Sunday, December 25, 2005

Here in Brazil #3: Wedding Album

This is how the church looked (and this is a fairly conservative decoration for Brazilian standards, there are usually tons of different kinds of flowers)

Don't they look cute? (I met this little girl's mom when we were both 8 years old :)

The dress that caused all the trouble...

Our family in style

Isn't he just adorable?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Shoe Bloggin' (For Manuela)

Manuela, from Thin Pink Line often posts pictures of her gorgeous shoes, so here's my turn! And of course I dedicate this post to you Manuela!

This is the shoe I bought for the wedding. The pictures were taken with me sitting down with my sleeping son, so it's not the best angle (and one of them is not well focused), but you can still see the shoes! Oh, an I almost forgot to say that these are Brazilian shoes (like all my other shoes) -- Brazilian shoes rock!

Here in Brazil #2: "Mirror Mirror..." or Good and Bad News

[note: I wrote this on Thursday morning (12/22), and other things have happened since, but I still want to keep this post the way I wrote it, and add other thoughts only at the end]

I have good and bad news, which ones do you want to hear first?

I'll start with the good, Everyone is doing well, in spite of travels and being in other people's houses. My husband arrived last Tuesday and the boys are delighted to have their father back. Let me just give you a quick update about where we're at and what we've been doing. We were in my parents' house (which is located 120 miles west from the city of São Paulo, in the state of the same name - this is a state in Southeastern Brazil, one of the most the developed in the nation, the only state which has multiple lane divided highways throughout, like in the U.S., just to give you an example).

Last Friday two of our best friends (who happen to be my brother's brother and sister-in-law whose mom lives only 4 houses down the street from my parents) arrived to spend the weekend. Their daughter Beatriz (or Bibi as we call her) is less than a month older than Kelvin (they'll be 4 in February and March) and they played together all weekend long, which was great, because this is one of the things Kelvin doesn't have at all back in the U.S. -- friends his own age to play with in a regular basis. They did everything together, ate lunch and dinner, played for hours on end at her sandbox and little plastic house. The only downside was that Kelvin was too engrossed in play to remember to use the bathroom (and I wasn't around to remind him), and I had to change his clothes 4 times (sigh). I got to talk to my brother and SIL, and to my friends a bit while I worried where Linton was and what he was doing - there were 3 boys around 18 months around because my friends have a little boy, Leo, and my brother's other sister-in-law also has a son, Guilherme. So we tried to talk as we watched the boys, and tried to eat our meals (we ate lunch and dinner together all weekend).

Then on Sunday, we drove to Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná, which is south of São Paulo. It is a 6-7 hour drive, and in the ten years I've been away they have finally duplicated the highway (divided, with two lanes on each side), except for a strech at a very steep mountain range. Most highways that criscross the country are two lane affairs, not divided, and, with the extremely heavy trucking traffic, become unimaginably dangerous. Until a few years back, road accidents were one of the major causes of death country-wide. This highway between São Paulo and Curitiba, for instance, used to be called "The Road of Death." (this is why I mentioned above that the state of SP has divided highways - it's one of the "marginal" reasons we only want to live there - the other, and most important is that it has the best universities in the country, the only ones my husband wants to work for - more on that to come in the future). The drive was fine, the boys slept for almost 3 hours, and then for the remainder of the trip I used the handy portable DVD player I'd brought (part of the Black Friday spoils - I even sold 3 of them already :) until they fell asleep close to our destination (we arrived 10 pm).

Because of the wedding tonight [last Thursday] (my youngest and 3rd brother-in-law is getting married and this is the main reason we are here), we've been very busy since Monday. I've had to choose and rent a gown, rent a kind of tuxedo (I don't know the name in English for their outfit - after I post pictures you can tell me) for both boys, buy shoes for me and them (this time I will have to imitate Manuela, from Thin Pink Line, and post a picture of my shoes, they're AWESOME!!), pick up DH at the airport, visit my grandmother (I forgot to mention that my WHOLE family lives in this city, my brother was born here, and my mom spent many years of her childhood and adult years here, she was married in the same church my BIL is getting married tonight. I lived here for 4 years as a child, when we moved to the north of the state after I finished 1st grade. Two of my mom's siblings and three of my dad's and most of their children and grandchildren live here, as well as my dad's mom -- I FINALLY get say these things that Jo(e) writes all the time and make me so jealous), going with DH to the mall (10-11:30 pm! they closed at midnight) to help him buy a suit (no tuxedoes for men in weddings here, usually just the groom, maybe more on Brazilian weddings later :), then yesterday there were some fun parts to the "busyness" - I cut my hair and had it blow-dried, had a manicure and pedicure, and in the evening my husband's family got together at a photographer's studio so we could get some photos taken. We also took pictures of only us and the boys. This was the very first time we were photographed in a studio, since we take pictures so much, I'm too thrifty to even go to department store picture taking facilities, and we don't have ANY formal studio pictures of the boys (which is OK with me, we do take nice pictures, but still... I always feel we're lacking those :) Later we went to my BIL's apartment to hang out with the family and ordered pizza.

OK, I'm done with the good news. The bad news now -- it's not a huge crisis, really, and it's mostly in my head, but some recent events have left me feeling that I really wish I could quit being a mother for a while... I'll tell you the whole story, which is surprisingly short, now that I come to think of it (even though I can't tell it in a short way, please bear with me). On Monday I went to a bridal place to rent my gown. It had been a tiring almost useless morning, because we drove to the tuxedo rental place only to find out that the whole store had just moved the day before. After putting the boys in the car again and driving to the new location, we found out they didn't have anything that fit the boys... By then it was almost noon, so we went to a nearby restaurant to eat (here the main meal is lunch, and people eat out in small "home cooking" buffet style restaurants that sell food either by weight -- around 5 dollars or less for 2 pounds - 1kg, or as much as you want [5-10 dollars]. These are open from 11:30-2 pm and after that it's pretty hard to find a place to eat, except for fast food places. Then, only formal restaurants open at night [6-7 pm on]).

Before going to the other location of the tuxedo rental place, we decided to go to the bridal place which was nearby. Linton slept in the car, and it was OK because they had a shaded area in the back for my mom to park and stay in the car with him. Obviously Kelvin wanted to go with me (he always wants to go wherever we go). He enjoyed looking at the dresses a lot, particularly passing his hands on the parts that were embroidered (?) with shiny and colorful things (I have no idea what those different embroidered details in dresses are called in English - I barely know their different names in Portuguese!) I selected a few dresses and started trying them on. The salesman left the room by closing a sliding door and curtains, and then came back to help me close the dress and to talk about it. Kelvin was busy with the door, but he soon was attracted to the huge floor to ceiling mirror that covered almost half the room. He went close to the mirror and touched it a few times while I kept trying on dresses. The salesman invited him to go to the other room with him while I changed dresses and talked to Kelvin, but he had to leave to answer the phone. It was then that Kelvin came running from the other room and ran to the mirror to place his hands on it, and I guess he accidentaly hit the mirror with his knee (he was running, after all), and the whole lower part of it cracked but didn't break, except for a circle that was completely shattered, but didn't fall off. We were both stunned, him much more so than myself. He immediately apologized, "I'm sorry, forgive me, I didn't mean to do that." I noticed that he had a tiny splinter of mirror in his knee and I removed it, there was a tiny cut which started bleeding slightly, which further scared and bothered him. He was barefoot - and I quickly put his shoes back on, and told him to stay clear off the mirror, because there were tiny splinters of glass on the floor, including on my dress, that was on the rug. Then we had to wait for 5 minutes before the guy returned. Me, in a long blue dress that was open in the back because I couldn't pull up the zipper by myself, and Kelvin, who by now was saying "Why there had to be a mirror here? Why did they have to put a mirror in this room? I wish that man hadn't put this mirror here so it wouldn't break." He was still in shock and getting increasingly frightened by the blood in his knee and insisted in going "home" (my aunt's house). I tried to calm him down saying that we'd have to talk to the man about the mirror, and that I still needed to choose a dress...

Meanwhile, I heard crying from the car - Linton had woken up I saw it through the window and asked my mom to come in. The man came and I said that we'd probably have to pay for the mirror, we talked a bit about it but then I had to change into my own (nursing) dress and nurse Linton who was crying. I also had to calm down Kelvin, who'd become super clingy. I went to the car and left them there with my mom (that was when I saw that the upper half of the wall the mirror was mounted on was a big window, and I became critical of the way it was installed - my mom also told me right away that she thought I should not pay). It was in this situation that I had to choose a dress for the wedding. I asked the guy if they had insurance or something like that, and he said that they didn't, and that he was the manager and the owner would ask him to pay for the damage. He informed me that the mirror had been installed only 10 days prior, and cost over 200 dollars, which does not sound much, but is quite a lot in the currency here, and considering our finantial situation, quite a burden on us considering the other expenses related to the wedding. Of course I knew right away that I should be thankful that nothing serious happened to my son, because a mirror shattering like that could have even killed him, but I was quite upset about the whole thing, which got only worse.

