Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

A Gift That Keeps On Giving

My husband is amazing!  I just wanted to take some time and a post to describe a small portion of his sweet love for me.

Some men probably bring their wives flowers more than mine does.  That’s good, because while I’d enjoy that, I’d be thinking at the back of my mind what they must have cost and how we could have likely spent that money on more useful things.  This week, and actually all spring, I’ve been delighting in what he does do to bring me beautiful flowers in a way that is so sweet and tender and that I can fully enjoy and delight in!

Last fall, he bought and planted tulips that were stunning in a new section of garden by our driveway.  He also worked hard to transplant some iris plants, and we have these flowers growing in three different places in our yard.   Most of the flowers have some shade of purple in them, my favorite!

Our purple and white iris garden.  (Go, Kansas State!)

Our purple and white iris garden. (Go, Kansas State!)

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These lavender iris are my favorite with their delicate, ruffled petals.

 There’s another thing that’s special about the iris for me.  My grandma has an iris garden at the farm that I remember weeding and enjoying.  She had such a variety of colors, and the smell of the flowers is better than the sweetest perfume.  My mom also had a large iris garden in town that was always stunning.  I remember experimenting with some of the concepts I learned in my advance biology class in high school to see if I could create some new varieties.

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If not for my husband’s hard work, these plants would still be in the bag my mom gave to us over a year ago.  (I spend too much time trying to find the perfect plan for something so the task never really gets done.)  He worked hard to plant and transplant them as we changed landscaping ideas.  He keeps our rose bush trimmed, and now it is filling with beautiful pink blooms.  He waters the lilac bushes that produce a scent I treasure (again, perhaps due to good memories from smelling them as I passed a group of bushes on my walks to the library or other places in our small town).  He brought home and planted lilies.  He planted seeds for sunflowers (another favorite of mine), wildflowers, and a hummingbird mix.

And now, though he’s not coming home from work with a bouquet behind his back, he’ll be giving me flowers all summer long!  Does it get any better than that?

(Update:  Why, yes it does!  Tonight he came home with flowers, and over the weekend, he brought in a cut, fragrant rose for me!)

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The Best Kind of Surprise

There have been two main reasons I haven’t been consistent in blogging since Melody was born last spring.  One reason is I’ve been prayerfully seeking how to best spend the limited discretionary time I have, and I wasn’t convinced that blogging was the priority.  The other reason is the fatigue I’ve been feeling the last year.  First, I was busy seeing to my newborn’s needs.   The fatigue didn’t leave me when Melody started sleeping through the night, though, and those necessary early bedtimes continued.  I thought it was because I was using so many calories nursing, and it likely was.  (That, and keeping up with my 2-year-old and sweet infant.)

It was nearly Christmas last year when I became suspicious enough of the strange way I’d been feeling that I took a pregnancy test.  We soon learned that my frequent night-time trips to the bathroom, ongoing exhaustion, and strong need for mid-morning protein were impacted by the new baby growing inside me.

Hello, World! See you soon!  (Our third child at 20 weeks)

Hello, World! See you soon! (Our third child at 20 weeks)

A baby that will be, Lord-willing, joining us at home in mid-July!

(I was nearly 12 weeks along when we found out.  Let me tell you, the first trimester goes very quickly when you don’t find out until after 11 weeks have passed!)

I admit, I was a little freaked out at first.  Clara will be 3 in June.  Melody turned 1 in March.  There will be just under 16 months between Melody and this baby.  That’s a lot of little people to care for!  I was intimidated by the timing.  I was excited, but also scared.  We had hoped for more children, but didn’t think we’d be blessed again so soon.

I knew I just needed to trust God.  This baby was a gift from Him, and I knew that.  My faith was (and is) strong.  Sometimes, it just takes my mind a while to catch up.

The prayer dialog in my head goes something like this:

“Less than sixteen months apart, God?  Really?  Doesn’t Mom say she had twins ‘the hard way’ with my sister and me being just fifteen months apart?  How is this going to work?  I’m often worn out from caring for our two little ones now.  How am I going to do that–while nursing a newborn and being sleep-deprived?”

