Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009, The Difficult Year

I wish with all my heart that I had the time to do a "2009 in photos" post (oh, yeah, and I also do wish you all an awesome New Year with all my heart ;-). I don't have the time, however, so a text only post will have to do for now.

Saying that 2009 was a tough year for me (and for us as a couple and family) is an understatement, but yet, if one looks at our photos, the year looks so much brighter and better! It's good that one can't photograph anxiety, stress, disappointment, heartbrokeness and other sad states of spirit.

The main tough things this year: the bitter taste (if a great relief) of being kicked out of the online teaching job in February, which meant the loss of extremely needed income. This led to the utter despair and fear of losing our house the month of March, so we put the house on the market in April. It was not until June that we heard back from the bank and the mortgage was renegotiated. In July our dear friend and pastor was laid off, something which upset us a whole lot. Then in August there was the school board thing fiasco which made me depressed for a while. From then on things calmed down, but I did become very discouraged in the process.
Oh, I almost forgot to say that my uncle had a brain tumor and is quite disabled now and his situation drove my mom to a sad depression. I'm glad she's much better now, but I'm worried that my uncle is about to spend a month undergoing therapy at a facility close to their house. Hopefully my mom will be OK.

The good things now. We began the year spending some time in Florida with dear friends. Then, I felt the relief of being free again from the sheer servitude of that online gig. A trip to Boston and Massachusetts (in the height of the despair) gave me much needed respite from the pain as well as the precious chance of reconnecting to one of my closest friends. We also got to visit dear friends in Western MA. At the school it was very fulfilling to prepare and present a full musical with the kids.

It was lovely to enjoy the short visit of my youngest brother-in-law and his wife after they immigrated to Canada. We also visited them twice, once in July and another in November. The good news of the renegotiation of the mortgage was an unbelievable relief and joy and our first Camp Meeting ever was great. Then, my sister-in-law and I took the boys to Sesame Place (it was truly great). It was a nice summer, we even had a couple of guests from Brazil!

The last four months were a whilrwind of cyber school work -- exhausting but still rewarding -- peppered with a few short trips (two to MA, one to Canada, a few to Maryland). I do hope that the next four months fly by!

All in all, it was a loooong year, but I think I'm fully recovered from my short bout of depression and negativity and I'm looking forward to the future very positively again. This trip to Brazil is helping some (although it's cementing our idea of possibly not coming back) and K's job search has made me hopeful. In the end, I don't know if this really was "the worst year ever" since I met K, maybe it was. I truly hope we don't have to go through the anxiety and stress about the house we had this year ever again.

As for my hopes for the new year? I guess I'll leave those for another post!

We had a good time here in "Sampa" (Sao Paulo city) -- Sampa [link to video with song and images of the city] is the title of a song by Caetano Veloso [link to Caetano singing it], one of the best and most famous Brazilian singer-songwriters.

We had lunch with the aforementioned childhood friend and her husband's family, then came to my brother-in-law's house and watched the Sao Silvestre race on TV while playing with the cutest nephew ever. The other brother-in-law and his family arrived and the five cousins played a lot in the playground downstairs. We ate in the downstairs "party room" (all residential apartment buildings and condominiums in Brazil have those) and came upstairs to watch the fireworks and countdown on TV. As I wrote on one of my rare facebook updates, New Year's in Brazil is very noisy, but it also feels "right" and great. Christmas with hot weather feels very strange, but New Year's is awesome!

Well the two people reading this must be totally bored by my post and I need to go to bed because it's past 1 am here in Brazil, so, without further ado...

... Happy New Year to all of my blog friends!!! I hope 2010 is a great year for you and your family!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunburned and Doing Laundry

Well, the laundry part is not 100% precise because my mom's washing machine is 35 years old and she's the only one allowed to run it. I can still pre-treat, sort, and hang the loads on the clothesline, though. :-)

We've just arrived from two days (three nights) at this awesome thermal water park and my shoulders are very sunburned, in spite of the sunblock I used at all times. I guess that the hot water pools and standing in the sun watching the boys go down the slides again and again did it. I hope to post photos soon!

Tomorrow we go to São Paulo (city) where we'll spend New Year's eve with K's parents and three brothers (plus my three nephews). "K3" and his wife will be running the 15 Km (9.3 miles) 85th São Silvestre race tomorrow and we'll be assembled watching on TV and baby-sitting my nephew.

On Friday we return to my parents' home (two hours from São Paulo city). Then, on Sunday we travel over 400 miles to another thermal resort town, Caldas Novas, this time for a family reunion of sorts on the week of K's cousin's wedding. Sigh. I just hope I don't get sunburned again!

