Friday, August 31, 2007

Extended Brea*stfeeding and Weaning

(Long, rambling, post ahead... but some fun photos at the end ;) )

This year August and "World Breastfe*eding Week" came and went and I never posted about it, like I did last year joining other bloggers in a collective blogging of b-feeding photos. My friend Keiko even reminded me of some other collective efforts that took place this year, but I was in Caldas Novas, Brazil, and didn't have internet access.

So, August is going to be over in a minute [I'm actually posting past midnight, but kept the date/time in August, OK?] and I want to finally bring to light a post I wrote back in January. I was waiting for Kateri's "collective blogging" call for people to post photos of older children breas*tfeeding (more on this below) to post it, but then she ended up not writing her post and I kind of forgot about it.

Anyway, in honor of the World B-feeding Week [I am disguising "the B word" because I don't want this post to be easily Google-able given the photos below] and of Linton's weaning, I decided to write this post. The last time I nursed him was in the airplane, when we were landing in Chicago and then here in Philly, since he was about to cry really loudly because his ears hurt. Before that he hadn't been nursing for over two weeks (except for one night when he was crying and wouldn't go back to sleep). Those were the last times, but for me, that afternoon when I nursed him in my grandmother's company (see here) will remain as the main marker of the end of our nursing relationship.

We were both ready for weaning even though he still asks for it once in a while when he sees me undressed (this evening after we took a shower he was telling me that he needed to nurse, not just wanted it), but I explain to him that there is no milk anymore and he's fine with it. I'm glad that these exchanges don't break my heart like I thought they might. With Kelvin (who was 4, not 3 and only nursed in the morning when he came into our bed) it was even easier because I think he was less attached to it and I was just sick and tired of nursing the two of them. I sometimes think it's sad that Linton got one year less than his brother but then again he was night weaned a full 6 months later than his brother and he didn't have to nurse during a pregnancy, so I guess these things even out their nursing years.

I lactated for 5 years 5 months and a few days. I think it was enough :) Kelvin was 4 and Linton 3 years 2 months when they were weaned.

So now on to the "rescued" post, but before, just one link:

I recently just got an email from Moms Rising with a link to this OUTRAGEOUS story about a breastfeeding mom who is being denied assistance to pump for her 7 week old daughter during her 9 hour long clinical knowledge exam to become an M.D. (she already has a Ph.D.).

Post originally written on January 18, 2007.

So, when my friend Kateri announced that she was going to do another b-feeding pictures post (here's her first one, and my two responses to it), this time with older kids nursing, I thought, well, why not participate again? My second post does have photos of my almost 2 year old son Linton nursing, but now [January] he is 31 months old. Kelvin was weaned at four, but I didn't take any photos of him nursing that old (I guess the last ones were from when he was younger than 2).

Well, to be completely honest, I did enjoy the "boost" that Kate's link to my post gave to the blog. You see, I added myself to The Truth Laid Bear (TTLB) ecosystem a while back and I think the highest I ever got was "Crawly Amphibian." Problem is, for some reason, I went back again to being an "Insignificant Microbe" and that didn't change until I was linked to by Kateri and got a lot of hits. I've been a "Lowly Insect" ever since [Now I'm a "Crunchy Crustacean"). I know that part of the problem with TTLB ecosystem is that many people who link to me in their blogs are not part of TTLB, so, maybe more of you could join and we would all "evolve" together :)

Well, back to the photos. I had Kelvin [who is a pretty good photographer] take several (first one below) but then decided to take the self-portrait approach and that worked much better!
[I think you can click on the photos to make them bigger, if not let me know so I can substitute them for bigger versions]

Here he's trying to do a thumbs up for you guys, like I'm doing:*
And now he's waving and smiling -- Hi folks!

Isn't brea*stfeeding the coolest thing?
And about extended nursing? I recently read a great essay about it, written by Jennifer Margulis (whose book Why Babies Do That? I reviewed here last year) in her weekly column in the Ashland Daily Tidings. (Thanks to Miriam Peskowitz for the link).

* Linton didn't learn to do a "thumbs up" until this Summer. I started teaching him on the plane to Brazil and at the end of the trip he had mastered it. I have no idea why he just couldn't do it. .

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Homeless! For a Week!

We just found out today that our seller's [edited to correct]
brokersreal estate company does not allow "pre-settlement possession" of its clients' properties, which is what we were trying to obtain so we wouldn't remain homeless.

That's devastating because it adds a whole other layer of stress to the already stressful task of packing and moving all our possessions. As I was telling my husband on an online chat yesterday, "moving involves many living things, like people, children, animals, and plants." Right now I'm most concerned with the animal and the plants (some of which needed to be planted right away since they can't stand their pots anymore, or placed near a structure for climbing, like my morning glories -- [I can't live without them])... and the child who's supposed to start school. I'm almost persuaded to stay at our friend's house (the one whose husband is allergic to cats) so Kelvin can go to school (this is subject for a post of itself).

I wrote most of the things below in a post meant to be posted yesterday.

