Thursday, June 28, 2007

1987-1996: Ten Years in Journals

Left to right, top to bottom: 1987-1996

I first started keeping a journal (writing on and off in an old notebook) when I was 13 years old and I felt "infatuated" for a boy in a more intense manner for the first time.* That was back in 1985, in our last months living in the countryside, in the boarding academy where my parents taught. In 1986 we moved to São Paulo and my life changed in so many ways. I continued writing (and "fell in love" again with other boys), but didn't start keeping a daily journal until 1987 when I bought what we call an agenda (date/ appointment book) in Brazil.

As you can see in the photo above, I decorated the covers of 6 of them with either "contact" paper (pink with dots - 89 & 90) or wrapping paper covered with clear contact paper (93-94).

I generally decorated the inside of the covers as well with stickers or cut-outs from wrapping paper (I loved the Care Bears back then ;) or magazines.

Some were very kitschy or cheesy, and even kind of ugly:

1989, very pink

Others still cheesy, but not that bad, come on :):

I became more "minimalist" and with a better taste as the years went by.
1993 (the year I first came to the U.S.)

The two magazine cut outs above show photos that I found attractive - a family having a good time together and a nicely decorated home (we ended up buying a very similar striped couch after we got married the following year, only it was dark blue and white, not pink - my favorite color, incidentally).

I carried these journals everywhere and I tried to write everyday (these were appointment books after all), but I sometimes I skipped some of them. I also pasted the movie reviews from the São Paulo Veja magazine (which had the TV schedule) for almost all every film that I watched on TV or rented and ticket stubs to concerts I went to, etc.

Let me conclude this with is the page of the day I started "dating" my husband (story here):
The words, cut from a magazine say:
"Once upon a time there was a dream. Which became a reality."

I could write lots and lots about these journals and my life 20 years ago, -- wow, I'm getting really old ;) (not really, I know) -- but that will have to come at another time. I'm thinking of writing a post about all those "lost boys" ("lost" to me) that I liked, that would be interesting (I've been re-reading lots of entries about them these days, I don't know exactly why).

What else would you be curious about? (I know that Keiko, who asked the original question about my old journals will probably have tons of questions. ;)

* (I don't want to say that I "fell in love" because that's not really what I felt, of course. In Portuguese I'd say that eu me apaixonei for the first time, which is, I guess, translated as "fell in love" but without the word love there).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fireflies/ Vagalumes, Pirilampos

This evening as it got dark and we were all in the kitchen while my husband kneaded his third batch of bread in the past month (I'm so proud of him and grateful for his decision to start baking. I'm a good cook, but I've long given up on bread baking -- particularly whole wheat bread). I was looking out to our backyard and I noticed that there were countless fireflies "blinking" out there. I love fireflies and I had to go out with my youngest boy and enjoy them.

We call them vagalumes in Portuguese. Vaga - for "vagar" (to wander) and lume, light. Wandering lights. We also have another word, more musical, if a bit weird: pirilampo. I guess "lampo" could be related to "lamp," but I don't really know what "piri" would be (I do own two wonderful Portuguese dictionaries, but I really don't want to look these words up now).*

So my little one kept saying excitedly (in Portuguese) "I want to get close to the vagalumes! Look! That one is getting close!" And I looked and wondered why it is that there are fireflies only during a few short weeks or a month and then they're gone. It's the same with the cicadas (thankfully, since some of them are just too noisy :).

I kept thinking that it would be wonderful to capture those beautiful green/yellow lights in a photograph or a video, but I reflected that, like most everything in nature, the magic of that
moment, of those blinking lights on the grass, couldn't possibly be captured in its fullness on tape or film. So I didn't even try.

I've been thinking about so many things lately (as usual, but more than usual, actually)... One of my friend Cloudscome's latest comments made me think that I probably do have ADD, maybe a mild case which never caused me any serious problems in school (and in Brazil there is much less "labeling," particularly in mental health and children, but maybe this is changing now) , but which would definintely explain the way my scattered mind works. It would help me understand why I have such a hard time focusing on certain hard tasks and not just label myself "lazy" and disorganized as I usually do.**

Looking at the fireflies randomly shining their lights and flying around made me think about the way my mind works sometimes... the thoughts go here and there, everywhere, moving a bit aimlessly... but hopefully the overall effect is (will be) good like the lovely mini-fireworks "show" put by the fireflies.

* I love dragonflies too, their name in Portuguese is so poetic: libélulas...

** I was also thinking that those "dream attacks" that I wrote briefly about here (item 6) were probably panic attacks. Oh well...

P.S. actually posted at 1:56 a.m. of the 27th, but I kept the old date so I wouldn't have to edit the first words.

P.S. 2 - Keiko, yes, I have all those journals, from 1985 to today. I'm going to take photos of them and post to the blog, OK?

P.S. 3 - Potty training is going OK, if you're wondering. Only one puddle on the floor today and 3 successful uses of the toilet. I can hardly believe it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Movie Talk : Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Last night we finally watched (and I say finally because the movie is a few years old) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and we absolutely loved it. As far as we are concerned, Charlie Kaufman is a genius. Since we saw Adaptation and were stunned by it we were waiting to see another of his movies (Being John Malkovich is on our list, but for one reason or another we haven't seen it yet).

