Friday, September 28, 2007

BOB Books -- Mother Talk Blog Book Tour

You will think I'm making this up, but I'm not, it really happened! A few minutes before the mailcarrier brought the review copy of Set 1 of the BOB Books to our door I had been sitting at the computer with Kelvin, my five year old, typing some words. He enjoys just randomly typing letters and numbers in a Word document and on that day (which happened to be 8/28, exactly a month ago), he had just accidentally typed the word "big" and read it, so I started typing other words which began with different letters/sounds so he could read them the same way he had just read "big." Here's the list I typed and read together with him:

While we were reading these we heard a noise in our mailbox and went out to get the mail. I was so excited when I realized it was our copy of the BOB Books by Bobby Lynn Maslen and John R. Maslen which were recently reissued. We sat down and immediately started reading them together. The first page of each book introduces the new sounds that appear in the book (with a drawing of a word that begins with that particular letter) and then the child can read a simple story with short words (most only 3 letters long) and whimsical illustrations that help him/her follow the actions the words are describing. Best of all, this is not your typical boring beginner reader story -- these simple tales are really humorous and fun to read and we were smiling to each other while we read. Most importantly, Kelvin was encouraged to read -- something he had never really done before, except "sight reading" of words he had memorized such as "stop" and the name of everyone in our family.

Kelvin has since started kindergarten and we even brought the BOB Books to show to his teacher in the second week. We haven't yet been able to finish reading the whole box, but in that first sitting we read four or five books in a row and have since read a few more. We will most probably be buying the other sets in the coming months since I'm sure these books will help Kelvin become a proficient reader.

Thanks to Mother Talk for the opportunity of being included in the book tour, even without the gift certificate -- these books were a great gift to our family!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I learned today that our new house was sold because the couple who used to live here got divorced... and all of a sudden I just feel so sad and sorry for them that I just can't get over it.

We met them at the closing, but we obviously didn't know that at the time -- besides, they were seated side by side which didn't arouse any suspicions. In hindsight we now understand why they were both there to collect their respective checks (it's unusual for sellers to be at closings -- at least we haven't been to any of ours or had any sellers be at one before this) and why she was pretty upset to find out that his name was on her check (their agent explained that after he signed it she could deposit it in her account). We also understand now why after our offer she accepted it right away while he was more reluctant, since we offered less than he wanted (he came with a counter offer which we accepted). They have three boys (the youngest is 11 and we met him because he came by with two friends to introduce himself) and I we learned that the father (maybe the boys live with him) bought another house nearby. He was planning to take along a shed/playhouse (photo on the right) that he had built with the boys years ago, but his ex-wife persuaded him to leave it for us -- good for our boys. He (and later his son) told us that they're probably going to build something else together.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There haven't been any divorces in our immediate families (except for my husband's mother's cousin who got divorced over 20 years ago and K still remembers that event vividly from his childhood) so my/ours first hand encounter with a divorce was very painful.

My best girlfriend married K's best friend and roommate (both in a boarding academy during high school and in his last two years of college) exactly one year after we got married. K's friend did that against his better judgment (and K's) because he knew that her family was very problematic and nearly impossible to deal with. They had a troubled relationship even before they married (very possessive, isolated from everyone else, besides her crazy family). They had been married for only a few months when we came to the U.S. in mid-1996. In December 1997 when our 3rd and their 2nd wedding anniversaries approached we were planning our first trip to Brazil, in which we were supposed to stay at their house in São Paulo. On December 17 we received an unforgettable email from K's friend saying that we would no longer be staying at their home -- that he had no home whatsoever at this point since she had told him to leave! We were absolutely shocked. Once in Brazil we met with him and he told us the whole heartbreaking story. Since then I've only seen her once in August 1998. We email sometimes, but we aren't really in touch. We have kept close contact with K's friend (he's an only child, so he considers K as a brother), however. He remarried (we were at his wedding in January 2006) and they had a beautiful baby girl last Juny whom I consider my "niece." I don't think we ever "recovered" from the shock of those sudden news of nearly ten years ago.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This afternoon we saw the previous owner briefly as he jogged past the house, probably looking at it longingly since this was also his childhood home which he bought from his mom 13 years ago after living away from it for some 5 years, and where he lived for most of those past 13 years (I gather that he had moved out a while back from another neighbor who had only met the ex-wife living here since he moved to the neighborhood one year ago). I imagine it must have been heartbreaking for him to sell the house his parents built 42 years ago when he was probably very young or just born. And now some things make a bit more sense to us (or at least we imagine that they do)... we keep looking at the house and wondering if they never did any significant improvements and didn't redo much of it because their marriage was falling apart. It's sad to look at the rooms and wonder if they fought in them, if they felt sad and estranged, and how those boys felt (and feel) the blow of the dissolution of their parents' marriage.

Amid these sad feelings I can only look into the future and know for sure that that won't happen to us because we're committed to making our relationship work. For as long as we both shall live. That was the promise we made nearly 13 years ago.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Are You Still There?

Sorry it took me so long to post again. It's just that, as you may have imagined, life has finally caught up with me and left me without energy to do anything else. For some reason the little "energy" I had left when I was moving out of the other house motivated me to write and write on the blog, but now I've been feeling fully drained.

It's taking us really really long to get settled in for a few reasons:

- Since this home is a fixer-upper we wanted to do a few things before we moved in. For example, I suggested that we paint the study (downstairs bedroom) before putting the computer and books in, since it's one of the most packed rooms in the house. It didn't happen yet because...

- We needed to install the washer and drier because we didn't want to go out to buy more underwear and school uniform pieces of clothing for Kelvin. This "simple" task took several days and hasn't been fully completed yet because we have decided to do some other things and also found little "surprises" in every turn: 1) K decided to put some vinyl tiles on the floor of the "closet style" laundry and then he also painted the wall and installed a floorboard (which has since come unglued in several places :( ); 2) We found out only when we were finally going to install everything that our drier has a three prong plug, but the outlet on the wall has four. We bought a kit to change the prong, but K hasn't had the time to do it yet; 3) the cold water faucet
for the washer is leaking. K was going to replace it, but hasn't been able to because we can't find where to close the main supply... So we're turning the water on to do the washing and then switching it off afterwards. Thankfully I can dry the clothes outside since we have a clothes line!!!

