Children

Survival Tips: Flying with Toddlers

planes-dusty-3It’s almost Christmas and many readers are preparing to fly home for the holidays. For some, this is an exciting event, the precursor to a fabulous visit with cherished family and faraway friends. If you’re reading this thinking, “Yes. That’s me. I can’t wait to board that plane!” then you need not read any further. We suspect you don’t have toddlers.

Toddlers are a game changer. They can turn flights into arduous battles standing in the way of a good time at home. Toddlers are the volatile variable in an already somewhat complicated equation. Yes, traveling with toddlers is no easy task.

The good news is that it’s not impossible. You can win the battles with the right planning. We’ve picked the brains of several graduate wives to compile what we hope to be a valuable resource. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even enjoy the flight. (Let’s not get our hopes up though.)

BEFORE YOU DEPART

Here are small things you can do in advance to ease your mind and prepare for a smooth-ish voyage.

See if the airline offers meal reservations for kids. The food is often more appealing to a picky toddler and kid’s meals are served before the adult masses.

Consider ordering a meal for yourself that is anything other than the standard fare. The novelty meals are also served before the generic ones so you and your tots can eat in advance and avoid bumping elbows with hangry neighbours.

If you can select your seats in advance, position yourself near a toilet. Hopefully this will minimize accidents.

If you’re in favour of digital play, restrict your toddler’s time on devices prior to flying so it is a real treat on the plane.

Invest in some decent headphones. Amazon has loads of choices in this area, but look for ones that have a decibel limit, to minimize potential damage to little ears.

Download some new apps for the kiddos. May we suggest anything Curious George, Duck Duck Moose, Tiny Hands, and Kapu Forest. Endless ABC, is a winner and Richard Scarry’s Busytown and Words that Go should keep things interesting.

If you’re considering medicating your toddler, which some people will do for exceptionally long flights, talk to your doctor or pediatrician about options.  Try their recommendations in advance to make sure your child is not among the minority who get hyper, or have an allergic reaction. You don’t want either while flying.

Download some apps to keep you organized and informed. Think airport maps, real-time travel updates, and more. We found this collection helpful.

Prime your toddler for the plane ride. “This is going to be an adventure!” and “I need you to be mommy’s helper” are two favourites.

See if your airports have designated kids play areas. They’ll help get the busy beans out of your toddler and make the time pass quickly.

Do your homework and confirm the specifications for getting medicine through airport security. Some airports may require prescription labels on certain drugs.

Stock up on small treats to reward good behaviour on the plane.

Photocopy important documents (birth and marriage certificates, passports, and visas) to carry with you as you fly.

If you’re flying internationally without your partner, have them write a letter of consent to fly alone. See if there are any specific requirements for the country you’re preparing to visit.

AS YOU’RE PACKING

Effective packing is both a science and an art. These tips ought to help.

Make a list of what you’ll need. This goes without saying.

Retrieve it all and lay it out on a bed. Now cut your list by physically removing half your items from the bed. Seriously. You don’t need all that.

Enroll your child in packing his or her own carry-on bag. Dote on your child for being such a good helper and pray they enjoy the responsibility instead of shirking it.

Plan your on-flight outfit to include comfortable clothes that hide stains. Leggings, cardigans and scarves are invaluable.

If you plan on tending to your toddlers whilst carrying a baby in a carrier, do yourself a favour and wear a moisture wicking tank top to minimize baptising your child in perspiration. This  is my personal favourite. You can wash it in an airport sink and dry it under an hand dryer. Here’s hoping you don’t have to.

If it’s a short trip, pack stingy and try to bring it all aboard the plan.

If it’s a long trip, check as much as possible and only bring what you can carry hands-free onto the plane. Backpacks, baby carriers and clip-on (empty) water bottles are very handy.

Pack a page containing contact details in every bag you plan on checking. Place it on top of all your belongings so it is immediately visible to anyone who finds your missing bag.

OUR CARRY-ON MUSTS

Wipes and tissues

Diapers & travel sized ointment

Ziplock bags for messy things

A least one change of clothes

Non-messy snacks

Drinks or chewable treats for take-off and landing

Empty no-spill cups and water bottles

The blankie or other treasured belonging

Toddler headphones

Tablet and charger

Minimal but effective activities (Sticker books, magnadoodle, etc.)

Energy bars

Important documents

AT AIRPORT SECURITY

Your mission is to avoid snags through planning so you can sail through with your sanity in tact.

Keep all liquids/toiletries in one bag or one compartment so you can pull everything out in one go. Abide by the rules. Don’t take chances.

Wear slip on shoes. Don’t wear jewelry or a belt.

If you’re traveling with your partner, define roles in advance. “You take the kids. I’ll get the electronics and food.” Take complete responsibility over your territory.

Keep technology together in one place. Make sure your devices are charged.

ON THE PLANE

This is your time to shine. Here’s our advice.

Set up your “home” after you find your seats. Unpack important toys, snacks and activities so that everything is within reach.

Ask for help. More importantly, accept help.

Look for allies. These passengers are your people. Traveling parents, doting grandmothers and former nannies are the jackpot.

Be proactive about bathroom trips. Time your potty breaks accordingly to avoid accidents during takeoff and landing.

Consider giving treats on the hour. This can help older toddlers grasp the concept of time.

Keep your chin up. Ignore the haters. Shake it off.

Stay positive but expect chaos. Managing expectations is the key to staying sane.

Accept that free gin and tonic and don’t be afraid to ask for seconds.

Visualize arriving at your destination. Won’t it be glorious? You will get there, hopefully in a healthy state of mind.

Did we miss anything? Leave a comment below. Safe travels and good luck!

-written by Elissa, a current graduate wife

Children · Family · Moving · Patience

REPOST: Helping Children Put Down New Roots

                                                                                                  written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

In the summer heat, my boys are restless and roaming the house looking for their next adventure.  Hoping to provide some direction for their boundless energy, my sister asks if we would help her transplant some potted plants.

“Yeah! Digging and dirt!” shouts one.

“I want to hold the hose!” chimes in the other as he sprints out to the back patio.

She brings a basket of plants outside that have grown too big for their original pots.  Browning and overcrowded, they clearly need more dirt, fresh nutrients . . . something to bring new life back into withering leaves.

