That’s a Wrap!

Yesterday, in the early hazy morning hours, I typed the final sentences to my 38,000 word, 135 page doctoral dissertation.

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The two glaring typos have since been fixed.

That is right. Yesterday morning, I finished writing my doctoral dissertation. I dedicated to my son because he was very much my dissertation baby. I got pregnant with him three months before I entered my doctoral comprehensive exam. I also dedicated it to my husband because he was the one that was there when I yelled and screamed and during that brief period when Logan was just born and hormones were raging when I declared I DIDN’T NEED A DOCTORATE. Guys, it’s really hard to write a doctoral dissertation and it’s almost impossible to do it when your body is in postpartum and your hormones are all over the place. If my husband hadn’t been there to force me into the basement and put up with my I TYPED 400 WORDS THIS AFTERNOON AND IF YOU SO MUCH AS TOUCH MY BOOKS….kind of rants than I don’t think I would have gotten to this point.

I chose to acknowledge all of the faculty that had helped me to get to this point and also my godparents. My uncle died when I was young, I was 12 years old, but he was the only other PhD in my family and it is because of him I set out on this crazy journey. I wanted to be the PhD of my family for my generation. I also included my aunt because she was such a foundation of my upbringing and she thought that I was never going to be able to complete this, but here I am. She died last June and it makes me sad that she never got to meet Logan or see that despite the intensity of a doctoral program, I have (almost) completed it.

What I am hoping to be my final quarter of dissertation begins on Monday. I am hopeful that I will attain mentor and committee approval within the first half and have my manuscript sent off to my dean and school quickly. I am hoping to defend my dissertation before the summer and if all goes smoothly, I will be graduating in Minneapolis in August.

My son has been sick with an upper respiratory infection and a double ear infection so sleep has not been something that I have been enjoying recently. I have been up with him or I have been writing this dissertation while being up with him. I was almost delirious yesterday with how bad my overall exhaustion was. Thankfully, my son slept last night and so did I because I had nothing to do and also my celebratory dinner with my husband and brother was enough to ease my stress and make me drowsy:

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Clearly, champagne and nachos are the only way you celebrate the end of a long 4-year journey. I don’t know what I am going to do with all of the time I am now going to have. I imagine that I will get to have more uninterrupted cuddle time with my son and spring and summertime adventures with him that will be so much fun and amazing because I will no longer have this monster of a study hanging over my head. I will just be able to focus on myself and my family.

But then there is also that side of me that has gotten myself to this point which makes me think how much farther can I go? I looked up this morning how many classes I would need to take in order to get my superintendent certificate.

It is one class.

I might be seeing that in my near future as well. Until then though, I am going to enjoy being a mom to the best little boy and reading all the for fun books that I can get my hands on this summer.

Now, I just can’t wait for those final approvals and an accepted defense.

As my mentor has told me throughout this process….ONWARD!

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Trenton Makes, the World Takes: Leadership & Teaching in the Capital City

There is a saying in Trenton which states: Trenton makes, the world takes. It is a bold statement made by a city as vibrant as its diversity. It’s also something you wouldn’t know about Trenton unless you lived and worked in the area. While the statement comes from a time where Trenton was a huge manufacturing hub for Roebling Steel, the adage has taken on new meaning in more recent time.

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From nj.com via google images

For me, personally, I can say that Trenton made me the educator that I became. I grew up in East Brunswick, NJ about an hour north of our Capital City. I lived in a suburb of New York City and on 9/11 we were lived close enough that we were able to see the dust cloud from the top of my street. I attended Rutgers University and graduated with a dual degree in Art History and Journalism and Media Studies. I lived abroad in Paris and thought my life was going to take me to places very far from here. Trenton was not on my radar other than it being a place that you didn’t go. Where I lived, Trenton was the hood and we were often told that if you stepped foot in Trenton you would be shot. That is all I knew about our capital.