Assorted Comments on Homes and Real Estate (former post title)

First, a correction to my previous post. I forgot to link to Aliki's post in which she explains why they chose their current home (in the next to last paragraph).

Second, I've enjoyed your responses about the neighborhood choice. A few comments about old versus new homes: I don't have anything against new homes, but it's just that I wish they weren't built in cookie-cutter fashion. This current way of real state development is what keeps them affordable in the first place, though... I sadly realize.

We couldn't possibly afford a new single home in the area where we're going to live. The cheapest ones cost a minimum of 350K, and to make matters worst this is a nice area which tends to have tons of new developments, most with really big cookie cutter homes that are probably 400K or more. For you to have an idea, most of the homes we looked at were townhomes (newer, quite spacious townhomes). Many of them were priced 270-300K or HIGHER (and most with 100 dollars a month of association fees -- which adds up 15K to the price of the house in the end) -- can you believe that? The cookie cutter development in "Exhibit A" in the previous post is older -- 15 years old, that's why some of its homes are still a bit affordable.

Home inspection...
When I say that the home inspection went well I don't mean to say that the house passed with flying colors, only to say that its problems are the ones that we already either knew about or anticipated. If we were to fix every single little thing that needs to be repaired, the costs would be close to 30K!!! The biggest problems right now are the roof (the "newer" one was installed over the original one and it's just not good) and the right stucco wall with its buckles. There are some cracks between the blocks in the basement walls, some moisture and some other issues. Many of the other repairs are cosmetic. Our home inspector does an EXTREMELY thorough inspection and looks at every single detail, taking plenty of photos for evidence. If you live in the Philly area and need an inspector I would strongly recommend him. (He's so thorough that he suggested that we do an almost unnecessary repair to the air-conditioning system of our current home -- brand new, only 2 years old back in 2004 -- and we spent 900 bucks for this technician [found by our former realtor] to spend like 40 minutes in here -- I almost cried when I wrote the check -- so I know we don't have to do every single thing he recommends.

Anyway, this is probably boring everyone to tears, but I wanted to make these comments. I hope to be able to post some more photos of the house soon and write about my son's school, but now I have to go pack some boxes, OK? See you later.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pick-a-Neighborhood Game

On Monday I wrote an email to my brother (who's been living in China since last year, in case you don't remember) explaining the reasons why we decided to buy this house in spite of the fact that it is being sold "as-is" and it has many major renovation projects that need to be done. Like my parents he had expressed concern that this was not the best house to be had and he hoped we could find another one.* It occurred to me that I might get my point across more effectively if I compared it to the previous house we were going to buy since they cost almost the same. I thought that visual cues were even better, so I proceeded to send him links to Google Map images of the two neighborhoods. I cannot possibly do the same for you or you'd know our future address, but I took snapshots of the images with this nifty free program called Screen Hunter.

So, which neighborhood would you have chosen? The houses in question are the green arrows:
Cookie-cutter look alike homes ?
(they do look identical in this whole development!)


Established old neighborhood with large yards.

Interestingly enough, my friend Aliki just posted about this decision on Monday, at the end of her post. Our houses are exactly the same age -- 42 years old.

Which neighborhood would you choose/ have you chosen and why?

* Actually, my parents' biggest concern was with the sheer size of the yard and the time it will take to maintain it.

P.S. The inspection this afternoon went OK. It was a lovely day and I took many many photos of the house. Will post some of them later. We're trying to remedy the awful situation, but it looks like the closing will have to be postponed at least a week. BUT... we'll try to work out a pre-settlement "occupation" of the house (I cannot for the life of me remember the correct term) in which the owners "rent" the house to us until the closing. I'm hoping and praying that this can be done!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Every 10 Years

Yesterday was my husband's first day of work at his new job (he's very excited about it, BTW and he thinks it's going to be great to work there). The night before he was cleaning out some boxes in the basement and the last thing he looked at before tossing it in the trash were his notes from his very first class in graduate school, in the Fall of 1997. Looking at those papers he realized that roughly every 10 years in the past 20 years there has been a big change in his life and he felt it was a nice act of closure to toss those papers away 10 years later, the night before his first day of work.

- In 1987 (OK, it was actually 1988, but he took the entrance examination in December 1987 -- we'e fudging this one :-) he started college, at age 16 (he turned 17 in May);

- In 1997 he started graduate school; and

- In 2007 he's finally done with his education (counting the post-doc years as part of that) and he finally starting a job in the "real world" (since the academic world didn't work out). At 36.

Sometimes we worry if our decisions to get Ph.D.s aren't making life start much later for us than for most other people -- well, I guess this is how it goes, particularly for those of us who started graduate school a little "late" (I started at 27, pretty late, right?).

I'm glad for him that he has this great "every ten years" pattern to his life (right now he's wondering where he'll be in ten years and it's exciting to think of that and dream about it), but it makes me realize that I don't really have such a pattern...

Let's see...

