Monday, July 25, 2016

Foggy, Hazy Rio de Janeiro, but Sunny Christ Statue!

This is a photo post. My children have been amazingly blessed this past year in terms of seeing incredible natural wonders: they've been up close to the Matterhorn, the Momt Blanc, and Jungfrau mountains in the Alps; then a few weeks ago we went to the k credible Iguazu Falls and today we arrived at a very foggy & hazy Rio. It was still great (and hopefully better tomorrow) and staying at the local house of friends is very special! 
Bright blue from the back:
Sunny front;
Foggy city below:
This was supposed to be an incredible view of the Sugarloaf mountains:
A few more:
And Incredible sunset with "sea" of clouds:
Looking forward to 2nd & last day tomorrow. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Brasil Trip Continues

sorry for leaving the z out, I prefer Brasil with s the way we write in Portuguese :-)

I'm visiting my brother's house for the first time in 10 years! He lived 8 years abroad and I haven't been to Brazil for the past 2.5 years.

A quick summary of the past two weeks: after we arrived back from the trip to the state of Paraná and the Falls, my sons spent a week hanging out with their cousins who are closest in age (sons of "K2" who lives in Egypt). They rode bikes, played tons of WiiU and some Minecraft and we all spent an afternoon making tie-dye t-shirts for ALL the kids in the family -- the 8 grandkids of my in-laws + K's aunt's 2 grandkids and 2 shirts for my twin friends' kids (the two that were there with us), plus two t-shirts for my mom and one for me). And I still dyed a giant towel with the leftover dye.

My sister-in-law was at her mom's house all week with my niece (who is 3 and the cutest, sweetest little girl ever) and nephew (4.5), so I spent as much time with them as I could.

In the middle of the week I went clothes shopping with my mom at a nearby town that has lots of textile factories and stores and we also got hundreds of liters of spring water from a local spring (my parents do that every few months so they don't have to buy good drinking water).

Then my husband arrived on Friday (7/14) and his family members started to arrive, one brother on Saturday and the other o Sunday for the BIG reason for this trip: his grandmother's 90th birthday party and family reunion. My mother-in-law's two sisters and two brothers and their children were there on Saturday already and we had a lovely lunch celebration at her cousin's house. The birthday celebration on Sunday night was awesome and the next day nearly the whole family went to a hot water springs resort a few hours away where we stayed until yesterday (Friday).

It was great, but a lot of the kids got sick with the stomach flu. :-(

I hate to end on this negative note, but this will be a BIG week -- we're going to Rio for a whirlwind pre-Olympics tour!!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Safe, and Frantically Traveling, in Brazil

We arrived safely here on Friday, but the delay made the trip into a 24+ event from leaving our house to arriving at my parents'. The bus we could have taken at noon to go to the town closer to them was full and we could only take the 2pm bus. Thankfully, a dear friend who had come to pick up a suitcase from her mom that we brought, had prepared a big bag of food for us! Such a great gift!

Saturday was a great day spent with family and friends (including the same friend who had gone to the airport), but in the evening when we saw what the forecast was for the week and that a cold front was coming to Iguazu Falls (Foz do Iguaçu -- foz doesn't mean falls, BTW, it means the meeting of several rivers), we decided to leave on Sunday & started packing.

We couldn't leave as early as we wanted, but the trip went well and we reached our friends' house before 7:30 pm. This morning we left earlier and arrived at the Falls before sundown (5:30). Tomorrow we see the falls (five minutes away from where we are!), both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides. I will share photos in the evening if possible. I need to empty a bunch of photos from my iPhone's memory so I can photograph and blog from the phone.

The best of the trip so far is having Wi-Fi in so many places -- people's houses, restaurants, lodging. That way I can be in touch with my husband and friends & family. Hope to be back tomorrow with more!

Friday, July 01, 2016

Flight delayed

Our flight was delayed for a technical problem, but hopefully now we'll depart uneventfully! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Leaving for Brazil

Everything went pretty smoothly & the only thing I didn't do was to plant these perennial plants I'd bought one or two months ago. :-( Maybe K can plant them, poor guy! At least last night I put the flowers in pots. 

I had a bunch of last minute shopping to do, but we didn't leave for town until I was 100% packed! (Minus the items I bought and some last minute items of clothing plus the computer external hard drive). 