P.S. Next week is a regular school week for my cyber-schooled sons, but we won't be doing any work, just going to the cyber cafe (they call them "Lan house" here) to log in daily. I don't want to think of the accumulated work that I'll have to deal with when we come back. Sigh. Everything has already been posted online, but it'll be hard to get the boys to work on the next few days.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Card 2009

I wanted to share our holiday card with all my blog readers. Merry Christmas for those who celebrate the date! I'd write more, but family awaits!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Forgotten Job Search News!

This just in: Two phone interviews scheduled for K.

NJ and VA (from that list -- which is incomplete, BTW).

I'll keep you posted!

P.S. And things are unraveling at my kids' former school (and my part-time workplace) and church. I want to move just so so so much!

Catching up: Brazil so far

Brasil:
The mosquitoes are "killing" my eldest son who has over 30 bites all over his body. We're sleeping with an electric mosquito repeller plugged in every bedroom, but they still manage to attack us. After a few cooler days (it can get pretty chilly in the middle of summer in the Southern/Southeastern part of Brazil) it's now very hot. Thankfully there are summer storms to bring the temperature down every few days.

Recent Arrival:
After more than 48h K (11h of which were spent in Mexico City in transit) K finally arrrived here last night. The boys were ecstatic to have daddy around again and me too, obviously. :-)

Solo Trip to Curitiba:
The trip itself was absolutely wonderful. I got to spend some quality time with my cousin who is like a brother to me and get to meet his gorgeous daughter and get to know his wife better.

Now, the problem with this trip was the somber tone it had because of a horrible accident that happened on Saturday in which a young man who was an acquaintance of several of my family members -- a recent medical school/residency graduate -- lost his life when his car was run over by a fuel truck. His widow (they'd gotten married only two months ago!) was spared, but left badly burned and with a mother on the brink of death (the young woman's mom was in the car with them and reportedly got out first and pulled her daughter out of the car). I went with my cousin (and several other aunts and uncles) to his wake and I was really upset when I found out the next day that my sister-in-law (the one who is newly pregnant) was devastated and feeling very sick because she was a childhood friend of the young man who died. What a tragedy!

Cyber-Schooling:
It's been grueling hard to keep on going with the hot weather and the boys' obsession with riding bikes around my parents' house and on the street. (This obsession it comes and goes at our house, it can go on for a month or so then wanes, I guess by the time we return, they'll be tired of it). The problem is that here there are many more distractions and Kelvin just finds tons of excuses not to work. K's arrival has helped some and we may be able to get all work done tomorrow with Kelvin (Linton's basically done, but then again Kindergarten is way easier than 2nd grade). My parents have felt my pain and they think I shouldn't be doing this, but I do enjoy it, in spite of everything. It's complicated, maybe sometime I'll blog more about it.

Upcoming Trips:
On Sunday we're leaving for this hot water resort/water park. It's been very hot here (in the 90s), but my BIL and his wife have assured us that in spite of that we'll be able to enjoy the resort. I surely hope so, and I won't mind if it rains and gets cooler.

Reason for not blogging more:
It's very complicated and it's ridiculous to write only a couple of sentences about it, but I haven't been blogging more because let's just say that blogging is looked upon very disapprovingly by my parents. Sigh. Dangerous subject, so, enough said.

That notwithstanding, there'll be more tomorrow, though!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Left the Boys Behind...

... with my parents, and took a bus to Curitiba last night.

I think I've written a bit before about Curitiba, the capital city of the state of Paraná where most of my maternal and paternal extended families lives. I just couldn't bear to come to Brazil and not to come here, so I just did. Cyber schooling made it impossible for us to spare a day to drive here, so I came by myself.

What a blessing that was! I got to talk to my two favorite cousins. I'm staying at the house of my favorite female cousin and I spent the afternoon and evening with my favorite male cousin, his wife and one year old daughter. He's like a brother to me and in addition to spending most vacations in our childhood together we were classmates for five years (grades 8-12). Without the boys to worry about I was able to catch up with him and to really have him and his wife share their experiences of their first year of parenthood. I'll see them tomorrow again.

I'm really tired now, it's past midnight here now, so I have to go to bed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

15 Years Ago Today

K and I got married at an unusual (at the time for Brazil)* late morning ceremony -- scheduled for 11 am, but actually started past noon. It was a wonderful day and I wouldn't change anything about it -- OK, maybe perhaps the photographer :-).

It was a BIG wedding for American standards (most of the weddings I've been to in the U.S. have been very intimate affairs), we sent out over 400 invitations and we calculate there must have been upwards of 500 people at the ceremony and luncheon reception that followed in the cafeteria of the college where we worked.

