Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This is How I Looked Three Years Ago

From this: -- + almost 60 lbs -- To that:

But the results were all worth it:
Linton was born at 2:43 p.m. and weighed:
(click to enlarge)

More details (birth story): here.

I want to come back later and write a few more things about my youngest son. He's just such a wonderful person and I feel privileged that I can call myself his mother.

Happy Birthday, Baby!
This post is dedicated to my friend Tracy whose daughter is precisely 3 years and 1 day younger than Linton.
Congratulations to you and your family, my friend, on the birth of your beautiful baby girl!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Araucaria Brasiliensis

(my apologies for editing this a third time. I should proof read before publishing. The problem with photos, though is that sometimes they're not positioned where I want them so I need to come back and edit)

While I work on my "dangerous childhood" post I want to share with you some photos of a pine tree, which is native of Southern Brazil. Its scientific name is Araucaria Brasiliensis (or Angustifolia), but it is commonly called simply Araucária or pinheiro do Paraná (Paraná's pine tree). It is a beautiful and unique tree which produces a large and edible pine nut (photos of the "nut" below).

This tree reminds me of my childhood since I grew up in Paraná and most of my extended family, both in my mom and my dad's side still lives there. I visit Paraná, particularly Curitiba, the state capital, every time I travel to Brazil and I've been trying to photograph this tree. Here are some of these photos from January 2004, most taken from the car while we were traveling. Last year I took some more, but I think they're in a CD somewhere.

And here's its "nut" which is eaten after it's boiled for a while in salted water. It's called pinhão (or big pinha, or pine cone). These photos were taken from the internet.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wedding Planner

I have been taking many temporary/voluntary "jobs" in my life, in addition to the only "real work" that I've ever had (teaching, either in school context or privately). I've been a cook [should I say "chef"?] (for up to 50 people) in several retreats we had during college in Brazil -- I planned the menu, did all the grocery shopping and then cooked the food with the help of several people; I was a house-cleaner for a couple of years here in the U.S.; and I've been helping direct a singing group (I did that in Brazil too); but I had never taken the role of wedding planner (just for the ceremony, not the reception, I should add) and this happened this weekend.

Since the young couple, who got married in the city last year but who wanted to have a religious ceremony now, asked me to help with the music, I realized that they were clueless about how a religious ceremony should proceed, so I decided to help them. I suggested that they pick a wedding bulletin, ordered it for them, organized the ceremony, printed out the bulletins and made copies. As you already know, I also played the piano, the flute, and sang (with our group and a duet with another guy).

I'm happy to report that everything went really well. You might be surprised to learn why, though. :) All went so well just because we were dealing with a group of typically disorganized, and extremely late Brazilian folks! We were there early, set everything up, but of course when you're dealing with Brazilians, oftentimes when it's time for the wedding (or any program) to start, most guests haven't even arrived yet! When 6 p.m. rolled in, I was playing the piano for the bridesmaids/groomsmen to rehearse their entrance (in Brazil we call them madrinhas e padrinhos, they don't wear matching clothes and each couple is a couple of padrinhos either of the groom or the bride, and the couple goes to the groom or bride's side). We also tried to rehearse with the flower girl...

This slightly chaotic environment allowed me to be completely relaxed so when the time finally came for the wedding to start (almost an hour late) I was able to play the piano OK and the flute really well. I concluded again that I'm a terrible piano player, the good thing is that nobody was paying attention to the music that was being played, but to the wedding party and bride.

The good part about this experience was "reconnecting" with my flute! I really want to start playing again. I guess that in the absence of someone to accompany me (my husband can only do it if the piano part has chords, which is not the case with most classical pieces) it works OK to play with a recorded accompaniment track, so I'll look for those and go back to playing. Several of our friends didn't know that I played the flute, so it was a pleasant surprise for them to find out.

OK, sorry for boring you to tears with this description of yesterday's activities. Right now we're trying to clean/ organize the house to put it on the market (we may sell it after all), so things are very messy around here and I should go work and not blog. Oh, yeah, today my dear husband baked bread! YUM!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hi Ho Hi Ho It's Off to Brazil We Go!

(Translation of title into Portuguese: "Eu vou, eu vou, pro Brasil agora eu vou!" - this song in Brazil begins "I go, I go...")

So... yesterday was another productive day, I guess Thursdays are mean to be productive around here, at least one day every week! :) Of course I'm kidding, since Fridays are generally productive too. In order to continue being productive today, though, I have to write this post quickly, so it's not going to be a very good one, sorry!

Activities from yesterday (boring old list, skip if you want!):
Got out of the house early (9 a.m. -- early for me), bought flowers for my garden (photos in another post), planted them. Cooked lunch (brown rice and lentils). Did two loads of laundry and changed my bedsheets in the process. Unloaded dishwasher with son's help, loaded it again. Weeded garden and lawns while sons rode their bikes outside (I've been doing that everyday, weeding is very very therapeutic). Started sorting through old clothes in boxes in the basement while sons played with trainset there and clothes were in the washer/dryer. Selected many clothes that don't fit anymore to give away. At night, while we finished watching The Queen (I really liked it) I folded laundry, sorted through the box of the boys' summer clothes taking out those that didn't fit and emptied their drawers of winter clothes while sorting those too. Now the "spare bedroom/ playroom" floor is piled with clothes that I need to put away in the drawers and I have several boxes of clothes to bring up to the attic.

Today I already: mulched my flowers, vacuumed the car and its rugs (which I removed and sprayed with carpet cleaner), washed the mats with a hose, washed the car with Kelvin (Linton just hates to be sprayed with water and only looked from the porch) and I'm getting ready to put away those clothes. I also have to practice piano and the flute extra hard for Sunday (ai ai ai...).

One of yesterday's greatest "accomplishments" was the purchase of our (mine and the boys') air tickets to Brazil -- my husband did it, though, calling me every five minutes while I was trying to plant the flowers and had to take of my muddy gloves (useless detail, right? I warned you it wasn't going to be a good post :) to get the phone. I've been just dying to go to Brazil for a few months now. It's always like that -- I get to a point where I just can't take it anymore, I miss my country too much and I want to go back. Good thing it'll be a "useful" trip as well since I had papers accepted for presentation at two conferences (you already knew that). However, after the tickets were bought I immediately started stressing out a bit over several things. Some "silly," other more serious.

Silly reason to be apprehensive:
- scheduling trip so I could attend a wedding that I don't know if I'll be invited to. What if I'm not invited? That's an easy one -- I will be disappointed, but I just won't go ;).