Okay, so it wasn’t much of a dialog, but after my venting of my worries, I remembered again and again God’s faithfulness to me.  He’s never called me to a task and left me all alone.  He always has my best interest in mind – even if I don’t see it until later.  He’s loved me so obviously and abundantly that I don’t doubt that His will is best.

With just eight weeks to go until we meet Baby (We don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy.  Similar to our other pregnancies, we wanted to be surprised.), I don’t know how this is going to work.  I don’t know who we’ll be able to find to watch our girls while we’re at the hospital.  I don’t know how the birth and recovery will go.  I don’t know how I’ll survive when my dear husband has to return to work, leaving me with three little ones in my charge.  I don’t know if this baby will have colic, like Clara, or be a profoundly happy baby like Melody.  I don’t even know how I’ll be able to even get everyone in and out of the car seats…

But God knows.  He has it all planned out, and I know He’ll take care of me.


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A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

I took my girls to get their pictures taken at a studio in the mall for the first time last month.  I’ve felt rather guilty seeing friends’ and relatives’ beautiful pictures of their babies and knowing that I had not yet taken our now 2-year-old to have professional photos taken.  I didn’t go out of guilt; I went because it was something I thought was important – and because a dear friend has been gently encouraging me for about six months to go.

I learned a lot about the process of going in for pictures, but I learned even more about myself.

I learned how my perfectionism can be paralyzing at times.  One of the reasons I hadn’t taken my oldest in for pictures when she was a babe was my idea that everything had to be perfect.  What if I chose a dress I’d regret?  What if  it wasn’t ironed?  What would people think that I didn’t have one of those super-cute hair bows on her that nearly every baby girl seems to have these days?   Or that her bangs weren’t cut very straight.  (My talents are much more in the areas of science, engineering, and statistics, not style.)  My mistakes would be captured and kept for a lifetime; my failures, undeniable and hanging on the wall.

What lies!  What sin in believing them!

I took my girls in.  The dress I ironed was wrinkled again before we arrived.  Clara pulled out a pigtail.  We couldn’t find one of the shoes I’d planned for Clara to wear, so we went in sandals that were too small (but Clara delighted that her painted toes could be seen!).  Melody’s headband didn’t match her dress well (off white vs. white).  AND EVERYTHING WAS OKAY!  The shoes weren’t in the picture.  I quickly remade the pigtail.  The wrinkles weren’t noticeable.  What silliness to have been deterred by such thinking for so long!

I learned it’s a bit of a workout to attempt this photo thing.  I was exhausted after the three hours away from home and the preparation beforehand.  And, that includes very minimal travel time as the mall is an easy 10-minute drive away.  Oh, and that encouraging friend of mine actually came with us and blessed me with some great help!

I also agonize over decision-making.  Once I make a decision, I rarely have regrets, but the process is somewhat brutal as I expect myself to make the best possible choice from a systems approach, meaning in this case that I purchased the right number of photos without neglecting a pose I cherished at the lowest possible price or within budget.  My brain started to work out an algorithm of prioritizing my favorites, optimizing the value by using a collage and the advertised inexpensive package.  It took some time.

I learned that there is nothing out there cuter than my girls’ smiles, but a studio isn’t necessarily the best place to capture their joy.  While Melody gave us big smiles while we were there (She smiles a lot, like her mama.), Clara doesn’t smile on request well.  Instead, her “cheese face” includes tightly-closed eyes, a wrinkled-up nose, and a stretched mouth that might look a bit like a smile.  The real smiles are much more fun than the forced or artificial ones.

The studio pictures are great, but it’s hard to beat capturing one of the many moments of joy at home that shows the fun my girls have together.

My happy girls

Yes, Clara is in her pajamas.  Melody’s outfit is too small and coming unsnapped at the bottom.  The special blanket my dear friend made for us isn’t draped over the chair very well.  Hair is not brushed or styled, I was probably still in my pajamas also, and you know what?