I wanted to write so many things about that day, starting with a detailed account of the hundreds of flowers that I picked and bought myself (they all cost around 600 dollars, half of which another bride paid and the lady who arranged them did it for free because she was a friend of the second couple), but I don't have the time nor the frame of mind to do it (I'm in the middle of a busy and frustrating as usual cyber schooling day). And you already know that K is at home and I'm here, so no celebration for us today, just this post. I hope you enjoy the photos that follow with some commentary.

Note: I didn't ask K's permission to post photos of him, but I guess he's going to have to let this one pass since I've been waiting so many years to write this post and share photos of our wedding day.
Here's the invitation
(Very unusual too, to this day.
K and I helped a friend of ours design it. We love green and bamboo).
The wedding bands are the photographer's.
My bouquet is on the right bottom, on the upper left are the dried flowers from the reception table decorations and on the top center are some of the flowers from the church.
The small wreaths at the bottom were the (handmade) party favors. I have over ten of them that I still hang on our Christmas trees!

This is my favorite photo of the two of us at the church, my dad has just "given me away" and we're getting ready to climb the steps to reach the pulpit at the podium. Can't you feel our happiness?
Both our dads are pastors, so K's dad spoke first, then my dad, who read a very moving letter that she wrote to me after I was born (he met me only when I was almost 3 months old) -- actually I think we lost the letter after the wedding :-(. At least we have the video.

A close up of us and a panoramic view:
I've always loved children, so I had sixteen (!) kids as part of the wedding party.
The photos below feature the kids that had matching outfits (I bought the fabric too), there were two more, brother and sister -- photo below)

These are the girls (minus the youngest one, only two at the time). Three were my students, two my cousins' daughters and one the daughter of a second cousin of K's mom.

Here are the boys.
Four are my cousins' children, the oldest is K's cousing and one is my student. The littlest cousin is missing from the shot, he was only 12 months old.

This is my favorite photo of all.
And it's so cool that I just had to include a "watermark" on it. Hopefully nobody will steal it.

Here is a photo of us with my handsome brother. He had long hair at the time, which my mom hated! :-) Coincidentally, K's second brother, who was also in the wedding party with his girlfriend (now my SIL, the one famous for party decoration), was wearing the exact same cream colored suit as my brother!
The cake was just for photographs because we had two or three huge sheet cakes that were shared with everyone. It was a simple white, moist cake with a marshmallow and coconut frosting. It had two fillings, both based on sweetened condensed milk, one with dried apricots and the other with nuts. We didn't get to taste it and the piece we froze for our one year anniversary didn't have much filling. :-(

Look at us with all those children! (there's one girl missing)
And here are the cute brother and sister, children of a friend.
Me and my flowers. Those were natural flowers in my hair and dress.
Here are two of the photos we took in the hallway of the school where I worked. I like the first one, so I "watermarked" it too.
Before taking off my dress so we could drive to the airport for the honeymoon I took this photo with my grandmother: We weren't able to take this photo in the reception because the photographer had to leave by 3 p.m. No photos of my family (my parents, my brother and us) were taken either and no good photos of my mom's extended family. My mom regrets this very deeply, but she couldn't do much because she was the hostess for the reception (in Brasil it's usually the bride's family who gives the wedding reception).

OK, it's almost 12:30 in the U.S. around the same time I entered the church (here in Brazil it's almost 3:30 pm), so let me post this. Enjoy!

* A lot of people prefer night time weddings in Brazil, but since 1994 apparently daytime weddings have become a bit more common.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friends that Are Closer than Siblings

Yesterday was a nice day because I got to spend some time with my best childhood girl friends G & J (technically we weren't children anymore when we met, we were 13 going on 14 back in 1985, but I knew about them for years before we met). They're twins, one of them (G) is married to another of our best friends (K and mine) and they have two children, a girl and boy, the same age as mine (incidentally, my eldest son decided years ago that he wants to marry their daughter... we'll see about that, but it's surely cute!). The other friend (J) just had a baby girl in Boston (she's the friend I went to visit several times this year there) and this was the very first time I visited her house since she got married years ago.

G and her family stopped for a day in São Paulo on their way to Australia and New Zealand, where they're going to spend the holidays with my brother, his wife and his in-laws (G's husband M is my brother's brother-in-law). It's wonderful to feel like family, or more than family, around friends, isn't it?