We won't get the study painted tomorrow either because the weather is lovely and warm and I really really want to go to the beach (the NJ shore).

I did some progress yesterday -- I painted the bright pink closet in the boys' room a light cream color. Mine is next.

The kitchen is almost done -- it also took me forever to put things away since I don't have a pantry there and the cabinets are not the same depth as those I had at the other house. Too bad it's going to take us many months, or maybe over a year, to be able to afford to redo the whole kitchen. At least I finally replaced the ugly curtains on Thursday. Pictures are forthcoming.

Let's see what else. I assembled Linton's crib in the beginning of the week, but Kelvin is still sleeping on his mattress on the floor since we can't find the screws to assemble his bed. I finally put away most of the boys' clothes since we brought their old chests of drawers, but we don't have any for us... so, all of our clothes are still in boxes... what fun...

The yard is lovely and the boys spend a lot of time playing outdoors. Kelvin is doing great in school and Linton has been fine (even though he's been a bit sick with a cold in the past two weeks).

There are moments in which I feel I love this place, but others in which I feel frustrated that the house will never be finished, that it's just going to take too long to redo everything that needs to be redone. Ups and downs, but I guess that's normal.

I hope to be back soon with more upbeat blogging, as well as photos, OK? I hope you're still there.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Moving In

When you're driving in a big highway have you ever seen those open trucks full of stuff like mattresses, furniture, home items in the back, all tied up with a rope in the most unprofessional and undignified manner, and then you felt bad for those poor people who can't hire a proper moving van?

Well, yesterday evening that person was me... I mean, not exactly me because my friend was driving his truck and I the minivan (equally packed), but still, I felt so undignified for having to go through that!! So, if you were in the Blue route yesterday and you saw a white truck with a baby mattress sticking up the back and with one of those bicycle kiddie trailers, a red tricycle, mattress pads, and other assorted stuff that was us :(

[I may edit to add a photo of the truck and stuff here later]

Just a quick update on how things are going because I have to leave the hotel room pretty soon so I can be at the house for the radon guy to do his thing. Yep, our new house failed the radon test big time and now they're working on remediation.

- After the closing on Wednesday we were able to get two friends to come and help us clean the house. Another couple came with their baby daughter to bring us all dinner -- how lovely is that?

- Yesterday I was there to get the boxes delivered, but I only had the key to the padlock of ONE of the five boxes. Good thing it was the very last box, with some high use items, so I started emptying it out right away.

- After picking Kelvin up at school (and dealing with the fallout of the day's problems -- see previous post) I drove to our old neighborhood where I met a friend of ours who had a big truck so I could pick up our sand & water table and a tricycle from out neighbor's house (I saw the new owner and she said she ADORES the house) and luckily I sold our lawnmower (electric) to another neighbor and didn't have to haul it away uselessly (we'll have to buy one of those tractors or hire people to do our lawn). Then we went to my Brazilian friend's house to empty her basement of all the junk there -- in the way I've already described in the opening of the post.

- Another friend and the friend who drove his truck helped us bring the refrigerator into the house -- YAY!!! Now I can bring all my food from the hotel straight home and put it in the fridge. And I can go buy ice-cream again!!! YAY! Better have more of that before summer's over, right?

BAD NEWS: I'll be offline until TUESDAY when the internet will be installed in our new home and I'm totally upset about that. Hubby is happy, though 'cause he says I'll be able to concentrate in the work at hand. And I have sheepishly recognize that he's probably right... :(

So, now I'm off to be a full time mover. Good thing we'll rest for 24h (we keep the Sabbath starting tonight at sunset) and we can gather some energy to work really hard -- and "with a little help from my friends" (hahaha, this reference is really not very fitting, but I don't care! ;) -- on Saturday night and Sunday.

See you Tuesday then, OK? I'll miss reading your blogs, that's for sure :(

More About School: On Choice, Diversity, and Trouble

A post in three parts: I. Choice, II. Parents and Diversity; III: School Trouble

I. A few thoughts about my choice and feelings about it:

Yvette asked in her comment: "I'd be interested to hear more about it and how you feel over time about your decision of that school over your other options."

Well, first of all let me say that I felt the requisite guilt-tinged relief of not having to deal with my child for a 7 hour stretch (I guess most moms who kept their children at home with them until finally sending them off to kindergarten, or even those who are sending them to pre-school feel this way -- tell me about your experience if you can). Let me tell you, having only Linton with me on the day before we vacated the house and "D-day" brought me unimaginable relief -- hence the guilt. Kelvin is just very dependent on me, he doesn't like to play on his own, only certain games that he creates with his brother, but those last half an hour at most. Linton, on the other hand, can entertain himself and be out of my way the whole time -- he's a very easy little boy in that respect (he certainly does have his own flaws, but that's another matter).

As for my decision, after I saw the school, it was the easiest decision EVER! This choice is a compromise between home or cyber-schooling -- which I would never be able to accomplish since I just cannot structure the day and our lives and organize myself to do it, I just can't -- and a big public school. Having grown up in another country I feel extremely uncomfortable sending him into the great unknown (to me) that is public school in this country. I know that the system is excellent, but it does have its flaws. Whatever flaws it may have are not the problem for me, though, it's the fact that school here is a big "unknown" to me is absolutely scary, particularly as it concerns sending my son there. So I guess it's another one of those things related my life as an expatriate. And then there's my own background and "baggage" to deal with.