I think it’s perfect.

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In His Time

It was the Fourth of July.  I came downstairs to send a quick e-mail to my band director explaining that I may not be able to make it to the evening municipal band concert due to our plans to visit family out of town.  As I scanned my inbox, I saw a familiar name from years ago, a fellow student of my advisor for my master’s degree.

He was writing to let me know the paper I wrote based on my thesis was accepted.  He’s been a coauthor that has done the hard work of submitting the paper to a few journals over the last few years with no success until now.

Great news, right?!  Publications seem to be what is most highly esteemed in many faculty positions.  They are required for tenure and promotion – not that those matter much to me right now while I work at home raising my girls.

I was excited, very surprised (The study was limited and includes a research method that most engineers may not understand – qualitative systematic grounded theory – simply because words (not numbers) are the data to be analyzed.), and then — stumped.  My colleague asked me to send a bio to be included with the article.

I’ve dreaded this, knowing it would come sometime, but not thinking it would be so soon.  Affiliation: __ (blank)__.  I wonder what it says to people to see my name listed as first author and no affiliation with a company or university.

I wonder what it says about me that I care.  

I wanted to make sure my qualifications gave credibility to the paper.  I wanted to sound professional.  I also wanted to make sure I could honestly and joyfully describe my current career choice.  Honestly, I wished I had started my own company – even if I didn’t accept any business – just to have a name to list, to say I was a consultant or something.   But, I haven’t started a company yet.  I don’t have a name picked out.

So, here goes:

Dana K. is a stay-at-home mother of two beautiful daughters.  She earned her Ph.D. in industrial engineering with an emphasis in quality and reliability engineering… She has taught classes in operations management and quality management at ____ University and has several years of industrial experience…  Her research interests include industrial statistics, quality engineering, Six Sigma, and service operations management.

That first sentence is not something you see in many journal article bios.  I’ve never seen it before, anyway.  I pray that it will be a testimony that shows professional women in industry and academia that they do have a choice if they want to change directions in their lives.  That choice is very hard to see sometimes, for a variety of reasons.

And my late-night pondering makes me wonder if the previous rejections of this paper and now its acceptance have a very special, strategic timing.  While I feel almost naked thinking about my name printed without an affiliation, I think God may see that front page differently.  He makes all things beautiful in His time.  And I think that blank will be beautiful to Him.

~Dana

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Jesus Loves Me

There is something amazing and so heartwarming as each night my toddler asks us to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her before bed.   Lately, while my two-month-old daughter slumbers easily through the night, my two-year-old girl has been waking.  She doesn’t ask for water or a book or for me to hold her (most of the time).  She asks for me to sing to her.  “Jesus Loves Me,” she requests.  “More Jesus Loves Me,” she petitions if one verse and the chorus is not enough.

There is something even more heartwarming when she sings it.  During the Easter service at our church, I felt that every time the pastor said “Jesus,” she began her song again.  Sometimes she leans her head back a bit as she sings with her eyes tightly closed, making us think a little of Ray Charles.  Often, the “for the Bible tells me so” is accelerated and punctuated at the end with an accented, staccato “SO.”

When Clara first started singing this song, I shuddered to think of how I could have missed it had I been working.  I would have still been able to sing to her at night – if my mind wasn’t preoccupied with the stack of papers to grade or the next day’s teaching lesson.  (I was an instructor at a university until I resigned last December.)  I may have gotten to hear her sing if she shared her song in the evening or on the weekends.  IF

I praise the Lord that I have the chance to be home with my precious little girls right now, to teach them, to watch them, to learn about them, to train them, to encourage them, to serve them, to laugh with them, to read to them.

And, while Clara also sings “Happy An No” (If You’re Happy and You Know It), The Alphabet Song (kind of), “Twinkle Star,” and others, one of the greatest benefits of my new job at home is knowing that three little words bring her comfort and are a truth that seems to be staying in her curious, ever-learning mind.  Jesus loves me.

He loves you, too.

