Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I can hardly believe that 2014 is coming to an end.... Last year, I held strawberry lemonade in a Hello Kitty glass and decided that it would be a year for me to "do me". It sounds silly and selfish, but I felt like I needed to take a moment for the small things that make me happy. I give, give, give and work, work, work to the point that I find myself in last place--a place I happily assign myself to--but just a few things focusing on me would make us all a lot happier.

I'm not sure that I was doing a great job of this until it all culminated in October. After working so hard for so long, I finally finished my dissertation and graduated as a doctor. Without the added stress of being in school with two small children, I took up a few hobbies. I started running three times a week and made a lot of progress. I've run two 5ks and am signed up for a half marathon in March. I started drawing at night when the kids were in bed and wouldn't try to take my pen away. I have made a few comics and have also made prints that I hung in our bedroom. And most recently, I was hired to teach English as an adjunct at a local community college. It seemed like I finally was doing things for myself.

Looking back, 2014 was an awesome year. Eliot turned three in January and Jack turned from a baby into a toddler. They're both completely different kids now, and it keeps getting more and more fun. We enjoyed a vacation to Florida in February.

And though it was too cold for too long back home, we did have some fun in the snow at least.

We spent the spring and early summer in our version of the tv show Yard Crashers by digging up holly trees and trashing old sheds to build our own personal tropical oasis. Since we got a pool heater, we were able to enjoy the pool for six whole months (and I didn't freeze!).

In the fall, Eliot played soccer and started school while Jack's interests and personality continued to grow. I defended my dissertation in the fall, and we came back home ready to plan and host both of our families for Thanksgiving.

I started running at the end of October, and Chris and I did some races. While we were all sick on Christmas, we still got to see both sides of the family. And that was 2014....

In 2015, I'm looking forward to organizing the house during the cold months and starting my new teaching position while continuing with my online teaching. As the weather warms up, I'm sure we'll be outside all the time playing in the pool, going to the beach, and going to Eliot's soccer games in the spring season. My goal for 2015 is to take time (to live, relax, enjoy the days together) and get in the picture more (I literally mean taking more photographs and allowing--or asking--others take pictures with me in them too).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dear Jack: One Year, Six Months

Dear Jack,

From here on, you are closer to two years old than one year old. I can't believe it. You will always be my baby. Always.

We have just celebrated Christmas with you, your second Christmas but it has been one that seemed more "real" to you, I think. Of course, you didn't understand all the way what was going on, but you were pretty happy to dig into the presents and rip off the wrapping paper. For Christmas, we bought you all kinds of wooden toys with shapes, animals, and trains and barns for the creatures. You love animals, especially farm animals.

At 18 months, you are still the worst eater in the world, but you do like pizza.

Despite your bad eating, you make up for it with sleeping well. You usually sleep an easy, uninterrupted 12 hours a night and take one, reliable nap a day. That is pretty much a miracle for me.

Bathtime is your favorite ever. You love playing in water. As your language grows, so does your understanding of what we are saying. If we say "bath," you go running to the bathroom, ready to play in the tub.

For the longest time, I felt incredibly guilty about you, Jack. I felt like I did not read to you as much as I read to Eliot as a baby, so I worried that you wouldn't like books. However, I must have not messed up too badly because you just love books. We read Goodnight, Moon together and you put my finger on the fire for me to jump back and say, "Ow!" We pet the kitties together and put on the mittens.

It amazes me how different you can be from your brother. You have this independence that he just didn't exhibit. You wander off on your own. You play by yourself. You are brave. Of course, you love to interact with us and to have us read to you and give you attention too, but you don't mind being on your own either. Your independence gets you in trouble sometimes, though, as you go off to explore and scoot chairs all around the house to get exactly what you want.

Jack-bear, you keep on growing even though I can't comprehend how fast time is going. There is something to becoming a parent for the first time and experiencing everything for the first time with a new baby. It's scary and beautiful all at the same time. And then you have a second born, and you worry about making everything equal and whether you can show the same love to the second baby. Jack, you are our second boy and likely our last. So, there is also something (something I didn't expect) to experiencing everything for the last time. Each milestone you reach fills me with pride and also crushes my heart. You, our baby, are growing so fast. And it is so beautiful.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I am so late on all of this, but I felt like I should write about the seasons before they pass me by.