In Brazil I went to private schools all my life (most middle class people do so there), not only that, but they were part of a religiously affiliated school system (website in Portuguese here) that is very well regarded all over the country (there are 380 of these schools in Brazil-- most K-8, but many with high schools as well). These schools are very good academically and this week they were actually featured in an article of the Brazilian national news magazine Veja (I'd compare it to Time magazine here in the U.S.) which said very positive things about the school system (70% of the students in these schools are not affiliated with the church, just so you know, although I was). Obviously, private schooling is not the norm in this country, like it is in Brazil, so the same church's schools here are generally not very good or are struggling. Having gone to large schools after 5th grade I tend to be skeptical about tiny little schools. My experience: I only went to three schools all my life -- well, until college :) -- for 1st grade I went to a K-4 church school, but my class had over 20 students. Then from 2nd-4th grade my classes were multi level (two grades at a time) because it was an elementary school at a boarding academy which had many students from 5th grade on, but not in K-4; in 7th grade we moved to São Paulo and I started going to this HUGE (over 900 students) K-8 elementary school which was excellent academically, and I finished high school there (the high school was huge too, with well over 1,000 students, I think) -- oh, and I loved their "prep school looking" uniform -- plaid blue/red/white skirt and white polo shirt (that changed later as the whole school system adopted the same light blue uniform country wide, but I used the "old" uniform until I graduated since I had "inherited" enough outfits from my cousin).

Anyway, the "larger" (two grades per class, except for K) K-8 church school that I could have sent my son to is North of Philadelphia, very far from where we are, but I knew there was a tiny two classroom school just 5 minutes from our new home. I was skeptical about it, but when we visited it I just loved it and I knew Kelvin would enjoy it, particularly because he needs a bit of individual attention because he's still not completely fluent in English. Apart from the individual attention, the school will be able to tailor the curriculum to his abilities. Since he's well ahead in Kindergarten content -- he knows all his letters and can basically count to 100 -- the teacher said that he'll probably be working on 1st grade content by Spring. Last Tuesday we had a pool party with the whole school (more about it in the next paragraph) and I learned that another student skipped a grade (2nd) from last year to this since he wasn't being challenged enough and I was happy to know it, especially after reading Time magazine's cover article from two weeks ago about how the system has failed its brightest kids (not that my son or any of his peers are actually bright) and which says at some point that grade skipping alone might help some of these students.

Anyway, the choice was easy after I realized that the school was a good fit for my son and that I was extremely comfortable with its size and with the academic aspect too.

II. Parents and Diversity
For a tiny, 11-12 students (12 counting the pre-school boy) school, this one has pretty good ethnic diversity -- although the gender division isn't good since there are only 3 girls, none in Kelvin's class. There are five Hispanic children, (two in my son's class), three Asian Americans (two of them "hapa" ), three white (including Kelvin), and one African American.

On Tuesday we had a pool party at one of the students' house even with all the rain that we had that day -- good thing they had a hot tub attached to the pool, so the little kids stayed in there (the water wasn't very hot), and I did too :) and I got to meet four of the parents (most of them, in fact). I really liked interacting with them as well as the teachers and another woman who showed up (she homeschools her children and teaches violin to some of the kids there). Most children in the school are bilingual (including those two homeschooled ones that I met), or have a parent who speaks another language and is trying to teach it to them a bit, isn't this AWESOME? So our family definitely does fit right in with the other families. I'm looking forward to other field trips and extra curricular activities that we may have.

III. Trouble
(I have to leave the hotel room in half an hour so I won't be able to write this well)
OK, can you believe that in his only 4th day in school Kelvin's teacher already had something to talk to me about? That was Wednesday and she explained to me that he just wouldn't finish his worksheets -- would start them, stick them under his desk and not do the work. OK, we can understand that he's not getting enough sleep with the move, etc, but then... yesterday, he did get into real trouble. First, he wouldn't work and would purposely let his crayons slide into the floor and loudly announce to his classmates that "my crayon fell on the floor" (and they would laugh), so he had to work during recess. Then, he almost poked his crayon on a classmate and when the teacher reprimanded him, he acted a bit defiant (just like him :( ) so the older kids' teacher (who's older and extremely experienced) talked very sternly, but lovingly with him about respecting the teachers and other kids, she had him on time-out in her class after she had him on her lap for a while and talking to him. His teacher reported that he was "a changed man" after that.

Yeah... do you see why I was relieved to send him off to school? But now I kind of passed the problem on to someone else. Hopefully together we'll be able to get him to behave better. We have been struggling with his defiant attitude as well as with the way he constantly provokes his brother, for a long time now, and I guess that after only 5 days he was finally comfortable enough to show his "true self" in school. Last night he brought home a pile of "homework" so he could catch up with all the missed work in school and he did it willingly in the new kitchen table. Today he has music class (an excellent music teacher volunteers every two weeks in the school, isn't that awesome?) and I think he's going to have a good day. Let's see what happens in the months to come. Some of the work he's doing right now is way too easy for him, so I guess the teacher will have to start giving him more challenging things soon. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Day of School Ever

(first edited a few times because of wrong date, and then to add a detail about his lunch)

Last Thursday -- a week ago -- was Kelvin's first day of school.
It was 6:45 am (1h trip from the old house) when they left and his eyes were still puffy from being woken up so early, but he was so excited that he was smiling the whole time -- so cute!

You may recall that I was planing to keep him at home and register him at a charter (publicly funded) cyber-school, but I finally realized that this was not really an option because I have a dissertation to finish. When we took this decision two (now almost three) weeks ago I felt bad to be so lousy at planning my son's schooling, BUT we also decided only after our offer on the new house was accepted because before then we didn't even know where we were going to live! Our lives are just so complicated right now I know you guys can hardly keep up with us :).

