Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

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

Christmas Cards

Christmas CardsIt’s that time of year, a time when I aspire to share a greeting with everyone in my heart.  The perfectionist in me declares this should include a summary of the past year (or more if I didn’t get cards out the year before…or the year before that), a picture of my family (of course, dated and labeled with names and ages of each person), and a Christmas card that fits the person I’m sending it to in some way (or at least myself or our relationship).

I imagine a snowy, quiet day in which I would carefully select the fountain pen from my collection that has just the right nib size, barrel thickness, and color to fit my mood and size of my handwriting needed for the card.  I’d choose cardinal red, gemstone green, or perhaps cocoa for ink, and let my heart-felt words of thankfulness for our friendship and best wishes for the coming year flow onto the page while my favorite Christmas music played in the background and a peppermint candle flickered.  I could happily pass a day – or more – in such occupation, and there were days in the past when I did just that.

Today was a day with the perfect, gently falling snow.  A peaceful Saturday.  A day with no outside obligations.  Perhaps I could…

But, it was also a normal day with my sweet Four, the five-year-old singing loudly and dancing haphazardly, the toddler crying (for milk, for help opening the baby gate, for justice when big sisters are mean…), the three-year-old unable to nap and needing help with every single paint jar lid when the rest of the house was quiet, and the baby apparently not being satisfied to play alone on the floor nearby.

A couple of years ago, I would have probably felt frustration and loss, perhaps even a sense of being cheated out of something that I delight in.  Today, I knew it was important for me to share some of my words with a few beloved family members that were on my heart.  I hoped to finish six cards (instead of the close to one hundred I’d love to prepare and send)  – without the year’s summary or thoughtfully selected card.  I traded the bliss of my fountain pens for a ballpoint to avoid the fear of an accidental spill and to save the time I’d spend deliberating on a choice.

I finished only two, but didn’t feel cheated.  I think that’s two more than last year.    And, there’s tomorrow to try for another one or two…  Right?

As I remember Christmas seasons past, my heart fills with joy in reliving days with such special people – family, school mates, college friends, roommates, lab mates, church friends, band friends, and new friends.  I long to share with them how I treasure our time together and how dear they still are to me, despite the distance of geography and time.  I sincerely hope I’ll be intentional and focused enough to send some words to many, even if it’s after Christmas.

But, today, I was telling dear ones how much they are loved.  I did so as I read Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs for the third time.  I did so as I admired her painting and served hot chocolate with whipped cream to my sweet, quiet three-year-old daughter while the other three slept.  I snuggled the thumb-sucking, blond-haired two-year-old after her nap.  I rocked my baby, singing Christmas carols to lull him to sleep.  I washed laundry, cleaned dishes, cooked a meal, and watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with my kids, all things that I didn’t do when I had the time to spend all day with a stack of beautiful cards and my fountain pen.

So, for those of you who are dear to me (I hope you know who you are.), please be patient.  This season of life is demanding and hard and RICH.  Please don’t take my negligence as a personal slight.  As I hear at the grocery store (whether with two kids or with four) on nearly every outing, I’ve got my hands full, and I haven’t yet learned to write with my toes.

And, if someday in the future, you receive a card like I imagine sending, please give me a call, because though I may be delighting in the writing I couldn’t do when the children were small, it will mean that they’re not small anymore, and I, well, I just have a feeling that I’ll be missing these days of slobbery kisses, a full lap, and perhaps even the loud chaos and sticky messes, and I’ll need a hug.

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A New Groove

I’ve been away from blogging for a while… A long while. I remember thinking last June, “I’m tired (really tired), and Clara’s birthday is coming up. I’ll just take a few days off of writing so I can prepare for the party.”

I did. I was eight months pregnant at the time, and I easily justified that.

The only problem was that after the party, I was still too tired to spend time blogging at the end of the day instead of sleeping. My writing focus was spent completing an article from my dissertation work so my advisor and I could submit it for publication. That piece came together, but I was getting closer to my due date, and any extra energy needed to be applied to an attempt to clean the house. My little one’s due date came and went in mid-July. Ten days later, we met our third little girl, Charlotte.

