Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

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

The Chicken Chronicles – Making New Friends

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Winter came and went with our two white chickens, Wilhelmina and Stacy, providing us with eggs.  The coop and yard seemed somewhat empty now, though, with just the two of them.

Spring came.  It was a busy time for us as we traveled out-of-state for my Ph.D. defense, I continued to teach at the university, and Chad began work to expand the chickens’ quarters (I’ll provide more pictures in the last segment of this series.)  We didn’t think it was the best time to get new baby chicks, but we were hoping to find more adult hens.

Stacy and Wilhelmina

Summer came.  We celebrated our daughter’s birthday and mine.  A couple of weeks later, we decided that our beloved dog, Maxine, was suffering so much that we should say goodbye to her.  It was a very sad day for us.

Saying goodbye to Maxine

We were glad she didn’t have to suffer through the brutal, dry heat that came that summer, but after so many years as a faithful companion to my husband (They’d been together about twice as long as hubby and I had.), there is still a loneliness without her.

This side note about our dog isn’t a complete tangent that’s unrelated to the chickens, though.  While talking to the vet that day, my husband found that she would be willing to part with some of her older hens.  They worked out some kind of arrangement (I don’t recall if it was payment or some kind of trade for something useful.), and soon, we had three new girls in the yard, all big, brown, and beautiful.

One was noticeably older than the others.  Chad called her “The Old Lady.”  I started calling her Ethyl.  Another hen was a beautiful lighter reddish color.  I named her Ginger.  The third had darker feathers on her head and neck, and the first name that came to me somehow stuck with her.  It had more to do with her attitude, for now SHE had taken on the most aggressive behavior, seemingly unaware that the white chickens had seniority on her here.  Big Red Mama thought she was the new leader, and somehow, Wilhelmina let her assume that role.

Now, the two younger red hens seemed to hang out together.  The white hens kept close to each other, and Ethyl, well, she just seemed glad to be by herself.  Some of her feathers were missing, indicating the others may have been pecking on her a bit.  She seemed resigned to her place at the bottom of the “pecking order.”

The dynamics of our brood would continue to change in the weeks ahead, though…



The Chicken Chronicles – The Beginning

I’ve visited with a couple of friends lately that were surprised when I mentioned our fresh eggs.  Yes, we live in town.  Yes, we have chickens in the backyard.  And, yes, our hens are legal here.

In addition to the eggs, though, our chickens have provided some good entertainment and fun stories (some tragic, though – be warned).  I’m not the best story-teller, but I’ll try to share our humorous moments as well as some lessons learned in case some of you may be considering getting chickens some day.

The story begins about two years ago…


March 2010.

I was pregnant with our first child, so I wasn’t overly excited when Chad started discussing the idea of getting some baby chicks.

With our first child expected in a couple of months, I was NOT going to take on more animals...

We agreed that he would care for them and be fully responsible for them.  We went to Orscheln together and picked out Rhode Island Red chicks, cute, brown, little birds that captured our hearts.  Not knowing the difference between “straight run” and “pullets,” we chose the cheaper option of straight run.  (I had this lingering feeling that we should at least ask, but we didn’t.)  We came home with seven chicks.

Our new babies, two years ago.

Chad doesn’t disappoint.  He took wonderful care of the little chicks and started to work to build them a home for when they grew too large for the box.  This was our chicken “starter home.”  He used primarily materials we had on hand.

The chicken's first "house"

They seemed happy there and continued to grow well.

It wasn’t until later that we started noticing some differences between the chickens…

Stay tuned!


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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.


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Flashback Friday – My Ph.D. Defense Doesn’t Compare To This

My defense form was signed! I passed without revisions!

About this time last year, I was preparing for my Ph.D. dissertation defense.  Many times I had heard people say, “There is no reason to be nervous.  You know your research better than anyone else.”  I was nervous because I didn’t know entirely what to expect, and making all the arrangements from over a thousand miles away was a challenge, but I was also excited to tell others about my work.  My aunt and uncle listened while my husband entertained Clara outside the conference room.  Other students came.  (They can get some seminar credit for attending defenses.)  The forty-five-minute presentation went quickly, without a hitch, and the committee’s questions were fair and very helpful.  My committee signed my form, passing me without requiring any revisions to my dissertation!

Yes, I was the one who had spent hours gathering data, cleaning the dataset, running SAS code and analyzing the results, creating organized tables to display the data, making conclusions, creating helpful charts, and writing page upon page to explain the problem, methodology, and the application of the results.  I had presented at national conferences, local research meetings, and in my own classroom.  Despite all the time my advisor and I spent discussing the work along the way, no one knew this research better than I did.

