Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cranberry Drink - Yummm (Blog Tour/ Review)

I looove cranberries (and if you haven't yet seen my cranberry bog photos, I recommend that you check them out! :-)

Anyway, Mom Central frequently offers fun review review opportunities and I generally pass up those that have to do with foods because we try to avoid processed foods in our household. This one seemed irresistible, though! Trying out two new cranberry energy drinks and also getting "book money" (Amazon gift cert.) in the bargain? Oh yes, I'm in!
Well, it turns out that this review/blog tour couldn't have come at a better moment! The box with the two small bottles, one of " cranberry lift (the pink on in the photo) and the other of raspberry cranberry lift (green) arrived yesterday around noon and I saved them for later (the boys were curious about them, but because of the green tea extract, I told them it wasn't a drink for kids) since I intended to check out their purported energy boosting qualities. I began drinking them in the evening and still had some leftover for today.

I opened both, trying to figure out which was the best tasting one, but both won. They are not too sweet (Splenda is used as a sweetener to cut the calories and it's only 23% juice), and perfectly tangy, with a herbal touch of green tea in the "background." (I had fun last night imagining a comparison between my careful sampling of the drinks and people on winery tours -- of course I know nothing of the latter, so it was a funny comparison).

Anyway, I don't know if it was merely coincidence or mostly the adrenaline, but the truth is that I didn't have any difficulty to stay up all night and I haven't felt sleepy all day (that I can certainly credit to the adrenaline, but I was pretty calm last night), so I guess it really works to bring some extra energy. At least it does for someone who doesn't consume caffeinated drinks like me.

Coincidence or not, all I can say about the delivery of these drinks and the blog tour is:
Great Timing !!

Live Blogging Dissertation Upload

I still don't know if it's in or not...
It's uploading, but there are only 7 more minutes.

It could still not happen. I don't know. I'm just praying. I cannot look at the other computer's screen.

What a nightmare! I thought it would be bad, but I never imagine it would be THIS bad.

OK, it's in. It was uploaded, at around 4:56.

Wow, I can't believe it worked out in the end.

Details later (I have a blog tour thing to do today -- it's actually very fitting to what's going on, I think you'll laugh!).

So, the suspense is almost over. I'm on the phone with the graduate school just to make sure that EVERYTHING is fine.

It is. If I drank I'd pop open the champagne that my advisor gave me at the defense. It's sitting on the bigger desk, right in front of the laptop I used to submit the dissertation. ;-)

PHEW!! Spoke too soon....

The grad school accepts files with errors

All I need is to have SOMETHING, and I do have everything but the table of contents and list of figures.

I'm fine. It's fine. Sorry, but I was so upset!

Thanks Dawn.

Not Gonna Happen

I won't graduate because we won't be able to generate a PDF document in time for the 5 pm deadline.

long story

mostly, that K tried to do it in MS word, and it didn't work

all in vain
disappointment, almost desperation.

1h and 40 minutes.

It's not gonna happen... :-( I'll come back later. but I don't have much hope.

Almost 24 Hours, Almost There

We've been awake for almost 24 hours, K and I, and the dissertation is almost fully assembled.

383 pages, without appendices and bibliography.

That I am really tired is an understatement. Yesterday was a hard day, lots of wasted hours, trying to add a section that ended up being cut.

IBS in full swing. I may sleep for an hour or so, but I want to call the graduate school to pay the fees by credit card.

I'll be done soon. I can't wait.

Monday, April 28, 2008

NOT Wonderful

In contrast to that post.

Revising the dissertation under the immense pressure of an upcoming deadline. Not wonderful.

It's all I'm going to say about that for now.

And apologies for bumping those flowers from the top. Hopefully I can add more soon.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Flowers for You

Dedicated to my friend Professing Mama, who just had "Chico," her beautiful baby boy!

It's been so long since I've posted photos of pretty flowers in this blog, so, here you go.
And these "babies"? These gorgeous things? They are mine. I planted each with my own hands. That -- is priceless.

I hope you have a great weekend. I'm totally overwhelmed by dissertation revisions, but it'll be over soon. Keep me in your thoughts & prayers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Our first BIG outside-contractors home improvement project has begun this morning.

