Monday, September 29, 2008


So... I just wanted to let you know that we're OK (although the country is most definitely not -- yikes!).

K was released from the hospital on Saturday around noon and I picked him up (even though the boys hadn't eaten lunch yet). He's feeling better, although the three incisions from the laparoscopy still hurt a bit. I continue to be overwhelmingly busy with the boys, and the teaching, and trying to muster any leftover energy to cook some and try to apply for a fellowship.

Yeah... what fun it is having to decide between cooking and writing fellowship application materials!! (welcome to full time working motherhood, Lilian, now you know how millions of mothers feel and try to manage). I wish I could apply for the fellowship, though. Only 15 days left. And no more energy at the end of the day to do it. No real willpower to think that I have a decent shot (which I probably do, if only I can present myself and a research proposal in a well articulated way).

(Kudos to my friend Keiko in Canada, who's been busy applying for scholarships... I don't know how you do it. And I'm sure you'll make it like I did -- finish your Ph.D. and have the two kids, perhaps two boys too! -- and in less than ten years, I'm sure of that. Mostly 'cause you're over ten years younger ;-)

So, now you know why I haven't been posting...

On a happy note, I just submitted this seminar abstract which I will be co-chairing with a good friend next year (at the most prestigious university in the world). We'll get to present too. It should be fun. She's another expatriate Mama, PhD like me, only from Argentina, just graduated from my department.

And last but not least, for your viewing pleasure, here's a photo I took at Longwood Gardens last time I was there with one of my best childhood friends from Brazil (ah... I wish I could write about that and the other visits we had this year). Some other time. Like one of my favorite songs (It Might Be You*) says...
"I've been saving love songs [photos] and lulabbies [stories], and there's so much more, no one's ever heard before..."
Hopefully, someday... I'll get to post so many of the things that I want to post about. Including pictures, and slide-shows...

*I've probably already mentioned this, but the most amazing thing about this song, whose lyrics were written by Alan & Marilyn Bergman (music by the great Dave Grusin) is that the Bergmans were awarded an honorary degree at my PhD commencement!!! I thought that was unbelievably great. And, this song, if you're wondering, was part of the soundtrack for Tootsie (1982 -- yeah, I'm "old" ;-).

Friday, September 26, 2008

He's Having Visions :-)

So, I just talked to K on the phone for the second time (he first called me right after 3 pm when he was taken to his room and was coming off the anesthesia) and he told me this annecdote. When he was waking up, the nurse kept talking to him, asking him questions. She asked where he was, what he was doing there, and then, who the president was.

His answer? 

Barack Obama.

She had a good laugh, but I'm hoping that he actually had a vision forecasting the future. :-)

As for him, he saw that as a sign that he was really in good spirits, peaceful and optimistic. I'm trying to find a way to be able to go visit him. I need someone to stay with the boys for a bit, and the friends I'm calling are not answering their phones...

Pre-Emptive Strike

OK, first a quick update on my comings and goings: I came back from Brazil last Monday morning (I was there for only 3 days -- I've been meaning to post since I got back, but it's been hard).

Second, just to recapitulate what happened with my husband: he began to feel abdominal pain last week on Tuesday, in the middle of the night. He was in bed all day on Wednesday. He felt better when Thursday came along, so we didn't cancel my trip to Brazil. Besides, his dad arrived here on Thursday morning. K had a doctor's appointment that day (had he gone to the ER, he would have had surgery already) and that's when they had him schedule a CAT scan. He felt all better from Saturday on.

Yesterday, the CAT scan revealed an inflamed appendix and after talking to several doctors we decided to take him to the ER. I dropped him off after 10 pm and then drove back home (very sleepy). K called me at 3:30 am to let me know that as it turns out, his appendix was probably at the end of the process of infection and getting better. This meant that it was OK now, but it would probably get bad again in the future (weeks or months). When we talked in the middle of the night and then again this morning, K thought that he was not going to have surgery, but then he called me at the school (I forgot my cell phone at home!) and let me know that he had decided to go ahead and have the surgery pre-emptively.

I still don't know how it went. I have to call his hospital room and see if he's there, and then, to go visit him with the boys. I just tried calling, and no one is answering, so maybe he's still in the recovery room. Oh well... Sorry, but that will have to do for now!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

He *HAS* Appendicitis!

