Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Literary Mama Blog Book Tour Poem

I remember the time I first encountered Literary Mama in the web... I had recently given birth for the second time and just discovered blogs (several of which I started reading because they were linked to in LM the site). When I saw the site I breathed a deep sigh of relief… My pregnancy had been a lonely time for me, a graduate student working on my dissertation proposal and caring for a toddler, all while being a teaching assistant at the university and I longed to read about other mothers, particularly mothers who were interested in literature like I was. Amy Hudock’s Mothering in the Ivory Tower columns and her blog fascinated me. The mere idea of such a group of “literary mothers” made me joyful!

Of course I jumped at the chance of participating in the Literary Mama Anthology blog tour. I wanted the book very badly, because I had not read most of the pieces in the web. Even though I enjoy reading blogs, and using the internet for email and a research tool, I still prefer real books for literary pieces. Now, however, after finishing the book I want to go back and read as much as I can from the site!

I have to thank Andi profusely for getting me on board so late, this book was a precious gift that I have enjoyed immensely. When I read the introduction online I was convinced that if I had to start over my dissertation I’d write about literature and motherhood, I’m sure I’d be most passionate about this subject.

Since mine is probably one of the very last reviews and by now most people have already read many, many ones… I want to leave you with something different: a quickly written (no, it took quite a while, particularly for the links) “review poem,” partly inspired by one of the most amazing pieces of the book (for me), the “concrete” poem “Pregnancy” by Lori Romero, which actually opens the book and looks more beautiful in actual print than digital print.

Note: (I don't think the text will look like I want it to look like, I'll try, but I don't know if it'll work. Edited to add: It doesn't really work, and I'm kind of sad, since it took me a while to type it the way I wanted it... oh well... It originaly wasn't meant to aligned in the center either, but it looks a bit better that way. Some of the lists of words were meant to look like shapes, square, diamond, circle, "stairs". Does anyone know how I could try to keep the formatting I want? I started to play with colors and sizes, to try to make it better)

mothers come in all

sizes colors


just like their children:

not yet



no more

above all they are mamas

creative mamas
broken mamas
prospective mamas
poet mamas
adoptive mamas

all of them children themselves
trying to come to terms with their
childhood, their parents, grandparents


mothers writing
to heal
to survive
to live

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The State of the Dissertation - Update #4

I don't know if the title sounds good, but I'm "stealing" it from 11D who had a few "The State of the Blog" posts a while back (and I thought it was a great title).

I am long overdue posting about what's going on here... in all fronts, but I guess I'll start with the most important thing this year for me - the dissertation. The last update was soooo long ago (last November - it's fun to look back at previous months, I like some of the posts I wrote that month...), and even though I haven't done much since then, I want to update you about my current "dissertating."

Well, picking up where I left off, I wrote first drafts of 3 chapters in the first 3 weeks of November, but then I didn't work at all after Thanksgiving and until my parents got here this February. I still have a new reader for my work (the professor from Brasil), but it doesn't look like I'll be able to defend when she is due to come to North America (late May early June). Right now I want to finish as soon as possible, but I know I have to play by the rules (that is, I can't force my committee to let me schedule a defense date without having them read at least two or three very solid chapters), and I also don't want to feel pressured so much that I start hating the dissertation, so I'll take my time, even though I do want to finish before June if possible.

Because... right now, it's amazing, but I'm enjoying working on the dissertation SO much! I'm taken by surprise sometimes about how I passionate I feel about the subject I have chosen (and it was not my first choice!). I decided not to really talk about the subject in the blog anymore (I deleted a comment with the prospective title a while back, and I think I will go back and edit earlier entries to eliminate the name of the university and my department, etc... just in case, you know... I think I'll try to apply for jobs in the fall, so I need to be more careful). [so if you want to know what I'm doing and where I'm going to school, hurry, go read those first entries before I edit them :) Just kidding, if you really want to know you can email me and I'll tell you all about it]

Now for what's been going on... I just spent two full weeks finishing chapter 2 (chapter 1 was approved by my advisor last November, but I think I'll need to edit it a bit, but it's probably safer to finish my analysis before I do it) and I sent a new draft (3rd) to the advisor on Friday. It's a really long chapter, in which I do a historic overview (and "review of literature") of the subject. When I started to work on it two weeks ago it had 44 pages, now it has 67! I'm afraid my advisor will want to divide it in two chapters, but I hope not, because it won't make much sense, I think. I want to keep the different "takes" on the history of the subject all together. (Hey, Alice, if you want to read this chapter, you're welcome to, I think you'd enjoy it!).

Anyway... my writing is pretty bad today, I should go to bed now, and maybe this week I can work hard and save some time for blogging after I'm done. I don't know about that, though... If you read the previous post you know that I have TONS of things to do! The hardest one will probably be the upcoming birthday party... (sigh).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

To-Do List

I really need a to do list right now because there are so many deadlines coming up for me, so since I've seen some blogging friends do it (and until I can figure out how to put one in my side bar), I'll post one as well.

I know it must be boring, to read other people's lists, but after this post we'll go back to our regularly scheduled program, OK?

