Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Quickie (Updated)

I was quite busy this weekend, so I wasn't able to write. I had a friend's baby shower to attend and my brother- and sister-in-law's came to visit. It was the first time that my youngest nephew (4 months old) came here. The boys had lots of fun with their older cousin (who's 2 like my youngest).

One thing I haven't even mentioned in my previous posts and which I want to explore later is that for over two weeks in the middle of this month, my 2 year old got sick with a cold and also started waking up and crying every night, sometimes more than once. Before that, when I went to Massachusetts he also started nursing again in the middle of the night even though I night weaned him in June. Sleeping by my side just made it irresistible. It was hard to get him back on track and for a while we thought that the whole end of the family bed thing was just a delusion... but, things are slowly getting better. Last week he slept through the night on his crib and bedroom for two nights in a row -- I couldn't even believe it when I woke up. During the weekend the boys slept on mattresses the floor of our room, but they didn't wake up either.

Oh, yeah, and all of a sudden my ravenous eater, the 2 year old, is not interested in eating anymore, which is stressing me out. A few hours ago he vomited (all over his bed - thankfully, he had already vomited a small amount before falling asleep and I, fearing the worst, put him on a matress on our bedroom). I'm hoping it's not the stomach flu, like it happened with Aliki last weekend (and with my nephew two weekends ago). Wish us luck. I'll keep you posted.

Pending posts: I want to tell you, two months late, about our Florida vacation; I want to write more about the boys, and I also have a couple more parenting posts. I'm delighted that my previous post ressonated with so many people!

Updated to add: my son woke up feeling fine this morning, so I guess it was just an upset stomach because of something that he ate. What a relief!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Full-Time at Home Parenting: Delight or Torture?

After I expressed some negative thoughts about being home with the boys in this post, some of my blogging friends (Kate and Alice) directed me to another post on the subject written recently by Dinka. Alice even went on to write her own post on motherhood and loneliness. I was also reading Articulate Dad's September posts and came across a post in which, among other things, he touches on the same subjects -- this time from the point of view of a father, so this is definitely not something only mothers feel.

Articulate Dad wrote:
[F]ull-time parenting . . . is a great joy and a tiring burden. Those who have never served as stay-at-home parents may simply never understand. I wonder at those parents who choose this life, embrace it, revel in it, thrive even. I respect them and admire them, but I fail to fully understand them.
It is not that I don't delight in being a father. But it is that my hands at times feel tied, my life completely overwhelmed by duty, one which keeps me from other things I might wish to be doing.
. . . Parenting is exhausting: perhaps less so for those better equipped for its rigors, or better adjusted to its demands.
I fully agree with the "great joy and a tiring burden" of the first quote, I tried to convey a similar idea in my title with "delight or torture." As for the choosing part, some people just don't really choose it, AD, they just don't have any other options, or make a personal sacrifice for the sake of their children. As for the second quote, I feel the same about being a mother most of the time!! The language he uses describes full-time parenting so brilliantly! The tied hands, the life "life completely overwhelmed by duty," I have felt them too. This constant duty is tiresome beyond imagination, some may, as he claims, be better equipped to deal with it, but I am certainly not one of them. Some people even have enough energy, discipline, and patience to home school their kids!! I'd love to do that, but I don't think I ever could ("unschooling" like Dawn does might be possible, but I'm not disciplined enough even for that).

The problem of loneliness discussed by Dinka and Alice, may have more to do with gender and the way mothers interact (or not) with other mothers. Dinka wrote:
But all the lack of free time and sleep aside the hardest part of all this is the loneliness. I don't care what they say but motherhood lived this way is just not right. Are we really supposed to toil away by ourselves day after day (uh and night after night) with minimal contact to other people, performing the tasks over and over while we pull all the creativity and inspiration and good cheer that is necessary to raise a human out of thin air[?]
I agree. It doesn't seem right to me either -- this is one of the reasons why the work that mothers do should be more valued and, if possible, compensated accordingly, as I have already argued here before. I especially like the part about raising "a human out of thin air."

She finished with some of the same thoughts expressed by Articulate Dad, but with a twist aimed at the other mothers who apparently "have it all together" and don't seem to want to start friendships with her:
I like doing my thing as a mother. I like the kids and the house and my own schedule, but I hate being on my own all the time. It's not easy to make friends, I'm aware. More than anything one needs to be ready to open up and show some vulnerability and take a risk. It's hard to feel drawn to a person who seems to have it all and all together. We're so busy keeping up appearances but then we all go home, sit by ourselves and wonder what if.
My comment to Dinka's post included: "The only thing that has kept me sane is blogging and blog reading... I also got to meet some blogging mothers who live in the Philly area." And this is true. Blogging and reading the experience of other mothers has been more than therapeutic for me, it has been life changing and has sustained through these difficult years of having very young children at home.

Sometimes I feel literally caged at home, since it takes so much energy to go out the door with two boys under 4. It's not easy to do grocery shopping and nearly impossible to do clothes shopping, for example, with them. Even when we do get the chance to meet with friends, it's very tough to conduct a conversation, since we always have to be paying attention to what the boys are doing. I'm sure this gets better when they become older, but parenting young children is "one of the hardest thing one can ever do" as I also wrote for Dinka. And to make matters worse, mothers don't really seem to get along with other mothers. I just wish I could still link to Chez Miscarriage's post and hundreds of comments about "Mommy Drive Bys."