I am flabbergasted!

The phone just rang and I saw Hospital of the U. of Penn on the caller ID and gave it to K. They were calling to report that the result of this morning's CAT scan indicates an appendicitis and told him to go to the emergency room. "Right now?" he asked.

The thing is... after intense pain and fever last Wednesday, he felt better and better (although I panicked every time I tried to call home from Brazil on Friday) and has been OK since last Saturday. He had seen the doctor on Thursday and although she thought that his pain (which was already better when he had the appointment) seemed to indicate appendicitis, she didn't tell him to go to the emergency room, she just put in a request to a CAT scan. K mistakenly thought it had scheduled for Tuesday, but it was today.

He's feeling perfectly fine (apart from having had loose BMs from drinking that yucky contrast liquid), but obviously that doesn't mean that he doesn't need surgery. He just doesn't want to go to the ER NOW -- it would be a big problem because we don't have anyone to watch the kids. He wants to go in tomorrow morning. He called the hospital to know what to do. They told him that they don't schedule appendicitis surgery -- is that really so?? Not even in a situation like his?

Well, I'll keep you posted. What exciting lives we lead!

Edited to Add: I'm driving him to the aforementioned hospital. Kids and all in the car. We're just going to "dump" him at the E.R. and come back home. :-(

Friday, September 19, 2008

Missing My Family

I've had an excellent trip. On long overnight flights, how many of you have wished to have all three seats in the center of the plane to yourselves? I had them! If only those seats were not so hard! ... I did get some sleep anyhow.

The best part of the *ten hours long* flight (Chicago - São Paulo) was getting to watch the Sex and the City... I had not been able to see it yet, and I loved it!

I also enjoyed the peaceful time away from the boys and the students, got to read quite a bit, and I've had a nice day here visiting friends.

I miss my boys, though, and my husband. I'm glad they are well (K is feeling better. He's getting a CAT scan on Tuesday, though, the doctor he saw yesterday thought that it could be appendicitis and some other GI tract conditions), but I miss them very much, particularly because Kelvin was asking me why he cannot come along and when it is that they're coming to Brazil again...

On Thursday morning at the school the children had this writing prompt to work on:
"I am happy when..." and Kelvin wrote: "I am happy when I go to Brazil." And then he drew and colored a nice Brazilian flag to go with his text. I'm so glad he loves his "blood country!" And I hope we can bring him here more often.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Link Love <3

I have a huge backlog of things to write about, including my upcoming trip to Brazil tomorrow which may or may not happen depending on whether my husband feels better,* but it just occurred to me that I should blog about something absolutely irrelevant -- blog stats (or measurable clicks here that do not come from feed-reading). Isn't that what blogging is all about? The utterly irrelevant side by side with the profound reflections about life! ;-D

I've been a member of The Truth Laid Bear blog "ecosystem" for a while now, and I think the farther up I had gone to was, I don't know, maybe "Slithering Reptile," but I had gone and become a bacteria or something again, until the day when my friend Kateri linked to me on her famous breastfe*eding photo post, and I shot right up to "Flappy Bird," I think. That lasted for a while, so I'm curious to see what will happen this time.

I was slightly depressed because I had gone back to "Multicellular Organism," but today I noticed that I've been upgraded to " and I knew the reason right away. Kateri linked to me again in her latest post. So, I wanted to say thank you!! I'll enjoy my fish days until they're over and I'm back to being a bacteria or something!

And, BTW, I'm a big fan of Kateri's writings. You should check out her archives for life-changing (at least for me they were) posts about birthmotherhood (these archives go way back, you've got to keep on clicking back). Reading her writings (together with those of Dawn [who has an open adoption] and other people who blog about this subject) gave me a completely new and refreshingly surprising (if utterly heartbreaking) view about adoption (she was also interviewed for a podcast and an article in the Chicago Tribune about Juno -- link no longer works :-( ). I hope that one day she can publish a book. Anyway... I'm linking back, and that post that I link to above has some powerful writing about the status of motherhood in our culture, particularly about teen moms: "If motherhood is punitive it's because we've set up our society that way, not because teenagers are inherently bad mothers." (do stop by her paypal "tip jar" if you can... she's also a single mom** of two beautiful girls without [steady] income).

