Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year in Review

I waited until today to post this meme not only because I didn't have time to do it earlier, but because I thought it would be more fitting to do it as my last post of the year. I first saw it at Raising WEG, and then Laura, Kateri and Cloudscome did it too.

The meme asks one to post the first sentence of each month's post, but I'm also including the post title, as well as links to the whole month and the post.

January: "Here in Brazil #4 Quick Update or Travels, Birthdays, and Weddings"
"I’ve been very busy over here."

February: "Amazing T-Shirt Folding Technique!!"
"OK, since I mentioned t-shirts in the previous post, it seems fitting to link to a recent post by Andi (from Mother Shock) which is indeed a "gift" to anyone who hates to fold laundry as much as I do."

March: "Of Snow and Snowmen (and Exercise : )"
"This post is over three weeks too late, since the snowstorm was three Sundays ago (2/12)... but, better late than never, I guess!"

April: "Oh Jane, dear dear Jane..."
"I'm in a state of grace right now (and I hope this expression means the same in English as it does in Portuguese)."

May: "Random Notes (Bees, Teething, Arrivals et ali)"
"On Saturday I was stung by a bee right on my left tigh, can you believe it?"

June: "Festive Weekend and Family Internationalization"
"My brother and his wife arrived on Friday to visit us for a week before they head to China, where he's going to work for at least two years as a forest engineer for a Sweedish paper company."

July: "So, it's Over for Brazil"
"I'll post soon about my gorgeous newborn nephew, but I wanted to get to the bad news first..."

August: "Calling All Academic Mothers!! Mama Ph.D. Book"
"I know most people may have already heard of this and since my readership is quite limited, I may not help much, but I wanted to get the word out, because this proposed book is literally the materialization of some of my greatest wishes!!!"

September: "I'm Back!"
"We got back from Florida this afternoon and although I'm dying to post and catch up with other people's blogs I really can't because this house is a big mess!!"

October: "Answering Your Questions!"
"You asked, so I respond."

November: "Spoke Too Soon"
"My son seemed to be better during the day, in spite of a total lack of appetite."

December: "Blogging is Very Useful Sometimes..."
".... even though it's not a blue engine."

I can't see a unifying theme in these. Some are good summaries of important events, while others are a bit random. It's certainly a fun exercise.

My blogging friend Cloudscome added a new twist to the meme: choosing a favorite photo each month. This was interesting because it made me realize that even though I do post lots of photos, there were months I posted hardly any, and when I did I tended to pack many photos into one post. I think I'll start posting single photos like Cloudscome does.

January (my mom's house - the only photos available this month)
February (cake - only photos too)
March (flowers - this month has six posts with various photos it was hard to choose)
April (flowers again, only 2 posts w/ photos this month)
October - hard to decide: cranberries, flowers, Central Park.
December (Christmas trees - only post with photos)

Happy New Year!

Looking Back at my MLA Experiences

The Job Interview
I know this is what many of you want to hear about, so I'll start with it, drawing from the notes I took Friday morning, right after it took place.

It went well, but in retrospect I know I could have done much better. It's hard not to keep thinking later of what I could have said, and, most importantly, what I forgot to say, which is very sad. I was very much myself, as Articulate Dad recommended, but I could have given more specific answers. The part in which they asked me to introduce myself was the worst, my mind went blank and I almost started mumbling. I certainly wasn't prepared enough -- I didn't do any mock-interviews. I should also have memorized a little speech, since in my introductory remarks I should have "sold" myself much better. Weak, I was weak then. It got better later, but still, as the saying goes (at least in Portuguese), first impressions are those that stay.

I have no idea whether I'll go to the next level, but I have a feeling I won't, for all the reasons I have listed above. I feel I'm too "green," but this was to be expected, since this was my very first interview ever.

Feelings About Conference Going in General
In my previous post about this topic, I expressed my enthusiasm about conferences, as well as my negative feelings about it. This is the third time I go to the MLA (01, 04, 06), and the seventh conference presentation since 2001, so I feel much more experienced in that regard.
I have come a long way from that first MLA and first conference presentation (at ChLA) back in 2001. I feel that I belong to the academic community and I'm not just dabbling in this. The knowledge that I'm about to finish the Ph.D. and all the dissertation research behind me helps a lot.

I have also realized that I have become less enthusiastic, and much more skeptical, and even cynical sometimes. I wasn't taking notes in most of the most "out there" sections, but I was still very excited about some new things I went to see (I wish I had time to talk about these at a later time, but I doubt that I will). It was a great experience overall.

While walking through the book exhibit I met a former student, from a discussion section I led as a T.A. six years ago! I was pleasantly surprised that she remembered me at all and even the one lecture that I presented on that class. It was really nice to talk to her and about our university (oops, I almost named it!) and what she and I have been doing in the past six years.

I already mentioned that it was great to meet Laura. I did get up early yesterday to go to the blogging panel, and it was extremely interesting. It's always nice to put a face to go with the writing that we read online, even though, as "Dr. B"explained, Bitch Ph.D. is a persona, and not her, the person that was talking to us. The other bloggers in the panel were Michael Bérube (sans beard), John Holbo, and Scott Kaufman.

Later, I met a colleague from my Ph.D. program who came to do two presentations (the second of which I saw and was excellent) , and I had lunch with her, another Chinese scholar (my friend is from China) and my sister-in-law. It was great to see her again and see photos of her 16 month old daughter whom I haven't met. She got to see my sons briefly as well, as my husband was driving through downtown with my youngest brother-in-law (who arrived yesterday morning from Brazil) and stopped at the conference hotel so she could see them.

Well, it was a great conference, but I'm glad it's over and now I get to be a hostess to my three brothers-in-law and their wives, as well as my two cute nephews. My father- and mother-in-law will be driving from Massachusetts this evening and hopefully they'll be here before midnight.

Another post about the year in review is coming soon, OK? So hang on!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Quick Conference Update

For those of you who may be wondering, my presentation last night went quite well. The section was really late, from 8:45-10 p.m. so I was really tired this morning, and we had to get there 8:30 for the first section. My youngest sister-in-law is going with me, she is finishing her master's degree in English and enjoying her first MLA (she also blogs here). The other panelists were great, a woman from Iran, doing a very relevant critical analysis of Reading Lolita in Tehran (if you're interested I can summarize what she said later), and an Indian woman analyzing a story about an Indian woman who immigrates to the U.S. Oh, yeah, I can email you my topic if you want, but I try not to write about my academic work openly on the blog.

Today I was able to talk to a scholar in my area and ask him some questions after his presentation, and then, I had the great pleasure of meeting Laura (Geeky Mom) in person, we had great conversations about our dissertations and the job search, among other things. It was really nice to meet you, Laura!! I know you don't like the MLA that much, but I hope you had fun there tonight! We're hoping to see each other again on the bloggers' panel on Saturday morning, if we muster the courage of getting up early.

Well... my job interview is tomorrow morning, so I'm going to bed right now. I'll post tomorrow again, and I'm hoping it's a happy post like this one.

Edited to add:
P.S. And just to cheer me up for the job interview tomorrow, as a Sound of Music lover I have to now "publicly" sing to myself: "I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence the sun will shine again... besides, which you see, I have confidence in me!!!" If I don't, who will have?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Academic Conferences, Why I Love and Hate Them

I promise to be back as soon as I can with the completion of my Christmas tree post as well as some words about our Christmas, but... I really wanted to write this post before the MLA, so I can come back later and see whether what I experienced was the same or different of my current view of academic conferences.

