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?
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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? 

Academia Beyond Grad School · Children · Marriage

This is my Story: Part I

Written by Carolyn – a former graduate wife

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The below story is shared with us from a former graduate wife.  Her story has been challenging, encouraging and intriguing for us to read, as we have realized just how powerful and difficult it would be to try and capture our own graduate wife stories in words. Clearly her entire story couldn’t be written out…or that have taken weeks to share, but she has summarized her graduate wife journey below as best she could.  We hope her testimony and chronological journey speaks hope and courage as you look to your future (as it did to us) as many pages lay before each of us yet unwritten…

NOTE:  I fell in love with my husband because he hung around libraries, loved laughing and had a heart for God.  Our story could be filled with all the wonderful and zany times we had during our graduate life, but the below focuses on other issues.

Joe and I met in Vienna, Austria, where I worked, and married in Massachusetts, where I grew up.  Then we moved to Oxford, England, where Joe’s graduate career was already in progress.  England and Oxford were beautiful and we enjoyed taking walks around the city, visiting small villages where cream teas were heavenly and soaking up the atmosphere and architecture.

Joe’s adjustment to marriage in his already established routine seemed minimal; mealtimes definitely were upgraded from a regular bowl of tomato soup to meat, vegetables and dessert.  My adjustment took longer, understandable in part to having been an independent woman until I was 30+.  ( In the first few months, I took some walks by myself and wondered where I could stay for a night…)

Joe’s area of interest was philosophy and while we were courting in Vienna, he had talked of his academic desires and struggles, which stemmed from having been persuaded by one of his tutors that the topic that he originally had chosen to pursue was not really worthwhile.  He moved on to another area and soon discovered that he held views radically at odds with positions espoused by the academic establishment.  It was a time of extreme loneliness intellectually and yet incredibly stimulating mentally.

While this was happening in Joe’s academic life, I unexpectedly became pregnant.  I had a great job at a company that produced risk-assessment studies for multi-national corporations and my paycheck was the sole income for our existence.  Joe quickly realized that he would have to finish earlier than expected, and it put tremendous pressure on him.

We were blessed with many friends and well-supplied older mothers with all kinds of baby clothes and equipment, all of which we borrowed.  Our wonderful baby girl was born at the end of February, and we looked forward to Joe’s defense of his thesis for a degree at the end of the academic year and to returning to the United States soon after.

On two fronts, things quickly fell apart.  Blissfully happy to be pregnant, I hadn’t read the literature carefully about postpartum depression (PPD), which took up residence in my life.  Tears were ever-present for two long months while my hormones seesawed back to normal.

At the same time, Joe’s thesis draft was extensively marked up by his advisor and Joe had to race to revise the manuscript in time for the defense date.  While requiring an inordinate amount of work in the short term, this critique proved to be the beginning of a sharper, simpler writing style.  Joe received his M. Litt. degree and we prepared to leave England with a beautiful baby girl.

In mid-June when our worldly goods were packed into tea crates, we said goodbye to Oxford and friends and flew to Boston, MA.  My parents housed us for one month to enjoy their grand-daughter while we waited for the tea crates to arrive.  We expected to move on to Joe’s parents’ city to look for work later in the summer.  One day, my mother received a telephone call, and the man calling asked to speak with Joe.  As they talked, my mother realized that her son-in-law would have a teaching job at a small liberal-arts college.

Joe was offered a one-year adjunct teaching job of two philosophy courses per semester.  To say we were grateful to God is an understatement.  Through friends in that area, we found a free semi-furnished place to stay ninety minutes away from the college and moved our small amount of worldly goods there.  We unpacked the tea crates, threw them away and settled in.  Within three weeks, the owner of the property decided to sell the place and asked us to move out, effective immediately.  We moved to within ten minutes of the college, but had no furniture until my parents and others locally donated a generous amount of necessary items – double bed, dining room table and chairs, a couch, extra chairs, etc. (We had baby furniture already provided.)  In order to survive, Joe worked 2 other jobs (cleaning services in the evenings) while I stayed home with our daughter.  I don’t remember eating out at a restaurant during this time, and buying a pizza for $5.00 one night was quite a treat.

It took me six months to adjust to being back in the US; I was so homesick for England and the familiarity of friends and shops.  In that time, Joe applied and was accepted for Ph.D. work at a university in another state.  Again we moved – I was an expert by now with packing!   Thank God for married student housing.  One can live under the government poverty level and still have a life.  After working in the university library for a few months and two weeks in a State Farm office, I settled on being a care-giver for our daughter and other people’s children and enjoyed being a second mother to many children.