Things to do:

- Make to-do list
- OK, now, figure out how to cross items out (I know, I'm really stupid, can anybody help?
- Call to schedule doctor's appointment for Kelvin (Only after March 20)
- Mail invitations to Kelvin's 4th birthday party
- Finish reading the Literary Mama Anthology and write blog post for blog book tour - coming up on Feb. 28.
- Cook and prepare decorations for Kelvin's birthday party (March 5)
- Buy present for Kelvin
- Submit bibliography fellowship application (due March 1st)
- Write abstracts for conference (due March 1st and 15)
- Write birth story birthday post (March 9)
- Write paper for conference presentation (March 23-26)
- Write and submit article for publication until the end of March
- Continue working on dissertation (more on that in an upcoming post)

Wish me luck!

Edited to add:
P.S. Thanks to Amber at American Family for crossing our words in her blog posts, so I could go look at the source code and figure out how to do it!!

Friday, February 17, 2006

*Brand New* Technology and Innovation Meme

Edited to add a question about wireless networking to question 1 :)

I had been thinking of creating a meme based on my Valentine's Day post. . .
(by the way, I forgot to mention that we don't really celebrate this American holiday, like most other ones with the exception of Thanksgiving, because were didn't grow up here. DH and I did go out for dinner the next day, though, and like Alice, I should say it was fun to do something without the kids, except that I kept worrying about them, since we were running late - we didn't get home until 8 pm)

. . . and then I enjoyed so much reading some of your comments, particularly Kate's that I decided to go ahead and do it, in spite of the fact that I have been tagged by you with a few memes (the book one and the four things one) and didn't respond yet (I will, though, 'cause I think those are fun).

This will be an easy meme to respond to because most of my answers are already posted in the aforementioned Technology and Innovation = Love post, so all you have to do is cut and paste the questions. [I ended up responding to more questions that I thought I would]. Naturally, you can add new questions, and change the ones I have suggested:

1. Do you remember when you saw your first computer? When did you actually use one? What about having your own? Do you own a laptop? (PC or Mac?) Have you gone wireless at home yet?
(We use PCs, but really want to get a Mac, particularly for video editing). We went wireless last year in June and I even blogged about it, but I had forgotten to ask about it until I read Alice's response to this Meme. Having a wireless network is really cool, particularly when we have guests with laptops so everyone can go online at the same time. There was one time when we had 4 or 5 computers online, counting our desk and lap tops.

2. When did you first go online and/or use email? Who did you email back then? How did the internet change your life? When did you discover blogging? What about your home internet connection - is it dial-up, DLS, cable?
I can't live without internet access nowadays, and have become completely addicted to blogs and blogging. The main way in which the internet changed my life is that it made it easier to be an expatriate and be in touch with family thousands of miles away. The other thing is the access to knowledge and information. The internet has really helped a lot in my dissertation research, even though of course books are still the main source. It helps (or used to help) with teaching too. This post is all about blogs and blogging, a bit outdated, but still relevant regarding my own experience. We had free dial-up access to the university (in MA) until we bought a house and then it was no longer a local call (1997-2001), then we had cable (2001-2004), and now we have DSL because it's a bit cheaper (I liked cable better, though).

3. Do you remember your first VCR? What about a video camera (there were some bulky ones back in the 80s and 90s) and home videos?
I didn't write about this, so I'll respond now. When I was a baby and young girl (until 7 or 8) my parents had this Super 8 video camera, too bad their super 8 player has been broken for years now, and we have to put those movies in DVD (it's probably expensive). Our first VCR was bought in 1986, and it was a USED one (really bad). I loved to go to video stores and check out movies, particularly for "girls only" sleepovers with romantic movies (our favorite at the time A Room With A View - I still like this one, the other corny ones, I won't even mention :). My husband's family bought a C-VHS (that small tape that fits in an adapter to play in a regular VCR) video camera in our trip to the US back in 1993 (I was not married yet then, but I travelled with his family). My parents only bought one in 1996 when my brother came to the US to visit me. Me, DH (boyfriend at the time) and our friends shot some home movies back in 1991-92, but we had to borrow a video camera to do so.

4. When did you switch from VCR to DVD? How did it change your video viewing experience? Do you use TiVo or any such "contraption" to tape TV shows? Do you use Netflix or some other internet-based DVD "renting" service?
(this is the main subject of my previous post about this)

5. What about music? Did you enjoy listening favorite music in Long Plays or did you prefer cassete tapes? When did you buy your fist CD player and switched to CDs? Did you abandon them (and turned to dowloaded music) for MP3 players or Ipods or do you still buy CDs?
(I'm not going to ask or comment about "illegal" music activities in the internet, even though it was an exciting innovation, lest one of us gets arrested for it :)

5. Do you own and use a cell phone? Do you think it's useful or just annoying?
(Did you always have a telephone in your house growing up? Did you have a phone in your own room?)
You don't have to answer the last part, but it applies to me. Since I grew up in Brazil and lived for many years in a rural area, for the most part, I grew up without a telephone. We had one for 4 years when I was 4-8 years old, but then, even though we moved to the big city of São Paulo, we didn't get to have a phone until 1989, I think, when I was 18. Then, we had only one phone and sometimes two (one for downstairs, another for upstairs), and I never used the phone much. During high school (when we didn't have one) I usually called my best friends from a pay phone. When I got married, we didn't have a telephone or a car (should I include a question about cars? Maybe).