This stucco wall:
With this problematic buckling (there was even a wasps' nest in there last year) and more:
Has already been removed, as will happen to all the stucco around the house:
8:27 a.m.:
9:18 a.m.:
9:53 a.m.:
New plywood will be put in place and brand-new stucco all around. We'll have a "new garage" in the process, almost, since it's not a finished space (I just don't know if we can afford a new back door and a new window to the garage -- those need to be replaced too).

I'll try to keep you posted on the progress of this big project, although I need to concentrate in finalizing the dissertation.

P.S. We figured out a way to get the camera to charge again. (YAY! I'm so happy! I can take pictures again!) BUT this was after Kelvin's birthday and most of the photos from that even were taken in my brother in law's great new camera (a Canon Rebel) and we didn't get to download them to our computer :-(.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Most Radical (for me) Work Avoidance Tactic

You already know I have work to do. With a deadline looming in the horizon...

But I think I'm going to bed early tonight (if you knew me well you'd be asking at this point -- "WHAT? Did you just say that? You must be kidding me!"). I must be out of my mind, though, because staying up late is just what I do. Always. Sleeping in is my goal in life :-) . But it's not just work avoidance, believe me. I'm just so sleepy today, though... it's almost scary! And last night I did go to bed comparatively early, before midnight (which is very early for me) and slept until 8.

I guess I've just had enough and my body is tired. I may not have recovered yet from staying up most of the night from last Wednesday to Thursday.

Well, wish me luck in writing the conclusion and revising the dissertation tomorrow and the next few days. I keep telling myself over and over "this is the final push, just do it, it'll be over soon," but I still get tired and unmotivated. Blah.

Back to Work

First, a few announcements:

(1) Thanks for reminding me about changing the "about me" and the blog header descriptions. I have edited them, but I'm sure they could be improved upon, particularly the header.

(2) I have yet to update my 365+1 project blog. I don't have time to do it because I have yet to submit my dissertation. In addition, my camera has temporarily "died" because the charging cable is broken so I can only take pictures with my mom's camera.

(3) I haven't published the "special post" I meant to post on the day of the defense because I have to figure out how to do a "cut" ("click here to read the rest"). I have found the instructions at Blogger University (a great site BTW, do check it out), but have yet to implement them. Oh, yeah, and I also want to do a defense photo edition post, that will be lots of fun! :-)

That said, after a busy and festive weekend, I am back to work now and I have to finish this dissertation ASAP because the deadline to submit it to the graduate school is April 30, but I want to do it earlier. I want to feel the taste of freedom and full accomplishment in my life! :-)

I do feel very happy that my son's party was done (I'll post about it when I get to take a break from work) and that we got to visit Longwood Gardens with my brother-in-law and his family yesterday (their first time there in the 3+ years we have been garden pass holders).

Now, however, I have to really work hard. My advisor wants me to write a longer dissertation conclusion and I need to implement ALL the corrections made by him and two other readers. I hope I can do that fairly quickly. And then I have to finish assembling the bibliography and make sure that the formatting is fully correct.

OK, so I gotta go now. Hopefully I'll have time to blog again soon.

Five Hundred and Eight Years Ago

Today, back in 1500, the Portuguese sailor Pedro Álvares Cabral landed in Brazil with the group of thirteen tall Portuguese ships [caravelas] and their crews that he led. They first thought that it was a mountain and named it "Easter Mount" (Monte Pascoal) because it was close to Easter. A few days later when they left this new place, thinking it might be an island or big piece of land, they named it "Vera Cruz [True Cross]" Island. When other explorerers came and realized that it was actually a continent, they named it "Terra de Santa Cruz" [Holy Cross Land]. It was not until 1511 when brazilwood was discovered, that the place was named Brazil (Brasil). Brazil wood has that name because it was a bright red color and it was taken to Europe to make a red die, the word "Brasil" comes from the word "brasa" -- red, bright fire embers or burning wood.

Well, I bet you didn't know that, so now you do. Every April 22 I think of that day long ago which marked the beginning of the European settlement of my country. I feel sad for the natives who were driven out of their land and many killed, and for the nature that was destroyed, but unfortunately that's what "civilization" means. And in spite of all that post-colonial theory represents, I'm glad that Brasil became the country it is now and that it is the place where I belong in this planet, even though I don't live there anymore.

I couldn't find any good links where you can read more about this subject in English! :-(

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blogger Isn't Letting Me Post Video

Good morning everyone,

I stayed up late last night trying to get my post (with a short video) published, but I guess I'll have to use an outside service such as YöuTube or Vimeo, because Blogger's video embedding tool is just not working.