Is there a solution for these problems? Probably not, but at least it's good to hear from other parents and to know that we're not alone, even though we may be painfully lonely.

Central Park on a Saturday Afternoon

Cloudscome's post about her lovely day with her sons last Saturday motivated me to write about our day as well. We went to New York City for the day (we had a church meeting there) and since we were only three blocks from the Central Park, we decided to take a stroll there in the afternoon. The boys played in a playground for a little while and then I looked in the map and saw that we were close to the Conservatory Water (where people can rent remote controlled sail or motor boats to play in the water) and I remembered that it was there that they had the Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen sculptures and I really wanted to see them again. Although we've been to New York many times since 1996, I had only seen these sculptures once, back in 96, I think, after we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (oh, I have to go back there again, and to the newly renovated MoMa!). Kelvin knows quite a bit about Alice in Wonderland because I have been telling him some of the episodes of the book as bedtime stories for years now and I knew he was going to be delighted by the sculpture, and he was. I took many photos, as usual, and my favorite one was of him and the Cheshire Cat:
This sculpture is, for some reason, way more fun to kids than a playground. They climb all over it and there was even a little girl who didn't want to let anyone else sit in Alice's lap. Kelvin was very nice with her and let her stay there and her mother thanked me profusely and kept saying what a nice little boy he was. (I told her that this wasn't the case all the time, but she was still thankful that he was being kind to her daughter). Linton enjoyed it too, but since he couldn't really climb it, he soon tired of it and went to see the boats with dadddy while Kelvin stayed and climbed up, down, and around for over ten minutes. Here are only two of many photos I took of him while he played:

Before leaving, we went around the water to get to the Hans Christian Andersen sculpture. This one didn't have any children climbing all over it, so it was easier to photograph. On the way there I reminded my son about the story of the Ugly Duckling since it's portrayed in the sculpture too.
P.S. I have started to write a series of posts about parenting difficulties. I'm going to try to post them even if they're not as "deep" as I wish they could be, or else I'll never finish writing them.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Tale of Two Meetings (& Finally a Dissertation Update - #8)

First, I want to thank everyone for your support after last post, it means a lot to me. Blogging has kept me afloat these past two years in a way that you can't really imagine (or maybe you can if you're also a blogger).

A few posts ago I gave away the results of my recent meetings, but I wanted to go back and compare how I felt this October to how I felt after the meeting in May so you can understand how much this new perspective means to me and my drive to finish the dissertation.

1st Scenario:
Although the meeting itself went fairly well, I felt quite negatively about it, as I have briefly stated before here. I had sent drafts of the first two chapters to my advisor, with whom I had already gone through 5 drafts of chapter one and 3 drafts of chapter two, and a committee member. The advisor didn't read the new drafts (I concede there weren't that many changes, but I think he should have read them) and the committee member had many negative comments to make about the material. She said that she was expecting these to be later, more polished drafts and that these were still very repetitive and needed lots of cuts and edits. She had issues with the introduction -- which, you know, was the first thing I wrote, very tentatively, since the research had not been done yet, I knew I'd have to rewrite it, but then at that meeting I felt sorry for ever attempting to write an introduction when the work was not finished yet. Her comments made me realize anew and very strongly that the feedback I'd been getting from my advisor was not "deep" enough, since for him, chapter one looked pretty good (I wrote about this on item 1 of my last dissertation update post, last July).

I never attempted to process what I felt them and try to express it until many months later. Last month (on September 17), I started thinking about it and jotted down some impressions. Even writing these down made me feel devastated all over again. I wrote this as a blog post, but I never finished editing/ polishing it, so it's pretty "raw:"
All right, prepare yourselves; I’m in “crisis mode” again.

I have been postponing for many months now dealing the feelings that enveloped me at the meeting I had with my advisor and one committee member on May 12, 2006. So, these are very delayed reactions [to the meeting.]

When a reader has lots of problems with the writing, [pointing out its] repetition, lack of objectivity and, most importantly, when a reader shows impatience with the work because it’s not well written or maybe "boring."

It’s a horrible feeling. No one is ever going to read this anyway. Perhaps a handful or two handfuls of people, maximum. If the people who are supposed to read it so they can help me write it are not interested in it, think it’s bad, the dissertation writer is left with an AWFUL feeling.

If these people, who are closest to me, who have been following this project since its inception many years ago think it’s a waste of their time to read all these 150+ pages -- what does that tell me about the value of this work? If they’re not interested on it, who else is going to be? How can I find strength to go on with these things in mind?

The advisor is extremely busy with 5 other students working on their MA thesis and Ph.D. dissertations right now, apart from a heavier than usual load of teaching.

The other committee member has been publishing exciting anthologies and is involved in her own work. She is also very bright and very opinionated…

I felt utterly defeated.

Writing a dissertation feels absolutely [I didn't finish the sentence]

I know half of my committee won’t really read the dissertation before the defense, they’re just too busy, they just do it because it’s their duty to be there, to show their support, but it’s all “pro forma” as we say it in Portuguese – just a formal requirement, it doesn’t mean they really care about this stuff. They have to sit on countless committees, read countless dissertations.