July 10-August 2, 2013 112

Then, the days and nights became a blur of activity with three little ones under 38 months in my care. I hope I took enough pictures in those months because the memories are foggy, even now just a few months later. There was much to learn. Such as…

Where do we put another car seat? What was the optimum way to position the 3 car seats in our 6-passenger Ford Freestyle with all three girls needing complete help with the buckles? We chose the wrong way first. It involved opening the hatch, lifting the 16-month-old over the back of the far rear row of the car into a rear-facing car seat, gently (?) dropping her into her place, crawling onto the bumper, wedging my head and my arms into a position that would both hold myself up and enable me to buckle the straps. Yeah, that didn’t work out. My husband could do it well, but my arms are much shorter than his. We’ve got a manageable arrangement now with the younger two in the middle row and the 3-year-old in the far back. (It’s about time for our middle daughter to face forward which may shuffle things a bit again, but at least that problem doesn’t seem overwhelming anymore.)

How will I manage to get everyone in and out of the car multiple times a day? The first week of preschool was brutal; I won’t lie. Charlotte was about 6 weeks old, and our schedule that week included 4 trips to preschool, 3 to church, and probably a few more outings, such as grocery shopping.  That week, I thought homeschooling would be the best option for us simply because we wouldn’t have to spend an hour traveling back and forth and dealing with the stress of trying to make it somewhere on time. This has gotten easier, too, though the baby may still decide it’s time to eat right as we’re ready to grab our bags and head out the door or a dirty diaper is discovered as I push on a little shoe.

How can I get everything done? We were so blessed by our church family to have some meals brought to us the first few weeks after Charlotte’s birth. I hadn’t figured out the whole freezer meal thing beforehand, and we don’t have a lot of freezer space anyway, so this was such a blessing! I also remember delighting in God’s daily provision. On the days I didn’t have enough energy to keep going and I desperately needed a nap, the three girls miraculously slept at the same time! That may not be a big deal to families that have a structured schedule at their homes, but I couldn’t get my older girls to sleep at the same time (or my middle one to sleep for very long at all), so there was no doubt in my mind about Who was taking care of me.  I treasured that my God is the one who saw my efforts and needs when no one else could.

Honestly, though, I’m still trying to figure out the answer to this question. My house isn’t clean. The laundry is unfolded. I don’t have a meal plan for the week, and I didn’t make it to the grocery store on my regular day. The sink is full of dirty dishes, and the fridge is rather empty.

But I love on my little girls, and we have what we need for the day. Today, we put puzzles together – over and over again. I read a couple of chapters in “Little House in the Big Woods” aloud, to the 3-year-old’s delight.  (She asks to “play Laura” often.) I held my 3-year-old close and tossed her upside down and tickled her when she was upset that, “No one has time for me.”  I sang to my baby and danced with her in my arms.  I put the bow the 1-year-old requested in her thin hair, again and again.  I let my oldest crack the eggs and pour the scrambled mixture into the pan (and showed her how to clean up her spill).  We played hide and seek.  We watched some favorite videos on YouTube.  We shared hugs and kisses.

My baby is now six months old. The fatigue of those early weeks is finally subsiding, and I’m looking to find the rhythm of our new normal as a family of five. I’m dreaming of taming the chaos, but the reality is I will never really find the answer to that question of how to get everything accomplished.  The key will be to find what God has assigned me for each moment and to be faithful to obey – and to let the rest, all those things I think I am *supposed* to do go.

Jan1-18, 2014 018I’ve got a lot of growing to do to accomplish that task faithfully, but I’m trying to do a job worthy of my calling, be that finding a routine to keep the dishes washed to better honor my amazing husband or a groove that includes a celebratory dance down the hallway with three little girls following behind.

(And I’ll try to share our journey with you more often again.)

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The Power of Praise (and a Birthday Story)

“Never comes mortal utterance so near to eternity as when a child utters words of loving praise to a  mother!  Every syllable drops into the jewel box of her memory, to be treasured for ever and ever.”

– George B. Lyon

I am beyond blessed, and only one of my three children can talk!

And, that dear daughter’s birthday is today.  Three years ago, I began Saturday as normal (whatever that was before kids.  I’m not sure I remember.).  *Wait a minute, now I remember better.  I had contractions through the night that kept me from sleeping, except for a couple of hours in the morning, which I took to rest.  It’s easy to forget the harder things.* I had been having contractions for about a day and a half, but they were somewhat mild and 10-15 minutes apart.  I was one week past my “due date.”  I was getting frustrated with the waiting but dreaded the thought of having labor induced.

Our neighbor had asked for some help on a spreadsheet, so I was at their house developing a form, I think, on MS Works.  I stayed there while they left to pick up their new little chihuahua, Bella.  As I walked home across the lawn, my water broke.  I calmly told Chad we should probably have some lunch (this was around 12:30 p.m.), repack the hospital bag (I had unpacked it earlier in the week in my frustration.), and start to head that way.  (We live about 5 minutes from the hospital.)  We arrived at the hospital about 1:30, and this time (We’d been in for a false alarm a few days prior), labor was progressing!