The idea of creating a "science fiction" plot in order to highlight the fragility, complexity, and the problems of a romantic relationship is extremely original (and I want to acknowledge that I'm "borrowing" some of my husband's ideas about the movie) -- how else could a couple plausibly voice such hurtful, destructive things about each other in a "romantic comedy"? And the fragmentary way the film is constructed is just awesome, at certain points we feel completely lost, but then certain words, such as "Montauk" make us realize the connections. The special effects are intriguing, particularly because most of them were done "visually" (or analogically - vs. digitally?) while filming, not on a computer afterwards. I also like the fact that most of the movie is set in the cold month of February and I love the scenes at the beach (how often do we get to see beaches in Winter time?), on frozen lakes/ rivers, and with snow. The artwork created by the main character was also very interesting.

Another reason why it was kind of "fitting" to see this film now is that last week I spent several evenings re-reading diaries from 17-18 years ago, in the events that took place in the 8 months before I met my husband, so this whole thing with déjà vu feelings is quite fresh in my mind from digging up in old journals. But this subject would be a whole other post. As for the film, it may not fit many people's tastes, but it definitely fit ours (and we're quite picky)!

P.S. Other movies that we saw in the last few months and that I loved (right now we're getting only two films a month on Netflix because we hardly have time to watch them) were:
- The Queen - I really enjoyed this one, particularly because it was about fairly recent events (only 10 years ago) and contemporary figures. Helen Mirren totally deserved the Oscar, I think.
- Behind the Sun /Abril Despedaçado- a Brazilian movie inspired by a novel byIsmail Kadare. Beautiful and sad.
- Frida - I was always fascinated by Frida Kahlo, but not particularly interested in Mexico and Mexican art and culture, but now I'm much more interested;
- Luther - I really had no idea that the reformation had caused so much bloodshed and I had to go read and learn more about it.

As you can see, I often enjoy movies about real events more than purely fictional ones...

Live Potty Training Blogging

Warning: this a typical "mommy blogger" post, feel free to skip if you don't like to read about potty training adventures.

The original title of this post was "How Potty Training Isn't Working Here Yet," but I decided to change it and to try live-blogging the day. So I'll update a few more times later, OK?

Bonus: a photo from way back in January 2005 when Linton was 6 months and Kelvin 34 months and we had them sit on their potties while watching a video (with no results, unfortunately).A couple of months ago my SIL trained her son in two days by going cold-turkey: putting underwear on and letting him wet or soil them. After 3 times he got the idea and started using the potty. Wonderful! Good for them! Not too good for us since now the pressure's on ;). I've already tried to go cold-turkey a few times since my nephew was trained and all I got were puddles on carpet, wet clothes, etc. Oh, on a side note, my nephew is 4 months younger than my son (who turned three 26 days ago), so he was a bit over 2 and a half when he was trained...

[For the record, training Kelvin was quite hard, it only worked because we were in Brazil, it was warm (it'll be cold next month there) and he went without pants for a few days. My parents' house has all ceramic floors and sidewalks and grass all around it, so he quickly learned to go on the grass and, later, on the toilet. This was just around his 3rd b-day. Number 2 took a year and a half more...]

Well, I thought I'd share how it's been going today so far for Linton. (as you may recall from a previous post, he's also having trouble with constipation).

10 a.m.: Husband leaves for work and forgets to tell me that the 3 year old Linton is not wearing a diaper.

10:30 a.m.: He's crying loudly downstairs, older brother goes to investigate and comes saying that his brother wasn't wearing a diaper and had peed on his pants. I go change him -- he had peed through these and his shorts and was sitting on the sofa while that happened -- sofa got a bit wet, but not too bad. I put another pair of the training pants and shorts

11 a.m.: gets wet again and immediately screams in a bit of distress: "Mommy change my pants, I peed!" This time it was on the carpet, but it didn't leak too much and I was able to blot most of it.

11:40 a.m.: He was playing in the basement and comes upstairs wet again. This time he's very calm and just asks me matter-of-factly to change his clothes.

1:15 p.m.: lunchtime.

1:45 p.m.: when he gets out of his booster seat, he's all wet and I have no idea when he's done and I suspect that he ate his whole lunch all wet. This goes to show that his level of tolerance gets higher and higher as he gets wet more often.

4 training pants, 1 t-shirt and 4 shorts in less than 3 hours... I'm getting tired of this.

2:10 p.m.: He's been half-undressed for a while, but the boys want to watch a video , so I put some pull-ups on him.

2:40 p.m.: video's over, so I put training pants back on.

3:05 p.m.: for the second time he acts like he has to go (the way he does when he has to poop but doesn't want to), but I don't know whether it's pee of poop, so I put pull-ups. It looks like it's number 2, but he doesn't want to go.

3:20 p.m.: I think he peed on the diaper. :(

We have two more pairs of training pants, let's see how this will go until they're all wet and I'll call it a day...

[updates to come here]

3:32 p.m.: Linton tells me (for the second time) that he peed on his diapers and that he wants new ones, but I want to wait until he, hopefully, poops.