My boys hover over pots and sacks of Miracle-Gro.   Soon, clay pots are filled with new soil and small shovels loosen plants from old containers, their roots twisted and tangled together.  The perfectly pot-sized clumps of roots are placed in spacious pots and new dirt secures them in place.  My younger boy comes by with a miniature watering can to finish the job.

This small bit of gardening took all of ten minutes, but now as I sit in the evening quiet, my thoughts come back to this transplanting idea.  I am thinking about how many times my family has been transplanted during the course of my husband’s studies.   I am remembering what it was like to tell our kids we were moving again and how we attempted to guide them through the transitions.

Even my rowdy 3 and 7 year old boys can transfer a strong, established plant to a new pot with a little bit of focus, but it can be difficult to move a seedling successfully.  Moving children is a lot like attempting to transplant seedlings.  Their roots are tiny, fragile white threads and they never seem to balance properly in the new pot.  We moved five different times during our graduate journey and each time friends and family were keen to reassure us:  “Oh, don’t worry – kids are so resilient!  Especially at such young ages!”  or “Kids pick up new languages almost instantly.  They soak it up like a sponge. ” And yet, each time we moved, my children did struggle.  And learning a new language and going to school in that language was hard work for my older son.  After a few moves, I began to be of the opposite mind as my well-intentioned advice givers.  I came to realize that my children actually do hear and understand and feel a lot more than I sometimes realize.  Especially because they are fragile and not fully formed (much like seedlings), my boys need to be given opportunities to process what is happening if they are going to transition without problems.    So, in this piece I would like to explore ways we can help our children during a move or major transition.  Some ideas come from what we have tried in our own family and I have also added some ideas from the moving chapter of the book Third Culture Kids.

1)     Introducing the Idea of Moving

a)     Before our most recent move, my husband set up a series of bedtime chats with our sons (then 5 and 1) in which he told them about “God’s special plan” for our family.   We told the boys that we felt that God was directing us to move in order to follow His special plan.  We also had a night in which we talked about the fact that God has a special plan for each of their lives and God may be using some of our travels to prepare them for their futures.  These chats were given in bite-sized pieces they could understand, usually with a map nearby and time for their questions.

b)     We marked on a map where we lived (Germany) and where we were moving (England).  In order to create some excitement, we tried to make lists of things the children might like about our new city.  If possible, it is great to find pictures of the school the children will attend or pictures of the house/apartment that you will live in and its surrounding neighborhood.

c)     Read books about moving and talk about how the different characters might feel.  Try to find one with clear pictures of what happens during the packing up of an old house, the unpacking at new house, saying goodbye to old friends, making new friends, etc.

d)     For very small children, it can be helpful to play “moving games” in order to just introduce them to what a move is.  We did this some with our youngest in our last move a couple of weeks before we left.  I gave him a couple of empty boxes and we would pack up toys and move them to the next room and unpack them, explaining that this is what we were going to do later with all of our stuff.  Also, during all the events that precede a move and happen during a move, it is good for the parents to “frame” what is happening:  “Look, Daddy and his friend are putting the boxes in the van.  They will bring all of your toys safely to your new room.  Just like our game!”  or “We are waving goodbye to our old house.  We will have a picture of it in our photo album, but now we are going to live in our new house.”   When things get busy, it is easy to forget to include our young children in what is happening by framing it in words they can understand.

 2)     Giving a Sense of Closure

a)     As it got closer to our moving date, we wanted the kids to have a chance to think about all the people in our current home who have been important to them (church leaders, teachers, friends, neighbors, family members, etc.) and also the places we have been that have been meaningful.

i)      People: Children can write notes of appreciation, draw pictures for special people,  or think about leaving a special momento with a close friend or family member

ii)     Places that hold important memories:  Visiting these places one last time, reminiscing, and getting a special photo or hiding a treasure or note to hopefully find again there someday. 

3)     Easing the Actual Transition

a)     Use of “sacred objects”:  For some of us who are making international moves, it is just not possible to take much with us.  How do you deal with this?  We met one family who had a policy we really liked.  Though they moved often, they made sure they always kept a few of their children’s most valued possessions:  some quilts their grandmother had made them and some special dishes made for them by a friend.  The quilts were unpacked first thing and spread over the beds and then their dishes were set out, helping to create a feeling of “home” for them.  Though the quilts were bulky and the family was sometimes very limited on space, these “sacred objects” were always a priority.  Having a set of “sacred objects” as they are called in Third Culture Kids helps to give the kids some stability.

b)     Keep as many family rituals in place as possible – Keep the days and weeks as normal as you can.

c)     Plan for a period of misbehavior and general adjustment.  You, as the parent, are going to need to give a lot emotionally and the kids are going to need you more than normal.  Their behavior is almost guaranteed to be crazy for a while. Give them grace – moving can be even harder for little ones who had no control in the decision that has resulted in their entire world changing.  Keep close tabs on how kids are doing emotionally – you will be very busy and overtired but keep your eye on signs that something might be off with them.  Help them to name feelings and provide acceptable outlets to express feelings.

d)     Make contact with some other families in the area or at the same school as soon as possible (in advance if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity!)  Don’t expect your new community to initiate having a relationship with you – be prepared to go out and actively seek out community for your family.

e)     One way we have eased the transition for our family is by sending my husband ahead first.  When we moved to Germany, he drove our possessions to our new apartment with a friend a few days before we arrived.  It made a big difference for our five year old, because when he first saw his new room it was completely unpacked with all of his familiar toys out and favorite posters on the walls.  Instead of a weird feeling of not belonging in a small white-walled, empty room, he seemed to feel at peace and slept alone in that room on the first night.  It also helped lessen the stress for me because before our arrival my husband could purchase some preliminary groceries and a map and scout out the neighborhood.

f)      For those of you who are moving internationally, I strongly urge you to learn all you can about the language and culture ahead of time.  Of course, no matter how much you prepare, you will still be learning a lot as you go through life in your new country.  Your children can learn a lot by watching how you handle the experience.  Describe how you are feeling about learning all these new things.  Present it as an exciting new adventure, but acknowledge that it can be overwhelming at times and that’s normal and okay to feel that way.  Try to laugh at your mistakes and move forward so the children know that when they make mistakes, they can learn from them and move on without feeling ashamed.