Our new house's school district is excellent and fairly small (the Elementary school has 450 students and I was told that this is good -- I have to confess I know very little about this country's school system), but I didn't want to send my son to public school -- he's definitely not prepared to face a big school. Our other option was a tiny private school at the back of a church five minutes from our house. I was skeptical about its small size, but when we visited it a week from the day he started, I just loved it (and Kelvin did too)! It's a two classroom (which are located in an annex at the back of the church), 10 student (11 now ;) K-8 school with two teachers. My son's class has 4 other boys (plus a 4 year old who comes two mornings a week for their experimental 'pre-school' program) up to 2nd grade -- 5 kids for one teacher, isn't that great? The classroom itself is roomy, brightly decorated, and with a nice kiddie bathroom at the back, some toys, and a reading corner with many books. It also doubles as the school office, with a computer, copier, telephone, etc. The other classroom has the upper level students and also contains several computers. The children eat their (brought from home) lunches in the church's fellowship hall, which is also their "playroom" at that time, they can heat their food in the microwave, and on Fridays the school orders pizza for whoever signs up for it.

I'd been just the tiniest bit apprehensive about how Kelvin would react to being away from home for so many hours, but he was totally ready to do it. In fact, he seemed positively happy to leave mommy and home to go. He started saying "Bye mama" even before he had eaten and was ready to go (too bad the goodbye photo on the right was fuzzy because of the low light). Talking about eating, I was inspired by the now classic lunches of Jennifer McCann's Vegan Lunch Box to prepare a kind of sushi (Shmoo's first lunch was sushi) -- not because I can prepare sushi, but because I bought a kit for this particular one at a Korean grocery store and it was very easy to make even while moving, I just cooked the rice, mixed it with the seasonings and filled the tofu shells:
Edited to add: I just found out that this sushi, which I over filled, as you can tell (I made more rice than would fit the little pouches), is called Inari sushi, and it was featured in the very first month of of the Vegan Lunch Box blog here. I guess I should get a Bento box and become the "Vegetarian Lunch Box" blog since Jennifer is no longer updating her blog and I'm sure I could add several Brazilian inspired dishes to her repertoire :)

I added some pieces of tofu seasoned with cumin, curry, salt and other spices. I put a piece of edamame in the center, but unfortunately Kelvin doesn't like it. Can you believe that he ate the whole thing? I guess he was quite hungry after his 6:30 am breakfast. And here's the rest of his lunch:Some grape tomatoes from the garden, super sweet honeydew melon -- which he didn't eat because it turned to mush in a plastic bag :( -- and dessert chocolate cookies (Newman's Own Alphabet Cookies) spelling his name, plus some Trader Joe's cat chocolate cookies:
I'm proud to say that even through our move he's eaten home cooked lunches everyday except for the pizza day (Fridays). Of course on Monday I brought our lunch (Brazilians eat a dinner-like lunch) from Sunday that I helped my sister-in-law cook so we could have enough left over for Kelvin, daddy, and for their family. Good thing we have a kitchen in our hotel room too.

I'll post photos of his lunches once in a while if you'd like to see them, OK? Let me know :).

So here are some other photos that daddy took in his first day of school:
It wasn't actually the first day of school -- Kelvin was almost two weeks late because of our move, but what could we have done?
He's very happy, but a bit shy. The teacher was stuck in traffic and a bit late, and he was shy and reserved until she arrived and then he felt at ease. I guess he loves his teacher already. I'm including this photo, but I may delete it later since I don't feel comfortable posting her photo without her permission, what do you think? Is this a big deal? She's expecting a baby for January and she will be away for only 6 weeks and I'm already sad for the non-existence of maternity leave in this country (in Brazil it's 4 months of PAID leave) and worried about her and the baby (I want to help her find a way to pump her milk during the day -- something which will be really hard in such a tiny school with only two teachers. I'm already thinking of volunteering to be there at lunch time so she can pump... I'm just that committed to breastfeeding -- I guess I'm definitely a lactivist :).

Anyway, I have other school-related stories and comments, but I'll have to post them later because I now have to go to the new house -- the moving boxes will be delivered today!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Night Before -- Dealing with the Butterflies in My Stomach

(written last night, but only posted today since I wasn't able to get back online)

So the "wedding" is tomorrow [today], at 3 p.m.. This is it, we have chosen "the one" and there's no turning back -- no wonder we're a bit nervous :)

Not too much, of course, but there are a few things I haven't thought much about since I have been hesitant to claim this house as ours before it's a done deal. In the few conversations about the house K and I have been able to have in the past weeks (any meaningful conversations are hard to come by lately, as you can imagine), K said, using my metaphor, that one can only see and think of the bad things in one's "intended" partner before being married to him/her because after the marriage one should stop concentrating on the bad things and focus on the good ones. So now is the time to highlight these issues:

- the house doesn't have central air conditioning

- the heating is baseboard and oil

[these two things were the very ones that my husband didn't want in a house AT ALL!]

- the water is from a private well (it's been tested and it's fine, but K doesn't like that too much -- I don't mind)

- we have to replace the damaged stucco siding right away:
- the roof will need to be replaced soon

- there are many, extensive (expensive too) renovations to be done, like removing the hideous carpet, wall paper, borders, wood paneling, and... what do you think about that lamp on the left in the wood paneled family room? (not to mention the light fixtures in the dining room and kitchen) (click to enlarge):

- repainting everything, like the pink master bedroom with dark pink ceiling (yuck!) and replacing the brown doors:
- redoing the whole kitchen: - and redoing all three bathrooms, downstairs (L), master bathroom (R):

Tracy, doesn't the hall bathroom tie with your formerly ugly bathroom as "the ugliest bathroom in history?" Just look at that sink cabinet!

To add insult to injury, the baseboard heater in this bathroom is also hideously rusty and the tub looks yucky:

(deep sigh -- where to we even begin? -- did you notice that these upstairs bathrooms are carpeted? and underneath there is the yuckiest, stickiest vinyl imaginable)

In sum, this house is definitely a "fixer upper," a nice one, that's for sure, but this is a bit scary!

Besides, K has been telling everyone he talks about the house with that we're buying this house because I liked it... and well, I don't like to bear the full responsibility of this choice, you know? ;)

Well, from now on I want to focus on the positive things as well as enjoy and share with you the transformations the will slowly ensue. Wish us luck in all these endeavors! I'll keep you posted.

