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)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

When Things Go Wrong (Updated)

Murphy's law postulates that if something can go wrong, it will. Or, more precisely, when things just can't go wrong because they will cause you great trouble, they do go wrong.

Today was such a day. I was going to go with my husbad to Washington D.C. where we'd drop him off at the airport and then spend the night at my BIL's house, but then, an hour before the time we were supposed to leave, our car suddently broke down. It just wouldn't start. We were already calling for a tow truck from our insurance's roadside assistance and I was at a pizza place getting the boys to eat an improvised lunch when my husband got the car to start again. By then we had already started looking for car rentals for him to drive down on his own and even though the car was now working, we followed through with this plan. My husband left two hours after the time we had planned to leave and got to the airport very late.

Now he's there, going to the gate, but he doesn't know whether he'll be able to fly or not, 'cause they didn't give him a seat. I'm just waiting to see what happens. The flight is scheduled to leave in 35 minutes.

Updated to add: He made it to the flight, but he had to wait until the last minute to find out. He checked in, but they didn't give him a seat, he went to the gate and there things were straightened out. I'm actually relieved that I didn't have to go to Maryland, because I'd be coming back tomorrow and returning on Sunday morning. Now I just need to go on Sunday, much better! I can't wait until Monday morning, though... I just miss him too much (and not just because he gets up with the boys in the morning and lets me sleep a little more :)

OK, so now that I shared today's story, let me tell you how he got to JFK airport (in NY) last Thursday. When he got to the Philly airport, they told him his flight was late and that he'd miss the flight to Brazil if he took it, so, they called a taxi (!!!) which drove him to New York just barely in time to catch the flight (50 minutes before the flight). The airline paid the fare, but he had to pay the 20% tip, 60 bucks. You do the math... It cost almost half the price of his airfare to Brazil!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Woman Kicked off Plane for Breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding in the news again! This might have happened because the child was older (22 monhts). I haven't been breastfeeding my 29 month old in public anymore, but in our recent plane trips to Nashville I just had to to settle him down, or he would start screaming. Nobody was in the seat with us, though, and I turned my back to the people on the other side of the aisle. I guess those things helped.

My secret for nursing on airplanes is wearing a nursing top (mine are all from Motherwear since I was able to buy them at their outlet store -- my sons were born 1 mile from the factory and store, actually). This October I wasn't wearing one, (I have started wearing regular clothes and bras now, I'm tired of four years (actually 5 1/2 years) of maternity and nursing fashions non-stop), but luckily I had a cardigan sweater with me and that helped. I guess covering up is important for the sake of others. I think I'd refuse a blanket too, like that woman did, I tend NOT to want to cover up if people just have me do it (it's in my rebellious nature :).

Thanks M, from Separation of Spheres for posting the link.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Two Years and Counting!

Two years ago today I posted on this blog for the first time.

It's been a very good "journey" so far, as I have recently written about. Reading other blogs has enabled me to connect to other mothers (and a few fathers too) like myself and also taught me so much about other people's experiences. I can confidently say that I am a much more open, empathetic, accepting, and conciliatory person after all that I have experienced online. I have now a greater respect for other people's (particularly mothers') experiences and have become much less judgemental as a result. Of course I still have strong feelings regarding the things that I believe in, but I think that each person's life circumstances are different and people make different choices based on those.

I'm not very motivated to write today (I've been trying to write this since morning), but I wanted to write a post to mark this day one more time. The post I wrote last year is so happy and light hearted, it seems like it was ages ago. Today is not a good day for me to reflect on this, but I think the past year has changed me quite a bit. I got sick, I've been having a hard time being a mom full time, I still have the dissertation looming over my head and a few jobs to apply to. I feel like life is finally catching up with me. But, more on that later... I promise.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Down Will Come Baby...

... Mother and all.

I know that's not how this song (which has pretty tragic lyrics) ends, but that's what happened to us this Saturday.