Taking some time to put some of these ideas in place (and maybe add to them with some of your own!) can really make a difference in how your children react to a move.  We all hope that our kids, if they must be transplanted to a new place, will adjust to the soil and be able to drink deeply of the water and nutrients that a new experience can offer them.  With a little bit of planning and effort, you can help give them the best possible start.

In your graduate wife journey, how have you prepared your children to move to another country, city, or state? Did you do anything specifically?

Children

Part 3 of 4: Infertility/Adoption

It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?

Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive.  ~Mandy and MC

-written by Katy, a current graduate wife

Part 1 found here

Part 2 found here

When my husband and I married over nine years ago, we knew our path was going to be a road less traveled. As we watched most of our friends settle down into long term careers, purchase homes, and start families, we found ourselves packing up a Penske truck and heading across the country to a place entirely new to us and away from all our family and friends in order for me to complete a masters degree in Social Work. We were young and newly married and the whole thing seemed like a grand adventure. As I was finishing my masters we decided that my husband would begin his masters in Theology the following Fall. Once again we packed up all our belongings in a big Penske truck and drove back across the country and up to Vancouver, Canada. Three years in we felt like old pros at the graduate life routine and were excited for another adventure. We were also excited as we decided this would be the perfect time to start our family and take advantage of the free health care available to us in Canada. I assumed the first month we wanted to get pregnant we would and then nine months later we would have a perfect, healthy baby to share our lives with. I can still vividly remember the excitement and hopefulness during those first few months of trying to get pregnant. But, when month after month started to pass us by I began to have a sinking suspicion that something was wrong.

Things weren’t working like you see in the movies. There were no joyful tears over sharing a positive pregnancy test. I didn’t get to make the excited calls to our parents to share that we were expecting. And we never got to have a fun dinner party or surprise email to all our friends to share ‘the big news’. Instead, I got to watch from the sidelines as most of our friends and family lived out all those experiences I so longed for. A deep and profound grief began to settle over me and after 18 months of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, we decided to seek medical help. Following a series of painful and invasive tests, and one surgery later, we were given the news that it would be impossible for us to get pregnant without significant medical intervention. Looking back now that diagnosis came almost as a relief. For so long we had lived in the land of ‘what if’ and now, finally, we had concrete answers and a clear action plan from the fertility specialists. I felt a renewed sense of hope and we dove headfirst into the crazy world of fertility treatments. I quit my job to eliminate as much stress as possible, we cut out all manner of foods, began taking various herbal supplements, and I started seeing an acupuncturist and massage therapist. Surely, with so much help and commitment I would be pregnant in no time and our long-deferred dream of becoming parents would finally be a reality.

Our first round of IVF was cut short when ‘my numbers’ weren’t looking right. Round two we had a successful procedure and I counted down the days until we had the official word that we were expecting. That call never came. The call that did come informed us that the treatment had ‘failed’ and would we like to book the next round? All that I heard was that I had failed and once again my dreams of motherhood were lost. Only this time there was no language to talk about it. Loosing our embryos wasn’t technically a miscarriage, but for me the loss was incredibly painful. For however briefly I held that life inside me, they were ours, and in those weeks of waiting, our imagined life together was so beautiful and real. I didn’t know how to talk about our loss and our friends, and family didn’t know what to say, either. We were stuck in nowhere land with a grief that didn’t have a clear name. I felt more broken and empty in the months that followed that loss than I have ever felt in my life. And, as our journey would have it, the news of that ‘failed’ IVF came just as my husband finished his Masters degree and we learned that he had been accepted into a PhD program in the UK. We were meant to begin that fall, but after spending significant time in prayer we decided to defer until January of the following year and move back to my hometown to be near family and have time to grieve and mourn and figure out how to move forward. Throughout our heartbreak our desire to become parents never faltered. If anything the longing was only intensified by the brief moments of hope we had when the possibility of pregnancy was still within our reach. As such, we decided to give IVF another try and once again began in earnest to prepare ourselves for the physical, spiritual and emotional toll we knew was before us. One morning, just a few days before the treatment began, I awoke with a profound conviction that we were to look into adoption. My husband had been open to this path to parenthood for a long time, but my longing to experience pregnancy and to create a life together prevented me from being able to move in that direction. This new openness to adoption was a major shift in my heart, but as we had already begun another round of IVF we decided to see it through. Once again, we hoped and prayed that this would be our time: that we would finally get to share good news, not bad. And that we would get to be parents. But, the day after the embryo transfer I knew things were not right, and sure enough, another failed IVF. Heartbroken and exhausted we took solace in the love and support of our family and friends. We grieved and cried and talked about our loss, and cried some more. It would have been easy as I found myself more and more caught up in the world of infertility and loss to ‘check out’ in all other areas of my life, particularly given our experience in the mid-point of this graduate life. Instead, I learned the importance of vulnerability and transparency in the midst of grief. It was in reconciling ourselves to this experience of loss that we began our first tentative steps in exploring what adoption would look like.

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post for part 2 of Katy’s story.

As a graduate wife going through infertility, how do you stay open and vulnerable when it’s easy to live ‘on the surface’ when coming to a new community that doesn’t know your full story?

Academia Beyond Grad School · Children · Motherhood

Mama PhD

If you are a mama and you are working on a thesis, then you must check out this great little section called Mama PhD on the blog: Inside Higher Ed.  Well, even if you aren’t the student and even if you aren’t a momma, the topics and articles covered are really insightful and interesting.  I was particularly inspired by this one describing a life full of ‘works in progress’.  I can relate with so many ‘projects’ here and there, with some in full swing and some on the back-burner, and some that might never come to fruition.

“But a project can also bring satisfaction, enjoyment, accomplishment in the process of working on it, in ways that others may not appreciate because there is no final product to show.  As long as the process is still appealing and interesting to me, these projects will stay on my list, not dismissed as failures – and I hope to return to enjoying them again (and again).  And maybe finishing some.”

Check out the full list of Mama PhD articles on the site and enjoy exploring and connecting!