Yesterday,  a couple of thoughts hit me.  One came as I was driving home from the university with Clara that was a small wish that I had time to do some research still, but the inclination was small.  Later, as my husband and I retired for the night, I told him how much I treasured the fact that no one knows our toddler better than I do right now.  She is my research project right now.  I know her sleeping habits, her toy preferences (though they change often), her abilities and limitations, her patience level, her language, and I delight in that!  And I’m excited to study the new little one who, Lord-willing, will join our family in about six weeks!

Passing my defense without revisions last year is nothing compared to this!



Flashback Friday – Remembering The Book Closet

We are in the process of moving our home office downstairs to prepare a room for Baby.  This has been an ongoing challenge due to many factors (that I’ll likely be posting more about as I find issues I need to work on as I start this new season):

  1. I also moved all of my school office books and supplies home last month.  These have never needed a place in our home before.
  2. I’ve had three years to clutter up the office with my good intentions and little time to organize or go through the many papers I’ve collected.  I have a rather major problem with this habit.
  3. I have too many books and not enough shelves.  This has been a lingering problem since we moved to Kansas and I was reunited with the many books I left in storage when I moved away for graduate school.
  4. My time to work on this project is limited by other tasks and is mostly only possible when my toddler is sleeping since she likes to “help.”  🙂

But, my amazing husband gave me a new book case for Christmas, and the “new” office is taking shape.  I carefully selected which books would make the “cut” to be on this special shelf.

The top shelf is filled with the books from my grandmother.  I have desired these books ever since I discovered them many, many years ago while exploring Grandma’s “junk room” in an upstairs bedroom of their old farm house.  The room was cluttered with miscellaneous toys, furniture, and more.  The light primarily came from two windows, but my sister and I often took up the red fluorescent flashlight to explore the room in more depth.

There were two closets in the room.  Neither had lights within, so by the glow of the flashlight, I perceived shelves of old books.  I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love books!  I savored the musty smell.  Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Longfellow.  Classics and poetry, all bound in leather with different colors and textures – and very old.

I can’t count the times I went upstairs to that closet just to look at the books.  Sometimes I would read from them.  Often I didn’t, but I held a sense of awe for the books and the collector.  These books weren’t Grandma’s.  She said they belonged to either her father or her Aunt Emma, a maiden school teacher who lived with the family while my dad was growing up.   I felt a connection to the original owner, and I hoped that one day, I would be able to have these books – and a library of my own.

The dream of having my own library will have to wait, but I do have the books.  The treasured volumes from Grandma’s house have their place of honor on my new shelves.  My own, newer, but no less beautiful, leather-bound copies of many of the greatest books ever written (according to Easton Press) also have their places in book shelves around the house.

For the ones that remain without a designated place, I may have to create my own book closet.  Perhaps it will excite and inspire the younger ones in our family as Grandma’s closet did for me…


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The Infamous Glucose Test

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say they enjoy the 28-week glucose test during pregnancy.  So, I was quite surprised nearly 2 years ago when I took the test for my first baby, that I didn’t mind at all.  The drink didn’t seem that bad.

But then, most women probably didn’t grow up drinking as much Kool-Aid as I did.  My Grandma Fritz made Kool-Aid twice as concentrated as the directions call for, so drinking the Tropical Punch-flavored beverage at the OB’s office seemed like a breeze.  🙂

I fondly remember my Grandma.  So many things made her special to me, and I’m sure there were many special characteristics she had that I didn’t notice.  She spent a lot of time in the kitchen, and I remember her cooking…

Fried chicken with her own special way of cutting up the bird so that the “pulley bone” remained intact, cooked in her heavy, cast iron skillets.

Macaroni and cheese made with cream instead of milk.

Bite-sized, half-baked chocolate chip cookies that were kept in the freezer.

Her fruit cobbler.  (I’ll share the recipe one of these days.  It helped catch my husband’s attention when we started dating!)

Her fall-off-the-bone ribs and rich, cheesy potatoes…

So, today as I took my glucose test for this baby (and, honestly, I did have more trouble with the drink than I remembered last time), I remembered drinking that strong Kool-Aid out on the farm – and hoped I can grow to be the amazing cook that Grandma was (and my mom is). 


I’m going to try to start sharing some memories on Fridays as “Flashback Fridays.”  Yes, there is a lot going on in my present life that warrants reflection, discussion, and sharing, but I also believe I have a unique testimony through the events that have happened over the last several years.  I’m excited to share with you how God worked in those times as well as what He’s doing now!   There are some great stories!  Stay tuned!

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