So, Check out my "previous" post, OK?

Friday, April 18, 2008


(ETA links) Phew! I finally figured out how to make the video public on Vimeo. Enjoy. You can hear my hoarse voice a bit, that's how it was during the defense.

In spite of the fact that this week brought an important milestone to my life (and I still owe you the "special post" that I saved for this occasion -- this is not it), I kept thinking that finally getting the Ph.D. wasn't really such a significant event in my life like, say, that of the birth of each of my sons. Those were the defining moments of my existence and I'm pretty sure that (at least for me) nothing will surpass the moments I brought two new human beings into this earth. I know that the birth of new human beings happens thousands of times every day, every hour even, and that maybe only a handful of Ph.D.s are granted each day, but still, what does a Ph.D. really mean when compared with a person?

OK, before I get too philosophical, which really is not my style at all, let me tell you what happened yesterday afternoon and tonight.

I was here at the computer yesterday when my six year old son arrived excited in the room and told me very seriously that I could not imagine what he had just accomplished. So I followed him outside and grabbed the camera, and this is what I saw:

Untitled from Lilian Mama(e) in Translation on Vimeo.

Kelvin had just been able to ride his* bike without the training wheels and I was thrilled for him as were K and my parents. "What a milestone!" I thought as I filmed him, "and only a parent would think that this was important at all," and I planned this post in my mind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tonight I went to lay down with him for a bit before he went to sleep. I simply cannot put the boys to bed, however because I just enjoy talking and talking to them so much that they don't go to sleep at all. I'll never forget one night when Kelvin was almost three and Linton only eight months old. We were in Brazil and I was visiting my in-laws with the boys (and without K -- I went to Brazil for almost two months with the boys back in 2005) and one night Kelvin just kept asking question after question about Bible stories and complex concepts like how evil came into this world (you may remember how serious he was about death only a couple of months later) and I felt so touched by these conversations.

Anyway, tonight there was another milestones of sorts. Kelvin told me that he had had a special dream last night, but that he wouldn't tell me about it because it was a secret. His first secret from me. I guess he's growing up faster than I realized and beginning to create his own space, his own life, and I find that fascinating. I have given life to a unique person, and that's what matters most.

* Actually it was his former 12" bike which has been his brother's since we bought him a bigger bike last year. He had to use it for riding without the training wheels, though, because he's still quite short and cannot step on the ground while seated on his 18" bike -- I wanted to have bought him a 14" or 16" one, but couldn't find one that had "brakes on the handlebar" not just on the pedals like he wanted.

P.S. I guess I have finally realized why I want another baby and have been so envious of my blogging friends Articulate Dad and Rocket Mom, Kate (Expat Mama), and Anjali all of whom had their third baby this year. I have already discussed the pros and cons here, though, so I think it's not going to happen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

PSA: Mamma Mia! Contest

Any AB*BA fans out there? (BTW, do you know there's a brand new museum [loud website] opening next year?)

After the success of Mamma Mia!, the musical based on their music, this summer a movie based on the musical and starring Meryl Streep (one of my favorite actresses, BTW) will be released. This brand of skincare products has partnered with the makers of the movie to launch a fun contest for women 40 and older, who are invited to form a trio, perform their own take on the classics "Mamma Mia" or "Dancing Queen" and submit videos of those performances. The winners of this contest will get to go on a a lavish trip to London to live the life of three Dynamos at the world premiere of Mamma Mia! So, if you want to know more details, click here.

If this took place 3 years and 3 months from now I would most certainly participate because it sounds like LOTS of fun! (Come on, Jo(e) you know you want to do this ;-)

This post comes to you sponsored by Mom Central (and it's worth an Amazon book certificate -- something I really want/need right now since I spent all three of my last ones to buy one academic book for my dissertation while many other books remained in my wish list).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Apologies for the suspense.

Everything went wonderfully well as I already knew it would be. I almost blogged right there in the room, and my friend Cris actually asked in a very awkward moment when we were taking a photo -- will you put us in your blog? You still have a blog, don't you? I didn't say anything, just proceeded with posing for the photo, but I guess now I've been "outed" to my committee -- good thing I can't really be tracked down if they search for my name :-). But of course I couldn't blog there with them, and I was staying at one of my committee member's house (another wonderful aspect of the whole defense experience), so she helped us pack the refreshments and drove us home where we had to leave and drive to my mother-in-law's house.

