24 November 2011


Happy Thanksgiving!

I am so thankful for a thousand things, but one deserves special mention today:

The little blobby, squirmy BABY bobbing around in my belly!

He or she is due to arrive in June of 2012, our Junebug. I am twelve weeks along, and I've been feeling great (another thing to be thankful for, especially in the midst of final thesis revisions). 

Today was a normal day for us here in Belgium, but this weekend I plan to make us a mini-feast and do a mini-Christmas as well, so that Gabriel can open our (few) gifts for him in advance of our departure for the US. A holiday omnibus. In any case, I won't stop giving thanks any time soon for the joys of family, faith, work, and life we are blessed with. Especially this new life.

16 November 2011

Back on the road

While the big, major thing is out of the way (i.e., writing a dissertation), there is still the small matter of the defense. I am nervous about it, but only in the sense of getting everyone actually in the room (there are health issues for one of my committee members, and distance to travel for another). Once we are actually assembled, I will breathe a sigh of relief. Then...to defend! My only real visual for a defense is one I went to of a friend in Barcelona (there they call them "tribunals"), which was extremely formal and attended by quite an audience of family, friends, and faculty who seemed to get rather critical of the defendee. Mine is likely to be very different, with just me and the committee (fortunately!).

In order to defend in person, I will be flying to Boston by myself with Gabriel (gulp) on December 2. I will then leave Gabriel with my parents for a week while I fly to Indiana (it will be our first time apart!), defend and finish up paperwork and submissions, then fly back to Boston. We'll stay through Christmas, the Mister joining us on the 14th, and then we fly to Barcelona on the 28th, staying through Kings until the 7th. I'm a little dizzy about it already.

Today we fly to Barcelona for a long weekend, but the little one is sick with bothersome cold, so I'm a little nervous about this one too! We just have gotten his sleep and nap schedules consistent and now we're going to go and mess them up again...oh dear. The life of the peripatetic family.

09 November 2011

Big boy

So I realize I just wrote a post but I've got to write more! It's a banner week not only in that I sent off my dissertation, but in that Gabriel is...drumroll please...finally sleeping through the night.

After nearly 21 months of waking up multiple times every night, and more recently, of sleeping with a restless, hair-pulling, kicking child, we have managed to get him to sleep, and stay asleep, in his own bed. Last night he slept for 12 hours. I cannot get over it. I might be more...gobsmacked by this fact than I am about the dissertation.

It's all entirely thanks to my mom, who was here for a three-week visit (and my dad, who was here for part of that time as well). I don't think we could have stuck with it if it weren't for her actually putting Gabriel to sleep on the first, hardest nights, and encouraging us to keep going.

Wait, let me back up and describe what we had been doing before that. Every night, we laid down with him in or beside his bed (uncomfortably, on the floor) for usually an hour or so while he got still enough to fall asleep. We were exhausted, and invariably one of us would fall asleep during the process, wrecking the evening in terms of general alertness. He then usually woke up an hour or two after falling asleep, requiring another long process of soothing, and woke up again as we went to bed or shortly thereafter, at which point we would bring him to our bed. If we were lucky, he stayed relatively sound asleep all night and we only got an occasional kick to the kidneys or pulled covers. But most nights, he woke up several times, and getting back to sleep required pulling my hair as a soothing technique or grabbing and fiercely squeezing my head as if it were a stuffed animal. I would pull away, which would make him more awake and more mad...rinse, lather, repeat.

So. First we worked on the bedtime. After stories, prayer, songs, a goodnight kiss and then we leave. He screamed, of course. Called our names. But each night less and less. We would hear him flop down on his mattress and just...go to sleep. Wow. Pretty quickly he was crying for less than ten minutes. But he was still coming to our bed in the middle of the night.

After one particularly awake-all-night night, I said he can't come to our bed any more. That's it. So we let him cry when he woke up during the night. And he cried, but more quickly than I ever imagined possible (over the course of just two or three nights) his crying went from 10 or 15 minutes two or three times during the night to one brief, barely one-minute cry, to...nothing. Sleeping all night. Like I said, I can't get over it. He wakes up happy, alert, and noticeably more well-rested. Twelve hours! Unbelievable.

Also! He started his new, permanent daycare last week. It seems kind of bad timing to have started that as well as sleep training, but I think somehow they have reinforced each other. He really likes his new school, looks forward to going, waves "bye-bye" cheerfully in the morning, and gets all good and tired out during the day. Plus, his first full day there was yesterday, and he even NAPPED there. I was sure he would cry and they would call me, but no. He just...fell asleep. Crazy. (Naps are yet another story...I should not even admit this on a blog but I have been putting him to sleep for his nap by walking him around in the stroller every day since we weaned two months ago. So yeah, I didn't think he'd lay down and nap at school.)