Medium reason:
- Getting sick again either on the flight there, on the flight back or both like last time. (I don't think it'll happen, at least I hope so).

Serious reason:
- Not having my appointment at the American Consulate scheduled yet -- I can't do it because I need my passport number in order to fill the forms and schedule it online (something that needs to be done 3 months ahead of time and I'm traveling just a month and a half from now). However, my passport is going to expire in 6 months and I renewed it last Thursday (it'll take a month to be mailed back). I'm going to have to try to schedule an "emergency" kind of appointment and those are never guaranteed and they're the greatest hassle in the world to schedule. More stress added to what's always very stressful -- getting my visa every time I go back to Brazil. :(

I know I should be just thrilled that we'll be going, but I can't help but worry...

Let's hope I'll get sometime this weekend for the "Dangerous" post and other things. If not, you'll know I'm busy because of that wedding I'm helping with.

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Randomly" Tagged

The fabulous British mom and "famous" blogger Emily, tagged me (a week ago -- sorry about that!) for this meme, so now I'll try to share 8 random things about me (if I can think of 8 since I've already previously done a post on "6 weird things about me" and another voluntary random things post, a fairly long one too, the first two items in my list below are there, sorry about that...).

1. I generally prefer salty/savory foods to sweets.

2. I'm a bookworm, but I have read hardly anything for fun since Kelvin was born 5 years ago and particularly after I started working on the dissertation. I have this feeling I'll never be able to read as much as I used to again... (going to graduate school and working as a T.A. also dampened my reading considerably, I really haven't been much of a bookworm for almost 10 years now :( )

3. There wasn't a phone in my house growing up with two exceptions -- a short period between 5-8 years old and then when I was almost 19 and in college. That's why I generally don't like to call people I don't know on the phone (I do talk to friends OK) -- it's kind of a strange "phone phobia" that I have. My husband teases me about it all the time.

4. I lived at home with my parents and younger brother until I got married, at 23.5 (I decided not to go to a boarding academy for high school as my parents wanted and I went to college in a university in the city where I lived -- that's very common in Brazil, most people live at home while going to college. And besides, the Universidade de São Paulo is the largest and best university in the whole country, some say it's the best in all of Latin America -- why would I have gone anywhere else?).

5. I got my driver's license when I was 24.5 years old, a few months before I came to the U.S. I never drove in Brazil before then, only took public transportation or went out with my parents. Cars are quite expensive in Brazil, only rich kids have their own cars. (Oh, and in Brazil one can only have a driver's license at 18, but one can vote at 16 -- I think that makes lots of sense!!).

6. I'm a really messy person. I guess I have some kind of selective "ADD" -- I just can't concentrate when it comes to picking things up from the floor, putting things away, organizing a messy desk, etc. I like cleaning, but I don't like tidying up. Luckily my husband is really good with that :)

7. I usually don't do blog "memes," but I like to create memes. So far I've created only two, but I'm working on another one :)

8. I really cannot think of anything else that might be even slightly interesting... OK, I'm a night person. If I could I'd sleep in until 11 or 12 every morning and stay up until really really late. I've actually been doing that quite often in the past few years because I've had my parents helping out (but I get up at 10, generally, or 9 when we're by ourselves and my husband lets me -- thanks, hon!).

I don't feel like tagging anyone, particularly since my tags just don't seem to ever work. OK, just a few "random" people :) Keiko, Jennie, WWWMama, M. Only do it if you feel like it, though, OK?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

From the Hips - Blog Book Tour

I just love to read about pregnancy, childbirth, and babies, so this book was a plateful for me! (do you have this expression in English? It's a very positive statement in Portuguese - um prato cheio).

The full title of the book, as you can see on the left is From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent -- phew!! (the long title makes me feel a bit better about my long dissertation title, BTW :). Here's the book site, and the authors' blog The New Mom.

My husband has also been interested in the book and he's opened it and taken a look several times. When I got the book and he looked at the cover his first question was: "What do they mean by uncensored?" And after reading the book, I think they meant to say that they wanted to discuss all aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, and the post baby stage -- even the most embarrassing, gory, or scary physical details, as well as discuss the associations and reactions (positive and negative) between sex and childbirth, breastfeeding, etc. I really appreciated reading those parts.

I'm glad that the marketing people at the publishing house sent me the final, full color version of the book because the initial review copies were b&w* and I was planning on "complaining" about that in this review, but now all I have to say is that the book is GORGEOUS! The illustrations were made by the co-author Rebecca Odes and the book is also color coded, as you can see in the table of contents below: green for pregnancy, pink for birth, orange for becoming a parent, and blue for baby. This color coding makes it easer to find each section when you pick up the book for browsing.
You can also see the style of the great illustrations by Rebecca Odes in this image (available at the book's site).

Well, a few words about the book. It is really comprehensive as the title claims, discussing everything one needs to know about pregnancy, birth, becoming a parent, and caring for the baby. The most positive aspect of this book is that most pregnancy and parenting books are tied to a birthing and/or parenting philosophy ("natural" versus "medical," "attachment parenting" versus "cry-it-out," breast or bottle, etc.) and Odes and Morris present all the various alternatives, listing the pros and cons of each -- all of this with very good humor (I like it when some of the pros and cons are the same, e.g. huge bo*obs as a pro and a con of breastfeeding -- it all depends on the way one looks at it!). I appreciate it how Odes and Morris try to be as neutral and impartial as possible when discussing the different approaches. They even have a section titled "the baby gurus" at the end of the book and evaluating the books and the philosophy of Penelope Leach, Gary Ezzo, William and Martha Sears, and Gina Ford (there are also references to Dr. Weissbluth, Dr. Ferber, Tracy Hogg, and Dr. Harvey Karp elsewhere in the book, and they refer to these too).

The book also offers "resource" boxes throughout -- not only great books on the subjects discussed, but also websites and blogs!! The bibliography at the end, titled "more parenting resources" even lists medical studies and articles from scholarly journals which shows that the book was extremely well researched (they list their full "advisory board" of obstetricians, midwives, pediatricians, nurses, psychotherapist, physicians, genetic counselors right before the table of contents) -- this is a big plus for a scholar like me and it allows parents who want to do more in depth research about several parenting issues to know where to start.