3:39 p.m.: he finally poops (a new record, the last four poops -- last week on Sunday, Monday, last Thursday and today didn't have external aid, i.e. suppository). I put him back on training pants but he says I want a diaper and tells me he doesn't want to pee [on his clothes, I assume]. Let's see how it goes.

between 5:30-6 p.m.: daddy had him sit on the little potty for 4 minutes using a timer and ice-cream as a reward.

7:25-7:30 p.m.: I noticed he needed to pee and went outside to see if he'd do it in the grass. He did a few drops and agreed to go inside. He went a bit more standing in front of the little potty, then the toilet and sat on the toilet. I don't think he peed all he needed, but he was OK with it, and is still dry.

Tomorrow we start again, but just to be on the safe side I'll wash and dry the other 4 training pants. (probably by hand, since I can't bear do use the washer and drier for only a few pieces of clothing).

Concluding thoughts:
I know I have to be patient and that it takes time, I know I could/should buy the vinyl covers to go with the training pants to minimize laundry, I know I could switch him to cloth diapers too... And finally, I know that training will eventually happen, but I also know that it takes tons of self-discipline to train him, and that, I don't have, plain and simple. You'll get tired of me in no time, I know, because it looks like this problem (self-discipline) is going to be the central topic of a few more posts (like it was in the previous one, albeit in disguise as "disorganization")...

P.S. Last Thursday at his 3 year check up the doctor told us to use Myralax, which is now over-the-counter as some of you had already told me. I started today.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Reentry Pains

In the last five years my life (and that of my parents, I should add) has been nothing but "linear." And I'm not talking about the fact that I had two babies and we moved to another state three years ago, I'm thinking more about the ways in which the patterns of our daily lives have been disrupte by house guests and by travel.

The first two were quite "peaceful" years:
2002: Kelvin was born, my mom was here for two months and my dad, one.
2003: My parents came for three months and we traveled for a month in the Southwest/West (we visited 7 National Parks, including Grand Canyon and Yellowstone). At the end of the year we went to Brazil (4 months pregnant and with a 21 month old Kelvin).

The most "chaotic" year:
2004: Parents came for 6 months. I defended dissertation prospectus, we sold a house, I had a baby, we went house-hunting (with a 2 week old), bought another house, moved, and my husband finished his dissertation.

2005: I went to Brazil for almost two months by myself with the two boys (February and March). My parents were here from August to November when I started to work on the dissertation. We all went to Brazil in December.

2006: I came back from Brazil in January, parents were here for six months so I could "dissertate" and they left in September.

2007: After a 6 month break, my parents came back to help me "dissertate" ("for the last time" they said) and were here for 3 months.

I really want to be able to have a "normal" life again with not so many changes, but I feel that I won't be able to do it until I finish this dissertation (more on this later) and my husband starts his new job and we finally, finally settle down. [insert huge, heavy sigh or relief here, followed by a feeling of utter disbelief that it looks like this is finally about to happen in our lives :)]

More specifically, my "reentries" into full-time motherhood have become harder and harder as the years go by. I have so many twisted feelings about this and tons of other issues that I can hardly begin to straighten them out in a linear narrative. My mind doesn't work linearly, I'm afraid.

I know it's probably just part of the "reentry pains," but sometimes I feel that I'm such a flawed, self-absorbed, lazy, messy person that I'm never going to be a good mother. I hardly have the strength to continue this line of thought, but these feelings of inadequacy and of helplessness have been with me for over 30 years now. From ever since I remember I've been messy. It's pathetic, but sometimes I feel like I have selective ADD. I can spend hours concentrating on things that interest me (like reading blogs) and when I try to do things around the house I only start a myriad of tasks and I can never finish anything.

Semi-productive days like today (I changed sheets on all beds, did 2 loads of laundry, cleaned 2 bathrooms, vacuumed stairs, did grocery shopping -- without the boys, wow, that was good! ;) are not the norm around here. And to make matters worse, the boys are changing, going through new phases (hopefully more about that in another post) and making discipline much harder for me (I've said before that it's the hardest thing for me in parenting), or for us...

I know what I needed to do, but I've resisted it all my life with all my strength because it seems that something essential within me will be broken if I surrender (and I'm not sure why!). I need to have a routine, scheduled activities, planned days and weeks. How am I ever going to home/cyber school Kelvin? I know I should be actually doing "unschooling," which is the term that Dawn likes to use, but then I guess I just wouldn't do anything. I'm kind of afraid of the cyber school because if we sign up we have to login everyday and do a report of all we did and there's a set curriculum to follow... Well, more on that later.

I know that the reentry, the re-adaptation exacerbates these problems, but I still have to deal with them, I can't simply dismiss them since they're always with me. I'm sorry to bother you with this, but it's just a tiny portion of what I feel about these issues. And the worst part is that I'm posting this on a weekend and nobody out there will read. Nah, forget I just said that, I'm writing this for myself too, so I can think it through and hopefully later look back on my life and see that I was able to "improve" it. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Parents Going Back Home

My parents are flying back to Brazil tonight. I already dropped them off at the airport and they should soon be on their way to Miami, and then from there to São Paulo.