OK, I really have to go pack my bags right now... Keep us (and mainly my husband) in your thoughts and prayer. Thankfully my father-in-law arrives tomorrow morning to spend a week with us. If it's nothing serious, requiring surgery, I'll still travel.

* He spent the day in bed with abdominal pain. He also has a fever (around 101), but the pain is not too bad. He's going to the hospital tomorrow, we hope he doesn't get worse tonight and we have to wake the poor kids to go to the emergency room (we're not sure an ambulance would be fully covered by insurance, at this point).

** divorced

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mother or Teacher?

I just had to share this before I forget.

When I first thought of offering to teach at my son's school I decided to prepare him so he'd be ready if it happened. When I mentioned it to him, his reaction was very interesting:

"But mommy, you're not a teacher, you don't know how to teach!"

Then I explained to him how for 4.5 years I taught English to children in Brazil and how I taught 2nd-4th grade children, etc. He was totally satisfied with my answer and OK with the fact that I indeed knew how to teach. He's been fine with me being his teacher, he just behaves the same way he does with the other teachers (takes forever to do his work).

When I first told my youngest about coming to school with mommy, however, he firmly said:

"My teachers are Miss M and Mrs. S!"

Oh, OK.

This past Thursday I came back home after staying at the school for an hour so I could see how the other teacher handles the beginning of class routine. We had to come back home because Linton needed to have a diaper for pooping (yes, we're still remain "the family with the poop problem," sigh, I'll let you know when we finally don't have any diapers in the house anymore, we're negotiating that with Mr. Stubborn) and later, when I was sitting with him on the sofa just hanging out, he asked me:

"Mama, why are we going to the school?"

"Because I am a teacher now," I replied.

"No!" he said emphatically, "you're not a teacher, you're my mother!"

Well, indeed, I am. And please don't laugh within his earshot or he'll scream at you, OK?

Photos Tonight or Tomorrow

I'm still up, at 2:50 in the morning, but I'm not here posting any pictures, sorry. I was reading a dear online friend's archives, since she's going to start a new blog and close the old one.

I will get to post the house improvement photos eventually. I even took several new ones today (read, yesterday).

And nobody reads blogs on weekends anyway (just me, hopeless addict that I am), so I think you won't complain, will you?

P.S. I'm still up because I "napped" for around two hours when we put the boys to bed earlier tonight (or last night). K has a tradition that he implemented last year -- every Friday night the boys can fall asleep with him in our bed. I hardly ever join them, but tonight I did, for the delight of my firstborn who's always asking whether I'm going to put them to bed, or (if it's Friday) whether I can join them. The last thing he said before sleeping was that this was the first time I did that. You know, I think spending all day with the boys because of the school teaching thing is having a positive effect on me -- I'm feeling closer to them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

365+1 Days Later, Here We Are! For Better of For Worse

Wow... I was almost dumbstruck when I read the post from exactly one year ago -- the day we had the closing on this house. I can hardly believe that we've done almost everything that needed to be done!

Of course I already knew that, but simply looking at those photos and reading what I wrote and the partial "to-do" list (full list here -- I have to go check all that was done) reminded me of far we've come and how unexpected the way to get to where we are now was. Because the truth of the matter is that we began most of these renovations in earnest on July 13, only two months ago, in order to put the house on the market. And... we've decided to stick around a little longer. Debt or no debt. Tight budget or not (and hopefully I'll begin to get paychecks within a month at the latest ;-).

Before and after photos of the house (or slide shows if I can manage) are forthcoming. I promise. Even if I have to go to bed really really late (as if I wasn't used to that already! :-). We need to commemorate this day, even if it's just virtually!

Meanwhile, this is the photo I took a few minutes ago, brand new roof, shiny from rain, weedy lawn, and all:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Home Alone, but Not for Long

Just a quick post to say that K flew to Brazil on Saturday night, so I've been by myself with the boys since Saturday afternoon. He'll be back tomorrow morning, but he's going straight to work, so we'll only see it in the evening. Sigh.

Things are OK, though. Yesterday was a perfectly beautiful early Fall day, so we finally went to the Morris Arboretum and renewed our membership. We looove the Garden Railway. Linton was 3 months when we first went there (same thing with Longwood), so it's become a family tradition -- the boys have literally grown seeing those trains every summer (and holiday season). This year their theme is architectural wonders of the world, and the naturally build structures are just gorgeous.