In addition to all that information, there are countless statements from real moms and dads (and a handful from Rebecca and Ceridwen too. I would enjoyed to have more of those to read, but I understand that they didn't want to make the book about themselves and their experience -- they really share very little about themselves and their babies -- and they wanted to be impartial, I guess) -- slightly annoyingly called "anonymom" and "anonydad." I got used to those after a while, though, and the fact that they're all anonymous makes the eventual statement by the authors stand out! Below you can see a sample of the way these quotations from real life moms are presented (they're color coded within each part of the book) as well as the art illustrating the feelings and thoughts that float around a postbaby brain:
Well, I guess this is enough to give you an idea of this book isn't it? Now I want to add it to my list of books to give to friends who are expecting a baby. Oh, the book was released just yesterday -- it's always so exciting to be able to read a book before its release date!

* I have these two b&w "uncorrected proofs" of the book that I can give away -- but now that I showed you how beautiful the full color book is, I doubt that anyone will want them. Maybe I can ask the publishers for other copies of the book for any interested blog readers. Let me know if you'd like those that I have now... Sorry, but I'd like to keep my color copy :(

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Posting from the Driveway

I wanted to title this "Posting from the Porch" but I'm not on my porch, since it's tiny and my soft, comfy folding lounge chair (which I use maybe twice a year -- I hope that changes now that we'll finally have a deck at the new house) wouldn't fit there. I'm right next to the porch on the driveway, watching my sons ride their tricycles on the driveway and the sidewalk in front of the house and the neighbors' houses too (they turn around on one of the neighbors' driveways).

A few random things:

- Last Friday we changed the closing date on the new house. It was going to be at the end of June, but now it'll be at the end of July. Our broker (also a good friend) thinks that our financing won't go through until my husband is working at the new job. The good news (for me) is that I may not be here for the closing and the move since I want to travel to Brazil (more below). Oh, and we may end up putting this house on the market too, we'll see.

(the boys are now hoeing and digging in the backyard, so I had to turn the lounger around, I'm afraid to go closer to them because of the wireless signal).

- We've been debating this subject for months now and we've finally come to the conclusion that it'll be best for me to remain on a student visa for one more year. I wasn't planning on renewing it because I just want to be done -- I've been in graduate school for nine years and a tenth year doesn't sound very appealing. I still want to defend the dissertation ASAP, but I decided not to go "under" my husband's new visa for a few reasons:
  • It'll be easier for me to travel this summer (I'm scheduled to present papers at two conferences in Brazil) and it may be also less complicated to renew my visa there instead of getting a new one.
  • After I finish I can request what's called optional practical training which will allow me to work for a year [I'd forgo that if I went under my husband's visa]. Even if I finish now and request it, I don't want to work now* nor do I have any work prospects.
  • If I apply for any academic jobs this fall (I might, if there are any openings in this area) I'll still have an academic affiliation as opposed to not belonging anywhere.
(boys were making a big mess digging up, so now they're back riding tricycles and arguing about them -- sigh)

- Today I found out some pretty heated up discussions about The Dangerous Book for Boys which I reviewed last week. It all started with Moxie's review and the many passionate comments it received by women who were disturbed, even outraged by the fact that a book which contains many things that would be equally interesting for girls is titled and marketed for boys. I took issue with this on my post, pointing out that I was interested in most everything the book contained and the reason behind my lack of interest in other things was motivated by certain beliefs or cultural conditionings and had nothing to do with my gender.

Well, I found about Moxie's post** and its comments from Jody's great post on the subject. Among other things, such as excerpts of comments to the aforementioned post, she writes a great "Manifesto" which I'm citing here in its entirety:

Yes, there are differences between boy children and girl children. Yes, those differences are hardwired and socially reinforced and related to brain structure and hormonal make-up and the goddamn fucking patriarchy.

The differences between boys and girls follow bell curves, just like so many other aspects of human society, so that there are plenty of boys who like "girly" activities and plenty of girls who like the opposite, and frankly, it's easier for girls to cross the frontier than it is for boys.

We do the best we can with the materials at hand, and we understand that both boys and girls are getting screwed by their gender-policing environments, and we trust that they will struggle through and find their way with God's grace, the strength of their families, the power of their own amazing selves, and more than a little bit of luck.

In my perfect world, adults give children permission to define their identities for themselves as much as possible. Adults don't present them books or toys or fast-food meals that tell them "boys do this and girls do that." Because children should get to decide for themselves, as much as possible (and it's not very much people, not even in the perfect world, I'm not a raving idiot) what it means for them to be boys and girls. For themselves.

And anyone who thinks that labeling a book "for boys" or "for girls" isn't an exclusionary boundary-enforcing message from the patriarchy is living under the biggest rock in all creation. You're okay with marketing certain toys for one sex or another, but you don't expect or want the children actually to take those messages to heart? My God.

Well said Jody!!!

All right, my husband just got home from work and found me here blogging on the driveway, so I think I'm going to wrap this up!

P.S. I have another book review coming up and I still owe you my dangerous childhood stories :) I also want to write a bit more about dissertation and feedback, so I should be blogging a lot in the next few days. At least I hope so!

* I'm planning to try my hand a home/cyber schooling for a year with Kelvin, who's supposed to start kindergarten in the fall -- I suspect it won't work out, but then we'll have a year to sort out his schooling situation.

** The discussion in Ask Moxie is actually continuing with a post about the hypothetical book for girls and a post about books.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Revealing Musical "Secrets"

I've been keeping some "secrets" from you. OK, they aren't really secrets, it's just that I've wanted to write about this for months now and just didn't for some reason. (The main reason is that I actually have just too much to write about and I haven't been able to keep up with all those subjects.)

So... did you know I am now a piano teacher?

Oh, you didn't even know that I played the piano?

Well, now you do. I also play the flute, but I hadn't picked it up in years, but did that today. Why? Because this girl asked me to play the piano at her wedding and I thought I might as well play the flute too (with a CD accompaniment that my mom brought from Brazil - just piano, not those fancy orchestra ones). I guess I'm going all out. Well, I play the flute at weddings in Brazil several times, but I never played the piano, that's a really big deal for me.

I guess the reason I haven't written about this earlier is just that I'm not talented at all -- trust me on that! I love music, but if I were to accomplish anything it would just have taken an impossible amount of effort because I don't have a "gift" for it (and I'm terribly lazy, so the effort is out of question). I do have an education, though. You have no idea how many years I studied piano -- that is, went to piano classes since I always hated to practice and hardly ever did. I studied for SEVENTEEN looong years. From 6 years old to 23, when I finally managed to do my final "concert" to get a high school level diploma in music after 6 years instead of the customary 3. I only finished that because of my mom, and my poor piano teacher of 10 years kept pushing me. My mom, particularly, didn't want me to give up. She had a "dream" for me -- that I could be a piano teacher after I had babies. She envisioned the baby sleeping peacefully in a Moses basket by the piano while I was teaching (more on that later).