First of all, call me naïve, overly enthusiastic, or idealistic (and I guess I am all these things), but I just love academic conferences. Except that oftentimes when I get there and see what's going on, I feel like I totally despise some aspects of them and academia. I have to say upfront though, that there's one organization I belong to whose conferences give me hardly any bad feelings: the Children's Literature Association. This is probably because the organization is small (around 1,000 members) and people who love children's literature are (generally) nice and caring :)

I love conferences because I am (and have always been) absolutely passionate about learning, research, and knowledge in general, especially new things I had never thought about. I get extremely excited when I go to conferences, I want to go to as many panels/sections as I possibly can, learn as much as possible, and I feel that I "recharge" my academic batteries when I go to one -- I feel like delving right into new research, writing and reading papers, etc. Another thing that helps is that I'm really "multivalent" -- I am interested in many different subjects and areas and I don't just want to attend panels in my major area of specialization, on the contrary, I want to explore new things, new perspectives. I guess that ideally, that's what academic conferences should be all about. Except that... those are generally not the main reasons why many people attend them, and I'm not talking just of the job market aspect of having job interviews at the MLA because all other conferences don't have that in them.

Some of the things that I definitely hate in academic conferences is that they're organized primarily so that people can fulfill their requirements, enrich their CVs for either getting a job or tenure. Organizing conferences, chairing panels, giving invited talks, presenting papers, are all "requirements" of academic life, and I understand that this is the main reason why these conferences exist in the first place, which in and of itself is not bad. Except that when people are participating merely for fulfilling their requirements or padding their CVs, they only care about their own panels, and their own "friends," colleagues and area of specialization and don't "look around" at all to see what's going on with other people in the conference. I have a feeling that academic conferences (at least in the humanities) are not really as much for "advancing knowledge" as they are about getting together with the same people from your area, like "preaching to the choir" in the sense that people go there to talk to people who already know all about what they're doing and people who aren't already "in" feel left out and ignored.

I remember my first MLA in 2000 (Washington D.C.). I had been a graduate student for two years and took advantage of the fact that I have an uncle who lives in D.C. (now I have my BIL too) to go. So while my husband enjoyed his visit to the White House to see the very last Christmas decorations put up by Hillary Clinton, I enthusiastically went to the conference (as a result, I've never been to the White House). I attended primarily children's literature and Brazilian literature sections, and in the latter, I felt that the people there were part of a private, closed "club." They knew each other and were there to support each other's work. Of course this was more acute to me because as a Brazilian I know how people of my country (re)act. I also know that academic Brazilians are not the most agreeable people in the world -- on the contrary, they're often very snobbish and "exclusivist" (spell check is not recognizing this word, it might be a "transfer" from Portuguese -- do you get what I mean? Please let me know what a better word would be and I'll edit it).

This past October I went to my first conference of Brazilian studies, a fairly small interdisciplinary conference, which partly explains some of the problems that it had. Many panels had no attendees at all, or only one or two, like ours. This is very sad when people come all the way from Brazil to present (like my friend). The same happened at the MLA two years ago, though, some of the panels I went to on the last day of the conference had very few attendees. I understand that sections in the early morning or in the first and last day are harder for people to go to, but still, poor attendance also shows that when a subject is not fashionable, or is in a more "marginal" area like Brazilian literature, there aren't enough people interested in it. On the other hand, try to go to a talk by Toni Morrison, Spivak or any big names, and you will have to sit on the floor...

I know, it's like everything else in the world, you have the pop stars and the rest of us regular people... there are the movies who please the academy and get Oscars (and they often reflect the interests of those who vote for them) and there are the other films from around the world that are mere curiosities... I understand that, but it still makes me sad. Ideally, there would be room for everyone in the academic world, but one has to try and fit in. One has to try and work with a fashionable topic to be competitive in the job market. Then, there are the many things one has to do to get tenure... The person who was going to present after me at the MLA is not coming because she has to finish her book manuscript for publication... poor person, torn between two things that may help her get tenure, having to drop the "weaker" one.

I should be working on polishing my paper now, but I'm here writing this instead. I haven't decided whether I'll go meet the famous academic bloggers who are presenting on Saturday morning. I feel ambivalent about it... they don't know who I am, they're "pop stars" as far as I am concerned, and I don't want to be just a "fan," I want to be heard too... that's why I'm here in the first place.

But when I present at academic conferences, when I get published in the small journal that is the only one I have published in so far, I don't feel like I'm being heard at all. There are just too many voices and not all of them matter. Why then are we here? The folks in physics, chemistry, medicine, engineering, they may be really "advancing science," but what are we doing, those of us in the humanities, those of us who study literature?

So on the one hand, when I go to academic conferences I feel stimulated by all the new things I learn, I may meet a new person or two who share similar interests (really, I haven't met many more than that), and I truly love to be able to see what other people are doing and working on. On the other hand, I feel absolutely overwhelmed by how many of us there are, how little the work of every one of us matters to the others -- see, I do care, but the great majority doesn't. They have their own concerns, they're worried about their own papers, the job interview, the tenure requirements, the fashionable subjects, you name it, but there's not room for other people's new ideas.

Well, I just don't know what to do with all these feelings, but it does feel good to express them. Maybe this time it will be different? Maybe I have felt left out before because I wasn't presenting? Or maybe I'll feel even more left out because of that very reason, because I'm presenting but not really being heard. Well, I'll let you know either way. And I'm not worried about my own presentation. For one I'm not afraid of talking in public and I feel prepared. Second, I know that it doesn't really matter whether my presentation is good or bad, people won't really be listening, it doesn't really matter in the end... it's just a line in my CV, and I hate that idea (well, except perhaps if someone from the search committee which is interviewing me comes to see me, but I doubt that anyone will). I could go on, and on, in circles, so I'll stop.

P.S. Speaking of conferences, I know it would all be well if I were rooming with, or meeting up with Jo(e). Even if I had to be subjected to a nude photo section. I'm sure some people (for various reasons) don't face these dilemmas in academic conferences and have just endless fun. Someday... someday... after I have a job and the kids are grown and I have funds to go to conferences again, so I don't have to limit myself to those that are close by, like this year's MLA, or in places where I have aunts and uncles. (When I was still teaching I did have some funding and got to do some nice traveling, though).

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Trees - Part I

We're spending Christmas with my husband's family and everyone but my youngest brother-in-law is here in my oldest BIL's house (he'll be here next weekend, though). I was helping to clean the kitchen, but I really want to try and write a post. I spent the whole week yearning to write, but life was just too hectic -- I'll fill you in on the details on another post.

I decided to write about Christmas trees after I read Joe's post about her Christmas tree philosophy from almost a month ago. The reason why I didn't post earlier was that I wanted to include photos of past Christmas trees and some of them needed to be scanned. As for Jo(e)'s post, I wrote in her comments' section:
I really like your philosophy, although we unfortunately don't have heirloom ornaments because my mom never cared for Christmas trees and the kids haven't made any yet -- my boys are a bit young, don't go to pre-school and don't like crafts very much. I started buying ornaments in 1995 after I got married and have added quite a few since then (not nearly enough to fill a whole tree, though).

I do like to color coordinate some of the tree decorations, though (since I do have to buy extra stuff because I don't have enough ornaments). One year I had light pink, lavender, and mint green bows and glass balls, plus the other "regular" ornaments, and the other years I do the traditional red, green and white decoration (bows, candy canes, etc).

The time of this post couldn't have been better because I have a question for you, since you do know more about environmentalism than I do. Leaving the discussions of a good smelling beautiful real tree versus the simetrically perfect artificial tree aside, what would the "environmentally correct" thing to do, get a live tree every year or an artificial one?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. A live tree has to be thrown out (good thing it's completely biodegradable), but it spends all its growing years producing oxygen, etc... and it might not have been planted had it not been the demand for Christmas tree. The fake ones will polute the environment after they're discarded many years from now, but they'll "save" trees from being cut down (will they really, though?).
And Jo(e) responded:
Lilian: A real tree is the ecological choice.

I could buy an artificial tree made from plastic (usually polyvinyl chloride) and metal, shipped all the way here from some place like Hong Kong, and it would end up in a landfill in less ten years. Or, I could drive a few miles from my house, to buy a tree that will be in my house for a few weeks, and then turned to mulch. With a real tree, nothing needs to end up in the landfill.