Academic work is not only thankless, it’s also useless!!!
2nd Scenario:

First of all, I met separately with my advisor and the committee member. Secondly, my advisor had read my latest drafts a few weeks earlier, I hadn't just sent new things to him. Third, the committee member hadn't seen any of my work since May and the purpose of our meeting was to show her the results of the research I did in July.

The advisor said he was greatly pleased with my work, that I just needed to write the conclusions to the last chapters, a final conclusion and go back and edit the introduction. He emphasized that for him I've already "passed" and that the research work I'm doing is far superior to many people in my field. Lots of them simply draw their conclusions based on generalizations, but I have done a detailed and extensive study, creating real data, real numbers, something almost no one in this field does. He finished saying that now all that was left was finding me a job. He knows that my husband is also in the market and he was able to fully understand my situation since he has followed his wife twice and everything worked out in the end (he only got tenure a few years ago, though).

When I showed the data and the graphs and charts to my committee member she was so excited that it sent a thrill down my spine. She was stunned by all the work I had done and said it was valuable work, not just as a contribution to the subject I'm dealing with, but which brought a brand new perspective that could enrich a literary analysis of the works in question. Then I started talking about a new idea that I had to contextualize my study, something I may be able to accomplish only because my mom is going to pay two college students in Brazil to collect data for me, and she was so enthusiastic about it, I almost couldn't believe it. I barely mentioned this to my advisor, since my dissertation already contains the work of two dissertations in it, and this third project could almost be a dissertation in and of itself, but she saw its value, she understood it fully (since she is, after all, the only committee member knowledgeable about Brazil). I felt absolutely energized, ready to go back to work on the research. (Feel free to email me if you want to know more details about my work, I just don't want to give out the details here in the blog).

I left with my self-confidence boosted to levels never before experienced, it was truly soaring as high as it could possibly go. I also felt/feel certain that I could/can go ahead and finish this, that it's completely worth it, that I am a good researcher. I called my mom that night and shared all this with her. She had had surgery only two days before and I knew that this would mean a lot to her since she was here and witnessed my despondency on the days following the May meeting.

I know it's not going to be easy to finish while caring for my boys full time, but I have all this confidence now, and I know all my blogging friends -- you -- are out there supporting me, so I know I can do it. The hard part will be trying to apply to a handful of jobs. My heart is not on it, but I know I must do it. The deadlines are coming up and I haven't yet finished revising my CV or started writing the letters... I don't feel motivated for that, although I should. My committe member said that it's going to be really hard to write the recommendation letters. She said that she's so enthusiastic about my work and my value as a scholar that it will be hard to make her readers believe her!

That's good to hear, isn't it?

Monday, October 23, 2006


I have so many things to write about, but I'm kind of blocked right now. I guess the scare of almost losing the blog has actually affected me. It was very stressful, particularly because it happened on the day before a family trip. I was supposed to be revising the paper for my conference presentation and packing our bags and instead I just stayed online all day, frantically reading and posting on the blogger messageboards and trying to figure out what to do next.
So, I decided to post some flower photos, maybe they'll soothe me (or not -- you'll see why). I wanted to write a post about my morning glories (I planted them again this year),
but even that seemed too stressful, since I'd have to spend time choosing which photos to include, and explaining my frustration at the fact that I didn't anchor the vine right to my front porch, and half of it collapsed some weeks ago, so they didn't look so beautiful anymore.
Even these beautiful cosmos (first photo and photo above) that you see here have frustrated me, I didn't plan them right, I should have thinned them, but I didn't, and then they grew like maniacs or genetically modified plants on steroids, got really, really tall and I had to pull them all out from my front yard. I left the ones on the back, but they all "fell" horizontally on the grass, since I would have had to give them support so they'd grow vertical. They didn't care, and kept on blooming, though, which is good...

See, that's what I didn't want this post to be, a "complaining post." I wanted to follow Professor Me's example and post a list of things I'm not complaining about, but I feel so funky right now I just can't! I want to look at these beautiful photos an feel happy, but I just feel like crying. It's probably the hormones, combining with staying home all day with the boys. Day after day.

I took all of these photos last week. I love to photograph flowers. Some people don't think this is interesting at all. Our friend in Florida even joked, "Oh, yeah, my mom and my sister are like that. They take photos of flowers like there's no tomorrow!"

But that's the whole point about taking photos! Capturing the moment. There's no tomorrow, really. When am I going to see yesterday's morning glory flower (the pink one, when they're blue, they become pinkish while fading) sharing the stage with today's flower because the weather is just cool enough for it not to die?
One of the things I think I might be able to do if everything goes wrong, is becoming a photographer. I think I take good photos and, most importantly, I really enjoy taking photos. I have even photographed many friends' birthday parties, etc. to help them out and they were pretty happy with the results. Well, I feel better writing this. At least this post ended up having a point. I got to share my photos, talk about some of my frustrations, and share a possible dream for the future.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

On Closing Doors and Opening up for Dreams

Two weeks ago Andi Buchanan (from Mother Shock) wrote a beautiful post in her blog, comemorating the anniversary of her last piano concert, 10 years ago.

I commented in her blog about this post:
Oh, Andi, you made me cry.