Since I'll be in Brazil with the boys in less than a month, my mom wasn't tearful this time. I wish our goodbyes could always be matter of fact and "nice" like today, but they never are. Oh well... that's one of the things I have to contend with because I decided to live here.

Now, the packing and weighting of the four enormous suitcases was funny as always, though -- too much too carry, too little space! My parents (and I too, but I'm trying to curb it) are big pack rats. In the end they left a full medium-sized suitcase for me to bring when I come. I'm really looking forward to my trip now and I'll start packing my backs right away so I'm not too stressed out in the eve of my trip (we'll see how that'll go! ;)

Well, I want to plan the next few weeks carefully so I can enjoy my time with the boys before the trip as well as the warm weather (it's winter in Brazil and it could be pretty cold there), and I also want to try to write my papers for the conferences there. Let's see how much blogging I'll be able to squeeze in.

The to-do list for today is:
- putting away stuff from last week's trip,
- piano teaching in NJ,
- some grocery shopping,
- practice with our musical group.

I think I should plan the next weeks so I can accomplish things. I'm a non-planner for daily life things (I can plan just fine for trips and such). Maybe it'll help me if I post to-do lists on the blog (I used to have a dissertation one on the side bar) and then cross the items out. If I decide to do it on a regular basis, please bear with me, OK?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Back Home - Telegraphic Post

We had a good trip and the conference was GREAT! I listened to many excellent papers,* my presentation was fine, and I networked and might even be able to co-edit or publish an essay in an anthology!

It was nice to see our friends in Richmond again we talked a lot while their two older kids (7 and 12) entertained our sons (and we stayed at their home on Wednesday and Friday). The boys had a great time at the indoor pool (it was quite chilly there) during our 1 night hotel stay.

We came back home earlier (on Saturday night) because my uncle had to cancel the get together and my aunt and uncle from Nashville came to our house instead. We spent a lovely afternoon at Longwood Gardens today.

I hope to be able to write more soon, OK? Promise.

* One of the best was a comparison between Little Women and Sex and the City - brilliant!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On My Way to this Summer's First Conference!

My paper is printed, the power point presentation is ready (I can't present a paper without one, I'm all about the images too :). Now I have to pick the clothes I'm going to wear and stuff them into a bag. I hope we won't leave late because we're staying at a friend's house in Richmond tonight and it's a long trip. We're only spending one night at a hotel close to the conference venue, so we'll be sleeping in 4 different places for 4 nights -- it's hard not to have money. At least it's fun to spend time with friends! :) On Sunday we're going to have a Father's Day celebration at my uncle's house in D.C. and my aunt from Nashville (I stayed at her house at my last conference) is coming, so I think it'll be a really nice day.

If I have time, I'll post from the conference. I don't think there'll be other bloggers there, at least no one I know. The one blogger I really really wanted to see there, Libby, is not going and I feel sad about that :(.

I have to enjoy these last conferences for who knows when I'll be able to go again, at least with an affiliation, instead of the label of "Independent Researcher." That's one of my worries for the next year, finding a way to keep a connection to academia after I finish the Ph.D. That's why I'm not so disappointed I'll remain a student for the TENTH YEAR (awful, I know) -- so I remain anchored somewhere for a little while longer.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Light, Camera, Action!

Yesterday we went to the John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge and I roller-bladed (or should I say "in-line skated"?) for the first time in nearly five years while my husband rode his bike and the boys rode their bike and tricycle. I thought it would be a nice opportunity to upload some videos to the blog, particularly because I'm not that bad at skating :).

I just love to skate. My parents bought me a pair of those "over the shoe" skates when I was around 10 years old. Then later I ice-skated at a shopping mall in Brazil several times with my best friends. Then when I was a teenager, I got a new pair of "sneaker" skates that a friend brought from the U.S. A few years after I moved to the U.S. I bought a cheap pair of in-line skates and then later, figure-skating skates. I took two semesters of figure-skating classes at the university and that improved my skating quite a bit! I'm not really good -- I don't really know how to stop, which is pathetic -- but I can skate pretty well and fast. I haven't ice-skated in years either, I guess the last time was when one of my dreams in life came true -- I ice-skated on a frozen lake (twice and then it snowed)!! I was 7 months pregnant with Kelvin, back in 2001-2002 (I don't remember if it was in late December or early January when I skated), but that didn't keep me from skating. I never really fell from skates, I just hate falling and somehow I've been able to keep myself from it. (you can enlarge the photo if you click on it).

Anyway, let's see if I can post three clips from yesterday in the blog. My husband is the cameraman and is doing a narration in Portuguese. He's talking about "Formula One" position, calling us "pilots" and talking about other things Portuguese speakers will understand. You'll also be able to see the boys in action. Kelvin wants a new bicycle already, since he thinks that the 12" one we got for his 5th birthday is too small. The trouble is finding a 16" bike since it's more common to see 18" and 20" inch ones. I think I'm going to have to go to Toys'r*us -- yikes! The resolution of these clips is quite poor since they were filmed in my the photo camera and uploading further reduces it. I just write too much, don't I?




I have a newly removed sopping wet diaper in my hand in this last clip. We have to start potty training (but the withholding problem doesn't help much :( ).

