimy frozen garbage.

Grilled salmon BLTGrilled Salmon BLT

Jack loved his black bean burger and fries as well.

Black bean burgerBlack bean burger

Luke, on the other hand, didn’t like his sandwich at all. He thought that there was too much pimento cheese and he didn’t like the texture. He also said that it was too sour and salty. I tried it and thought it tasted fine, but I agreed that the fried green tomato was a little sour and salty.

Steady Eddie grilled cheeseSteady Eddie grilled cheese

Of course the three of us were not there alone! My dad ordered a cup of beer cheese soup, a soup with pale ale with cheddar cheese, bell peppers, onions, and German sausage, but it never came. We brushed it off because it was just something he wanted to try. We assumed they just forgot about it and didn’t put it on the check, but it was. My dad told the waitress and she apologized and took it off the check.

I really liked Harry’s Alehouse. The food was great. The service was lacking that day, but other reviews that I checked said it was usually good. We will be back a second time. If you’re looking for a family-friendly restaurant in Fredericksburg, you should try Harry’s Alehouse.

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Pouches' Community Corner

The Table at St. George’s

The Table at St. George’s is a market-style food pantry serving the extended local community. Visitors are invited to select their own items from a variety of fresh food, including locally grown produce. The Table’s mission is to encourage healthy eating, build relationships with those in need, and blur the lines between those serving and those being served.