Literary Mama has a column with the same name written by Rebecca Kaminsky (which I went and re-read all over again today). In the first installment, she describes how she dropped her month old baby and then used this accident as a metaphor for the pos-partum depression that followed. I truly don't want to regard our fall as a metaphor for anything that is happening or may take place in our lives in the near future, I just wanted to share a scary moment.

Ever since I had babies and I've been climbing up and down the stairs while holding them (both our homes have two floors, plus basements) many times a day, I always think to myself, "What if I fall with the baby in my arms? What if I drop the baby?" Well, it had to happen sometime, I guess...

On Saturday afternoon I was in church with the boys when my oldest said he needed to go to the bathroom. We got out the front side door and started climbing down the steep stairs with my almost 2 1/2 year old in my arms, when he told me he had already wet his pants. I got a bit mad at him and told him to hurry and not to get it even more wet and I started walking faster too. That's when I lost my balance. I had only gone 2/3 of the way down and was some 5 steps from the bottom. I instinctively turned to shield Linton (who's pretty heavy, I should add, at almost 30 pounds/ 13.6 kg) and a friend who was walking by tried to catch me (he only hurt his arm), but I scraped my knee and elbow and fell almost on top of my son, who only had a red arm as a consequence. He started crying and I quickly checked him out for any injuries. Kelvin was quite upset, asking me repeatedly why that had happened and why I hadn't been more careful.

"All is well that ends well" so the saying goes, but it was pretty scary. And I had to drive with a sore knee as well. My right arm is sore from the fall too. I'm glad I was the one who got hurt, though, and not him. I'll be extra careful from now on!

Still There?

It feels like I haven't blogged for such a long time (hence the question in the title), but it has been less than a week. I'd made a kind of "resolution" to post more often, but life has been intervening. I guess I'm not participating of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) for a reason :) although I'm enjoying imensely to read daily (or almost daily :)) posts by some of my favorite bloggers such as Sandra (Here in Korea), Jody (Raising WEG), Chigagomama, and Susan (ReadingWritingLiving). Did I forget anyone in my blogroll that is participating? And meanwhile, I miss the posts by those NaNoWriMo participants Jo and Kateri (I know Sandra is trying to do both!).

anyway, we've had some crazy days around here and I'm really exhausted. My husband went to Brazil for the weekend and thankfully is returning this morning. Trip preparations kept us busy last week, and then I had the kids full time for four nights and three days. Did I mention that I'm exhausted? Well, yes, and to make me even more exhausted just thinking about it, he's going again this weekend, can you believe it?

So I wouldn't have to be here all by myself all weekend, on Saturday evening, after a really looong day at church, I drove to Maryland to spend less than 24 hours with my brother- and sister-in-law and my two cute nephews. The boys had a great time, they didn't want to leave. Good for them that we're going back there on Thursday (hubby's leaving from Dulles) and then on Sunday.

Well, I do take responsibility for part of my exhaustion, since I do get involved in many things such as leading a singing group and cooking (for church) and last week I also helped out a Brazilian "neighbor" (she lives in the next town over, some 10 blocks away), taking her and her twin kids shopping in a Luso-Brazilian market in New Jersey on Friday while I should be cleaning, cooking, and preparing for the group practice (in my home every Friday night) + impromptu surprise birthday party for one of the members. But a lot of my tiredness is caused by having to care for the boys and get up at 5 am to give Linton breakfast. Well, more on that later. I have to go clean my kitchen which is a wreck from all the cooking I did on Friday and Saturday morning, and try to prepare something for my husband to have for lunch. And we're picking him up at the airport in less than 2 hours.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Restaurant Savy

These past few days weren't easy for Kelvin, since he wasn't allowed to eat almost every food that he asked to eat. He then began to talk constantly about food, making long lists of his favorite foods, poor thing. On Friday, though, he told me something that I found very amusing. Both boys (but particularly him) love to eat out, even though that's a very rare treat in our household, something that happens once a month, at the most.

