Friday, May 31, 2013

Underground Blogging

I'm literally blogging from under the ground in the DC subway! Some patches don't have service, but others, even underground, have excellent signal (extended, though).

July 1993... That's where/when I get transported to when I'm here. It was my first time in the U.S., first airplane trip in my life (at 23!).  

I spent 10 days at my uncle's house and I took the bus and then the metro to the national mall and visited every single museum, watched every single IMAX movie... It was amazing. 

So I DC has a big part of my heart. I just wish I/we came here more often. Now that the boys are older I think they can handle museums better. I can't believe that the last time we were here was only birthday in 2011... :( 

And today I just need to cross the city from one side to... The same side, which is silly, but it's the only way I can get from Glenmont to Bethesda this morning. Sigh.

Oh, and halfway through the post we came to the surface, but I'll keep the title anyway! ;)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Remembering Blues

This post is a reaction to Becca's beautiful post about her dog Cooper. My situation was completely different, though, and I almost envy her. Sigh...

Three years ago my husband took my first "baby," my cat Blues, to a friend's house because we were going to have a rough few days getting ready to pack our whole house, sell it, and move out of state.

I didn't get to say goodbye to him because I didn't know I was never going to see him again. And that, that broke my heart and still breaks it when I think of it.

I had no way of knowing that my friend's husband was going to leave the back door open and that he would escape to the streets of North Philadelphia. How could I know?

It was just so horrible, to lose my "baby" of over nine years without saying good-bye, without any closure whatsoever (did he die? Did someone simply picked him up and adopted him? what in the world happened?)

That's why I say I almost envy Becca. In the end, though, I can't say that I do. Because no matter how it happens, whether you make a most difficult decision to put your pet down or whether your pet disappears into thin air like mine, it is still a heartbreaking loss.

So I dedicate this post to the memory of beloved pets.

I don't think of Blues at all anymore, especially now that I have two very dear kitties (who aren't half as beautiful as my first "baby" was, though!), but Becca is right. He still is, and will always be, with me, part of me.


The photo of the "nine" cake(s) will have to come later... Yellow, with green stripes, made "as best as I could" as my "baby" instructed me... yummy cakes too (vanilla & chocolate, both vegan). ;)

And I can't even tuck him into bed tonight, though I've kissed him good-bye while his birthday party was still going at the park. (I had to come to Maryland to go to a conference tomorrow).

Nine years ago I gave birth for the second and last time (I wanted to have more babies, but my husband and my rational brain did not let me).

My youngest son is a joy. He has a strong personality (has had it since birth) and sometimes it is complicated to deal with him, but he is delightful the rest of the time. Funny, extremely bright, talkative to the extreme, very caring and perceptive ("You look so beautiful today, mama!"), he loves to interact with his best friends.

So today we had his two best friends for lunch & a play-date and then, after soccer practice, our very first "typically American" birthday party (with plenty of food, though, after all, once a Brazilian, always Brazilian): cake and food in the park with friends. Nothing planned but singing Happy Birthday. It was nice, even though I had to leave before the actual end.

He bought his gifts yesterday, but I'll blog about them later.

No photo because I think he wouldn't like it. Sigh... :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Won't you be my neighbor?

Yesterday I came out the front door and was stunned to find a "For Sale" sign at the house of our neighbors across the street. And I quickly understood why they had been planting new grass in their front lawn and taking care of the landscaping. I mostly felt sad, though.

We haven't interacted too much, but they have two sons, 7 and 4, and their older son and my 8 year old (one year older, but two inches shorter than the neighbor boy! ;) are the best of friends. In addition, they took care of our cats when we traveled (for several trips and several weeks) which was so great. Now I have to figure out someone else to help us and I'll probably pay this other person too. :( My neighbor didn't want to be paid for her help and she loved my cats so much that she actually adopted two kitties last Winter!

And I'm wondering who will buy the house. Or rent -- the house next door to ours didn't sell, went off the market and was rented to this couple with a 3 year old girl.

Do you want to be our neighbor?

