When my son was younger he had a palate expander cemented into the roof of his mouth. Every day we had to insert a metal rod into the fly wheel at the center of the contraption and crank on it. This motion pushed the butterfly wing extensions on each side of the device out, thus spreading the bones of his skull further apart with each turn of the wheel. I’ll never forget the look on his face as I turned that wheel. His eyes opened so wide I thought they would pop out of his head. He stood up on the top of his toes and flailed his arms so much I thought he might fly away.

I had a similar experience yesterday. It wasn’t my palate, however. It was my brain. Hopefully the outer expression on my face did not relay my inner emotions as Dr. Van Gelder read through the syllabus for my first PhD course. How’s this for an opening line in the Course Requirements section, “The total reading expectation for this seminar is at least 4,000 pages.” It took all of my energy to refrain from saying, “excuse me, but is this a typo?!?”

Beyond the 4,000 pages of reading we will be writing 10 short papers at 10 pages each (100 pages), plus a course project that is 46-50 pages long. That brings the total number of written pages up to 150.

Here’s the kicker. That’s just one of my two courses this semester. Dr. Van Gelder teaches both classes, so I can only assume the other is of equal intensity. Just doing the simple math, that means before Christmas I am required to read 8,000 pages and write 300 pages.

Crank, expand, eyes popping!

Dr. Van Gelder summed it up well when he said, “I make no apology for this work load at the doctorate level. You guys signed up for this!” True that.

My son eventually got used to the metal contraption fixed to the roof of his mouth. His palate expanded, his teeth aligned, his cross bite disappeared, and he is a better man for it today. May it be true for my brain as well. God help us all!

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