"Mama," he said, "when can we go to a restaurant where we can sit down and ask for the food?"

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I don't like those restaurants in which we go and get the food. I only like the ones where they bring the food to us!"

Smart, huh? I started laughing, thinking that the last two times we ate out were at IKEA and Panera Bread, places where we go and pick up the food (he did tell me later, though that he did like Panera), and that it has been a while since we've eaten at a sit down and order place :) His favorite is Olive Garden, BTW... it's there that I first saw him eat lettuce, at the age of 2 1/2. Too bad the dressing costs 25 bucks a jar.

Ominous Start

I couldn't get to sleep very easily last night. I couldn't forgive myself for what happened. Thankfully, I do feel better now, so I'm glad I didn't get up to post on the blog as I felt like doing. I had even felt better earlier, when I originally found out the bad news yesterday afternoon.

Last year, after I applied to one lone job, I aptly described myself as an "accidental applicant." Well, who knew that a year later I'd be even worse off! First, I had (and I'm still having) a hard time to finally decide to go ahead and apply for the first job. The late decision meant a very short notice request or my committee member to write recommendation letters. The postmark deadline was yesterday. My former advisor was traveling and thought he wouldn't make it, but I practically begged him to try and mail a letter and he did. I got his email in the afternoon and I gave a sigh of relief.

I forgot one small detail though, checking with the third reference, the committee member who was so enthusiastic with my work last October that she seemed to be eager to write letters recommending me. My initial mistake was sending two emails in sequence. The first with the request for the said letter (including the job posting and an attached CV), the second, shortly after, with the deadline for the next applications -- since I wanted to get ahead with those and not give them such a short notice. She responded to the second, and I thought she'd meant that OK, she'd write the letter. I didn't find out until it was almost evening yesterday, and too late to mail a letter, that she in fact hadn't mailed the letter. The university in question won't even look at my application if all materials aren't postmarked by Nov. 6. How disappointing! We exchanged 13 emails (about other topics too) last night, and I took it in stride, I told her it was OK, and she agreed with me that it was a very long shot anyway...

But all that doesn't take away from the pain that I won't even have tried, and it's only partly my fault. It doesn't take away my shame because my former advisor had to go through so much trouble to mail a letter. I feel very discouraged to send the next handful of applications. This is not the only reason, though. I won't have time to get an "official" dossier together through the university's career center. I didn't even know about this until last week when my advisor told me I shouldn't be asking them for letters, but should put together a dossier. I haven't been on campus for the past two years and I haven't attended any workshops on the job search, etc, I'm blaming that for my situation. My only references are what I can find online, particularly in the Chronicle Careers site. I feel I'm even worse off than the "accidental applicant" I was last year, I'm actually a clueless and proably "undeserving" one. All this makes me hate academia with a vengeance. If I'm ill prepared to apply, what does that say to my preparedness to even be considered for a position?

Oh, who cares? I don't think I do, really. When it gets to a point like this I start to see all of this like a game, it's just a very artificial and set up game, only those who know the rules can have any part on it. I think of all the things Articulate Dad has written about his fruitless searches. I think of the negative thoughts I have at each academic conference (I need to post about that sometime), and I just feel very sad and even disgusted. I do not fit in, that's clear enough. I may be talented, but I'm not really a player, I haven't been properly trained, I did take the "dissertation seminar" from my dept, which does prepare us for the market in a way, twice (second time I just audited), but that wasn't enough, and not being there doesn't help me much. I mean, if I could meet with my committee members, it would be much easier.