Children · Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling

One of the great things about being in the world of academia (or law school, graduate school, med school) is the fact that I often feel like I get to ride on my husband’s intellectual coattails. Our dinner conversation is often peppered with, “I just read a great article,” or “Did you listen to that podcast?” or “You’ve got to check this blog out!” I learn daily from my husband, and I think his time in graduate school has increased my own love of learning, reading, and thinking, even though I don’t have the desire to do that in a classroom. Ever. Again. :)

All that to say, the conversations amongst our graduate wife friends are often the same; we swap news articles, talk about documentaries, give book reviews, and discuss blogs…some of it is related to the graduate wife life, and some of isn’t, but it seemed like a natural fit to share that all with you, so….

Welcome to the first segment of Monday’s Food for Thought. 

Following on Michelle’s post from last week, this week’s article comes from The New York Times Magazine, and is an interesting read on a family’s move to Russia, and how they coped with the language and school they attended.

We hope you enjoy it!

Mandy & MC

Children · Family · Moving · Patience

Helping Children Put Down New Roots

                                                                                                  written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

In the summer heat, my boys are restless and roaming the house looking for their next adventure.  Hoping to provide some direction for their boundless energy, my sister asks if we would help her transplant some potted plants.

“Yeah! Digging and dirt!” shouts one.

“I want to hold the hose!” chimes in the other as he sprints out to the back patio.

She brings a basket of plants outside that have grown too big for their original pots.  Browning and overcrowded, they clearly need more dirt, fresh nutrients . . . something to bring new life back into withering leaves.

My boys hover over pots and sacks of Miracle-Gro.   Soon, clay pots are filled with new soil and small shovels loosen plants from old containers, their roots twisted and tangled together.  The perfectly pot-sized clumps of roots are placed in spacious pots and new dirt secures them in place.  My younger boy comes by with a miniature watering can to finish the job.

This small bit of gardening took all of ten minutes, but now as I sit in the evening quiet, my thoughts come back to this transplanting idea.  I am thinking about how many times my family has been transplanted during the course of my husband’s studies.   I am remembering what it was like to tell our kids we were moving again and how we attempted to guide them through the transitions.

Even my rowdy 3 and 7 year old boys can transfer a strong, established plant to a new pot with a little bit of focus, but it can be difficult to move a seedling successfully.  Moving children is a lot like attempting to transplant seedlings.  Their roots are tiny, fragile white threads and they never seem to balance properly in the new pot.  We moved five different times during our graduate journey and each time friends and family were keen to reassure us:  “Oh, don’t worry – kids are so resilient!  Especially at such young ages!”  or “Kids pick up new languages almost instantly.  They soak it up like a sponge. ” And yet, each time we moved, my children did struggle.  And learning a new language and going to school in that language was hard work for my older son.  After a few moves, I began to be of the opposite mind as my well-intentioned advice givers.  I came to realize that my children actually do hear and understand and feel a lot more than I sometimes realize.  Especially because they are fragile and not fully formed (much like seedlings), my boys need to be given opportunities to process what is happening if they are going to transition without problems.    So, in this piece I would like to explore ways we can help our children during a move or major transition.  Some ideas come from what we have tried in our own family and I have also added some ideas from the moving chapter of the book Third Culture Kids.

1)     Introducing the Idea of Moving

a)     Before our most recent move, my husband set up a series of bedtime chats with our sons (then 5 and 1) in which he told them about “God’s special plan” for our family.   We told the boys that we felt that God was directing us to move in order to follow His special plan.  We also had a night in which we talked about the fact that God has a special plan for each of their lives and God may be using some of our travels to prepare them for their futures.  These chats were given in bite-sized pieces they could understand, usually with a map nearby and time for their questions.

b)     We marked on a map where we lived (Germany) and where we were moving (England).  In order to create some excitement, we tried to make lists of things the children might like about our new city.  If possible, it is great to find pictures of the school the children will attend or pictures of the house/apartment that you will live in and its surrounding neighborhood.

c)     Read books about moving and talk about how the different characters might feel.  Try to find one with clear pictures of what happens during the packing up of an old house, the unpacking at new house, saying goodbye to old friends, making new friends, etc.

d)     For very small children, it can be helpful to play “moving games” in order to just introduce them to what a move is.  We did this some with our youngest in our last move a couple of weeks before we left.  I gave him a couple of empty boxes and we would pack up toys and move them to the next room and unpack them, explaining that this is what we were going to do later with all of our stuff.  Also, during all the events that precede a move and happen during a move, it is good for the parents to “frame” what is happening:  “Look, Daddy and his friend are putting the boxes in the van.  They will bring all of your toys safely to your new room.  Just like our game!”  or “We are waving goodbye to our old house.  We will have a picture of it in our photo album, but now we are going to live in our new house.”   When things get busy, it is easy to forget to include our young children in what is happening by framing it in words they can understand.

 2)     Giving a Sense of Closure

a)     As it got closer to our moving date, we wanted the kids to have a chance to think about all the people in our current home who have been important to them (church leaders, teachers, friends, neighbors, family members, etc.) and also the places we have been that have been meaningful.

i)      People: Children can write notes of appreciation, draw pictures for special people,  or think about leaving a special momento with a close friend or family member

ii)     Places that hold important memories:  Visiting these places one last time, reminiscing, and getting a special photo or hiding a treasure or note to hopefully find again there someday. 

3)     Easing the Actual Transition

a)     Use of “sacred objects”:  For some of us who are making international moves, it is just not possible to take much with us.  How do you deal with this?  We met one family who had a policy we really liked.  Though they moved often, they made sure they always kept a few of their children’s most valued possessions:  some quilts their grandmother had made them and some special dishes made for them by a friend.  The quilts were unpacked first thing and spread over the beds and then their dishes were set out, helping to create a feeling of “home” for them.  Though the quilts were bulky and the family was sometimes very limited on space, these “sacred objects” were always a priority.  Having a set of “sacred objects” as they are called in Third Culture Kids helps to give the kids some stability.

b)     Keep as many family rituals in place as possible – Keep the days and weeks as normal as you can.

c)     Plan for a period of misbehavior and general adjustment.  You, as the parent, are going to need to give a lot emotionally and the kids are going to need you more than normal.  Their behavior is almost guaranteed to be crazy for a while. Give them grace – moving can be even harder for little ones who had no control in the decision that has resulted in their entire world changing.  Keep close tabs on how kids are doing emotionally – you will be very busy and overtired but keep your eye on signs that something might be off with them.  Help them to name feelings and provide acceptable outlets to express feelings.