The weekend at the beach was just "half good" since it rained all day on Sunday. We did get to enjoy the beach on Saturday and Monday (just briefly, before driving up to São Paulo). I'll try to post photos soon, but I just thought I'd write a quick update. More later, then.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quick Update from Brazil

We arrived well last Tuesday, in spite of the heavy rain that was falling and which made the landing quite turbulent. We didn't know that several of São Paulo's roads were under water (there are two rivers the surround the city) and that the situation was very chaotic. They almost didn't get us our luggage, which got on the container to be sent on to Rio, since the flight continued on (they apologized and blamed the lack of personell due to the flooding). My parents waited for us for over two hours outside of the gate and customs.

When we finally got out, we learned that my parents and uncle were there only because my uncle (who came to pick us up too because in Brazil most cars are tiny and wouldn't fit our luggage, so we need two cars to get us at the airport) had checked the news when he was having breakfast at a bakery in his town and called my parents. Then they took an alternate way to the airport and got there safely and on time, they just had to wait for us a long time.

The weather here has been a bit on the "chillier" side (60s at times and mid-70s) for this time of the year because it's been raining a lot and it's been windy. We're driving down to the beach today and I hope we don't get rained it all weekend!

The boys and I have been overwhelmingly busy with cyber school work, that's why I didn't post earlier (and shouldn't even be posting now). That's not a lot of fun because we don't get to relax and enjoy being here as much, but at least we're here.

I'll try to write more next week, OK? I want to share some photos, obviously. :-)

P.S. and here it's 10 am, not 7.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Finally! Airport Blogging!

I've often wanted to blog at the airport, particularly on those rare times (three to be exact) I traveled alone since I became a mother. I often turn a bit introspective at the airport, this place that's the epitome of my life's "in-betweeness." (And here I want to lead you to this superbly beautiful post by Dinka about airport meetings and goodbyes -- I think it's better than the opeining and closing of Love Actually [airport arrival meetings, for those who didn't watch the movie] -- "Born in Different Time Zones").

Today I haven't had much chance for introspection, though, since the boys are getting older and more active and verbal. The five year old wouldn't stop talking on the short flight between Philly and D.C., and I almost wanted to ask him to please be quiet... I got them to do some school work and now they're playing with the pay phones in front of our seats.

Bad news: the flight has been delayed for an hour (from 9:50 to 10:45), so my hopes of the boys being able to have dinner (it never happens on these late flights, I feel for them, they love eating in the airplane) have neaerly vanished. :-( Well, they just announced that it might be boarding a little earlier and be able to leave around 10:15 -- I hope it works out!

Because of my "bad motherhood" (i.e. often putting them to bed late), they will probably be able to bear it all pretty well. They're great travelers and LOVE to fly in airplanes (as you may recall from this post). That's no surprise, because they are veteran travelers - Linton's first flight was at six days old!

In any case, waiting for six hours to travel is quite taxing, but so far so good.

I was surprised to realize that in the end it was the most relaxing (considering the circumstances) pre-trip morning I've ever had. I think the secret to calm airport trip is the scheduling of other things to coincide with the trip that force you to go very early to the airport. Yesterday, for example, yesterday, we left my MIL 4 hours before her flight at the aiport because we wanted to go to the Guggenheim. Today, K had to teach, so he dropped us off around 3 hours before our flight. I can't not having time to spare when we leave to the airport late, it's very nerve-racking. I wish we could be on time or early more often. Sigh.

OK, now we're going to get a hot chocolate at the Starbucks right next to our seats and start getting ready for our nine-hour long flight. The boys have window seats and I hope Kelvin doesn't mind going in front of me (not seated with me).

I'll see you again in Brazil now! I'm excited about the trip, it's always fun.

Brrrrr....

We took this photo last week with the tripod, Kelvin & I with our new hats and Linton with the old but famous "family heirloom" Jester hat that everyone comments on. I was planning to post it to indicate that the cold had arrived, but it was never getting cold, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s nearly everyday.
Not anymore, right! And this weekend we were surprised with snow! I loved it and my mother-in-law loved even more her "goodbye" present, so-to-speak, because she loves snow. She is back in Brazil now (I hope she had a safe trip, we haven't heard back from her). I'll try to post later (or in Brazil) about our afternoon in NYC, it was great!

Well, we have to go to the airport soon, I shouldn't be blogging!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Planning Airport "Stay"

I want to write two other posts before I travel, but I have no idea whether I'll get to them or not, what with all the packing and making sure I'm not forgetting anything, etc. I think it's very nerve-racking to travel, particularly long international travel for so many days away (40 in our case).