I still have to do all the revisions and submit them to the graduate school ASAP, but I'm DONE!!! I have a Ph.D.!!!!!

If you want to know more about the defense, it was very informal. I talked for 15-20 minutes and then they asked me questions for over an hour. Not that many people came because I ended up not making an announcement in the grad students' listserve (I did announce the date and time in facebook, though, and several of my fellow grad students are there), so only five very good friends were there, another colleague and one Chinese professor.

Funny stuff: in order to make Linton behave and not want to be close to me all the time, my mom explained to him that it was like church, with me "preaching" and it worked like a charm, since he's used to being quiet and behaving in church every week. The funny part was that half-way through it he wanted to know who the "pastor" was, and he also complained that the "service" was just too long. Towards the end my mom took him for a walk outside to see the ducks at the pond. Several people had to leave before the end, but the committee members plus three colleagues/friends were there to eat the refreshments that I brought (some of my favorite Trader Joe's goodies (meringue and lemon chocolate covered cookies), strawberries, Panera's foccacias, TJ's bruschetta and some other things.

On the drive here I was thinking of some lovely reflections to make, but I'm just a boring "facts" person and as much as I wanted to make this post really lovely and well-written, I know that all you want to know is how it went and how things are.

We have to leave in a few hours to NYC to take my MIL who has an early flight to Brazil, so we're basically not going to sleep anything, so I'm sorry that such a lovely day and great accomplishment has to be followed by such craziness, but that's our life. I've been telling people today that we're just a "crazy" traveling family... and we are :-)

I have a treat for you that was supposed to have been posted today, but which I'll have to post tomorrow. And... in spite of the fact that I NEED to work on the revisions and writing about 10 more pages in my conclusion, I have a birthday party to plan... yeah, crazy life. Jennie said once (and I'm yet to respond to the award she gave me ages ago -- my indecision problem has kept me from doing it until now, can you believe it? many apologies) that my life is just very full, with many things going on, I bet you guys get tired simply reading this, so I'll stop now.

And let me just say one last thing -- your support meant the world to me. I don't think anyone has ever gone into a defense feeling so surrounded by positive thoughts, prayers by friends and family, and support in every imaginable way. Thanks for being a part of that.

And the journey is almost over, I'm almost at the end of the tunnel. I'll emerge on the other side when they call my name at commencement -- it's then that I need to try and invite as many friends as possible so that in those brief moments after my name is called I can hear some screaming, and clapping, and rejoicing. Let me know if you wanna be there ;-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Safely Here, Going to Bed

We made it in five hours and I drove half of the way. Driving is good for thinking, too bad it's hard to record those thoughts later...

Random thing. I googled my first and last names today and I was utterly surprised to find my facebook profile (not open to people not logged in and not my contacts) as the first result! Wow! More power to them, I guess... or whatever. And, BTW, if you're on facebook but not my friend yet and want to be, just let me know. I never do anything there, but I'm going to post more pictures because friends are asking for photos of the boys.

I was going to prepare a short power point presentation for tomorrow, but I read some blogs and wrote emails instead... oh well. I guess I've already done tons of work and I can "sit back and relax" now. I think I've got my priorities straight after all! ;-)

P.S. I forgot to say this in my previous post, but I did finally finish a conclusion draft (only 11 pages) and sent it to the committee before we left.

Oh, I just remembered that I have to figure out how to do a cut on the post I'm "publishing" tomorrow... and I'm so sleepy.

This is the most boring post ever. But I'm going to finally "earn" my Ph.D. tomorrow, so I can do silly stuff, like write a random post.

P.S. Thanks for all your good wishes. I feel like the most supported -- by virtual friends as well as from family and friends far and near -- dissertation defender EVER.

Hitting the Road

Shortly we'll be on our way to Massachusetts for my defense tomorrow. I'm so sorry that K cannot come with us. I'm going with my parents and younger son...

And of all things, I'm sorry I'll miss seeing my flowers for a couple of days -- is that too weird?

OK, gotta go!

Monday, April 14, 2008

What (Not) to Wear - Dissertation Edition

What should I wear to the defense?

- Professional clothes (like for job interview)?
- Casual professional clothes that one would wear for teaching? (I haven't been teaching and I also used to wear informal everyday clothes, [jeans, blouses, sweaters, sundresses in summer]when I taught)
- Regular everyday clothes?/ Comfortable clothes?