I love music dearly, even though I'm pretty bad at it. I took piano classes for 17 years, from 6 years old to 23.

Your essay struck a deep chord within me, though because I have no idea what'll happen in my future. I'm on the brink of finishing the Ph.D. after working on it for nearly 8 years. I just had a couple of meetings with my advisors and they think my research is brilliant. Both of them know, though, that I will have a hard time continuing this research if I can't find an academic job where I can apply for grants and "keep up my good work." The likelihood of getting such a job, though, are very slim, particularly because my husband is in the same position and the job that he gets maybe at a university/ college that has no room for me.

Well, sorry for making this such a long comment. I should go post in my blog instead and maybe I will... but your post gave me hope. I think I can do other things with my life if being an academic doesn't work out. You were very corageous to give up what you had worked so hard for, but you had a dream to follow. I don't know what my dream would be. I know I want to write too, but I don't know where to start. I feel hopeful, though. Closing one door is not the end, it may be just the beginning -- as cliched as that may sound...
This is really something I've been thinking about lately... I don't have much to add to what I wrote in my comment. I just want to reiterate that will probably be a very important year for us. In Brazil they have this strange habit of changing/making up movie titles, and St. Elmo's Fire is titled there "The First Year of the Rest of Our Lives." This is probably one of those years for us. 1996, the year we moved to the U.S., was another one too.

We both feel really strange about what the future may hold. We feel the need to settle down somewhere and, like my husband was telling me yesterday, we're getting "older" (35) and we don't want to go just anywhere, like a younger, more adventurous, childless couple, might want to go. And that makes applying for academic jobs that much more difficult. My husband has a list of 56 places he may apply to (he won't apply to all, of course) and my list is pretty small (I'm doing this just half-heartedly, so I don't even know by heart how many positions I can apply to), but we worry about getting offers from places that are not that attractive for us to live, and most are not. I feel terrible about this, since we should be just so thankful if we have offers to begin with, but it's such a tough decision!!

I'm sure many of you have gone through similar experiences and I'd appreciate any thoughts you share with me right now...

As for my dreams, academia, and the Ph.D. I'm not terribly worried, but I do wish I could continue being a scholar. I think I do have aptitude for it, in spite of the fact that I'm not the most dedicated person (remember I said here before that I'm lazy?). Unless I was able to really write (and I'm much less confident in myself as a writer than as an academic -- and if you've been reading the blog you already know that I'm not confident at all in this area), I think I'd be frustrated for the rest of my life if I had to leave academia. And I think my husband would feel the same way. I think one can only be happy if, like Andi, one leaves one dream in pursuit of another...

I hope I can look back in ten years and to know that I have found my way.

Upadated to add: I posted a comment below in response to Aliki's comment.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lost & Found

Last Wednesday night I impulsively switched my blog to the Beta version of blogger and then, on Thursday morning, guess what? Yes, if you're reading this chances are you saw what happened -- the blog was gone!!

I truly thought it was lost forever and I was surprised at how cool I felt about it after the initial shock wore off. I was upset, of course, but I felt up to the task of rescuing whatever I could rescue and starting again. It was a learning experience from me and the biggest thing I learned surprised me. My blog isn't really that big of an obssession for me as I thought it was and I think that's pretty "healthy." If this had happened a while ago I might have just completely panicked and felt it was a HUGE loss. Well, for once, nothing's really "lost" in cyberspace and most of my posts were cached and I would have been able to recover my writing.

Well, if you're thinking about switching, maybe you should wait until all the problems are sorted out. I, for one, will, since my blog returned in the regular version (and this after I had already labeled dozens of posts)...

Don't forget to check out my previous post, because I posted it on the night the blog went down.

I'm still in Tennessee. We go back home tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I have a dear friend who used to say that mothering little boys means having to prevent them from killing themselves on a daily basis. I thought I was lucky since my oldest was a very quiet and careful boy, who hardly ever fell or got hurt. The youngest is a bit more daring, but he's been pretty safe so far -- I think it helps that his brother looks after him too.

Well, today he got into something a bit more dangerous than causing plumbing troubles. I was here in the "office" (tiny bedroom on our second floor) and the boys were playing in the hall and the other rooms when all of a sudden I saw a spark and the computer went off. Kelvin had been playing with some coins (he likes to put them in several piggy banks that they have) and Linton had been begging for a coin. Absent-mindedly, I demanded that he share and give a coin to his younger brother. Well, Linton started playing with it and inserted it in the back of the hallway's night-light. I was so relieved that the night light was a ceramic castle and he didn't touch anything, just let the coin fall, or else something terrible might have happened. The outlet became completely black and the coin (a penny) and the plug melted a bit where they touched each other. Yikes!!!

I spoke very sharply to Linton and Kelvin got very shaken thinking of the possibility that his brother might have been seriously hurt or even dead from the power of electric shock. When I went downstairs to see if I could restore the power to the room (I wasn't able to and had to wait until hubby came home) Kelvin started screaming histerically for me to come because he thought his brother might go near the outlet again. He was hugging his brother, shielding him with his little body, so he couldn't move!

I know I need to be more careful and Kelvin (who's generally very careful) kept telling me over and over again that we needed to cover ALL outlets that didn't have plugs in them and watch Linton at every moment.