We came home, finished packing, the kids ate (pizzas I bought them at Target) & K tried to get me to eat some yummy mushroom & truffle ravioli style triangles from Tradwr Joe's I had prepared last night, but I was looking for old photo negatives and trying  not to forget anything. So now I'm starving (and craving the pasta) and I guess I'll have to eat at the airport because the flight doesn't leave until 10:05.

I'm excited about this trip! We all love traveling, the boys are well trained from babyhood & are seasoned travelers. Kelvin has checked the aircraft & he is upset that United downgraded the planes that fly to Brasil from 777 to 767 (well, from Chicago it was 77, probably from here it may always been 767).

Ok, let me talk to my poor husband in the half hour until we get to the airport!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

20 Years Ago

20 years ago last Monday (June 20th) K & I arrived in the U.S. with 7 pieces of luggage. 1996! it feels like a lifetime ago, and I guess it is, considering that I was nearly 25 at the time. In a few years I will have lived longer in this country than in Brazil.

Interestingly enough, the past almost 11 years are chronicled here in this blog, it's a pity that most the friends who were reading back then are not anymore. 

Happy 20th anniversary of emigration for us! ;-)

List of Updates

- We drove my parents to the JFK airport in New York on Monday. LOOOONG day driving for over 12 hours. Sigh... They arrived safely in Brazil.

- Car situation still not resolved (and my poor dad super stressed about it). Tank was flushed, but car won't start. Of course it's NOT in the Toyota dealership & I guess the mechanics don't have any experience with hybrids. We're trying to figure out a solution.

- I'm packing to fly to Brazil tomorrow night. I hate packing and the days before trips. So much stress! Thankfully if I forget anything my husband follows in two weeks.

- Boys will miss the last three weeks of swim team, but they have been swimming SUPER well, it's awesome to see. I even want them to swim/have some swim lessons maybe in Brazil (except that we'll be traveling most of the time).

- I STILL HAVE NOT planted flowers that I bought into the vases that I always have by the front steps in the summer. HORRIBLE, no? I should stop blogging and go do it. Sigh...

more later.

Monday, June 20, 2016

On (Almost) Being Ripped Off & Resolution In Sight!

Well, I don't have a lot of time because our friends (who had ADORABLE twins 10 months ago) came up for the wedding (I PROMISE more on the wedding soon) and are coming for dinner.

So... we almost were COMPLETELY ripped off by the Toyota place in Maryland.

SERIOUSLY! And, besides, their estimate caused a lot of sadness and needless worry and despair. So, unfortunately we've already lost 400+ because of this car situation, but, apparently the people in the Toyota dealership where our car was taken to are specialists in ripping off customers.

They wanted to replace everything and would charge us 2,400 when our own Toyota dealership, whom my husband called this morning, said that this accident of putting diesel in a gasoline car is common and NOT serious and that they charge...

... wait for it.

TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY dollars to fix it. (which just involves flushing the system completely)

Isn't that unbelievable?? The other Toyota's place wants to charge 10 times more for unnecessary repairs.

Anyway. Problem is that our car is in Maryland, so a friend of ours who owns a tow truck and a dealership/garage has put us in this list in which tow trucks from all over the country transport cars to other locations for a much cheaper price. We don't know when our car will be transported to our local Toyota, but hopefully it will be done within the next month (my husband travels to Brazil on July 14, we go on June 30).

OK, have to go continue preparing for my guests!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Sad Post with an Undecided Ending -- What would YOU do?

I need to write his as a sad "coda" to today's earlier update post.

Something very unfortunate happened on Thursday. Our car, my blue Prius (which my husband jokingly calls "Blue Cloud," nuvem azul in Portuguese), broke down with my parents in it, in Maryland.

The whole thing was crazy because I was in town with the kids driving a shift gear car around while on the phone, and having to go to Costco to buy pizza for the guests and my mom & her friend were face-timing us and then calling every few minutes while I was with Geico on the phone trying to sort out the situation. Good thing Kelvin has a phone and could talk to my mom & their friend while I talked to Geico.

My parents wouldn't leave the car and stayed in it for FIVE HOURS until the tow truck arrived. People stopped to try to help them, it was an adventure... (I haven't even heard all the many stories they have). They were stuck on top of an overpass. I deeply regret having allowed them to sit there (while their friends went home -- they could have just gone there) uselessly, but I had guests to cook for and entertain and didn't insist they leave the car behind while the tow truck was on its way. The only good thing was that my mom walked to the Toyota Dealership (VERY CLOSE to where the car broke, just down the street) & checked the car in, giving all the necessary info. (In retrospect I should have told them to have their friends pick them up after that).