6. When did you first buy a digital camera? What kind was it (3.2, 4.0, 5.0 mega-pixels or better)? Did you start taking more pictures or were you a photo afficionado before then? What about a digital video camera?
Our camera is a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-F717, 5 megapixels. Really bulky, but we like it. We already took tons of pictures before we went digital. Now we save $ because we hardly ever print our pics.

7. What about televisions? Have you already embraced the new technologies, such as HDTV, plasma, and flat screen? (On the other hand, you wouldn't remember black & white TVs, would you?)
We didn't have TV growing up until I was 4, then when my uncle got a brand new color TV, he gave us his old one. It was b&w, and it took a few minutes for the image to come to the screen. I watched Prince Charles and "Lady Di"'s wedding live on that TV :) We bought a color TV when I was 11 (1982) - my parents still have it, but since then they've bought two better ones. We bought our first TV when we came to the U.S. in 1996, and we still have it. It's a simple 19', stereo.

I'm tagging EVERYONE in my blogroll, and even those who aren't there (I should add a few more links, I know) and just lurk here. Of course some people in my blogroll don't read my blog, but that's OK :)
Could you let me know in the comments if you decide to take up this "meme"? Feel free to adapt it at will.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Cake for Midlife Mama!

(recipe slightly edited, see note below post)
This cake was baked to wish a Happy 45th Birthday to Libby (Midlife Mama), a fellow blogging mother, academic, and children's literature lover (did I forget to mention food lover?). Unfortunately I can only offer it to you virtually, but the recipe follows below.

It doesn’t look perfect, not even that pretty, but I just made it myself
- and it is still warm.


Brazilian Chocolate Cake

A “healthier” chocolate cake, but still yummy!


4 eggs, whole
2 cups of sugar (use less sugar if using Nesquik - like 1 1/2 cups or less)
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of water – boiling
2 cups flour
1 ½ cup cocoa (Nesquik) - - or unsweetened cocoa (1 cup only)
1 pinch of salt
1 tbs baking powder

Utensils: You will need two bowls, one with a spout if possible, a mixing spoon and a fine sieve, this batter is good for a 13X9 in. (22X33 cm. or 20X30) rectangular baking pan or pyrex or a large bundt pan.

In a large bowl (with a spout) mix the whole eggs, sugar and vegetable oil. Pour the boiling water and mix, adding to it all the flour and the cocoa and mixing it quickly (so the flour doesn’t “cook”). The batter will be very lumpy, but when I was a young girl I devised a way to make the it smooth (the original recipe tells you to use your hands to help eliminate the lumps, but that would never work for me) – simply pass the whole batter through a sieve into another clean bowl!

Then, add the pinch of salt and the baking powder (it’s very tricky to mix the baking powder without big lumps again – just spread the powder slowly over the batter with a spoon and mix slowly, or whatever way it works for you). Do not use an electric mixer for this cake. Pour in the prepared pan of your choice (oiled and dusted with cocoa),

and bake in a 350 F (under 200 C) oven until it’s baked (use the old trick of the toothpick – stick it in the center and when it comes out clean, the cake’s done :)

Easy Chocolate Frosting

1 ½ -2 cups cocoa (Nesquik)

2 tbs milk

2 tbs butter

Right after the cake is done, put all ingredients in a glass or plastic bowl and warm for 30-40 seconds in the microwave to heat the milk/melt the butter and then mix it with a spoon until it’s smooth. Just pour over/ spread on the cake while it’s still warm.


Edited to add: this cake is good even without frosting, because the top crust is hard and crunchy. You can definitely use unsweetened cocoa as well, and I just realized that if you use sweetened cocoa, the ideal thing would be to use less sugar. I edited the recipe above as well.

PS This cake is also dedicated to Alice (from Jabberlingual), who has lately been frustrated in her chocolate cake making :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Technology + Innovation = Love?

This post has been in the works since Oct. 16 05, can you believe it? I thought today would be a fitting day to finally go ahead and finish it, since it's Valentine's day.

What do technology and innovation have to do with love? Well, at least in my personal life there's a small connection, but let's go back in time a bit before we get to it, shall we?

Do you remember when you saw your first computer? (my good friend Marco asked that in his blog last year :) Oh, yes, do you even remember your first email? I recently found out that "email" "was born" the same year I was born: 1971. Exactly 34 years ago last October, according to some newstories.

Anyway, I don't really recall the first time I saw a computer. I don't think it was too long before my dad bought our family's first computer, in January 1994. It was a 386 ( or would it be 486? ) and I immediately started using MS Word (absolutely clueless in the beginning, since I never read a manual or took a class). The computer was very useful, because 1994 was my last day of college, and up to that point I had only handed out handwritten papers (!!), and I was finally able to type and print out my papers. It was also great to organize the list of people to invite to our wedding, in December that year (we sent out over 400 invitations!!). Well, as you can imagine, I was astounded once when I learned that my Californian department colleague who had a geeky dad had received her first computer as a birthday gift around 1984!

It took me two more years to "be introduced" to the internet. It was only in 1996 when we moved to the U.S. that I went online for the very first time. It was some day in early September 1996, and I was delighted to be able to read newspapers and magazines from Brazil and send email to my brother and a handful of friends in Brazil who already had email accounts. The most thrilling moments were those in which we were able to talk "live" with my brother and my husband's best friend in a DOS program, affiliated with "Pine," a world-wide system of communication between universities (I should say that I used my university email in "Pine" until 2001, when I finally started using the web-based university email). It took us another two years to buy our first computer (a Gateway that cost us almost 3k!), in September 1998, the month I started graduate school. We still use the same monitor, even though we updated the computer when we moved to Philly 1 1/2 year ago.