P.S.1 Sandra, thanks for your lovely comment, but I think my extensive blogging about the move has more to do with addiction to blogging than "true dedication";) BTW, I should be better about initiating conversations in the comment section, responding to your comments there, but I often forget, so I do usually it inside the subsequent posts.

P.S. 2 I'm waiting to get the photos from the memory stick in my camcorder so I can do the photo blog of the move, OK? So I've offered you photos of the house instead :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Between-ess and Notes from the Chaotic Last 24 Hours of the First Part of the Move

I've been working on a post about Kelvin, but won't be able to finish and post it today (meaning Monday, since it's not long after midnight)...

Meanwhile, a (hopefully) quick update on our in-betweeness, or our current homeless state. (Sorry, it ended up a really long post, I guess that living these things was quite painful, so I feel the urge to share them with you).

Friday was beyond crazy and tiring. On Thursday evening a friend arrived with two other people to clean the house for us. It was already 9 p.m. and the boys were supposed to be in bed, but in the chaos of me trying to clean our kitchen as much as I could while they cleaned upstairs and K dismantling the desktop computer, they just started playing like two little manics around the house. Their room was cleaned first so we could put them to bed, so in the meantime they used the one crib mattress that was still out to make a "slide" in our closet. When I came up to help get our bedroom ready for cleaning I found out they had nearly emptied one full box of tissues, first bringing each one into the closet as they did a circuit around the room, then bringing it back to our "bed" (two mattress pads on the floor). I scolded them and had them pick them all up and put them in the trash... Then they went downstairs and got into a box full of packing styrofoam "peanuts." They ended up turning it upside down and spilling this huge amount of peanuts on the floor of the already messy living room. Tons of fun for them and lots of stress for the frazzled parents!

K simply passed out when he put the boys to bed and was unable to get up when I called him, so I continued cleaning for quite a while after our friend left, taking our cat with her, nearly midnight. It was in this quiet period that I thought out and subsequently wrote the previous post. I removed our thermometer (wired to the outside through a window), pulled out nails, switched the cars in the driveway so my husband didn't need to do it the next morning, and tried to organize some more. It was then that K finally got up, and went to carry upstairs all the stuff that was still there in the basement. I went to bed before he did, but I'm glad he helped me a bit, because the worse was yet to come....

On Friday morning he left at 6:45 with Kelvin. I tried to sleep until 7-8 because I knew I had a lot to do. Well... I actually had an impossible (to my personality type) task ahead of me: emptying the house until noon that was the time the closing was scheduled for. The buyers had already done their walk through on Wednesday (thankfully -- that's how we got the fridge, see previous post) so I didn't have to worry about them. Oh, I forget to say that in the middle of the previous night K had been absolutely stressed out about all the stuff that had remained (he hadn't thought that it would have been much better to have ordered another storage box to be delivered since it was already included in the price anyway! -- that would have made things so much easier!). I wanted to simply ask our kind neighbor to store it temporarily in her basement, but he didn't want to bother her. Thankfully I remembered our Brazilian friend who lives nearby and since I had helped her many times before we knew that she would definitely help us. K finally breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Back to Friday morning (and this is probably going to be the most boring post ever in this blog -- sorry about that!)... I called my parents to tell them about the night before and the tasks at hand (the phone was soon to be disconnected) and our friend who said it was OK to leave our stuff at her house. Before starting to load the car to take our things to our friend's house (I calculated it would take 3-4 trips with the minivan), I removed one of the two second row seats
and took some remaining things to donate to Go0dwill as well as lots of cardboard boxes to recycle (I was already feeling terribly guilty for having put our old computer desk [the same you have Tracy] in the trash after we failed to find someone to take it -- it was too big to transport to donate too). Then I started loading the car.

Now... you must understand how difficult it is to do this type of task for me. I like to organize (more like categorize) stuff and to clean, but I'm almost incapable of de-cluttering, tidying up anything (e.g. washing the dishes and then leaving the counters all nice and clean), so it was almost physically painful and thoroughly draining to empty that house. The hardest part was figuring out exactly what to do with the stuff piled up into two small fridges (one loaned by the next door neighbor) and one big cooler. I had to toss out some stuff, but decided to save most of it into two coolers. Then I had to load my potted plants, many buckets and pails (including the kids' beach ones), cat paraphernalia, two huge boxes of kitchen pots, food, utensils, etc. which hadn't fit in the last storage box, the food that I was going to bring to the hotel, the vacuum cleaners, brooms, mops, etc... etc... I did two trips -- one with plants and some lighter stuff, and another with the car packed to the roof and when I came back I realized that there was stuff for two or three more trips!! It was already past noon by now and I began to despair. I called my lovely neighbor to ask her if I could put my stuff into her SUV so we could do one trip to my friend's house. I had just called her when the new owner arrived!!! He was very nice and patient and told me to take my time, but it was quite stressful to have to finish emptying the house with him there, especially because he started asking some questions about the house and doing small talk while you're trying to figure out what to carry next to the car is pretty tough. In about 20-30 minutes I was done -- it was almost 1:30 p.m. by then -- exactly the time I was supposed to be 40 minutes north of there to pick up my son! The worse part is that I was only able to reach K on the phone around 1:10 and he was able to go get Kelvin (who remained with him at his work for the rest of the afternoon). All this while Linton was a trooper -- out of my way playing in the car or in and out of the house. He's priceless this little boy, he totally is.

My neighbor urged me to eat at her house (delicious Bangladeshi food cooked by her mother-in-law) and then took me and my stuff to my friend's house. I was completely wiped out... but I needed now to fit all of our stuff in her already crammed basement. Oh how I wished we had ordered an extra box by then!!!! Good thing K and Kelvin got back only at 5 pm and by then I had already put away everything, making sure to leave the things we'd need this week closer to the door to be picked up on Sunday night. We had dinner with our friends (she has twin children the same age as Kelvin, a boy and a girl), parked one of the cars and left for Maryland.