P.S. There's a new third grade teacher moving from Oregon to teach at our sons' school. She has a boy in my 8 year old son's class (so cute! red hair, freckles, blue eyes, reminded me a bit of Laura's son). It would be perfect if they bought the house! Sigh... If they are visiting the school again tomorrow (they were today), I will definitely mention the house to them! ;)
They have a pretty tree in the front yard that has two-phased blooming. :)

Out of the Driver's Seat

We can't talk about these issues, my husband and I, we end up fighting. He doesn't buy it that the problem is that he is a tenure track professor and I'm not. He thinks that I have to view this experience of having to submit as a "character development" opportunity and, basically, switching to coarse language that I generally don't use, "suck it up." Of course he's right in a way, but I'm also right in another way.

All this to say that the discussion about the syllabus that my "new boss" and I were having (through emails back and forth) was quickly over. While I was able to give suggestions and he was asking for my input, he gets to decide, he's in the driver's seat. . So... I suppose I have to just sit back and enjoy the ride, right? Ha ha. ;) It's true that it's less work for me. Especially with the way the course is structured...

... I'm firmly against using class time to watch films and we'll be watching 5 films in class during the semester.
... I think that the last film is super-ultra-violent and depressing and yet that's the last one we'll see and end the semester in a bitter note.
...I think that it won't make a lot of sense doing chapters from a grammar book together with watching this films (IN CLASS, less time to actually do language learning!), but we'll see.

Yeah... let's see what kind of "ride" this will turn out to be. I think I'm reconciled to it now. Sarcasm and irony always help me.

The Joy of Wild Poppies

I'm thinking of reviving my "365 project" blog, though that name/title has been meaningless forever now... sigh. The reason I want to do that (or maybe create a tumblr blog for photos?) is that I've been taking tons of photos with my new amazing camera (Nikon D5100).

Just a sample from the last two days -- NOT processed, edited, fiddled with, I need to learn how to do that, actually, but sometimes I think I don't want to:

I spent 45 minutes and then 30 minutes photographing these poppies Tuesday and Wednesday morning. I felt so much joy doing it... (the second up there is a bit out of focus, I selected these semi-randomly using the thumbnails for adding photos on blogger).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Half-Way Through!

I'm half-way through Anna Karenina and I'm a bit annoyed that I'm going to have guests all weekend long, so I need to prepare (clean the house, etc) and can't spend time reading. :(

A long time ago, a blogging friend whose last blog was "Smart Cookie" and who probably no longer reads my blog wrote this beautiful post about her time in Germany and this lovely relationship she had with this (second?) cousin of hers. She cited the novel in her post and I almost didn't read that part because I didn't want it to spoil my reading on the day that I finally got around to reading it.

Well... I'm glad I did read the whole post in the end and I so wish I could go back and read it again because it wasn't a spoiler at all! When I finally got to the Kitty & Levin part that she mentioned on the post I immediately remembered my friend's story and I was so thrilled and tickled!

I know that the book will have a bad ending for one of the characters at least, but I can't wait to see what else will happen! Tolstoy is a great writer, I can't wait to read more Russian novels! I probably should check out Gogol (The Namesake piqued my attention) and, of course, I've always wanted to read Dostoyevsky.

I'll try to write some comments after I'm done reading!

Slightly Nervous... Again

I shouldn't be nervous, after all, I mostly got over it. But only after spending a whole day crying non-stop, the day after the aforementioned post...

... Then I never blogged the resolution, which prompted a couple of "real life" friends who read the blog to ask me what happened.

What happened was he emailed me a week later to say that I can write my own syllabi (only this year!) for the lower level classes. It's my last one, though.

I'm slightly nervous because I have read the syllabus and materials that he prepared and give him feedback. I shouldn't be nervous, I should be happy that I'm actually having this chance, but... well... I just can't help myself.

I'll be back later today with more posts!

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I think I started reading because the past two days made me absolutely EXHAUSTED!

Yesterday was "field day" at my sons' school and I volunteered to help. I helped with the 220 ft. dash. I forgot to bring sunscreen so the boys and I got slightly sunburned (I actually got more tanned than sunburn, which never happens with me, yay! I think I needed the vitamin D).

After spending nearly all dat at their school I still had to drive an hour there and back to my son's vision therapy appointment. Sigh...

If that were not enough, my youngest son's class had a field trip today (45 minutes away) and I also volunteered to help. No wonder I had to take a nap this afternoon which was followed by a splitting headache (thankfully acetaminophen helped).

