So this morning’s task was to haul children to the dentist for the six-month checkup–a process that always seems to highlight my maternal inadequacies. This time around I did manage to remind everyone what grade they’re in (one of the hidden pitfalls of home schooling; my children always say “Huh?” with not-so-intelligent looks when they’re quizzed about grade level by the friendly office staff). I got everyone’s teeth brushed within an hour or so of getting out the door, Emily was wearing shoes, Son #3 even had his shirt on the right way around. Unfortunately, the hygenist declined to show him how to floss his own teeth because his hands were so filthy.

Oops. (Even worse, I looked at his hands when she told me this and thought, “You think THAT’S bad?” For a kid who’d spent the previous day planting beans, cleaning out bunny cages, and recovering a dead chicken from under the nesting boxes, he looked pretty darn good.)

Anyway, before I came home I had a call telling me that my diploma was ready to pick up. Graduation was a month ago, but even graduation ceremonies are provisional with the Ph.D. What you actually GET in that neat little ribbon-tied roll is a notice that says, “This is not a diploma. All requirements for graduation must be met before diplomas will be issued.” It’s a bit of a bummer when you actually unroll it.

Meanwhile, in the month after graduation, the Dean’s office reviews all of your materials before giving the registrar the go-ahead to issue your diploma. I have (naturally) been waiting for something to go wrong. But my pessimism was unwarranted. (For once.) The call came, I went by Blow Memorial Hall as soon as the dental appointments were over, and there it was.

The family rejoiced (although they weren’t allowed to touch it).

So that’s that.

Next question: Just how long does it take to recover from a Ph.D.?

Since getting my dissertation turned in, I have

1. Watched all three seasons of The Office twice.
2. Reread the entire ouevre of Dick Francis from beginning to end.
3. Run about a zillion miles on deserted country roads while listening to the entire collected works of Sophie Kinsella. (I wish I were a shopaholic. If you’re going to obsess over something, wouldn’t it be more fun to obsess over shoes than over the exact ways in which Frankish kings were recognized as legitimate?)
4. Viewed the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy from beginning to end. The expanded DVD versions. With all the extras. The Two Towers, twice.
5. Worked my way from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower all the way up through the final book in the series. For about the twentieth time in my life.
6. Baked forty batches of cookies. (Approximation.)
7. Ate a significant portion of those cookies all on my own. (See #3, above. This is why boosting my average mileage-per-run from five to nine or ten miles has NOT dropped me a dress size.)
8. Sat and stared at the thousand pages of formless, shapeless medieval history on the left side of my desk.
9. Moved my chair to the other side of my desk and sat some more and stared at the manuscript of my revised dissertation, which is almost but not quite ready to send off to the university press which might publish it.
10. Read the first page of about a dozen new novels which, somewhere deep down, I really want to finish.
11. Read the flap copy of five or six really fascinating new history books which, even deeper down, I really want to start.

Since getting my dissertation turned in, I have NOT

1. Read anything new.
2. Written anything worth reading.
3. Felt particularly worried about this. In fact I told my editor, with perfect truth, that I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about getting the History of the Medieval World done by the deadline.

I’m still sitting in my chair in front of my desk during my working hours. Eventually, I guess, brain cells will begin to function again rather than oozing out of my ears.

Well, off to do a signing at the American Library Association conference this weekend. Don’t forget to tell your librarian to come say hello to me. Will post pictures early next week.

Showing 20 comments
  • Carla

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed hearing your seminars at the SEARCH conference last weekend. I’m actually excited to learn how to diagram sentences along with my soon-to-be 4th grader. Scary, huh?

    Also want to say that I appreciated this post because it was so normal and down-to-earth. I’m glad to know you’re a fellow fan of The Office. I’ve got to get those on DVD to relive all of my favorite uncomfortable train-wreck moments over and over again!

  • Sylvia

    I think those hands look pretty clean, too. This post encourages me to think it possible that when my four-month-old baby (fourth child; the oldest is seven) is six years old, I’ll be able to a normal, productive life again. And it reminds me that a normal productive life will still include crazy work schedules and dirty hands. Lucky for me, a PhD would not be very useful.

  • Tea Party Girl

    Thank you for a great description of motherhood in real life. I really enjoyed reading this, especially about your son’s hands. I’m not one to write LOL, but I’m tempted…

  • Susan Mosman

    I LOVE your life! (no envy intended)

  • e

    Awww, son #3! I ch-love it!

    I’m sure a summer of swimming would help. 😉

  • Angela, Mother Crone

    I too, enjoyed your seminars immensely! You sparked me toward diagramming (Lord, we need help in grammar) and recommiting to time-lines. I thank you from the bottom of my homeschooling heart!

    It is wonderful to hear that you are making the least of your time! I also baffle myself as to how easily I can jump off the hamster wheel and do absolutely nothing of any major importance. While I enjoy such nefarious sloth, I wonder at how I could possibly had keep the pace I had. After a few weeks though, my mind begins to quicken and want for more.