Well other than that, this was an uneventful day here. Except that I have a terrible cold. The "waterworks" started today and I can't stand a dripping nose (in spite of the fact that I had one for the better part of my first 18 years of life -- it only stopped when I quit eating dairy foods at 18). Linton, who already had a cough seems to have it too, his nose is starting to run. I don't think we'll have a good night. This reminds me of where I finished yesterday's post -- guess who came into my bed in the middle of the night? Both boys. And I ended up sleeping the last part of the night literally holding Linton so he wouldn't roll on top of Kelvin because when he was on my other side, he fell to the ground (and never woke up, I just picked him right up and them moved him to the other side). Husband is back from Brazil (which is GREAT!!) and I've already warned him that we'll probably have to spend the later part of the night with the boys... oh well, it's not like we're not used to it already!

Back Home and Bullets

As I expected, the trip back went very smoothly. I made it in less than 6 hours, including a 25 minute stop (only one!!). I would have arrived home 30 minutes earlier had my son not needed a bathroom stop in northern Philly. I took advantage of the stop to buy fruits and vegetables, since I stopped at a grocery store.

My sons handle car trips like pros. It was not always like that, of course, but we got them used to them really early. I don't think we'd do this again, but we did three excruciatingly long trips to Michigan for Thanksgiving, three years in a row, when my brother- and sister-in-law lived there. The first two were from MA, when our oldest son was 9 and 21 months respectively and took 14-16 hours. The last one was with both boys, aged 2 1/2 y.o. and 6 months and it took "'only" 11-12 hours (it was from here). We do like to travel a lot, so they have to be used to it. Music does the trick for them, I just have their favorite CDs ready and they generally cope well.

Now for some bullets. I'm just like Libby, I have a hard time keeping them short, but I'll try :)
  • I have tons of things to blog about, but I wanted to catch up on blog reading, since I didn't get to spend much time online at MIL's house. I checked all the blogs in my blogroll, but I still need to go back and read those that I was already behind before last week
  • My husband is flying home from Brazil tonight. I miss him SO MUCH!!! and the boys do too.
  • We just got home from traveling and we leave again on Friday to Nashville, where I'm presenting at a conference. The whole family is going because my aunt lives there and we're going to meet my cousin's little girl who's 17 months old.
  • My paper's not ready yet, but I'm going to just change the one I presented in April a bit, so I'm not really worried.
  • A friend from Brazil is coming to present at the conference. We put a panel together when I was there in January.
  • I feel guilty about leaving the cat home alone. We usually leave him at a friend's house, but this time she couldn't take him. Our neighbor was/will be feeding him, but I know he probably misses us terribly... It's tough to have pets, isn't it?
  • I don't know if I mentioned it her, probably not, but my mother had surgery one week ago. Her thyroid was removed. She's doing fine.
All right, I'm sure I had more things to say, but this will do for now :) .

Updated to add:
  • I never had time to report that we started having some sleep disturbances with the 2 year old in the past two weeks. He wakes up crying and it's hard to get him to sleep again. Some nights we had to split up -- daddy with one boy in the futon in their room and mommy with the other in our bed.
  • He slept with me during our trip and even got to nurse during the night a few times in spite of the fact that he hasn't done so since June (o-oh)... He's in his crib now. He woke up a couple of times, but went back to sleep fairly quickly. Wish us luck staying out of the family bed :)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cranberry Flavored Fall Adventures

I've had a good time here in Massachusetts. I'm dying to tell you more about the advising meetings, which were really great, but I want to write a nice thoughtful post to include some material from my "dissertation journal" which is in our desktop at home. I drive back home tomorrow (all right, today, since it's after midnight) and although I can't say I'm actually looking forward to it, given the smooth trip up, I'm confident it's not going to be that bad to go back!

Yesterday and today I got to see two longtime friends who also have sons. I've known one of them for 16 years, we met in Brazil where we sang together in a choir, and many years later she got married to a "Brazilian American" guy and we met again here in the U.S.. Her son is 10 months older than my eldest (who's 4 1/2). I met the other friend, who happens to have the same name I do (with an extra l) here in the U.S. ten years ago. She's American, with Brazilian parents, and her son is 9 months younger than my oldest. I hadn't seen them in nearly two years and they didn't really know my youngest son, since they had only seen him as a tiny baby, so it was great! We had a lively group of four boys, aged 2, 3, 4, and 5.
We went to an apple orchard and although there were no more apples to be picked (harvest was earlier than usual this year), we went on a tractor ride and the boys had tons of fun running around the apple trees and with the pumpkins and straw.

Today I met again with one of them, my namesake (who, by the way, may be reading this post -- I'm so delighted to have another IRL reader, Lily!!), and we went to Plymouth and then we drove around a bit to Carver and I was able to realize an old dream to see a cranberry bog. The sun was setting/ had just set, so I wasn't able to take very good photos (OK, as good as I'd like... they did turn out OK :), but it was still great!! I love cranberry juice, sauce, and anything baked with cranberries and I knew that if we move next year, this may be my first and last chance to see a cranberry bog at harvest time. I thought I'd share some of the photos too!
I want to go there again tomorrow in "broad daylight" but I have to go back home! :(

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Traveling Mother

I just wanted to brag about the fact that this afternoon/evening I drove for 7 hours by myself with the boys to come spend a few days with my mother-in-law in Massachusetts.