That afternoon is a treasured memory for me.  Time passed quickly, it seemed, as I rocked back and forth on a birthing ball with my husband rubbing my back at just the right times.  We sang worship songs together in between contractions.  I got to relax in the “hot tub” our hospital has for a little over an hour in the evening.   As midnight neared, I was fully dilated and pushed for less than thirty minutes to meet our 9 lb. 3 oz. baby girl.

A treasured day

A treasured day

I remember the hard parts of that day – a little.  The doubt I felt as the nurse suggested twice that pitocin would speed labor along (especially when the transition contractions were pretty intense, and I was just fine with the 5-minute break instead of 2-3 minutes between them).  The discomfort of the IV in my hand (which in my memory was worse than the entire rest of the non-medicated childbirth experience!).  The focus I needed through those intense contractions.  The burning as I pushed.  All easily forgettable.

Especially when you’re entrusted with such an incredible gift!

Happy 3rd birthday, Clara!  You are a precious blessing to us!

Such a blessing!

Such a blessing!

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What’s a STEM Woman (At Home) to Do? – Part 1

Women are encouraged like never before to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but is the message balanced?

(Image source)

A reader comment to my post on What I Missed In College got me to thinking about the push to encourage girls to explore and enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.  This hit me even harder as I recently learned a five-year-old girl that I dearly love is headed to a STEM magnet school for kindergarten next year.

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE the STEM fields!  LOVE THEM!  I have studied them with excitement and vigor since at least 1991 and spent a combined ten years working as an engineer and teaching operations management (using math and problem solving in business applications).  I even found I loved applied statistics so much that I left my well-paying job and amazing friends to move to the desert to study for a Ph.D.!  So, why do I feel hesitation in embracing these programs for women?

I feel the message may be unbalanced.

That little five-year-old girl has been described most to me as a “little mother.”  She plays well with my oldest girl, but she adores and nurtures my youngest.  I think she’ll be beyond excited to hold my newest baby sometime this summer.  I can’t help but wonder if, in the midst of building projects with moving parts, getting excited about math, and performing hands-on experiments, she’ll also learn to ignore that part of her heart that loves to care for little children.  Will she, in a male-dominated field, lose her quiet, tender heart in an effort to achieve “success?”

Perhaps it’s my own story that gives me reservations for these girls.  There is no doubt in my mind that God has given me my interest in and aptitude for science, engineering, and statistics.  I cannot imagine pursuing a major other than Chemical Engineering as an undergrad even now, knowing I’d choose to switch to industrial engineering as a major in grad school, teach in a business college, and then stay home with my children.  I fully enjoyed, as a woman, being in the minority of the development engineering department I worked in.   I was able to support myself in the years before I was married.

During those years, I still had my focus that I had insisted on in college – that I wanted a job, not a career.  And I dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom, like my mom was, more than anything else.  Then, I went back to school full-time for my Ph.D., a path that I could not see ever going together with a family.  A year later, I married.

I’d love to say that marriage kept my aspirations grounded.  I now got to care for my husband, cooking meals, trying to keep house, and all of the domestic duties that I had mostly shoved aside for 29 years to make time for other pursuits.  Still, with being in a focused academic environment, I lost my vision.  I got distracted as I learned what I “should” be doing to be “successful” in the field of academia.  I learned what it took to be a tenure-track professor, and I learned how to do those things well.  Instead of just going through my classes and requirements, I sought out additional opportunities to gain experience in teaching, research, and service.  I started writing small grant proposals, presented my research at conferences, traveled to research meetings, gave several lectures to undergraduate students, and helped plan a research symposium on my campus.  I won awards for presentations.  I received the grant money.  I worked an intense internship and won the respect of my colleagues.  Before I graduated, I secured a teaching job at my alma mater, a dream come true for me.

Again, with “only” teaching required in this new position, I strove to keep the research and service parts of my vita full.  These efforts took away time and focus from my husband while providing additional stress as the teaching responsibilities were already more than I would consider “full-time” work.