  • Lori

    Bwahahahahahaha! We have the same problems when we go places. It’s not uncommon for us (in the summertime, anyway) to leave without at least one of the younger 3 being shod. There have been times that none of them have remembered their shoes (and one of them is 8!) I’ve long ago become accustomed to people thinking I’m the worst mother ever.

    I think your brain needs time to recuperate. Plus it’s summer, time for brain meltdown anyway.

    I hope you do more with your diploma than my beloved husband did. I think his is (framed) in a closet in the basement. My BA is framed and hanging over the washing machine so that I can muse over the paths that life takes us. I’m not exactly sure where my MA is. I don’t think I ever framed it.

  • Gina

    I have been reading the Shopaholic books. My husband even noticed the non stop stream of Becky Bloomwood coming home from the library. He asked if they were really good books. I told him if you define good book as complete mind candy, then yes they are really good books.

  • dangermom

    The diploma is entirely in Latin! That’s so cool. (Or is that normal in the east? Does everyone’s diploma look like that?)

  • A Circle of Quiet

    I’ve instructed my children NOT to look at me when they are asked what grade they are in. If they can’t remember, they are on their own (-:

    Of course Claire declared to the pediatrician that she hated school — that was a fun moment to navigate. Upon further questioning it was discovered that school = math. The rest of the stuff (history, English, science, etc.) — that’s great fun. Phew.

    My elderly neighbor once told me that children need to EAT a pound of dirt a year to stay healthy. I have taken ridiculous comfort in that over the years. Those hands look fine to me.

    Do I really want to know why no one wants to go outside in VA in July? That doesn’t apply to the 28-29-30 of June, right? RIGHT?


  • Norma

    I loved this and will link (I don’t have a PhD but love they way you wrote about recovery). But ALA? I hope you’re a guest and not a member.

  • Kathleen

    I’m so glad to hear that ignorance about grade level is a symptom of homeschooling. I was mortified when my son couldn’t tell the doctor he was in Kindergarten! My older daughter chimed in at that point to inform the doctor that “We don’t go to school.” Yikes! Luckily, she continued by telling him that we homeschool. Not sure he’s on board, but anyway…

  • shanmar

    Congratulations on that spiffy piece of paper!

    At the dentist, when asked how often he brushed his teeth, my TWELVE year old son responded, “Oh, about once a week.”


  • Karen K.

    Congratulations on receiving your diploma! I’ve never seen a diploma in Latin, either. I noticed that the names William and Mary are changed (does William’s Latin name begin with a “B” or “G”?). Nice to see your name is still in English.

  • AmyL

    What a terrific accomplishment! Good for you. This is my first time reading your blog, and it’s great to know that you’re so normal! Lol. I’ve got 4 boys, and made the mistake of letting the older two (age 7) ‘help’ get the younger ones (age 3) ready and out the door in the middle of winter. We were all the way to the store when I took a close look and asked in a horrified voice “Where are their COATS???”.

  • PariSarah

    LOL!! Many congrats on your diploma!!

    I’ve gone into a similar state of recovery since prelims. (Since April 17th, I’ve read exactly one semi-scholarly book, and written nothing.) I can only imagine how brain-dead dissertating will leave me.

  • Annette Lyon

    Love your list! (I think I’ll try to do a few of those this summer.) And congrats on the diploma. As for the trip to the dentist, it sounded a bit too familiar–like the time my preschooler managed to get into the car without me realizing she was wearing a t-shirt with “I love candy” emblazoned on it in all the shades of the rainbow. Didn’t realize it until she climbed into the dentist’s chair and grinned at him.

  • Valerie

    Congratulations on the diploma! I too am doing my PhD and homeschooling my four children (ages 13, 11, 9 and 5). To be honest, when considering going back to school 4 years ago you were my primary role model of someone who could both homeschool four children and go to grad school (I still don’t know anyone else doing it!). I just discovered your blog today and was very excited to learn that you have finished. What an accomplishment! I have just finished my comps, and am working on my dissertation proposal, so your example once again encourages me to persevere. Thank you!
    P.S. Just yesterday I had the same problem with my nine-year-old at the dentist—dirty hands and didn’t have an answer to the question, “When is your last day of school?” Oh well, at least she said yes when asked if she liked her teacher this year!

  • A Lane

    You deserve to let your brain go to mush! I let mine go to mush for a while after grad. school (only my M.A. tho’) and thoroughly enjoyed the time NOT thinking grand thoughts and speaking in simple, declarative sentences. I think I might’ve even read — gasp! — a romance novel during that time! Thanks for all you do for the homeschooling community. You are a blessings to us!

  • Meredith

    All my friends who have finished their dissertations have told me that their brains simply refused to function for a significant period of time immediately afterwards. Several have advised me to plan a month-long beach holiday when I finish next year. If only! Apparently, a state of fugue is completely normal and you should recover in a couple three or six months. Knowing you, that will be, what, six weeks? (!!)

    Love your blog – it makes me laugh. Thanks.

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