We're all always so busy, and I say that constantly, but life has been going by so quickly in a good way. There were times when the days seemed to drag without structure. I have always appreciated the time with my family; however, I felt like we weren't making the most of our time. My hands felt full and my brain boiled over with things I needed to get done (dishes, work, writing, laundry...), yet I simply couldn't. Lately, though, that hasn't been as much of an issue. With Eliot being in school, we are going, going, going with all sorts of plans. And I have a really consistent running routine set that has helped me have something to look forward to during the cold months when I usually drag myself through the dreary days.

But, back to Thanksgiving...

We hosted again this year, which was a lot of fun. Last year, we were so excited to bring both sides of the family together, but both Chris and his sister got very sick (like, flu, throwing up sick) on the morning of Thanksgiving. Suddenly, I was trying to clean the house, roast a turkey, and cook everything else while watching a then almost-three-year-old and a five-month-old (who couldn't even sit up yet). Speaking of limitations, the turkey was too heavy for me to take it out to baste it, even! So, that was pretty stressful.

It was completely different this year, though. We fried the turkey instead, which saved a lot of time. I had done almost all the cleaning the night before. Eliot and Jack could play by themselves enough for me to cook. Chris's parents and sister beat the traffic and were able to play with the kids. AND Chris (and Elizabeth) were not throwing up. Everyone seemed happy with the food and liked the turkey. A win, I'd say.

Waiting for Mawmaw, Granddad, and Aunt Elizabeth

The food

Chris's family stayed the night, which was awesome since they weren't able to last year due to Elizabeth getting sick too. In the morning, we all went for runs and walks because we're weird like that and then had breakfast at Cracker Barrel, an Eliot and Granddad tradition.

My only regret is that we didn't take any family pictures, just the few shots on my phone above. I was so busy, though, prepping, doing dishes, and all that I didn't see a moment to take a photo when we were all together. Ah.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dear Jack: One Year, Five Months

Dear Jack,

You are so close to a year and a half that I just tell everyone you are that old. In my mind, I have pretty much accepted that you are two years old because you act so big lately. I had honestly forgotten how much I absolutely love this age. I wasn't expecting it at all, but you are so much fun.

You get excited about things and understand almost everything we say. Really, you understand the strangest words. If we talk about going outside, you run and get your shoes. If I mention a bath (even as a whisper), you run into the bathroom. Heck, if I tell YOUR BROTHER to take a potty break, you run to the bathroom because you love teasing him while he's on the toilet. Perhaps potty training is on your radar? (That is a joke; I am not ready to enter that realm again yet) Also, if your dad says he's going in the garage, you run straight to the door. You like going some silly places, I think.

Lately, you have taken a big interest in farm animals. You've always loved animals, especially dogs, but now your favorite books center on farm animals, and I think part of that is because you like to make the sounds that go with the animals. You also really enjoy playing with your plastic animals and barn. You moo for the cow, click for the horse (like its hooves), baaa for the sheep, and maaa for the goat. You also make a pig sound that is impossible to spell. Oddly enough, you seem to really like ducks and call all birds "duck" or "quack". You also seem to have a soft spot for horses. All farm animals, huh? I love playing with you and seeing you grow.

Other silly things you like: brushing your hair and having it sprayed with water, the wind blowing in your face, having your head scratched, turning off and on the lights, snuggling stuffed animals, kissing the dogs and cat.

You recently had your third hair cut. You were quite good and just sat there. Your hair is so soft and bouncy--it is pretty much out of control, but I keep on cutting it from time to time so you don't get a mullet. Would it be better short or long? I don't know, but it sure is cute. From what everyone says, it sounds like your dad's hair was just like yours when he was a baby. I wonder if you will look more and more like him as you grow older.