Tomorrow the boys and I will probably be gone from our house for over ten hours, perhaps close to twelve, when we're finally airborne and actually traveling to Brazil. Because K has to be teaching two hours before our flight leaves the Philly airport, he'll have to drop us off three hours earlier or more at the airport (yawn!). Then, our layover in Dulles International will be over six hours long! To make things worst, Dulles is one of the airports I like the least (and it's not only because I once had to spend the night on its main terminal floor, back in 2000 when we were coming from a trip to Europe and because I once was horribly sick with a stomach flu before a trip), but perhaps the shuttle trains will be ready by now and it'll be better, because those huge shuttle-trucks are/were pathetic! Yeah the long layover comes courtesy of traveling with multiple award travel tickets -- they put you in random flights.

In any case, I'm browsing the airport map and the eateries and I'm planning to pay for wi-fi so we can cyber schooling. We'll have to get a table somewhere and just claim it for ourselves for several hours, or maybe we'll just have to use the uncomfortable waiting room chairs.

In any case, I do intend to blog from the airport tomorrow for the very first time ever (I've never bought wi-fi at airports before). At least I hope so, if my sons let me touch the computer! :-) Well, I hope to come back with more posts before I go to bed. Wish me luck with the packing.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Like Pieces of a Puzzle

Today in the late afternoon we were coming back home when we drove by Big Pharma (K's former employer).

"I miss Big Pharma," said my seven-year old.

"I don't, really. Hmm, that's right, Kelvin, you've been inside there!"

"Yeah, I was in there twice."

"Twice? Wasn't it only on that day we sold out house and Daddy picked you up at school and brought you to work? You were only five back then." I said.

"No, I'm sure I was there twice," he replied, "but you only drove in a few times to pick up daddy -- I was the only one who went inside."

"Hmmm..." I responded, "I wonder what was the other time you were in there with daddy. When was that?"

"I really don't know," said Kelvin.
..................................

A few minutes ago I was randomly thinking, as I finished preparing my pumpkin "puddings" (for church potluck tomorrow), about getting a PhD and how, you know, it's not a big deal, really. I mean, "anyone" can get one. Then I thought about my defense and how K wasn't there and I wasn't at his defense either. So sad! Such a supposedly significant event in each of our lives... I wish he'd been there, since he's my best friend, the most important person in my life.

And I recalled the day, the fact that my parents were there with Linton, who impatiently thought that "the sermon" was too long.

And then it hit me. That was the second day Kelvin went to Big Pharma with daddy, the day of my defense. And all of a sudden I felt all tearful and sad... thinking of that "lull" period in our lives, post K's layoff and being hired back, in which I was able to finish the dissertation and finally "get a-hold" of the PhD. Before K decided to turn his back to that unsatisfactory job and venture into academia again. One year before the big storm hit this year.

We were more innocent then. I don't like to think of K missing my defense, there with Kelvin at Big Pharma... such a useless, sad job, which brought so much heartache to our lives.

And like small pieces of a puzzle my early evening and my late night came together while I contemplated for a moment the image of this part of out past.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

"We're Using All the Colors of the Alphabet!" or Kandinsky in Kindergarten

With some minor edits.
"We're Using All the Colors of the Alphabet!" is what my cute five-year old son just said while doing a cool shape collage, Wassily Kandinsky- style for his art class. When I started laughing and began to correct him ("all the colors of the rainbow") he was not too happy, he doesn't like when people laugh at him.

In any case, I love his art and music classes in Cyber School. How cool is it that they're learning about Kandinsky in Kindergarten? If all goes well, we're going to the Guggenheim on Sunday to see Kandinsky's artwork (has video & sound, probably temporary link) with our own eyes! (we're taking my MIL to the airport)

After he was done, Linton said:

"It's a beautiful artwork that I made! Look at that! It's beautiful"

Yes, indeed it is. Take a peek:
I think it would be good to own a bigger scanner, to allow for bigger artwork and photos to be scanned...

Anyhow, here's the video that Linton's art teacher posted in her lesson:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New Developments

At least five new positions have appeared since K sent his last round of applications, and my previous post was even missing a few places (before the new ones).

Now, the most interesting development is that there is one local university with openings. I don't know how I would feel about not moving. I suppose I could take it, particularly with the new lower mortgage payments ;-). I think I'd rather move, though.

Oh and it's official that K has not passed in the job selection process in Brazil (he saw the results online yesterday).

I'll try to update the list of "possible future places of residence" soon. Meanwhile, I have to go back to packing for the upcoming trip to Brazil.

I'm sad that NaBloPoMo is over (mostly for the blog reading, not so much the posting), but at the same time, I don't have to stress out about posting before midnight anymore. My apologies that this blog has become the most boring blog ever. Hopefully it'll get better.