Fast forward some years to my mid-20’s when I was a teacher that was tired of my original school district making me a French teacher each chance they had instead of hiring me for tenure track English positions. I sent resumes out to everywhere I could and had several offers that summer. Trenton was one of them and Trenton was the one that I chose.

Yes, I chose to come to Trenton.

I chose Trenton because for a couple of summers I wrote and facilitated programming for the CYO in Ewing and I found that I loved the kids and the families. While Trenton is rough and raw and yes, you can get shot and killed in Trenton, our capital city also makes some of the best families and kids I have ever had the privilege to work with.

In my six years in the capital city, I have lost a student to gang violence (she was one of my favorites too), watched several of my students become mothers before their time, coached sports and facilitated clubs, run home instruction for sick kids that are often forgotten in the system, met my husband and gotten married, bought a house, finished my master’s degree and am in the final chapter of writing my doctoral dissertation. I have had kids write essays about being smuggled into our country, sat and listened to them as they cried about their losses—no matter how big or small, and have sat with kids in police stations after they were arrested and waited with them until their parents came.

And in each of these experiences and relationships I have made with students and their families, I became the educator I couldn’t have been able to become had I stayed in my original district. Trenton taught me the importance of relationships and the importance of rising up to meet the needs of your students. However, those needs aren’t always academic and sometimes a student just needs someone who would listen.

I think that is true of most people, not just kids. I moved into teaching college at a campus within our capital city and I teach foundation courses for students who do not test into regular classes. I teach reading and so often, my students are products of Trenton who are trying to better themselves. Foundation classes have a high dropout rate because they are hard and work heavy. And so often with nontraditional students, you have nontraditional problems. I have students who are under 30 and already have five or six kids. Some women are pregnant and others are part of a parole program with the state that are coming to school to better their lives out of poverty and out of the system.

And that’s the tricky piece: poverty. When you live in poverty all you know is survival. If you’re lucky enough to get to the mind frame of betterment, then you need people who are going to lead you to accomplishing something better for your life and more often than not, the key to bettering your life is through getting some form of an education whether it is completing a college degree, certificate or learning a trade is up to the person, but regardless of their choice, they need people who will help lead them out of poverty.

For me, on a teaching level, that means I allow my college students to bring their kids to class if they can’t find a baby sitter. I allow my students makeup blocks to fix any grade they don’t like. I offer embedded extra credit opportunities that they often don’t even realize is extra work because it’s quick and often, they take ownership of the task because it lends to their interest or their point that they are trying to assert on any given topic.

Now, as an emerging school leader, I see helping students living in poverty not only needing everything I provide them on a teaching level, but on a leadership level we need to be offering students consistency. We need to stop implementing new program every other year, we need leaders who are going to stay in our schools and not push to privatize and outsource teachers and staff to save money. We need to put money into our infrastructure and fix the buildings we have been teaching in (and neglecting) since the 1920’s. Our kids and our families deserve better.

They deserve a light that leads them out of poverty and into a comfortable life where day to day survival isn’t at the heart of their existence. We need leaders who care and who are going to stay and fight for our kids instead of creating situations where we’re just fighting each other.

What It’s Really Like

A lot of the time I get from people the “I don’t know how you do it all” comment.

And the truth is, I really don’t either, but I’ll give you a glimpse into what it’s really like.

It’s 3:30 AM.

The dogs are snoring on the floor. My husband is snoring on the couch. Our son is in my lap nursing as I am writing.

I am exhausted. I wanted to go to bed early tonight, but I also wanted to finish this last chapter. It’s the first time today that my son is quiet enough and preoccupied enough with food to let me do this without having to be walking him or rocking him or snuggling him.

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Google Images

He comes first. Always. But in this moment, my work finally gets to come first. My son will eventually nurse himself back to sleep and I will get a good chunk of work done.

It’s now 4:30 AM.

I quietly get us back into bed if I am lucky, but more times than not we make it to the recliner and I hold our son as I get 2 hours of sleep before my late alarm for work will go off. I will shower and throw on whatever dress I can find and am out the door to complete my 2 hour long commute.