Jack, you are the happiest of babies when you are happy, and sometimes the grumpiest when you are upset. But that is OK. You are usually just happy. We love you, baby, and we're so proud of you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Good Habits

A month ago today, I decided to make some changes. I am always trying to be healthier, and I had a pretty good walking routine going in the summer, but I wanted to do more. Hoping to get more cardio in, I loaded the boys up in the bike trailer and rode around the neighborhood.

It.was.hard. I used to ride around with Eliot all the time when he was about a year and a half. Add in another 21-pounder and then a couple of years' worth of weight to Eliot, and suddenly my cargo is much heavier. Wowzers. The next day, Chris gave it a try, and he said it was hard, so I felt like much less of a wuss.

So, I hadn't exactly solved my cardio issue. While I am not trying to lose weight at all (don't worry), there is high blood pressure and cholesterol on both sides of my family, so I figured getting into a good workout routine would be nothing but beneficial for me. The bike, though, was not something I wanted to do every day. I never did any sports in school growing up. I had a bad view of exercising because a lot of my friends had eating disorders, so if someone I knew said they were going to start a workout routine, I would quickly tell them that they were already beautiful and that they shouldn't try to lose weight. It's not just about weight, though--it's about physical and mental well-being.

Instead, I tried running. Again. In undergrad, I did the couch to 5k program and made it up to 30 minutes. However, I quit when we moved to Lynchburg because the hills were hurting my knees and my ankle. My right ankle has always been weak and literally stops working even if I am just standing there. One time on a trail run, my right ankle just quit on me and I busted my knee open on a rock. Call it an excuse (maybe it is), but my ankle had deterred me from running for a long time. So, many of my previous attempts at running have only lasted a month or so.

This time, though, it has been different. I bought an ankle brace from the beginning, which has helped tremendously. I tried running one time without it and could feel my right foot pronating very badly no matter how hard I attempted to stop it. I am doing everything different this time. I have the Nike Plus app, so I can track my distance and pace. I love being able to watch myself improve. Before, I knew I was getting better, but I couldn't see it. I was totally guessing my pace--now I know.

I'm approaching running from a completely new perspective. Before, it was something I had to do for some unknown reason. I'd put it off. I'd grumble about it. I didn't want to do it. I didn't have fun. I didn't feel good afterward--I just felt tired and had to take another shower. Now that I am a work-at-home mom, running is my event for the day. I take Eliot to school, play with Jack at home, get Jack down for his nap, and run while Jack sleeps (and Chris is at home working while Jack naps, so please don't think I'm leaving my kid or anything). It goes along with my morning routine so I feel accomplished early on.

Also, I run three days a week, but I am making an effort to cross train too. This helps build my strength in other ways and also keeps me on a schedule. Here is my current plan, which might evolve some with time:
Monday: run
Tuesday: hot yoga
Wednesday: run
Thursday: abs/core/squats/light weights
Friday: run
Saturday: walk or bike (if I have time or feel up to it)
Sunday: rest

When I first started running back in college, Chris suggested that we sign up for a race. I mostly laughed at the idea. Why would I run a race knowing that I couldn't win? What would be the point? But after watching Chris run so many races, I realized that you aren't racing everyone else--you're racing yourself and seeing what you are capable of. You're trying to meet personal goals and trying to get better. Well, seven years after telling Chris that races are silly, we ran our first 5k together. He did amazing and broke 18 minutes. I hoped to break 35 minutes and ended up running 31:24. I ran far faster than I thought I could.

The race was pretty cold (in the low to mid 30s), so we were shivering a bit in the beginning. However, during the race, I wasn't cold and even took my gloves off. That gave me hope that running in the winter wouldn't be so bad. Afterward, we were super cold again. We were standing around waiting for the awards ceremony (Chris won his age group) when these girls in doctor jackets said we looked super cold and should go inside. I thanked them for the offer, but said we needed to wait for the awards. Then we looked around us. No one else seemed cold. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH US?! That's when I realized that everyone else had full-on winter coats. Darnit. Last year at this race, we had parked in a parking garage, so I didn't plan to bring post-race warmness. I figured we wouldn't be able to go get our warmer clothes anyway. So, that was just a funny moment at the race....