Teaching is going OK too, except that Kelvin just doesn't like to work much (and it's not just with me, but with any teacher). I've been thinking constantly of all the things I've posted about in recent weeks. Perhaps I'll soon be able to articulate them into a coherent post.

I've also been thinking of how we love this area, and how fond we are of the house. I feel at peace right now, with our decision to just stay, and not to really decide much of anything else. I'm a bit freaked out by the prospects of, I don't know, not having money for food because of the cost of heating oil... but I'm relieved that three days a week, for 7h, the thermostat can be on 50-55 degrees. We'll manage somehow. At least the roof won't leak, that does bring some comfort. ;-)

Friday, September 05, 2008

On Being My Son's Teacher

(edited after proofreading -- sorry about that)

You know, that hasn't been in my mind at all really lately. Well, of course, as I'll write more below, I've thought about how good it's been, but mostly, I've just enjoyed this week.

Can I first say how EXHAUSTED I am? I can't handle well getting up early (and 7 something a.m. is awfully early for me), my IBS has been acting up a bit, and I haven't been able to go to bed early. It's not even that I'm spending hours reading blogs, no!! I'm spending several hours a day on my training for the online teaching gig!

Problem is... school is from 8-2:45, then, when we get home, the boys watch their combo of Fetch! (it's beyond me how they can stand rerun after rerun -- good thing Season 3 is upon us, have you heard? AWESOME, even I will want to watch it. And it's in Boston and we've been to Boston this summer, so Kel will love it even more!) and WordGirl. I try to go straight to the computer to work on my training, except that I invariably begin to doze off, so I just go and take a nap, so I WASTE a good hour and a half of undisturbed time. Then, this week we always had things to do in the late afternoon/evenings (picking up K at the train, going to Delaware to do some shopping), so I had to stay up late to work on the training. Well, that's not what you want to know, I guess ;-).

So, how did it go? It went great! I still have to figure out what to do with Linton because apart from "reading" books in a corner he doesn't enjoy coloring, cutting, pasting, other potentially helpful things to keep him quiet and entertained (his attention span is way too short for anything like that), so he distracts the other kids. I just had an idea -- bringing his toy cars may help, but the other kids may want to play with them too... oh well...

I am still figuring out how things work, but it's pretty much like this: each child has a folder with many worksheets (torn from their respective math, phonics, reading books) and all I have to do it dole out those worksheets, explain what they have to do, get them back and give another one. Later, I grade each of them and put them in the folder that they take home. Once in a while pairs of kids have the same work to do, so they can work together, but mostly each of the 7 children works independently, unless we're doing an art project, or I'm reading to them.

Kelvin is pretty "lazy" and takes a really long time to finish his worksheets -- he's been like that from day one, though, so it's not me. The most interesting thing for me is that telling him that the other children have done twice or three times as many worksheets as him does not cause any effect on him. He's completely unfazed and he actually says "I don't mind, I don't really care..." Oh, the nerve. If he weren't ahead of everyone in math and perfectly where he needs to be with the other things I'd worry, but as it is he is fine.

The fact of the matter is that I really, truly, enjoy working with young kids. Particularly the 6-8 year olds, which is precisely the group I have. I've always loved working with children and having my son among them is simply icing on the cake, the cherry on top of my sundae. Because it is that great to be with him all day long, I'm unapologetic about it. I wish I could homeschool, but I truly can't, particularly not with how hard it is to get him to do stuff. I think that he's mostly bored with those sheets because he's addicted to gadgets, electronic, computer stuff. If all of our homeschooling could be done in the computer, we'd be FINE, I'm sure (and I know that nowadays we might be able to get away with that). Too bad that homeschooling doesn't pay well ;-) (of course I won't earn much being a "teacher's aid" either, but at this point I don't care, I'm just happy to be there working with these children).

I wasn't really concerned that it would be hard to be in the position of being my son's teacher, but I didn't expect that it would be that easy (at least so far) and go so well. This goes on to show that we do have a great relationship, my son(s) and I. In fact, whenever I went to his school during the past year he would just hug me repeatedly and be really glad that I was there. Sometimes he asked whether I could just stay longer (I never stayed for long because I was afraid I would be bothering the teacher, particularly because I always had Linton with me)... so, I guess he's happy to have me around all day long. And it's a good thing that he still has the other teacher two days a week. That will help to keep things balanced, since I'm not the only one he's got to be accountable for regarding school work.