And yesterday (after Toyota worked on the car all day -- diagnostic alone is $500) we found out what the problem was/IS. My dad accidentally put diesel in the car. :-(

Fixing it costs more than half of what the car is worth. 2,400 (worth -- in perfect condition, 4K).

Please tell me, what would you do?? Ditch the car? Fix it? Would it even work OK and pass inspection afterwards? -- K read that the catalytic converter can get damaged. We TOTALLY can do without it for now and for a while because we bought a mini-van to drive around with my parents & have a Hyundai Accent. We could also fix it and try to sell it. Or fix it & keep it 'till it dies. What should we do?

My parents are understandably devastated and want to pay for everything. But, what is the best course of action?

I'm just very sad, especially because I didn't want this to have happened to my parents, they've been having such a GREAT visit with us (apart from the one day my mom felt sick). We'll get over it, but right now it's hard. Any thoughts are appreciated.


I'm Officially Old! 8-(

I need reading glasses!  :-(

/       /
O - O

(I made that up, couldn't find instructions online, though I'm sure they exist!)

However, I don't really need them because it's only in ONE eye!!! (my right eye, +1.50)

I've noticed this lately when using my phone and I'm sure that all the reading on my phone PLUS crazy texting and messaging is the culprit for this.

The eye doctor told me, however, that they may have done this on purpose when I had LASIK: made one eye's correction better so the other eye had a chance to still be slightly near-sighted and not need reading glasses. THAT or my brain being incredibly smart and managing to do that on its own.

In any case, I hope this situation will hold. And, if the right eye is bothering me too much, I can buy a cheap pair and knock out the left eye lens. :-P

I suppose I should be happy I had four great-eye years after getting LASIK in 2012. I'm almost 45, so it's not a surprise I finally have this problem. Do you need reading glasses?

--> So, I created a label for this post. If I really do continue blogging as I intend to, I'll be using it in the years to come.

Crazy Changing (& Traveling & Hosting) Times (and I hate Facebook)


Sorry, but I have to begin with a sigh.

Can't believe it's been 20 days since I last blogged. Unbelievable.

Such few people from my old circle blog today (or read this blog), though, and I don't think I'm picking up any new readers or making any new bloggy friends, that I end up spending a lot of time on stupid facebook. I know I should simply unfollow (-->word not recognized by spell check!) most of the 600+ people in my friend list and stick to old-blogger-friends-who-now-facebook-instead and just not be there, but, yeah... blogging is so... I don't know 2004, 5, 6, 7?

And then there are other apps that allow us to talk to friends and family and too much time on my phone.

OK, quick update because I need to write two or three or more blog posts if I truly want to catch up.

My (next to) last post outlined "the crazy" from the second week of May. Well... it turns out the crazy from June would be CRAZIER than I'd anticipated, with a tragic note (next post).

The whirlwind trip to Massachusetts (for a wedding on May 29, one of those (big, huge) weddings you go to where you only know the bride and two other people, then New York City and a brief stop in Philly/PA was great. We left for New Jersey on Saturday (stayed at a hotel) -- my in-laws were here and went there too since they flew out of NYC on Sunday -- then drove to the wedding and drove back to spend the night in Connecticut. Spent the day in NYC on Monday (visited the MoMA and went up on Top of the Rock) -- that wasn't my youngest son's favorite way of spending his 12th birthday, but it was not like he had any choice. We indulged his wish to not dine in the city (OH, SO SAD! So many delicious ethnic eateries) & ate at Panera close to our friends' house in Long Island.

On Tuesday we drove back to Manhattan to park and visited the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island (GORGEOUS DAY!!) before walking back to see the 9/11 memorial and driving to Philly to sleep at our other friends' house (yes, we have countless friends at whose houses we stay, that's why we also host countless friends here). And on Wednesday, we went to see Samson at Sight and Sound and visited (our favorite!!) Longwood Gardens in the afternoon before saying good-bye to my parents (who stayed in Philly at our friends' house) & heading back home -- stopping at IKEA for furniture shopping (more on that later) & dinner (with bonus sunset!).

Sigh... wasn't that intense? But it was fun and we had lovely weather.

