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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. :)
  • 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?).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When we really need a laugh, we watch WipeOut.  (Or look at our budget.  Ha!)
  • 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! :)
Expectations · Family · Inspiration · Sacrifice

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough


written by Lis – a current graduate wife

I really love when a new month starts on a Monday. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my absolute favorite things!

With August beginning in such a fantastic way, I just knew it was going to hold a lot of my favorite things.

Now, I admit that I am a girl who likes order and routine, so when I am out of that routine, I tend to get grumpy. That Monday’s morning routine was different: there wasn’t one.  And you know what? I couldn’t have been happier!

On that first August morning, Tim didn’t wake up and pack his red bag for school. Instead, he was still in bed at 10:00 a.m. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t working at his desk, and he didn’t have his ear plugs in to help him focus on his studies: instead, the only thing he was studying was the little girl he was giving his undivided attention to. She was giggling, he was smiling, and I was counting my blessings.

We made it. We did it…again. One more semester behind us, and 29 days until we have to face the start of another one.

We spent the past week in Black Mountain, NC, and as I sat on top of that mountain and looked out to the tree-covered peaks in the distance (see attached pic), I was thankful. Even as I was resting on top of that mountain, I was already praying for the ones I know are yet to come. We have climbed three hard, long, and exhausting mountains: one for each semester of classes.  We have three times that many still to go, but the point is we have climbed and we have made it. And we can do it again.

The very thing I said was impossible, is proving to be possible.

We can do hard things.

I can.  He can.  She can too.

We are doing this together.  Together, we can get to each mountain top, rest, and get ready for the next mountain.

In my experience, graduate wives don’t realize the amount of stress and pressure that is on them until it’s gone. Until you are no longer living in the midst of the stress of tests, exams, projects, research papers, and finals, you don’t quite grasp how much it takes out of you. Often the graduate students themselves don’t recognize that they are being pulled in a hundred different directions and that while they fully intend to engage in everything they commit to, they really are not capable of giving any more than they already are; at least this is how it is in my home. When he spends time with us, Tim does his best to disengage from school and the pressures that medical school brings, but it’s still there. It’s still on his mind, it’s still a stress, it’s still a pressure or that nagging feeling of, “I should really be studying…”

But now that we have arrived at this mountaintop, the only question that has to be answered is “what do you want to do today?”  Sometimes the answer is, “nothing.”

The stress is melting off.  We needed this break, both individually and as a family.  We needed no time frame, no agenda. We needed a week with no internet, little cell phone service, and a lot of playing on the floor, eating together, playing games, and catching up on the “oh, did I tell you that…?”

I don’t know where you are on this journey of being a graduate wife. If you are only beginning, hear me say this to you: “You CAN do this!” The valleys are hard, exhausting, and will make your makeup run, but the mountaintops are beautiful and well worth the climb. Get some really cute, comfortable shoes and set out hand in hand with the person of your dreams to accomplish the very thing that only the two of you can do.

If you are finishing, hear me say this: “You made it! Great work!” (And I am jealous!)  Thank you for your dedication to this journey that we all have set out on.  Our individual paths are different, yet somehow the same. You are an example to me and the ones coming behind you. We need to know others have gone before and lived to tell about it! 

My goal for this journey isn’t just to survive, but to thrive. Not just to make it, but to run as fast as I can to the finish line saying, “if we hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have met, done, become, or grown the way I have,” and to say to my husband, “I hated you for making me do this, but now I am so glad you did.”

We can do this, we can survive, we can thrive, and we can eat a lot of chocolate along the way!!

The top of this mountain held other peaks waiting to be hiked, the laughs and screams that only white water rafting can bring, a baby asking to go and swing, and hundreds of lightning bugs that needed to be caught!

As you climb, don’t forget to count your blessings along the way–it is what will get you to the top and make the journey worth it–and when you do reach those vital mountaintops, don’t forget to share the joys you find there.

As a graduate wife, what mountains (classes, jobs, etc). are you currently climbing?


Cake Baking

Written by Lucy – a future graduate wife

For our anniversary, I cooked a simple but tasty dinner. I had some time before my husband, Grant, came home, so I was just idly looking through our kitchen cabinets and found a box of cake mix. I had never made a cake—ridiculous, but true. I looked at the box and thought, How hard can it be?

So I mixed the few ingredients together, got out my spring form cake pan, and dug up the cake stand wedding gift we never used. As I checked on the timer and peeked into the oven, I thought, This looks and smells really good. Maybe I can pull this off!

For whatever reason [perhaps I neglected to grease the non-stick pan…] the beautiful cake I pulled out of the oven would not free itself from the container.

It stuck.

And stuck.

And stuck.

By the time I finally scraped the majority of what was formerly known as the cake from the “non-stick” pan, it existed as a heap—a mound of yellow goodness—on the overly adorned cake stand. Ridiculous.

It was not pretty. In fact, it was quite ugly. Trying to ice it only made matters worse.

I was figuring out what to do next when Grant walked in and—much to my surprise and pleasure—began to laugh hysterically! It was perfect. Laughter is salve to the soul. Having never made a cake before he lovingly assured me, “It’s the most beautiful cake you’ve ever made me.”

It tasted like a cake—moist, warm, sweet, and thick. We savored every bite as we ate it in hand fulls through giggles and globs of icing standing barefoot in the kitchen together. Delicious.

This whole cake-making process is such a reflection of our lives together.

As we embark on our own graduate journey, we have this awesome adventurous idea of something. In a moment of spontaneity, we set out with determination, learning as we go. Then something ridiculous happens that—if we were other people in another marriage, perhaps—would ruin the whole thing.

It does not look pretty.

It does not turn out the way we thought.

But we laugh.

We have fun through the process. We enjoy it together. And it still tastes just as good—if not better.

Because appreciating the un-perfect, the disappointing, and the minor flaws in our graduate journey is somehow more beautiful than we ever could have planned or made for ourselves.

You see, with us, God has this delightful sense of humor that blesses us in the midst of perceived failure, and as a result, we trust Him more, we love each other more, and we laugh a whole lot more along the way. I hope our journey reflects that.

That cake was some of the best I’ve ever had. And, for what it’s worth, the best I’ve ever made.

In your graduate wife journey, what are some things you have learned to laugh through?