The next day, my mother-in-law went there to pick up her dress and mine and the guy didn't want to give her my dress!! She called my mom, who mentioned it was probably because of the mirror, and urged her to be firm with the guy because she thought we shouldn't pay for it. When my MIL got off the phone, the guy told her and my FIL his version of the story, saying that he had warned me twice about my son not touching the mirror (something I can't recall even though he could be right and I was just too engrossed in trying on dresses), and that he had tried to keep the boy away, but when he went to answer the phone, the boy went in and kicked the mirror anyway - Kelvin never kicked that mirror!!! Anyway, he showed them the mirror and convinced my in-laws that I was in the wrong and had to pay, and they, in turn assured him that we would pay, and then the guy agreed to hand over the dress I had already paid for!!!!! I was extremely upset when my mom told me this. I didn't talk to my in-laws, about it, but I overheard their conversation with my husband that night and that was enough to make me feel like they probably thought I not a good enough mother, one that can't say to her son"stop doing that" and he will stop doing it the same minute. Later that night, when I talked to my husband about it, I really felt like a failure... and on top of all that, I didn't feel it was fair to pay for that mirror.

OK, there's an ending to this story - I was able to "forget" about it for a while and enjoy the wedding on Thursday night, but then on Friday morning my husband went there with my dad to return the dress and talk about the mirror. I should add that on Thursday morning, he had called several people who install glass and mirrors, and they had told him that the mirror in question was probably wrongly installed, and besides, it was too thin for a mirror that big. He even called "PROCON" which is the service of protection of consumers here in Brazil, but they told him there's no legislation for the safety of mirrors and that he had the statements of 3 merchants attesting that that particular mirror had been wrongly installed, then he could negotiate or sue the bridal store. In the end, when he went to the store on Friday, the manager that was there when it happened wasn't there, and he offered to pay only half (a little over 100 dollars), which they accepted... Phew... but it was a stressful week, and I felt really bad about it all. After it was clear that the mirror in question was very unsafe, I relaxed more, because it wasn't completely my son's and my fault.

Last but not least, some more bad news turned good (for now) - we had just arrived when we learned that my mom's oldest brother had had a massive heart failure. It didn't sound good at all and everyone was very worried, however, he's quickly recovering -- the doctor's say it is really a miracle, because they had declared that 90% of his heart was affected. This is my "rich uncle" who's almost 80, but certainly doesn't look it. He's always been physically fit, and led an extremely healthy lifestyle. What upset us all was that he'd just had a check-up the week before which had turned out fine, and this misled the doctors, who kept misdiagnosing his symptoms. He'd been feeling pain since Friday, but was only admitted to the hospital on Sunday. We're extremely relieved that it turned out well, and we hope he has a full recovery. These are very unsettling news and things to happen right around the holidays.

Well, I'll be back for more later tonight (I'll try) about the wedding and stuff, because this afternoon we installed a wireless router and I'm writing from my laptop in bed, yay!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

After a week without internet access (that was hard!), I finally will have two days with high speed internet here at my in-laws’. Then, on Sunday morning we’re off for a week at the beach with no access again. I have no idea when I’ll be able to catch up with the blogs I read, because most of you have posted quite a bit in the past week! My brother-in-law's wedding was last night, and it was awesome, but I'll have to talk about that some other time...

I wanted to offer you our family’s holiday picture, we took it in the beginning of the month at Longwood Gardens (my husband allowed me to post his picture - thanks, honey!).
(Edited to add: my mother made the boys' overalls herself!) If you do celebrate this holiday,

I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas!!


Edite!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Speechless

Remember that one lone job application I sent in late November? I got an email today that they are interested in setting up a phone interview with me when I return from Brazil. I was speechless when I saw it, and then, of course, I totally panicked. What do I do now? I mean, how do I prepare for a phone interview? And, again, what if I get offered a job?! Well, I'll leave those considerations for later, it does feel good to think that my work is worth something, and that I may get a shot at academia after all...

On other news, the boys and I are doing well. My father recovered, my mom got sick (on Saturday) and recovered, and my brother and sister-in-law caught it too and are recovering. I hope this virus stops here! (I mean, at least for our family :) The weather is still nice and cool, and I'm enjoying it, even though I am wishing for hot weather for 9 days from now, when we get to the beach. I should post some pictures soon. Oh, and I have a book meme to respond to as well, I'm working on it, Sandra!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Here in Brazil #1

I inaugurate this series of posts with a very quick one. Since I got here on Wednesday afternoon, I only left the house once, I spent the whole morning yesterday at a tiny hair salon nearby, doing highlights, having a haircut, a manicure, and a pedicure. You would not believe how cheap these things are here in Brazil. I paid (my mom, actually :) like 25-30 dollars at most for all of it.

My parents went out with the boys in the afternoon, and I read a book I needed to check out for the dissertation. Everyone is feeling much better, except my dad, who apparently caught the stomach flu as well (I should report that my husband was spared this time - I'm very happy for him, since he's got tons of things to do before he travels in 10 days. He should actually be trying to call me this very minute, since I'm using a dial-up connection - that's another reason why I need to be brief).

Before I read the book yesterday, I took a quick trip down memory lane by looking at old photographs. I always do that when I come to my parents' home.

The weather is still nice, not hot at all, and a bit overcast but not rainy. Right now my brother and sister in law are visiting, they came to spend the weekend, and they're savoring every second with the boys. We can only spend the weekends with them, because both of them work. Let me go hang out with them before I get the boys to bed. I'll be back in a few days (I'm going to a beach wedding [the first of 4 weddings] this Sunday, that should be great!).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

And I was worried about the kids...

Well, here I am, in balmy Brazil... The temperature is in the 70s with a nice breeze. I promise to soon begin my series of "Here in Brazil" posts, OK? First, though, the trip.

Yestereday I had a hectic day packing and barely ate. Right before leaving home, I decided to drink a large glass of soymilk with cocoa, and took my vitamins and calcium with it. I don't know if this triggered it, or if the virus was just waiting around the corner to manifest itself in the worst possible moment, but I started feeling nauseated in the car. When I got to the airport (we were there 5 hours early - thankfully with lots of time to spare), I felt even worse, and vomited copiously. I kept feeling progressively worse, and before boarding, I threw up twice, and, while waiting, I just laid on top of some chair feeling sick, weak, and super worried. My husband was getting desperate of letting me fly in that situation with the boys, but I insisted that we should go. Some nice people helped me bring the carseat (I took it after all) and 1 carry-on bag inside the plane.

Once I walked into the plane and took our seats I started feeling much better, what a relief (I called my husband to let him know that, because he was so stressed)!!! My husband had asked that our seats be changed, so instead of 2 seats, we sat in the middle row (that had 3 seats), with one seat per person - so Linton slept in the carseat, and the night was much better because of that. I allowed Kelvin to watch his first full-length feature film, Polar Express because he loves trains. Of course he slept really late, but at least it kept him entertained and he slept blissfully the rest of the time. He was so cute, sitting accross from the car seat (it has to be in the middle), doing everything in a grown up way (buckling up his seatbelt, bringing down the tray table, eating, asking stuff from the attendants) -- I was so proud of him. Linton was not that bed, he woke up a few times, but went back to sleep after nursing. I had taken some electrolyte solution that was left from Kelvin's sickness and I drank it all night, with some water, and I guess that helped enormously.

Well, I'm exhausted, and want to take a nap, so I'll stop for now... Like Kate said, the trip is bad, but then being here is "priceless," of course!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Traveling and Sick children

Guess what? Yesterday Kelvin got sick, with a stomach flu... He vomited all night from Sunday to Monday, and again late afternoon yesterday, and once this morning. It seems that he's much better now. He even got to play in the beautiful snow outside (we had like 2 inches, it was really pretty)...

Linton's a bit under the weather too, because he got his 18 month shots yesterday as well (it was the only appointment date I got with our doctor). I had an extremely rough night with him nursing all the time. Yesterday the doctor saw Kelvin too... he's from Germany, and has to travel internationally with his kids as well, so he understood that I could do nothing but fly tonight and hope for the best.

Wish me luck, I'll post as soon as I get to Brazil and online in my mom's house! I'll post tons of pictures every few days or so. I will borrow from Sandra and call my posts "Here in Brazil." So, watch out for them, and if you are curious about anything, ask me, and I'll try to answer/ take pictures, etc...

Bye for now, we'll leave to the airport in half an hour. I finally finished packing like 10 minutes ago :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

About Airports (bonus question at the end - please respond!)

(note, I started writing this last Wednesday, 11/30 but only got to finish it today)

Have you ever been twice to an airport in 3 days? And I'm not talking about an airport close to your home, and about you traveling or dropping of/picking up an immediate family member for/from a weekend getaway, I am referring here to an airport that's almost 3 hours and 2 states away from your home, and international travel, that requires 2-3 hours advance time for check-in.