d)     Make contact with some other families in the area or at the same school as soon as possible (in advance if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity!)  Don’t expect your new community to initiate having a relationship with you – be prepared to go out and actively seek out community for your family.

e)     One way we have eased the transition for our family is by sending my husband ahead first.  When we moved to Germany, he drove our possessions to our new apartment with a friend a few days before we arrived.  It made a big difference for our five year old, because when he first saw his new room it was completely unpacked with all of his familiar toys out and favorite posters on the walls.  Instead of a weird feeling of not belonging in a small white-walled, empty room, he seemed to feel at peace and slept alone in that room on the first night.  It also helped lessen the stress for me because before our arrival my husband could purchase some preliminary groceries and a map and scout out the neighborhood.

f)      For those of you who are moving internationally, I strongly urge you to learn all you can about the language and culture ahead of time.  Of course, no matter how much you prepare, you will still be learning a lot as you go through life in your new country.  Your children can learn a lot by watching how you handle the experience.  Describe how you are feeling about learning all these new things.  Present it as an exciting new adventure, but acknowledge that it can be overwhelming at times and that’s normal and okay to feel that way.  Try to laugh at your mistakes and move forward so the children know that when they make mistakes, they can learn from them and move on without feeling ashamed.

Taking some time to put some of these ideas in place (and maybe add to them with some of your own!) can really make a difference in how your children react to a move.  We all hope that our kids, if they must be transplanted to a new place, will adjust to the soil and be able to drink deeply of the water and nutrients that a new experience can offer them.  With a little bit of planning and effort, you can help give them the best possible start.

In your graduate wife journey, how have you prepared your children to move to another country, city, or state? Did you do anything specifically?

Balanced Life? · Children

What Does a Balanced Life Look Like? Part VII (your average day)

The below question and responses were compiled by fellow graduate wife reader, Laura Lee.  She surveyed several women on the journey and is sharing with us their answers. You can see her original post here, where she outlines her journey towards discovering the answers of a ‘balanced’ life during this season of being a graduate wife and beyond. This is the last section of the ‘What does a balanced life look like?’ series.  Enjoy!


6) What is an average day like for you?  Do you wake up before the kids? How do you handle that “It’s 5pm and my child is hungry but I am cooking” time of day? What aspects of your days energize you and add fun to life? Do you do home-related things while your kids are awake or wait until naptime? When you need to distract your kids while you tackle something, what things work for you to do the distracting–playdough, kids DVDs, favorite toys? 