Joe was looking forward to the rigor of full academic study again, but without the adversarial environment that he had experienced at Oxford.  However, he was greatly disappointed when he was unable to find anyone among fellow grad students and faculty members who were sympathetic with his views.  After being at the university for two years and hearing how another grad student had been recognized in some way for his work, we came home from campus and Joe broke down at lunchtime, sobbing.  It frightened our daughter and she immediately drew a picture for Daddy to cheer him up.  When recognition doesn’t come, after hours spent diligently reading, studying, thinking, writing, discussing, showing up for department events and spending time on endless department requirements, where does one find the will to go on?

Balanced Life? · Children

What Does a Balanced Life Look Like?

Written by Laura Lee – a current graduate wife

Summer is melting away faster than the popsicle I’ve been enjoying in the sunshine today. Time to think of a new season and fresh starts!  Giddy with the possibility of new, the resolutions begin. I find myself rattling off my usual list of all the aspects of my life I want to keep in balance. I welcome the opportunity to plan how “this term, we can get our act together.” Ha. I am starting to wonder what this elusive balance actually looks like.

Just google “balance” and you find oodles of crazy images of superhuman feats. Check out the photos above, for example.

These amazing yet completely superfluous feats of Chinese circus performers perfectly demonstrate that balance doesn’t equal simplicity.  These images struck me as a propos to this season of my life and the stress of keeping the plates spinning, not sure of which I can actually put down without the whole number coming to a crash.

Sure, everything is in balance (at least some of the time), but do I want my life to be in balance in a Chinese acrobat kind of way? Certainly the life of a graduate wife has its demands, but proper limits have a place, too. This is my plea for a simple life.

My husband is working while pursuing a doctorate full-time in Oxford. I’m a WAHM with a toddler and one on the way. I moonlight as a marketing consultant for two different companies while the baby sleeps. My family has a bizarre habit of wanting to eat everyday. Life is full.

But it’s not those occupational demands or our circumstances that make our days crazy or calm. I’m beginning to realize that peace and simplicity is a choice, not something that is handed to you—or not.

It’s in the attitudes I choose, the inspiration I uncover or ignore, the priorities and thoughts and conversations I pick to fill those moments and those hours that make the majority of my days, and—essentially—who I am.

Sure, it’s fun for people to ask “How do you do it all?” and feel some sense of accomplishment from the sheer number of things we are tackling in life right now. But we need to evaluate if we are carrying around more than is necessary– bordering on the ridiculous.  If so, what are my motivations. Approval? Security? Identity?

I’ve had the sense lately that I’ve been striving—but after what? To keep the plates spinning? I’ve done some serious evaluating of what things might need to go, what things I could do more efficiently, or by someone else, or in a simpler way. I want to strive after the things that  matter most to me—not just struggle to survive.

Do I really want my life to be a constant circus act, “in balance” but just barely, always flirting with dramatic collapse if one thing goes awry? I want to find the kind of balance that doesn’t call for a gaudy pink costume and isn’t performed for the sake of wowing the crowd. A grounded life, at home with my God and who He made me to be. Yes, I suppose I will need to keep at least some of the plates spinning, but I will try to cut back on the acrobatics.

I’m going to need help. I have no idea, really, how to simplify my life. In fact, on any given day, I have more things I’d like to add to it–a new friend I want to meet, a new language I want to learn, a place I want to visit, a book I want to write. There’s just not enough life to fit it all in at once. So, no easy solutions here. Just trying to keep it all in balance.

I’ve asked a few of my wise graduate wife friends how they manage to streamline their lives, in hopes of some inspiration. I life-hacked my way into their kitchens and day planners and daydreams in search of a few versions of normal. Their practical ideas for making life flourish on a daily basis encouraged me and I look forward to sharing some of their responses with you in the following weeks.

How do you do simplify life and keep your priorities in balance?

Celebrate! · Children

Celebrate. II

Heeding Mandy’s call to celebrate…I want to celebrate today because my daughter knows my name.  She calls me ‘mumma’, with the sweetest little voice and the slightest hint of a British accent (well almost).   She has been saying it for a while, like when I pick her up from the nursery at church or when she wanders into the kitchen and finds me cooking.  She definitely can recognize me, but it wasn’t until just last week that it was like she really got it.

She looked up at me, touched my cheek with her soft hand and said ‘mumma’.  She smiled from ear to ear and seemed so pleased with herself.  All day she kept saying it again and again and I felt my heart melt when she said ‘mumma’ and ‘dade’ repeatedly as we were both getting her ready for bed.

It is definitely the little things.  Celebrating the moments that make up our busy lives… the moments that bring us to life in the process.  This is such a wonderful challenge on this graduate wife journey.  Many times we get caught up in the big picture (where are we moving, where will we get a job, how can I support my husband during this hard time, etc.) and we lose sight of the beauty in the every day.

So, here’s to celebrating your identity and someone knowing, trusting and delighting in your name.

-M.C.

What are you celebrating today?