By the time we discovered we were expecting our first child, I had been sucked in, and felt I couldn’t leave.  (Now, part of that was the calling to complete my dissertation work so I’d have my Ph.D., and I needed to stay with the university until that was complete.  That delay was my fault and a topic for another day.)  I was used to the income, the affirmation (Really?  Do I remember the days I’d read my TEVALs and cry?), the classroom, my own office on campus, and more.  I stayed a semester longer than I had to so I could try to teach a new course, an elective.    Looking back, it was probably an excuse.  I justified it many ways, and much of that last semester, I frantically searched for ways I could still remain engaged in the workforce or field part-time to keep my “foot in the door.”  I felt I needed an outlet for my well-developed skills.

And, then I came home to be that stay-at-home mom I had always dreamed of being.

In all my days of academic training, I don’t remember hearing anyone talk of how fulfilling that would be, save my mentor from my teaching internship during my doctoral program.  (I praise God for Linda!  I chose her for this reason.  I was trying to look for a family-friendly path.)

I can’t help but wonder, if I got distracted from what was really important – and what I really wanted – in a period of 5 years of academic immersion at ages 29-34, what will it be like for girls who are encouraged to enter STEM fields from much earlier ages?  Will their teachers also tell them how wonderful it will be to stay home and raise a family, should they be so blessed?

In my eighteen months at home, I haven’t missed being in the workforce.  I haven’t felt isolated.  I haven’t felt “unfulfilled” or unappreciated.  I have been full of the joy I hadn’t felt since before I started my Ph.D. studies!  I have treasured the moments with my young children.  I have savored the opportunities to pursue interests like cooking and writing that I didn’t have time for while working.  I have basked in the peace that comes from not having piles of papers to grade or the stress of hurrying between work and home, dropping a child off at day care, picking her up, and trying to fix a quick supper.  I have delighted in the pride my husband feels as I stay home to make our family a priority.  I’ve even enjoyed being on a smaller budget, being able to trust God in new ways again and seeing His faithfulness and provision.  I can’t imagine anything better than being right where I’m at, and I still get to engage in those STEM fields I love every day (see Part 2)!

So, for the girls and women out there with a passion for math or an excitement for science, I’m cheering for you, sisters!  But I’m also asking you to search your hearts and seek the Lord for what He has for you each season of your life.

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Experiment of the Week: Exploring Photography – A Two-Year-Old’s View

Granite Reflections

Granite Reflections

I know I am a bit of a control freak.  I’m trying to be more relaxed about things – from stains on well-worn garments to controlling the bite size of my 14-month-old’s food – but I still have a long way to go.  Perhaps I can blame my over-protectiveness on my training in mistake-proofing (poka-yoke)?  (This, by the way, has translated nicely into pretty good child-proofing and defect prevention at home.)  My over-active brain tends to think of all the imaginable things that could possibly go wrong, the probability of such events, and the costs or benefits of the decision.

For example, when my almost-three-year-old asks to take the camera, I start thinking of what could happen that would disable the camera.  I think about the pictures stored on it and their value to me.  I think about the costs we’d incur if we would need to purchase a new camera.  Before this week, I would let her hold the camera some, but I hadn’t taught her how to take pictures.  (I didn’t want her to start pushing other buttons…)

Monday, while we were at a small cemetery where my husband’s grandparents, great aunts and uncles, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents are buried, she asked to take some pictures.  We weren’t on a tight schedule, and she was delighted when I agreed and showed her how to capture an image.  She had a wonderful time, running here and there, pointing our simple camera at flower after flower.  I was amazed when I downloaded the pictures and looked at some of her photographs.  All of the photos in this post were taken by Clara.  Some of them are very special to me.

Besides the one at the top of the post, here are some of my favorites:

My first belly shot of the pregnancy! (Seven weeks to go.)

My first belly shot of the pregnancy! (Seven weeks to go.)  (I’m not intentionally hiding behind the directory.  I had no idea she’d take my picture.)

I followed my little girl around, enjoying her glee as she clicked away.  It gave me a chance to look at the stones and wonder about the lives they represented.  Clara took a few pictures of the flowers near the stone below.  “Beloved Teacher,” the stone read at the bottom.

Remembering a beloved teacher.  This woman, from the headstone information, appeared to have no family, but she was fondly remembered still.

Remembering a beloved teacher. This woman, from the headstone information, appeared to have no family of her own, but she was fondly remembered still.

I don’t remember if it was this set of graves or ones similar to them that I slowly passed.  A teenage girl had died.  I looked again at the graves nearby.  From the birth years shown, it appeared that her grandpa and mom had also died the same day, Halloween in the early 1980s.  I wondered what tragedy took so many family members at the same time.

Shadows

Shadows

What photo collection would be complete without a shot of toes?