  • I do try to clean etc while our son is napping. It doesn’t always work out like that, but I’d rather be doing something fun while he’s awake, then have him be bored (he gets majorly destructive when he’s bored). Obviously, there are times when that cannot be avoided, so that’s when I let him watch Thomas the Train or Chuggington…which is a treat. Recently, I’ve also found that if I’m including him in with what I’m doing – moving groceries in from the pram, allowing him to help me cook – he’s much happier. Yes, it takes 3 times as long, but he’s learning in the process, so I think it’s a win-win for us all. On most days. :)
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  • Hmmm. . . average day. Usually, our daughter wakes at about 6 AM, and my husband gets her up and plays with her for the first hour or so of the day. He is also able to check email, make coffee and plan his day at this time. I get up and eat breakfast with them and our daughter then takes a morning nap, so I usually use this time to catch up on emails, plan/prepare the meal for that night (which is my greatest strategy for the whole ‘it’s 5 PM, and our daughter has had enough’ experience) and clean. When she gets up, we try to go do something (Monday Mums, open air market, flea market, go for a run, playground, etc.). Then, I get her back around 12 or so for lunch and a second nap. The timing of the second nap is good for phone calls to the US. And I can clean and organize while I talk. My mom is often asking, “What is that noise?” :) My daughter and I sometimes go out and do something after her second nap, which usually is just a walk or a run or something. Then, my husband comes home and plays with her while I either run or cook dinner. He tries to be home by around 5 or 5:30, which is sometimes pushed back due to various obligations (I am often annoyed with the meetings that are scheduled right at 5:30 or 6 – do people at the university have families?).
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  • A typical day for us usually looks like this…(i say ‘usually’ because things are always changing when you have a toddler and a husband in a demanding program).  My husband gets up with our son around 7/7:30am.  I stay in bed a little longer then get up and take a shower/get ready.  If it’s a work-out day I sleep longer and take a shower later in the day.  My husband leaves or starts working by 8/8:30 and I play with our son then get him dressed.  Then we go out for our morning errands, Mon. Mums, etc. by 9:30am.  He loves a change of scenery so he does pretty well in the stroller…but  I always make sure I have snacks!  We are home around 11:30/12:00.  We eat lunch and I try to clean up right away.  Luke goes down for a nap around 12:30 and sleeps until about 2:30/3:00.  During that time I workout, do laundry, catch up on emails, blog, listen to sermons, read, clean, try to relax for a bit, etc…When he wakes up from his nap I give him a snack, we play for a bit, then I get him ready to go outside (which takes a while, but it’s getting better).  I like to be out from about 3:30ish-5:00ish( again…depending on the weather).  We go to the park or play around our college…see the ducks in the pond, play at the playground, run on the grass, play in our courtyard.  We are back home around 5pm and I feed him dinner.  I usually feed him the left overs from the night before so I can get him started right away and start cooking for my husband and me.  If I have to prepare him something I usually start him on fruit or crackers to hold him over.  If he’s being really fussy I’ll put Sesame Street or a video on for him.  My husband usually gets home around 5:30, plays with our son, and starts him in his bath.  I try to finish up the meal, do the dishes, and meet them in the bathroom.  Our son loves his bath so it’s always a really fun time for our family.  We always have a lot of laughs so I don’t like to miss it!  Then we get his pj’s on and eat dinner in our living room so that Luke can play while we eat.  We play, give Luke his milk, read books, and sing songs.  Some evenings we Skype with family and friends around this time.  Our son goes to bed around 7:30pm.  My husban and I then spend from 7:30-9:30pm together.  Then I get ready for bed and read or go on the computer.  I try to be asleep by 10:30/11:00pm.
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  • I’ve been waking up before my daughter (7:00ish) but almost always stay in bed as long as she – or the day’s schedule – will allow.   We try to eat dinner around 5:30.  When my daughter gets hungry (as she inevitable will) I tell her that we are going to have dinner very soon but that if she is very very hungry she may have 3 (or whatever number) breadsticks or carrot sticks or grapes (or whatever) but only 3. Then I have her count them out.  (I used to do it for her – obviously.)  When she finishes them and asks for more I remind her of what I said before and say something like, “You already has some carrots.  Remember, you were very very hungry so I told you that you could have 3 carrots and then we counted them out, 1, 2, 3.  Remember?  Weren’t those yummy carrots?!  You ate them all up!  Good job!!  We’re going to have some dinner in just a little bit and then we can eat some more!”  It doesn’t mean she won’t still whine for snacks, but it’s important for her to know that A.) she can wait, that B.) I am a woman of my word, and that C.) the world does not revolve around her.  Plus I don’t want to spoil her appetite for dinner.  If left to her own devices she would eat nothing but pretzels for days!  Of course it helps if my husband is here and can be reading with her in the living room or can be outside with her or whatever, but that’s not always possible. Also, I try to do as much prep beforehand as possible (like during her nap or) even days before.  Like if I have 2 different chicken dishes that week, I might cook up all the chicken on one day so it’s ready to go the next time I need it.  Or grate enough cheese to last me all week or slice some of the veggies I’ll need for dinners that week on Sunday night and then just use them as I need them throughout the week.    I am currently loving gardening and am so glad to have a bit of a yard this year.  I am wanting to sew more.  I love taking our daughter to the library to pick out and discover new books together – we go to the Rhyme Time almost every week (Wednesday, 10:30 – 11am, central library) and then we go to the outdoor market to pick up fresh produce.  She really loves the library and I really love the market!  I’m also enjoying engaging with the very lonely old woman across the street… it takes so little to brighten her day and by extension to make mine feel a bit more significant. Do you do home-related things while your kids are awake or wait until naptime? Both, but no strong chemicals while my daughter is nearby.  She loves to help (I give her a clean cloth to wipe the sink while I’m cleaning the tub or a small hand broom and dustpan while I’m using the big broom.)  When you need to distract your kids while you tackle something, what things work for you–playdough, kids DVDs, favorite toys?  I just never know what’s going to grab her attention.  A video will almost always work but we don’t have many that will play on my computer so that doesn’t work while my husband is gone with his.  She’s always been a pretty independent player and so I usually wait until I see that she is already happily engaged in an activity and then I seize the moment to tackle something off my list.
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  • No, I don’t wake up before the kids and I am so over trying to make that happen! I absolutely love having the kids wake up at 7 (the boys have their own clocks now and aren’t allowed out of their rooms until 7) and then come pile in bed with us. It is one of my favorite times of the day. In fact, some days I do wake up and exercise early (usually Mondays and sometimes Wed) and I find that I really miss our snuggle time. What aspects of your days energize you and add fun to life?  Making my kids feel special, making our home a warm, friendly place, connecting with my husband, having a good conversation with a friend…all these things give me energy.  Do you do home-related things while your kids are awake or wait until naptime?  I’m a little old-school here, but I like for my kids to know that they are not the center of the universe and that I have lots of other things to do in addition to caring for and playing with them. I found (when the kids were young) that if I gave them 20-30 minutes of my undivided attention, then I could realistically ask for them to play on their own for at least that same amount of time. Playing on their own is a great skill for kids to learn. And they have to learn it the hard way….by doing it! My daughter is 3 now and can play on her own for an hour at time. And the boys can go for longer than that! So all that to say, I do house work and other responsibilities while the kids are awake and save their nap time as ‘my time’.

7) What are the ways you inject humor into your life and get some good laughs? :)

  • My ridiculously entertaining 2 year old and youtube keep me smiling.
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  • I find that my son is always making me laugh.  I love acting silly with him and making him laugh.  It’s especially fun to see my husband be silly with him since he’s usually so shy and reserved with everyone else.  We love listening to music and dancing around our flat.  My husband and I love to watch comedy sit-coms.  Some of our favorites that always make us laugh are Modern Family, The Office, Better With You, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and Parenthood(this one also makes me cry every time…it’s my favorite show!).  It’s fun to watch them together and most of them are only like 20 minutes since there are no commercials.
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  • When we really need a laugh, we watch WipeOut.  (Or look at our budget.  Ha!)
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  • My daugher! That child cracks me up. My husband and I also love joking about the English. We must laugh at least once a day about some way that they are so very different from us! They surprise us regularly! And I love them for it! :)
Balanced Life? · Children · Marriage

What Does a Balanced Life Look Like? Part VI (Fanning the flame)

The below question and responses were compiled by fellow graduate wife reader, Laura Lee.  She surveyed several women on the journey and is sharing with us their answers. You can see her original post here, where she outlines her journey towards discovering the answers of a ‘balanced’ life during this season of being a graduate wife and beyond. This is part VI of the ‘What does a balanced life look like?’ series.  Enjoy!


5) Part of a balanced marriage means allowing for time alone with your spouse to connect and share experiences together.  How do you spend time with your husbands in the midst of their intense studying/working schedules?  What are some big and little ways you connect and keep the flame alive?