That's what we did last Sunday and Tuesday -- we traveled to JFK airport in NYC to drop off first my mother-in-law, and then my parents. Oh, and did I mention that their suitcases barely fit our (small) minivan, but we all wanted to go nonetheless, squeezed in the car like sardines? It's always a challenge to pack to go Brazil, since we usually take a lot of presents, and things people ask us to buy for them. This time my parents also took some baby items to save for my brother's future baby (still in the planning stages - bouncy chair, swing, baby gym - all inside the suitcases). We had to drive them to JFK because that's one of a few airports in the US that the small Brazilian airline VARIG flies to, and both my parents and MIL use this airline because of their mileage plans.

We actually enjoyed the airport visits, though. On Tuesday Kelvin was thrilled to ride the "Airtrain" that connects the different terminals of the airport. The drive wasn't that bad (the boys slept most of the way there and back), except for heavy rain on Tuesday night. DH and I don't like driving, and usually he drives, but we enjoy traveling in the car because we can finally talk, since at home that's so hard, with the boys running around demanding our attention and all. Another extremely positive part was that our moms weren't crying this time -- such a relief!! They knew they'd soon see us again. In the case of my parents, only a week later, which brings me to the next point... this Tuesday I go to an airport again to travel to Brazil with the boys.

I haven't finished packing yet, of course... I just love the horrible stress of doing everything last minute! Oh, the joys of spending the very night you were supposed to be enjoying sleeping "vertical" in your bed to prepare for a whole night sitting in that comfortable airplane seat with a baby draped across you lap packing suitcases like crazy! Obsessing over every little thing you cannot forget, and fear you will... Oh, yes... that's usually my life on the days leading to travel. (and yet here I am, blogging away... deep sigh)

Did I mention that this Tuesday we will again drive 2 1/2 hours and two states away to go to the airport? Not to JFK in NY, though, but Dulles, in D.C. (actually in MD :) Why would we do that? Now you'll have to bear with me, because the explanation is a bit long...

Last time (in February), I flew from Philly (oh - we live only 10 minutes from the airport and we're absolutely sure we're never going to live that close to an airport again in our lives, it's so practical!!) and... it was very tough. You see, I had a stroller (Linton was 8 months), a diaper bag, a small suitcase (with a laptop), and Kelvin's carseat (he does sleep better in the plane in his carseat), and (at least not in Philly or Dulles) airport personnel DO NOT HELP mothers with small children, only the elderly and disabled. The airline attendant did allow my husband to go through security with me (I never knew that could be done - she checked his ID and gave him a kind of "boarding pass" - I was thrilled!), and when I boarded, they ended up being forced to allow him to do something completely illegal -- going down the corridor and the steps leading to our small plane outside to bring the stroller and suitcase while I carried the boys -- because no one there could help me! The flight attendants helped me load the boys and the carseat in the plane (the carry-on luggage and stroller stay outside the plane to be loaded, and then we have to pick them up again when we arrive), and get the stroller and suitcase up the steps in Washington, but that was it. They did try to call for help in Dulles, but none was available. Fortunately, the gate for my next flight was only 4 or 5 gates away, and a helpful young man actually helped me drag my suitcase to the gate... The only "interesting" thing that evening was experiencing a Casablanca moment. I kissed my husband good-bye right by the airplane I was boarding :)

Anyway, this time, I will have the stroller, and carry only one bag, which hopefully I can put in the basket under the stroller. No car seat for Kelvin. I'll try to take some pillows so the three of us can be a bit more comfortable in those cramped 2 seats (no, I don't have money to pay for a seat for my 18 month old - he already pays 10 percent of the full [blown up] price to travel in my lap, and, for the record, Kelvin and I are using our miles to travel...) Moreover, by driving to Washington we are avoiding the connecting flight this time, even though I think that was going to be easier now than last February.

I'm not anxious at all about flying with the boys, even thought it's a 9 hour flight. I'm a seasoned "mother traveler." When Kelvin was 13 months we flew to California with him (with a connecting flight), when he was 1 year 9 months and I was 4 months pregnant, I flew to Brazil ALONE with him in my lap, then, when Linton was 6 days old I flew with him to Texas (with connecting flight) for my brother-in-law's wedding, then in February I flew alone with the boys.

I'm sure many of my readers (and even lurkers :) have had lots more experience flying with small kids, or simply airport stories of any sort and I'm DYING to hear them!!! Why don't you share them with us? Please do!

P.S. because of this late obsession with airports, at my mom's recommendation, we watched Terminal this weekend, I mean, last night (Saturday). We didn't like it too much -- I guess we're not really into entertainment type movies, we like "artsy," literary movies more or movies based on "real stories" -- but we particularly hated how implausible the whole argument was, not to mention the fake JFK airport and terminal (this is my pet-peeve about movies - how fake everything is in them, with rare exceptions). Anyway... it was mildly entertaining, harmless, if futile (again - the other problem I have with movies, I hate wasting my time, it's just way too precious!). OK, I'll stop here, I'm digressing way too much. Don't forget the question!!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Miscelaneous Thoughts

(I haven't spell-checked this, forgive me if there are typos. It is 2 am after all)

I've wanted to post for days now... there are so many things going on. I can't really come up with a well-written post, so I'll just list some thoughts down, and that way I can get back to them later if possible.

- I'm slightly depressed because I didn't work at all since Thanksgiving. My parents left on Tuesday. It's quite tough to take care of the boys again all day long. I wonder how it'll be once I get to Brazil next Wednesday. I usually go there on vacation, but this time I should try to work. I've totally lost momentum, and that leaves me very worried...

- I've been thinking a lot about the whole Linda Hirshman article debacle. I particularly liked Libby's and Dawn's responses, and I've quickly looked at the Literary Mama Blog. I haven't had time to check other reactions, though... I really want to post a few quotes from her article that kind of got to me. I've always thought of this issue as a "choice" issue... but I often wonder, in my own case (and I'm NOT the elite she's talking about either), what use would this Ph.D. I almost have be if I don't work? How does this problem play in academia? On the other hand, sometimes I think it is the best for my boys if I just stay at home with them... I think about this constantly! What I didn't like at all in Hirshman's article was her emphasis on capitalist values, I think she says at some point that women need "to loose their capitalism virginity" -- WHAT? I HATE capitalism, I truly do? I despise corporate America, why should I join it? OK, I know, I'm an academic... and then, again, I ask, how would her argument apply to other areas, like academic work? (and I think of my introduction to blogs - Invisible Adjunct, and how sometimes we can't even find jobs in academia, but I totally digress).

- Next think I've been antsy about is this blog, which is not annonymous. I'm getting so scared of getting in the job market next year and still keeping the blog!! Should I remove all indentifying references? Delete all the pictures that have me in them? Adopt a pseudonym? I mean, I've been reading ABDmom, and other blogs, and wondering about these things. I do like non-annonymous blogs better, I like to know who the people are, I don't see myself hiding that way... What do I do? I mean... I'm so much into blogs and blogging right now, and I want to keep on going.

OK, enough for now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Brazilian" Thanksgiving

(Table decoration courtesy of my sister in law)

This most American of holidays was celebrated with pomp and circumstance and a Brazilian twist, by a large group of Brazilians (most of us related) at hour house. I should clarify, though, that if it weren't for me and my husband, there wouldn't be any typical Thanksgiving foods, such as yams, gravy, cranberry sauce, pies (especially pumpkin pie), and eggnog. We were thinking of skipping the turkey as well (we're mostly vegetarian atour home), but then I ended up buying a small turkey breast to accompany our "vegetarian roast" (from the Brittish brand Quorn). The Brazilian twist came in the shape of a delicious heart of palm pie brought by my SIL, a Brazilian style potato salad instead of mashed potato, Brazilian "farofa" (a dish made with manioc flour, eggs, olives, and other seasonings) instead of stuffing, and Guarana, the Brazilian soft drink of choice.

My parents were still here, my MIL was visiting for the week from Brazil, my BIL and SIL came from Maryland with my nephew, my husband's uncle came with his family from New Jersey (and left for another family celebration in D.C. after the meal), and his cousin and uncle came with a long time friend of ours from D.C. as well. The celebration was a success, I was thrilled that everybody loved the yams with praline that I prepared, and enjoyed everthing else. Of course something always have to go a bit wrong - I was dismayed to find out later that night that the apple cider was spoiled (I did notice it was unusually thick and gooey when I poured it into a pitcher, but I never tasted it - yuck!). No great harm was done, though, only my friend and my husband's uncle drank a lot of it, and the uncle later complained of some stomach pains, but he felt better pretty soon.