Well, in retrospect, I felt very flattered that the lone application I sent last year yielded an email saying that they might do a phone interview (it never happened because I went to Brazil in December-January and they found a match at the MLA), so I was kind of confident in my ability to write good letters and stuff. Two of the postings do ask for dossiers, though, and it will be so time consuming to put something together. I don't know what I'll do at this point. I'll try, I guess, but my heart is not really on it. Particularly because of one key point: even if I had an offer, my husband's offers will probably come only a few weeks later, and I wouldn't even be able to make a decision. I want to check whether any of those "first person" essays in the Chronicle about dual career couples addressed this issue -- the one experienced by couples from different fields. Well, that said, I just wanted to get all that off my chest. It probably won't stay at the top for long. I'm going to write a parenting post, since those are more fun and uplifting anyway! :)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Slowly Getting Better

Things are very slowly getting better here at Casa in Translation. Linton, the youngest, is pretty much all better now -- except that he doesn't want to sleep in his own bed anymore (of course) and still wants to nurse in the middle of the night... sigh. I'm sure that my milk helped him cope better with the virus. He'd been down to pretty much two breastfeeding sessions a day, morning and night, with some night nursing while we were in Massachusetts and when he had a cold, so I had to drink lots of Mother's Milk tea and let him nurse often to get my supply up.

Kelvin is still feeling pretty sick. Like I thought, he didn't vomit again, but yesterday he had diarrhea the whole day and he was very tired, sleeping a lot. Now the challenge is having him restrict his food input to the "BRAT" diet (babnanas, rice, applesauce, toast), or potatoes (which he doesn't like) and pasta. Last night after Linton slept I spent a lot of time with him, just cuddling and talking, it felt great, after a whole weak with Linton constantly in my lap, whining and needy. The good thing with older kids is that you can actually have very nice conversations with them. Kelvin cracks me up sometimes, I have to post some things he's been saying lately.

There are tons of things I want to write about, but it's just a bit tough right now. I hope to be able to do so pretty soon, though, OK?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Here We Go!

My little one is slowly getting better, but he woke up countless times between 3-6 am in the past two nights. It makes for a very tired mama.

This evening, his older brother finally caught up with him... and vomited, even though he'd been saying all day, like a mantra, "I don't want to vomit, mama, I don't want to get sick." Poor thing. He was devastated. I had told him to try and wash his hands often so he wouldn't catch his brother's virus, but of course that was almost unavoidable (and I shouldn't have given him any hope that he might avoid it). After it happened he kept saying, "But I washed my hands and I tried to stay away from Linton!" Well, now he says he doesn't want to ever go close to his brother again... That would take care of the sibling rivalry all right! :)

And to think they may have caught the virus from their little cousin! How long do these horrible creatures live anyway? My nephew was sick three weekends ago, when we were in Nashville. His diarrhea (which happened after he was already eating and feeling OK) abated nine days before they came to visit on Saturday.

Now I'm really really afraid of getting it too. How am I ever eat again thinking that it might be my last meal for a while? Oh boy, this is tough.

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments in my previous post. It warms my heart to know that you too have found wonderful friends and felt happier because of blogging. And Jeannette, I should have included you on that list, of course! As soon as the boys get better, we HAVE to get together. Oh, and talking about play dates I'm feeling really guilty that my Brazilian friend who's almost a neighbor (they live in the next town over, walking distance from us) came to visit with her twins, boy and girl (almost 5 years old), yesterday. I hope they don't catch it too!!

Updated to add: And I have to send out a job application tomorrow. Fun, huh?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How Blogging Changed My Life

This post wasn't meant to see the light for a while. I also really dislike the title, but I wasn't able to come up with anything better, more original, fresh or smart-sounding -- sorry about that! :) I wanted to write the post slowly, create a "masterpiece" that conveyed all my feelings about this subject. But then late last night I read Corey's beautiful post about meeting Alice and her family last summer (here's Alice's response) and it moved me so much, that I just couldn't wait to write about this.

