Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

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

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.

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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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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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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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Just the Way You Are

Just the Way You Are

In the last week or so, I was blessed by similar messages coming from different places:

God loves me just the way I am – and will use what I have to give.  He doesn’t ask for me to be something I’m not.

I met a friend for coffee, and we talked about how we didn’t feel we were really good at anything in particular (yes, two Ph.D.’s saying that!).  I was encouraged that I wasn’t the only one.

The same week, Chad was reading Just the Way You Are by Max Lucado to our toddler.  The story describes five children who have been adopted by the king.  In preparing for his coming, one is working on intricate wood working as a gift.  A second child labors over a painting fit for a king.  A third child is busy practicing beautiful music that she can offer.  A fourth studies hard, using his intellect, hoping to impress the king with his wisdom.

The fifth child, the youngest, doesn’t share any of these given talents with her siblings.  “All she had to offer was her heart, for her heart was good.”  She invests in people.  She knows them by name.  She cares about them.  But because she had no gift, she was afraid she would disappoint the king.  But when the king comes, she is the only one who has time for him.  The king points out her gift to her – that she gave her heart, “your kindness, your time, your love.”

(Just in case you wonder about our life being real, with one sentence remaining in the story, Clara threw up on me.)

The last place was through the Bible study I’m doing, Beth Moore’s Beloved Disciple.  On that particular day, one of the highlighted passages was Acts 3, where Peter and John heal a crippled beggar.  What stood out to me was, “Peter and John gave what they had.  I love the words ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’ (v. 6). God never asks us to give what we don’t have.”

In this transition to staying at home, I feel a little intimidated.   I am not skilled in housekeeping, as I’ve mentioned.  I don’t have a talent for decorating our home.   I don’t sew.  I am not good at stain removal or planning fun crafts or organizing play dates.  I can get caught up in thinking about all the cool things other stay-at-home moms do – that I feel totally incompetent.

What I need to remember is:

  • God will use what He’s given me.  My special handwriting and enjoyment for writing letters and notes to people.  My interest in cooking and baking out of love for family and guests.  Yes, even my crazy interest in applied statistics and problem solving can somehow be used for His glory.  I don’t have to look like every other stay-at-home mom to be a good stay-at-home mom.  (Would there ever be two such women exactly alike?  See how silly my thoughts can be?)
  • Though I may not be gifted in the domestic arts (If only they were domestic sciences!), my little girl has my heart, and that’s what matters right now.  My time playing with her on the floor is worth more to her than a clean kitchen or a hand-sewn dress right now.
  • I shouldn’t worry about what I’m not.  Now, I fully expect that the Lord will be refining and growing me in some of these areas (and I hope with research and practice to develop some skills), but God made me “fearfully and wonderfully,” and despite the fact that I don’t seem to fit in well with my peers as an engineer, as a homemaker, or as a teacher, He has some amazing plan for this unique combination of skills and interests.  I need to trust Him with that and follow where He leads.

Are you sometimes intimidated by the ideal picture of who you think you ought to be?  Let’s look to Jesus and ask to see ourselves through His eyes.

~Dana

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