Some other technological or innovational "developments" in our lives in chronological order are (so you can see, we're slowly leaving the status of "technologically challenged" behind):

Mini-DV video camera - we got one on April 2002 to be able to capture our newborn in video.

Laptop - February 2003. We still have the same one, though now it's way too heavy compared with the new ones. We badly need another one.

Digital camera - on May 2003, before a trip to the Grand Canyon and 6 other National Parks. I was not that "late"– but we were without one for over 1 year of 1st son’s life). It was the best thing that happened to our finances, since I'm a photo fanatic, and would develop several rolls of film every month :)

Cell phones - it was only in April 2004 (before our second son's birth, and our move to PA) that we finally succumbed to cell phones. I have no idea how we could live with them before :)

DVD player - 2004, before then, we watched DVDs only in our computer(s).

OK, and now I get to the "love" part... even though I'm sure this will be completely silly, and it doesn't really have to do with technology and more with internet-related "innovations."

When we lived in MA, there was a very nice local video-store where we could get tons of international films, in addition to the Hollywood staples, and they even had a 5 DVDs or tapes for 5 dollars for 5 days promotion for old releases (awesome, no?!). After we moved, however, we never watched videos anymore. Of course having a young baby who didn't sleep a long stretch in the beginning of the night as our oldest son did was not very helpful either :)
But then last October we decided to sign up for Netflix for the first time, and I was delighted to discover wonderful, marvelous films that I had never seen! Most of them have to do with love (see?).

The very first film we got, I had wanted to see for over a year (just too bad I didn't wait until Christmas) - Love, Actually - I liked it was OK (I'd thought it would be a more "serious" film than it actually is), but it introduced me to a WONDERFUL singer, that I didn't know both because I grew up in Brazil and because she's not from my generation: Joni Mitchell. I bought the very same album that the Emma Thompson character got as a gift in the film: Both Sides Now and I've been addicted to it ever since. I'm listening to it as I type this, together with Sting's ...all this time (which's also awesome - particularly the DVD, coincidentally shot on Sept. 11, 2001).

Now for my favorite films EVER (until now, that is :) Again I have to thank my friend Marco for writing about these movies in his blog: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004). Talk about great, awesome films about (romantic or not) relationships, love, and related subjects. They're not movies for everyone, I guess, since there's not much "action," but if you like dialogue-based movies and intellectually challenging and tought-provoking conversations, these films are for you. So, now you have my film picks for Valentine's Day, and you know how come I think my own "technological" advances have brought me to LOVE-ly movies (and music)!

P.S.1 Technological advances that we have not yet embraced: ipod or mp3 player (we really want to have one, though), TiVo (OK, we don’t even have cable :), and the new breeds of tvs (we really don't value TV too much, so those will take a looong time to get to us).

P.S.2 I forgot to mention CDs (I grew up with Long Plays, "LPs" and later, when a teenager, cassete tapes). Me and my husband bought our first CD-player and CDs when we visited the U.S. for the first time in 1993.

Bilingual Families site - I have been linked!

I have been recently contacted by Corey Heller, the founder of this Seattle-based and very interesting website: Bicultural Family. She wanted to include a link to my blog in their first newsletter, and here it is. I am delighted and honored to have been included in this list, together with my blogging friends Alice (from Jabberlingual), and Clo (from Multi Tongue Kids), and some other truly interesting multi-cultural bloggers.

Well, I want to welcome any visitors that may visit from the Bicultural Family site, but have to say upfront that we're not yet a fully bilingual family! My sons are still mostly monolingual, but I'm sure they will soon learn English (and at least one or two other languages). Actually, yesterday I was talking a bit in English with my almost four-year old, and I'm planning to do this more often.

I have also posted a link to (and requested to be included in the directory of) the Expat Blog, the self described "The online expatriate community." You can find the button/link directly below my list of expatriate/multi-cultural mama blog list.

OK, now I'm going to try to post a Valentine's Day themed post, hold on :)!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

First Week Back "Home" in the U.S. (The "Eaten Post")

[Original post "eaten" by blogger. I tried to write the unsaved "itemized" part again below... It was started on Thursday 2/2, posted on Friday night, 2/3 and re-written/re-posted today, over 2 weeks since I got back]

Let me start by saying that even though I missed home a lot in my last weeks in Brazil (I even blogged about it), this time I was not happy to come back at all...

Back in March last year, when I came back from 2 months in Brazil, I had Spring to look forward to, with wonderful weekly visits to Longwood Gardens, warmer weather , a happy reunion with hubby and daddy. Our little family of four was getting back together after almost 2 months, and we longed to spend lots of time enjoying each other's company and anticipating the warmer weather that was to come. I had vegetables and herbs to plant, as well as my now blog famous morning-glories to look forward to.