When I started blogging, almost two years ago, I felt unbearably lonely. It's true that I had just moved to a new city from a place where I had lived for eight years (MA) and I had just had my second baby while caring for a 2 year old. Loneliness was not a new feeling for me, though. For eight long years I had missed my country and my friends and tried to cope with being an expatriate, a graduate student in another country, trying to fit in and teach in a college system that was quite different from the one I had been exposed to in Brazil. After I had my sons, though, and all our friends in Brazil started having children around the same time (in 2003-4, before moving from MA to PA, I had visited Brazil and our first-born children had all played together), it became even harder to be here, separated not only from our best friends, but also from their children.

Of course these friendships were mostly based on past experiences, but those had been intense enough to keep us very close. During all those eight years (it's been over ten now), my husband would argue with me that my problem with not having friends or not being as close as I wanted to my friends was something that I'd experienced even back in Brazil, and he was right in this respect. I always struggled with the fact that I was never able to remain as close I used to be to my high-school friends after we all went to college, got boyfriends, got married. The problem with me was that I needed to share a lot of myself in order to feel close to them. I always kept journals and wrote poems (which I shared with my friends), and even wrote them letters, but all that was a "one way" communication. After we moved to the U.S. virtually none of my close friends from Brazil ever wrote regular emails to me and that really made me very lonely (there's one exception, Marco, but he "doesn't count" because he's a blogger and a writer and he'd always respond to my emails because he loves to write, like me).

All right, I'm crying, almost sobbing, as I write this. Let me backtrack a bit. After I met my husband in 1990, we formed several life-long friendships in the years that led to our move to this country in 1996. He became close friends with several of my high-school friends and together we met lots of new people in the university and while singing in a choir that traveled all over the country. So we made many incredible friends and had unforgettable and profound experiences together. Then we left them all behind and embarked on a new journey. For 10 years we have been trying to keep in touch, meet for all-night-long conversations (although things get much more complicated when we all have children) when we go to Brazil, like the one that we had the night before I wrote this post. But it's always hard to try to convey eight, nine years of experiences in a foreign country to your friends who remained in Brazil, not to mention the fact that we sometimes had to waste a lot of time trying to make them understand how politics works here (Brazilians are generally VERY critical of the U.S., to the point of obnoxiousness, to say the least). Anyway, what I wrote on that post last January kind of sums up my relationship with blogging -- it came to mean "living" for me -- interacting with other people, getting to know people, so I wouldn't feel lonely and would feel alive. So I wrote:
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 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 [photo below], I can finally appreciate fully when Catharine writes about Ben and Ava. Too bad we’re going away in just 2 weeks
I have spent ten years torn between living here and going back to Brazil. I would often complain to my husband that I felt lonely, that we needed to go back to Brazil because only there we could have a satisfying social life and real friends. After the children were born, the friends there actually started begging us to come back, showing us how good friends our children were (which is true, see the photo on the left), how lovely it would be to have them grow up together (I'm going to start crying again) since they were all the same age and could be friends like we were. We still don't know if going back the way for us, there are so many issues at stake like I wrote on the post cited above.

One thing has definitely changed, or "evolved" from January to now. I no longer think that my "online life" as opposed to a "real life" is depressing anymore, on the contrary. All right, first let me say that I am aware that I'm absolutely addicted to blogging. I talk about blog posts and my blogger friends all the time with my husband (it was very tough to refrain from talking to my parents about it, I guess this is one of the reasons why we didn't talk much in the 10 months they were here, and I do feel kind of bad about this). Moreover, I often feel guilty about how much time I spend reading other people's blogs, commenting, and writing on my blog.

However, I started to feel OK about it one day after a long conversation in the car with my husband, driving back from Maryland one Sunday night last Summer. I was very surprised by what he told me. He said that I had become a much easier person to live with in the past year. That I didn't complain as much and that I was generally happy all the time. I just sat there, in silence, mulling his words over. I then said tentativelly,

"Don't you think then that it's bad that I spend so much time blogging? Am I not wasting my time?" and he responded that no, it wasn't. I won't ever forget what he said next, though:

"Have you noticed that you have stopped saying that you want to go back to Brazil?"