In my area, the profit from Christmas trees is a critical source of income that allows small farmers to hang onto their land, rather than selling it to developers. The trees are often planted on hillsides and pockets of land where other crops can't grow. The trees, while they are growing, do all the kinds of good things that trees do: providing oxygen, helping retain soil, reducing air pollution, providing habitat wildlife. For each tree cut down by a family for their Christmas tree, the tree farmer plants two or three seedlings.

In communities here, leftover Christmas trees are gathered up by the DPW and chopped into mulch, which we can then take free for our gardens in the spring.

I most certainly would not have an artificial tree in a household with small children or pets, since lead is used to stabilize the polyvinyl chloride. The possibility of lead exposure is slight, but it's there. At least, that is what a chemistry grad student explained to me.
Well, good thing that all the trees I've had were real trees, including the one I bought in planted a pot as part of my wedding reception decoration (more on this on a post that's coming up). We planted that one later between the the two buildings of the elementary schools where we used to teach in Brazil. Unfortunately they decided to build on that site and the tree no longer exists.

When I was growing up in Brazil, we never spent Christmas at home. My parents, who worked at a boarding academy, took advantage of the one month of end of the year break to go to the beach with my maternal grandparents, since Christmas time and the week after was the only time my uncle's beach house was available for us to use. I've always loved Christmas and wanted to celebrate it properly, so I was very sad to be at a beach house. One year I was yearning for a Christmas tree so much that I just cut off a branch of a common tree (not even an evergreen) and cut out little balls out of colored paper to make decorations. There was one memorable year (1982, I think) in which we stayed home. My brother and I were so excited! We cut off a large branch of a Brazilian pine tree (araucaria brasiliensis), and put it in a paint can full of sand to make a tree for the living room. We also made small trees for our bedrooms with smaller branches and tiny glass balls. That was one of my favorite Christmas ever. Later, when my grandpa died (when I was 15) and we no longer went to the beach with my grandparents, we spent several Christmas at my aunt's house and I loved to help her decorate the tree. After we got married, I kept the potted Christmas tree from my wedding so I could decorate it for our first Christmas together (even though we spent Christmas elsewhere).

After we moved to the U.S., on our third year here (1999), we had the visit of my "middle" brother-in-law and my husband's cousin, so we decided to get a Christmas tree. It was the only time we went to a field to choose one and had it cut -- it was such a lovely experience! (Sorry I didn't scan a photo of this one, maybe I'll add one later). Then, the next tree was for the 2001 Christmas, when I was pregnant and my three brothers-in-law, and one SIL came to celebrate with us (for 2 years, my in-laws' four sons lived here in the U.S., now only the youngest is back in Brazil). This was the year I decided to do a pink, green, and gold tree:

In the following year, Christmas was at our house again, this time with my mother- and father-in-law who got their wish of a (very) white Christmas, as a snowstorm hit Massachusetts right on Christmas day. We had nine month old Kelvin (the first grandson on both sides of the family) to entertain us (and to entertain), and it was great. (I promise to add a photo of the baby later, OK?). That year I went back to more traditional red (with apple ornaments and bows), white and green tree decorations:

I put up our tree over two weeks ago and I just realized that I don't have any photos in my camera's memory stick as I thought I had and I didn't upload them to the laptop either, so I'll be able to post pictures of this year's tree only two days from now. So I'll leave you with a photo of my SIL's tree, decorated mostly with my own ornaments, which are slowly becoming heirlooms!
So "tomorrow" (I'm actually writing past midnight, but started the post a bit earlier), I'll let you know how the kids liked their presents. I know, I didn't post about that, but I bought them long ago, and they were all wrapped over 10 days ago... not that I didn't have to get some last minute gifts last week. Well, but more on that later. I have to go to bed, it's past 2 a.m. and tomorrow is going to be a looong day, even longer than today, where I spent 6 hours helping to cook the Christmas Eve dinner with my sister-, brother-, and mother-in-law.

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas is having a wonderful day!! I have yet to send our e-newsletter to our friends and family. Sigh... too many things going on in our lives lately.

Oh, and did you know I have a paoer presentation to finish up for Wednesday night? And did you know I had a job interview on Friday morning? Yeah. Do send lots of good thoughts my way, if you will...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Favela Rising - Mind Blowing Film

I'm at a lack for words right now. Anything I think of writing about this movie just can't convey how amazingly mind-blowing it is. The subject, the film-making, the main "characters" in the story.
If you watched City of God you should watch this movie to get another perspective of a similar issue. If you didn't watch City of God because of the unbelievable violence it portrays, then you should check out Favela Rising for sure. It's uplifting, it's positive, hopeful. If you work with young people of color here in the U.S. of elsewhere and/or people who are disadvantaged, poor, this is a great movie to show them and hold discussions afterwards. It makes me want to go back to the classroom and try to change my students' lives for the better. Showing them that there's nothing they can't accomplished if these guys in Brazil who had everything to go wrong were able to overcome. And not only that, but to be proactive in a way that has been changing countless people's lives. People from the Rio de Janeiro's worst favelas (slums).

All through music. What they call "Afro-Reggae," which is also the name of their movement.

I still can't believe that this film was made by two relatively young and unknown American film-makers. That's why the movie exists in the first place -- they had no idea what they were getting themselves into, so they just filmed. The implications of their acts they were to find out only years later, at the Tribeca screening last year (05). They were risking their lives and they didn't even know it.

Don't be put off by the "documentary" part. This is a film with an entertaining story, a beginning, middle, and end. With a conclusion, with many lessons. Don't miss the music video. Have you ever seen a kind of ultimate frisbee played with a vinyl LP? And used as a metaphor for the gang violence that plagues the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, nonetheless (too bad there aren't captions for the song lyrics). Oh, yeah, we weren't too happy with the subtitles, but I guess it's OK. Some things are lost in translation... but you should be still able to get the gist of it.

The "making off" is in some respects even more amazing than the film. I just couldn't believe how "innocent" the film-makers were. They really had no idea how dangerous it was even for their lives. This part is a second documentary, albeit much shorter.

I'll stop here. I'll let this film talk by itself, but please go get it right now. I don't know why it isn't available at amazon yet (only for pre-order) if I got the DVD from Netflix. Favela Rising has also a website, oh, great, you can buy the DVD there (or get it from Netflix)!! Here's an Afro Reaggae CD. Last words: this is grassroots activism at its finest. I'm so moved I really want to do something.

Oh, and here's Afro Reggae's website (in Portuguese).

P.S. my apologies for those who get the RSS feed. I have edited this post many many times. It's just that when I write quickly, on the spurt of the moment, I always have things to add (like the image and a few links) or change.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rejections and Other News

A couple of weeks ago, my husband received his first rejection email of the job search, and I got mine a couple of minutes ago. It's OK... I expected it, since it was an open rank search.

On other news, hubby scored a phone interview to a school in a very interesting location, VA. It wouldn't be too far from my brother-in-law's family in MD and still possible to drive to MA to visit the parents-in-law. I'm pretty excited about that one, and I'll keep you posted!

Oh, and I have some family health-related news as well. My dad had a basal cell carcinoma removed from his nose last week. The results of the biopsy came in on Tuesday and my parents were quite stressed, since another one was removed 7 or 8 years ago, also from his nose and they were scared that this could be worse, since it was the second one. Apparently all of it was removed though, and they were calmer after they talked to a doctor on the phone. Skin cancer is no joke, though, so I'm really careful applying sunscreen -- something my dad never did and his fair skin (he's of German descent) suffered all his life under the bright Brazilian sun.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Housekeeping and Questions About Blog Safety

There are several things that I need to do with this blog. I need to update my blog roll (several blogs to add and URLs to update) and the template, since I have spent two days of last week adding labels to all my posts and it'll be nice to have the labels on the sidebar. I also want to add *asterisks* to certain words that have been getting lots of Google hits lately. The most common search is for br*east*feeding photos or pictures, which happens to be the subject and title of two of my posts posts. I think that such a search can certainly have malicious motivations. I won't delete the photos, I just want to make them only available for those who read this blog, or come from Kateri's link to mine and the other blogs that participated in her peaceful and joyful blogging protest to the upheaval that followed the breastfeeding child that appeared in the cover of Baby Talk magazine.