This time, in addition to the cold, dreary weather (OK, as an aside, the weather has been unseasonably warm these days...), the prospects are not very good, as I have already whined enough about what this year has in store for me. But that's not really it, I mean, the reason for the unhappiness about returning. It's not that I dread having to work on the dissertation or anything like that (and, for that matter, I still have spring to look forward to, and my garden, they're just a little farther off in the future), it's just that I have come to the conclusion that I don't really like my life here, it's a mixture of living in "limbo" for too long (not good enough sallary, steady, "real" job for hubby, living in a place we wouldn't choose to live permanently, things like that) and other things. Actually, as I will further explore in posts relating some of my experiences in Brazil that I promise to write, we don't really have "a life"... or at least meaningful, intellectually fulfilling friends, social life, etc... [I just posted what I wrote in Brazil, as you already read]. This always hits me when I come back, but sometimes I am actually glad to leave Brazil and enjoy "the comforts" of living in "America"* again. (I missed my cell phone a lot. They do have cell phones in Brazil of course, but no nationwide coverage or free nights and weekends. In addition, my parents forgot their battery charger when we travelled...)

Well... the aim of this post was to update you on the things I have been busy with since we came back.

1) Cooking
I haven't eaten food cooked my myself in a regular basis in months (almost 5 months!!) so I was dying to cook. I'm a good cook, and I'm not very modest about this, I should say. My mom always says that I cook much better than she does (it must be tough for her to cook for me all these months, I do recognize). Anyway, the day after I got back I cooked several Indian dishes (I love Indian food!), and a few days later, I some Thai-style noodles. [I originally wrote about the food in more detail, but I just can't get it right again...]

2) Shopping
I not only had to buy food and other items to refill our refrigerator and pantry, but this year I had planned to shop for clothes for Kelvin for next year in the winter clearance, and I suceeded! Why spend so much more money in clothes when I can plan ahead and buy everything 75-80% off? So I bought him several corduroy pants, turtle-neck shirts, fleece pants and tops, sweatshirts, and a heavy winter jacket... I guess if I had a girl I might have to think about styles, but I have to say that I simply despise fashion and its trends - I think it's just a ploy to make people consume more and more. Consumerism creates such a waste of goods, and this country is all about consumerism (Brazil too, particularly where clothes are concerned - fashion is even more of an issue there!).

3) Sister-in-law and nephew's visit
The day I arrived from Brazil, my brother-in-law left for Germany, where he spent a week, so on Sunday morning, my sister-in-law drove from Maryland to our house to spend a few days with us. My nephew, who's 4 months younger than Linton, was missing his dad a lot, but he was immediately happy to be with his cousins. He loves older toddlers/kids, and he giggles just looking at his cousins. The weather was pretty nice on Monday (18 F - 60sF) and we went to the playground together. We also talked and talked about our time in Brazil, our families, etc. It was great to have her here until Tuesday night, when she left because my BIL was getting back on Wednesday.

As you already know... we had a week for ourselves and then my parents arrived (my thoughts on that in a future post). Now I HAVE to work. I'm going to post my To-Do list in my side-bar so I can be held accountable to my blog readers as well, what about that? Other fellow ABDs do that, and it seems to help them. Well, now let me post this, 9 days late, thanks to Blogger...

* OK, here I mean "United States of America", but I want to go on a tangent now... I have a pet-peeve about this continent thing. My non-American readers, may I ask you how many continents are there in the world (according to your grade school teacher/book/ whatever)? I was taught there are 5 - like in the Olympic rings: America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and "Oceania "(I suppose Antarctica was not included because it was not really "inhabited"). Well, well, well... the American friends I've made since I came here have always answered 6 continents, the sixth being South-America, of all things!!! I'd be slightly mad every time, and saying, "Hey, but the Americas weren't even separated until you build the Panama Channel!" This separation thing is meaningless, I know, see Europe/Asia/Africa, all linked - I'm perfectly aware that this whole continent thing is absolutely arbitrary, but still... I "can't swallow" 6 continents... My country is in America as well, we're all "Americans"!!
Edited to add: it was very amusing to read your comment, Alice!! I'll tackle the issue in another post, I guess. (and I'll add the comments myself, since I have them saved in emails).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

This Post is 1 Month Old (from Brazil)

On January 7, I wrote this in my laptop computer while we were at some of our best friends' house for the weekend. It was a Saturday morning and I felt I needed to write this (and much more, which didn't get written). Even though it's half-finished, and unpolished, I want to post it anyway. I hope to have time to go back to this later (I have actually already blogged about some of the things in this "old" post)...


I have to write in English, mostly because of the blog. First I’ll write thoughts for a blog post, then, maybe I’ll go into Portuguese if there’s time. [there wasn't]

It’s not even 7:30 am and Linton’s been awake for half an hour or so, which is absolutely normal. Problem is, we went to bed at 4 am

These days I’m not blogging because I’m finally “living” instead of just pretending I have a life, which I is the case most of the time when I’m not in Brazil, particularly because I when I’m in the US I feel the need to be online a lot, it’s the only semblance to “having a life” that I can find in our lives there, my only way to interact with like-minded people, to meet new friends, etc. Depressing, isn’t it? I wanted go online but I couldn’t possibly exchange real moments with dear friends for “the internets” as Jo (Leery Polyp) or some other people would say…

I finally don’t feel jealous of Jo(e), who’s one of my favorite bloggers, particularly because of her wonderful, moving posts about her family and her rich, fulfilling life experiences. And I feel like I can finally identify with many moments described by one of my favorite mama writers, Catharine Newman (e.g. I can’t even begin to describe here Kelvin’s budding relationship to our best friends’ daughter Beatriz, I can finally appreciate fully when Catharine writes about Ben and Ava. Too bad we’re going away in just 2 weeks).