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Doubling Our Pleasure

We are now a family of four!  Praise be to God!

We brought little Melody home five weeks ago, and we are so blessed to have her in our family!   We had chosen not to “peek” at our baby’s gender (read why here), so it was a great surprise when my husband announced, “It’s a girl!” in the delivery room.  (I had been sure I was carrying a boy this time…  Yet another reason not to trust my intuition on such things.)  🙂

I stand increasingly amazed at God’s goodness and how it exceeds my wildest dreams.  I had been afraid that I would be let down by this birth story since my experience with my firstborn was so incredible.  (When you can deliver a 9 lb. 3 oz. baby with no pain medication and two hours later talk about doing it again, it must have been a good experience!)  God blessed us with a very different – but no less amazing – labor and delivery this time.  I labored at home for about 5 hours before we casually went to the hospital.  We were only in the labor and delivery room at the hospital for an hour before our baby was born!

To tell you how sweetly God cares for me (and you, too!!), consider this:  The most uncomfortable part of giving birth to my oldest was the required IV.  Ugh!  I cringe just thinking about it!  This time, I gave birth before the nurse had a chance to even get the needle out of the package! YES!  

Our God knows our needs, and He cares so much for us!  Having two children under two sounds like a challenge, but He’s provided a happy baby (without colic this time) who makes things not only manageable, but fun!  Clara is a good big sister and well-behaved — for the most part.  She’s still in training.  🙂  Each day with the two of them is a joy!  (Though sometimes I’m experiencing it through half-open eyes.)

Sure, I’m still getting the hang of having two little ones.  I don’t sleep through the night.  I don’t get to eat my food when it’s hot.  I get frustrated with my toddler’s messes and spills.  I’ve had trouble getting back into a groove of cleaning and cooking and other responsibilities.  Small sacrifices.

My dad told me, “It’s different with two.”  He made it sounds like a warning, but he’s right…

We have twice the blessings.  More coos.  More smiles.  More hours of snuggling.  The joy of having a girl on each knee.  The fun of seeing Clara want to comfort or entertain her sister.  The chance to nurse another precious babe.  The chance to welcome another precious life into our family.

Thank You, Lord!

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Flashback Friday – Remembering Family

A couple of weeks ago, I was in my hometown for a few days to attend a cousin’s funeral and to visit my parents.

My cousin Brian was 36, and his death was unexpected.  Though I hadn’t seen him in years, the loss seems unreal and tragic.

For I remember family reunions, held at the Calvary Baptist Church most of the time, where I’d see and hug all my great aunts and uncles.  (Granddad once told me that I shouldn’t be hugging everyone so much.)  They all lived in the area where I grew up – as in within 15 miles – and I knew them well.  Their children were there, my dad’s cousins.  And, their children were there.  My sister and I are in this generation, as was my cousin who died.  With he and his brother being a few years older than us and there being some other boys for them to play with, we were often rather alone, but when we were a little older, they taught us how to play “War” with cards, and I think they taught us that game on paper where you shoot from a tank by flicking the pencil with your finger to try to hit your opponent’s equipment.  In later years, we entertained ourselves by playing with the “little kids” of the next generation, who were 7-10 years my junior.

Those annual gatherings on Sunday afternoons are so different now, some 20 years later.  My Granddad’s generation is gone.  Dad’s living cousins are fewer, and they are aging, which seems very strange to me.  And now, even my generation is shrinking in number.  Those once-lively family reunions are slowing down and aren’t as well attended as the new generations come and people move farther away from the area my great-grandfather homesteaded in.

As I spend time searching my heart for how the Lord would have me use my time in this season of focusing on our family at home, I find a great desire to restore our connections with family members that we don’t see often, to get to know some of my husband’s family that we haven’t really had much opportunity to visit with, to be the one that reaches out.  I want to sit and listen to their stories, to better understand the special people that we are blessed to call our family.

I hope our children will know and run to hug their great aunts and uncles as they get older and that our family ties will grow even stronger as time goes on, though distance separates and the older generations pass away.

~Dana 

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