I'm ready for the real "summer" to begin. More on that in the next post.

Summer Reading

I've bought way too many books in the past few years that I haven't yet read, so today I got started on one of them:
That way I can see the film adaptation when I'm done.

I'm a relatively fast reader, but I wish I read even faster, because this book is LOOONG! I wonder if I should try War & Peace and then Dostoievsky next. :) Only after I read the other books in my collection that I have yet to read. Sigh...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Phew, I'm finally done with the grading and the grade submission!

I don't know why it was more difficult this year than other years. I hope to be more efficient in December, especially because I'll fly to Brazil on Dec. 18, so I need to have everything ready before then.

This morning I ate bread, strawberries with whipped cream, candy (Sunbursts), chips, and a huge cup of rooibos chai with whipped cream to help me finish. :)

Just a few minutes after submitting my grades I received an email from a department on campus reminding me of my missing grades. The only consolation was that there were several other professors in my department that had not submitted their grades either. The worse part is that they will be able to see my name there. If only I had submitted the grades last night! :(

Hopefully nobody will berate me for this.

Gotta go now, my reward is to go to the farmer's market, but it closes in less than two hours! :(

Monday, May 13, 2013

More than HALF-WAY Done!!!


I graded all final exams. Now I just need to add the oral exam grade & process/post the final grades to my two language classes.

I already read a number of essays for the lit class too. I don't think it'll take too long to get done with that one.


Meanwhile, today was a bad day on the asthma front. :( My oldest son has already had four nebulizer breathing treatments since 6 am (when he woke up up. I'm so tired!)

I think he got worse after I took him to school at 9:30 am because he's part of a play (for the Spring program tomorrow) and they have all these bales of hay on stage and in the gym and he happens to be super allergic to all grasses. I gave him allergy medication this afternoon & will give him more tomorrow before the program. Hopefully it'll help.


Now I have to go and be DONE ASAP!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chocolate & Tea...

... plus multi-grain chips (a generic version of "Sun chips").

I remembered Jo(e)'s strategy for grading: chocolate and tea, and I got going. nearly 3 pages of all exams graded. 5 more to go!

Sigh. Gotta go brew another cup of tea, though.

I can't wait to be done!!!

P.S. both of my boys have mild asthma today. Not very fun. One stayed home from soccer, the other came back from the game worse than he went (but he barely played, so that was not the problem). I still think it's better like this than having the daily steroid inhalation. My youngest (who used that for 2 years) disagrees, though. 

I Should Be in Grading Jail

And yet, I spent hours today basically wasting time online (after all, I needed to pay homage to my mom by posting a photo of the two of us in facebook as tons of my Brazilian friends are doing). I can't believe I'm being so irresponsible.

Last week I actually had a very valid excuse! I had to finish a photo book (using shutterfly) for my son's teacher whose retirement party will be next weekend. I finally finished it on Friday afternoon and asked for 1 day shipping which will cost as much as the book itself. :( The school is either paying for the book in full or helping me pay for it and I wanted it to get here on time, so I went for it even though I think it's really way too much money (29 dollars!).

So, here's what I need to grade:

- 30 final exams, 8 pages each (I had written 30, no way!)
- oral exams (listen to recordings and email comment to each of my 30 students... sigh).
- 16 critical papers
- 16 final course paper (a "reflective thinking" paper on what they learned).

I will try to update what I did at the end of the day just to see if it helps to try to be accountable on the blog.

Wish me luck.

P.S. Last Thursday I was actually told by colleagues I went to have lunch with at U#2 that for Spanish they are actually expected to turn in the final grades 48 hours after the final (which would have been on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, for me). Good thing nobody's actually checking what I'm doing right now. And I hope that next year the new hire won't either.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Back to Life?

Today my husband took my laptop (which I had tried to turn on again yesterday) to the repair shop and... lo and behold, it's back to life!

K was joking that they are making electronics that are like the human body now -- that can regenerate themselves. Not really, but maybe almost? :)

What a relief!! I've ordered a new adapter for the external hard-drive and I hope that it'll soon be working as well!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

I Fried My Laptop Last Night!! :(

I still can't believe I did that!!

Now that I called Apple Care and I know that I have to take it into a store or authorized provider I can blog about it.