Last night my husband flew to Brazil, where he'll be for a week and my father-in-law flew to Peru for a 10 day visit. I didn't want to stay home alone, but I was a bit afraid of driving for so many hours with the boys, but I decided to brave it.

The trip is supposed to take 5-6 hours, but I was stuck in traffic for 1h30 in Connecticut. This happened because I wasn't able to leave home before 2:30 pm, so I naturally got stuck in traffic from 5:30 on.

The boys behaved well. I was very lucky because the two times my son needed to go to the bathroom (for #2 nonetheless), we were right at a service area. We stopped only those two times, within an hour (between 4-5 pm) and then we continued for 3 hours straight until the little one couldn't bear it any longer and I stopped for 10 minutes for him to nurse. Both boys slept for the last 1h30 of the trip, thankfully.

Tomorrow I meet with my advisor and with one of the committee members (the first time since May), separately this time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Plumbing Troubles

I should have seen it coming. I knew that my youngest son would be more troublesome than the eldest, but I thought it would be a while before I had to spend money to solve troubles caused by little boys.

Well, my little boy, it turns out, has an unquenchable fascination with little rocks and pebbles. We went to a fantastic playground last weekend in Maryland , but all he cared about was throwing rocks at the tiny stream from the short bridge that crossed it.

Our neighbors have a path of white rocks by their driveway and whenever he gets a chance, my two year old goes there to play with them. Last Thursday I let the boys play in the back and front yard while I mowed the lawn. When I was cleaning up I heard my 4 year old screaming at his brother and calling me. It turns out the little one had been throwing rocks at our sewage vent by the curb. The cap was broken by the neighbor's car last winter and we hadn't replaced it. I forgot to mention that he'd thrown a bamboo stick in there the day before and had been scolded for it. I said no, that he was not to throw any rocks in there and we came inside.

Lo and behold, my husband was getting ready to leave for work this morning when (fortunately) he looked into the basement and realized that there was water leaking from the sewage pipe. We had both just taken showers and there was a lot of water, so about 1/4 of the basement was already wet. I went into full damage control mode, putting buckets to pick up the water trickling from the pipe and mopping the floor, while he started calling plumbers. We ended up getting Roto-rooter because they were the only ones who could come before 3 p.m. I just didn't want to be at home with two little ones and not being able to use the water.

I promptly remembered the rocks and a check at the vent outside confirmed my fears -- the pipe was half full of water. The plumber "snaked it" and all was fine in the end. I know it could have been worse, but this was a very expensive boy "game," it cost only 250 dollars...

Hubby said that we should deduct this from his future allowances!! :) If only he weren't just 2 years old...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Six Weird Things About Me

I had planned to post this three weeks ago, but then I decided to write a 9/11 post. I guess this is a good time for this "meme" since I'm in a writing-things-about-myself phase here in the blog (not that it's not already all about me :) This post has been in the works for many months as you'll see below.

You know, it's the funniest thing -- I was absolutely sure I had been tagged by someone with the "Six weird things about me" meme but apparently I wasn't!! A looooong time ago (January or February 2006), I was tagged for a book meme by Kate at Expatmama, and a "four things" meme by Juliet at Dalian Moon. Oh, and more recently, Cloudscome from a wrung sponge tagged me for another great book meme that I really want to respond to. However, as far as I can tell, I wasn't tagged for this weird things one! :) If you did tag me and I forgot who you are, would you kindly let me know? I feel like I've completely lost my marbles right now...

Ever since this "phantom tagging" feeling took hold of me months ago I have been thinking about the weird things I'd list. Initially I had a hard time thinking of them --I guess I'm pretty "normal," even boring; but, eventually, I realized that there are a few quirky or "weird" things about me. Wanna check them out?

1. Hair Removal Issues
I can’t shave my legs, underams, bikini area, etc. (although I sometimes have to). For some reason, my body is allergic to shaving and any shaved parts itch like crazy, as if I had many bumpy mosquito bites. I need to wax them, or use an electric “depilatory” gadget (which is way too painful and I hardly ever have the courage). Problem is, I don’t have money to do professional wax in this country (in Brazil it’s very cheap as are getting a manicure, a pedicure, and a decent haircut), so sometimes I do a sugar wax at home (I can teach you how in the future if anyone is interested). Even waxing elicits a terrible reaction from my legs (or any other body part) – they become swollen and red, but this subsides in a couple of hours and – that’s key! – it doesn’t itch later and I also stay hairless much longer. I guess my body just rebels against hair removal. I should do what my SIL is doing and have them removed with laser (no money either for that, though :)

2.Leg Positions (not really weird, just quirky)
I love to have my legs (at least one of them) folded and up against my body when I'm sitting down and I can also squat for a long period of time. In addition, I sleep in a fetal position, with my legs as close as possible to my body. I can't breastfeed in a glider rocker or sofa without having a leg up supporting the baby (this helped a lot when I fell asleep nursing in the first months of my older son's life - that way he was supported and didn't fall off my lap, but I completely digress...). I thing this habit stems from my childhood history of acute asthma. I spent countless hours squatting down, since the legs against my chest made it the best position to breathe. I also slept many nights kneeling or "squating" on a pile of pillows, since it also helped me breathe. Therefore in spite of the fact that I haven't had any ashtma episodes in over 15 years, I still carry with me the habit of folding my leg(s) against my chest.

