Friday, March 30, 2007

On Dissertation Work and... Driving

This week, for some reason, I've been a bit down, not very motivated to write on the blog. Part of it has to do with the fact that I feel terrible because I'm not writing the way I should do for the dissertation -- finishing the chapters I need to finish.

I have set these impossibly difficult goals in terms of analysis of data and I'm working hard to achieve them, but I feel very very guilty about working on this because I know it detracts me from the larger goal of just getting this "thing" done. Last week I was able to collect all the data from a whole encyclopedia of Brazilian literature (about 2/5 of it was collected by two people in Brazil, paid by my mom). This week I finished one of the parts of the analysis on Tuesday, adding data from a literary dictionary on Brazilian women writers and I felt quite happy by this accomplishment that day.

On Wednesday and Thursday, though, I toiled away for hours and hours, trying to sort out through many many thousands of dates in an excell spreadsheet. I finished one part which was comparatively easy since it involved only 6,700 dates, but the other will just take hours to do manually. I've asked my husband to help, to try to find an easier and better way to sort this stuff (since I'm not very good with excell), but he was very busy, and now he's going to be away until Tuesday.

I'm still truly excited about my research, it's just that two whole days of working with these numbers has made me tired and uneasy about what I should or shouldn't be doing. I know I'm kind of avoiding the hard stuff, writing those parts that need to get done (very little in fact), but it's true that I do need these numbers, these results in order to finish writing my second and third chapters.

I know what you guys who've been there will tell me -- get it done! And I will, I promise, but I have also promised myself that I will finish and not hate this project. (I have tears in my eyes now, guys) This is very important to me: I have to finish in a frame of mind in which I'll be able to continue to work on it, to fine tune this research that I have started, to make it into a book. I have a feeling that this stuff is just very unique and necessary, something that no-one has really done (nobody is crazy enough to do what I'm doing, believe me, it's utterly insane but I'm stubborn and persistent enough to do it and I'm very, very close to finishing).

So... I believe in what I'm doing and I know I will finish, but I need to do it in my own terms. That's why I have stopped berating myself for not finishing in time for this May's commencement (defended diss. would have to be turned in by April 30). I can go to commencement next year, what difference does ir really make? Some of my good friends are participating this year, but some others will graduate next year. A ceremony is special, but it's pretty impersonal and has no meaning in and of itself. And besides, next year maybe my parents can be here (this year they'd be in China).

All right, and what about the driving up there in the title? I promise you that sometime I'll have this "Driving Meme" that I have been making up in my mind since April last year (I love to create brand new memes, you may recall my "innovation and technology" one, oh, and there's the handwriting one too), but today, I just have to share some "sad" news and I didn't want to make them a post in itself, just a "footnote" to another post.

I got my first speeding ticket this afternoon.
I know, this is really common, happens to everyone. Besides, it was bound to happen to me sooner or later since I do speed quite a bit (not dangerously so, but still do).

But... it still hurts, it's still a sad event in someone's life, isn't it? I haven't been driving for many years, I started in 1996 when moved to the U.S. and I was 25; and I was pretty proud of myself -- wow, almost 11 years and no tickets yet? (just for parking, but those don't really count, right?) Well, it serves me right, I have to be more careful from now on, which does take quite a bit the "joy" of driving leisurely, not really worrying much about speed limits and such.

The officer told me that this carries points and that he was participating in a state sponsored project today (of collecting lots of money, I suppose, from first timers like me) and that I couldn't go without a citation, but... that if I went to the judge, they could do something about removing the points. He repeated that twice, so I guess I'll take him up on that -- it just feels weird to plead "not guilty" when I was speeding all right (47 in a 35 zone -- I had just sped a bit to go through a green light, that's one of the reasons why). What will I say to the judge? Something like: "The officer told me to come here?" or "I think I deserve not to get the points since this is my very first citation?" Any advice, or shared stories from those of you with more experience on this will be appreciated! :) Oh, and the tab? 131 bucks, plus 6 if I plead not guilty. Yeah, it stings and makes me feel like not speeding ever again. Or at least for a while ;).

P.S. We're going to D.C. to see the Cherry Blossoms this weekend, so that should cheer me up! I'm only going on Monday, though, it's just too crowded on the weekends. Too bad my husband won't be with us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fun with Search Engine Results Leading Here

I've wanted to write a post about this for the longest time, but I don't check my stats very often (sometimes they freak me out a bit), but I thought it was about time. Some of these searches are recurring ones, but most are pretty unique.

Searches From March 7 to 10, 2007

nygard table - Interestingly enough, if you Google this, I'm the very first result! :) Even before IKEA. And it's not because of anything I wrote on my posts before and after we bought the table, it's because of Alice's comment (which is what is featured in the result). I'm planning to write a post exclusively about this table, including plenty of photos, of course. That might help those people who are looking to learn more about it ;)!

the joy of cooking translated to portuguese
- this is because of the title of this post and the fact that

Catterpillars in Spain - that's a pretty intriguing one, and I came up because of my caterpillar post from last summer. Last week there were TWO searches featuring just
catterpillars - this blog is the 5th result on Google :)

toil;e to23 nova - this was clearly a typo, but my blog came up because of these sentences:
"Are we really supposed to toil away by ourselves day after day (uh and night after night) ... I took piano classes for 17 years, from 6 years old to 23. ..."

pineapple mint juice - ha! I liked this search since I wrote a nice post about this yummy juice. Another search was a variation of this, but the person used the word pineapple in Portuguese:
pineapple mint abacaxi

brazil expat - that would be me!

gender roles in parable of the sower - I never wrote about specifically this subject but I mention gender roles in various posts and mentioned Octavia Butler's book once. Intriguing.

new nutrition children - well, I'm interested in nutrition and cooking for children, I guess that's why.