In 1987 I was starting high school (we're exactly the same age, K and I, but I started first grade at 7.5 and he started at 5.5).

In 1997 I started my non-degree year in Graduate School (I officially entered the program in 1998 -- I know, scary, it'll be ten years next year when I graduate)

In 2007 I'm in the brink of finishing my dissertation, no jobs in sight... (Sigh)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stressful Setbacks

*Edited to add a comment at the end*
This morning when our mortgage broker pulled K (my husband)'s credit he noticed a discrepancy from the report he'd pulled last Friday -- 50 points had been taken off because of a supposed late payment in last month's mortgage!!! At first K thought that the payment hadn't been made because we refinanced our mortgage last month to lock in the interest rate since we were planning to rent the house. However, when he called the mortgage company (lender[s] from now on) he found out that everything was fine, the payment had been made (it's an automatic withdrawal from our bank account). Why in the world had that delinquency been reported then if the payment was made? The lenders had no idea and in the three calls that K made to them, they couldn't find any record of it in their computers. We're going to have to fax them the report so they can "believe" us since apparently they're arguing they have nothing to do with this. UNBELIEVABLE.

With this serious dip in the credit score* we cannot possibly close on 9/7 because the interest rate will be higher than the one we want and had previously qualified for. Can you believe that?

K is seriously thinking of taking the lenders to court if they don't agree to pay whatever costs we incur if we cannot close on the appointed date because of their mistake as well as the costs of correcting the credit score. We'll have to pay more to move because our belongings will have to go to storage instead of going straight to the new house, and where are we going to stay? There's a further complication because in the last two days we had decided that in order for me to finish the dissertation, Kelvin will have to go to school. Initially, we had planned that the boys and I would go to Massachusetts to my in-law's apartment (they will be in Brazil then) for the time we'd need in between houses, but now, if he's going to school how we can possibly do that? The prospects of living in a hotel for a while is extremely unappealing to me, not to mention the fact that I'm not so sure the bill will ever be footed by the lenders or what.

All this not to mention that if we don't close on the expected date the seller could decide not to sell the house to us anymore. We did explain to him that we might have to change the closing (we thought we might need only a few extra days, if any), but we're aware that if there's a radical change the sellers are under no obligation of doing business with us. And they'll have our deposit to keep.

I know deep down that everything will be OK, but the likelihood of us moving into our new house next week is very small. Credit bureaus are not easy to deal with and they don't correct one's score quickly, that's for sure.

We're so flabbergasted we don't even know what to do next. Would you guys suggest we find and attorney and have a consultation right away or do we wait to see how this progresses? Any advice would be appreciated. Oh, and there's even another smaller story about our town ("borough")'s building inspection of our house... but that will have to be told another time, if at all since I don't think I'll find the time to blog much in the next few days.

And I was such in a happy mood since Friday... thinking of all the happy things I could blog about! I'll come back for a quick post about K and his first day of work and changes in his life.

* My credit was certainly hit as well since I'm also a mortgagee, but I have no income right now and won't be in the mortgage, so it doesn't really matter...

Edited to add:
What if K's credit hadn't been pulled on Friday and only this week and this had already been there? We might not have even noticed it had happened so suddenly and that it was wrong. What about the broker? He wouldn't have believed us if we complained about the report and said that it was higher earlier (we have a friend who also pulled our credit last week since we were going to do the mortgage with him but gave up because of the rush needed). I can't even fathom what would have happened if the broker hadn't caught this. It's relief mixed with a feeling of sheer outrageousness...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Fourth Boy

Blues, our cat, was actually my first "son," the first young "boy" to come live with us. Even though he's since been deprived of his major boy attributes, he's definitely one of the four "boys" in this household as you can tell from these photos:
He also shares his "brothers' " passion for a certain blue engine :-)
I hope he likes the new house and doesn't get too upset because of the move. He's already quite excited by the empty boxes laying around, but I know he'll be a bit distressed when everything is packed and his familiar surroundings are gone. I hope his "brothers" don't get distressed as well...

We're "Engaged!"

Our offer was accepted! Not without a small adjustment to the already costly "dowry," but we were happy to comply since the house was worth it and the adjustment was below the maximum amount we were willing to give anyway. So we're officially under contract!

Now we're keeping our fingers crossed that the two closings can be done smoothly on the same day so we'll be homeless only for a few hours. I'm already worried about the cat and what we'll do with him until after the closing. We have a friend who already lives in the town we're moving to, but her husband is severely allergic to cats, so I guess it's not a good idea to leave him at her house for a few hours. Can you imagine going to a closing with two young kids and a cat in tow?! Of course we'll figure something out and that won't happen, but it'd be hilarious, wouldn't it? OK, so now that I'm talking about our cat Blues, I'll give you another post with a few photos of him. And I'll close this one with this:
More to come later. There's a lot of work to be done, so hopefully we'll have many "before and after" pairs of photos to show in the future.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

We May Have Found "The One"

Those of you who have been following our house-hunting journey may remember that on my first post on this subject back in April I compared finding a house to finding a life-long partner. I never imagined that our "love life" would be so messy from then on, involving a "proposal" that we let fall through, another "proposal" which was accepted and and appeared to be a successful "engagement" until in the end we were sadly forced to break it up, and a third "proposal," which was "Sealed, Signed, and Delivered" between last night and this morning. Now we're waiting to hear back from them, I'm strangely calm at the moment, but was quite anxious when I woke up.