I just sat there, dumbfounded. Even I didn't know that blogging had changed my life that much. We were silent for a while, letting this realization sink in. It was only after I started to make friends through blogging, to feel part of a community that shared many of my interests and had similar experiences, that I felt truly happy and stopped wishing for an "external change" (going back to Brazil and to our "old" friends) to make my life right. We then talked of how meaningful it was to me to have "met" these people, how fulfilling it was to be able to share my thoughts and feelings with like-minded friends, even if virtually. I had found what I had been longing for all those years, struggling to try to find time to share my thoughts, my journals, my life, with my now very busy friends. My husband wisely concluded:

"You're the kind of person who needs to share yourself with other people and when that need is met [through blogging], you're a much easier person to live with."

I realize that all these years the pressure on him was huge. I mean, it wasn't easy on him being an expatriate either, but I'm sure it was even harder having his wife complaining (and he hates whining) about how you don't have any friends, how you don't have time to read what she wrote in her journal (he does read the blog now :), or and how we should go back to Brazil because then we wouldn't feel so lonely... Regardless of that, I'm truly glad that he appreciates and values my experience with blogging.

The best part of all these "virtual friendships" is that they can become "in real life" friendships too!! Corey's post describes this really well. First, I really identify with what Corey wrote about emails or written communication such as blogging: "when I write about my thoughts via email or a blog, I feel a kind of expanse of space and time, a limitless freedom to be who I am."

Then, her description of meeting Alice was so wonderful:
We were meeting each other for the first time “backwards”: We met for the first time already knowing each other's difficulties, struggles, foibles and pet peeves rather than first putting up our best personas until our true selves slowly seeped through. But meeting that way means having already gotten to know each other and not needing to start from the beginning. We met already having gained the trust of the other.
I felt a similar connection with Cloudscome when we met over the Summer. I'm really looking forward to the day when I get to meet Alice, Corey, Kate, Juliet, Jo(e), Articulate Dad, Professing Mama, Professor Me, Aliki, and many others (I'm not including the links, sorry) in person as I have already met Kateri, Jo, Andi, Marta, and Cloudscome.

And now, Corey, you have to email me your phone number so I can call sometime so you can hear my voice, and I yours! :)

The Motherhood Manifesto Film

MomsRising is a great organization which "has a goal of championing core motherhood and family issues in political, social, and economic spheres" particularly here in the United States, which is a country which only values mothers and families nominally, but not in its policies and work environemnt.

They have published The Motherhood Manifesto (which is available at Amazon for only 2.99) and now they have produced a great documentary film version.

"Did you know [that] only four countries in the world—Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea and the United States fail to provide paid maternity leave to all workers?" This and other facts are presented in this one hour film.

You can buy the film here. It costs only 6 dollars for shipping and DVD pressing.

You can also watch more clips of funny animation containted in the film here.

I'm glad I signed a petition to stop discrimination against mothers here in Pennsylvania (you can sign even if you don't live here) in the site and became a registered user, that's how I received an email announcing this film. You can register there too. It's a great way to participate in activistm on behalf or mothers and children in the U.S.

Spoke Too Soon

My son seemed to be better during the day, in spite of a total lack of appetite. I fed him only baby cereal with soy milk and some crackers. He didn't even want to drink water. He vomited again in the evening, after having one very loose bowel movement.

We're still in the woods.

I'm not feeling great either. Not much of an appetite and some abdominal pains. I hope things don't get worse tomorrow (today, I should say :)

On other news of an academic nature, I have finally started working on job applications. I'm happy to report that my husband and I have found positions for both of us to apply in three universities and there's a fourth geographical area with universities in commuting distance from each other that both can also apply. I know four is a very small number, but it's still better than zero!! At least now I'm getting a bit more motivated to apply. I'll keep you posted.