Well... after eating the whole afternoon, everyone but me, my mom, and my SIL, started getting bundled up. It was hilarious to see everyone putting layer upon layer of clothing, but worrisome too, because we knew it was EXTREMELY cold! What for? To wait in line all night to buy cheap electronics (laptops, video cameras, video projectors, etc.) in the infamous Black Friday to bring to Brazil. Terrible, I know, but, how else can we afford to travel there so often? (Last year was the first time we, I mean my husband and BIL, did it - and I brought the stuff to Brazil with me in February - it paid for my trip!) . And cold it was (- 5 C, 23 F), with howling winds and a wind chill of -17 C (1 F). Every time I woke up at night when Linton cried or Kelvin needed to go to the bathroom, I cringed at the thought of being outside, but they survived. Some of them have even gone back to Brazil with their purchases already. My husband's young cousin and his dad said they'll never do it again, but my husband, his mom, and his brother are already planning for next year! (My MIL wants to bring a sleeping bag, or maybe even a tent :) Well, they do report that most of the people in line that morning spoke foreign languages. They identified groups (very few brave the cold alone) of Korean, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese people there, and, of course, they were there "representing" Brazil :)

Yes, this Thanksgiving was fun. It was definitely the one I had more family members around, which is very unlikely to happen again... Unless perhaps more people in our family decide to come visit from Brazil only to brave the cold in order to pay for their tickets! I don't think I would do that!

(edited to add:) P.S. I really need to thank my dear friend Nelia (I know she reads this sometimes :) because she once invited us for Thanksgiving at her house with her wonderful family, which made us have an "insider" view of a typical American Thanksgiving. That's one of the main reasons why me and my husband enjoy typical Thanksgiving foods and celebration now. We miss you Nelia!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thankful and Hopeful - My First Meme!

For the first time ever, I have been tagged with a "meme," so now I feel I really "belong" in the blogging community! ;D Thanks Stella's mami, particularly for your handy definition of "meme," complete with its etymology! I will keep your format of thankfulness and hopefulness because it works well for me right now. The trickiest thing will be to think of only 10 things to be thankful and hopeful for :)

10 Things I'm Thankful For:

1.
My wonderful husband, my best friend, who besides being a funny and stimulating person to be with is an amazing father, whom the boys adore.
2. My sons, cute beyond belief, bright, funny, energetic, and also very loving. They're loads of work, but it's all worth it :)
3. My parents, who are dedicating all of their energy to help me right now, and the rest of our family: my only brother and SIL, my mother and father IL, my brothers and sisters IL, my cute nephew and the nephew/niece that's on the way.
4. My dear friends in Brazil and their children. I miss them so much, but just knowing that they exist makes me happy.
5. I'm thankful for the internet, for email, and online "telephony"and IM that allows me to keep in touch with friends and family far away, and the resources that are available online for academic research.
6. I'm really thankful for blogs and blogging, because I learn a lot about some amazing people and their experiences, and feel connected to them. This makes it much easier to be an expat mom and student.
7. Airplanes/ air travel - so I can travel to Brazil relatively quickly (9 hours), as well as to other parts of the world. It's very convenient and not too expensive. (I was running out of things to say and thought of my upcoming trip to Brazil in exactly 2 weeks)
8. The privilege of being able to study. I sometimes complain a lot about how hard it is to complete this Ph.D., but I know that not everyone has access to even basic education, let alone graduate school. (like Dawn says, I think it's healthy to "unpack my privileges")
9. Of course, related to the last one, I'm thankful that we're healthy, have enough to eat and live, have a house, and it breaks my heart to think of those who don't.
10. My faith, because it gives me peace and stability regarding my life and my future.

10 Things I'm Hopeful For:

1.
I hope that I can finish my dissertation and defend by next May
2. I hope nobody in my committee gives me excessive trouble when revising my dissertation - that's my biggest fear.
3. I hope that my husband can find a great job when he enters the job market next Fall at a place we will enjoy living (or if it works out at this job I'm applying to, that he can get a job at the same place - there's a job offer in his area too).
4. I hope we can "settle down" a year and a half from now, at the latest, and end our wandering lives as students/postdocs.
5. I hope we get to go to a good place, and are happy there, wherever it is. (I'm really, really curious to know where we'll end up! :)
6. I hope I can make more friends, both now and in the future (where we settle down), because I miss having friends.
7. I hope my sons become good friends to each other, and enjoy being close in age, in spite of their very different personalities
8. I hope I can be a good parent to them. (make that - I hope they think I was good parent one day :)
9. I hope I can have a good relationship with my sons when they're older (I know I'll have to wait for this one after they are a certain age, but hopefully it will work out).
10. I hope I can keep on blogging, it's a lot of fun.

And now... I get to tag some fellow bloggers (this is the "funnest" part! :) . Feel free to follow previous versions of this meme, such as the one I saw at Here in Korea (with "shallow" and "genuine" things you're thankful for), or not do it at all if you don't like it or don't have the time. Therefore, I tag Sophie La Porte, expatmama, Kateri, Jo(e), and a new reader to my blog, Bellarour.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Musings from an Accidental Applicant

Phew! I'm so tired!

Who knew that one little application would be so time consuming? I spent the whole day mulling over the cover letter and CV. And I have so many questions! I have no idea what to do to prepare for an interview, I spent some time reading the interests of all the faculty of the dept. I'm applying to. Even worse - I have no idea of how is the work if I do get to be hired. I mean, grad. school may prepare us to do research, teach, and even apply for jobs, but not exactly to the transition between being a graduate student and a professor. I know the teaching load is HEAVY (4 classes/ 12 credits), but, other than that, what's expected of me? Do I have to spend all day at the university? I know I probably would have to serve in a committee or two... what else? I know, I feel like a CHILD, but are there any straightforward, simple answers to these questions? Blog posts I can read? Articles from the Chronicle? If you do have any clues, please bring them on, because I'm one CLUELESS applicant! :D

I'm pretty "confident" that I won't be hired. Perhaps, just perhaps, I'll be interviewed, because I modestly think I am a good fit for the job. And... the biggest surprise of all! I feel energized by looking at my old syllabi, thinking about my teaching, and about teaching that I can do in the future. It's weird because I've had only negative feelings about these things so far, for several years...

And, I haven't been thinking of how I'd manage with the boys. For a few insane moments I feel like I could try to "have it all," you know... and not "cop-out" even though I don't have an Ivy League education :) So many things to consider, so many things in a mother's mind. I know it's a hard world for mothers out there, I've been keeping up with the discussions on the subject.

Now I've scared myself. Oooh! So, I'll stop here for today, but I'll be back, 'cause -- I've been tagged!! That feels so jolly, really! Thanks swisslovebaby/Stella's mami, I'll be bag to respond to your meme. Promise.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Go Academic Bloggers!/ News (!?)

A while back I responded to Rebecca A. Goetz' questionnaire for/about academics who blog, and now she has published an article about blogging and the responses to her questions in the Chronicle. Her Chronicle piece is very encouraging to all of us academic bloggers. Times are definitely changing, and slowly blogging is becoming more and more "legitimate" in all aspects, and that's great! Jo(e) also has a good post about the topic of "blogging as an emerging genre."
I'm glad to be a small part of this blogging "revolution".

11D has some great links today too... (I actually got to Goetz' article through her), the piece in the Times about early sex education is fun!


On other news... Dissertation work is not going well this week, because... I have found a strong, powerful distraction. I may apply for a job. There, I said it. I can't believe I said this. (a tenure track job nonetheless). Probably just for fun, but, who knows? It's pretty early, not exactly academically, because I think I'll finish and defend the dissertation before the summer, but as far as my "babies" are concerned. I spent the whole day yesterday agonizing over this. Linton will be only 2 years 3 months at the end of August.

On the other hand, I have been (re)discovering a "side" of me that had been dormant for a long, long time... I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe it would be fun to teach (mind you, this position is for the subject I like the most, but I won't say anymore for now, OK?), to work, to be a "real grown-up" once and for all. I didn't know I had these feelings, I thought I enjoyed just being at home, lazy me... Oh, well. It's all useless, because this will probably be only for "practice" and not for real. There are several other issues involved, but I won't get to discuss them now, Linton needs me (he still breastfeeds once of twice at night...).

PS Now it takes me almost twice as long to check all the blogs in my blogroll. It'll take a while for me to get used to it, but it's fun to regularly read more people!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Non-poor privilege/ Children's public behavior Links

I wish I had more time to write about the many ideas that float in and out of my mind every day, but I'm usually too busy working on the dissertation. Therefore, I have decided to begin posting more links and short commentary to great things I find on the blogs I read.

A while back, after hurricane Katrina, I linked to a post titled "Being Poor" that emphasized how little we know about what the underprivileged go through. Yesterday, Dawn linked to a post and its comments that attempted to come up with a Non-Poor Privilege Checklist that got me thinking again...

