A Day in the Howard House

Welcome to the “Day in Our House” project! We’re shadowing the regular, ordinary days of some awesome stay-at-home/work-from-home mothers. Read about the inspiration behind this project here!


Hi — I’m Betsy. Welcome to our everyday. Our family runs on the academic calendar, so summers are precious preparation months for me. As farmers spend the whole year working towards the intense growing/harvesting season, so we orient our year towards the breathless span from September–May.

This summer, the anticipation and preparation have been more keen and focused than usual; my husband, who just finished his M.Div., is about to start his first professorial position at Bethlehem College, and I start my PhD course work in English literature in two weeks at the University of Minnesota. All of this to prepare for in 90 short days– and we are expecting our second daughter in 7 weeks.

With a busy autumn ahead, I have spent these last weeks of summer endeavoring to practice a healthy alternation between diligence and rest.

Welcome to our summery everyday.

8:30 a.m. | Zach has graciously included our 22-month-old daughter in as much of his triathlon training as he can so that I can sleep in these morning before the baby comes. (Oh, jogging stroller and bike burly, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!) The ESV audio bible is my go-to for both these precious, quiet, 8:30 a.m. wake-ups as well as my crazy start-the-day-sprinting-down-the-hall-at-6:00-a.m. mornings.

Before my dynamic duo returned from their run, I am able to get well into an ISBN/barcode project for Wandeling Press, a small women’s publishing house, that I have worked to launch this year with a close friend. Although the learning curve has been steep and the progress, therefore, slow, mornings like this keep us moving forward. Grateful for small steps faithfulness progress in the same direction.

9:30 a.m. | Molly joins me for breakfast as I finish up my barcode project and amidst other small but important computer tasks (thanks, Todoist!) before meeting with Wandeling’s graphic/layout designer later in the day. It is a mercy that eating a bowl full of berries is an all-consuming activity for a toddler.

Well… almost all-consuming.

10:30 a.m. | On the way out the door, I finally get our mailbox labeled with our names after more than one reminder from our kind Russian postman, Dominic. The mailbox and its missing label is an apt picture of life these days; we have been in the process of moving five blocks down the street… all summer long.

Zach graciously invites Molly to join him in the faculty conference room at Bethlehem while I meet with Wandeling’s designer (who happens to be one of my husband’s colleagues) to go over yet another round of final changes on “Woolies for the Winter.” Molly takes a snack break with an episode of “Little Bear” while Daddy works.

11:30 a.m. | Molly and I head out for our morning errands. We start with the post office. Partially because the diversions are always more engaging and I need to keep my third-trimester self moving (but mostly because I hate fighting with carseat buckles), we walk as many of our errands as we can.

This view is a massive reality of mine these days. In fact, I could have filled this entire post with such pictures. For the past month, potty training has us racing to bathrooms all over the Twin Cities. Our biggest ally has been our trusty thin, wooden, portable potty seat since SO many public bathrooms have the world’s largest toilets. I can’t blame a little girl who won’t go when she is afraid of falling in…

12:30 p.m. | Finishing our errands. We return home triumphant with our packages shipped off, a new door handle for troublesome rental property door, wine for dinner with friends, and some “bubble water” for Momma and Molly to share.

1:30 p.m. | After lunch, nap time begins. I race to the basement to finishing sorting through a pile of furniture and rugs for our Airbnb space and the apartment downstairs we need to finish furnishing before new students move in next week.

Most of the delay in the “summer-long move” is due to the amount of good, old-fashion fixer-upper-ing and the deep, deep cleaning that our new home has needed. Although the downstairs student apartment is in way better shape than our own (gross) apartment was when we started moving back in May, we only have a week to turn it around before student move in, so painting is the name of the game during nap time today, and yesterday, and tomorrow.

2:30 p.m. | Don’t let this seemingly serene picture deceive you. I head up stairs after opening a new can of paint because behind that door…

…Someone has decided that nap time is NOT on her schedule for the day.

3:30 p.m. | Back downstairs (and then back upstairs for another nap-time pep talk, and back down again) with barely enough time to finish the last wall before the napless minion upstairs hollereth with full and final force through the monitor. Closet painting must wait until tomorrow.

4:30 p.m. | And, folks, we are up from nap time with a second outfit (and the same hair cowlick) to finish some last-minute grocery shopping. Aldi is just a few blocks away so we find ourselves here frequently. It is the perfect Molly distance for an afternoon walk. We stop for some applesauce before returning home while I pack up my backpack and Molly decides she doesn’t really need to meltdown.

Once back home, we move the play house from the backyard up the stairs to the second-story porch before our guests arrive so that Molly can entertain herself while we enjoy dinner with company — but not before we spend some quality time playing in the playhouse right there on the front steps.

5:00 p.m. | While I make an attempt at dessert for tonight, Molly plays either “school bus parking lot under the stools” or “hide from the blender noise.” I am not sure which. I am guessing it is a profound combination of both. Our wonderful friends who don’t have kids yet have offered to bring the dinner that they planned to host to our place so that we can put Molly to bed like normal and spend the evening hanging with them. So grateful!

Enough school bus hide and seek–Molly helps with dessert by eating as many strawberries as she can out of the carton before I slice them up. And no, miraculously Molly does not grab the knife I leave so conveniently within her reach. Strawberries are simply too engrossing.

5:30 p.m. | Yet another gift! Zach comes home early from work to help give Molly a bath while I race the vacuum through the apartment. In moments like this, it is all about the teamwork.

6:15 p.m. | Thanks to Daddy’s help, we have a smidgen of time to hang out as a family in the backyard before our friends arrive. And yes, Molly rocks her third (and, I think, final) outfit for the day. Zach and I attempt to catch up before the doorbell rings.

9:30 p.m. | Too much fun with friends on the porch at dinner means that I don’t get around to taking a picture — let alone remembering where I set my phone for the evening. No need for a ten-minute clean up tonight since we have already cleaned the house; I just throw the dishes in the dishwasher (my favorite gift as we redid the kitchen this summer).

10:30 p.m. | Molly is down, guests have headed home, and Zach and I (finally) turn to schoolish pursuits until bed. This is perhaps the most consistent pattern of our day and my favorite: working side by side, engrossed in our own projects and yet still bouncing ideas off each other: Whom should students read on the opening stanza of the Aeneid? Why is Bruce Ware in trouble right now with his articulation of the submission of the Son to the Father? How does Tennyson shape the Victorian’s understanding of their national identity when he reaches for the Arthurian legends in “The Lady of Shallot”? Does he indeed shape the collective English imagination with that poem? Does it matter? Do we have to paint again tomorrow? Zach revises syllabi, and I dream up possible course work loads for the next two years.


Want more? Read “A Day in the Armstong House