When I started out three weeks (and a day) ago, I couldn't run a mile without walking and it took me almost 14 minutes. Now I can run one mile in ten minutes (and two seconds), and I can run three miles in a little over 30 minutes. I am excited to see how I can continue to improve. I'm signed up for the Shamrock 8k while Chris is doing the Shamrock half marathon in March. I'm sure it'll be a breeze by then distance-wise, and I'm looking forward to stepping up the pace. More than anything, though, I'm thankful that I've found something I can do that is good for my heart, gives me a sense of accomplishment, and keeps me going.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life Lately

So much has happened since I last wrote. I kept thinking that I'd write when "something" happened, but then it seemed like life kept moving forward and whatever I planned to write about was old news.

I was so happy that summer kept coming along even into the fall. Starbucks was serving pumpkin spiced lattes, but I just really didn't want one. It was too warm. Well, today it is fall weather. This fall, I believe I crossed everything off my "bucketlist". Eliot had his first field trip at school, and Chris, Jack, and I all went. They went to the farm where we walked through a corn maze, pet the animals, and had icecream.

We went to a pumpkin patch at a local farm another day and picked out pumpkins. It was rather warm that day, but we got some cute skeleton shirt pictures anyway. The boys had fun running around and fighting over which one of them got to push the wheelbarrow. We also pick strawberries at this same farm each spring.

As we had planned, Eliot was Godzilla for Halloween. He really lucked out that a new Godzilla movie came out last year or I don't know how we would have found a costume. Jack was going to be mothra, but the more I pieced together his costume, the more I realized that everyone would just think he was a butterfly. Instead, I found a dinosaur costume that could also be Godzooky, which is like a baby Godzilla. And Jack loves dinosaurs, so he was really excited when he saw himself in the mirror.

On Halloween, Eliot was pretty sick. In fact, he threw up at his school's Halloween party and we had to leave early. His throw up was really just him gagging himself from coughing so hard, but I felt pretty bad for the little dude. Chris's parents came in town for the day, and Eliot was feeling OK enough to trick-or-treat. He had a great time. And although Jack didn't really get why we were going door to door, he understood the routine and went along with it.

Halloween was two weeks ago, and Eliot is still sick. He seems to get colds pretty hard, so I kept waiting for it to ease up. And I really thought he had beat it at one point, but it came back. I took him to the doctor and it has progressed to a sinus infection, so we're working on helping him get over that. As a result, he got to skip a bit of school this week, which I'm sure I will pay for on Monday. If his routine gets thrown off, he has a hard time transitioning back.

Eliot was well enough to play in his last soccer game, though, after he skipped one due to being sick. He did a great job this season, and I'm really sad to see it end. It was something fun to look forward to on Saturdays. I'm really proud of how far he has come from not following directions a year ago at his soccer class to crying at the first game of the season to then scoring goals and hanging in there.

I've been trying to find something for Eliot to be involved in this fall, but I think we're going to stick with indoor soccer classes at the Fieldhouse like we did last year. And Jack will be old enough to take classes too, which I think I am even more excited about. Jack has always been so eager to participate at soccer practice, so I know he'll have a blast playing soccer-centered games with other toddlers. I am not so silly as to think that I'm forming soccer prodigies here or anything; Jack, like lots of little boys, just really wants to play with a ball, so I think it'll be good for him socially. And we really need to get out of the house in the cold months. As a second-born, I know what it is like to have to wait to be older for it to be your turn. And now Jack will get to have his turn kicking the ball too.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Jack: One Year, Four Months

Dear Jack,

You are a year and four months old! It's hard to measure the changes, but when I look back at photos of your first birthday, these four months have made such a difference.

You want to do everything big lately. You wrestle hard. You climb over baby gates. You steal people's silverware. You REFUSE to eat in your high chair--no, you must sit with Eliot at his table. You brush your hair, wipe your face, get your own shoes, and so much more. You have always been so independent.