Flowers and Flip Flops

Flowers and Flip Flops

We needed to leave soon, but Clara had a difficult time surrendering the camera.  She took one shot of her dad.

She loves her daddy!

She loves her daddy!

Results and Conclusions:

I was amazed at Clara’s photographs.  Her perspective was special!  Really special!  It was fun to look at the images and see the world (though often out of focus) through her eyes at her near-37″ height.  Her interest in the puffed dandelion was something I had not noticed at all that afternoon.  The memorial flowers drew her in.  Even the grass was beautiful enough to try to capture and remember.

My children can do more than I think, and I need to give them more freedom to try new things and develop new skills.  Not only will this help them grow and develop more, but it also teaches me by showing me new perspectives and approaches that I would have never dreamed of myself.

Next time, she won’t have to beg so hard to use the camera.  🙂

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Experiment of the Week: Toy Organization

A year or two ago, I was taken aback by my mom’s rule of only playing with one set of toys (LEGOs, doll house, etc.) at a time at my parents’ house.  Our toddler also seemed to not have any idea of what she was being asked to do as she was instructed to pick up all the toys and put them away before moving on to the next thing.  I thought the idea seemed unrealistic at the time.

A few weeks ago, I reconsidered.  Toys were everywhere in our house.  Everywhere.  While I had tried various systems for making clean-up easier for us all, none of them had really worked.  Woody’s hat was missing again.  Jessie has been MIA for weeks.  The neat dishes and piggy utensils from a special friend were strung across different rooms.   I decided something had to change.

But, I also decided to start small.  Call it a trial run or a pilot study.  🙂

I took a fabric box I got on sale at K-Mart after Christmas and simply put all the play dishes and cookware in it.  I placed that box in the living room (so Melody could access it easily, too) after picking up all the other toys that were there.  I initiated a new rule that the dishes must be returned to the box.

And for a week or so, it worked!  My two-year-old was excited about the piggy utensils again!  She was “cooking breakfast,” hosting picnics, and teaching the one-year-old how to mix.  Then, I think I slacked off on the accountability of that system.  I’m still a work in progress when it comes to keeping things clean and organized, remember?

Still, I’d seen enough success to start dreaming of going through the toys, clearing the clutter, and going to a container system much like what my mom had.  (Okay, so I should have just known that was a good idea of my mom’s.  She worked with preschoolers for years.  I have not.)

But when?

This week, my husband surprised me by stopping by the house after lunch.  He offered to take the three-year-old with him for a while.  I let him.  In the meantime, I was able to bake a batch of peanut butter cookies and get to start on the toy project.

Now, imagine for a moment, toys and books are scattered everywhere, it seems (even to me with slob vision), and I am trying to bend over to pick up said toys around a basketball-sized belly.  It was hard work for me.  I kept telling our one-year-old that we needed to take a little break from time to time.  She just looked at me, confused.  🙂

I was surprised by the success I had in just a couple of hours (maybe less?)!  I sorted the “baby” toys from the rest and boxed them up to be stored until the newest little one is ready for such entertainment.  I put the toys (even some books, gasp!) in a bag to donate to others.

What was left?

  • Barbies and clothes
  • LEGOs
  • Building blocks
  • Doctor kit
  • Dishes/cookware
  • Favorite stuffed animals
  • Dress-up dresses and costumes
  • Some miscellaneous

These fit well in the number of containers I had, and with a little work, I got the closet cleaned to provide an organized space for them.  The miscellaneous toys are a little larger, and I moved some of them to the old toy boxes that I had tried to utilize before.  One toy box was completely empty!

Our much-better way of keeping toys organized and picked up!

Our much-better way of keeping toys organized and picked up!

The results?  We’ve been relatively mess-free (toy wise, at least) throughout the house (okay, except for that bath squirt toy I stepped on three times last night) for two full days!  Clara, my almost-three-year-old seems to be having more fun as she plays.  Tonight, she even pulled out the blocks and was building towers on her own!  She hasn’t played with the blocks for a VERY long time!  And, she was the one who initiated putting them back in the box before bedtime, then back into the closet.  I think we’re on to something!

Now, if I can just get the clothes gone through and organized soon…

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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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Retail Therapy and God’s Provision

I’m not much of a shopper, and I tend to be somewhat overwhelmed by the high prices I see when I do browse a little.  I don’t feel I have the time to peruse stores and ads for the best deals.

Last November, I heard that a local church was having a rummage sale.  Last spring, our church had a similar event, and we were amazed and delighted at what we found there.  I had some Christmas gift ideas in mind in the fall, and I hoped I may be able to find some things that someone no longer needed that would be treasures for us.  I wanted to go as soon as they opened Friday evening.