OK, let me tell you a bit about this house, but first, a little story.

One of the days we went house-hunting, I think it was on the day we had my parents and my MIL with us. We drove them around yet another expensive townhome community so they could see the first house we almost made an offer on. Then, we drove around the neighborhood, first, by a brand-new, expensive yet very "ugly" (huge houses, tiny lots) cookie-cutter development, and then through some calm, secluded streets with older homes sitting on very large lots, full of trees. I immediately told my husband: "See, after we buy our "starter" home in this area [we were still considering a townhouse then], this is the kind of house and neighborhood I want. An older house that can be renovated to our taste, and which has lots of space for the boys to play and grow up in." I didn't give it a second thought because I was sure that houses there were way out of our price range. But little did I know that there was one of those houses (probably under contract at the time) waiting for us...

So, let me introduce to you the home we just made an offer on:It reminds me of the very first house we thought of making an offer, on the first day we went to look at houses, but it does look much better on the outside and is much bigger. This house has a few disadvantages, that's for sure, because it's a 42 year old "fixer upper." The inside has to be almost completely redone since most of the carpet is really really old and the kitchen is still the original one. The roof may have to be replaced in a few years and if you look closely on the photo above, the stucco wall on the right side of the house needs to be replace because it's bulging in three places. The lot, though, it's awesome. It's .74 acre, all level, with large trees (which do not need to be trimmed right now because they're far away from the house):
The house even has an old, but working playset in the back and there's a nice basketball hoop in the beautifully paved driveway (you can see it between the trees in the photo above). The back porch is ready to be screened (yay Tracy!). Besides, the garden and the landscaping are basically clean slates and I can certainly develop beautiful flower beds and plant flowering bushes and bulbs. I can't wait! Oh, and there are three apple trees in the back. Anyone has any advice about those? Can they be taken care of so they can produce healthy looking apples or are they useless? I'll need to make mulch/ compost, Cloudscome, so I need you to teach me how to do it, OK?

The problems of this house made us take a full week after we first saw it last Wednesday to go ahead and make an offer since we wanted to think it through very carefully. It's in the upper end of what we could afford and we won't have money to start renovating right away. BUT -- this is much much closer to my "dream house," I even think it might be it!!

Now the wait had begun. I'll keep you posted. Oh, yes, we're going to try to go ahead and close in two weeks, on the same day of the other closing, so we need them to get back to us very quickly! We'll see what happens.

Chaotic Week

This has been a pretty crazy week so far. And things are just about to get much much worse in the weeks to come.

The house is full of boxes and suitcases, we have been trying to do things and are accomplishing very little. The boys have been sick. After Kelvin got better then Linton got sick. He's got no fever, but has a cough and a runny nose. He's much less patient than his older brother, particularly at night, so I have been giving him medication at night only so he can sleep (I don't like to give them cough suppressants and nasal decongestants since I know these only suppress the symptoms and don't help the colds get better -- the body needs to get rid of the extra phlegm and mucus anyway and can't do it properly with these medications).

My husband has been busy making calls to mortgage companies, writing emails, and dealing with other things related to the sale of this home and the offer on the other one. I've been trying to write a post about the new house, but Blogger has not let me write it yet because the automatic save function wasn't working at all yesterday and the day before... (it is now). I also wanted to post some photos from Brazil but I can't because our desktop computer's CD/DVD drive doesn't read CDs with data and the laptop has been constantly in use by my husband...

You can tell that I'm (we're) a bit overwhelmed over here. In addition to how hard it is to just keep up with daily life (getting fed, keeping the kitchen clean, doing the laundry) plus the move, the boys keep demanding our full attention, at all times, unless they're watching television. I guess they feel that we're stressed out and that their lives are about to become extremely chaotic and they become more clingy (and there's the sickness too). I can already imagine how tough the closing on the other house (if it takes place) is going to be. I guess we'll have to resort to candy (I try not to give candy to our little guys, but the other day at the bank when we had to wait a long time and last night when we were writing the offer, I just had to allow them to have lollipops. Sigh). Yeah, I know... I should at least be happy that there is candy and TV (PBS Kids, obviously) for when we desperately need them, but still, I'd be happier if we didn't need to resort to them. We're actually considering taking the laptop and some DVDs to the closing.

It all boils down to one thing: parents NEED childcare to get things done and I have a feeling that those of us who don't have it should receive a medal or a title of super-parents, super-people or something... It's at moments like these that we can fully feel the weight of parenthood on our shoulders, of what the permanent choice we made to have children mean to our lives.