I was freaking out this morning (I couldn't go back to sleep at 6:30 am), but my husband talked some sense into me and I calmed down. Sigh...

What happened? It all started with my urgent need to find some older photos that are stored in an external hard drive (Seagate brand) that hadn't been communicating with the laptop anymore...

I tried to plug it in even though the power slot was completely damaged (as in coming off damaged). I received a warning that said that said that the USB port was drawing too much power and had been disabled.

Foolishly, I plugged it into the other USB port and "fried" the compute who went off not to come back on again... Sigh.

I think I won't be able to have the photos I need on time to order a photo book for my son's teacher's retirement party, but I'm hoping I can recover the photos (primary concern) and other files.

What saved my life?

Having started to use Dropbox just a short month and a half ago!!!!!

The final exam for Monday, the proposal I need to submit ASAP to the department are all in Dropbox. Cloud storage rocks!

I will have to use my husband's laptop which is now the only computer in the house. I wish we could afford buying a desktop right now (an iMac), but we can't. Paying debts is the highest priority.

Have you ever "fried" your computer? What was the outcome?

P.S. and I have never been more thankful for the iPhone as well. Last, but not least, Apple customer care rocks!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Officially Overwhelmed and Freaking Out :(

I know I will survive and that things will get done, but right now I don't know how it will possibly happen. And I don't really care, to say the truth, but I'm tired and I'm still overwhelmed and freaking out even though I don't exactly "care" (just because I'm too tired). Case in point: I have a day of symposium presentations to attend all day tomorrow (I will try to work while I watch presentations) and I just go back to work on Saturday night... We'll see how it'll go. First, a summary of today:

Final exam followed by a lunch for my students at U#3 was an overwhelming success. This was the second time I was meeting 4 of the students in person (last time was for last December's final) and first time for 4 other students. They were sweethearts. Not only did they love the food and thank me abundantly, but they sat around the table and we talked for over an hour after everyone had finished eating. One of the students had to go to class and another one had a phone interview (all but one of the eight are seniors!) but came back after the call was done and was so happy we were still there!

I mean... that's why I teach. Because interacting with students is priceless.

(tangent: I have decided that I will start a new tradition: writing a good-bye letter [email] to my students every semester. And, maybe, write an introduction letter too. I will definitely do that. The hardest part will be finding the time!)

OK, so... here's what I need to do:

1) Edit next semester's beginner class syllabus and write a formal proposal to my department requesting to teach 4 days and have the 5th devoted to online activities. I need to provide a rationale and HOURS that the students will work (50 minutes class time, 2h of studying related to that class) in order to justify not meeting with them that 5th day. I obviously have been postponing writing this for weeks... Sigh. (Still working on it Friday 05/03)

2) Finish deciding what will be in final exams next week and email a study guide for students ASAP. Done at the last minute, Sunday 05/05.

3) Email more details about oral exam recording for students (this had to be done DAYS ago!!). Done! Friday 05/03.

4) Email more guidelines for literature students about final project due on Monday. Done Saturday night (?). Grade their paper that was due this past Monday and email them feedback. ASAP.

5) Grade last week's language class test & go on Monday and Tuesday to administer the final exams.

6) Spend sometime there for "in person" oral exams. Grade final exams and calculate final grades and post grades.

7) Grade final projects from lit class and give final grades. 

8) (ongoing) Keep giving permission for students that want to be in my Fall classes (I have a feeling that the new hire will take care of that and it will be one less thing I will have control over. Gotta prepare myself for that possibility. And think positive: one less thing to worry about). Email senior applicants that they may not get in the class. DONE!

All right, I should be working and not blogging. I hope to be able to cross more items SOON! :)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Not Over Yet

The work for this semester is not over yet. Far from it, actually. I still have tons of grading to do and three more final exams to administer (and then grade). :(

I'm in a hotel room right now. I came to U#3 because I wanted to give the final exam for my "distance" students in person. And... because I'm crazy like that, I am also going to serve food for them tomorrow after the exam. Sigh...

I'm getting sick and tired of cooking!! At least cooking the same dish (moqueca, one of the available recipes) over and over again. OK, only twice, but it feels like more: I it prepared for my U#2 students last week on Sunday and this Sunday again when my U#1 students came to my house (there are only four girls, such a fun group!).

I have to sleep now. Hopefully morel later...