Another thing that I'm considering and that may take a while to implement (since it would involve editing many many posts), is to stop using my sons' actual names. I even thought of pseudonyms for them derived from their names: "Vinny" from vin, the last part of my oldest's name and "Tony," from 'ton,' the last part of the youngest's name. I know it's going to feel strange to talk about them with those pseudonyms, but it may be safer. I could also use their initials "K" and "L" but initials are annoying. What's your opinion about this? Most of the multicultural family mamas in my blog roll use their names and their children's and a few of the academic mamas, but most of the latter don't. I will still use my first name, I wouldn't like to change that. I haven't thought of any overly compelling reasons to do this, but I don't know, it might be best. My husband would also be more comfortable with the pseudonyms.

I do post lots of photos of them as well... Isn't the internet full of photos of cute kids already though? What real harm is it going to to to them or us? It's different in the case of people who work with children like Cloudscome. She posted about this and other issues, such as writing about one's personal life and giving geographical and other identifying information here. Let me know of any thoughts you may have about this.

Coming up: Christmas tree post. Lots and lots of photos!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Some More Firsts (of an Emotional Nature)

I'm the kind of mother who is always squeezing, hugging, and kissing my sons. They generally love to cuddle together with us on the sofa or in bed, but I know that these tender moments will start to become rarer as they grow. We're lucky that our oldest (4 years 9 months) is a very "cuddly" kind of person (he's carinhoso or chameguento, we say, in Portuguese).

My little one (who is two and a half), contrary to his brother, doesn't like to go on anyone's lap but mine, takes a long time to warm up to people, and is only cuddly with me (or my father). So, two weeks ago, I was giving him many kisses while I strapped him on the car seat (something very usual of me) when he turned to me and said: "No more kisses Mama!" A very sad first...

Then, last Wednesday I had to be particularly stern with my oldest son because he was just nagging too much and not wanting to get dressed to go out. (I have to confess that I'm not particularly good at disciplining. "Authority" doesn't come naturally to me, I prefer to be their "friend," but I know that they need a mother, and they need limits.) The consequences of my sternness were felt almost immediately.

We often play this little game, in the style of Guess How Much I Love You, usually started by him. When I tell him I love him, he replies that he loves me even more than I do, that he loves me 1o9 times. When I offer 109,000 he asks whether that's more or less -- he still doesn't grasp quantities over 100. He has even done a really cute thing -- grabbed a very thick book, proceeded to find the very last page and asked me:

"Mama, what number is this?"
"635" I replied.
"So that's how much I love you!"he said.
"Wow, sweetie, that's a lot!" I replied smiling and hugging him.

So, today, after I had to be tough with him, when I told him I loved him, he turned to me and said:
"I don't love you."

I demonstrated some surprise and immediately remembered Andi Buchanan's essay in It's a Girl, "Learning to Write." It it, Emi is having a hard time writing words that she doesn't yet know, but in a burst of indignation with her mother she writes "I don't like you" ("I_DTLiKE_YoU" in her spelling). Andi's first reaction, feeling sad and hurt and saying, "That hurts my feelings," frustrates Emi, and then Andi realizes that she has to give her daughter space to express her negative feelings. And this part of the essay is worth quoting:
my initial hurt gives way to the realization that my work as a mother . . . is not to be liked by her, but to love her. I am supposed to be her safe place -- the one person to whom she can vent, who she knows for sure will not leave. (223)
So I responded, "Oh, OK, but I still love you."
And not only that. I also said: "I love you 'infinitely,' [infinitamente] " which is generally my ultimate response when we start the escalating amounts of our "how much I love you" game. And he immediately countered,
"Then I don't love you infinitely."
"Wow," I said, "OK, that's too bad, but you can feel whatever you want."

Thanks Andi, for your essay. It helped me a lot, it made this first "I don't love you" much easier to bear. From your words (even though you got so emotional at that Mother Talk reading that you couldn't get to this part of the essay) I was able to approach this event in a rational and not emotional manner, to view it as a developmental milestone, and not as the very first act of rebellion of many that will follow (although that is true). I need to know that my son will have to learn to separate from me and that this is a first and necessary step in that direction.

Nothing like a day after the other, though! Two days later he said he loved me. Infinitely. And it was not after a round of our usual game, it was his very first statement. I know that in a day or two he'll change his mind again, that just means he's growing up!

Mothers and Ph.D.s II

Thanks for your comment, Meredith! I agree that graduate school is a good time to have babies, even though it may delay the finishing of the degree. I'm sorry biology intervened in your case. I did try for one whole year before getting pregnant during graduate school, but I think the timing was OK. I didn't plan to go on and have my second son before finishing the Ph.D. , but the timing was even better in that case because I was able to have the same doctors and hospital and, most importantly, have our union sponsored student plan which covered ALL the expenses of both births. After my husband finished the Ph.D. and we moved here, I didn't have health insurance after (I mean, I do pay for an extremely high deductible and co-pay plan, just in case I have an accident, or cancer... I don't even use it because of the copay and deductible).

Anyway, I didn't get in touch with with my former colleague yet, but I'm back to talk about this topic because I remembered I know a blogger that is starting a Ph.D. program part time with not three, but FOUR children (sons), aged 10, 7, 4, and 19 months. She had another non-anonymous blog before (I don't think I should reveal who she was) and used to home-school the boys, but now that she's going for the Ph.D., they are in school. I just added another comment to Dr. B.'s post with this information. Recently, "Clemencia" had this and that to say about how her first semester is going. Her research is fascinating, she is investigating the link between breastfeeding and early language development. I hope she succeeds in getting her Ph.D.!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mothers and Ph.D.s

I know I'm over a week late responding to this, but it is a historic moment in my humble blogging career, it's the first time I respond to a topic/question that was first raised by readers of Bitch. Ph.D. and posted on her blog here. I could be wrong, but it may be the first time I link to her as well, not that I haven't read her before, mind you, it just takes me a while to "warm up" to overly famous bloggers. Reading them constantly reminds me of my insignificance, so I sometimes avoid it :). Anyway, my curiosity was piqued by the real possibility of seeing her in person at the MLA (not that I'll be brave enough to go talk to her), and not only have I decided to finally add her to my blog roll, but also to add my two cents to this discussion.

I first saw a reference to this discussion in this post by Sarah at Mommy, Ph.D. who cites Academom and Geeky Mom's previous responses. And now I'm wondering what Jody would say about it, she of the three kids :) I bet her response would be similar to mine, since we're in almost the same situation.

All right, first, I have to admit that I'm not the right person to give advice to other mothers planning to enter Ph.D. programs because I didn't have children when I started my Ph.D. and my oldest son was born after I had finished classwork and passed my comprehensive examination (I passed the oral exam 10 days before his birth). In the two years I was still on campus and had my son, I didn't work much on the dissertation, but the teaching went on smoothly. It helped that my husband was also a graduate student with a flexible schedule and could take care of the baby while I taught. Right around the time I had my second baby, my husband finished his Ph.D. and we moved for him to do his postdoc. As a foreign student, I couldn't work anyway (except on campus), so I just stayed home with the boys and caring for a newborn and a toddler kept me busy and I didn't work on the dissertation for a whole year. Since we couldn't (can't) afford childcare, my parents came and helped me for ten months, and now I'm on the brink of finishing the dissertation. I've been pursuing this degree for almost 8 years and if I didn't literally force myself to finish next year, I think it would take me even longer.