I started looking out for the terrible twos when you were a year old. I braced myself, but they didn't seem to come. Then, one day when you were rolling on the floor screaming that I wouldn't let you spray yourself with the water bottle anymore, I thought to myself, "Oh. This is a tantrum. Oh yeah. I guess he has been in the 'terrible twos' already." It's just that I got so used to it all with Eliot that I barely even recognized it. Ha. Fortunately for you, whenever you throw a fit, I don't feel all of those judging eyes watching me in Target when you arch your back and cry to get a soda by the check-out line. I merely shrug. Did they expect something else? But, truly, your fits are not too bad or frequent. I remember dragging Eliot out of a Barnes and Noble when he was two and him screaming the whole way across the mall and to the car. Yeah, you're not there yet. And maybe you won't get there. (Promise me you won't?)

Your vocabulary is growing slowly but surely. You say ball (for both a ball and a dog), cat, duck, quack, moo for cow, and shoes. I'm probably missing more. If you want something, you make a sound like a siren. You pretend to talk on phones and are always trying to steal them from everyone.

Physically, you're doing great. You love to explore in the woods and can walk about a quarter of a mile before wanting to be carried. You kick the soccer ball and throw tennis balls for Abed-nego. You clap when you are happy, and make clicking sounds to call the pets and also when listening to music with a clear drum beat. You also love to dance by throwing your hands up in the air.

Last month was your second Halloween. Your were Godzooky (baby Godzilla) while Eliot was Godzilla. You didn't really understand why we were going door to door for candy, but you loved it and held your little bucket out. You two were so cute, even if some people did call you Barney.

Your temperament is so sweet and happy. You are always laughing and trying to play peek-a-boo. You think I'm hilarious. You think everyone is hilarious. You love dogs and cats, but seem to prefer dogs. You want to be involved in everything, but aren't afraid to go out on your own. Your favorite toys are dinosaurs and cars. You get whiny when you are tired or hungry, but go down for one nap at 10:00 am every day and go to bed at 6:30 pm. Then you wake up at 6:30 am ready for some strawberry milk and to tackle the day (and your brother).

You are about the age Eliot was when I got pregnant with our second baby--the one we lost; the one before you. I can't imagine trying for another baby at this point, so this age doesn't make me think about that. Instead, I think about how heartbroken I was back then to discover that I wouldn't be having that second baby after all. For months, I cried and dreamed of you. And then you were there growing inside of me. I was so thankful and so terrified. We kept you a secret--our secret--for a while. Every single day, I thank God for you. You are a miracle, Jack, and so very special. Sometimes when I put you to bed at night, I rock you longer than necessary. I hold you in my arms and think to myself, "Don't forget this. Don't forget this." I feel your little (but growing so fast) body against my own and your fuzzy, soft hair at my cheek. You brought me hope and healed my heart when all I could see was darkness.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Summer That Won't Stop

We're half-way through October and I have been checking adventures off of my fall "bucket list," but it still really feels like summer. We've been eating outside, working outside, and playing outside as much as possible. Kinda love it.

Eliot has just taken off in physical ability lately. Sometimes I know Eliot can do something, and, sure, he wants to, but he doesn't want to put the effort in. Then, out of nowhere, he just does it. In the past week, he learned how to swim, ride a scooter, AND ride his bike.  Whaaat? He just suddenly turned into a big kid.

He has had his cousin's hand-me-down bike for a while, but just could get the hang of it. The road we live on is a little bumpy and it had been too hot to run around in the street with both kids. Eliot picked it up the other day, though, and then his bike kinda crumbled beneath him, the chain wouldn't go back on, and a bolt came loose and went missing. I mean, it is about five years old, so we figured Eliot should get his own. The new bike seems a lot easier for him to ride, too. It's pretty cool.

Chris and the boys have had fun swimming in the pool and soaking up the last days of nice weather. That's when Eliot just started swimming (which he said our dog taught him...). Wow... Today it was so nice out that I took the boys to the beach to play in the sand. I warned Eliot that the water would be too cold, yet he had fun wading knee-deep anyway. Jack was more interested in digging in the sand, and since I took them by myself, I stood somewhere between the shoreline and Jack's sand construction site to make sure no one drowned or choked on sand. Then we all compromised by feeding those crazyyy seagulls. Win for everyone.