In addition to lifting my legs while seated, I also am addicted to crossing them. I know it's not good because it causes varicose veins (I am prone to them genetically too), but I just can't help it, I love to have them crossed, sometimes twice...

4. Shocking!
I hate touching things and getting shocks, but it happens quite often in cold weather when I'm getting out of the car, with the kids in the playground, and -- most annoying of all -- at the grocery store. I have learned to prevent it for the most part. My husband, the scientist, taught me how: when I get out of the car, I hold onto the metal part of the car key and touch the car with it. If I'm charged there's always a "zappy" noise, but no shock! Once I even had my older son hold a key while he played at the playground because the shocking was just awful that day (he doesn't like it either). I really hate getting shocked by simply touching my kids! Well, this dread has led to very strange behavior from my part whenm I'm getting out of the car and in the grocery store. I'm always hesitant to open the car door and the bins of refrigerated or frozen things and I usually touch it slightly, very afraid and jumpy, and then open it. I'm sure onlookers think that I'm nuts!! (Oh, one of my best friends in Brazil claims that he's the only person in the world he know who gets shocks by touching a plastic water bottle. Yikes!)

5. Phone Troubles
This is a pretty embarrasing problem and my husband always teases my about it. I didn't grow up, for the most part, with a phone in my house, so I hate to call people I don't know. I have gotten better and I generally do OK calling costumer service representatives and the phone, electric, and cable companies, for example. Once in a while, however, I just don't feel like calling and ask my husband to place the call. It's a relly strange dread.

6. "Dream Attacks"
So, this is the one really weird thing about me, something I worry about once in a while, since one of my greatest fears is the fear of serious mental health problems. The first time it happened is a post in itself, I'll try to write it soon. I was 17 and on that day I had received some disturbing letters, I was sitting in an assembly meeting with all students of my high school when all of a sudden I felt as if I were inside one of my dreams. It was a very strange feeling. I immediately felt nauseous and a burning hot sensation. I almost began to cry. My best friend left the meeting with me and I think I went home and took a nap and I felt better. It happened
several other times, always during stressful times. After a while I got used to it. I just knew it was coming and it was not so scary. It lasted just a minute or two and went away. It's very rare for me to have "dream attacks" now, but it still happens. I have no idea what they are and it's quite unsettling. I tend to remember my dreams pretty well, but sometimes what I "see" in my mind may not even be exactly a dream that I had, but it just feel like a dream. I can't even explain it, it as if all of a sudden I were living inside one of my old dreams. Yeah, creepy, isn't it?

I won't tag anyone, but if you're dying to reveal your inner weirdo, feel free to take up this meme too! :)

Answering Your Questions!

You asked, so I respond. Sorry it took me so long. I really enjoyed doing it, thanks for asking!

Alice asked:

-What's your favorite outfit? Do you prefer pants over skirts?
Ha, interesting you ask, my next post is a meme and I had written something that's almost a response to this question (I include it below).

It's hard to tell what is my favorite outfit. I wear pants all the time (except in hot weather), but I love skirts and dresses, particularly what they call "sundresses" here in the U.S.

Here's what I had written for the next post. It had actually been discarded from the post and would be just an extra, so I'm glad you asked!

Clothing Choices
I hate jeans, sneakers, button down shirts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Once in a while, when I can find a pair of jeans that fits right and are not too long (which is VERY difficult, given that I’m short and skinny, but have a cute Brazilian derrière – it’s hard to find petite or short legs jeans that are cool*), I buy them and wear them once in a while (in cold weather), just because they make me feel “younger,” more “in” or cooler :) But I hate t-shirts and sweat shirts because they’re “shapeless” and button down shirts because they just feel too masculine and ugly to me, even with typically “feminine” prints and colors. I hardly ever wear sneakers – I guess I’m just not sporty at all. I definitely like cute blouses or tops and tank tops too (I don’t even like the more shapely “baby” style t-shirts that are fashionable now).

*I just realized how to do it - I started looking in the girls section. I just bought a great pair of "skinny jeans" two weekends ago that fit perfectly. Size 14 (years old).

-I know you love shoes. Do you (or Brasilians in general) wear shoes inside the house as well? Or do you use house shoes, or none at all?
Well, that's an interesting question :) It depends on the house. Most houses in Brazil have hard tiled floors, which are easy to clean, so people sometimes just wear regular shoes indoors. When we lived in houses with carpeting in São Paulo, we'd remove our shoes to walk around the carpeted parts. Here in the U.S. there's generally carpet everywhere, although you know we put laminate flooring in the living/dining area, so we always wear slippers, socks or walk barefoot inside the house.

-Are you religious?
Yes, I am. My dad is actually a church pastor (now retired), as is my father-in-law and one brother-in-law. My grandpa (on my mother's side) was also a pastor. I like to say that I'm a Sabbath-keeping Christian, but if you want to know the denomination, it's the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

I thought I'd write a few more words about religion since I may not return to this subject again in this blog, who knows. I find it hard to be a Christian here in the U.S. because I do not identify at all with the political agenda of most Christians in this country. I tend to view myself as a "post-modern" Christian, or "a new kind of Christian" (to borrow Brian McLaren's book title), someone who's as accepting of other people and their beliefs as possible.