Well, I got the "degree," but in Brazil I never played the piano for anything or anyone. Everybody else was just SO much better than I was!! You have no idea of the level of proficiency and talent of many of my friends and other people in the community where I lived. Here in the U.S., though, I started playing in church and even singing a solo once in a while (I even played the piano while singing a few times, I really like that) because, as we say in Brazil, "in a land of blind people, a person with one eye is the king" (em terra de cego, quem tem um olho é rei).

I could have started teaching the piano years ago in Massachusetts, to a little girl from a family from church, but my self-confidence was a bit low and I ended up not doing it. My best friend here in the U.S. (the one who was pregnant at the same time I was and our two children were born within a month of each other -- she returned to Brazil 2 years ago) taught piano to many children, but she had already done so in Brazil for many years. It was interesting that from her experience I learned that it wasn't really possible to do it the way my mom had envisioned. My friend actually needed someone to look after her babies while she taught.

Anyway, when people found out that I played piano some of them kept asking me to teach piano to them (or their kids) piano, but I thought we were leaving this area this July. A couple of months ago I finally decided to give it a shot and I started teaching this bright 15 years old boy.

Now... if I had only studied piano with the methods that they have today!! I'm sure that it would have been much easier and that I'd play better today. I'm learning along with my student and I'm enjoying that. Of course teaching piano is a pretty boring thing to do, but it's certainly less boring than practicing piano, that I can tell!!

I have found that practicing when you have a purpose, though, is actually fun! Today I spent the whole afternoon practicing Mendelssohn's Wedding March and some other arrangements of pieces by Bach ("The Sheep May Safely Grace" and "Arioso") and then I decided to pick up my dusty flute. The look in my sons faces when I started playing was absolutely priceless! They wanted to try to play it immediately, but I told them to wait. Of course they couldn't get a sound out of it when I let them try. Then, I was practicing with the CD when my youngest came from upstairs with a little plastic dollar store saxophone and I burst out laughing and had to stop playing. It was just so cute!!

Both my sons are very musical and I'm really excited about that. I'm hoping that at least one of them will have real talent and I'm sure that both will be able to play several instruments and sing, with the proper coaching. I started teaching some piano to my oldest and when we move I want to enjoy them in music classes. I also want to take more piano students! At least there's something I can do before I can start working "for real"!

P.S. I promise to write about my "dangerous childhood" sometime, OK?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Productive Day

Yesterday was a productive day, unfortunately not in the dissertation front, only for an hour in the morning... (more on that later)

Remember that speeding ticket I got at the end of March? I had to go to court this morning and I was relieved that they simply lowered the speed so I won't get the points. I'm glad the officer told me to appeal (he knew they'd do that, I'm sure). I was a bit apprehensive because I'd never gotten a ticket before, but I was relieved afterwards :) (and now I can happily write the driving "meme" that I've been planning to write for over a year).

After that, we had to rush to North Philly to go to the Brazilian itinerant consulate (the folks form the Consulate in New York city go to various cities where there are many Brazilian people so we don't need to travel to NYC) so I could renew my passport and Linton's as well as get a travel authorization for me to travel with the boys to Brazil in July -- if everything works out with the visa on time for us to get ticket and travel.

Then, we dropped my husband at a train station so he could go to University City and I went with a friend to shop for matching clothes for our singing group from church. That was exhausting, particularly with two active little boys, and it took several hours, but we finally decided on the outfits (skirt and blouse for the women, short-sleeve shirt to be worn with khaki pants for the guys). I may post a photo after the weekend...

We didn't get home until after 10 p.m. ("thanks" in part to roadwork on 76 -- oh, how we hate the highways here in Philly, they're often jammed) -- good thing the boys slept well in the car.

I want to write a post as part of the Mother Talk "Dangerous Boy" Friday Blog Bonanza so I can share with you all the dangerous things I did in my childhood ;) so hopefully I'll be back with that later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Family Internationalization - Part 2

Believe it or not, I started writing this post on February 27, 2007... So many things in my life end up "lost to blogging," but I didn't want this "announcement" to be, particularly because I will probably be writing more about this subject in the future.

Some of you may remember what I wrote about this topic last June, when we our family was getting more and more international. First, my in-laws came to live here in the U.S. for a while, then, my brother went to live in China (he was was visiting us on our way there when I wrote the post). Only my oldest BIL decided not to go to Lebanon in the end.

However, another brother-in-law and his lovely wife, are going to Turkey (Istambul) to teach at an American high school there! I think that's so exciting! You can read all about the various adventurous job prospects (Brasil -- their first choice) and job offers (Aruba! Indonesia! Egypt!) that my siblings-in-law had in this nice post titled "Spinning the Globe." I suspect that they will be teaching at various American Schools all around the world for several years from now on and hopefully we'll get to visit them in some of those locations!

That's precisely what my parents are doing right now, they're in China visiting my brother. They've been to Shanghai (which they loved -- they think it's the most beautiful and modern city they've ever seen), Beijing (the Forbidden City, the Wall, the Summer palace), and now they are Beihai -- the city where my brother lives. They will still visit Guilin (which is in the same state/province as Beihai) and Hong-Kong before returning in two weeks.

I can't wait to see their photos and videos and talk to them about China. We've already talked on the phone and over the internet several times. I don't know if we'll be able to visit my brother in China since he doesn't know much longer he'll live there, but I hope I get to do it!

In spite of the fact that I'm OK with our decision to come to the U.S. and get into graduate school (this never-ending, life sucking enterprise), I sometimes wish that we could still be young and childless to go live in farther away places. I know I'd love to experience many other places, cultures, and languages, but I know that my husband is less adventurous in this respect. But maybe we'll go someday, who knows?

Temporary Relief

First, I want to express my heartfelt thanks for all the support I've received since I wrote the "rainy" post. I forgot to mention in it that after the Saturday night rain, Sunday was a gorgeously sunny day, but the metaphor stayed with me nevertheless. It's still metaphorically raining in my life, but, to cite another clichéd optimistic song, I know that "The sun will come out tomorrow."I just think that this "tomorrow" will take a while to get here.