Have we been spoiled by my parents' help in the past five years? I guess so... but then, we couldn't afford any other kind of childcare and they were selfless and wonderful enough to help us all these years. I guess they deserve a break and we deserve to figure out what our choices mean and "grow up" as parents and human beings.

I hope I can get to post about the other house soon, OK?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Trying to Update

I know I should be posting on my own blog instead of reading other people's, but I really wanted to try and catch up since I only kept up with about 10% of the blogs in my blogroll while I was in Brazil. I'd blog much more if I didn't enjoy reading and commenting on other people's blogs so much, but then, would I have any readers? Would I connect to anyone? That's the whole point of blogging for me -- truly interacting with people, so I really enjoy commenting and spending time reading other people's thoughts.

Another problem that plagues me in blog writing is my terrible indecision about what to post and the almost infinite amount of subjects and topics that I want to blog about . I would certainly overwhelm any readers that I still may have if I started to blog regularly about all the things that I want to blog about. So I end up doing the opposite -- I don't post as much as I should/could. Vicious cycle.

OK, so what's up around here at Casa-in-Translation?

My husband has officially stopped working at a postdoc and is home this week trying to get everything ready for the move since he starts his new job at "Big Pharma" next Monday. We have started getting boxes down from the attic, making to-do lists, and thinking non-stop about the house we want to buy (topic of another post).

We had a sick boy over the weekend as well. Kelvin had a mild cold in Brazil, with a quick fever and some coughing, but he had gotten better. However, he started coughing again after we returned and started running a fever on Thursday evening. He was also having some trouble breathing, nothing serious, not really wheezing only some tiredness and shortness of breath after running around and playing, but I got his doctor's office to phone in a prescription for albuterol for the nebulizer since we already have all the equipment, but were out of the medication. He only used the nebulizer twice and his cough is better. We kept the fever in check with Tylenol, and he was OK on Saturday. On Sunday morning he had an earache -- probably the very first ear infection since he was born, the first ever in this family -- and he slept for three hours in the morning and woke up without pain. I think this infection is just viral and part of his cold (he has a runny nose too), so I just kept up with the Tylenol. He had no fever yesterday morning so I thought that only 3 days with a fever (Th-Sunday) were no reason to go to the doctor. He did have a temperature last night, but that was it. I'm keeping an eye on him and if there's a fever again in the days to come, I'll bring him to the doctor. I don't want him to have to take antibiotics for what's probably just a virus anyway, so I'm hoping his body will heal on his own. Sorry about the long health related paragraph...

In spite of his illness and our need for productivity, we still went to Longwood Gardens on Saturday evening to see the fountains -- we missed that place since we haven't been there in two months or more. Then on Sunday we tried work on the house, but didn't get much done. Today we had to notarize a document and we did two quick trips to Home Depot and IKEA to check the prices of things we're going to have to buy. It was the first time Linton stayed at the Smaland play area! He was looking forward to that since he started peeing in the potty and toilet (#2 is another story, still no full progress in that dept.).

So, tomorrow we're FINALLY going to see two houses (we wanted to have gone on Sunday so we could have written an offer yesterday): the one we loved last week and another one that my husband visited twice and posted photos and video for me online. I don't think we want it (I'll write another post about them), but I just want to check it out.

Keep us in your thoughts and/or prayers so we can make the right decision about the house. Let's see if I can write a post about that now and sorry for the slightly lame post...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Five Boys and a Railway

Yesterday I invited two bloggers I know (one of them I was meeting in person for the first time) so we could take our boys to a local arboretum's famous garden railway since it was the night for members to bring guests. I had already met Cloudscome last summer and she actually wrote a lovely post about yesterday's meeting. I'm "borrowing" two photos form her to illustrate this one (thanks my friend! I hope you don't mind :)
L to R: "Punkin," "Buddy Boy," Kelvin and Linton
Taken by Cloudscome.

The fifth boy of the title is Ellis, Jeannette's son, who is pictured below on the right with Cloudscome's boys. I met them for the first time yesterday and I hope we can get together many other times in the future. Kelvin and I loved to learn the signs for train, tree, and water, and we want to learn many more! :)
Taken by Cloudscome.

And here you can see Ellis, Buddy Boy, and Linton, watching for the train (I took this one and the remaining photos in the post):The five boys were moving constantly, it was getting dark, and my camera had about 20 minutes of battery left, so the few photos I managed to take are all blurry, but they convey really well how excited the boys were, running up and down looking at the trains:
Ellis was so thrilled!