When we got home, I had to work on my friends' wedding shower of and that was also intense and a big success (with a small group of attendants) & I didn't take enough photos, which makes me sad.

The shower was barely over when my parents came back with our friend and her two kids (7 & 9) -- she had decided to bring my parents back and spend a few days here sightseeing and enjoying her kids second week of vacation in the countryside (they live in North Philly right now). That meant we went to the park, went to the farmer's market and shopping (mostly my mom & my friend, to thrift stores), went sightseeing at other local attractions and to the water park all day on Friday.

Since my older son's dear friend is moving to TN, we invited him to the waterpark with us and on Friday morning had a Wii & WiiU playdate with four loud boys (while my mother was sick in bed with something (some kind of digestive discomfort with nausea and dizziness) -- right next door to the family/TV room). Sigh...

Mom recovered quickly and then... and then we started the crazy process of moving our office from upstairs to downstairs so the boys can have separate rooms!! Yeah, it took me this long to get to the "changing"/moving part of the post that comes first in the title.

IDEALLY, we would have first painted the family room downstairs, then moved everything, then painted Kelvin's new bedroom, then assembled the IKEA furniture we bought, but, we didn't have all that time AND... were going to have guests again this past Thursday, so we wanted to get the bed together ASAP for the guests (twin that turns to king bed -- LOVE IKEA and foam mattresses).

We didn't do the painting, BUT we did ALL the filming. Yeah, this is the house of a YouTuber and, having enjoyed immensely our previous furniture moving time-lapse, we filmed everything again, except that this took a lot of time (WAY less than it would have taken to paint, ha ha ;-) because we couldn't find the tripod (probably lost it), then the memory cards wouldn't work, or the camera's battery would end and need to be recharged. But we finally moved most everything in time for the guests who arrived mid-day on Thursday.

This was my husband's cousin and (newly pregnant!) wife plus three friends & a baby. They all live in Michigan and came for a speaking engagement in D.C. The friend who came by himself is actually practically family to me -- he was the baby of my next-door neighbors when I was growing up in Brazil and his family remained really close to mine, so I've known him from the time he was born (the Seventh-day Adventist church community is really a huge world-wide family, you always know someone who knows someone, all over the world, especially if you're Brazilian!!) :-D

They stayed only 24h and my parents actually left for Maryland not long after they arrived. Their visit included an unexpected rain shower while on a hiking trail (which let to iPhones on rice and rice getting into charging ports and whatnot), but I didn't go on the visit to the park because I had to take the boys to have their vision checked and mine was too (another quick post for that). And yesterday I did stuff for my friends' wedding, picking up mason jars, getting nails done, YAY! loved that part!, shopping for fruit and cakes (YUMMY, can't wait to eat them!!), picking up photo booth, practicing music briefly.

YEAH... CRAZY busy. So, yeah, I'm tired and slept only about six hours, but I'm wired and can't sleep from the moment I open my eyes (generally between 6 something -7 something).

Last, but not least! I worked out three times this week with friends. They do Pop Physique & Barre. I'm lovin' it!! (but I do want to try to go back to doing Yoga every week in addition to that fun ladies' group work out).

So there you go, mostly updated about my (crazy) life!!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Manhattan, I've missed you!

Photo taken from the George Washington Bridge

I used to come visit nearly every year during our 8 years in MA. And for the six years we lived in Philly our Brazilian consulate was here, so we came for passports for the boys and for dropping and picking up up family at the airport. I took the boys to various playgrounds at the Central Park several times & felt like a local even though I lived a couple of hours away.

In 2008, on the way back after my dissertation defense, we stopped here on a whim on Memorial Day and took the kids to this awesome playground with a natural stone slide. I'm thrilled that we're going back on Memorial Day tomorrow, after we attend a wedding in MA today. 

I can't wait! 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Quick update of my "indiscriminate and reckless" helping ;-)

I began to write this last night, but then felt bad that my husband was driving and I wasn't talking to him, so I stopped. And then this morning I wrote the other quick post about NYC.

My life has been crazy & intense three past few weeks. I hadn't even finished turning my last grades in when I began to work on some crafts projects of decorations for my friend's wedding. Since we're traveling this week, I needed to have most everything done before the trip, so I threw myself feverishly and hyper-focused-ly into work after I decided which colors to use (when I talked to the bride) and what to make. After she sees them at the shower next weekend, I want to post photos and share more details!