And to my female friends who defended in the past: what did you wear?

I wanted to take pictures of the outfits that I'm considering wearing, but that would take too much time. I will post a picture later of what I chose to wear, meanwhile, suggestions are appreciated.

Some of my options:
- Comfortable, cute, "very-much-like-me" outfit: one of those short jumper dresses (plaid beige with blue and black) with a black tight blouse and black leggings and black ballet flats. -- I'd look too much like a little girl, but I love this look.

- Pantsuit (which a friend gave me recently, gently used). Brown with discreet gold stripes. Can only be worn with high heeled shoes, though -- I wouldn't much mind that. The pants are a bit tight, however (it's a stretch fabric, so it's not that bad).

- Checkered (brown/beige) or striped (brown/beige/blue) shorter length pantaloon/ gaucho pants with boots (slightly high, but square, comfortable heels - shorter beige/ or longer brown boots, depending on pants) with blue blouse or brown sweater.

I guess those are my favorite four options. I own several skirt/suit outfits, but I'd rather wear pants.

What's your vote?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring's Here -- Take a Look!

Even my first tulip has began to open. I'm so thrilled that I planted all those bulbs back in December!
These photos were taken yesterday and I have almost two weeks of photos yet to post to the other blog, and, BTW, do check it out once in a while because I haven't been posting photos here after I began the 365+1 project. I do want to go back to posting more photos and I'm posting these here before I do it there, because, as my now blog-less friend ChicagoMama would say, I want to "bring good juju" to this blog (whatever exactly that means ;-).

Good news: my voice is better already, very low, but noticeably better. I guess that the singing can be blamed for most of the problem since my throat was already healing up to yesterday (I knew by the color of the discharges, apologies for this nasty statement...). So, next time I know, when not feeling entirely well in my vocal chords, no singing. Particularly no singing extremely high notes to rehearse the soprano parts (I'm an alto, but I sing along when rehearsing any other voices, including men's). I still need to take it easy, though, because my sinuses are not that happy either... oh well.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ha! Guess What?

After staying up most of the night up talking last Monday and then twelve hours walking in and out of stores the next day made my defense system weak and I began to get a sore throat. I hoped it wouldn't become worse and I was already much better yesterday, but my voice began to get lower and I guess that after some singing with our musical group this afternoon it just got much much worse and now I'm totally hoarse. I had my tonsils removed at age four, so I often have laryngitis whenever I get a virus or cold. Now... how am I going to talk a the defense? Is there any way I could get better quickly from laryngitis? I guess not, right? Sometimes, like the last time I had it, I totally loose my voice and the most irritating thing for me is being unable to sing for weeks. I do enjoy my voice when I'm either getting sick or recovering -- a low, sexy, throaty voice ;-) but I don't want to be terribly hoarse at the defense!!!

Oh well... my mom's preparing pomegranate skin tea for me (which she says helps a lot), and when I have a sore throat sage leaf tea usually helps. Any advice or tried and true recipes? I will most certainly go to bed early and get lots of sleep in the next few days, but I don't know if that'll help my swollen larynx. Wish me luck with that!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Half-Hearted Guilt & Righteous Indignation

I defend the dissertation in five days, and yet, I haven't finished writing my conclusion and given it to my committee.

I haven't yet revised all chapters according to the feedback I received in the past couple of weeks from my most demanding and, in the end, extremely helpful reader (and in the past couple of days, including today -- from advisor), and I probably won't have a nice, collated PDF file of the complete dissertation for the committee before the defense. Well, maybe only on THE DAY before...

And yet, I have the nerve not to be feverishly working. And, on top of that to feel absolutely calm and confident.

How can that be? Why can't I even feel guilty about not working? Why don't I feel like working at all, in fact?

You know... I guess there's an answer to those questions. Perhaps I'm not really cut out for this because these may be signs that I'm not taking this seriously...

Oh well, who am I kidding? If you saw my dissertation and if you'd worked as hard as I have to write it in the past three years you'd be laughing at me for saying I'm not taking this seriously.

What I mean is this, though: I refuse to let scholarly concerns take over my life. I enjoyed spending time with my guests and simply "living" after being consumed by the dissertation for a few days. I decided to travel with my family to Nashville in spite of the fact that I was not done as I said I'd be. I value life much more than this degree. And from what I perceive, observing from the sidelines, basically only from reading blogs because I'm not on campus anymore, is that one cannot have that mindset if one wants (1) be offered and accept a tenure track job and (2) get tenured. So, I shouldn't even bother, I suppose.