I just wanted to let you know that this morning I finally faced my problem head on and emailed the committee member back. I'm glad I waited nearly two weeks to respond because the time elapsed has allowed to put things into perspective. I finally emailed my advisor about this yesterday and he thought that the committee member's suggestions were actually helpful! So I made an extra effort to try and see some good in them and this helped me write a response.

I still don't think I over-reacted to the feedback since this person's words were quite strong (as they usually are -- I included some examples in this post, under "First Reader"). I was debating whether I should summarize them here, but I don't want to concentrate on these negative statements about my work. I want to address them, if at all possible, and then move on.

Questions for all those former and current dissertators out there:

- Were you able to have a nice, supportive, relatively cohesive committee?

- Isn't there a way to make this whole process less painful?

- Why -- I always wonder -- do we have to finish the dissertation and just HAVE to get sick and tired of it because of all the struggles we need to go through in order to finish?

I was hoping that I could finish and not just "loathe" my work and not be able to go back to it. I was hoping I'd still be able to feel excited about it to the very end and cheerfully go to work immediately (or soon thereafter) to turn it into a book. My hopes are just fading away. I just may have to compromise too much of myself and the hard won -- but still extremely fragile -- confidence that I know anything, that I'm contributing something and, as a result, I may just feel utterly spent and unable to go back to this project. I so didn't/don't want this to happen!!

I feel slightly relieved after sending this email, but I know that the worse may be yet to come. I want to steel myself so I can withstand it, but I just don't know how to do it. I'm just too sensitive, and I don't necessarily want to change since I value who I am. I have already developed more of a thick skin that I even thought I would, but even that may not be enough.

Well, brace yourselves, I'll let you know when I get an email back. Meanwhile, I'll be posting about lots of other things that I've wanted to post, but haven't had the chance to do it yet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

(Almost) Bakeless Birthday Party

As has become customary in this blog, I have been posting about the boys' birthday parties since last year. Linton's 3rd birthday party's theme was slightly recycled from Kelvin's 3rd b-d party (trains - first photo in that post). Over a year ago I bought an invitation, stuffed props, plates, cups and napkins for a "train, car, and airplane" party at the 1 dollar section at T*arget, but didn't use it for Linton last year because we had a family party instead of a kids' party and I did a Noah's Ark last minute decoration (last photo in post) just so we had one. So this year he had been telling everyone for weeks now that his party was coming up and that his birthday was going to be with "trains, cars, and airplanes" (trens, carros e aviões).

My famous party-decorator sister-in-law helped and hanged the airplane from the ceiling and made a road and tracks for the car and train (click on photos to enlarge). I prepared a HUGE number of traditional Brazilian kid party "candies" so his name was beautifully spelled :) (and then I ate the leftover candies non-stop for a week and got a nice sinus infection as a reward).

Our oven quit working on Friday* (usually my busiest day in the kitchen!) so for the first time I had to resort to a store bought cake. At least it was a yummy Car*vel ice-cream cake -- menos mal ("less bad") as we'd say in Brazil (inspired by the Italian meno male). The party would have been completely bake-less were it now for my neighbor's kindness. She let me use her oven to bake pão-de-queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls).
*oven was fixed last week.

Here's the excited birthday boy and his hungry brother:
I was able to find all the letters of his name (with the exception of I - which I made cutting out a T) at the dollar store, but I didn't light those candles so they can last longer. I know, I'm cheap like that. (In case you didn't notice, I save all decorations to re-use them later).

Singing Happy Birthday:
Interestingly enough, this was the activity that the party goers found the most entertaining:
Digging holes with this nice metal shovel that I bought at W*al M*art in the back of our yard (I haven't planted anything yet, since we're planning to move -- but I'll plant some tomato plants to the tenants or buyers, if renting doesn't work out). The accompanying rake was also very appreciated -- here's my nephew raking some cut grass. I think I'll go buy the hoe and the leave rake too :) [each is under 3 dollars and they're really sturdy -- a bit too much so, probably dangerous for very young children -- the little boy on the photo above, is using a plastic shovel, BTW].

I'm sorry this is over a week late, but at least I'm posting it! :)
Oh, and his actual birthday is not until the end of the month. We had the party on the 6th because it was the most convenient day for my in-laws.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Never-Ending Rain :(

It was raining this past Saturday night . As I listened to the rain falling outside I thought it sounded like a "lazy rain," one that just takes its time coming down non-stop for days. Like rain when you're at the beach for just a few days in the summer.

In Brazil it rains a lot in the summer (January-March) and the following scenario was a common occurrence in our lives there, particularly during my childhood:

Every summer we arranged with our "rich uncle" to stay at one of his beach houses for a week or two. Sometimes we'd also spent a long weekend at my aunt's beach house (or my uncle's). Of course during many of those days it rained. And rained, and then it rained some more. I would go to bed and pray hoping that the next morning the rain would be gone just to wake up and hear it falling again.

Those were chilly, damp days, filled with card playing and "cabin fever" in the small beach house. If we were lucky, we'd have brought a board game or two, or, luckier yet, borrowed a TV from someone (that happened only once). There was a time we spent playing UNO for days -- I just couldn't take it anymore!

Then, of course, the day before you're scheduled to travel back home the sun comes back in all its splendor, and you go to the beach so eagerly that you get this horrible sunburn afterwards... This last part was even worse when it was just for a weekend :)

I used to wonder why was it that beach vacations and rain always had to go together (in Brazil at least)?

My life has been like that for several years now. The fact that I haven't yet finished the dissertation is a never-ending rain that spoils my whole life. I can't enjoy my time with the boys because I have to worry about the chapters I need to finish. I can't travel with my parents and need instead to have them help me so I can work on the dissertation. I can't be fully happy because of the looming clouds and endless rain. I want to blog about so many other things in my life and I have to go back to this dreaded subject.

And every year I have to feel devastated at the end of May, thinking that I'm not participating of commencement AGAIN!

I can't even metaphorically sing:

"Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day
Little Lilian wants to play
Rain, rain, go away!!!!"

Because I alone can make this rain go away. I have to wrap it all up and work with it so it can go. I know that I have many problems and limitations. I just don't write well, I have a hard time even having my own ideas and not relying on other people's, but I'm a good researcher and I've accomplished a whole lot. That I know. I will just have to overcome these apparently unsurmountable obstacles that I have right now -- personified in one of my committee members -- so I can finish. How that will be done is beyond me. I'm trying to write an email to this person right now. Wish me luck. If you pray, pray for me.