Positive and Negative Things

There are several things I want to blog about, some of them just mundane little things from our family life, so I decided to do this itemized update post. I'm sure I won't remember everything I wanted to share and I may need an addendum later :)

Shall we begin with the positives?

- My parents arrived from China last Monday night. In spite of the jet lag, they're fine and they just loved their trip. They've been showing us photos and telling us stories of China all week long. They visited Shanghai, where a Brazilian family, friends of ours, live; Beijing; Beihai, where my brother lives; Guilin and Yangshuo, which are in my brother's province; Hong Kong and Macau. I'll try to post some pictures if you're interested. There are way too many of them, so it'll be hard to pick the best ones. Let me know if there are specific things you'd like to see.

- We're feeling at peace with our decisions of getting away from the problem at church and giving up the house. We know that we're going to avoid much stress and heartbreak in spite of the fact that in the case of the house it's a great disappointment. This morning my husband was even saying that that house had several things he didn't like. Oh, and yesterday I looked at the home inspection photos for the first time -- it's good to think about a home's defects when you're not going to buy it anymore!

-I'm excited for all the conferences that I'll be attending this summer: one this week and two in Brazil at the end of July. Of course I have to write the papers, but I'm not too worried about that (the ones in Brazil are from my dissertation). I think I'll tell you all about this week's paper later. I was going to give you the title, but then you could Google it and see my full name in the conference site -- how silly I am! :) Well, I'll think about this and get back to you...

- My passport and Linton's arrived yesterday (yes, on Sunday, it was an Express mail envelope) from the NY Brazilian consulate, so we're all set to travel. I also found out that I don't need to schedule an appointment at the consulate, so things may just work out perfectly for this trip!! Last week I heard on NPR that it was taking 14 weeks or more for American passports to be ready and I mentioned it offhandedly to my husband, who got all stressed out thinking that Linton's American passport had already expired. I started hyperventilating just thinking about it, but thankfully it was not, it expires in November, what a relief!!


- For well over a month now our youngest son Linton has entered a "vicious cycle" of constipation and withholding his stool. What a nightmare this is. We saw the pediatrician a month ago because he had an infected nail that was about to fall out and we mentioned the problem. He told us to give him mineral oil and fiber supplements, but these aren't working well. He goes on his own only once a week, at most, the other time or two we have to use a suppository. He's due for a well baby visit on the 21st, but I'm almost calling them to see him earlier... I feel bad because we let him get into this vicious cycle... His diet is rich in fiber, he eats beans, whole grains, tons of broccoli, plenty of fruit... He's just been like this since he was a baby and was only on breast-milk. Even then sometimes he wouldn't have a bowel movement for almost a week! If you have any advice to share, I'd love it.

- The process of my husband's visa may take a little longer because the people who are going to sign the recommendation letters written by the lawyers need to agree to do it to help him out. He was extremely stressed out last Friday when the first referee thought that the letter was badly written. This fact actually prompted his decision to give up the house. The good thing is that now we're not overly worried about this problem anymore because we're not pressed for time for the house buying.

Last week when I thought of writing this post my list of negatives was really really long, but now it has definitely shrunk quite a bit with the developments of the last few days!! I'm relieved and thankful for that. I'm working on some other posts, OK? And I know it's time to post some photos as well :). I think I'm also posting a video or two from yesterday, what about that?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Thank You!!!

I really want to thank all my readers and commenters for your invaluable support in this sad situation. Your positive words have reinforced my conviction that we'll be able to find another lovely house. I'm still sad, but it was good to blog about it, particularly because of your responses -- they helped me a lot!!

I hope that I'll be able to blog more in the coming days. I have things to write about being ABD, dissertation writing, my boys, and the promised-and-not-forgotten post about my "dangerous childhood" so watch this space. I have a conference coming up next week, though, so... I really don't know when I'll be able to blog, but I'll try.

[I apologize for the following announcement meant for only one of my blogging friends, but I just didn't know how else to reach her. I hope it works!]

Sandra (from Here in Korea), I see that your blog is private now and I'd just like to let you know that if you're inviting any more readers, I'd love to be included :)

Hello Goodbye

I can't find the words to write this post, I just can't.

If I think about it too hard, I start crying, so I guess I'll cry quite a bit writing this, but I'm really OK, I'm fine, rationally at least. But emotionally I'm grieving over what could have been but shall not be. I know that all things will work for the best in the end as they always have in our lives until now, we just have to be mature enough to face the consequences to our wrong decisions and learn to make better ones.

On April 19 we "met" you and on May 3rd we decided you were the one we wanted and we thought you were going to be ours when they said we could have you. At the inspection day I took so many photos, but I tried my best not to allow myself to fall in love with you. Something inside me told me that I should wait until after the closing, until I knew for sure it was a done deal. How did I know? I worked hard on that, but I still thought about you quite often, planning for how it would be, buying plants and putting them in pots so they could be transplanted to live near you. When the closing date had to be changed a couple of weeks ago, I was startled. Reality check, we probably got ahead of ourselves in this, but I thought it'd be OK. Well, it turns out the safest thing to do is to give you up, even before we ever got to call you home.