"cat home alone" all day - oh, this one made me feel so guilty that sometimes we do leave the cat alone even for a few days!

i feel confused - hmm, I do too, many times :)

"i hate my dissertation" - I don't, really, but sometimes I almost feel like I do.

2 people were looking for Pithy Dithy, who had just had a baby when the searches were made, and my blog was the first thing that came up in the yahoo search engine, interesting! Since she's on my side bar, I think they were able to find her.

Searches from the last few days
pictures of tulips - yay, I do have plenty of those and I love tulips, so I guess this person came to the right place :)

"women doing it all" - I mentioned this proposed book (which hasn't come out yet) once, I think.

catterpillars TWICE

birth stories and pictures - oh, yes, I love birth stories. I have only two here, though.

For those of you out there who are wondering how I found out about these searches, all you have to do is add something such as Sitemeter (the one I have) or Statcounter to your blog and check your traffic periodically. You'll be able to see who visits your blog and which links (referrals) led them there - I found out about the searches looking at them "by referral."

Some searches from the last 24 hours:
- laminate floor braxton oak - I wrote about laminate flooring, but the braxton must have been from a post on labor mentioning Braxton Hicks contractions, no? :)
- catterpillars again!
- pithy dithy again (yahoo search has me first and second)
- Photos slideshow - hmmm, it must be because I just did a couple of those, right?
- high school musical birthday cake - ??? birthday cakes OK, but high school musical?
- breastf*eeding pictures and stories [I added the *]- the first two words used to be much more common until I put st*ars in certain words (because I posted several pictures of my sons nur*sing here) -- this one came up because of the comments to one of those posts...
- hate kelly preston - what? this is very random, I never wrote about this. It's probably because this is from a not very effective search tool by comc*ast . net.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Building a (Small) House in Brazil

I found this other online tool called Slideroll which I thought was very good. Too bad one can only upload 100 photos and do 10 slide shows for free. With 30 photos, I'm well into my allowance. I hope you like the show.

This small back-of-the-lot house (called edícula in Brazil)* was built from October 2006 to January 2007 in the lot we own next to my parents' house. We built it so we could rent it and not have to send money to Brazil for property taxes, etc. Later if we want we can build a bigger house in the front part of the lot.

My dad supervised the construction and my mom documented it taking all these photos. I thought those of you who are not familiar with how houses are built in Brazil (and many other places in the world, for that matter) would enjoy to see this. Some other time I'll share my thoughts about the way houses are built here in the U.S.

* (edited to add some more details) In Brazil some people build either a room, or an entertaining area (with a barbecue "fireplace" or a pizza oven) at the back of their house and sometimes rent this room (also called an edícula -- I had never heard of this term until my brother went to college and rented such a room). Some people buy a lot, build a small house at the back and live there. Then later, slowly (because building houses in Brazil takes a long time and costs a lot, like anywhere else in the world) build a bigger house up front.

We decided just to build the little house in the back since we won't be building on the lot for a while. It has around 970 square feet. Two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living room, eat-in kitchen and small laundry area. There's also an opening/patio in the back for lighting (there's a back window in the kitchen) and hanging laundry.

What Kind of Flower I Am

I saw this at sandy cove trail.

I decided to post it mainly because I truly enjoyed taking the quiz. It was long (e.g. I hate those quizzes with just 5 questions), the questions were enjoyable to think about and answer and the results fairly interesting. Oh, yes, and for almost every question there was the answer I would have given if it were not a multiple choice quiz. That's not generally the case with most of these internet quizzes.

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"You have a sunny disposition and are normally one of the first to show up for the party. You don't need too much attention from the host once you get there as you are more than capable of making yourself seen and heard."
Daffodils are definitely not one of my favorite flowers although I love to see them since they're one of the first to show up in Spring, but I guess the description is not that far from who I am. It's just kind of strange that they would have such a short and superficial description with so many questions!!

Hey, what is it that you're saying? That I'm over analyzing things?

Who, me? Oh, come on... I'm not like that? ;)

Does it look like I'm writing a dissertation? :)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sunset at the Beach (again)

Many of you have already seen these photos in a post I wrote last September, "The Boy, the Sea, and the Sunset," but I wanted to test this slide show feature by BubbleShare and this was the album I already had there. As a bonus, you get to see more photos since the earlier post featured 8 and now there are 30. Enjoy while it's up because I'm thinking of pulling it down in a little while because anyone could get this and post it and I don't like that idea... So I may have to look for another site...