And in spite of the rain, I'll get my bright "rainbow" umbrella (which I got for mother's day last year, BTW! :) and blog about some other brighter subjects soon!

The Dangerous Book for Boys - Blog Book Tour

This Mother Talk Blog Book Tour is very multi-media!

In addition to the usual links to the book's official website, the book on Amazon, there's a movie about the book on YouTube and one of the authors was recently interviewed by Stephen Colbert. I loved Conn Iggulden's interview, in part because I'm a big fan of the Colbert Report (only from watching clips online, since we don't have cable), but particularly because Iggulden was very good about talking about the book and promoting it while not getting distracted by Colbert's jokes.

In addition to those clips, the publisher (HarperCollins) has an online sweepstakes in which 100 lucky readers will win a copy of the book and 6 collective badges.

I just loved this book -- in spite of the fact that it is for "BOYS"! You see, I thought I wanted to read and review it because I have two little boys, but I had a wonderful, tomboyish childhood in the countryside, so I was definitely interested in many of the things in this book growing up and even now. Of course I have to concede that I'm not attracted to certain subjects, such as hunting, fishing (I liked the images of the fish, though), tanning a skin, and, maybe, some histories of battles and playing poker -- although I'm curious about these too. And the reasons why I'm not interested in these have nothing to do with the fact that I'm a girl, I think, just because I'm a vegetarian and don't like to read about cruelty to animals, and I'm a pacifist and I don't like card-playing too much. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the baseball and rugby sections didn't interest me -- but it's just a cultural thing because I know all about soccer and was happy to read the soccer rules part and find out that I already knew most of them! I'm not good at sports, but I like sports (particularly soccer, since I'm Brazilian after all) -- why does it have to be only a boy thing?

Everything else was just absolutely delightful to me! Some of the subjects, such as the "scientific" discussions of the "Questions About the World" sections are things I discuss with and explain to my boys routinely. I became much more interested in and knowledgeable about science since I met my physics major boyfriend 17 years ago :). I learned about many of the other things such as knots, first aid, and bits of navigation and astronomy in the co-ed Pathfinder Club that I participated in growing up (a kind of boy and girl Scouts) -- but my knowledge is very rusty at best, so it's great to have this resource to use with the boys!

The history, grammar, extraordinary history sections were just amazing! And the fact that the book includes Shakespeare quotes, famous poems, and list of books to read -- yay! -- these just warmed my literary inclined heart :).

This book is extraordinary, particularly given the sheltered and indoor-bound existence of many children nowadays. Stephen Colbert had a smart joke about that, saying that he was going to wait for the video-game version of the book for his children :). I desperately long for a childhood similar to mine for my boys. I want them them to climb trees, play in the mud, and in the woods and enjoy of imaginary play, as well as interest in many things such as history and science -- just for fun, not for school. This book is a great resource to get started and I recommend it wholeheartedly for any parents out there -- and not just of boys, mind you!

Quick (slightly funky) Hi and Mother's Day

Edited to correct date and time, and add a quote at the end.

Hi. I feel terrible that I haven't been writing. I have two posts almost ready to go (birthday and thinking blogger award), but as you already know, my perfectionism won't let me post them until t they're fully done to my liking.

I'm at a very funky, depressive state right now. The weight and despair brought on by that committee member email is just haunting me and not letting me function well on all levels. I've been complaining a lot, something which my husband loathes with all his heart, so we have even had some discussions in the past few days. In addition, I've begun stressing out about the future, about my husband's visa not getting done on time for the closing on the house (he needs to have started on the new job so we can afford the new mortgage). It annoys even me when I start stressing out and despairing this way, but sometimes I just can't help it!

On Friday we had the home inspection and all is OK with the house. It's 16 years old, so anything wrong is just normal wear and tear. I was just delighted by the house all over again since the last time I was there (two Sundays ago, with the whole family -- including my parents and my MIL) we didn't know we were going to buy it yet. The "bad" thing is this sense of entitlement that starts to take over -- I don't want to feel entitled to the house until the closing is done and we have the keys. I know that nothing will go wrong, but still... I don't want to get over attached to the place before it's ours.

Do you remember that flower from the previous post? Our new house has not one but two of those trees in the front lawn (one large and the other smaller, marking the "border" with the neighbor's lawn). And the first thing I saw when we parked was this lovely "carpet":
I was absolutely thrilled, of course! (and I took more photos, I can post them at another time).

We had a looong weekend, including lots of church related work and activity, including unexpected guests on Saturday night and Sunday. We hosted a couple who was visiting from Virginia. They happened to have gone to boarding academy with my mother-in-law and they had recently been in touch with her! It was nice to have them and yesterday we took them to Longwood Gardens, which they loved. It was a nice day to spend Mother's Day, which we didn't otherwise celebrate since hubby was so busy last week that he didn't have time to go out and get me anything. For the record, last night he had to go to the ATM, which is inside a grocery store, so they brought me back some delicious Peppe*ridge Farms cookies and a box of my favorite brand of tea (Celestial Sea*sonings).

I read some nice Mother's Day posts yesterday and I wanted to link to two of them.

My friend Cloudscome, who is the brave single mother of a young man and two adopted little boys, wrote an "unusual" and heart-wrenching post about one of her first Mother's Day back when her older son was just a couple of years old. And my friend Anjali, wrote beautiful post listing the mothers that she thinks most about every mother's day. I make her words mine and I'd just add to her list that this is also a day in which I think with incredible sadness of all birth-mothers, or mothers who lost their child(ren) to adoption. Many of them are even denied the "title" of mother and actually the day before Mother's Day is considered the Birth-Mother's Day. I "met" many of them through blogging and reading their stories has definitely changed me deeply. Edited to add: The wise Dawn wrote, in a post titled "I'm so over Mother's Day"
I’m just sick of it. I can’t stop thinking about all the unhappy women on mother’s day, the self-conscious women on mother’s day, the women for whom mother’s day is the worst day of the year.
In spite of that, which is something I am now very aware of...

Happy Belated Mother's Day for all of you dear mothers out there!

And I'll be back soon with a book review!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fun Around the House

A photo post for you (all photos from last week).