And now that carpet of flowers will haunt me every Spring.

I know there's another home out there for us, but I'll miss never having known you, never renovating you or enjoying having dinner on your beautiful new deck. I'll even wonder, every time it snows, how hard it must be to clean that looong sidewalk around the corner.

Please don't feel hurt, but the fact that you're not our "dream house" is a great consolation to us. You have great qualities and I'm sure we'd have been happy there, but it's just not meant to be, I guess.

P.S. The process for my husband's visa is taking longer than we expected and we won't be able to get financing before he starts working on the new job, so we think it's best to break our agreement while we can still do it without any penalties (we were given a five day window for getting out after we received the association by-laws on Thursday and we'll take advantage of that -- while explaining the whole situation to the sellers). Besides getting our deposit back, we don't want to jeopardize the sellers since they close on their new house in August (on the same day their seller is closing on a third house).

What a week this has been! I hope things get better from now on and that everything goes well in my trip and my visa, etc... In these past months have had to face the consequences of several wrong decisions, the first of which was my husband's trip to Brazil that had to be aborted at the last minute and next one was the decision to start looking for a house a bit too early in the game. I basically "wasted" three weeks of dissertation work on account of the house hunting. Well, now, as we say in Brazil, we have to correr atrás do prejuízo [literally, run after the losses -- it's a soccer expression]. And sorry about the down and disappointing post... these things are part of life.

How Do You Know You're Hopelessly Addicted to Blogs?

When you get to be the first to write a comment on someone's brand new post and you don't even use a feed reader. This happened several times in the last few days.

I'm suffering of acute blog reading addiction syndrome. And I think that this disease is incurable. The worst part is that I don't really care, I like suffering from it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Illegal What?

I've always loathed the word Alien -- I guess it may be because of those Sigourney Weaver movies, which I haven't even seen, just a few scenes here and there, since I can't stand thrillers or horror movies, particularly the gory kind -- but I just don't like the word alien when it's used to refer to people. Particularly people from other countries, foreigners like me.

However, I've been an "alien," an "E.T." of sorts, an outer space creature, for 11 years now. Of course I've been a legal one. I've even been paying taxes (erm, not in the past few years since I stopped working -- in order to maintain my LEGAL status, BTW) just like a citizen for many years now, without receiving many of the benefits entitled to tax-payers.

This issue is being hotly discussed in the past few days because of the bill that is in the Senate right now and even this week's Time magazine features it in its cover. Coincidentally, I've wanted to write a bit about it because this complex problem is behind the rough situations that we've been facing in our church lately and is the issue that makes the problem partly unbloggable. My husband recently decided to walk away from the antagonistic situation, which is a relief for us, in spite of the fact that the possibility of not being in close contact with these friends anymore makes us incredibly sad.

All that said, I have to admit that I don't really have strong and set opinions about these issues. As I have stated before here in the blog (in the second part of my April '06 post about "Global Warming and Immigration" I tell in more detail about the people in this situation that I know or have known), from a moral standpoint, I strongly disagree with these people's decision and the hardship and heartbreak that it has brought into their lives. On the other hand, I understand some the reasons why they made this decision in the first place and I pity them and feel like I want to help them. There's nothing I can do to help, though, really, and it's hard to witness their struggles. I'm sure I'd be happy for them if there was an amnesty, but I don't necessarily favor one -- I'm glad I don't have to make a decision, that's for sure!

Well, in the end it may be easier to remain neutral if we're "forced" by the situation not to interact as intensely with them. As for myself, I hope I don't need to remain an extra-terrestrial creature for much longer...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The No-Cry Discipline Solution - Blog Book Tour

Parenting is not easy, but in my point of view, discipline is the hardest aspect of parenting, hands down. I personally feel that discipline is so hard, almost a torture, because it seems to require that I be constantly on guard, trying to curb undesirable behavior from my children, since conventional wisdom and parenting gurus alike emphasize that you need to act promptly and be consistent in order for discipline to work. And I don't want to feel that way, I want to enjoy being with my children without the constant worry of being a good disciplinarian looming above me. So I worry about this constantly, I worry that I'm a much worse disciplinarian than my husband and I really want to learn how do to a better job. This book couldn't have come my way at a better time in my life, then! I'll have to write a "pre-quel" post to discuss some of these issues in more detail, but now I need to get into the book.

Elizabeth Pantley is a well-known parenting author, particularly because of her No-Cry Sleep Solution books. I haven't read those books, but I know Pantley from another book of hers, Perfect Parenting (in spite of the slightly unfortunate title, it's pretty good, I'll come back to it later). Do check the author's website for information on her other books and even extra materials such as sleep logs and a mailing list. The publisher has also made some videos (interviews with Pantley) available on their site - videos are on the right side of the screen.

Before I go on to discuss the book, I want to quickly highlight two things that I liked in it:

1) The fact that the author consulted "test parents" from all over the world (U.S., Canada, U.K., Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, France, Mexico, BRAZIL!!, South Africa, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, and Russia -- the number of families, children, and their names are listed on pages xviii-xxi) and the book is full of little boxes of "mother- & father-speak" stories and in nearly all of them the names of the parent, child(ren) and their age(s) are given (you may remember that I was slightly annoyed by the anonymity of the personal statements in the previous book I reviewed). These stories or statements are real life examples of the things that the author is discussing at various points of the book. In addition, these families shared cute photos of their children that illustrate the book and make these families' experiences even more "real" to the readers.