And so were Kelvin...
(you can see Jeannette in the background wearing the fabulous first skirt sewn by her)

...and Linton:
(For some reason I looked at him running around last night and felt that he was so tall and "grown up" already. I definintely don't have my baby anymore :-( )

We had a great time, especially my boys, who don't get to hang out with other children much. Kelvin told me he wants to play with Buddy Boy (they're the same age) again and I hope we can get together before summer's over. I really really really wanted to invite all the Philly Mama Bloggers I know (see side bar) over to our house before we move much farther away from the city, but I don't know if that'll be possible since we have to spend all of next week packing for the move.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Three Weeks' Notice and Impending Homelessness

We accepted the offer two days ago and the closing on this house is scheduled for September 7. It was a kind of offer absolutely unheard off -- the full price of the house is already on escrow (they're paying cash and we're paying the closing) and there will be no home inspection! We probably won't be able to close on the next house until after that, so we may be homeless for a bit. For the move, since we'll have to leave our things in storage for a little while, we've decided to rent one of those "pods" or storage containers and fill it up ourselves, then it can be stored for as long as needed until we move.

We looked at houses on Wednesday and found one that we liked, but I want to post about it separately. I also want to write a post about a lovely blogger meet up with two bloggers and their sons yesterday, so watch this space! I hope to be back soon, but I may have to take my oldest son to the doctor because he's coughing and wheezing a bit and we need a prescription for albuterol so he can use the nebulizer and feel better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Starting Anew

(I apologize for editing this already. Why don't I ever proofread?)

We arrived safely and uneventfully back home. We took the long way again, flying through Chicago on our way to Philly (we're still faithful to our airline of choice even though this mileage thing is a trap since one can hardly ever redeem them when they're needed for an upcoming trip) -- 10 hours from Brazil, plus another 1h30m flight. This time I didn't get sick like I did last January, what a relief! Kelvin did get nauseated (because of turbulence, I'm sure) on the last flight and he ended up vomiting on one of those bags, poor thing. He's perfectly fine now, though, and his brother is sleeping since he woke up midway through the flight and stayed up for 2 and a half hours.

It was awesome to enter a clean, organized, almost totally uncluttered house. WOW. I'll have photos for you later, and I'll try to dig up some really messy ones for contrast. I could live like that, if only I would tidy up regularly as I should (insert heavy sigh here) since my poor husband can't keep up with my messy ways, but that's another story.

All right, drum roll now....

My husband just received an email stating that his visa petition was granted and that he can start to work immediately at Big Pharma (I'll keep this pseudonym for now, OK?).


I'm still speechless even though I expected this to happen as planned. It's just that it took soooo long, since the job offer on March 15, 07 - precisely 5 months minus one day - for this to finally become a tangible reality.

The timing is very interesting since I just came back from Brazil into a newly organized house and now into a new reality. There I spent the last few days immersed in the old -- all the stuff that we had stored in my parents' home since we came here in 1996. Over the years I brought a lot of things, particularly linen (sheets, comforters, towels, kitchen and dining linen) and baking implements, as well as some kitchen appliances (blender and mixer, for example), but this time I wanted to bring more and had to decide which remaining items should be donated, sold, or stored for future use of any family members who decide to return to Brazil (my parents-in-law will probably be the first and can use the plates, cups, glasses, etc.). So I spent quite some time sneezing inside my parents' attic and opening boxes full of old books, rummaging inside closets and sneezing again because of the old linen, and up in ladders checking shelves close to the ceiling. I'll take some photos of the items I brought and I already took several of items that I decided not to bring but I'm keeping just for the memories of old times and I'll post those later -- promise.

And now I feel like it's a good moment to put the old and the new together and start another phase of our lives, one we've been waiting for years and years to embark on.

You're welcome to follow us on this journey! (as you already have been, obviously ;)

Step one: accepting the offer on the house and making an offer on a house that's yet to be found! So check back soon!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Getting Ready to Go Back

I'm packing our suitcases to go back home tomorrow night. I wish I could have blogged more while here in Brazil, but I spent a lot of time traveling around and during two weeks -- the first and the last -- of the four I stayed here, I didn't have internet access where I was staying.

I want to post more photos, particularly of Curitiba, the first place I visited and where many members of my extended family live, and of Caldas Novas, where we spent last week. And I want to tell you of a big scare we had two weeks ago, but I'll have to wait until I'm back home.

Things I wanted to write about and that I probably won't get around to doing:

- I had forgotten how lovely Winter is here in Brazil. The sun is low in the sky, but it is still warm when it's sunny (cloudy and rainy days are quite chilly, sometimes really cold). The sun's slanted light and its soft, muted warmth bring me back to my childhood spent here:
This is a view of the boarding academy where I lived from 8-13 years old. I've wanted to write about this place for a long time now and I hope I can do it soon.
- I'm sorry I didn't get to see most of my friends because I traveled around so much and only went to the city of São Paulo (where I lived for 12 years before moving to the U.S.) for a day.
- I wanted to write about the academic conferences and some of the differences between conferences I have attended in the U.S. and those here.
- I spent some time today scanning old photos and documents of my grandparents and their families. I'll definitely share those with you sometime.
- I felt differently about Brazil during this trip. I didn't have any conflicting feelings of whether we should come back or not. Basically I can go back and forth effortlessly now. I don't feel like coming back, though.
- I wish I could have read more blogs during the past month, but my unreliable internet access coupled with how busy I was during the academic conferences prevented me from reading and commenting on many blogs I used to read regularly. I don't even know if many people are still reading because I kind of disappeared from their blogs... Blogging is hard sometimes. At the same time that it makes us feel connected to people it brings this feeling of utter emptiness and wonder whether people read or what. I enjoyed having "new" commenters to my photos of Rio, particularly Dawn, who's always an inspiration to me.
Well, I have to go now and help my mom finish packing (right now she's helping me downstairs).
Just a quick list of things about Brazil that I could write about: Brazilian television, particularly the most prominent network, Globo; electric showerheads; Brazilian beaches (versus American ones); Brazilian food and small sizes of packages of chips; Brazilian flora -- trees, grasses, flowers, etc...
I hope to "see" you soon, probably from home, a home that won't be ours anymore in only 20 days.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Part III