Edited to Add: I opened the comments. I have no idea why they weren't open. For those too lazy to click on the link above (I'm looking at you Keiko), these photos were taken during our trip to Florida last September in Flagler Beach, Florida.

This album is powered by BubbleShare

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blogger Meet Up Squared

Last Saturday night, I had the great pleasure of meeting Lauren, the sixth "Philly Mama" blogger from my blogroll that I've met in person (there are two I am yet to meet: Jeannette and Miriam Peskowitz).

There was a "bonus," though! Besides meeting Lauren, John and their sons, I met some other people there, including Anjali, who is also a blogger, and her lovely family. So now there's a ninth "Philly Mama" blogger in my blogroll! And I love your blog and your writing, Anjali! It's been a delight for me to read your archives and other publications online (you can check them out -- they're in her blog's sidebar - "Deep Thought by Anjali").

Lauren described the evening in a fun post in which we were dubbed "The Very Irishest Family from Brazil, Ever" :) because we the three of us (Kelvin took an extra long nap and didn't come) were wearing green. Lauren, I decided to wear green just because I didn't have anything comparable to your very Irish green beer mug earrings (I thought they were very cute, you shouldn't donate them to Goodwill :) and I wanted to go to a St. Patty's day party in style.

Oh, and I'm glad you liked the food I brought, Lauren. If you want to taste more of it, we can plan to get together again sometime ;) . Really, I love cooking and/or baking for friends and I don't get to do it as often as I'd like. The blog-post-famous cheese bourek was delicious, I'm glad I got to taste it, because that post made really curious about it.