It was with great effort that we drove the 2 1/2 hours to my brother-in-law's house since both of us were dog-tired and sleepy to the extreme. K drove for most of the time, but I had to drive for a short while because he was almost falling asleep at the wheel. And then, after we had to stop at the shoulder for a sleeping Linton to pee (poor thing, he was awakened by his urge and was crying, trying to hold it in -- potty training does have a few minor disadvantages, doesn't it?), K resumed driving. To make matters worse, we ran into a traffic jam at the Beltway -- at 9:30 pm at night on a Friday they closed two lanes for some unfathomable reason since there was no roadwork being done!

The boys and I hadn't seen our relatives in two months so it was great for the cousins to play together and for me to catch up with my brother- and sister-in-law. We also took turns sleeping in (I did it on Saturday and K on Sunday) and tried to relax after what will probably remain as the most stressful and tiring week of our lives to date for a while! On Sunday evening we came back, stopping at our friend's house to get the other car, to unload a few useless items and grab some other ones.

In Limbo
Well, when we arrived at the hotel last night around 9 p.m. my husband was glad he had booked this one (a suite type place) even though we wouldn't have needed it for the whole week since the closing might happen on Wednesday and not on Friday. K bought the hotel at Price!line before our broker gave us these news and he was stressing about the "wasted money," but now we're happy that we'll have a couple of days to clean the house and get it ready for us to move in.

The boys just ADORE the hotel. Kelvin's main reason is that we have to use a card as a key and he's absolutely fascinated by that. Linton is calling it home already and both boys woke up (both were sleeping when we arrived) asking tons of questions about the room and everything. Kelvin's first question was: "Are we in an upper floor?" (they love elevators). Linton's were quite funny: "Why is there a kitchen in the room?" "What's that light?" [the microwave] and so on...

OK, gotta go to bed now, but hopefully I'll find some more time to blog tomorrow.

I still can't get over the fact that we did the whole moving out of the other house process with the two boys in tow. That made it harder because nights were the best time to work -- like now is the best time to blog -- since they were sleeping like two little angels ;)

P.S. Still to come: "Photo blogging the move." Stay tuned.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Last Moments

The very last moments are the hardest. The echoing bare walls and floors... their cleanliness only reminding me that things looks nice because of their emptiness. Suddenly I feel like crying, knowing that this is it, it's the end, our time in this house is done. It almost feels strange because I was never attached to it. I've learned not to be, something particularly important in the life of an expatriate with an uncertain future. I also feel dizzy, almost nauseated by the simple motion of getting close to the walls, looking up and stretching my arm to remove the nails that were there. The nails that held pictures, photos, little things that make a home. Maybe I'm dizzy because of sheer exhaustion -- going to bed at 4 a.m. one day and then at 5 a.m. the next day, only sleeping a couple of hours each night -- that is enough to make one feel sick (that reminds me that I should be sleeping and not blogging).

I can't remember when was the last time I slept in an empty house, though. We usually never do, moving in and out of houses in the same day. That's how it is meant to be when one is moving to a place nearby. So it's all the mortgage company's fault!! I was so glad that my husband hadn't shared this with me earlier, only last night as we were struggling to continue packing, "drunk" and numb from our sleeplessness -- he would have hired movers if we had been able to close on both houses on the same day. Isn't that infuriating? I never gave a second thought to the fact that we were "doing-it-ourselves" since I've been conditioned from a young age to always do the cheapest thing, but K explained to me that he decided to go with the storage boxes because our stuff would have to be stored for nearly a week and that it would be very costly to have movers and storage somewhere before reaching the final destination. Our belongings would have had to be loaded to a truck, unloaded at a storage facility and the same steps again to unload at the new house. I didn't really know that K was seriously considering movers since, after all, he received [will receive in 3 months] a bonus so we could afford the relocation. Isn't it infuriating to think that we're going through this because of somebody else's fault?

Why does an empty house elicit such different feelings depending on the circumstance? Why wouldn't I even consider the idea of taking photos of this house now, but I was very enthusiastic taking photos of the new house when it was empty during last week's inspection? In that case, the emptiness is hopeful, it holds promises of things to come when we make that house ours; in our case right now the emptiness is merely melancholic, almost depressing. I don't like the feeling of having to inhabit a half-empty and then an empty house for several days. It feels very unsettling, temporary, insecure.

~~~~ ~~~~

Some scattered reflections and updates about the move and the sale of this house:

This afternoon as I was stuffing the very last things in some of the storage boxes when the truck came to take them away and all of our possessions were removed from here.* Well, except for several other things that either didn't fit or needed to be on our possession during the time in-between houses. And now we don't know what to do with all this stuff! We're probably going to leave some of it at our neighbor's house and pick it up later... it would have been better to have asked for another box (already included in the price), but that would involve more hassle.

Important consideration about self-moving: as I packed our stuff I thought that for people who are organized and neat and who unclutter their homes regularly it's probably not that hard to move. That's not the case with us, though, quite the contrary. Besides, in our last move we had a newborn and a two year old plus a dissertating husband, so my parents did almost all the packing and we weren't able to discard many items.

For 12 and a half years now I have been saving the boxes of nearly all items we buy or get as presents (e.g. most of appliances, including TV, microwave and computer) because I knew we were going to move again soon. After we got married we saved the boxes of the countless presents we received because we knew that we were going to live abroad, then we continued doing the same, all with the return to Brazil in sight -- a big move in which we were going to take a large container (by ship) full of stuff. And now, when we're finally settling down I want to discard those boxes. I feel self-congratulatory about having saved them -- at least it's environmentally sound since we don't have to get other boxes for lots of the stuff -- it may compensate just a tiny bit in face of the tons of polluting items we're putting in the trash (again today).

Happiest news about the sale of the house
Yesterday I was caught by surprise by the arrival of the buyers and their realtor. They were coming for the final "walk through" and hadn't told us in advance about it. I'm so thankful for that!! They were measuring the walls so they could plan their move and they were just about ready to leave when they remembered to check if their fridge would fit. "Fridge? I asked. Are you bringing your fridge?" When they said they were I immediately explained that we were concerned that we were going to have to buy a new one for the other house and I wondered if they'd let us take it (even thought it was not "excluded," like the washer and drier were, in the listing of the house and the disclosure) -- and they said it was OK!!! So all of a sudden we had to another item to load in one of the boxes and it took me quite a while to get it cleaned and ready. Good thing our neighbor was able to help carry it too. And to compensate a bit for the extra and unexpected object in the box (it did make a big difference in the end -- almost everything would have fit if we weren't taking the fridge) I filled the fridge with most of my linen closet! :)