  • Spending time with husbands – I don’t know if anyone else can relate, but my husband is a massive perfectionist, and would work 12-16 hour days if I’d allow it. But, all that to say, we’re both fairly independent people, so most of the time, I don’t mind him working so much. However, sometimes, it does get to be a bit too much; but luckily, we’re both fairly astute at identifying it. We tend to spend most of the day on Sundays together, and once a week, we try to do something together like watch a movie, take a long walk, etc. Other than that, having dinner at night and fun emails and texts throughout the day is the way I feel connected to him. We try to do a date night once a month too, which I’ve found helps. When he does have a big deadline looming, I tend to give him his space, and let him do what he needs to do, so he’s not receiving any added pressure from me. I do find that during that time, it’s really difficult for me, because I often feel like a single parent. But, I also realize it’s only for a short season.
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  • My husband and I spend time each night after our daughter is in bed (usually around 7:30ish). However, there are times when he’ll have collections/tutorial essays to mark for the next morning or a lecture to prepare. And Saturdays are workdays for him, though they are ‘flexible’. He works from home, and we do something together as a family either in the morning or afternoon. Sundays are family days. Breakfasts and dinners are good times for us to connect, too.
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  • During the week my husband and I spend from about 7:30-9:30pm together.  We enjoy watching a show on our computer, talking, reading the bible, etc.  On days when he is going to be home after 6pm he tries to eat lunch at home so that he can see our son and we can have a little time together.  We are very blessed because he gets to eat lunch at home about three out of five days.  Saturdays he usually works part of the day and the other half we do something fun as a family.  Sundays he usually takes off most of the day.  There have been the dreaded weeks when he’s been working a ton and we don’t see each other as much.  Those weeks are hard usually because our toddler is a lot of work when you have him 24-7 on your own…I think all toddlers are!  But my husband will usually make it up to me by watching him one afternoon so I can have some “me” time.  What’s worked best for us is always talking about our needs and expectations, and compromising.
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  • Ever since my husband began graduate work (2006!) we have worked VERY hard at treating his studies as a job.  It’s 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday for him.  That way when he comes home he is a dad/husband and not a 24-hour student who is taking a short intermission to tuck his kid into bed. (That wouldn’t be fair to any of us.)  The truth is, once we leave school, life isn’t going to slow down and get easier.  There aren’t going to be less pressures on his/our time and energy.   The truth is, there is ALWAYS going to be more to read, research, study, write, DO. Everything isn’t going to magically become perfect once this grad school phase is over.  So for me, it’s important that we work hard to maintain a healthy (for us) work/school/job balance NOW and make it a habit.  And because of this, (I believe) he is more disciplined/focused during the days.  That’s not to say he doesn’t work some nights and weekends or that he doesn’t send emails in the evenings or cram in some more latin homework the night before class – he does.  Believe me, he does.  It’s just the exception and not the rule.  This commitment frees our nights/weekends up to play games, bake cookies, work in the garden, watch our favorite TV shows online, go punting, take our daughter on outings, do crosswords, etc.   Some nights we just sit next to each other on the couch reading and on those nights, while I’m reading some riveting novel, he will most often choose a book for school.  Which is fine – because we’re both reading.  But there’s not much of a worse feeling (to me) than when your husband has been away from you all day reading books at the library and then he comes home and he would rather keep reading those same books night after night after night than spend time with you.  I hate feeling like I have to either A.) Reluctantly DRAG him away from his books or B.) Live my life alone.  The truth is, I WANT him to like what he does.  I’m GLAD he loves his work.  I just want him to show that he likes me (and our family) more.  So his efforts to stick to an 8 to 5 schedule helps maintain my sanity and makes me much more gracious and supportive when working hours must be expanded (for whatever reason.)
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  • Well said above… things aren’t going to get easier once PhD is over and hubby has a job. If anything, from our experience, it is just the opposite! It only gets busier and more pressure packed once they have a job. My husband has been so good at setting boundaries for work. I am very thankful for this. There was a time during his first masters (in the States when there was tons of coursework) that I had day dreams of putting his computer in the bathtub and then just smashing it to bits! :) We’re in a much better place now, and it started when he was doing his PhD and we’ve carried that through. We connect by having dinner together as a family every night. He always does the dishes (I cook, he does the dishes) and then we put the kids to bed together. We’ve always said, our favorite time of the day is when the kids wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night! We put them to bed early (usually by 7) and then enjoy our evening together. I love just chatting and hearing about his day. I feel important when he wants to tell me stuff or ask my opinion about something. He doesn’t enjoy watching tv so our evenings are tv-free. We talk, read, relax…enjoy our quiet house!
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How do you spend time with your husband during this graduate season?  How do you make time and what do you enjoy doing together to connect and get away from busy work schedules?
Academia Beyond Grad School · Children · Family · Finances

The graduate life…through the eyes of a child

Written by Kat – a former graduate wife’s daughter

I write, not as a graduate wife, but as the daughter of a graduate wife mom and a philosophy professor dad.   When MC asked me to write for the Graduate Wife Blog, I wasn’t quite sure what I could share.  But as I thought back over my life as a kid growing in academia (this is truly all I really knew until I got out of college and got a job in the business world), I realized how many wonderful memories of fun and sweet times I have! It wasn’t necessarily a glamorous existence for us by the world’s standards, but there was an abundance of joy that carried us through the tough times.  I’d love to share some of my memories with you.

Just a few of the ‘historical’ facts to start: My dad started studying philosophy at Oxford in 1979, he met my mom in Vienna over Christmas, and they married in June of 1980.  Two years later, I was born, and we moved back to the States when I was 3 months old. My dad taught for a year, and then he entered a PhD program, which he graduated from in 1987.  He couldn’t find a job, so we stayed an extra year while he did a post-doc, my brother was born, and then we moved to the east coast where my dad got a job (he was 35, my mom was 38) at a private, liberal-arts college…and my parents are still there today.

Some of my first memories are from the PhD years when we lived in the married student housing apartments.  At the time, we were basically broke, but my parents decided that it was more important for my mom to stay home with me, than to have more money, so she ended up running a small daycare of sorts out of our matchbox-sized apartment.  As legend has it (it’s probably reality too!), we ate mackerel casserole 3 times a week because it was cheap.  While I can’t claim to have developed a love for mackerel casserole, something that I surely felt as a child and can express now as an adult because it did make a lasting impression on me, was how my parents were willing to sacrifice luxuries and things they wanted in order to spend time together and save for the future.  As a child, I never noticed that we had nothing; I had my parents present with me, and I was happy as a lark!

Even years later, when I was a teenager (and therefore much more aware of our circumstances), I would regularly ask my mom and dad, “Are we poor or rich this month?”  We laugh at it now, but something I admire them for greatly is how disciplined they were to make sure they spent time with us—even if that meant sacrificing financially—and to not live above their means.