Now, what Bitch Ph.D. wrote at the end of her post is a very real fear for me:
Because, though I hate to say this, academia is not the easiest field for women with kids, especially in the plural; and graduate school, especially when you're still doing coursework, is probably about as bad as it gets. You might get the degree, but in all honesty it'll probably end up being seen a vanity degree: you'll have worked your ass off to finish, but while you were focusing on your work, you'll have been sidelined in the minds of your department as someone who isn't going to go beyond grad school and will somehow be reabsorbed into the non-academic world with a nice diploma to hang on the wall of your home office.
I'm really afraid of this degree becoming only "a nice diploma to hang on the wall," and I truly hope this doesn't become a reality in my life and in the lives of other women just because we happen to be mothers!

I fully agree with Academom when she writes:
The other reason I take issue with Bitch's warning about how moms are treated within academia is that if we moms continue to ACT AS THOUGH we are marginalized, if we expect such treatment, I daresay we will get it. If you expect to be not taken seriously, you run the risk of falling into that predetermined role by acting like someone who doesn't deserve to be.
This is excellent advice for someone like me. I often feel despondent about my own "value" as an academic because I feel disconnected from the academic world while trying to dissertate at home being a full time mom of two boys and away from campus. I daresay Academom's experience was different because she was on campus, teaching and she felt valued as an academic, in spite of the fact of being a mom. With my life enmeshed in that of my boys and with only a few academic conferences and dissertation committee meetings a year (apart from the solitary work on the dissertation) as my links to academic life, it's easy for me to view myself as a mother, but not an academic. That's why up until now this blog has concentrated more on my life as a mother than my life as an academic and the pursuit of the Ph.D.

(I just realized that I used the very same quotes that Geeky Mom included in her post. The first one caught my attention when I saw it there, but the second one was a coincidence, I read it in Academom's post and it caught my attention).

Laura's post is excellent because she explores all outcomes and says that many women never finish and that's OK. She also says that in her situation she didn't feel marginalized by being a mother and that other people in her department had small children. In my case, when I had my sons, I was one of a few students in my department who was married with children, surprisingly, right after I had them, there was a veritable "baby boom" and many other students had children. One of them, whose wife is also in graduate school, even took a year off so his wife could continue. Too bad I had already moved away from campus when that happened. Another important point raised by Laura is the pressure to be in the best programs and get the best jobs when one can explore other options. That gives me hope too. I heartily agree with this:
And I know all the caveats about the academic hierarchy and how people look at the school and all that. And I think that sucks and we should resist it and let a person's work speak for them instead of the degree.
I know that my work is pretty good. I'm not a good writer and I have a really hard time reaching conclusions and figuring out what my argument is, but I'm good at doing research. Time consuming, tedious data collection, number generating research. And in literature too. My work has value because it's grounded in "facts" and not just in abstract "theories." But I digress... I hope to be given a chance, an opening someday. I truly hope that the facts that I'm a woman, a mother, and a foreigner do not keep me from becoming an academic. Here or in Brazil, if we end up going back.
~ ~
Well, Dr. B. ends her post with this request:
I'd love to be proven wrong. If anyone out there knows how a woman with three kids can start a PhD program and get through without losing her mind, please speak up in comments.
So this is part of what I wrote in her comment section:
In my department there was one woman who had three children (5-10, I think, by the time she finished) and who successfully completed her Ph.D. Not only that, but she got a tenure track job right after graduating and edited a book. A complete success story. I'm no longer in touch with her, and she finished in my first year of graduate school, but she certainly seemed "sane" to me! :)

I also don't know how long it took her to finish... I hope it was less than 8 years. Now I'm very curious to find out, maybe I'll get in touch with her. If I do find out, I'll let you know, OK?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Grocery Shopping

A few days before Thanksgiving I did my annual trek to the "regular" grocery store to buy Eggnog. Of course I don't go only once a year to normal grocery stores, sometimes in the summer I go there to get ice-cream when it's one sale (two containers for the price of one or less). This past summer I was busy dissertating though, and didn't go at all, so it had been a while since I had been to this particular store. We only like store-brand Eggnog from the Giant or Stop & Shop supermarkets (S&S in New England, Giant here).

I have been grocery shopping at discount stores (Price Rite, Aldi, and, once in a while, Save-a-lot) for several years now, since when we started living on a tighter budget back in '03-04, I think. In the beginning I had to go elsewhere for our soymilk, for the brand of orange juice with calcium that I liked, and a few other things, and grocery shopping was very time consuming, but now these stores sell those things as well. Sometimes I can even find Boca Burgers or GardenBurgers there and last night I even found organic cow's milk! I only go once a month or so to my dream store (Whole Foods) for Quorn veggie meats and organic dairy and eggs (particularly since I reviewed the organic pregnancy book). I also love Trader Joe's, for its good prices and foods from all over the world, as well as organic and green products, but I'm sure I have already written about WF and TJ before, haven't I? Our families have always had "frugal" lifestyles, and even when we shopped at regular grocery stores, we bought a small amount of processed foods. So I didn't miss much, if anything, when we switched.

When I entered the store two weeks ago, though, I was really struck, amazed even, at the sheer number of brands and variety of products that one finds at a large grocery store. I felt quite overwhelmed then, and kind of thankful for the limited variety of the discount chains. The way I felt was very similar with my first encounter with American Supermarkets back in 1993, I was simply fascinated. In the following year (94) I read Don DeLillo's White Noise and can you guess the topic of my paper? The image of the supermarket in that book -- in it, as long as the supermarket is still there, things are OK. It's a source of comfort to the main character. Even after we moved here in 96, for several years, every trip to the supermarket was a " cultural experience" and I loved to stroll leisurely, enjoying the "sightseeing." One of the things that struck me in this visit is how the organic and natural food section grew in the past year alone. Now the store offers most kinds organic foods in its own brand at reasonable prices!

Lately, I have been thinking about the importance of organic foods (particularly produce), but I have realized that it would be very hard for us to go fully organic now. If we can't even afford shopping at a the "regular" stores (not that I would really want to now that I know I can buy cheaper food of the same quality elsewhere), how could we afford the price of organic produce?
In the case of dairy and eggs, the reasons for going organic are much stronger, given the use of antibiotics and hormone in the feed of the animals, and I buying organic now. Ideally, I know, we should be vegan, but I truly don't have the energy and the time that it takes to plan and execute a vegan diet (sigh...).

Well, I have probably bored you to death with this discussion, but I wanted to write about this, before I forget it and these impressions get lost. There's a great discussion about doing a Ph.D. with children that I want to join in!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Small Steps Towards a Greener Life

I have wanted to write about this ever since I got to review The Complete Organic Pregnancy book, thanks to Andi Buchanan (who quit writing on her Mother Shock blog :( ) and Mother Talk. I hope I get to participate of more blog book tours in the future ;)

I learned a lot from that book and one of the things that surprised me the most was the idea that in order to live the most ecologically sound lives possible, eating local foods is better than organic foods that come from foreign countries or far away, thus using lots of fossile fuel, even if that means going without most fruits and fresh vegetables all winter long. Yikes!! And that's why the book is dedicated to Swiss chard, a winter vegetable. [and sorry for the paragraph long sentence above] Then I thought that in this case, the good thing for me would be to live half of the year in the U.S. and the other half in Brazil, so I wouldn't "starve" during the long, dreary winters here.

Anyway, that's not the subject of this hopefully short post. Jo (from Leery Polyp and who also reviewed the book) had already written twice about the evils of toxins leeching from plastic into our food and water, but the book made an even stronger case for it, emphasizing also the fact that plastic is not biodegradable (and at this point, I get your point about not liking plastic, Chicago Mama, I do! :) and a polutant that takes a thousand years to decompose.

So... today I finally purchased two polycarbonate water bottles at the Essene Market where I go to the LLL meeting. They're very cute, so I want to include a photo later. These can be used over and over again and won't leech anything into our water,.

I'll come back to this topic later, especially because today we got An Inconvenient Truth in the mail from Netflix. Yes, we haven't seen it yet, but that will be corrected soon, and I'll come back to talk about it.

I was planning to write another post today about grocery shopping, but it's getting late, so maybe tomorrow...