But, that didn’t happen.

The next morning came, and I forgot about the sale until around 11.  They were closing at noon.  I rounded up the girls, knowing that it would be a challenge to take my 2-year-old who seems to say, “I want this for my birthday,” of everything fun-looking at any store.  We made it there around 11:30.

There were plenty of things left, and the prices were fantastic since in 30 minutes, all would be packed up to be donated to Goodwill.  My prize find was a pair of boots that Clara could use for the winter!  That was in the first room.  Next, there were some toys.  I found an old Fisher Price crib toy (no batteries needed) that Melody has been enjoying a lot as she explores the colorful moving parts that make a variety of sounds.  We found a Baby Mickey Mouse doll that Clara latched onto.  I found dress patterns that are sized large enough that I may be able to learn to sew and make them before the girls outgrow them.  🙂  I found a tablecloth that is easy to wipe clean and more sturdy and durable than what I had before.  The yellow color even matches my wallpaper border in the kitchen.  I found learning games that will be fun for Clara as we talk about letters and words.  There was a set (missing “E”) of alphabet magnets.  We got an old flip-top desk with the chair attached, that I think will be perfect for Clara’s learning and “art projects.”  We even found a Disney princess purse that she was super-excited about, another simple baby toy for Melody, a picture frame that will be perfect as a gift for someone this Christmas, and more.  We got some things we needed, many “added bonuses,” and probably some things that I shouldn’t have brought home (but will be easier to part with when we clean out and donate to the church sale in the spring).

All for $7.75.

Less than what I would have spent on even on-sale boots at a store.

I was giddy!

We were blessed with similar luck as we went to a few other neighborhood and church yard sales over the last two weeks. We now have a “new” couch and chair in our living room, increasing our seating capacity and comfort considerably and making the family room downstairs more cozy as we moved the love seat back down there.  Just as I was starting to worry about having summer clothes for Clara, we now have more than we need in her size, including shoes.  I even found a princess dress and a crown for her upcoming birthday.

I’m ever-amazed by God’s great provision for us!  I love how these sales meet our needs, keep our spending low, simplify our shopping, and make me feel so blessed as I see how God knows our needs and takes care of us – down to the special things like a princess crown or a microscope (I’ve always wanted one!).

I may not have found a costume crown in my size at the church yard sale, but I definitely feel like the daughter of the King!  We truly can cast all our cares upon Him and trust Him to supply us as we seek Him first.

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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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My Newest Accessory (Baby Wearing)

“Wearing” my baby has made it possible for the three of us to navigate stores, go on walks, and enjoy other activities with a single stroller or cart.

I’ve never been much for accessorizing.  I feel a sense of respect and awe for the women I see that seem so put together with matching jewelry, handbags, shoes, etc.  I don’t have the eye to put beautiful outfits together or the patience to shop  toward that end.

But, I have a new accessory that goes with anything.  Her name is Melody.

After about three weeks of being at home after our youngest’s birth, I started to feel a little trapped.  Without a double stroller that I was too frugal to buy, I wasn’t quite sure how to take an outing with my two little ones.  I had one idea, though, that was worth trying.  I dug out my Moby Wrap.

And, we set out to the grocery store, Baby Melody wrapped onto my chest, and Clara riding in the cart as usual.  Now I was able to talk to both of my sweet girls while I shopped!  The next day, we walked to the nearby park, Clara in the stroller and Melody on my chest.

We’ve had a few more outings that I’ve “worn” Melody as we walked, but I also found that baby wearing is nice on the days we just stay at home, too.  Some days, she’s not been too happy except when I’m holding her, and the comfort of the wrap keeps her happy while also keeping my hands free to do other tasks (such as typing).  Yesterday, I let her face out while I kicked a soccer ball back and forth with my two-year old.   We’re having a grand time all together!

So, if you see me in the store, I don’t think you’ll notice my old t-shirt or that I forgot to wear earrings (again).  You may not remember that my toenails are not painted or that unruly silver hairs are sticking up in different directions.  One sweet smile from either of my sweet girls, and I think you’ll agree I’m well-dressed.

P.S.  I tried “wearing” Clara when she was an infant, but she never seemed very happy in the wrap.  Between the learning curve with using the wrap, her colic, and my lack of confidence as a new mom, we didn’t use it much.  I am adding this just to let you know not every baby will like this arrangement, and that’s okay.  You’ll come up with a different way to make everything work!  

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