Can you tell that I just love blogger meet ups? I hope to meet many of the other bloggers I read in the future.
~~~ ~~~
Coming up: a dissertation writing update, photos of the boys' new bedroom, and a slide show of a house being built in Brazil (but first I have to figure out which site to use to make a nice slide show, any suggestions?)

Monday, March 19, 2007

All Over the Place

I generally prefer to have focused, "thematic" posts, but sometimes my mind is just all over the place and I can't do that if I want to reflect on what's on my mind at the moment.

First, the weather.
I was thoroughly enjoying the warm weather in the upper 70s that we had last week, particularly on Wednesday, so I was taken aback by the huge amount of sleet that we had on Friday. Sleet is not particularly nice, I even find it hard to explain what is going on to my Brazilian parents -- it's not snow, it's not freezing rain, it's more like "frozen rain." Can anyone tell me if it is technically frozen rain? I had to go out for an eye exam and it was not fun driving, besides, those little frozen spheres hurt when they hit one's face!

Since Friday, I've been worried and saddened about my flowers. You can see on the left and below how my what my crocuses looked like last Wednesday,

really "happy" with the warm weather.

Then, on Saturday they looked like this:

And I took this one yesterday:

Some of them had just began to blossom and I can see that several of those which never even had the chance to open, have already started to wither. :(

We haven't been able to go back to Longwood Gardens since January, and I'm afraid these beauties, which I suspect had already blossomed, may have suffered greatly with the snow:I hope they have survived. I know these early flowers are pretty sturdy. We're hoping to go there within the next week or two.

Then, My Future.
Of course now that my husband K is finally finding out what he's going to do with his life in the next few years, I start to get a little bit antsy about what I'm going to do with mine. It doesn't help that I have a Ph.D. dissertation to finish, of course. I'm afraid that my satisfaction in finishing will be marred by my K's excitement in starting his new job. I'll be finishing something, but what for? Of course I could finish and try to teach in the fall since after all when a foreign student finishes a degree in this country, we can request for a year of practical training. I could try to see if any colleges and universities in the area are looking for instructors.

I can't do that, though, because I want to go to Brazil in July -- I have an international conference in my discipline to attend and present at and I also want to visit my family and enjoy my country since I the last time I went was January 06. If I request this special working permit, I can't leave the country. Besides, I want to go to Brazil in December for the holidays and because one of my husband's cousins is getting married in January. So, I think I'm going to go "under" my husband's visa, which will mean I'm his dependent and can't work. It's true that I am, but having this as an "official status" is slightly unsettling. I had that status for only 2 years in the past 11 years (it'll be that long this June since we came to the U.S.), the rest of the time each one of us had a student visa.

I recently found out that an essay I submitted to an anthology was rejected. That's not fun either. I have a very realistic outlook though, I'm perfectly aware of my limitations (and in this case there were external limitations since I know the editors had a very large pool of submissions to select from, so I know it's not just me). I'm not really a good enough writer just yet, but I think I can improve and learn more, get better. So I'm thinking of "publishing" my submission here in the blog. I'll do it in installments, since it's pretty long (some 4 thousand words, 11 pages).

After I'm done with the dissertation, I do want to try to get more writing done. I feel very sad and disappointed at myself that I haven't been contributing regularly to the wonderful online magazine Multilingual Living that my dear friends Alice and Corey edit, and in which I'm supposed to be a regular columnist. I'm silly, I should be pitching to them since they love my writing, and not trying to get to places that are out of my league (just yet -- I know I can get there). I have to link to some of the essays that I wrote there and that I haven't blogged about for months and months! The magazine and the website that Corey started, Bilingual/Bicultural Families Network were even featured in The Seattle Times recently! You can count more on me from now on, of that you can be sure, Alice and Corey :)

Academia: Teaching? Researching?
Another thing that I have been thinking for years and years now is whether or not I fit in academia. I think I don't really like teaching. I feel that I would enjoy it thoroughly in Brazil since there the people are warm and the students really develop a relationship with the teachers. Besides, I would feel like I was truly contributing with something new, since I spent all these years abroad. I don't know if I'd like to teach here in the U.S. though.

My six year as a teaching assistant in this country were not very a very positive experience. Of course I was not "a professor" (even though when I was teaching on my own some of my students addressed me that way) and I wasn't teaching courses that I had fully designed (just to a certain extent, since I always kept some of the structure of the class I had already T.A.d for a professor) and these things are important. I just think I was never able to appear confident and sure enough of myself to be a highly effective instructor. I did my best to master the materials, even because I was able to chose several of the books based on my own interests and I even taught for several semesters three of the books that I analyze in my dissertation -- shouldn't that supposed to be just great (for me and my own research at least)? I also did power point presentations, showed films, looked at websites and other things with the students. I never felt that I was good enough, though, and my teaching evaluations -- which I finally, after all these years, looked at for the first time last November (that's how much I can't stand feedback and criticism) -- reflect that. Several students really liked me, but many didn't really care much for me and the course. Granted, much of the criticism had to do with the structure of the course (writing assignments, syllabus, overall organization) -- something I kept from the courses taught by the professors that designed them and with whom I had previously worked, so it was not really "my fault."

Well, anyway, the main reason why I'm afraid I won't be able to teach (or least to teach and really enjoy it) in this country is that Brazilian literature and Culture -- my areas of expertise and which I would definitely ADORE to teach -- are taught only in literally a handful of universities and colleges in the U.S. The next thing I could teach would be world literature or Portuguese language. In community colleges I might be able to teach writing or introductory literature courses. I'm absolutely convinced that I won't ever be able to get a tenure track job, unless it's a position in Brazilian literature and, of course, IF I continue to teach, research and publish until such a position presents itself. Besides, such a position needs to be in the same geographical are we live and... with my husband now in the industry, we could move fairly easily. So, I just don't realistically see myself as a professor and I have to try to find other "dreams" to pour my energy into.