Oh, and thank you so much for your congratulations and kind words regarding the job interview. We'll see how it goes...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Exciting News

Guess what? I got a job interview! I did expect it from this particular university (incidentaly, the only one with jobs for both my husband and I), but I don't have high hopes and I'm quite nervous, of course.

It's good to know I'm being given a chance to prove my value before a search committee, though. And now, I need advice, TONS of it. If you know of any blog entries, academic site with a section about job interviews (I'm going to check the Chronicle and also the JIL site), or, better yet, personal experiences, would you send them my way? You can email me about it, if you don't want to publish your story in my comment section.

Now I have to work on my paper and presentation, good thing the presentation is first, and then I can concentrate for the interview. Oh, another question. None of the academic bloggers I'm reading are coming to the MLA, if you know a blogger who is, please let me know, I'd love to start reading his/her blog right now and try to meet him/her there.

I do know about the section on Blogging, and the presenter (Scott Eric Kaufman) who's doing research about blogging -- I haven't had time to check out his survey about how fast memes travel online, but I hope I'll have time to do it and go to the section. (Thanks to Jody at Raising WEG for the link). I think there will be quite a few bloggers attending the section, and I wish I knew at least a handful of them even though they probably wouldn't know me. (Do you know about this section, Laura? I'm sure you do. Are you planning to attend?)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Wish I Could Be... & I Love that I Am...

I wish I could be...

... more witty
Particularly in real live conversations, I wish I could be able to quickly think of a witty, intelligent thing to say right away. Sometimes a witty response comes to me only after it's too late, sometimes hours later.

... more funny/ humorous
As I explained in the previous post, I can rarely come up with a joke, I wish I could infuse my writer of more humour too, but I guess this is just a trait that some people are naturally born with. I do try hard sometimes. On the other hand, I can't stand people who just tell jokes all the time and can't have serious conversations. In my opinion, humor has to be used sparingly and effectively, both in writing and real life interactions.

... more snarky
when needed (I learned this word through blogs, probably Chicagomama, who used to be extremely snarky and is now "the raider of the lost snark" :) -- see? that's the kind of witty I want to be. Being snarky probably doesn't match my other traits (see the list of things I love about me), but would sure come in handy in many situations in life.

