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.