Well, research is a whole different ball game (to use one of those silly, but highly effective sports metaphors -- in Brazil we have countless soccer-related "common sayings" and I love those, but it always feels out of place for me to use American sports metaphors, particularly baseball ones like "touch base" since I know so very little about these sports). I think I'm a good researcher and the my research can be pretty ground breaking since I am extremely thorough and I love to collect "real data" and analyze it. After I defend, I'm planning to write more openly about my dissertation and research here. I'm tired of pretending I'm a real academic blogger and thus conforming to the "conventions of the genre" (anonymity or semi-anonymity, not revealing your institution, not writing openly about one's research). If I'm most probably not going to get an academic job, why pretend I am an academic blogger?

Finally, my blogger profile.

Since we're going to stay here, I decided to add my location to my side bar. Then, for some reason, I decided to add some things to my profile, and I did, you can check it out if you want. Soon I want to start experimenting with things here, like changing the template, etc. I definitely need a makeover since this blog has looked the same since I started it in November 2004. It's about time, don't you think?

Change is good.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Glad We're Not Leaving

One of the things that frustrated me greatly and that I didn't write about until now is that when the possibility of this job came up, I began to feel that I'd really like to remain here in Philly. Not only do we have a group of Brazilian friends to interact with, but there are several wonderful people that I met, or am yet to meet (tomorrow, for example) through blogging.

Besides, there are some places in the area that we just love so much and would miss terribly -- and these are only those that we know, there's so much more that we haven't yet explored! That's one of the advantages of living close to a big city, there are many things to see and do.

So, I'm truly delighted that we're going to stay here after all!!!! (and I had never thought that this was even remotely possible, only in delusional moments when I fantasized that my husband could get a job in the industry :). I'm looking forward to selling this house and moving, even though that's one of the (few) downsides of staying in this area. It's going to be hard to find an affordable home we like in one of the places where we might like to live (we're very open, though, as to where that might be). But... I'm sure that with the precious help and advice of the "locals" that we know and will get to know better, we'll find the perfect place. The good thing is that we won't have to rush through this process since we're not moving that far away and can take our time. Well, all these issues shall be discussed ad nauseam in this blog.

Another advantage of staying here is that we'll still be relatively close to my parents-in-laws (who live in Massachusetts) and brother-in-law who lives in Maryland (I also have an uncle in D.C.).

What else can I say? Tonight we got a phone call from our closest friends, had an internet call (Sk*ype) from some other friends, and I also exchanged emails with another dear friend-- all of them in Brazil. Everyone is so happy for us and it's so good to hear that! We're happy for ourselves too! :)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Guess What?

So, since some of you have been asking, my husband's interview went well, but it was a type of "grilling" that he had never experienced before. He was interrupted by question upon question, when they had told him to prepare a typical colloquium "presentation."After a while he caught on, though, forgot about giving any talk and just tried to "sell" his research in a convincing, applied way, which is not really what "pure scientists" are trained to do.

Last night when I picked him up at the airport (after his plane had to circle over Baltimore and then Philly for over an hour before it finally landed -- while we waited and waited at the cell phone waiting area when we could have waited at home since we live only 10 minutes from the airport) he was optimistic, but not overly so. I did my part, he reasoned, and now we just had to wait. And a short wait it was.

This afternoon, at 5:30 -- little over an hour ago, he got a phone call. They offered him the job.

Yeah, I know, we're still speechless.

I had to share this with you even before we call some of our family members, just because I left you hanging since yesterday. Thanks for all your support and kind words. More later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Long Day

This is going to be a looong day. I can't stop thinking about how the interview is going.
I'm not thinking, though, about what can happen, about him getting the job. These feelings are gone now, however. They've been replaced by peaceful and calm feelings. Whatever happens, happens. And we're fine with it. "Plan C" (another postdoc) has already been discussed and will be implemented if needed. He may even fly for California for an interview at the "small religious private university."

I'll keep you posted. K should call me later today and he's flying back this evening as well. We'll be fine. Thanks for all your support, it means a lot to us.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Party Pictures!

For those who haven't seen them yet, I posted photos of previous birthday party decorations (including Kelvin's 4th birthday from last year) here, and of birthday cakes here. This year, the decorations weren't that great because I didn't put too much effort into them. I've been pretty laid back with most things lately, which actually feels great to the incorrigible perfectionist that I happen to be!My dad helped me tape the balloons to the wall and hang the (dollar store) caution sign and hats on the wall, but I did the rest on my own. I reused the name from last year (scroll to the very last photo), I just removed the red crepe paper and used other colors -- which made for a too colorful and visually "messy" decoration (particularly so in comparison to last year's) -- the large happy birthday sign didn't help, I should have removed the golden fringes, at least... oh well...

My sister-in-law, the party decorator whose talent is highlighted in the post linked above twice, was busy with her 7 month old and, as I had already done the wall, she helped me put the "skirt" on the table and arrange the Bob the*Builder characters on the cake:
Oh, the cake. That was a different story... I didn't care too much about how it looked because this year, for the very first time in my life I made a delicious real layer cake. In previous years, I cheated by simply baking two plain cakes on pans of the same size and putting lots of filling in between them. This year I let Kelvin decide what kind of cake he wanted: chocolate (I used my tried and true recipe) with strawberries in the filling. I used sweetened condensed milk (the main dessert ingredient for Brazilians) for each of the three fillings (I made two layers from each cake). For the bottom layer I used frozen strawberries which I thawed and chopped, mixed with condensed milk and boiled for a few minutes. For the middle layer, I used fresh sliced strawberries over plain condensed milk that I spread on each cake side of the layers. For the top layer I used chocolate flavored condensed milk (Cobertura de chocolate do Moça Fiesta - for those Brazilians out there) with fresh slices of strawberries as well. I forgot to take photos of it as I cut through it yesterday, so I only have this lame photo from this morning (of course I had to have cake for breakfast, why not?), but I'll try to substitute it for a better one later (we still have leftover cake -- want some?).