OK, and I know what all of you are probably thinking. It’s clear to me and probably to you that our place is probably here in Brazil, why don’t we just move back here right now?

Oh, how I wish life was simple like that! There are so many factors involved, the main one is my husband having a job that he enjoys, and that fulfills his expectations, since he’s spent so much effort to get the Ph.D. and working on the postdoc. This is a very complex thing, given that we only want to live in a specific area, the state of São Paulo, which is where our friends and my parents live and also one of the most developed parts of the country. In addition, it would only be fulfilling for him to work at a handful of institutions here (also some of the best in the country). Apart from the tight competition to enter one of these universities, there are some complicating factors, e.g. the fact that his specific area of specialization does not exist here in Brazil (only in theoretical physics, not experimental) and he’s applying for positions in related areas, which does not help much. The hiring process is also extremely different from the U.S., super bureaucratic, and involving an actual exam that one must pass with the minimum required grade! This is why we need to keep all of our options open, we’re not ruling out jobs in the U.S., and DH will probably enter the job market in earnest in the fall, in addition to participating of three concursos (competition for a job opening) here in Brazil (which will involve at least two trips to Brazil that we’ll have to pay for ourselves).

We’re both tired of having our lives “on hold” for so long… It’s even more unerving to know that getting out of “limbo” won’t depend as much on our decisions about in which country to live, which kind of schools we’d like to work for, as on how the opportunities and openings present themselves to us. We’re aware that we may even have a situation in which DH gets may get a job offer in the U.S. without knowing whether he passed one of the concursos or not!

I hate to leave this hanging, but I need to go to bed. DH always complains about me going to bed too late :) Oh, yes, he's feeling better, he's even back upstairs tonight. He stopped taking the pain-killer (except for Tylenol) because he vomited last night and didn't want it to happen again. The arm only hurts if/when he moves it, so I guess it's not too bad.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Update on Latest Events (and some whining about US healthcare)

Everything went well yesterday in my drive to the airport in NYC. I'm lucky because my kids are used to traveling and behave really well in the car. Kelvin's starting that phase in which he asks "Are we there ye?" and "When are we going to get there?" a lot, but nothing too bad. He was actually awake the whole time (since 4:14 am!), eating apples and cheerios, and he got so excited with his grandparents' arrival that he didn't sleep on the way back either - he chattered away the whole time, in his high-pitched little voice. Linton slept both ways... My dad drove most of the way back, and I was able to take a short nap, which helped a lot.

After we had lunch, my parents stayed with the kids and I drove to the hospital to see my husband and pick him up. I don't like hospitals at all (particularly for childbirth - I wish I could have had both of my boys at home - but that's another subject), and it was a shock to see my husband so weak when I first saw him. He didn't have general anesthesia, just a block to numb his arm, and some sleep inducing drug so he wouldn't remember anything that took place. He was feeling a bit dizzy, so the nurse let him rest some more and get more fluids in the IV before letting him go home. We were both shocked when we saw the X-ray of his arm, because the metal plate they put in is HUGE and has 6 screws into the bone - yuck! (I could never ever be doctor or nurse...). When we came home, he decided to sleep downstairs in the sofa because Kelvin still comes to our bed almost every night even though he has his own toddler bed (my parents tried to get him to sleep in their bedroom, but he still came in the middle of the night).
DH's pain wasn't that bad yesterday because he still had some of the anesthesia in his arm, but this morning it's really, really strong, and it was tough for him to come upstairs to the bedroom (he had to because the kids will be making too much noise in the living room and other parts of the house). I had to go out at 7:30 a.m. to get some Ibuprofen [Motrin], for him to take in between his two pills of Percocet (a mix of narcotics and acetaminophen [Tylenol]), because the nurse had instructed us to do so if the pain got too bad. Another nurse called this morning and said he was doing everything right, and that the pain is supposed to be very bad in the first 24 hours.

My mom says that in Brazil he'd have stayed at least one night at the hospital to receive pain medication through the IV, but here they send people home. I guess it's both because they're otherwise fine and shouldn't run the risk of getting an infection and because hospital care is ABSURDLY, UNBELIEVABLY expensive in this country. They charge well over 1 thousand dollars per day for their bed, crappy food, and a few visits from the nurses (and very rarely, a doctor) - I can't be more angry about this, it's unnaceptable - that's why so many people can't afford healthcare in this country and the healthcare companies make so much money. After I stopped working at the university and having our great student plan (which I didn't have to pay for because of our wonderful Grad Student union - I'm so thankful for that) now I have a "catastrophic" health plan, so if I get cancer or something, I will ONLY spend 5 thousand dollars a year, and then the plan will pay for the rest of the treatment. If I want to see a doctor, I pay 40 dollars (I don't need to have referrals, though), so I never go to the doctor here, I go in Brazil, and there I pay half that amount, and the exams are pretty cheap (I did a check-up last March and my PAP smear now). Oh, and do you know how much I pay for this plan? 94 dollars a month. Just in case, you know, I get a really terrible illness like cancer...