It is now 6:45 AM.

I autopilot the hour into my job, praying the entire way that there isn’t an accident that will make the entire highway a parking lot. I review over and over again the lesson I plan on teaching and where everything is in my room that I need to get together for the lesson.

It is now 7:45 AM.

I am at work, signed in and am setting up for the day. I have 10 minutes before the kids come in. I make sure I have everything I need and my board set up for the day. My day consists of teaching 3 block classes and attending PLC meetings or using prep time to prep for my classes.

It is now 2:40 PM.

I am probably in my car. I get a few seconds to breathe before I am either commuting home to take my son from my husband before he goes off to night school or I am heading deeper into the capital city to hold my office hours for my night class. I will be there until about 10:00 PM.

It’s a four hour class on reading. I go through office hours, probably eat something, grade my papers, talk to students who come in and then I teach the class for four hours.

Then I walk to my car and finally get to drive the hour home.

I take my son from my husband because chances are he has been up and fussy all night because I am not home to lay with him at bedtime like I do or let him nurse himself to sleep. With any luck he will go down for the final time and I will either get to have some sleep myself or I will be up again writing and nursing a baby at 3:00 in the morning.

It’s hard being working mom and going to school full time. It takes a lot out of you and often times, you are giving up something else in turn. For me, I largely lack a social life because my free time at the moment goes to my son and on the rare occasions that he is tired with me, we both get to have that wonderful nap that never will fully catch me up on sleep.

I remember when I thought it was hard to be 20 something weeks pregnant, writing my doctoral comprehensive exam and being in bed with the flu. I laugh at that time now. That was easy when I think about it now.

Somewhere Between Sanity and Motherhood

I didn’t mean to take such a long break from writing, in fact, there is SO much I have wanted to write about, but I never seem to have the time anymore.

Our son was born a week before my birthday in August. I want to eventually write my birth story, but the entire ordeal was so traumatic that I still have problems even thinking about it. However, our little prince was absolutely worth it all:

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I had thought our boy would be my husband’s carbon copy, but he surprised me again in being mine with my husband’s dark brown eyes. He came into the world at almost 10 pounds and was 12 by his first doctors appointment. He is 5 months old this week and he loves to laugh at our dogs and snuggle. He talks up a storm and loves to be around people. I love watching him with his toys and how he figures out how to use them or how different sequences or choices make different noises. He is so incredibly smart.

I went back to work just before Thanksgiving and that has been the hardest part. I hate being away from him and I find that I just get through my days to get back to him and his smile.

I wrote my dissertation the entire time I was pregnant with him and then continued after I delivered and was half out of my mind recovering and learning how to breast feed him. It has been a wild ride for sure, but a of today I am half way through my dissertation journey and am eager to graduate next year. My PhD will take me to one last stop and that will be to Minneapolis for my graduation. Phil and I plan to take Logan and have our first family trip.

I am off for the holidays and I am enjoying every minute of being home. So, I guess I am now back to somewhere between my sanity and motherhood as we gear up for our next big adventure of selling out tiny house by the sea. I am excited and nervous for that move. I am ready to be in a big house and not have an hour commute, but I am also nervous about change and how much more work a big house is going to be.

Bring in on, though.

Is it really April?

I don’t know where this year has gone. I remember spending much of it being very stressed out about my wedding and then more recently, being hyper-focused on my pregnancy and dissertation. And then BAM, somehow it’s April.

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Speaking of my pregnancy, he’s getting so big and he’s measuring tall which makes me happy because that means he hopefully got his dad’s tall genes. From the blurry images that we do have, he does look like he got my pug nose and his dad’s button chin. I really can’t wait for him to get here just so I can stare at him for hours and smell his baby head.

I’m almost all ready for him. I would be further prepared had people not started yelling at me to stop buying things because they wanted to buy them, we do have a good family and friends that is for sure. My baby BBQ is the next big event and then after that, I am looking forward to a low-key summer of not working other than my dissertation and you know, pushing out a baby and taking care of him.