Anyway... last year Kelvin's birthday was on a very cold day and... guess what, ALL the children we invited came, around 17 kids, plus their parents, so we were all cramped inside the house. Luckily we had already planned games for them to play in the basement and other activities, but when time came for the party favor bags, I didn't have them for everyone. This year, the weather was great (in the 60s) and I planned party favors (a bag and the yellow hats that I found at a dollar store as well) for 20 children, but then only 11 came, so there was enough room in the basement for them to play (we were afraid of the mess with the muddy ground if they went out) and all the adults got to enjoy talking and eating in the living room. I generally don't like to post photos of people and children other than myself and my kids here, but this is a fun one:
My only regret? I didn't take enough pictures. If there's one thing I can't allow myself to be laid back on is photo taking -- there can never be enough photos for me! ;)

Food notes: in the first photo (click on it to see it really big), the food to the left, is what we call canudinhos in Brazil -- it's a cone shaped fried dough which is generally filled with potato salad (my mom brought from Brazil). We provided the salad and each person could fill their own, so they didn't get soggy. As in his first birthday, I used Brigadeiros ("brigadiers" a delicious Brazilian confection made of -- what else? -- sweetened condensed milk and chocolate to "write" Kelvin's name on the table. On the left of the cake there are the coconut versions of the sweets, named Beijinhos (little kisses). We also had my famous homemade salsa and chips and tiny, made from scratch, pães de queijo ("cheese rolls" -- gluten free manioc starch based little rolls -- you can order a pre-made mix at the Chebe Bread site).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Five Lists for my Favorite Five Year Old

Kelvin has two "virtual friends," who just turned five on the same week he did. Ben, whose birthday was last Sunday, and Isabella, whose birthday was on Tuesday. OK, they're not really his friends, but I'm sure they'd be if they got to meet. They are the son and daughter of two blogging friends of mine, Caroline and Alice. I'm glad their children's birthdays were a few days before Kelvin's that way I can borrow their nice blog post ideas :) Thanks, friends!

As seen in Alice's blog:

Five years ago today, at 4:14 pm (last year I posted his birth story, in case you want to check it out):
And the birthday boy today:
As seen on Caroline's blog:
Five Lists for Kelvin, my Favorite Five Year Old

Kelvin's Five Favorite Things to Do:
- Play with trains
- Play board or card games
- Go with the family to Longwood Gardens or Morris Arboretum
- Play with friends
- Go to the Please Touch Museum

Five Favorite TV Shows:
- Bob the Builder
- Elmo (Sesame Street)
- Mr. Rogers
- Berenstain Bears
- Thomas the Tank Engine
(can you tell we only watch PBS?)

Five Favorite Foods:
- "Pilaf" (lentils and bulgur wheat cooked together and served with dollops of sour cream or yogurt) - that's what his grandma cooked for lunch today.
- Rice and Beans
- Chinese food (I didn't get this one, really, we hardly ever eat "authentic" Chinese food)
- Indian food (particularly chickpea stew)
- Pasta (5 favorite ones: Macaroni and cheese [disclaimer: I don't ever cook this at home ;)], Spaghetti, Bow tie pasta, Ravioli, Potato Gnocchi)

Five Favorite Pieces of Music/ Songs
- John Williams' "Star Wars: Main Title" (from this CD)
- John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare And Theme" (same CD)
- Veggie Tales songs
- "My Life is in You" (Christian praise song whose lyrics according to him go: "My life isn't noodle...")
- "Breve Virá" ("Coming Again") - Hymn, as sang by a Brazilian male quartet (Arautos do Rei)

Five Reasons Why I Love Kelvin
- His birth made me a mother and transformed my life
- He asks such deep, complex questions and has an amazing vocabulary (in Portuguese, although his English proficiency is getting better everyday and is always surprising to me)
- He loves to give and receive lots of kisses, hugs, and cuddles
- He is very friendly and always includes everyone -- you can't ask him his favorite friend or relative -- he doesn't choose and says he cares for everyone equally
- He's a very happy boy, who loves to laugh and make goofy faces and stuff

Happy Birthday my Beloved Boy!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Good Kids Bad Habits -- Blog Book Tour

If you, like me, try to be a conscientious parent as far as health, nutrition, and safety are concerned and have been reading various books about these issues since before your child/ren was/were born, you won't learn many new things from this book. It will still remind you in a very effective manner, however, why it is important and relevant to form good habits in these areas.

Good Kids Bad Habits, written by Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D. (you can check her bio here and many other resources in the book's site), is extremely well organized, very informative, full of forms to fill (also available online in the books's site), comprehensive tables, charts, boxes that highlight the most relevant or crucial information, and, a nice feature, true parenting stories spread throughout. (You can also check out Dr. Jen's blog -- actually a Question and Answer in the book's Amazon page, just scroll down).

The key point of the book is: It's a "child's everyday routines and rituals that will really make good health stick."(282) And for me it was very important to be reminded of that over and over again. The doctors who wrote the foreword also point out another key point: adults have to lead by example, we have to be role-models (ix). This is one of the most important concepts of parenting, one that many people don't often think about, but which should guide all our actions.

It begins with a RealAge (TM) Healthy Kids Test (since the book is brought out by the RealAge group) -- which has questions, distributed in three age groups, for all areas discussed in the book: general health, nutrition, physical and mental exercise, personal care, social and emotional health, and safety habits (you can also take it online clicking on the link above).

Eight thematic chapters follow: Eat Up (healthy food choices), Shape Up (exercising), Spiff Up (good hygiene), Smarten Up (good homework habits), Chin Up (Self-Esteem), Gear Up (safety), Check Up (health).

About food (our family's strongest score in the test, "perfect" 10 - which is no surprising given that we're ovo-lacto vegetarian and we strive not to eat junk food and to prepare most of our food at home), the new ideas that I picked up are: getting the children involved in planning and preparing meals and having the children to be constantly learning about new foods at home (like they learn new things at school). I also learned that I need to work more in our habits regarding exercise and personal care and be more careful with safety (Wear a helmet! She exhorts.).