~~~ ~~~
OK, I'm totally exhausted and I can hardly write anymore, let alone end this post in the poetic note it started. I actually needed to write another very special post about Kelvin, but I guess that one will have to wait until tomorrow or later.

I just want to say that I wish I could be more excited about the move, but the prospect of having to wait several more days in homelessness before we can get in the new house is very off-putting (um balde de água fria - a cold water bucket, as we'd say in Portuguese).

It looks like tomorrow is going to be a very, long day. I hope to post again from my BIL's house, but let's see how things go.

*I took pictures, but with the video camera, so I won't be able to download them right away since I don't know where the cable is.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Nitty-Gritty of Do-It-Yourself Moving, or Why I Hope We Never Have to Do This Again...

I'm writing on only about four hours of sleep, with an endless to-do list, and with two boys around me, so I probably won't sound very coherent :) , but I wanted to write about moving while I'm still in the thick of it. (oh, and I started this at a short break I took at 12:48 am)

First, The Numbers:

- 12.5 years of marriage

- 8 moves:
  • 1) 1994: into our first apartment after the honeymoon;
  • 2) 1996: packing away, moving, and storing all our belongings in my mom's house and traveling to the U.S. with 7 pieces of luggage;
  • 3) 1996: into our tiny first apartment here in the U.S.;
  • 4) 1997: into a nice apt. near university town for graduate school;
  • 5) 2000: into a larger apt. in university town;
  • 6) 2001: into our first home (a townhouse);
  • 7) 2004: into our current house (a twin);
  • 8) 2007: out of our current house and hopefully into the new one (a! single! house!) within 8-9 days.

Modes of Transportation:

1) We hand carried most items, maybe including the [foam] full mattress;
2) We used part of a small truck [which was already transporting something else] to move our belongings to my parents' house one hour away since we sold most of our furniture. Obviously we dragged the suitcases in airport carts or by hand;
3) We squeezed all of our paltry belongings into our "new"10 year old Honda Prelude;
4) We rented the smallest UHaul moving van since we had hardly any furniture;
5) and 6) We rented the medium sized UHaul and then Ryder trucks (by now we had nice sofas, a computer table, etc.);
7) We rented the biggest Budget truck available -- I'm sure glad I didn't have to drive or ride on that thing!! And I can't believe they allow people with regular driver's licenses in this country to drive such big trucks! My poor husband did a great job, though, even though I think he was quite scared.
8) We are filling five boxes of this "pods"-like company. They were delivered last Friday and we started filling them over the weekend. We're still not done. [I'll post some photos when I unload them to the computer].

Anyway, on Sunday we started clearing the huge piles of boxes in our living room and basement by almost filling the first box, then on Monday we had the assistance of four guys from church who helped us load the big pieces of furniture (including the washer and drier) and many cardboard boxes into the big wooden boxes -- what a "fun" Labor day we had! :( Yesterday I went to Center City to say goodbye to my LLL group and took the boys to the Please Touch Museum since I just renewed our membership and I don't know when we're going there again (tomorrow is a big day for our family, but I want to write a separate post about it). Then, we stayed up most of the night and now most of the remaining kitchen and basement stuff is packed.

So today we put a humongous amount of stuff out for the trash collectors, including old carpeting and padding, and other junk that my dad had picked up from the trash (wooden planks, some metal pieces) when we were building the shed in the backyard. I felt just SOOOO guilty for polluting this already dirty planet with more trash! It didn't help that upon seeing our big pile of stuff one of the collectors screamed from the top of his lungs: "What is that? What? Hello?" and I felt very small and guilty inside as I laid in bed trying to relax and not succeeding and hearing the grinding noises of things breaking inside the compactor in the belly of the truck. Old pieces of wood and metal, glass jars filled with spoiled food that I unearthed from inside the fridge in the wee hours of the morning and didn't have the energy to wash and then take to be recycled. This town here, BTW, only picks up paper, so I didn't recycle for 3 years because I didn't know where to go to dispose of my plastic and tin cans. The town only had a recycling station for glass and even that one I didn't use :( ...


We did quite a bit last night and I think my husband didn't even sleep, BUT... we still need to pack all our clothes and linen, selecting clothes for the next 9 days to pack in suitcases. Sigh... We've been sleeping on the floor since Monday, the boys on their own crib mattresses and us on two foam mattress pads. I'm exhausted and yesterday while I worked I wrote this post many times in my mind, but now the words have just vanished. I'll try to recapture some of my scattered thoughts now...

I wanted to say so many things about moving! Let's see... I planned to write that I wished that the eve of our move could be like my friend Anjali's. On this post she describes how she cried while washing the dishes on the night before the move and how she dried them and put them away since the movers were coming the next morning (I was very struck by these simple tasks since I am yet to move like that, with the house intact and only our bags packed -- I'm not saying it was simple, Anjali, I know you had 3 moves and I didn't even have to organize our home for the showings, my husband did -- lucky me!). I won't have any dishes to wash tomorrow night, though, since we're using paper plates and cups from now on... but at least I hope the house will be empty and clean and I'll have a sense of accomplishment that we did it!! The two of us!! With two little boys in tow at all times!! (I tried to have a friend come over the weekend to play with the boys, but had no success. We could have taken them to stay with at my brother-in-law's house, but Kelvin said he wouldn't go and we were to tired and didn't have time to drive there anyway...). Oh, and I also have Sandra and her recent move in Korea to envy (even though her movers' unpacking-and-putting-away policy would also annoy me to no end!!).