It's not easy to live in the "border" between being poor and not poor, and I've been there since I was born, basically. I tell myself that if we both get good jobs and have some more money one day, that I'll never get used to it (I hope I don't, and that I don't forget it's not easy not having much money). One example, related to the checklist linked to above, is that I have not been able to shop in "regular" grocery stores for years (only for items such as soy milk - which they now have at the discount stores, and unbleached and whole wheat flours). I go to those stores you need to bring your own plastic bag, or pay for the bag. I'm forever thankful for the European (German?) chain Aldi, because their products are cheap but really good quality. My "consumer dream"? Being able to grocery shop at Whole Foods :) ( deep sigh...) And being able to eat out more often than once every two months :)

Changing the subject slightly, and talking about the "middle class" mommy wars in the news, this post by Raising WEG was beyond excellent. I totally agree with her that news coverage in this country is all about the interest of the readers and viewers, and not about real issues that we often forget such as last year's Tsunami and how the victims are faring today, as well as Katrina, Rita, etc. I'll never forget this documentary about Noam Chomsky's ideas about the media - everyone should watch it to understand how we are easily manipulated by the media.
Abbat, from Bringing Desta Home also recently remarked on the absence of any news about Ethiopia, and tons of useless reports about a football player.

I guess I just realized that it takes as long to write a "short" post linking to current relevant blogging than it would take to write an "original" post :)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Blog!!

It's been one year today. It was all it took for me to become very addicted to blogging and blog reading. (It actually took much less than a year :)

I have learned even more than what I outlined in Part I of my 100 things mega-double-post back in August. I have also learned that compared to other blogs, mine is a little nothing... just a tiny speck in blogosphere. But it is a happy space for me. It makes me feel more alive and connected to the world, even if only 5 or 6 people read it, and if half of those puny 1,000 hits were done by myself :) (thanks Sandra for reminding me :)

Being a mother of young children is very tough and isolating, and being an expatriate mother, who just moved to a new city, with no friends, family of support system, is even worse. Add to the mix a looming dissertation that needs to be finished and you've got... me! Blogging has been helpful, even therapeutic, I'd say. It's been a good year, and hopefully next year will be even better!

I'm marking this day by adding new blogs to the blogroll. I've been meaning to do it for a while, because I need do diversify even more, learn more, while enjoying the blogs I already read in a regular basis. It will be a while before I can "catch up" on those blogs (I usually like to read at least a good chunk of people's archives before adding them, but this time I didn't follow this "rule"). I think it'll be fun!

DH has said he's going to help me personalize the looks of my blog, and I can't wait for that to be done. Even if it's just one of my pictures as a "heading" (like Scriverner's), it'll already be awesome. So, watch out for changes, even though I think it'll take a little while...

So -- Happy Anniversary to me and my blog one more time!!

The downside of gardening...

Gardening is not for the faint of heart. At least not here in the Northern Hemisphere.

I think Fall is beautiful, but I have learned to dread it just a bit. I wish I could write good poetry, for I'd write about the beautiful but ultimately devastating fire that consumes all the green things in the fall. Yellow, orange, fiery red... it's a fire that burns and consumes the green my eyes love to behold, particularly against the blue sky.

The hardest thing for someone from a "green," tropical country to experience here (at least for me) is the barreness of Winter. Looking at bare trees for over 6 months is very depressing. Some people actually get sick because the lack of sunlight, thankfully that makes me only sad, but not really seriously depressed.

(I agree that the bare trees do look gorgeous in the snow, or, better yet, glistening in the sunlight after an ice storm, but snow comes to visit only a few times a winter - even in Massachusetts it had been like that in the past few years - with global warming and all, winters are not what they used to be, I think...).

Back to gardening, though. Every fall I feel sad to see the plants wither and either die or become dormant for winter, sometimes I'd have some potted plants in my patio and they'd die too, but this was first the year I actually planted some seeds, and watched them grow (the music from the Broadway musical about one of my favorite books Secret Garden comes to my mind here, I never saw it, but have a tape). And I also planted small flower, tomato and herb seedlings. It's been a truly sad experience to see these annual plants die.

On Friday I ripped half of the morning-glory vine from the front porch, and that was so hard! I know, it's just a plant, it will die anyway, and it's best to "euthanize" it before it becomes really ugly and dried up, but I still felt it was heartbreaking to do it. The plant seems to want to go on living, you know, it tries to keep on growing, even though the new vines are kind of shrivelled, and it does keep blooming. Throwing perfectly good, unopened flower buds in the trash feels strangely wrong to me!

One interesting aspect, a good side of all this, is the harvesting of the seeds - I have been saving the morning-glory seeds for a while, but on Friday I would literally pick those little black specks from the ground, as if they were precious stones that had fallen there...

They are my hope. They will bring these beloved flowers back to me next year, and then all will start again...

I do concede that there is an inherent beauty in the cyclical nature of the more marked seasons of the Northern Hemisphere. However, even though I can "rationally" appreciate this beauty (and I say with certainty that now, after almost 10 years, my favorite season is definitely Spring), I can't help feeling a bit of despair when I see the last leaves falling, or when I see the annual plants dying. And I know, deep down, that in the years of gardening that lay ahead of me if I remain in this country, my faint heart will only get stronger. I do look forward to that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I am a feminist because...

Yes, I decided to utter the new "F" word in my blog.

The title is an attempt to counter the ubiquitous statement "I'm not a feminist, but..." which is the title of this excellent post by two peas, no pod, a post that really got me thinking about feminism. I'm not an outspoken feminist, but I certainly am one, and I don't fit any of the stereotypes outlined in Cristy's post either. Saying this reminds me of item number 7 in this post by writing as jo(e). I'm sure I'd get similar comments if I talked to acquaintances more often about being a feminist.

Brazilian men, for one, would be "scared" of me and despise me for sure - not that I'd care. Last September we spent two days with this group of Brazilian friends at a camp, and while I was waiting in line to get my lunch one day, I overheard a guy talking to a friend. With scorn in his voice, he said: "Yes, I think she was one of those feminists." I have no idea what they were talking about, but my eyes must have betrayed my feelings, because in that split-second, the guy just looked at me sideways, and I had a feeling he knew, yes, he must have known I was one of them...

Sunday afternoon, I was working on my dissertation. I’m drafting a history of the Brazilian women writers right now – it’s a difficult history to write and think about, and I had tears in my eyes when I read certain essays and thought about what some of these women went through (if you can read Portuguese, this one is worth checking). And then I remembered one of the reasons why I chose to write about women writers in my dissertation.

It all started one sunny afternoon back in the late 1980s. I must have been 17 or 18. I was taking a walk with one of my best girl friends, and we happened to bump into this guy, several years older than us, who was just an acquaintance. Maybe it was on my last year of high school, because he may have asked us what we were going to study in college, I don’t really remember.

What I remember more clearly, though, was that he asked us what we wanted to do or become professionally, a "what do you want to do when you grow up" kind of question. And – oh how I miss those “idealist, dreamy” teenage years – I answered truthfully that I wanted to be a writer. He turned to me and said: “Oh, so... you’re never going to marry.” Just like that! Oh, how I despised him. No, I actually hated him.

On top of that, my mom also used to say things like that when she was mad at me for being extremely disorganized and spending most of my time reading, writing, and dreaming instead of cleaning my room. She was sure I was unfit to be a wife and mother (at least on her own sense of women’s "obligations" as wife and mother)…


So, I went and became a feminist, of course. Not a very outspoken one, or very preachy… but, nevertheless a feminist. I had endless discussions with my husband (then boyfriend), trying to explain my views… I don’t think it bothers him now (does it honey? :) I guess he just doesn’t like the “fuss” women make about this, even though he fully believes in women’s rights and, as far as our partnership is concerned, he cares for the boys in every way (except breastfeeding, of course) and does everything around the house (he doesn’t like cooking very much – his only weakness ;)

Oh, and that guy, what became of him? You may ask. I have no idea what/how he's doing today, but when I left Brazil, he still seemed to be a very disagreeable kind of person. He'd been married with a former high-school classmate of mine for several years. I think they even had two children by then (1996). I don't envy her at all. By now, she may have done a boob job (I have nothing against boob jobs, you know, not being very endowed in that department :) even though I rationally know that as a feminist I shouldn't be too concerned about how my body looks) .

But why do I suppose that? One of the few things I did know about this guy is that his wife once complained to a dear friend of mine that he kept pestering her and saying that she was not as endowed as my friend (who actually had breast-reduction surgery), and he wished she were. Well, his wife, my former classmate, was a bit of a blabbermouth, but still... this kind of comment reflects a very despicable behavior from the part of her husband.

So... I think I want to be a more assertive feminist, and my dissertation subject reflects that position. Maybe I shoud just avoid the topic around Brazilian men other than my husband :)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nothing Gold Can Stay


Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

When I first read Robert Frost's poetry I loved it. Little did I know that years later I would live in New England, go to school in the very town where he lived for several years, even borrow some books at the Robert Frost library at Amherst College where he taught. I do miss New England, particularly in the fall, but fortunately there's a beautiful tree accross the street from my house, and I want to share some of its fall beauty with you...