So here are some more photos for you from my "Wednesday off" from the academic congress last week in Rio. I should add that the photos are not only from Rio, but also from the city across the bay, Niteroi, which is the place with the best views of the city of Rio de Janeiro, don't you agree? These photos go with a "shout-out" to my friend Zee who was born and grew up in Rio and a HUGE thank you to Julio, my friend Cris's "uncle" (actually his dad's cousin) who picked me up at my friend's apartment and drove us to Niteroi and back! It was awesome of him to do that -- but it's something that most Brazilians would do for a friend or relative if they could afford to take the day off.

One of the things I had dreamed of doing when in Rio was visiting one of Oscar Niemeyer's latest architectural designs, the museum of contemporary art in Niteroi. Niemeyer is one of the leading "modernist" architects in the world and he's best known for his visionary design of Brasilia, Brazil's capital (here's a link to his Foundation -- site in Portuguese).
Isn't it a gorgeous building? And the location is even better, on a cliff by a gorgeous beach with Rio on the background.
The beach and the small island in front of it:
The museum framing the Sugarloaf mountain, another island and the Corcovado Mountain with the Christ statue "behind" the island:

Like a postcard:

After going to Niteroi, we went to lunch with Cris's "uncle" in downtown Rio and then took the historic train (built in 1874) to the top of the Corcovado mountain (where the Christ statue is) so we could enjoy the view. I took tons of photos, but I'll share only those of my favorite view -- the Sugarloaf mountain and a curiosity, one of the (smaller) favelas (Brazilian slums) -- "typical" of Rio in this way -- climbing up the mountainsides):

Me and Cris taking one of the several "Thelma and Louise" photos of the week. I guess my arm isn't long enough, but at least you can see the Sugarloaf Mountain in the background quite well.
So here is the Pão de Açúcar or Sugarloaf and the Botafogo Bay again as seen from top of the the Corcovado Mountain, this time by themselves.

I only had this silly photo with the Christ the Redeemer Statue in the background taken because my friend volunteered to do it and told me to open my arms, but I guess I should have taken it just because the Christ statue in Rio was recently voted (online) on the world's 7 wonders :).
After we went back down on the train, we took a taxi to Ipanema beach where we walked for a while.
Facing South on Ipanema Beach after sunset. The lights in the background on the left, climbing the hill, come from a favela.
It was a beautiful day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

From Caldas Novas, Goiás, Brazil

I'm blogging from a Lan House in the heart of Brazil. We arrived here in Caldas Novas on Sunday afternoon after a 7 hour long drive from my parents' house in São Paulo state. We drove through another state, Minas Gerais, and arrived in Goiás, a state which is right at the middle of Brazil, that's why they built the country's capital, Brasília, not far from here back in 1960. We're staying in a small rented apartment close to one of the hotels in the center of the town, Caldas Termas Clube -- the same hotel where I came with my high school class two months before our graduation back in 1989. The hotel has 7 swimming pools, some water slides and several pools for kids, all with hot to warm water -- which is replaced daily or every two days, so there's no chlorine and it's "mineral water" (how they call spring water here in Brazil) -- so we're enjoying ourselves very much (the boys just don't want to get out of the water).

Tomorrow we're going to a place called "Hot Park" -- a water park in the most amazingly beautiful resorts here, "Rio Quente" (Hot River), I got to visit this place for a day back in 1987 --- wow, 20 years ago! (there was no Hot Park then) -- and dream of the day I can afford to spend a week there with my family.

I think I have only 10 minutes left of my one hour of internet here (U$ 1.5o, not that bad, huh?), so I better wrap this post up.

OH, some news -- it looks like we have an offer on the house!!! It was a verbal offer until last night, I'll let you know when I know more. If the closing is soon, we may extend our stay here, or the boys' (I would go back home as planned and then fly back here a few days later). I'm not looking forward to that, but it may be a good idea if we need to be house-less for a few weeks. I'll keep you posted

And in the next 20 hours my husband and his brother will be driving the new car non-stop from Dallas, Texas to Philly. I hope everything goes well in their drive.

I'll try to be back until Thursday with some photos.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Back to Mothering

First, I want to let you know that I have selected several photos of Rio that I took on Wednesday for you, but tonight I want to post about something else... oh, and don't skip the P.S. since I've got some news for you there.