Flower from my neighbor's front yard tree

Trucks enjoying the Spring day

Classic tricycle inherited from brother

Enjoying 5th birthday's gift

The whole fleet

Brazilian chocolate Easter eggs on sale :)

Later, photos and a report about birthday party.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Accepted (Another Offer, Though)

Our (second) offer was accepted tonight, so now I feel like I can introduce you to our prospective home, the single house in a cookie cutter neighborhood and a corner lot:Surprised? So am I. Let me tell you what happened, then...

As I wrote about previously, we presented our offer on the chosen townhome on Tuesday, offering 9K less than the asking price. Yesterday, they received the other offer, which was one thousand dollar more than the asking price. We were told by their agent that if we offered 5K more than our original low offer, they'd accept it. By then, however, we'd done the math and realized that with the addition of the condo association fee of 110 per month, buying this apparently "chaper" townhome would be almost the same as buying the single family home we were interested in.

So, after finding out that no offers had been made on the single home and that we had a chance, we didn't withdraw our offer, but decided not to offer more either and they obviously didn't accept it. Meanwhile, K went to our realtor's office and started working on the other offer which was presented in the late afternoon, so by 9 p.m. they had come with a counter offer (we offered 8K less) and we decided to meet halfway between their counter offer and ours.

I'm just so thrilled! I spent the past two days very anxious, unable to choose between the two houses just based on several dozen photographs... but the resolution achieved couldn't be better.
Now I can have a vegetable garden and plant many flowers, we can buy a wooden playset for the boys, finish the basement, update the kitchen and just enjoy living in a single home. I will even have a few small trees in the back yard (including one pine tree that I didn't photograph):and a large one by the sidewalk, but probably still on our property:
And I already found three CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farms in the area! One of them even has a nice website. YAY!

If I hadn't received an email with very negative feedback on some dissertation chapters from a committee member tonight, I'd be perfectly happy right now. Too bad there's this cloud darkening my life right now! I know it will pass, though.

Now... did I mention that I scheduled my youngest son's birthday party (three weeks ahead of the actual B-D because my in-laws were going to be available) for this Sunday and I didn't even go grocery shopping or planned for the cooking and baking? I know it'll to be OK, but it's not going to be easy, that's for sure! What's easy in life, though? Nothing, really. And it's much more fun this way, we at least can be relieved after the troubles are over.

I'm really glad the House Hunting is over, that's for sure!

(oh and the posting time is "fictional" -- it's already 1:15 AM of 5/4, but I wanted to have posted "yesterday").

Writing Motherhood: Blog Book Tour

After my sons were born, I was just so amazed and absolutely overwhelmed by my intense feelings of love and awe at at them and the experience of motherhood that I, a literature doctoral student, just felt that one just couldn't possibly express those feelings in writing, at least not really good writing. I felt, for example, that not even the greatest poet would be able to convey how a mother feels about her children. I even asked a dear friend, a fellow graduate student, mother of two grown children, and a published poet if she had ever written poems about her experience as a mother or whether she knew of any great "mother poets" -- she answered negatively.

Of course I have since encountered some amazing poetry about motherhood (mostly pointed out by Catherine Newman in her Baby Center columns, but also in my online friend, writer, and mother C. Delia Scarpitti's blog). I never gave much thought to the idea that I myself could attempt to write meaningfully and even with literariness about my experience as a mother, but I have since read many wonderful memoirs, creative non fiction, and novels about motherhood and I think it's possible. As for me, I'm a compulsive journal writer and now a blogger, so I register my sons' lives that way; but I want more, I want to learn how to write well about motherhood. That's why I jumped at the chance of checking this book out!

Writing Motherhood: Tapping into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer, by Lisa Garrigues (Amazon Link) is a great, extremely practical guide for mothers who want to write about their experience. The book's official site asks:
Have you always wanted to chronicle your experience of motherhood, but never knew how to begin? Are you looking for an outlet for self-expression, but can't imagine how you could juggle one more thing? Whether you are a new mother or a grandmother, someone who has long aspired to write or someone who has never written before, in Writing Motherhood Lisa Garrigues will show you how to use writing as both a tool for recording your life and a path to understanding your experiences.
The main technique that Garrigues suggests and which should take about 15 minutes -- filling two pages of the Mother's Notebook a day -- reminds me of the advice given by Joan Bolker in her book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. If one wants to succeed as a writer, no matter the kind of writing, one has to do it systematically, every single day, and have writing become a habit.

The book doesn't just suggest that you write daily and leaves it at that, though. Garrigues provides countless helpful suggestions in each chapter through "Invitations" or prompts for writing, or ""writing starts" (in the part II chapters), citations from other authors or mother writers which she calls "Inspirations," and the boxed sections with many concrete examples, advice, and more prompts titled "Writing Mother's Helper." And it doesn't stop there since the book also includes "Sample Mother's Pages" as well as sections explaining how to start and run a group of writing mothers, how to connect in cyberspace, and even games for writers! The first appendix provides a rich list of 99 writing starts and the second a handy bibliography. (You can check "Writing Motherhood at a Glance" here.)

I also appreciated how Lisa Garrigues shared her own experiences and the inception of the book in the introduction, aptly titled "The Birth of Writing Motherhood." It's amazing to see how a fortuitous request to teach a class led her to experience and learn so much and now share it with her readers.

Right now I'm all wrapped up in dissertation writing (not to mention house hunting ;), but I can't wait to finish so I can pick this book up again and start writing my experiences as a mother more creatively and better. I'll be sure to share some of that writing with you here in the blog. I just can't wait!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award - I

Two Three weeks ago my lovely friend Corey, founder of the great site Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network and who blogs at An American Between Words, nominated/tagged me for a Thinking Blogger Award. I was absolutely elated since I saw this award/meme going around and I felt that I wasn't "thoughtful" enough to deserve it :) Oh, and I also happened to see it during that time when I was feeling down about blogging, etc, so it was excellent timing!

Corey wrote some delightful words about me:
Lilian is always full of insights and inspiration. She is a literature major from head to toe and you can tell. She doesn't let life go uncontemplated and delights us with her ability to look at it from yet a new perspective and to speak her mind!
Thank you!

These are the directions:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ badge* with a link to the post that you wrote.
* the "original site" has a link to a silver badge if you don't like the golden one or it doesn't fit your blog.

So now I nominate/tag 5 other bloggers:

Dawn at This Woman's Work
Dawn's blog is one of the first blogs I ever read, back in the late summer of 2004. As I've written here before, I have learned a great deal from her. She's always extremely honest and courageous in sharing her life and feelings with her readers and while she does not shy away from discussing extremely tough issues, she does so with such a clarity and thoughtfulness that enable very enriching discussions. She always makes me think. Deeply. And besides, reading her blog made me find the next two bloggers in this list, and many more!