All in all, I hope with all my heart that next time we move we can hire a moving company and only have to pack our clothes and other personal items!! My mother-in-law just moved from one apartment to another in Massachusetts and she was complaining about the "do-it-yourself" approach to moving that many people use in this country. Believe me, you probably don't know a family who has moved more times than my parents-in-law, not only through ten cities all over Brazil in the past 37 years (the time they've been married), but going through an average of two different houses or apartments in every city. I think she must have moved no less than 20-25 times, many of those with 4 boys in tow. But there were movers doing the bulk of the job every time, so no wonder she's complaining about her "do-it-yourself" move from a 2 bedroom apartment to another. I think she knows what she's talking about and I trust her on this.

I don't want to do this again. Ever. Period.

P.S. So many things to do and here I am blogging. The second post today (the first one also started last night), no less...

Guilt. Again. I'm so tired, though, that I need some "cheap therapy" so I can keep going.

P.P.S. Happy Birthday to my dear friend Marco in Brazil!

Little Things that Make a House a Home

(Edited to add typo of French city name and add photo)

As our home slowly disintegrates into chaos and emptiness and is disembodied among countless boxes and suddenly echoing rooms, I want to take a few minutes to think of some small objects that represent the feeling of home a little bit.

First, their story. Back in July-August 1999 I spent a month and a half in France by myself studying French. No... I was not in Paris, but at a small school in the province of Haute Savoie, right at the border with Switzerland. I was taking a summer language program in the very place my parents went to school and lived when I was born (see items 1-14 here for more info). One of our short trips that summer took us to one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to -- Chamonix and the Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps (although I wouldn't really see the Mont Blanc well until a year later when I went up the Aiguille du Midi [Mid-day Needle] with my husband, but that's another story). After the school group returned from visiting the Mer de Glace [sea of ice - a glacier, some summer photos], we had some time left to explore the town a bit and I found this fascinating store in a corner. It mostly sold decorative items for the house and I thought these two "door plates" (what should I call them) were lovely, so I bought them:
This one for our bedroom door

And this one for the bathroom door
(I already had the one you see pictured in this post, but I reasoned that someday we'd have more than one bathroom ;)

Well, fast forward to January 2006 during my husband's now infamous two week trip to France in which he broke left his arm/wrist by slipping on the ice on the second day he was there -- on his way to the ski station no less. He was going there with two of his colleagues to inquire after the prices for skiing, but unfortunately skiing on the Alps never materialized for him since his two new acquaintances (two women, BTW) suggested that they not walk on the road, but take a shortcut through the snow/ice -- I kind of blame them in my mind to this day ;) -- and he slipped and fell on his hand while descending a few steps. All this his endless embarrassment later since when he came back had to explain to everyone that his fractured arm was not from skiing in the Alps, but from foolishly falling on the way to the ski station :(.

So, on that trip, my husband got a chance to return to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, this time in the winter! After they came down from the Aiguille du Midi and had a hot chocolate they walked around the town a bit and look what K bought for the boys:He had gone to that same store and he really didn't know that it was the place where I had bought those first two. When I saw it I was was absolutely thrilled! Not only because the boys love trains and he had found the perfect door plate for their bedroom, but also because now we had three cute matching plates!

I can't wait to stick them to the doors of the new house even though I know that this may take sometime since we're planning to either paint of replace them... On the day I can see them there, though, I'll know that I'm home.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I've Been a Bad Bad Blogger

Motivated by this post in my friend Aliki's blog, I decided to come out and reveal some "blogging shortcomings" that probably would be denounced right away by Liam's "Department of Appropriate Behavior" (click on Aliki's post if you want to know what I'm talking about) if this department investigated proper blogging behavior :) ...


First, I haven't updated my blogroll in ages. My friend Zee, for example, who is also Brazilian and whose sons are exactly the same age as mine, has a wonderful blog called Pixie Blossoms Journal and I haven't linked to her yet (my fault because at first she wanted to be unlisted, but then gave me permission, but I didn't see it until months later). Zee also has an Etsy Shop where she sells wonderful handmade crafts. And there are several other blogs that need to be added as well as others whose URLs need to be updated, etc. There are also some people who have my blog on their blogrolls and whose blogs haven't been added to mine yet (I know that in some cases I may not even be aware of their link to me -- please let me know if this is the case with your blog). This fault of mine is made worse because since I still stubbornly refuse to use feed readers, I depend fully on my blogroll to read other people's blogs and sometimes I forget to check the blogs that are not listed in my sidebar. :(.

I've been given several awards in the past 4 months and never responded to several of them or and tagged other people. I'll try to respond as soon as I can since I feel so ashamed for having been honored with them in the first place and not even acknowledged the receipt here.

I was also tagged with several memes in the past and not played along and I feel very bad about this. I did do a few, but not all of them, and that's not any fun, particularly for those who tagged me and wanted to see me "play."

So, now that I got these confessions out of the way I hope to mend my ways and follow this one with a few posts in which I try to catch up with my awards and memes and share the fun a bit (of course interspersed with "regular" posts). And I hope to update the blogroll (and the blog's looks) soon.

P.S. And still in the guilt-ridden mode, I want to one more time wish a Happy Birthday to my brother-in-law K3 (hubby is K #1 and from now on I'll call my brothers-in-law "K2, K3, and K4" since all their names begin with a K) because today is his birthday. We did talk to him (who just moved to Turkey two weeks ago -- if you're curious about that you can check his wife's blog here) on Skype today, but we completely forgot it was his b-day and didn't congratulate him -- what a shame!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY K3!!