My presentation yesterday at the conference went well. I had no glitches with the projector and software this time -- I had all kinds of trouble last week -- and last night we had an awesome round table discussion with three famous Brazilian writers, one of whom (the only woman) is the subject of one of my dissertation chapters! We have been exchanging emails and it was lovely to meet her in person!!

The congress (which is the tri-annual meeting of my discipline's international association) won't be over until tomorrow, but I just couldn't stay there any longer because I missed the boys too much. Everyone I talked to shrugged and said that they would be fine and that I should stay a few more days and enjoy. Some may have remarked that we miss our children much more than they miss us. And while I don't agree with the last statement, it is true that the boys were fine here with my parents -- however, most people, particularly older Brazilian women, don't understand the bond between parents and children when attachment parenting is practiced. They don't know that this trip meant the end of my breastfeeding relationship with 3 year old Linton (he already asked to nurse, but I just took some medication for my neck pain that cannot be taken while breastfeeding, so I diverted his attention) -- something that in and of itself makes me teary and sad, even though I know it would happen sooner or later; they don't know that the boys need us to be with them while they're falling asleep and still enjoy co-sleeping and that this was the first time in their lives that the boys were not put to bed by either their father or mother... (Kelvin slept with my dad while my mom shared a room with Linton). They also don't know that this (and last week's three days away) were the first days I spent away from them basically since their birth (excepting two separate days away from Kelvin when he was 2).

I am aware that parenting was very different in past generations and it is still different here in Brazil where most everyone has women who work in their homes, not only cleaning and cooking, but caring for the children (I wrote a post about this once, saying that in Brazil there are no mommy wars because everyone has hired help). My mom had a high school girl who was helping her this week and my brother's nephew's nanny (my brother's in-laws and divorced sister-in-law live three houses down from my parents) helped too since the boy is just two weeks younger than Linton and they enjoy playing together. This was the very first time that my sons had part-time caregivers that weren't family members (i.e. my parents) and I have to say that they got quite attached to those girls, which is nice to see, and is something new for them and for me.

I don't ever wish we could have a different lifestyle than the one we have in the U.S., though. I enjoy the hands on parenting that my husband and I have decided to practice with the boys, in spite of the fact that it's absolutely exhausting and all consuming -- Jody just posted about this "Endless Grind" yesterday. Thankfully for me, my husband helps more than 50% with the boys and house work, but that's another story. :)

So last week I had a very delightful reunion with Kelvin -- who had the most beautiful grin when he saw me -- and not so much with Linton, who woke up from a nap in the car with me by his side and didn't really react. This time Kelvin came to pick me up at the bus station and was glad to see me, but was even "gladder" to get his gift, a small train (he had asked for one). Linton, on the other hand, was waiting for me at home, and was very happey to see me. He gave me a big clingy hug and just snuggled with me, sitting on my lap for a good 15 minutes chattering away about the fact that I had traveled and was now back, etc. It was delicious. We hugged and kissed countless times today and Kelvin told me at regular intervals that he loves me gazzilions (in English). As I laid with them in bed until they fell asleep (we're sleeping on a full bed right next to a twin one so the three of us can be together) and thought about this post, I listened to their breaths and felt their warm little bodies next to mine and I felt whole. I am a mother and I fully enjoy being one. I had a good time away from them, but this is who I am and who I want to be -- a mother caring for her two little ones. Now all I need is to go back home so we can be a family of four again.

P.S. I've got some news for you:
1) My husband's visa petition was sent on Wednesday to the Immigration dept. and he should have the visa and start working at Big Pharmaceutical Company (BPC from now on :) in two weeks.
2) Our house was put on the market yesterday. Keep your fingers crossed (and/or pray) for us since the real state market is extremely slow right now.
3) We, I mean, my husband, bought a new car (2006 black Mazda 3), since his brother's friend was moving to a new state and didn't want to take the car and was going to hand it to a dealer. K will be driving it from Texas to PA next week with his brother.

Yeah, I know, we have way too many things going on in our lives right now. That's why next week I'm going to spend some time relaxing at "the largest hydrothermal resort [city] in the world" (I suspected that was the case, but here's Wikipedia to prove it -- that's where the quote comes from -- too bad the mispelling of the plural of "mango" in the third line makes me question the whole entry ;) -- Caldas Novas, Goiás. I hope to post again before we leave on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

(Almost) Painless in Rio

Thank you so much for all your suggestions and well-wishes regarding my painful neck. I'm glad and relieved to report that I started feeling much better last night and today I felt almost no pain during the day.

I had a beautiful day of sightseeing, too bad I won't have time to post the photos now since "tomorrow" (today actually) I have to present a paper at the conference and I haven't even finished my power point presentation and typing the paper. So now I have to go to bed, cause I don't want to be sleepless in Rio :)

Good night (or Good morning, whichever is the case). I'll try to post the photos before I leave for my bus trip back to Sao Paulo state...