Even that though, sounds like an amazing summer as opposed to what my life has been like since we moved to the shore several years ago. I was always working and traveling and now, it looks like Logan is forcing me to slow down for a little bit and enjoy being his mom.

And I strangely, don’t mind at all.

The Week That Was: Oh Baby & Doctoral Comps

My week started off with a trip to the ultrasound place. We both were looking forward to it for a week because we would have gotten the envelope that had the sex of our baby in it.

Only, baby had other plans. The moment that she put the wand on to my stomach, we looked up and saw that our baby is very much, in fact, a boy. Phil’s heart had been set on a gender reveal party next weekend, but after that, we pretty much called and told everyone our news.

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I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant. Sometime in my late teens/early 20’s I had a dream that I was in a room with all of these babies. They all looked too small to even walk, so I was shocked to see them running around. I followed them up a flight of stairs until one fell backward and into my arms. I was amazed by how beautiful he was with his soft blond hair and huge blue eyes. A voice from behind me told me that his name was Dylan and that he “wasn’t ready for me yet.” Then I woke up.

I knew I had met my future son, and I knew eventually he would be ready for me. I just knew that this was him when my 5 pregnancy tests all turned positive. Only, Dylan never really fit him and for the longest time, I wanted to name my son John Dylan, John for my grandfather and Dylan for the dream. Phil is on this Phil the third thing, but I really feel that it’s too much to put on a kid and kids need their own names and their own identities.

We’ve been kicking around John Philip which I really love because it honors both grandfathers who are no longer with us and it gives our son his own identity. We have time to decide, but I’m really rooting for the latter choice. I was very close to my grandfather when he was alive and I know that I was his favorite. I took his death really hard in high school and in a lot of ways, I think losing him really put me on the path I took as an adult. He would be nearly 100 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all of this and how he must be up there smiling thinking about becoming a great-grandfather.

I thought this was going to be my big news for the week, but it seems that life also had other plans. Yesterday as I checked my phone for the time, I saw a gmail notification from my university. I didn’t breath the entire time the e-mail loaded. Coming in a whole FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to receive my results, it was the email containing my pass/fail notice on my doctoral comprehensive exam.

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And…I PASSED!!! I am officially a doctoral candidate and am now only waiting for my university to assign my doctoral mentor and committee before I plunge into dissertation. If I follow my plan, I will be done in a year and a half. I really can’t wait. I even hope I get there sooner because I am ready to be done and moving on with my life and career.

Pretty crazy week, eh?

Martian Child

It’s icky and cold here in New Jersey today. It was very hard to get up with that 6AM alarm. By me, it was just beginning to rain, but by the time I got into the capital city to teach today, the roads were slick and the rain had become the ever so lovely mix of snow and freezing rain.

It is definitely one of those days where you wish you could just stay home with your animals and watch Netflix.

BUT! I was just sick and I have a team to coach and a college class to teach tonight, so that wasn’t going to be in the cards today.

I did lay in bed thinking about it for a good 5 minutes. I am just so tired….all the time. It’s got me to think about what I’m going to do once our baby is here. It’s scary to even be thinking about deciding to stay home and cut down on work. I worked so hard to get here. Within 10 years, I completed a double bachelor’s degree, a double post-bac certificate, a master’s degree and almost a PhD. I always thought I would just work forever, but lately, my body doesn’t go like it used to. I can’t work 7 days a week anymore and my nights physically end for me around 9pm, and that’s after my after-dinner nap around 5PM.

I know this is pregnancy tired, but I worry about baby tired too. Will I really be able to come back to work in September/October like I plan? If I can, will I feel guilty leaving my baby even though he or she will have days with her dad since we work opposite schedules right now?