2) The book is very well organized in four parts, beginning with parenting attitudes, moving on to parenting skills and tools, strategies to deal with anger, and "Specific Solutions for Everyday Problems." The first three parts have helpful "Reminder pages" at the end that list all the points and suggestions discussed. These are very handy for us busy parents.

Part one: "The Foundation for No-Cry Discipline: Essential Parenting Attitudes" surprised me quite a bit in an interesting way. Before getting into the foundations of her discipline "philosophy" Pantley discusses certain myths that many parents believe and I simply didn't believe in ANY of them! In addition, I already practice most of the "foundation" points that she goes on to list next. That was reassuring, but a bit unsettling since it made me wonder what this book would be able to teach me since I didn't seem to fit the parenting stereotype set out by these myths. Well, it turns out that in spite of the fact that I am already a "believer" in the values that Pantley emphasizes* I did have quite a bit to learn from this book!
*such as seeing the big picture, relaxing more and stressing less and enjoying play, give oneself more credit, follow your heart and not others' advice, "Be Willing to Break the Rules," "See the World Through Your Child's Eyes," "Live in the Moment" and others.

One of the foundations is very interesting and important to remember: "Rest Assured that Your Kids Love You, Even When They Hate You (Because they Really Don't)." I have found from experience that in the thick of parenting it's easy to forget that it's not about you, not about us the parents, and "that children are egocentric - they are concerned primarily with their own needs and wants." (35) We have to “Remember that your child is a child and has a lot to learn about life. Keep in mind that he isn’t out to get you, he isn’t trying to anger you, and he doesn’t have a master plan to drive you crazy. He’s just going about life in his blissful little world.” (32)

This key point highlighted by Pantley is indeed key:
Your most important goal as a parent is not to make your child happy every minute of every day . . . Your actual goal is much harder: raise a first-rate human being.
One of the most important concepts in the book is the one that basically all discipline problems are caused by the fact that children lack emotional control (39). Pantley argues, and gives many concrete examples to get her point across, that the aim of discipline is trying to understand the real cause of the bothersome behavior (a child may be hungry, tired, bored, and many other things) and then address that problem as well as correcting the undesired behavior. With this approach, she argues, one can even prevent "bad behaviors" from happening.

The first part ends with a to the point discussion "The Four Parts to Discipline" (p. 42-46):
1. To correct immediate behavior
2. To teach a lesson
3. To give tools that build self-discipline and emotional control
4. To build the parent/child relationship.
Part two of the book is titled "No-Cry Discipline Parenting Skills and Tools" is a rich list of practical tools that aim at "keep[ing] you calm and in control, help you make good long-term decisions, and help you encourage your child to willingly cooperate with you." (51) Pantley continues saying that
Using these methods will help your day run more smoothly, and they will help you build a close, loving relationship with your children that can last a lifetime. These methods also will allow you to live in the joy of the moment, since you won't be immersed in the juggling of all those issues involved in daily survival. (50)
WOW, what an answer to my most troubling questions regarding my own discipline problems and my dread of discipline sucking all the joy from my parenting!

Next, Pantley provides a list of the "real problems" that may be causing the trouble because often, she writes, "the issue that sets off the behavior has little to do with anything that requires an act of discipline by the parent." (53) And she summarizes: "In essence, the issue then is not always about how to discipline children but how to change the environment in order to help them gain control over their emotions and reactions." (53).

This part is followed by a section on "Discipline and Cooperation" whose subtitle is the cheerful "Choose Your Adventure." Instead of only having the old and sad "time-out" option, Pantley suggests that we learn many different other methods to address problematic behavior. Some of these are predictable like consistency and offering choices; some others I had already used by instinct, such as distraction, and using humor, being silly. Others were new to me and loads of fun like the Cooperation Games, making objects talk, engaging the imagination, singing songs (I do that, but not as often as I should). Interestingly enough, in the past two years my mom has been using several of these techniques to get my sons to cooperate and I hadn't even thought about them! In the few weeks since I got this book I have been using a few of the tools and it's amazing to see how they work every time!!! My son often won't do things I ask him to, but if I say "I bet you can't do that in one minute" or "I wonder how long it would take for you do to that -- should I put the timer for 5 minutes?" (My mom often puts the timer in the morning so Kelvin will get dressed, for example) -- he'll do it!! When trying to leave a playground, store or another place all I have to do is propose a race and we're out of there in a few seconds!!

These techniques do work!!

The last section of part two is a detailed discussion of how to deal with "The Big Three:" "Tantrums, Fussing, and Whining."

Part three is devoted to anger management (on the part of the parents) and this is a KEY part of the book for me -- I promise to write a whole post about this issue (about my problems with it, not the book). One of the key points of this part according to Pantley is
My child's misbehavior does not cause my anger. I create anger by my interpretation of the behavior and with my response to that interpretation.
The remainder of this part offers strategies to manage anger which can be summarized in the "Six Steps to Staying Calm:" Stop, Space, Soothe, See, Specify, Solve.