P.S. Yesterday the wonderful Jo(e) posted about her walk in the woods in the "last nice day" of fall. Today was a really nice and warm day, perhaps our last (though I hope not), and I felt so jealous of Jo(e)!
I couldn't go for a walk, or drive to a park and walk, enjoy the trees, take tons of pictures as I like to do each fall. I had to sit in front of the computer and work on chapter 2. But then, there was the tree across the street. I took a thirty-minute break and while my sons "drove" their push carts up and down the sidewalk in front of my house, I crossed the street and took in the beauty of these leaves, making them last forever in my pictures.
And I thought to myself, "It's not Thanksgiving yet, but I'm thankful for these leaves, for this warm sun, for my beautiful sons walking up and down the sidewalk, for being able to take these pictures, and enjoy this moment so thoroughly."
And I felt good about going back to work, with the added thought that after I was done for the day I had some people I could share these pictures with. And for that I'm also thankful.

Over a thousand!

This week my blog had a milestone. I've had over one thousand visits since I installed the sitemeter!! (When did I install it? Back in July? I don't really remember...)
(and yeah, site meters are "fun," as Manuela has found out lately :)

I don't know the thousandth (weird word!) person, and it visited for zero seconds anyway, so, Sophie La Porte, you were 999, so the "prize" goes to you!! I'll email you a copy of my dissertation when I'm done (no, I'm just kidding of course, even though I can send it if you want :)

You know, this is a wee little blog, I'm just a newcomer, but I enjoy blogging, reading other people's blogs, and finding my space in blogosphere, I feel truly connected now to so many people around the world ("'Hi there everyone!" Waving and smiling :) And plus, I get to sharpen my writing skills, share my big journey to Ph.D.land, show off my kids, and write about anything I want - it's just great!! (it's also addictive, but I won't comment about that :)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dissertatin' - Update #3 (Things are lookin' up!)

OK, time for another update, and this is a positive one - yay! (I began to write in on 10/30)

But before that, some words about last week. It was not a good one - the two boys were sick, coughing and sneezing a bit. Nothing terribly serious, but on Monday night Kelvin did wake up with a "croupy" cough (I had never heard it before, and I got pretty scared, even called the doctor, even though I read everything he told me before hand in our parenting books of choice, this - our favorite; and that - very detailed and informational, if you happen to be curious) and in a day Linton had a little cough too. But they're OK now, I guess they caught a much milder version of the virus I had two weeks ago. (More recently, I started coughing a bit again, but it's not really bothering me).

What else? I didn't work many hours and didn't produce many pages. As a matter of fact, since I started registering every single hour of work, and number of pages produced, and holding myself accountable to another ABD friend of mine 5 weeks ago (all thanks to this post by Academic Coach from a while back), this was the week I worked less hours.

But, but...
1) I sent a very "clean" rewrite of chapter 1 to my advisor

2) Received the annotated copy of chapter 2's first draft from the advisor and was much happier with the feedback (not too different but now I know what to expect , or perhaps what NOT to expect, and this time every single page was equally annotated)

3) I spent some time writing emails to my dept chair and also to the advisor, and...

OK, wait, for number 3 to make sense I need to digress a bit.

Two weeks ago I was upset with one more development in the dissertation front. I tried to add another member to my committee (intending to switch her by another member), a professor from Brazil who's now working at a university in upper state NY. She, however, declined, because she's too busy. I was crushed. Little did I know this would open the way for me to get the person I really wanted to get. This is a professor who teaches in Brazil (in Rio de Janeiro) and whose main line of research right now is identical to mine. We had exchanged emails, and I just read and used for reference in my dissertation 2 MA thesis she advised and which were defended early this year. I had not dared to ask my department for permission to invite her to serve on my committee because I knew they wouldn't be able to pay for her trip.

After the failure of my plan B (the prof. from NY), I thought about asking my department whether they would agree to have her serve on the committee if she were already in North-America for a conference, or a speaking engagement, and they said, why not? And even gave me the alternative of asking her to be only a reader, if I couldn't get her to serve. I emailed her immediately, and she responded. Just a few hours later. And (drum roll...) she said yes, she'd be delighted, and that she was coming to Toronto in late May for a conference and she could come to the defense.

I just couldn't believe it!!! Not only the perfect person for my committee, but the incredible GIFT of a defense date, a deadline, a light in the end of the tunnel. So:

3) I have a new committee member, and a defense date will probably be scheduled very soon!!

I immediately started emailing the New Member (her name henceforward) about my dissertation, and sent her some older papers. Her response (after quickly looking at my stuff) already contained meaningful questions, which will probably help me a lot. I'm sure she is just "what" I need: someone who will help me think about the content of my dissertation, and, be able to give me invaluable advice about Brazil, since she is there (I had nobody from Brazil in my committee).

Last but not least, today The Advisor emailed me about my revision of Chapter 1. He said it was my best writing so far, that he was happy with it, and had to do only minor corrections, etc, etc...
In short, he thinks I'm in the right direction, and likes my work. He's usually very positive, but this time I know I did a good job, and I feel much more confident. That's the good part, and I think I finally deserve to give myself some credit. I can do it. I will do it!! I can't wait for this to be over, I can't wait for May to be here. Wow. I still can't believe I'm feeling this way.

But then, I know this whole trajectory is supposed to be like this, ups and downs, highs and lows... I have to live with it (and now I'm starting to dread the next update... just a little bit :)

Let's see if I can post something less boring soon, perhaps a picture or two, OK?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Before Sunset

OK dear readers. Jo(e) asked and I immediately complied.
I think you do deserve the photos, I was just too tired yesterday to include any more :)

This is the beautiful farm located right behind
the gas station (the ubiquitous [here] Wawa).
At least two cars stopped to take pictures
while we were there trying to fix the car.

Half smile, half yawn.

Walking on the picnic table with the farm in the background.

Nowadays if I want to take a picture with them,
I have to hold them tight, or else they'll be on the move, of course!
(Edited to add: I don't like very much how I look in this picture , so for some of you who may have missed a better one in the blog, here's the link :)

The boys tried to help fix the car as well!

Here's Kelvin, brushing his teeth for the 10th time
while jumping from one bed to the other.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Stranded

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny fall day (a little chilly, and windy, but nice) , following a rainy, stormy day on Saturday, so we went sightseeing with my parents. They help me out all week, taking care of the house and the kids, so we try to get them to do some "tourism" once in a while :)

While I'm at it, perhaps I should say that my parents love to travel, to walk or drive around and explore new places (so much so that my mom hates the American highways, she claims they all look the same and she can't really sightsee or explore at all) - and I totally incoporated these characteristics from them.

Anyway, we decided to go to Lancaster County ("Amish Country"), which is less than an hour and a half away. This time I let my DH look up places to visit, and decide where to go. We decided to start with something that would give us a "feel" for the Amish way of life, and the "Amish Farm" and "Amish Village" promised that. DH said that from what he read, the Farm was the a more accurate portrait, and an actual house and farm, so we went there. However, when we got to the place, look what we found:We were utterly disgusted!! Yes, a Target store has just been built right beside it.
Now I understand why they only have two dated pictures in their website (which I only checked today):










The first from 1957, the second from 2004.



They are working on the land in front of the house, it looks like a large construction site, but nothing can be done about the SIDE of the house and farm. The curb of Target's parking lot is like 2 feet from the house!!! I couldn't believe it! Look at the sign for the place, barely visible beside the retail giant's sign:
Maybe some people will be happy to park right behind Target on their way to visit a farm that showcases the way of life of the very simple and modernity adverse Amish, but we just couldn't bear to do it, and we visited the Amish Village instead. We then drove through Strasburg, where my son (a train fanatic) visited the ChooChoo Barn with daddy while and I, my parents and the napping "baby" drove around enjoying the scenery. We concluded we'd have to go back some other time to visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania because it couldn't be done in an hour (I guess my son's love of trains has contaminated all of us :)

When we were ready to drive home (after filling the tank with "cheaper" gas - 2.28/gal versus 2.68 around here), we noticed that there was a problem with the brakes in one of the rear wheels. Actually, I had already noticed a funny, rubbery smoke smell on our drive there, but DH had said it wasn't our car. DH and my dad took out the wheel and realized that the brake wouldn't "release" the wheel, remaining stuck at most times. While they did that, we enjoyed the view of a farm right behind the station and took many pictures of the boys in the beautiful sunset light (but enough pictures for this post, OK?).

We decided to keep on going, even though we knew that the wheel was getting extremely hot, when DH saw a garage/shop that was open. He dropped us off at a grocery store so we'd be warm (it was pretty cold by this time) and went there with my dad. I couldn't believe it when he called saying that the problem was serious and we wouldn't be able to drive home last night. We'd never been stranded before, much less with two kids and parents in tow! No rental cars were available, and the guy at the shop was kind enough to drive us to a motel with his friend. Even motels were hard to find, we stopped by two before calling and finding out about one that had room or was open. I had bought food and some first necessity items at the store (Kelvin loved his 50 cents new toothbrush and brushed his teeth, stopping once in a while to eat, some 5 times), but it's never fun to sleep in street clothes with excited kids who don't really want to sleep, just run around the bedroom and bathroom, enjoying their novelty. Linton nursed all night long...

