Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

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

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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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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