I liked what in the books' conclusion, Dr. Jen shares an exchange she had with another mother and her thoughts about it. When the mother said to Dr. Jen that she was probably Supermom, she answered no and then she reflects bout this issue in the book:
knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different things. Instead, I take what I know and try to make it work for my family.
In fact, I find that being imperfect is the best way to be. I strive to be the best role model for my kids, but I also let myself slip now and then. (283)
This is how I approach the issues discussed in the book. In matters of safety (like how car seats are installed), I like to err on the side of "perfection," but other than that, we're humans, and we're happier when we live balanced lives. Of course it's best to be healthy, but like she said, giving an example about her family and how they go to McDonalds once in a while, we can allow ourselves to indulge in a not-so-healthy treat every so often.

All in all, this is an excellent book, but I fear that the people who are really most in need to read it or learn about these issues, may not have access to it. It's a sad fact that childhood obesity and other ills are most prevalent in lower class or immigrant families, whose parents are uneducated and have to work long hours and not be there for their children like some of us can (or to get an education). I wonder if there was a way to get this book or its ideas to them. Of course it's probably true that the people Dr. Trachtenberg sees on her practice and whose stories she shares in the book (whom I am assuming are mostly reasonably well do to and educated families in the greater NYC area) do need to hear these things too, but I wonder if the book, with its wealth of information, would be accessible to the demographic that most needs it.

P.S. I almost forgot -- I was sent an extra copy of the book. If you'd like to check it out, email me so I can mail it to you. (the first one to reach me will get it, OK?)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Suppressing High Hopes

I'm feeling slightly better now, but a couple of hours ago I was feeling hopelessly depressed.

It's hard to let go of hopes. I know it's better than being bitterly disappointed later, but still, it is good to dream and having to rationally keep those dreams in check is tough.

I mean, my dreams are not even that far fetched.

I dream about:

- Getting out of "limbo" (Not having to live on a student and temporary work visas; knowing where we're going to live in the next 5, 10 years; not having to live on a tight budget and in a neighborhood we don't really like but which was what we could afford)*

- For my husband to have a job in a place we can settle and then I can also start to look for a job.

- Having a bigger house in a nice neighborhood, with a garden, maybe we could get a playground set for the boys for the yard...

- Getting rid of our hand me down and mismatched pieces of furniture, particularly in our bedroom, and getting a new mattress and bedroom set.

- Down the road, a newer minivan/ car

*Writing these makes me want to stop right here and NOW. We're so fortunate... so many people in the world and even in this country don't have even one tenth of what we have. Why should I be complaining? It's not fair... We own a home, we live comfortably, if frugally, we have almost two Ph.D.s... we should be really happy and content. I don't feel I have even a right to feel that way, but I do. It's good to think this way -- it definitely puts things into perspective.

OK, now why am I feeling like that to begin with?

A few hours ago my husband (K) sent me an email saying that he has serious doubts that the industry interview will go anywhere. These thoughts started creeping over him after he accidentally found out that a colleague from our Ph.D. institution (who's finishing his degree this Spring) is going to interview for the same position (he didn't tell the guy he was also interviewing, obviously). It's not even that he fears the competition, even though this guy's research does have a better affinity with the pharmaceutical industry than K's. There's the question of the visa. Foreign status is not a problem at all in academia -- there are no caps (visa limits) for academic jobs -- but in the industry, these caps are enforced. So, first, the cap needs to be still unmet, then, K would have to be the "only" candidate, not occupying the place of any Americans (this guy he met today is obviously American).

Talk about a reality check. K just says we shouldn't have any hopes that he'll get this job. He doesn't think it is possible. Of course we've heard that in the industry, if they really want you, they''ll go through great lengths to get you to work for them but... immigration problems are probably the greatest barrier one could possibly find!!

He hasn't heard back from the university in which he interviewed and it's getting so late in the game that we suspect the position may have been filled. And they had three. Yes, three positions. Six interviewees. This makes K realize one more time what he already knows -- that he was duped by his "boss" and basically forced to do research in an area that no one really knows or cares about.

Three years, almost wasted. His only option may be going for another postdoc. Another year, or maybe two, on limbo.

Remember his colleague, the one with the three job offers? He applied for three years in a row and did two posts docs (of 2 years each), so it may be necessary for him to go this route. Particularly because he was extremely unfortunate in terms of research projects and area.

Last night K also had an informal, but long, interview with the head of the search committee of the small private teaching university in California. He was not very excited about the prospects. It didn't help that he had spent the day hearing about all the wonderful opportunities presented in the industry and thinking to himself (this was before today's reality check, obviously) -- wow, I'm here listening to these talks and next week I have an industry interview! Anyway... we're not too excited about going to the West Coast anyway.

All right, I'm sorry I'm "dumping" all this on you, but it surely helps to get it off my chest. K was apologizing profusely as we talked, since he knows I sometimes feel even more depressed than he does. I still need to finish the dissertation, I haven't worked in nearly three years (which is, frankly a bit depressing if I come to think of it), I have to keep waiting for him to get a job so our family situation improves... it's tough.

Last but not least, I cannot let any of this transpire to my parents who are the two people I spend the whole day with in this small house. We know what they would tell us: see? You should go back to Brazil and work there... That's not something we're planning of doing right now, even though our perspectives here are kind of bleak.

OK -- we're going back to our "regularly scheduled programming" after this. Promise!! A book review (YAY!) on Wednesday, and this weekend will be Kelvin's 5th birthday party. So hopefully I won't have time to worry about these issues... and will be blogging about fun stuff like birthday cakes, Brazilian party food, etc!!!

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Bloddy Parenting Question

OK, I know I promised a nice soothing photo post, but you get this instead. I'll include a cute photo of my boy to make up for the disagreeable subject :)