This morning we rented a car and drove home (DH will return the rental and pick up our car tomorrow), and I was barely able to work this afternoon, I was so tired!! But it felt really, really good to come home, better than ever before!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Getting Feedback or... Dissertatin' - Update #2

Updated title (10/24) same content.
(preamble)
First, I'm all better from the cough, but still worried about getting a sore throat again... I hope not!

Second, many people in my blogroll posted not once, but twice today, and I'm kind of upset that I have been working on three or four posts without getting any of them out there, so here it goes... (this one I started on Saturday night, 10/15)
(end of preamble)

Is it just me or is it just as hard for anyone else to get feedback, particularly on their writing?

[I know I’m entering dangerous territory here, not having an anonymous blog, but if I don’t blog about my dissertation writing, what else is there to blog about? That’s all my life revolves around, these days…]

Anyway, I got the annotated draft of my first chapter back from the advisor last Saturday. It was a very rough draft, but the advisor had agreed to read drafts, and since I wanted to push myself, I decided to establish a timeline and send whatever I had achieved by the due date. My previous experience with the advisor’s feedback was not very good (lots of corrections concerning the mechanics of my writing, and not many comments/ suggestions about content and structure). Foreseeing the same kind of problem this time, I sent the advisor a long email the day before the draft was due, with this very polite talk about the kind of feedback I needed, blah blah blah. The response was, sure, I’ll give you feedback on content and structure, if that’s what you need.

Guess what? Déjà vu, all over again (from the first feedback I got when I submitted my prospectus two years ago): a lot of correction on mechanics, and almost no comments about structure and content. I had specifically asked for responses to my comments and questions between brackets - there were none. And not only that (which already infuriated me), out of 32 pages, only the first 8 pages and 4 pages at the end were annotated, then, 10 pages in the middle were completely blank, and a few other pages had a few annotations. I just feel like - if this advisor is not going to even read my work, why should I even send it? (OK, I know I need to get feedback, but with this kind of feedback, I feel I'm working alone).

Some background information on myself. I usually am a very sensitive person, the type of person who can’t be scolded without getting to the point of tears. Therefore, I’ve always tried to do everything right, so I don’t need to be corrected. That’s NOT how writing works, though, and I know that, the rational part of my brain keeps telling myself that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m aware that good writing needs tons of revision, and constant rewriting, but that’s not how the other part of me feels when I get feedback (or at least certain kinds of feedback). It’s not that I think what I write is good; it’s just that it takes such effort to write that I feel sensitive about the writing.

Bottom line... this week I'm having a TERRIBLE time working. I just don't feel like writing, I just want to throw everything up in the air, give up. I've managed to pull myself together enough to go over the annotations very carefully, do the necessary changes, and then, I started working on the chapter again. But it's been going really slowly. I'm hoping it will get better, because if it doesn't, it's going to be a NIGHTMARE to finish this dissertation. Well, at least I know I will keep working until early December when I travel to Brazil. I will definitely keep my timetable and deadlines, no matter how bad the feedback. I don't think it can get worse than this, so it might as well get better, or I may just learn to cope and deal with this.

I'm sure there was more to say, but at least I posted, got it out of my system, and I feel relieved. Do you have any feedback to give me? :D

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cough, cough, cough...

Stopping by quickly to say I've been having a terrible cough for almost a week now. Nights are not easy, and I haven't been sleeping well (to top it off, Linton's teething again, and has been waking up more often at night, and crying too).

The weird thing is, I don't know if it's the cough, but I have been having trouble falling asleep lately - something which has never been much of a problem to me (except that I usually stay up late, and don't feel sleepy until way after midnight). What's strange is that I haven't slept in several days this week as I usually do to compensate the lack of night sleep, but I haven't felt tired at all. I feel wired, strangely energized. I guess it's just the "momentum" of working on the dissertation -- but that's another story, I'm still working on a post about what's going on in that front.

Oh, yeah, before I forget, the annoying part of being sick with my parents here is the advice. Old-fashioned advice. Things I hear all the time: "Go put some socks on, that's why you're coughing!" "You shouldn't go outside without a coat, it's chilly out there!" "What? Are you washing your hair at night? That will make your cough get worse!" "You shouldn't be drinking ice water, that's why you don't get better" (this because I like my water "just right" (for me): 2/3 room temperature filtered water, 1/3 ice water), and so on and so forth... Am I going to be like that with my kids? I hope not!

To end on a brighter note, Linton has been saying so many new words lately! I think he says around 3 new words a day. Today's are: "oto" (outro - other), "tudo" (all/everything), "mais" (more), "por" (put). It's so exciting! I have recorded about 65 words (he's 16 months and a half), not bad, huh?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Dissertatin' - Update #1

Well, since I started working in earnest, and I even have a timetable (I pasted it near my computer screen yesterday, I even added some "motivational" stickers :) I will be updating on my progress periodically.

Last Friday I emailed the first draft of Chapter 1 (Introduction and Methodology) to my advisor. He's sending it in the mail this week (yeah, I know, why not revise it electronically - but he read it very quickly, so I'm not complaining, I think I'm lucky right now). I'm working on a rough draft of Chapter 2 to be sent out this Friday.

Other than that, I'm still recovering from a sore throat and a cold I had last week (must have caught it from you ABDmom, through reading your blog :) I'm pretty hoarse, which I hate, and coughing a bit (which I hate even more).

The boys are OK. I should post some pictures, shouldn't I? I'll think about it. I didn't have time to work on my promised "upcoming" posts, but I'll try to this week.

I feel very energized because I'm being productive. I never thought I'd ever feel positive about writing the dissertation, and I'm surprised by it. I can't help but have a vague dread that this positive outlook will change soon. But, perhaps, if I keep on working and don't let negative thoughts and feeling of guilt get hold of me, I'll be able to 1)feel energized and positive and keep working; 2) eventually finish!
I can't even believe that I may actually finish next year. I hope with all my heart that finishing, defending and graduating (if I can make the April 30 deadline) will feel as good or even better than "getting to work" feels now. I fear that the endless rewriting and revision that lie ahead after I'm done with the first drafts will suck the energy, joy and hope out of me, and then, when I get to the finish line, it will be anti-climatic. How was it to other people I wonder? (anyone reading this is done? how did it feel? Should I hope for a "happy ending" feeling or is it really as anti-climatic as I think it must be?)

I just wish I knew ahead, but I guess I just have to live through it. One step at a time.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Fall is here - my first "quiz"

You Are Changing Leaves

Pretty, but soon dead.


I decided to put this one here because it's pretty. And I do love fall leaves!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Arguing with a 16 month-old... useless

Speaking of milk (see Kateri's comment on previous post), two days ago Linton decided that what he gets when he breastfeeds (my milk) is "água" (water - he pronounces it perfectly too!).

He's at that phase when he uses "general" names for different categories of things, e.g. because he loves dogs, "au-au" (bow-wow or barf-barf) is his name for all animals; he calls every single fruit "banana"; "piu-iiii" (pew-eeee - train noise) is his name both for trains, trucks and buses, etc.

But I did take an issue with my milk being called water, and decided to argue with him at teach him to say milk ("leite"). So, now, whenever he wants to nurse, our conversation usually goes like this (and today's post finally makes this blog's name make total sense, since here I am -- finally! -- translating my interactions with my son):
"Mamá!" [Nurse! - it's pronounced like mother in Spanish: mama'] he exclaims, pointing to my breasts.
"Oh, você quer o leite da mamãe?" [Do you want your mama's milk?] I ask.
"Água, água!" [water, water] he replies.
"Não!! é leite, não água! Leite, sim!" [No, it's milk, not water! Yes, milk!]
"Não! Água, água!" [No, water, water] he insists, shaking his head to emphasize the "no".
"É leite, sim!" [Yes, it is milk!] I insist.
"Água, água!" [Water, water!] He insists...

and this goes on and on... etc, etc, etc.
..............
I give up!!

Oh, I forgot to mention that he has been drinking water in a regular cup for a while, and that "agua" was the very first word he said (referring to his bathwater). Last night I even took him to the sink, and showed him the water, saying "This is water, mama has milk" but it didn't make any difference to him. He knows what water is, but for him at this stage, any liquid is called water. Eventually, he'll figure out the difference, I know. Meanwhile, we'll keep arguing... it's fun :)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A couple of firsts

Just a quick note to say I just attended my first LLL (La Leche League) meeting. I enjoyed it very much, it feels great to be in a room full of mothers, babies and toddlers, several of whom are nursing right there and then. I actually missed my sons, who were napping in the car with my parents outside (they did come in at the end, though). I will certainly be an assiduous participant from now on, and will become a member as well.

The second "first" was meeting a blogger I read and enjoy a lot in person for the first time. It was really nice to meet you Kate, and Naomi too!! I hope to see more of you in the future :)

Well, that's it for now... I NEED to work, since I already missed the whole morning (I say this as if I worked the whole morning, I usually don't start until 11 am, because I always stay up REALLY late, and sleep in until 9:30-10. So, I missed some 3 hours, that's it).