The last part of the book contains "Specific Solutions for Everyday Problems" and is very similar to Pantley's previous book Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips which I do recommend, in spite of the off putting title. It presents, in alphabetical order, several behavior problems and how to address them "Applying No-Cry Parenting Skills." The problems are approached from three sides: "Think About It," "What to Do," and "What Not to Do."

Well, I guess I've given you more than enough of a "taste" of this book so you can make your own decision about it. I'm looking forward to reading the last two parts in detail and putting even more strategies into action with my boys. I feel that this books gives me the tools that I need to achieve my goals of disciplining my sons while developing a loving and fun relationship to them!

P.S. I put the post back up since they had already linked to it there at the Mother Talk site :)

Explanation (and Bonus Anecdote)

Some of you may have noticed that I "published" a post (a book review) just now and then pulled it out. I just realized that I had written my blog book tour a full day early since I was under the impression that today was the 7th. I guess it's the first time this happens to me -- I'm ALWAYS late!! :)

This is nothing, compared to the embarrassment that my husband suffered many years ago when he had to present himself to the army in Brazil (draft is mandatory there for all young men who are 18 years of age, but most are just listed as reservists and released from service, only a few randomly chosen serve for a full year before being released from it). He went a day early to the army headquarters where he was scheduled to present himself. Besides missing two days of classes from the university he had to endure a lot of teasing from the officers since they were used to people presenting themselves late, but had never seen anyone come a day early!! ;)

Better early than late, that's for sure. I'll publish my post right at midnight today :)

Monday, June 04, 2007

What's Been Going On

I was very hesitant to blog about what we've been going through. Before you get worried, nothing is actually happening with us or any of our family members, these are issues that are happening with other people from our church and which have been bringing a lot of stress to our lives.

I wouldn't call these situations completely "unbloggable" , but they're partly "unbloggable issues" (like Professing Mama would say) mostly because I choose not to write here about certain aspects of my life, particularly the religious one. I answered a quick question about this here, if you're curious.

Anyway, I've decided to blog a bit about these issues just because they are the problems that have been preventing me to write the posts I've been planning to write. The first problem was brought to our attention a month and a half ago and it has to do with the final unraveling of a close friend's marriage. While dealing with this problem we also had to finally face some other problems that have to do with the leadership of our tiny Brazilian church and where it's headed. The problems have been taking such complex turns that my husband and I have been talking about them non-stop, often until 2-3 a.m. and then we're complete wrecks the next day. So the past week and a half has been chaotic and stressful to say the least. My husband even lost several pounds (almost 10).

On other news, my parents are returning tonight from their trip to China. Their plane must have just landed, as a matter of fact, and hubby and Kelvin are on their way to JFK airport in NY to pick them up. I can't wait to hear their stories and see their photos and videos from China!! They bought a flute for me in Hong Kong, I'm so excited!!

The only downside of their return is that I have to work on the dissertation like crazy in the next few weeks. All while worrying about cleaning the house and organizing it for showing and staging for prospective buyers. Yuck! Well... that's about it. We had a LOVELY weekend with the BIL, SIL and nephews, I may post some photos later, so hang on.

Oh, and there's another book review on the way: The No-Cry Discipline Solution -- very interesting!

Friday, June 01, 2007

New Croc Style Shoes and More

I'm overwhelmed with the too many words that I'd have to share with you here and with the fact that I have no time write them, so I'm sticking with the images. They do take some time to download, but not as much as it would take to write "real" posts. Sorry if I'm not very "happy" today...
We bought these at that store yesterday. This photo is a "response" to the one below, which I had already posted to the blog n May 06.
In my defense, I have several pairs of those nice Havaianas (great Brazilian rubber flip-flops), I just wasn't there for the photo. Now... I don't know if my husband will want to buy and wear a pair of crocs, that's totally up to him. What do you say, honey?

This is how my little garden in the front of the house looked a few minutes ago (I just added another planter like the one on the left, all from the aforementioned store). I wanted to post step- by-step photos, but I may never get to it, so here you go, before it's too late.
And here are the boys, painting on top of the air conditioner.
Again, have a great weekend!

P.S. and Jo(e), as for your question, I think your teenagers would love your pool and join you in there!! ;) Go get one, it's never too late to enjoy one's childhood!

The Pool is Open for the Season

Or, should I have said "The Water Park"? :)

The boys just had lots of fun with this inflatable "Animal Park" from the evil store that shall not be named.*
And I bought another pool today, at one of my favorite stores ever. I visited its NJ location for the first time with my neighbor.

We're getting ready to go to my brother- and sister-in-law's home for the weekend. I wanted to blog more, but it's not been easy to do it. Sorry about that, I'll explain more later.

Have a great weekend everyone!

P.S. I'm not really an expert photographer by any means, but just a hint for those of you who will be taking photos of your kids in bright sunshine at the beach or pool. Turn your camera's flash ON so their faces aren't darkened by their shade. I even took some photos as examples for you, but my DSL connection is a bit slow and photos take a long time to load. You'll have to wait until we have cable internet :D.

* initials: WM.