... less sensitive
sometimes I earnestly wish I had tougher skin and could bear criticism and feedback (particularly in relation to my writing) better. On the other hand, my sensitiveness is what makes the first trait in the list below possible. And I guess my skin is toughening slowly but surely -- blogging helps, and having to finish a dissertation does too.
~~~ ~~~
Just to offset the wish list above and to show that I have a healthy self-image and awareness I decided to include those things I don't wish for, and the personal traits that make me happy as well.

I DON'T wish at all that I were cooler, more fashionable or more unconventional. I've never liked to do things just "to fit in" (it helps that I didn't grow up and go to high school in this country, I'm sure!). I don't care for popularity and "fame" (even though I have to admit that I'd like to have more readers in this blog here, have my stats go up and "evolve" in the eco-system via links in other blogs :)

~~ ~~
I love that I am (or have learned to be)...

... empathetic
As many of you have may have already proabably noticed in my comments on your blogs, I am truly a very empathetic person. I am easily moved to tears by someone's description of their troubles or joys (call me sappy, I don't mind, I like that in me too :) and become very excited and enthusiastic when good things happen.

... conciliatory
I try to avoid confrontation people and try to be conciliatory. That doesn't mean I have strong opinions, which I do, I just think it's useless to waste one's time and energy in arguments that don't lead anywhere. That's what I think of the "mommy wars" for example, as I wrote in this post (people seemed to like what I wrote because many people commented, some for the first time). I strongly disagree with certain parenting practices, but I think people have the right to choose whatever they want to do and works best for them.

... honest, authentic, true to myself
these have been guiding tenets in my life since a very young age. I just can't pretend to be someone I'm not, I can't really hide my feelings, I'm really an open book. That doesn't make me the most agreeable person to interact with at first sight and can be a pain to deal with when I'm mad about something, but once you know me, I'm more mellow than my sometimes "serious" exterior may show.

... very social, communicative
I just love interacting with people. Both me and my husband are like that -- a good, profound or fun conversation is priceless in our opinion. That's why we miss our friends in Brazil and do get very lonely sometimes. That's why blogging has changed my life for the better, as I have explained in an earlier post. Interacting, "socializing" with people virtually has made all the difference in my life, particularly as a mother "stuck" at home with my two boys in a large city where I don't know many people, or those I know live quite far and aren't like me at all (i.e. most friends from church).
Of course there are things in me that I know realistically that I cannot change, such as being kind of lazy, a procrastinator, and really messy and disorganized. I do try to be better, but mostly I just end up having do some "damage control" to the troubles caused by these annoying traits :) I do like to work under pressure, though, so in the end, it usually works out all right and I end up not trying to change radically. Oh well... :)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Blogging is Very Useful Sometimes...

.... even though it's not a blue engine.
(I know only parents of little boys or girls who love trains may get this one , so I offered the link :)*

Take what happened last night, for example. After the boys went to bed, I was planning to go out to return some things that need to be returned to the stores before it's too late and to clean the house because it's extremely messy (e.g. I just unloaded the dishwasher from the Thanksgiving dishes so I could load it again with the stinky dishes in the sink), but I was checking some blogs before heading out when I came upon this post by one of my blogging friends, Professing Mama. The words "submission guidelines" rang a bell and I looked at the date -- I had an abstract for a conference I don't want to miss that was due yesterday, and it was past 9 p.m.! I had less than three hours to come up with it.

So I went to work and came up with an abstract that I'm very excited about. Better yet, in the process of writing it, I found a full book online (from the 1880s) in Google Books that will contribute to my dissertation research, yay!! So, thanks to blogging, I'm not only be able to go to a conference that I really want to, but I have found a book that will help my rearch, and will start using Google books from now on (this seems to be another "very useful" tool).

*I'm going to write a post sometime about the things I wish I had, and one of them would be the ability to be really witty and funny, like some people I know. I'm very proud of the rare joke or witty saying that I pull out, and this is one of them. I know this sounds lame, but it is very true... I do have a good sense of humor, I think, but I just wish I could be funny at the right times. (note for my Brazilian readers: to be "witty" can mean to have presença de espírito to say something funny at the right time).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Academic Job Application Season

So... I know that several of you want me to keep you posted about the Family in Translation job search.

Yesterday I finished sending out my applications. All three of them. I could have applied to a few more places, but how could I ever apply to Princeton, or Berkeley, or Stanford? I'm a tiny tiny fish in this big pond of academia and it's just a waste of time trying to pass as a big fish. I'm not applying for mere teaching (instructor) positions either and there were two or three of those.

The thing is, both of us are applying, so my search is a bit useless at this point. My husband is sending out almost thirty application, ten times as much. Only one university has positions for both of us (the second one was the application that I "lost") and it's not in a very "attractive" place, but still, if both of us got tenure track jobs, we woudn't mind going to live right smack in the middle of this huge country, far from family and friends.

Our preferences are as follows: Massachusetts (only one of my husband's applications), Atlanta, and Florida (mostly because we have friends there and the climate) -- this last one is my application that won't be considered. There are two schools here in the area that would be convenient only for the fact that we wouldn't need to move right away, but we kind of don't like it here very much... Staying in the Northeast/ East coast would be good, though, and there are comparatively few positions in this geographical area that hubby's applying to.

So, these are the possibilities. At this point I'm hoping to get one or two interviews at the MLA just so I get to "practice," even though this practice is very nerve-racking. Then I'll be anxiously waiting to see how my husband search goes. I'll keep you posted for sure!

Yams with Pecan Praliné & Maple Squash Pie

I decided to post two recipes because I didn't have a photo of the second one, which is the one I really wanted to share.
Yams with Pecan Praline
I tasted this delicious dish when a dear friend invited us for Thanksgiving dinner with her family (not only immediate, but extended as well, including her parents, and her two sisters' families) back in 1999, I think. Experiencing this most typical American holiday with a typical American family was a rare treat, one that hasn't happened since then, and it changed the way we celebrate Thanksgiving forever, because we then learned the "proper way" to do it :) I have been making this dish every year since 2002.

- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (more if you want a sweeter dish)
- 3 Tbs. butter, at room temperature
- 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (or more if you wish) finely chopped pecans
- 6 medium yams or sweet potatoes (about 3 pound), pelled, and cut into 1/2 inch rounds OR canned yams.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, heated

1. In a bowl, work together brown sugar, butter and flour until well combined, then work in pecans. Set aside. (This topping can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature).
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add yam and cook until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook. (we actually like ours softer, so we cook longer). Drain and rinse under cold running water.
3. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Lightly butter a 9 by 13 inch (23 by 33 cm) baking dish.
4. Arrange yams, overlapping in vertical rows in dish. (This can be done up to 8 hours before baking, covered tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerated).
5. Before baking, mix the heated heavy cream with the sugar, butter, flour, and pecan mix and pour cream over yams. Bake for 20 minutes.

Butternut Squash and Maple Pie
Pumpkin pie is definitely an acquired taste, particularly for foreigners like us (I'd be curious to know what the American readers have to say about this -- does everyone generally like it?). I never liked it too much, but a few years ago my husband said that he liked it and I think I baked it once last year with canned pumpkin, and I have bought ready made ones a few times. This year I was going to buy the pumpkin but I got mixed up and got butternut squash (already peeled and cut) instead. Luckily I own two hefty binders of baking recipes* and I found this gem of a recipe. It is just SOOOO yummy!!


Pie crust:
I used a store bought one, and you can do the same or use your typical crust recipe (I'm too lazy now to type the ingredients plus instructions for the crust).

- 2 packages (11 ounces each) frozen butternut squash, thawed
--> I used one 16 oz. package of peeled and cut squash boiled in water until soft
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
(I used 1 teaspoon or so of Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix instead)
- 3 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C)
2. Have pie crust ready on 9 inch round pie dish.
3. To prepare filling, beat together buttenut squash, evaporated milk, sugar, maple syrup, and spices at medium speed until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Our filling into prepared crust.
5. Bake pie until filling is set, 55 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.
6. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

If there's any leftover filling (I had more than would fit the crust), just bake it on a grating dish. It's very yummy. I actually like it like that, without the crust. The crust also tends to burn, given the long baking time, so after it's nicely baked and golden, you can put a strip of foil around it to prevent it from burning.

* Those that are a total ripoff because they come in the mail in installments that cost like 18 dollars each -- I think I spent around 200 before I stopped (and I couldn't afford it at all at the time, back in 1996-7). Good thing I do like to bake, but still, it's a lot of recipes and I'll never bake even half of them in my lifetime. It's called "Great American Home Baking" and it has 12 categories of recipes with over 20 cards with two recipes for each category, that would make almost 500 recipes!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Looong Weekend

**Coming soon: Thanksgiving Recipe**

First, I have just taken the plunge again and switched to the beta version. I could no longer wait to have labels, and plus, blogger had been acting up and I couldn't even add links (without hml) or photos because my toolbar was gone.

Second, it feels like forever since the last time I've posted. This was a very long weekend indeed. Our Thanksgiving celebration was great, mother- and father-in-law came, as did brother-in-law and his family. I cooked most of the food and I enjoyed it. We braved black Friday, although this year nobody spend the night in line like last year (even though it was a lot warmer), we did get things we needed at prices that fit our meager budgets, though (my MIL was waiting since May to get some of the electronics she needed for her house). Then, we drove to Massachusetts to the in-laws' home. Hubby flew from there to Brazil and I drove to NYC last night and slept at a friend's house to pick him up this morning. Phew... Driving with the boys is usually smooth, but now that we bought a DVD player for our old minivan (two 7'' screens), it's a breeze! I do try to limit their TV viewing time, but I must confess that it was much easier to talk to each other (or to listen to NPR) while they were quietly watching a DVD... oh well...

I thought I'd have more to report, but I'm done summarizing the weekend. I sent my first successfully received application yesterday and there are two more to go. It's very stressful to try to work on the application while caring for the boys and with a husband traveling every single weekend and swamped in work! I'll keep you posted about the job search (both mine and my husband's).

All right, I'll be back later with the promised recipe! (maybe recipes)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Thanksgiving Story

It was the day before Thanksgiving, many years ago, perhaps in 1999 or 2000. My husband and I went grocery shopping and when we got to the checkout lane we had to wait for quite a while for the customer ahead of us, a woman. The cashier seemed annoyed and looked apologetically at us.