--> The post's title comes from my an email I sent to my friend when I was feeling guilty for making too much stuff that she might not even like or use (you'll understand when you see the photos). She thought it was hilarious that I talked about my helping that way! ;-)

My parents helped me a lot with those projects and more, but things got crazier when I threw myself head-first (again) into helping with my son's eighth grade graduation. I went completely overboard as usual. I took photos of the 8th graders in class on Friday 5/20 (and spent most of the day at the school as the kids received and signed their yearbook). Photographed them in their concerts at church the next day, went to soccer games on Sunday, and last, but most importantly, took formal portraits in black & white of each 8th grader on Monday.

Then I began to edit the photos, ordered prints at Costco, and continued collecting photos and croping them to create collages for each of the 14 kids while my parents painted wooden photo frames. In the meantime, my friend, whose son is the class president (my son is treasurer) was crocheting a blanket on her spare time as a class gift to the teacher (she works full time, BTW).

Sigh... I had 4-5 hours of sleep every night on these weeks. 

Oh, and did I mention that my in-laws arrived for the graduation on Wednesday,  I helped decorate all day on Thursday (the graduation was that evening), and ok Friday, after all of it, I had to take ice cream cake to celebrate younger son's birthday with his class since it was the last day of school & his birthday is May 30.

Are you exhausted yet reading this? But it was all awesome! The graduation reception was very lovely and the children loved it. I even wrote a letter/cars for each of them during the ceremony.

Ok. I'll have a photo post now with the few pics on my phone!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Almost over... and, Broken (by the grading)

This year the grading broke me.

I mean, it wasn't the grading, it was the online homework that many students didn't complete that broke me. I didn't check it until the very end, as I usually do (because it's time consuming), but this year, I decided I was going to be more strict and really take points off for late submission. After all, they were aware of the deadline. Until... I realized that several students had NOT done the work.

And some of those were really good students who were doing well. Some of them contacted me after the final yesterday, when they saw the damage their lack of homework had inflicted on their grade. Some of them actually had a good reason -- that made me think that I could maybe bend the rules, but I can't do that for the past, only for the future -- they said that they left the online homework to do before the final so they could use it to study. Fair enough, but still, I had already taken points from everyone for lateness and it would take A LOT of time to go change everyone's grades at this point (8 lessons and several hundred online activities to scroll through in the report).

It's technically their fault, not mine, that they didn't do the work, but I feel horribly guilty and broken nevertheless. I contacted a student (who was not doing that well and who had done next to nothing of the homework, at the time I hadn't yet checked the other students), but I must have written the wrong words, because this student responded back with a negative tone and... worst of all, even after I wrote that the work could be accepted late (but for less credit) this student didn't get the work done. (and didn't do well in the final). It's hard not to feel it's partly my fault, because I contacted the student trying to help and it had the opposite result. :-(

I keep telling myself that even though the assignments are in the syllabus, I should have emphasized in class that they NEED to be done. And I do think I said it a few times. I am quire sure that the students knew that they were 20% of the grade.

I still feel broken. And I feel responsible -- because I was the one teaching more classes than I should and not putting in more time into working with my students.

I'm sad and upset about all this. There is no way to really fix it. I have allowed some students to do the rest of the work for partial credit even though I didn't want to. Students with As on the final exam and Cs on their homework. :-(

This will be bitter a lesson, for them and for me. I wish the end of this semester didn't have to be bitter like this. I hope next school year will be better. I feel this semester was the worst one ever. :-(

Edited to add: I'm feeling a little better and more hopeful after grading some compositions and getting ready to leave everything ready to submit once the "late work" I'm allowing is submitted. Sigh... I hate grading. It's like passing judgment one someone, I just don't like to do it.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

My parents are here! After 5 years not visiting.

In the meantime, we visited Brazil twice and met them in other parts of the world (South Africa into 2012 and  in the Middle east and Europe in 2015), but it is so good to have them back at our house for an extended visit!

I am driving home and hoping that they will already be there. We will pick up the boys from school and later on go to their piano recital. That's why my parents came for one evening visit. They return to my uncle's house tomorrow morning, and then come back on Saturday to stay!

I'm very happy!

Edited to add, at 4 pm: they were not here when I arrived, but I'm hoping they will soon be... Sigh... I don't like it that they don't have their cell phone working. I'll let you know when they're here!

5 pm: They arrived!