I think Jack is finally stepping out of the world that was teething horror. The poor kid cut all four molars and an incisor. I think the one molar is still trying to break through, but he has been much happier lately. I know babies (and kids) are constantly changing, so he'll probably throw me for a new, crazy loop soon, but he has been back to his cheerful self lately. Now if only I could get the kid to EAT something.

Friday, October 10, 2014

One Month In: Looking Back at Pre-school

Eliot has been attending pre-school for a little over a month now. When Chris and I held him as a newborn, Chris said that it would just break his heart when Eliot goes off to school. And I worried so much about how he would do--how I could protect him if I weren't always around. But then I just knew I had to let go and allow him to grow on his own.

Starting pre-school wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. He was excited, but nervous. I think I carried a lump in my throat more than he did. After a couple of weeks, though, he started saying that he didn't want to go. He would complain before going to bed and whine in the morning. And when I dropped him off, he cried. I can think of many excuses as to why. This was an abrupt change, and I wanted to know what caused it. At the time, he was a little sick with a cold, so extra clingy. Also, he claimed he didn't want to go to the Bible class. I spoke with the teacher and she explained that he had gotten in trouble at the Bible class for not raising his hand. That stinker... Sometimes he gets his feelings hurt and holds onto it. Since I let the teacher know that he was bringing that up (which was likely just an excuse, really), she took extra steps to make him more comfortable. She did things she didn't have to. And now he loves it.

Eliot still says he doesn't want to go to school most mornings, but by the time we are ready to head out the door, he is fine with it. And as soon as he washes his hands in the classroom, he is excited to explore and play. And when I pick him up, he tells me how he had so much fun and wants to go back.

I don't want him to feel bad ever, and I don't want him to think he can't tell me what he is feeling. I don't want him to think that I am dismissive of his feelings, but sometimes I can't just let him quit simply because it is hard.

The same thing went for soccer. He was excited to play and did great at practice. I blogged about it before, but his first game was a disaster. He was full of tears and felt intimidated since everyone else seemed like they knew what they were doing. I did get him on the field eventually by holding his hand and running with him at first. By the end of the game, he was playing on his own, but it took a lot to get there. The next practice did not go well either. Chris said if he didn't play the second game either, maybe we should think about quitting. He is only three--and that is kind of young for soccer.

However, at the second game, he completely changed. He ran along, scored a goal, and was so happy to play. Ever since, he has scored at least one goal per game. He never cries or complains. He falls down and gets back up. He even is demonstrating some competitiveness, but not too much physical aggressiveness. He loves running and roaring like a dinosaur throughout the game. It's awesome that he is scoring some goals, but becoming a three-year-old soccer prodigy isn't my main concern. I always said that I had two goals to reach by the end of season: don't just cry the whole time and don't tackle everyone. Fortunately, after the first game, he has done great.

As a new parent, I wanted Eliot to be "advanced" and reach those milestones early. However, developing true character isn't necessarily when everything comes easy to a child, but instead how that child rises above and grows when faced with challenges--going further than he thought he could.

I'm proud of how Eliot is growing up. He is such a sweet, kind, happy kid. I know we have many challenges ahead of us--ones I can't even imagine--but we'll get there all in due time. Right now, I'm taking this one as a win.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dissertation: DONE

This dissertation process has been long, much longer than I anticipated. I am quite honestly embarrassed at times by how long it took me since I had hoped that it would only take a year. I mean, I finished all of undergrad in three years. How could a dissertation take that long too? I ran into so many snags along the way with my study and "life" happened, both good and bad. Working full time, raising two little ones, and finishing a doctorate is hard. No matter how long it took, the end result remains:  I made it through. Somewhere along the line, I had to reconcile the fact that I am no longer a 20-year-old without any commitments other than attending school. No, I had a family and a full-time job. If I were to do this and do it well, it would take longer.