Speaking of spending time and discipline, my dad made some amazing choices when my brother and I were kids about when and where he worked.  As we know, grad students and new professors have just tons of freetime…yeah right, don’t we all wish.  I am sure that when I was an infant, my dad often brought work home to do in the evenings.  However, as I got older and was able to play more with daddy, and then especially when my brother was born and there were two kiddos at home, my dad made a point of trying to do his work in the office/library so that when he was home, he was HOME and fully present to us and to my mom.  That meant that when daddy showed up on the scene, he was ours!!! Sometimes he’d come home early and then go back late to do more work (so that he could see us); but we knew that when he was home, we didn’t have to worry that we’d be interrupting or distracting him, we could just play and hang all over him. Oh how we loved those times!

Life of course wasn’t always sunshine and happiness.  I do not have a clear recollection of this one particular evening, but there is a drawing of mine to commemorate what happened.  This was back when my dad was in his PhD program, and I was likely about 4 or 5 years old.  He came home in the evening, sat down at the table and started crying.  As my mom tells it, he was so worn out, we were (as usual) broke, and he had taken a number of hard hits that day from his advisor regarding his thesis. The Lord has gifted my mom with wells of great strength and resolution, my mom is my dad’s biggest fan, so I am sure she listened to him, put her arms around him and encouraged him to press on. In the meantime, I drew a picture: daddy was crying, and mommy and I were standing next to him holding his hands.  I gave it to him to make him feel better, but all it did was make sweet daddy cry again J  My mom says there were many tough and disheartening days when they wondered if they could go on. 

My parents always put their relationship above my brother and me.  It’s so funny what you notice, but don’t quite understand when you’re a child…and then how when you’re older, the pieces start to fall into place.  A case study: the “Don’t bother us after 9:00” nights.  At least once or twice a week, my mom or my dad would say, “Tonight is a 9:00 night.”  Yup, we knew right away what this meant. Mommy and Daddy were NOT to be bothered: no knocking on the door, no hollering for them, no fighting so that they needed to be called—unless you were seriously injured, you had better keep away. What were they up to?  We didn’t know!  We thought: probably mommy and daddy talk, or maybe they were sleeping, or maybe they were playing UNO, but it was like a club and kids weren’t allowed.  Well, being now older and wiser, I’m doubtful that they were asleep…maybe they were playing, but it certainly wasn’t UNO.  What I now realize is that these evenings were some of the biggest blessings for my brother and me.  My parents made sure that, even though date nights financially weren’t possible, and despite all the busyness, the worry, the stress, the crazy kids, they took time to be alone with each other.  This allowed them time to pray, and to communicate and connect, which kept them on the same page made them hopeful and strong together.

Both my dad and my mom deeply love the Lord, and by His mercy and grace they made it through those years of grad school and the crazy years right out of grad school when he started teaching.  My mom was such a rock through everything and as a team they journeyed together.  Despite all the challenges, I have so so many wonderful memories of my childhood.  Looking back, I never noticed that we struggled financially, or how hard it was for my dad to continue and for my mom to keep encouraging him.  What I remember and still sticks with me is the love and the physical presence of my parents in my life and in one another’s lives.

 

On your graduate wife journey, do you have any fears about raising your children during this season?  Any advice?  Any encouragement?

Academia Beyond Grad School · Children · Marriage

This is my Story: Part II

The below is the conclusion to Carolyn’s post from Tuesday.  You can view her first post here

When our daughter turned two, we were excited to be trying for a second child.  The next several months were painful for me especially, since every new month brought no pregnancy and I was very discouraged.  Our first child had come without any planning, so why was I having trouble this time?  When once we sought help, our doctor discovered that my system was killing off the sperm that entered my body.  I struggled with this new information.  We had one wonderful child; we simply wanted another to join her.  Though it took a while, I came to be very grateful for the daughter we had been given, and accepted that I might never get pregnant again.  We discussed the possibility of adoption.

While dealing with this issue and taking care of children daily, I came down with bronchitis that led to pneumonia.  Care-giving stopped immediately; I could not even take care of our daughter because my fever was so persistent.  It was very lonely in our apartment as she left for more than a week with my mother-in-law, and it took 6-8 weeks for me to feel 100% again.

In Joe’s third year, a major philosopher came to campus for a series of Philosophy Department lectures that were well-attended.  At the end of the afternoon talk, he answered several questions, one in particular from a professor familiar with Joe’s work.  The specific purpose of the question was intended to signal the death-knell of Joe’s line of reasoning.  The philosopher responded, ‘I no longer hold to what I used to write in this area and I think [such-and-such] (Joe’s stance) is the correct way to go on this issue.’  The glance between my husband and his thesis advisor across the room was electric.  After seven years of work, both in England and the US, Joe’s philosophical ideas had finally been given an official seal of approval.

We received a very special gift from God at the end of Joe’s graduate career, while he was employed as an adjunct for a year at the university and applying for a teaching job — a son was born. We never found out medically what had happened, but we were extremely thankful!   Despite my confidence as a mother, my knowledge of the depression condition and a hopeful attitude, once again my PPD two-month-endless-tears blues returned.  A month before our son turned one (our daughter was six), we moved to the location of Joe’s college teaching job, which is where we are today.

My husband remains in academia, and we remain happily married.  I’m grateful that he never gave up his calling despite the stresses in our graduate career on both sides of the Atlantic.

Staying in academia has allowed us to:

  • 1) live near the college where my husband teaches and have access to all the facilities;
  • 2) spend a lot of time with the children, time that most (in our case) fathers might never have because of jobs that keep them away from home;
  • 3) travel to interesting places as a family because of academic opportunities that were made available to my husband;
  • 4) enjoy a lot of time together as husband and wife, because of my husband’s more flexible schedule;
  • 5) expose our children to the world of ideas, which helped them enter worlds of employment that they might not have entered otherwise.

Looking back, in our graduate career, money was always scarce and there was little recognition for Joe’s hard work.   

Was all the sacrifice worth it?

Absolutely.

 

Wherever you find yourself on your graduate wife journey…maybe it is somewhere in Carolyn’s story or somewhere deep inside your own, we hope you can find comfort and courage in knowing that this journey is for a season.  It is indeed going to be challenging, but also amazing. It’s our hope that through sharing our stories and supporting each other that we will become stronger and more beautiful women in the process. 

 

What part of Carolyn’s story spoke the most to you and why?