 

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Douglas College graduation at Rutgers University, May 2008

 

I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This pregnancy has gotten very real recently, with the belly that has sprung up. It feels like it happened overnight. I went from this little bump to a stomach that you can’t deny has a baby growing in it. And while I have not felt a real kick yet, I do feel, especially when I am standing or walking, these fluttering movements that feel like I have an alien living in my stomach.

in some ways, it is an alien if you think about it. A baby starts to grow in your belly with its own little heart and soul, coming from seemingly nowhere and then you have the baby and you need to teach him or her everything because they have no knowledge of where they just came out into after you push them out of your hoo-ha.

Having kids is weird and stressful, but so worth it. I do love feeling my little baby fluttering around. I also love when I’m working at my desk and I get to rub my growing belly. I’m enjoying every moment of it, but, I’m just wondering how long I will be able to work and how emotionally prepared I’ll be to come back to work. Or if this is one of life’s forks in the road: do I continue on like I have been since I graduated from Rutgers or, is this the time where I choose something more than work and see where a new adventure takes me?

The End of Doctoral Comps?

I am 15 weeks pregnant.

And I just submitted my doctoral comprehensive exam.

All 50 pages of its 13,000-word glory which I wrote when I spent much of the writing period in bed battling the worst flu I think I have ever had.

Getting sick when you’re pregnant is kind of one of those sick jokes. You can’t really take anything, other then Sudafed (does nothing) and Tylenol (never does anything, but when you can only take ONE pill, it REALLY does nothing).

Suffice it to say, I am pretty tired and straight up brain fried.

I won’t know for another 10 days if I passed. My university will forward my exam to 3 faculty readers and they will each score it. I will need to have at least 2 of the readers mark each criterion as proficient or distinguished in order for me to be passed and fully moved into dissertation with a mentor.

I thought I would be biting my nails raw, but I think I’m just going to enjoy those 10 days where I won’t have to be writing or researching…or worrying. I have some for fun books that I want to get through, even though I definitely did not make my 100 book challenge. And, I’d like to shop for my baby.

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Ruh Roh: Doctoral Comps Meets a Big Surprise

I want to get back into my writing.

I have really missed it.

I also have such great ideas for things too.

However, life seems to have given me other plans for a bit.

After a really long summer of interning, teaching college and working full-time in a hotel to save for the wedding, I thought once November was over I would coast into doctoral comps and dissertation. I did, to some degree.

I began my doctoral comprehensive exam last week. It will take me a month to complete and it is tough. However, I am so close to the end of this journey that I will do whatever I have to to make sure that I get to the finish line. I am ready to be a doctor and move on from life in the classroom. I would really love to move onto teaching college full-time or working as a supervisor somewhere.

This doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the year for that, though. I got a big surprise several months ago and it didn’t take long for our baby to make his/her presence known with the extreme fatigue and nausea that killed me my first trimester. That’s right, folks, I am pregnant and due this summer.

I was pretty shocked and took every pregnancy test I had. Followed by going out and buying two more just to be sure I was in fact, 100% knocked up. Turns out I am and two more doctor’s appointments following has made this so very real.

I never thought I was going to be a mom. I also never thought I was going to meet someone and get married, but I did and now, I get to have this little baby in the summer. I wrote up a much more eloquent piece about all of this and I will post it soon.

For now, though, I just wanted to share my news. That I am not only on the cusp of becoming a doctor in education, but am also planning on bringing home our baby this summer and the little prince or princess will sleep soundly in the crib we bought them the moment I crossed over into the second trimester:

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Back to School

This summer was an absolutely crazy period of my life, so I apologize for going MIA for a little bit. I worked full time to save money for our wedding, wrote a lot of big checks to people FOR the wedding, interned at my district’s high school where I logged over 160 hours, took a stats class (my LAST PhD course) and took another class towards my certification in arts integration.

It was absolutely crazy and I actually found myself longing for school to start so that the craziness would kind of end. I finished the stats class and the art class. However, I am still working 3 jobs but the wedding is…58 days away so it shouldn’t be for that much longer even though the extra money has been nice.

I also re-did my entire classroom for the year with special thanks to Princeton University for the couch and chairs donations and to Target for heir amazing dollar bins this summer:

I hope everyone else has had a wonderful start to a fantastic school year!