Beauty and the Budget · Children

Party for Pennies: A 1st birthday party

Written by Vanessa – a current graduate wife

Hosting parties can be a very expensive and time-consuming task. As a young mom and graduate wife, you might not have the finances and energy to decorate, cook, and clean up for special occasions.  You might convince yourself that someday, when you graduate from your role now, you will host elaborate parties and gather to celebrate the ones you love.

 I have learned from my time as a graduate wife (4 years and counting!) that now is that time to make those memories, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it.

1.  Discovering Your Theme

In my home, we recently celebrated my daughter’s first birthday.  Making it to a year with an infant, now toddler, is an incredible milestone!  I began brainstorming themes months ahead.  I ended up choosing a “garden party” theme, mostly because we live in England and it would be a sweet way to remember where she spent the first year of her life.  Also, we live in a flat that is surrounded by a garden (convenience-check! free- check!).

The best resource for finding a theme is thinking about what you and your child enjoy.  Do you enjoy animals at the zoo together?  Do a circus theme.  Do you enjoy reading a particular book before bed? Do a Dr. Seuss theme.  Do you and your child enjoy a particular activity? Do a sports theme.  Obviously, the options are limitless. I encourage you to take a look at your daily life and find your inspiration!


2.  Researching Your Theme

Google is incredibly useful for this next step (or BING, whatever your flavor), but organizing inspiration can be messy.  I recommend registering with a site such as Delicious or Digg.  Once you have a theme, you can begin searching particular keywords.  I often veer over to the ‘image’ search results.  Go ahead, give it a try: choose one keyword for a theme that you have in mind and see what kind of inspiration you come up with!

When I search “garden party”, I see a lot of different elements: bunting (triangular garlands made of fabric or paper), flowers, tea style foods, etc.  This is where I begin to hone my theme into a workable plan.  I find photos that I like and bookmark them.  When using Delicious or Digg, be as descriptive as possible when saving bookmarks to save on time and confusion later (who knows, you might find inspiration for another party such as baby showers!).  Use helpful keywords: ‘child’s name’ first birthday, pink, purple, flowers, food type, etc.  Additionally, there are hundreds of sites on the Internet that are devoted to party planning.  Take advantage of the themes and ideas on these sites.  Some of my favorite sites include marthastewart.com and hostessblog.com

Bookmark everything that inspires you- whether it is a photo, tutorial, or free printable.


3.  Choosing the Elements of Your Theme

Hopefully you have found a lot of helpful design elements and inspiration during your web search.  In this step, you will begin to choose the elements that you want to use for your party.

To save money on decor, you can use a helpful DIY tutorial on the Internet.  This step will be the most time intensive.  You will want to give yourself a month or two to complete these crafts and design elements.

Schedule your décor DIY’s during the month or two before the party and make achievable goals.  Write down which days you will designate for each task. For example, I would give myself 3 evenings to accomplish one task (bonus- this gives your dear hubby a chance to catch up on some much needed research!).  I found it helpful to be in the same room as him, listing to NPR or music, while I did my crafts. It felt like we were spending time together, but still accomplishing our goals.

To give you some inspiration, here are a few examples of some of the DIY projects that I did for the ‘garden party’ theme (that are interchangeable for any party!):

Cupcake Rack– composed of two plates and a tin can wrapped in a rectangular piece of scrapbook paper

Cupcake Wrappers- made with a rectangular piece of scrapbook paper

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Printable Bunting– labeled with ‘Happy Birthday’ (there will be a free downloadable template at the end of this post!)..

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Cake Bunting- small triangles strung on wooden dowels

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Sandwich Flags (found here)

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Menu Labels (found here) by adding text in photoshop, but you could easily just write in it.

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Have fun with this process, but don’t allow it to overwhelm you.  Remember, keep things simple and make achievable goals.

4. Watching Your Theme in Action

The big day has come!  Make a schedule for the days leading up to the party- for example, which food to prepare ahead of time, when to setup, who can help, etc. I purposely designated preparation and setup during my daughter’s nap times so that my hands were free to work.  I didn’t have an overwhelming amount of food prep, but I did prepare most of it during the first nap (except for the cupcakes- which I prepared the night before and iced in the morning).

I also planned a few simple activities for our guest.  We had crochet available (very English!) and kites for the children to fly.  Another suggestion would be a craft for the children to do.

Find some friends who can help you with tasks during the party. For example, ask that friend with that amazing camera to take pictures of the guests and details.  Maybe someone can film your child taking her first bites of sugar coated icing and cake.

Don’t worry about a flawless presentation, but greet and enjoy your guests!  And if something about your food or décor goes awry, let it go.  Your child won’t even notice (and I bet your guests won’t either).

Freebie:  Downloadable Bunting Template

 

On your graduate wife journey, have you found any other tips for creating parties or hosting events for pennies?