That was when I noticed that the items that the woman was buying hadn't even been bagged, they were just lying there, all crowded on the belt. I also noticed that the woman was frantically swiping card after card in the machine and that the items she was trying to purchase were not your typical Thanksgiving fare, no. They were first necessity items like bar soap, individually wrapped toilet paper (of the cheapest kind), milk, eggs, some other basic foods and cleaning items. The woman looked frustrated and the cashier even more. But then, all of a sudden, I guess she had tried all the cards, and realized it was not gonna happen, so she left, crying.

We just stood there, stunned, and the same thought crossed our minds -- why in the world didn't we offer to pay for her groceries? What were 70 dollars to us? Why were we annoyed that it was taking so long for the cashier to ring our purchases instead of being empathetic and paying attention to what was happening to the woman? But now it was too late. The woman had already left and the cashier was putting away the unbagged groceries in a contrary mood.

I felt an incredible sadness which enveloped our Thanksgiving celebration that year. I thought about her during the whole holiday season, I wondered if she had found a way to have those much needed items, and whether she had children to care for. And I made a promise to myself that I would never again miss another opportunity to help someone in need.

And Now a "Real" Post

I forgot to say in the previous post that I just love my son's smile, it's one of my favorite things about him.

QUICK DIGRESSION: Blogger is acting up on me right now -- the toolbar for adding links, photos, changing fonts, etc, has disappeared. I guess it's mad that I posted too many photos and that I have been refusing to switch to the beta version even though they invite me everyday. I'd love to switch, I've been itching to have labels in my posts ever since I started blogging, etc... but I'm mortally afraid of the change, and I haven't had time to back-up the blog so I don't have to worry if it disappears again.

Some of you wanted to know what I spoke about in church. It was the second and probably last time I speak there, since I hope we'll be moving next July... the first time I talked about women in the Bible and this Saturday about mothers in the Bible. I was fascinated by all the references to breastfeeding, particularly in Psalms and Isaiah (my favorite book). A person's relationship with God is compared to a baby/child and his/her mother and the peace and comfort he/she feels when breastfed. I felt like writing a scholarly paper about that. Yeah, I'm really a geek -- when I find a subjet I'm fascinated by I can't help but feel I really want to research it and write an academic paper on it. See? I should be an academic, shouldn't I?

All right, what else. After the hectic Thursday and Friday, we did have a good (if busy) weekend. I beat all my records last Friday/Saturday early a.m. - posting 3 times in 24 hours. I actually wanted to do the smiling photos post then too, but I thought it would be too many photos. Actually, right before I posted the "smile post" yesterday my husband was complained with me that I shouldn't post so many photos, I should select (as it is, I'm already being very selective, believe me, I do take that many photos) and leave "a taste for more" in my readers mouth. What say you? Do I post too many photos?

Back to Saturday, the only hard thing about speaking in church, was how my youngest son behaved. He just wanted to be with me and was walking all over the church, so two friends had to take him away (crying, although he was fine while with them) to the children's room to play with him and the other children. Afterwards, I had the whole singing group eat at my house and when they left, at 4 p.m. I was so pumped by all the nice conversations and singing practice that I decided to drive to Maryland that afternoon (I'd previously thought I'd be so tired that it'd be best to leave on Sunday). The trip was good, I listened to a new CD by Yo-yo Ma that had just arrived in the mail (more on it on a later post, when blogger lets me post links -- I'm too lazy to use html right now, sorry) and the boys fell asleep as I got there at 9 p.m. and slept the whole night without even moving. That was good because I needed to sleep, since I had gone to bed at 4 a.m. and gotten up at 8.

On Sunday the boys played with their older cousin while my SIL raked the leaves in her condo's front yard (I took some photos, of course). Then, after lunch while my nephew napped the two of us and the boys went to Home Depot and Lowe's where we bought red concrete edgers, top soil, and mulch to straighten out her garden and plant the bulbs (tulips, crocus, and hyacinth) that I had given them as a gift a while back. I can't wait to see them bloom next year!

I had to get up really early (4:45) to drive to Dulles airport, since my BIL lives on the opposite side of D.C. and told me that if I didn't leave by 5 a.m. I'd be stuck on 495 for hourse. I left at 5:15 and there was no traffic. I got to the airport and my husband's plane landed shortly after. We were able to leave in less than an hour. The best part was the drive home, 'cause we had time to talk about all that he experienced in Brazil. He got to practically spend Saturday night talking to one of our best friends there. Good stuff.

Well, today I have been out food shopping for Thanksgiving, we're having the Quorn vegetarian roast, yams (a pecan praliné recipe that I have -- let me know if you want me to share it), brussel sprouts, salad (mesclun mix, grape tomatoes, baby carrots), vegetarian mushroom gravy. We'll also make some basmati rice and I'll bake a pumpkin pie and an apple crumble pie, with Granny Smith apples. Oh, and I bought eggnog -- we love eggnog! This is already too long and my sons have already had their "fix" of PBS Kids of the day, so I have to go!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

I DARE you not to smile!

I just couldn't resist posting these unbearably cute photos of my youngest son, a sequence I took a few days before the haircut. I dedicate them to my friend Juliet, who often posts photos of her unbearably cute son. She just found out she's pregnant and I'm sure her second child will be very cute too, like mine. Congratulations on your pregnancy Juliet!! I hope everything goes well.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kelvin's First Haircut (2004)

Well, because I posted several photos of Linton's first haircut from last week I thought it would be just fair to showcase his older brother's as well. Kelvin's first haircut at a hairdresser's took place in Brazil on January 7, 2004 amidst lots of fanfarre and celebration as you can see in this photo:In the mirror you can see daddy taking the photo, mommy (4 months pregnant) filming, and grandma (who was getting a pedicure) observing. Grandpa is not in the photo, but he's seated to the left. Oh, and if you look closely, you can see that he has his granpa's car keys in his hands. He kept locking and unlocking the car during the haircut.

I had previously had to cut his "bangs" which were getting in his eyes in Oct/03, three months earlier, which I did while he was sleeping.

Hair on face:Haircut while baby slept:

Before Kelvin's first "proper" haircut, look at those adorable curls! :
Kelvin and his paternal and maternal grandfathers

Here mama is worried he's going to be afraid and is trying to reassure him, but he handled it like a pro, very differently from his brother last week (the car key did help):
During and after it was finished:

And this was after last week's haircut, and... snif, snif, he doesn't look like a baby anymore :(
Isn't my big boy handsome, though?

P.S. I know it's almost 3 a.m. I should be writing my "sermon" (I'm speaking in church tomorrow), but I'm doing it while I blog. Explanation: it takes so long for the photos to load (we have DSL, not cable) that I just can't bear "wasting" my time writing these posts without being busy with something else at the same time... Let me know if you want to know what I spoke about.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Smart Squirrels

Today I had to walk a lot with the boys in the double stroller because I dropped the car off at the garage and then went to the bank, grocery store, etc. They still haven't called, so I don't know what's wrong with the car yet and when it will be ready. I do need it on Sunday, so let's see what happens. (This was at 4 pm. Now I have already picked up the car -- it took more walking, this time in the dark. I'm really glad it's not very cold here now, 15 C/57 F or higher during the day and 10C/50 F this evening).

Anyway, we were passing by the parking lot of a huge pharmacy when we saw a squirrel with something bright in his mouth. I stopped so we could observe it, because it was pretty close. When I looked carefully, I saw what it was -- a Lindt truffle! The blue one which is dark chocolate -- what a smart squirrel!! I felt sorry I didn't have my camera on me (actually I've been pretty depressed because I haven't been able to many photos lately because either the recharcheable battery of my camera is is broken [again] or the charger is).

Then I remembered I had these photos of another smart squirrel that I took at the playground last January: It was very jealous of its pizza slice, even while I was just trying to take photos.

If I have time, I'll have one more post with photos tonight. I'm not participating of NaBloPoMo, but I can also post more often, can't I?

A Few Firsts (Haircut, Chocolate Milk and...)

Last Thursday (not yesterday) was a day of several firsts in our family.

Linton, my youngest son, has very fine and curly blonde hair, so he didn't really need a haircut until now, at 29 months, when his hair was getting way too long and right before winter when the heated air will make his hair straight (as it makes mine) and falling on his eyes. I was kind of sad to see it go, if I had my way, both of my boys would have long hair. People do keep referring to them as "she," and even asking my older boy whether that is his "sister," so I have to relent and Kelvin does have a haircut once in a while. In the end of last year we did let him have longer hair and he'd proudly tell anyone who cared to listen that he was letting his hair grow. Therefore, I wasn't really looking forward to the day when my "baby"'s hair would have to be cut.

Before (you can click on photos for larger view): I guess he really needed a haircut...


After (these are a bit blurry and didn't work well because Kelvin made Linton cry -- a common occurrence in our lives): Just so you know, he didn't sit on the chair like that for the haircut. He didn't want to have his hair cut, even after seeing his brother (who sat on a booster) and I have ours. So I had to hold him in my lap (facing me) while the hairdresser cut his hair from the back. We were both covered in hair and I was only able to gather a few strands afterwards to save.
He's crying here because his brother is trying to lower the chair and he is scared.

The second "first" is a bit less exciting, and so far it hasn't happened again. We try to eat healthy here at Casa in Translation, eating "whole foods" as much as possible and avoiding processed foods. We're ovo-lacto vegetarians (we do eat fish once in a while), and even though we do eat sugar and often have some chocolate or ice-cream for dessert, I try to avoid it so the boys won't get addicted to sweet stuff. For some reason, that afternoon, both boys started to ask for, or actually, demand, chocolate milk, which they had never tasted -- they generally drink vanilla soymilk with nothing on it (or, once in a while, the 2% milk that their daddy drinks). So I served them mugs of soymilk with Milo, which is a chocolatey and malt mixture similar to Ovaltine* that we had at home and they really liked it. They haven't asked for it again yet, but I know that it'll happen soon :)

* I just can't stand American Ovaltine, it's awful. In Brazil it's called "Ovomaltine" and it's delicious, there is a chocolate flavor and one that's only malt flavored. My dad says that the
American brand just isn't Ovaltine AT ALL.

I wish I could be like Jo(e) and able write posts like this one (which is brilliant by the way and has very helpful suggestions for parents of teenagers :) ) and not feel embarrased, but for some reason I can't. I'm not too shy about this in real life (I have even shared this story with my SIL, who was actually a bit traumatized from a similar experience when she was 5 years old), but for some reason I'm very hesitant to post it for the whole world to see (that is, the 30 or so people who read my blog). Anyway, I'll try...

The third "first" happened before the other two (I'm going backwards here), in the middle of the night, between 2-3 a.m. We've been going to bed really late because of my husbands' trips, and we were still up, getting busy in bed when we heard a little boy (our 4 year old) walk softly into our room and ask, confused, "why are the lights on?" Well, good thing we were under the sheets and he didn't really see anything. He was half asleep anyway, and climbed into bed with us while we quickly turned off the light. Daddy then got up and brought him back to his bedroom. Needless to say, we're locking the door now.

Anyone out there brave enough to share a similar tale? :)

(and now, after editing this post -- adding photo of Milo, changing its position 4 times, correcting typos, I'm off to drink my own glass of soymilk and Milo, since I haven't had anything to eat yet)