-When you were little, what did you dream you wanted to be when you grew up?
Wow, that's a deep question! When I was little little I didn't really think of this much. I thought I'd be a teacher like my mom (although she didn't really want me to because she thought it was a tough job). Then, from 13-18 I knew I wanted to be a writer. That was when I decided that I'd study literature and languages. I've always loved to study, so becoming a scholar turned out to be a natural path for me. I've already been and will most probably continue to be a teacher. Whether I'll ever be a writer remains to be seen. Unless blogging, writing academic articles, and an essay here and there counts :)

Juliet asked:

Who was your hero growing up?
That's a tough one. I think I didn't have any "heroes" per se, but I adored my cousins JC and Denise, who were like brother and sister to me and my brother. Oh, yeah, and I had a "favorite" older cousin too. She an her SIL (her brother's wife) were my heroes[heroines] because they had given birth to their children completely naturally (and in Brazil nonetheless where most people have C-sections or at least epidurals). As you knokw, I went on to do the same!! My dad has always been an inspiration for me as well. He's a very sincere and coherent (consistent) person -- his life and actions definitely reflect his beliefs.

What kind of music do you like?
Lovely question, it merits many, many posts, but I'll try to keep it short! :) We have a really large CD collection, maybe close to 400. I haven't yet entered the world of MP3, thanks to BMG. I just love to have the actual CDs, be able to read the notes (I really do read every single thing written on those, what do you call them? CD covers?). (I am using "I" throughout, but should be using "we" since my husband's musical taste and mine are identical).

I love Brazilian "popular music," what I'm referring to here are the "classic" songwriters and interpreters of what we call "MPB" (Musica Popular Brasileira), such as Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Gal Costa, Joao Gilberto, just to name the best known and most celebrated ones. One of the best known "MPB" genres here in the U.S. is Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto's Bossa Nova. I love this peaceful, lovely, shimmering kind of music (a mixture of jazz and Brazilian rythms created in the 1950s-60s), in spite of the fact that it's mostly a poetic, apolitical kind of music. The music of Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque, on the other hand, is much more politically engaged and intellectually stimulating. I could write many many words about Brazilian music. Actually, one of my dreams is to write a scholarly book about it. I even have the title, a theoretical approach, and a friend who'd co-write it with me. What am I wating for? Well, maybe someday.

I enjoy classical music too, but I don't have many CDs and don't listen to it on a daily basis. Aaron Copland, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy, and the contemporary Brittish composer John Rutter are some of my favorites (along with, of course, the best of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven). I like some jazz(y) interpreters (Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Bobby McFerrin, Diana Krall, Norah Jones), and Broadway tunes interpreted by famous singers (i.e. Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, Carly Simon, and others) and some standard old "romatic fare" such as classics by Stevie Wonder, Sting, Phill Collins, and some Lionel Richie. I like James Taylor, and I have recently discovered the marvelous Joni Mitchell. I also own a few collections of movie soundtrack compositions by John Williams, Dave Grusin, and I think the music of the Italian movie music composer Ennio Morriconi is heavenly (Cinema Paradiso is one of my favorite movies). And I like Yo-yo Ma. One of my favorite albums of all time is David Foster's Symphony Sessions.*

I also enjoy a few select contemporary Christian music artists here in the U.S. and from Brazil as well as Christmas music in general, both "classic/ popular" and contemporary.

I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of favorites, but I guess that gives you an idea of my tastes. I'd like to be more eclectic than I am, but sometimes I feel I'm too much an "easy-listening" music kind of person and I feel kind of ashamed of it ;)

Something somebody said to you that has changed [you] for life.
Another complex one. I can think of several people who said influential things to me. When I was a teenager me and my friends had a "mentor" called Jacob, he said many things that influenced my life for the better. I think what has changed my life the most were the deep conversations I had with my better-half and our friends over the years...

Cloudscome asked:

How about what is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Hanging out with friends and talking for hours and hours (any other night will do as well :). I only do this now when we go to Brazil and see our "old" friends, they still remain our deepest friendships although we're so far away.

And Saturday Morning?
Well, I go to church and teach the children's class. On Sunday morning (maybe that answers your question better) I like to sleep in until noon if possible (especially if I talked with my friends until the wee hours the night before :) Too bad that's hardly possible with two little boys in the house. I can't wait until they're teenagers (just kidding, of course :)...

And do you have any pictures of Brazil to share with us?
I have TONS!! I'll post some of those in a separate post or a series of posts, what about that? You have to come over sometime to see the ones that are not digital.

Phew! It took me so many days to answer all these questions I'm almost tired now! The next post was already written, that's why I was able to post both today :).

* I wrote this about this album on November 8, 1998: This is one of the best cds that I own! This cd is energizing, calming , touching, poetic, inspiring, romantic... all at the same time. I never tire of listening to it and through the years it has been a wonderful musical background to unforgettable moments with friends, remarkable trips or only to relaxing moments ar home. I recomend it to anyone who loves to listen to instrumental music that can take you on imaginary journeys into the beauty of sounds and feelings. Give it a try and it will surely become one of your favorites, as it is one of mine!!