My mornings are glorious

I haven't posted lately because I'm working on the dissertation, yes, I am. It's not been easy, writing never is, but I think it's even worse for me than for most people, given my greatest-procrastinator-in-the-world fame. But I have been writing everyday, and will submit the first draft of the first chapter to my advisor this Friday. Wish me luck.

So... I thought I'd show you how my "wild things" are doing. With the cooler (and actually splendid) weather, we've been enjoying our morning glories during the whole day lately!

OK, take a look:They have completely overtaken the right side of the porch
(the vines on the other side didn't do too well because of the poorer soil in the pot)

Their color matches the sky's.
This picture was taken through my living room window screen.
I like the effect.
This is Blues, our cat.
I can't believe I never wrote about him. He's beautiful, isn't him? I'll include more pictures of him in the future. Promise.

Sneak preview: pregnancy, birth and breasfeeding experience posts coming up!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Would you like to have a meal in a public bathroom?

I started this post last Friday, but we had to travel to D.C./Maryland (we went to my uncle's house and then helped out and participate of my nephew's first birthday party).

I know I'm a little "late" reacting to this, but I just can't let it go!! Kateri (at Wet Feet) linked to an article in a recent post which made me SO upset, so angry that I just had to write about it. To save you time, so you don't need to register in the "Philadelphia Daily News" to read, I'll do what Julie (at Woman in the Mirror) did for a recent NY Times article (the link is to her DotMoms post that has the NYT article about Ivy league female students who plan to quit their jobs when they become moms)
[That's another issue worth thinking and writing about, but lots of people have done so already, for example, Playground revolution and Mothershock, and Swisslovebaby's latest post is related to the issue as well]

I'm pasting the article below and adding my comments in italics.

First, a comment: I respect any mother's choice in terms of breasfeeding or using formula for their babies, I just think that breasfeeding does not receive enough support in many places of the world, particularly here in the U.S. and this lack of support from people such as this writer/lawyer and Barbara Walters makes it even harder for moms to breasfeed. Later in the post I'll share my own experience (if there's room).
--------------
Posted in the Philadelphia Daily News on Monday Sep. 19, 2005.

Written by Christine M. Flowers

LACTOSE INTOLERANT

THE OTHER DAY, I was counseling a client on her legal options when, without pausing to ask if I minded, she lifted her blouse and began to breast-feed her infant daughter.

Taken aback and not wanting to interrupt the child's meal, I guided the consultation to a swift conclusion.

There would have been no problem had the client asked if she could excuse herself and take the child to our bathroom or to a vacant office. What irritated me was the assumption that her right to nurse the infant trumped any obligation on her part to be courteous and ask, "Do you mind?"
Why is it implied that's necessary to ask permission to breastfeed? Does anyone need permission to bottle feed, or even to eat? Why only a bathroom or an empty room?
When I read this I immediately recalled that last year I breastfed my 1 m. old at our lawyer's office on the day that we closed on the sale of our house. For a split-second I thought about asking, but then just went ahead and did it.

I would never presume to tell someone what they could do in their bed, in their bathtub or at their dinner table. But what I expect and demand is that people not force their own militant preferences on me in public places.
OK, does it mean one can only breastfeed at home? Why is it that breastfeeding is a "militant preference" and not a "natural way to feed a child"? WOW, "forcing" is very strong language! And as far as I know, it is LAW that women can breastfeed wherever they're allowed in public with babies (which is almost everywhere).

I actually started this piece at least three times, searching for an inoffensive way to say it.
It's very clear that you haven't found an inoffensive way, far from it.

There was the sensible, statistic-driven approach that emphasized the overwhelming health benefits of breast milk. Too safe, I decided.

There was the acknowledgment that nursing was a unique form of love, representing the eternal bond between mother and child. Too cliched, I thought.

There was even an attempt at humor, as in "I really need to get this off my chest." (Who was it that told me puns were the indication of a deficient mind?)

But the only way to say it is boldly and without apology, girding myself for the onslaught of criticism from the La Leche activists:

Women shouldn't breast-feed wherever they choose.
What??? Well, at least you said it, you didn't come out with that "I felt uncomfortable" talk of a Barbara Walters. And I think you were corageous. But why, then? Let's read on and see if your arguments hold.

If I'd said, "Men shouldn't urinate in public," it's unlikely that anyone would vociferously object. But I feel the backs stiffen and the claws unsheath at the mere suggestion that nursing is a private affair.

Infants are magnificent creatures. While certain specimens may eventually turn out to be unpleasant (e.g., the ones who develop into adults like Paris Hilton and Michael Moore), the consensus is that they bring joy and hope for the future.

Without them, in fact, there would be no future. So it is important for us to do whatever we can to ensure their survival.

At a minimum, they need to be fed. Newborns have a lot of time on their hands since they don't hold down jobs, drive or fret about the state of the world, so eating becomes disproportionately important to them. They crave nutrition on an hourly basis, regardless of where they might be.

For nursing infants, "appetizer-entree-dessert" is wherever mommy happens to be when the urge strikes. So unless nursing mothers agree to be trapped in their homes for the first year of junior's life, they sometimes have to breast-feed in public.
OK, that's not a very pleasant option. What would you suggest then, if women should NOT breastfeed in public?

That's not the problem. Women should be permitted to nurse unobtrusively in restrooms and other public places specifically designated for the purpose.
Oh... all right. Woud YOU want to eat in the bathroom, sitting in the toilet? Looking at that dirty floor, enjoying that clean, spacious, inviting space? Public places specifically designated for the purpose? Sometimes it's hard enough to find changing tables in certain public places, let alone a private place where one can sit comfortably.

The craving for nutrition and the ability to satisfy it are natural and beautiful, as are a woman's breasts. The problem arises when an essentially private activity becomes part of the public domain.
Why is breasfeeding "an essentially private activity"? It has to be because of the way our society views breasts, or maybe it goes deeper than that - many people feel bothered by the presence of young children, or babies who are not quiet, and cry or scream in public places - it seems our society is not comfortable with the presence of mothers/fathers and young children, and breasfeeding is only an obvious target because it is not such a prevalent practice or choice (unfortunately) .

There are, of course, ways to accommodate both modesty and utility, allowing breast-feeding in certain areas and prohibiting it in others, just as we do with any activity that encroaches on the public domain, like smoking and playing loud music.
Wow, does breasfeeding unsettle people so much that it lends itself to a comparison with an activity that actually harms other people's health such as smoking, or constitutes a kind of "auditorial polution" (loud music)? And it should be thus prohibited from certain places? It's just like prohibiting a mother with young baby to go to those places! (she does try to respond to this in the next sentence)

To those who resent the implication that breast-feeding might be as annoying as cigarettes and blaring hip-hop, I say that bared breasts can make some people very uncomfortable, even when a child is attached to one of them.
Usually, unless the child is very restless, there are no "bared breasts", only a little bit of a nipple when the latch on is taking place. More often one sees part of the mother's belly. Actually, it seems to be rather that people are "more uncomfortable" when there's a child is "attached to them", not "even when" one is.

There is also the option of using a breast pump to express the milk at home, and then using a bottle in public. This way, the child gains all of the benefits of mother's milk while society is spared the sight of a human Playtex nurser.
Whoa! that last sentence was pretty forceful. Society needs to be SPARED THE SIGHT of a nursing mother? A "human bottle"? About pumping, does she have any idea what she's saying? Pumping is wonderful, very useful for those who work or those (such as myself) whose infants aren't able to nurse for some reason (prematurity, inability to latch on, and so on), but pumping is a bit of a hassle. I pumped for 8 months and 5 months for each of my sons because I wanted them to eat cereal with my milk, but it was quite a hassle to find a suitable time, when I had enough milk supply to pump, and I was not busy caring for my children (in my particular case, I never needed to give my sons bottles, I was always around them).

When I mentioned this to a friend, she looked at me in horror and said, "But then people would think I was feeding my child formula!" It was as if I'd accused her of being Jim Jones on a Kool-Aid jag.
That seems to be the problem with many nursing mothers - it's more about the image than about the child.
No, I don't think it's all about the image. Her friend is right - unfortunately there's a lot of terrible criticism from mother to mother, but in no way I think mothers choose to breasfeed because of the "image". Some may start out that way, but if that's their real motivation, they probably don't continue for very long. I think that's a very weak argument about/against breasfeeding.

And at the risk of sounding deficient, it feels good to get that off my chest.
Well, yes, in the end, it's good you wrote this. I can only imagine how many people, probably thousands and thousands, if not millions of them think the same way but are "polite enough" to refrain from expressing their views. That's why I feel that many women feel too intimidated to even nurse their babies. They interiorize this and think it's kind of "unnatural" -- because if something is not legitimized by being allowed in public, people tend to shrink from it.
--------------
I don't know... I have no idea whether I'm making any sense in my counter-arguments either. I have decided to write another post to share my story. I don't think it fits in here anymore both because this post is too long already, and because I want it to be a positive post.