Dear Internets, can you help me?
Do any of your kids get nosebleeds? What causes it? What can be done about it? What exactly do I have to do when it happens?

Kelvin has been having them pretty often (by that I mean at least once a week). I don't much like the sight of blood, but fortunately I get "cold-blooded" enough to be cool about it. It isn't easy for me to deal with it, though, particularly when it happens in the middle of the night.

Last night I was quietly typing away some blog comments when in came my son, looking like a little vampire who had just feasted on lots of blood and was wiping it from his face into his pajama sleeves and pants. There was so much blood it was almost scary! The poor half-asleep boy was complaining of boogers up in his nose and I could tell it was hard for him to breathe with all that blood tricking down his left nostril. Good thing he doesn't freak out. I had him tilt his head back, pressed a tissue to his nose so the blood stopped, and cleaned him up. I brought him back to his bed and it took him a little while to fall back asleep (during which time he asked me some complex questions such as "Why is the night longer in the winter and shorter in the summer?" Then, after I explained it to him as best as I could, "Why is the earth tilted/inclined?"). He ended up coming to my bed later and I told him he was allowed to stay "only for tonight, on account of the bleeding nose episode."

I know nosebleeds are probably caused by him sticking his finger up his nose and also because of the dry air from the heating, but sometimes it worries me. I know that some people never ever have them (like me) and others always do (my husband). Apparently it got a bit worse after he had a head on collision with another boy in church about a month ago -- his nose bled very profusely then.

I'm yet to Google this issue and I'll certainly mention it in our next visit to the pediatrician, but I thought that meanwhile I'd ask you about it.

P.S. I wrote most of this last night, but didn't want to post it so I could get a little more "mileage" out of the previous post. Good thing, since two more people commented! ;)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The End is Near

From my "Dissertation Journal,"first entry in over seven months:

The end is near. I hope. I pray.

Not in sight yet, but fairly near.

I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet – I will only see it when the defense date is set. It does look like this is it. This time I’m going to really, really finish. I have no choice but finish. Most of all, I want to finish, which is the most important thing.

I care about my research and I’m delighted to see how it’s finally shaping up in spite of my procrastination, my faulty ways. And this makes me very happy. I don’t even dare to hope I can defend and turn it in on time to participate of commencement, but I think I should try. Even though I hate to set myself up for failure.

Maybe my mantra should be, like The Little Engine that Could's:

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

P.S. Coming up soon: A "light" post with photos from Brazil of some other soothing thing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Musical Beds

I had been planning to write this post for a while now, but since today the New York Times featured an article exactly about this issue, I had to do it right away!! Here it is, my husband sent me the link this afternoon. Ha -- and did you know that if you click in the box that says "Share" on the right side of the article and then click on Permalink you get get a link for the blog that will still work even after it becomes part of the NYT archive? Good to know that!!

So, if you read the article, I wanted you to know that we could be one of the families featured in it (except for the detail that we don't live in New York, nor are we designers of maternity wear for department stores :) since our experience is very similar to these families'...

[Wow, it's raining really hard right now. I love to sleep with the sound of rain, it just makes snuggling under the covers so much cozier. Oh no... it stopped, I hope it starts again when I get into bed.]

I have already shared quite a bit of our sons' sleep history here (where I summarize both of my sons' sleep history and talk about night weaning my youngest and trying to get him to sleep through the night) and there (the post is titled "Goodbye Family Bed").

Since we moved the boys to their own room five months ago, we've been playing a lively game of musical beds several nights a week. Most often, my lovely husband is the one who gets up and goes to sleep with our oldest son in the futon who used to be in their bedroom, but sometimes the little one comes to sleep with me on our bed as well. Or, when they're sick, sometimes we trade places during the night.

The transition was pretty smooth for both of them and the youngest -- who has been sleeping in his crib since he was born, although for two years the crib was by my side of the bed -- generally spends the whole night in his crib (he can get out easily because we have one of those bed rails and there's a gap at the end). He sometimes needs to drink some water, or a kiss to settle back down, but he doesn't fuss much and gets up and out of bed. Ironically, sometimes when he is sick he sleeps better than when he is well, which is unbelievable!

Our oldest though... he's the one who has been giving us the most trouble. He can never go to sleep without an adult close to him. Then, if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he comes directly to our bed and one of us has to go with him to his room and stay there with him until he falls asleep. Generally that doesn't really work, he feels he needs to sleep with someone. Since in the past five months there was a futon bed in their bedroom, my husband spent many nights there with him. But tomorrow it'll be a week since we moved the boys to the small room that used to be our study and my parents arrived and are sleeping in the futon, so there's nowhere to go with him. Since we have a full bed, him sleeping with us is not really an option... so we really need to convince him to sleep in his own bed.

He's been complaining of bad dreams and he is afraid of the dark, unlike Alice's daughter, whose bad dreams started after Halloween, I don't know exactly when this started because he learned about monsters playing with friends and he may have been scared by a DVD that he watched, but I'm not sure. I guess some children are just "naturally" afraid of the dark, and others are not.

I will never forget one night when my brother and I were children. I think he must have been 7 and I 9. He was extremely afraid of the dark, he didn't even want to walk down the darkened hall to his bedroom. My mom then asked me to first walk down the hall and then to go outside. I remember the wind blowing and some lights from the house giving a faint light so I could see the trees. I grabbed some leaves from a tree so I could show him that I had really been out there and then I came back inside. It didn't really help him, but it became an indelible memory for me.

I don't know what we'll do to help my son and to have restful nights. My husband loves sleeping with him, but sometimes he's just too tired of playing musical beds. And I miss him by my side as well.

Now I'm going to bed, let's hope that the little one doesn't wake up too soon and maybe stays in his bed all night. Oh, and it's not raining heavily anymore :(