Kateri at Wet Feet
I started reading Kateri's blog after Dawn mentioned an unfortunate argument in the "infertile women's" (large) slice of blogosphere. After I read Kateri's post, I did what I generally do (as a good scholar), I went to her archives to find our her reasons for being so critical of a particular situation. Wow! What I read there was raw and well written and just broke my heart. I learned so much from her (and from the many blogs I started to read after I found hers, such as Manuela's [Thin Pink Line] and others) that I can firmly say that the fact that she shared her experience as a birthmother changed my perspective on many many things, particularly adoption. Later I was able to meet her in person, which was a great treat! Her writing still makes me think and I particularly love her style -- she doesn't use many words sometimes, but they convey so much depth and feeling, it's just amazing.

chicago mama
The moment I found her blog (after Dawn posted a lullaby for her) I was immediately captivated by her amazing pregnancy story (her URL refers to it too: incarcerated uterus) and all her (almost ferocious) snark! In addition to a new baby, she was also adopting a lovely girl from China. Chicago Mama is always very bold in sharing her thoughts with everyone and her writing definitely makes me think (that short post about honesty, Cmama, and the comments people posted, had me thinking for days! To be perfectly honest, I'm still thinking about it!).

Jo at Leery Polyp
Jo's another mother I "met" (both online and in person) because of Kateri and, consequently [actually it would be causality here, not consequence, but I don't know what word to use, by proxy?] Dawn. She's extremely articulate and just incredibly funny. Her posts leading to and then following her daughter's Sophia's birth were just amazing and made me think hard about the birth experience. Oh, and her posts about plastic and other toxic things around the home!! Basically scholarly writing! It's just such a pleasure to know her in person, and I'm even happier that she's recently decided she's going to continue blogging -- so hopefully she'll respond to the meme! ;)

C. Delia Scarpitti at Left-Handed Trees: Writing From the Roots
I started reading Delia's wonderfully poetic and profound blog after we missed being introduced to each other as bloggers at the first and only Mother Talk Salon that I attended. I can't wait to see her in person again sometime since her writing is just so amazing and thoughtful! (thoughtful is actually a shallow word to describe her writings... that's for sure! I just don't have enough words to do it).

So there you go! Now for the second round, since I was nominated twice and I'm thrilled to share the love, or would it be the thoughtfulness?, with five more people!

Further Complications (and Even More Suspense)

When we made the offer yesterday the seller's agent told our agent (who is a Brazilian woman our age, by the way, which is really nice!) that there were some people who had seen the house over the weekend and who were interested in it.

They were scheduled to visit it tonight again (they may be there as I write) and they decided to do it in spite of the fact that there was already an offer. They also said that they are going to make an offer (not until tomorrow, though). Of course our offer was made first, BUT, they said they're going to offer full asking price (we offered 9K less). They have two disadvantages: the contingency of selling their current home (we're planning to rent this one) and a closing date that's weeks later than what the seller want (ours is precisely within their time frame). We have one big disadvantage: the price we offered -- so we may have to offer more.

Now we have to wait until tomorrow and their offer is presented in writing and then we'll decide what to do. I don't like this waiting game -- it doesn't help with getting dissertation chapters finished! I'll be back soon with the Thinking Blogger Award Memes and tomorrow there's a book review!

Oh, and I forgot to show you this nice bathroom:

Hubby loved the glass shower stall.

Funny that we're all about the bathrooms, but the house we chose doesn't have a nice one!

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Agreement and Suspense

Yesterday was a long, long day. Almost 12 hours away from home and the boys, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:10 p.m. Hopefully it'll all be worth it, though, because we made an offer on a house.

Surprised? Well, we finally saw a house we both loved and fully agreed on. It was love at first sight, not a long courtship for this one, which is always a bit unnerving (if thrilling), but still, we had already seen enough homes to make a fully informed decision.

It's a really nice, newer (8 year old) town home in a secluded area that feels like it's in the countryside but which is really very close to the center of the small town where we're going to live. In fact, when looking at the Google maps satellite photo last night, we realized we can actually walk to a large grocery store -- isn't that great? (not that I'd be shopping there that often anyway, I want to find a farm and get local produce, maybe beginning now, even before we move, since one has do commit to the whole season, I guess ;).

This home has everything we wanted, except the whirlpool (or at least soaking tub) and separate shower stall in the master bathroom. [I guess we were completely spoiled by many of the houses we saw earlier -- see photo below :)] It has an attached garage, fully finished basement with powder room (so there are 4 bathrooms -- 2 half and 2 full) -- which is just perfect for having lots of guests, a laundry room in the 2nd floor (photo on the right -- too bad I won't have a front-loading machine like I do now, but in the future when we get a single family home, I can buy one), a huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom, and spacious, well lighted, bedrooms. In addition, the floorplan of the living/dining room/ kitchen/ family room is perfect, it has a huge deck in the back, and 9 ft. ceilings throughout. And I almost forgot to mention that the condo association has a nice playground, two tennis courts, a health club, and a club house! (well worth the condo fee, I think). We won't have a backyard to buy a playset for the boys, but they can still have a playground! And many paths to ride their bike/ tricycle and pull trucks around.

We offered 9K less than the asking price and they may want to negotiate, so now we're waiting to hear back from them. It's suspenseful, but not stressful because we know we have many other options -- they're priced higher, but are still very good options for us.

Oh, yeah, and yesterday, after visiting the two homes we had disagreed upon on Sunday, we both liked them much better! They're even 2nd and 3rd options for us at this point! I took tons of photos of all houses, but I feel comfortable sharing only the bathroom ones (the second one more out of curiosity). If anyone is dying to see photos of the home we intend to buy and also the other ones, please email you and I can give you a link to some private online albums.

(click to enlarge)
The bathroom on the left belongs to the house that I loved, isn't it beautiful? The one on the right is in the house that K liked (not because of this bathroom ;) -- I thought the mural was very interesting -- I had never seen a mural in a bathroom like that! I would make me feel like I was inside Longwood Gardens :)

I'll keep you posted about this! Now I'll be more at peace to finish the dissertation, except that my parents are leaving for China tonight! Oh well, at least we didn't have to prepare the offer with the kids in tow and they'll be back in time to help us with the moving and closing (set for late June). Very exciting!