As I have researched and written, these boys have grown up. I don't say that in a way to lament missing out because I was pre-occupied with writing. For the most part, they rarely saw me write. I made time for them, and sacrificed my sleep when I needed to meet a goal. Maybe I could have finished faster if I hadn't put them before my work--no, I know I could have. Instead, I tried my hardest and worked my fastest and most efficiently while also loving on them and giving them my all. And that's not something I'm embarrassed of.

Now that it is done, I don't suspect too much will change. I have a job in my field that I love already. I get to change my email signature. All this time, I have felt a dark cloud hovering over me, especially at night, reminding me that I needed to finish this thing. Sometimes, I needed to write. Sometimes, I just needed to wait for feedback. Now, though, that cloud has lifted. And even though I don't specifically know how finishing my doctorate will directly benefit me right now, it was a goal of mine. And, you know, if you are an instructor at a university, it probablyyyy isn't a bad idea to get a doctorate.

I didn't blog much about the process because I figured it'd be pretty boring and jargon-y, so I thought I'd sum up the three-year journey, even if it's just for me to remember.

In September 2011, I took my comprehensive exam and was officially a doctoral candidate. My Chair suggested that I change my study from qualitative to quantitative, so I had to re-think my project and re-write my entire prospectus. Eliot was about eight months old.

In June 2012, I had finished and received approval for my prospectus, but had trouble getting access to one of the instruments I planned to use. I was supposed to just contact the author. As it turned out, the author was dead. ?!?! I tried contacting the university she was affiliated with. I couldn't get anyone to respond to me. I felt lost and devastated. Around this time, I had a miscarriage. Both my grandmother and Chris's grandmother experienced health issues with their Alzheimer's disease and breaking their hips. It was a very tough time.

In December 2012, I felt like I was so behind. I had wasted so much time looking for this instrument without getting any responses. We moved back to Chesapeake. In the middle of the night while laying on my parents' futon in the guest bedroom (in between houses with the move) with Eliot and Chris sleeping, I found another instrument that would work. It was time to move on.

In February 2013, after we got settled in the new house, Chris would take Eliot on runs, do yard work with Eliot, and take Eliot on special adventures to the zoo and Busch Gardens to give me time to write and work on further developing my literature review to meet the 30-page requirement (an additional 15 pages, I think, from the prospectus). Eliot was two years old and I was four months pregnant with Jack.

In May 2013, I finished my proposal and answered my committee's feedback. My research consultant, though, asked questions that I didn't know how to answer. I wasn't sure if my study could even work. I gave birth to Jack in June and allowed myself a small break. I honestly wasn't sure if my study could go on. I would lay awake at night worrying about my dissertation and feeling so utterly lost. I needed to ask questions. I needed to ask for help.

 In November 2013, I figured out the issues and answered the hard questions. I turned my proposal back in for further review to my research consultant.

In January 2014, Eliot was three and Jack was six months old. I had worked out the kinks and addressed the concerns with my study. I defended my proposal successfully. We went to Disney World! I worked on my Institutional Review Board application at night when the boys went to sleep.

In March 2014, my study made it through the Institutional Review Board (the ethics committee), a process that takes at least a month. From there, I worked on getting trained in Qualtrics in order to collect data with my instruments.

In June 2014, as Jack turned one, I collected data. I did not get enough responses at first (I needed at least 30), so I had to reach out to a larger sample. In the end, I got 39 responses. I was finally able to run my analysis.

In July 2014, I determined a relationship between the variables with a Chi-square and wrote my conclusion while I was supposed to be relaxing on vacation at the Outer Banks.

In September 2014, I received the OK from my committee and research consultant. At the end of  the month, I passed pre-defense (which is like a mock defense).

And here, October 2014, we traveled to Lynchburg for my defense. I presented my project to my committee, answered their questions, and (after I sat in the hall for a few minutes) they congratulated me as a doctor and gave me a few very minor revisions (like shortening the title). It was finally complete. After ten years of schooling after high school, I was a doctor.

And then I paused for a quick selfie in front of DeMoss.