OK, I'll stop whining. It's just that I feel really angry about this. I forgot to explain that my husband's plan doesn't cover me or the children (he's only a postdoc after all), so I'm thankful that we're poor enough and we happen to live in a state that provides free health-care for children of families below the poverty line (yes, I'm "proud" to say we're below the poverty line for families of 4 in this particular state - it does vary from state to state). I don't even have to do a co-payment on their doctor's visits and prescription medicines. Well, it's about one of the few things we like about living in PA (I know that's mean, but for some reason we don't like this state very much... we're getting used to it, though, maybe with time our opinion will change :) .

Question for my lovely readers: how's healthcare in your state or country? What are your opinions on this subject? You can respond in my comment section or even post about it in your blog and let me know in the comments about it, so I can link to you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tomorrow (Almost Today)

The post I lost on Friday and was trying to rewrite will have to wait (it is an itemized discussion of the things I did in my first week back home and some other stuff), because in a few hours I'm going to have to leave to NYC to pick up my parents at JFK airport. They arrive at 6:30 am, so I'm leaving home at 4 am to try to be there by 7. I'll go alone. With the boys... (and I hardly ever drive on highways, even more rarely on my own). You won't be even able to wish me luck (except perhaps for those in Europe), because by the time most people read this, I'll probably be safely back home, or so I hope. But why do I have to go alone, you may wonder?

Remember the accident in France in which my husband broke his arm? Well, he's going to have surgery in that arm tomorrow, that's why he can't go with me. It wouldn't fit anyway, and we were actually wondering how we were going to pick up my parents, because he's not driving right now. When the surgery was scheduled last Thrusday, DH had forgotten about my parents' arrival (he did call me right after scheduling it and I reminded him, but then, he found that the doctor only operates on Wednesdays, and of course he needs this surgery now, before the bone heals in a completely wrong place).

Anyway... that's what's happening right now. And when my parents get here I'll need to concentrate in the dissertation, so I won't have as much time to blog. I'll let you know how this went, though...

Sunny Day (in both senses of the word)

Today Kelvin my almost 4 year old (his birthday is a month from Thursday) was so agreeable, so sweet, with a really sunny, radiant disposition that I just had to write about it to record these childhood moments that pass so quickly.

I talk a bit about my motherhood in this blog (it's in its name after all!) but not enough. I wish I could be disciplined enough and write a monthly newsletter, like the "star blogger" Heather Armstrong (from dooce) does for her daughter Leta (I wasn't going to link since she's "famous enough", but thought this was just stupid "blog jealousy" :) - go chedk her out if you already haven't, she was fired because of her blog, 5 years ago. Interesting story... )

Anyway, this morning I went to my third La Leche League meeting, and I actually became a member. The boys behaved well (last time I went in November was a DISASTER), but I was surprised when Kelvin said in his sweetest voice on our drive back home - "Mama, I loved that meeting, that nice conversation..." I was surprised because lately he's been anxious to come back home when we go out. On Sunday we had a dinner with folks from my husband's department at UPenn, it was in celebration of the Chinese New Year, and we enjoyed the dragons and fireworks in the streets of Chinatown afterwards (I had never seen that - we were told it brings good luck to the businesses, so they do it in front of every restaurant and store), but towards the end of the meal Kelvin was already super anxious to come back home (well... maybe it was because he was eager for the train ride back - he loves trains. Oh, yeah, in 1 1/2 year here in Philly, with hubby taking the train everyday for work, this was the very first time I took the train to go to the city!).

Actually, after the LLL meeting, Kelvin asked to eat at the natural food market where the meeting is held, and we had some samosas (Indian pastries), chickpea(garbanzo) stew, rice and chili. In the car he also said, "I loved that food that we ate there, thank you mama because we ate there! I looove chickpeas, and also rice and beans..."

I haven't written about this yet, but sometimes I feel frustrated because Kelvin doesn't eat any vegetables. He used to eat ANYTHING until he was almost 2, but then he became quite picky - he eats well (I mean, big portions) and he eats rice and beans or lentils, and pasta (all the time if we let him), but no green salads or veggies. I guess I didn't write about this because I didn't really stress out, I looked at it as a phase. He did eat fruit, and cereal, and lots of soymilk, regular milk and cheese, and he loves eggs...

So... having said that, tonight I made Pasta and Fagioli (beans) soup with carrots, cubed zuchinni, chopped brocoli, and, of course, navy beans and pasta. Kelvin had just eaten quite a bit of rice and beans just a couple of hours earlier, but he wanted to eat the soup. When he tasted some of it from his brother's spoon he said "Oh, I love chickpeas!" I thought to myself, do I tell him these are white beans, and not chickpeas? Will he still eat them? But I told him, and he responded that he liked those too. Then he sat and ate with gusto. When he ate soup he'd usually set the veggies apart and complain about any specks of parsley or other green seasonings. Not today! He kept saying, "Oh, I adore zuchinni, see? I'm eathing all of these! I adore broccoli! Mama, this soup's delicious, thank you so much for making it for me! I adore everything you cook!" As I sat there, almost open-mouthed, I thought... "Well, I deserve it, the day everything looks so perfect is the day it's going to end, since my parents arrive tomorrow, and I won't enjoy as much time with the boys from now on as I enter dissertation mode..." And I even asked, "But sweetie, I'm so happy that you love what I cook, but tomorrow your grandma's coming, and she'll be ccooking for you most of the time." "No problem" he answered, "I'll love her food too!"