I must make a few disclaimers. I know all of the sleep stuff is different for every kid, and I know cry-it-out is controversial, as is the family bed, which I've loved for many reasons (I even told M. last night that I kind of miss Gabriel sleeping in our bed...but I don't miss the hair pulling, kicking, no sleep thing). I myself was pretty against cry-it-out, and the few desperate attempts we made when he was younger--as an infant, at 12 months, at 15--were all disasters across the board. I am not even sure why this worked, and why it worked now. But it did. Part of is that he is older and able to process and understand more...along with all of the actual nighttime stuff, we've been doing a LOT of talking to him about it, telling him throughout the day and as we go to bed in simple terms what would happen at night, how he's such a big boy and will sleep in his bed all night long, that mom and dad are right here and he's safe and can go to sleep. He listens with wide eyes, very still. He gets it. He likes this "big boy" idea, says "buh (smushed barely there word) BOIeee." He says it when he points to himself in pictures.

I say: yes. A big boy. A very big boy indeed.


It's done. It is done. DONE!

I handed in the final draft of my dissertation yesterday. No more edits will be made, no committee member will send me suggestions for revisions, no more research can be undertaken, no more doubts will be had about maybe moving that section in front of that other section or deleting that sentence or choosing a better synonym for that word. It's done. It looks newly fancy, with a title page and an abstract and acknowledgements (just like a real book!) and a table of contents and figures and footnotes (well, those guys have been lying around for a while, all piled up lazybones on the bottom of the page).

This has been a long time coming. That last sentence is an understatement. Let's see, shall I detail how much of an understatement? In 2002, I started graduate school (yes, that would be NINE years ago). In 2004, I got my MA degree. In 2006, I got my MFA degree. Also in 2006, I passed my doctoral exams. Also in 2006, I got married and moved to Brussels. (It was kind of a big year.) Between 2006 and 2007 I wrote a proposal for the dissertation that at first didn't resemble the document I would go on to write but eventually turned into a legitimate plan. I flew to Bloomington to get my committee's approval of the plan. Then I spent a couple of years living in Brussels and Barcelona, translating and editing and always TRYING to write a dissertation but really just eking out dribs and drabs in fits and starts and mostly researching, reading, and reading some more. (That was the fun part, the reading and researching. Actually making something of it? That was the hard part.) I had one chapter done (Chapter 3, a perfectly logical place to start, right?), and little floaty pieces of others, and that was all, depressingly.

In a major turning point, both M. and I realized that if I was ever going to get this degree, I would have to be back in Indiana at school. So we made plans for me to live in Bloomington by myself for a semester. But then! We got pregnant! So M. came with me, and a semester turned into a year and a year turned into two years. He got hired as a visiting professor. We had a baby. I wrote and wrote--Chapter 1 and the Introduction--and taught, then I didn't write or teach while I nursed a newborn, then I wrote and wrote--Chapter 2--in Barcelona over the summer, and then I wrote and taught and graded and wrote, and wrote some more. The last semester in Bloomington I didn't teach, just finished writing Chapter 4. So then it was kind of done! A complete draft! But everything was also kind of a shambles, written in the most haphazard way and missing details that I was supposed to fill in later but never did. Then we moved back to Belgium, to Leuven this time, and I edited and edited and edited. And edited. Which meant writing and rewriting and adding new, better ideas, now that I had the whole thing before me. And all along my directors sent me their input and we embraced track changes and comment flagging in Word. Then it was the fall and my committee gave me the green light to defend in December, which gave me a deadline for submitting the final complete set-in-stone dissertation: November 9.

Today is November 9.

I hope the above saga communicates the fact that I NEVER would have finished this dissertation if it weren't for the Mister. He worked and worked while I wrote and wrote (or, ahem, didn't write). He unhesitatingly supported the idea of me spending time back in Bloomington, and then when--oh, we're having a baby!--he unhesitatingly picked up and came with me. He took over baby duty a million and infinity times so I could work, he cleaned the house also a million times so I could work, he sacrificed weekend or evening fun so I could work. He taught extra classes in Bloomington so I could take time off from teaching, the semester Gabriel was born and the final semester we were there. He pushed me when I needed it, listened when I needed it, didn't say anything when I needed him not to say anything, reminded me why we were doing what we were doing, and rubbed my shoulders when they ached.

I wrote this in my acknowledgements, of course, but I want to write it here, too, so everyone knows, not just the eight six people who might read my dissertation: thank you, my love. This dissertation is dedicated to you.