So... I'll keep you posted, but so far I'm happy. It's busy work, but the fact that I don't really bring any work home and don't have to do much preparation really helps (not that I don't plan to do various activities with them -- particularly lots of reading and children's literature, as well as singing [there hasn't been much singing in school at all -- today we did some and they enjoyed it], games, and other things). It will be a very busy, but hopefully fun year, I can tell!

P.S. This tiny school has always been very diverse, and I think it's even more ethnically diverse now. Unfortunately the Spanish speaking children, all 5 of them, left, but all nine new children are half Hispanic (they don't speak Spanish, though). Four of them are also partly African American, so there are 6 A.A. kids in a group of 16. (Dawn, I can't wait to read Nina Bonita to the sweet 6 and 7 year old African American sisters in my class). So, the count again: 1 Asian Am., 2 "hapas"[half Asian], 9 partly Hispanic, 6 African Americans [4 in the previous group], and only two white (one American, one Brazilian -- my son). I plan to emphasize diversity in our readings too...

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Mama is More Important than the PhD

Yes, it is, at least in my life right now.

Laura made a good point in her comment in my negative post in which I blamed all my woes on the PhD (I need to address some of the issues I discussed there later). She wrote:
I wonder, too, if part of the issue for you is the kids. I find that I increasingly want more flexible work, to have time to pursue my own interests, and to spend more time with the kids.
Spot on, Laura!! She also goes on to describe the type of job that we (she is too) are looking for:
It may be that you, too, don't just want any job; you want a job that is fulfilling, flexible, and uses your tremendous skills. Those take time to find.
And so I've decided to take my time, and put my kids first at the moment. The job will come someday, I'm sure of that, but it doesn't need to be now.

So, I'm here to make an "announcement" of something that will most certainly impact our lives greatly in the next 10 months. I have decided to become a part-time teacher (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays) in my son's tiny private school. In his classroom, to be more precise (K-2, six really nice children). I don't know yet how much they are going to pay me, but it will certainly help in our budget, together with the piano classes (at least three students at the school) and my online teaching which should start within a month or so. I know it will be hard work and a learning experience for me, but I am actually thrilled that I can do it!

Before coming to the U.S. I taught English to elementary school children in Brazil, grades 2-4 for four years and a half, and I loved it! I've always been very fond of children, so I opted to teach only the first grades of elementary school rather than grades 5-8 or high school. I was literally afraid to teach those older kids, I think that I wouldn't be able to discipline them well (in Brazil these kids are wild sometimes and there are 30 of them in each classroom).

I have already talked to Kelvin about it and his first reaction was actually funny: "You don't know how to teach, mama, you're not a teacher!" and then, after I explained what I did in Brazil to him, he was totally OK with it. Linton, on the other hand, is dying to go to school with his brother, but he is very firm in declaring that his teachers are Miss M and Mrs. S! I don't know yet if he will be officially registered as a pre-K student, but he'll be there with me (or, with Mrs. S if she can have him in her classroom sometimes).

So, now I will have to become very organized, cook our meals ahead of time so we can eat them at the school, get up early to get everyone ready so we're not late, but I think we'll manage just fine! And it'll be a good "in-between" year to prepare us for whatever may happen next year. Moreover, I'll get to enjoy it with my boys, earning a bit of money on the side. It can't get better than that, really!

Edited to add: I just wanted to let you know that I added three photos to the post about Kelvin's first day of school.

Michael Moore and God

(edited to fix link)
Have you seen this already? MM just posted it in his website and it's both hilarious and... well, unsettling as most of his provocative invectives tend to be. I know there may be much to criticize in Moore, but I really enjoy his take on things, even if it's one sided. It's refreshing, and effectively gets his point across. And he did it one more time with his letter. The "coincidences" (those he criticizes would call it something else) are quite amazing, down to the name thing (won't spoil it for ya).
Edited to add: make sure you click on the links in that letter.

I hope Gustav does not do much damage in New Orleans and elsewhere. I hope and pray people are safe and those responsible prepared.