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, hoping this sunny streak continues. But we never know. 4 year-olds are very unpredictable!! Well, as long as he keeps on eating his veggies though, I'll be happy, even if he's grumpy! ;)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Children's Literature and... the Super Bowl/ the Movies

I generally don't watch television, much less sports (except for soccer in the world cup and some other competitions I shall mention shortly), even less American Football, a game about which I know absolutely NOTHING. However, tonight we happened to turn the TV on for the beginning of Super Bowl and... we were met with a paraphrase/parody of Dr. Seuss - of all things! Actually I shouldn't be surprised, because Dr. Seuss much loved here in the U.S. and his books have been made into movies and are known by everyone. I really like the book they used, Oh, the Places You'll Go! but I had mixed feelings about a children's literature book being appropriated that way. I mean... sure, it's great for the genre, which is often relegated to a "second rank" as far as literature is concerned, but on the other hand... I don't know... it's great for Dr. Seuss's estate, they're making tons of money from this venture. Whatever, I guess I don't really have an articulate opinion, but I still wanted to blog about it. It was very fun to watch, but I'm always critical of TV, particularly these huge "events" that mobilize millions of people and are mainly an outlet for the advertisement of products and the enrichment of big companies... (I was never the same after I watched the documentary about Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, I'd go so far as to say that it is "life-changing").

I'm saying this, but there are a few sporting events that I love to watch. This year I will be watching the soccer World Cup, as I have done every four years ever since I was a child... (I'm sure I'll blog more about it). I've been so "out of it" that I only found out about the Winter Olympics in an NBC program the last flight I took coming from Brazil -- so in the next few weeks I'll be watching (mostly taping) some figure skating, which I love. I also enjoy the Olympic games, I mean, the "Summer Olympics" (I'm from Brazil, we usually don't follow the Winter Olympics there :) - or I used to enjoy until I came to the U.S. and got extremely MAD at NBC every four years for not broadcasting ANY collective sports (such as volleyball, basketball - only pieces of the games are shown). Anyway, I love to watch gymnastics, for instance...
I do watch, but I try to do it with parsimony, keeping in the back of my mind the analyses that Chomsky does (that most media, these sporting events included, are there to distract us from the really important issues, that are kept at bay -- war and suffering throughout the world, etc...).

OK, I'm really, really rambling today, am I not? One last thing:

We also saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on DVD tonight. I love Roald Dahl's book, and didn't like too much the old movie version from the year I was born (even though I think Gene Wilder is hilarious as Wonka).

What did I think of this one? I hadn't really read any of the reviews (I only know that people didn’t like Johnny Depp too much as Wonka), so my opinion is quite neutral, I hope…

[No spoilers ahead, I promise]

Well, of course book lovers will always complain about the changes, particularly additions, and this film is no exception. It is no doubt much more “faithful” than the previous one (down to the cute squirrels!! – that part WAS amazing!), particularly with the inclusion of the Oompa-Loompa songs. The main additions that bothered me were – Charlie saying he wants to sell the ticket (this one didn’t even make much sense, I thought!), and, of course, Willy Wonka’s flashbacks and the totally made-up ending. It’s an interesting guess at his reasons for being so weird, but not completely convincing. The emphasis on “family is important” was off (with another addition I didn't like, Charlie having to choose between two things), I guess, and I don’t know exactly why I thought it was weird since the book does put a lot of emphasis in the “lovingness” that Charlie feels for his family. I can’t analyze much more without spoilers, and it’s getting late, so I guess I’ll stop here, OK? And I'm saving this entry, in case it gets eaten as well!! (I'm still working on the other one; I'll try to get it out tomorrow).

Edited to add: Libby asked in the comments: "I actually watched the game, but missed the Dr. Seuss. Which was it? What did they do with it?"
And I responded: "It was the opening of the broadcast. Harrison Ford (and some other Football celebrities I don't know) read quotes from the book while animated images from the book appeared in the background. Of course they added a few images, in each scene there was a little TV drawn in the style of Dr. Seuss with corresponding football images in it. It was great, actually, I wish I had taped it...

This morning my son saw the book in the floor of his bedroom and told me, mama, this is the book that appeared on TV yesterday while we were eating popcorn!"

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Blogger Ate My Latest Post!!!!!!!!!!

I don't know what happened! Blogger was "off the air" this evening and I simply couldn't open my blog. When I was finally able to do it, a few minutes ago, I realized that the post I had finished writing last night and posted (around 11:30 pm) was GONE!! The saved version in Blogger, that I could edit and post again is an old one, and I wrote the rest last night and didn't save it as a MS Word document or anything... I'm SO MAD!!

I know the post was here before because Alice read and even commented on it twice (I have the emails to prove it).

This is absolutely frustrating... too bad I can't afford to pay for a more reliable service (like typepad). I'm still hopeful the post will turn up later, but... I actually don't think it will (then I guess I'm not hopeful after all :)

I'll come back later to post something I wrote in Brazil about a month ago...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

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. She's right -- it is completely mind blowing, and you've got to try it!!

P.S. I feel like posting 3 times a day now, and I'm actually keeping myself from doing it for fear of overwhelming my readers (since I usually write only once a week, or at least every few days), but I guess I've got to do it as a "farewell gift" to myself before I start working-like-a-crazy-woman-who-needs-to-finish-a-dissertation-or-die next week after my parents get here from Brazil. I'm so not looking forward to that - can't you tell?