Why can't there be a middle ground, though? I'm passionate enough about my research, I think it is quite relevant, why is it that my whole life has to be devoted to it? Besides, I won't even get into the reasons why I WON'T EVER even be offered a tenure track job -- the fact that I don't fit in with what's fashionable and what departments are/will be looking for. I have perfect conviction of that, in spite of my "great qualities" and those of my work.

I'm not really upset by that, though, only indignant. That people like my friend Articulate Dad didn't get a single offer, not even a single interview (for a TT job) after over one hundred and fifty job applications is OUTRAGEOUS!! I mean... I don't even want to belong to a system like that. That's why I keep thinking I should go back to Brazil even if it meant I'd have to put up with violence and being afraid and having to live in a crowded, polluted city. But no, I don't want that. And this is my quandary right now, had been for a while.

Well, rant over. Enjoy the weekend. All three of you who are reading this post. ;-)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Reality Game Show" Party

A while back I commented in passing about Kelvin's fascination with the PBS show Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, a show that had two seasons in 2006-2007 and is currently on reruns. When he began to watch it at the suggestion of some older school mates he began to pretend that he was a person from TV for the first time ever. I guess that this happened because the show portrays real children that compete in various challenges (before that he never pretended to be Bob the Builder or the Thomas train, although he played with them). Season two is the one he watched first and he decided that he was Rosario (a weird name for me, because in Brazil most "Rosarios" [the word meaning rosary] are women -- "Maria do Rosário" being the most common one). I was dubbed Nina, and other members of the family named after other contestants. He's been watching two back-to-back reruns of the show daily for over two months now, but I hope that after his birthday party he moves on to something else.

I FINALLY prepared the party invitation this afternoon (while I should be working on the dissertation, obviously) and now I feel a bit better because I've been feeling really guilty about not having been able to throw him a birthday party earlier, considering that his birthday was on March 9. I didn't even blog about it, see? But I'm trying to redeem myself although I won't be able to prepare for the party until a few days before it since the defense is next Wednesday.

This is more or less what the invitation looks like (I even wrote a silly little poem, it's probably awful, but it brought a smile to my son's face and that's what I wanted):

Kelvin turned 6 years old and you’re invited to celebrate with us in a “Reality Game Show” setting! At our home (XYZ St.) on Sunday, April 20, at 3:30 p.m.

On TV all you find are re-runs,
But in Kelvin’s party you’ll have lots of fun!
We’ll play games and learn some science,
With many teams and lots of challenges
We’ll pretend it’s “Season Three.”
Let’s see who the winners will be!

Call us at (000) 000-000 to let us know you’re coming or if you get lost on your way to “studio G”!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Whirlwind of Guests and Shopping

(Edited to correct typos)
It's clichéd, but it's true. When it rains it pours.

It's not the first time it happens... and it goes like this: many months go by uneventfully, long, "lonely" months without any people coming from Brazil to visit, but then, all of a sudden, coincidentally, several friends come at once and we have a happy overdose of friends, conversations, packed days, late night sleeping, etc. (and, later hangovers too...)

Last Wednesday our dear longtime friend Marco and his family (his lovely wife, who by coincidence was K's math student in 8th grade years ago, and his two sons, aged five and one) came to stay a couple of days. I took them to Longwood Gardens on Thursday, but other than that, every single minute was spent inside various stores. It's like that with most people who come visit from Brazil because certain things are much cheaper and better quality here and they want to take advantage of that and buy clothes, bedding, toys, sneakers, electronics and other assorted things.

On Friday morning they left to go to D.C. and on Friday night another friend [K's best friend, boarding academy and college roommate] was supposed to arrive, but his flight was canceled, poor thing, and he spent the night in Houston's airport and arrived only at noon on Saturday to stay little over 24 hours with us. He couldn't really do any more shopping because many boxes of stuff (including a telescope) had been delivered to our house in the weeks prior to his arrival. We had to help him pack, though, so we stayed up very late for that. He's probably on his way back to Brazil now and tomorrow our friends return from D.C. to hit some more stores (no tax on clothes and shoes here in PA, unlike in MD), collect all the goods from their shopping sprees and then drive to Quebec to visit another friend.

And on Thursday another friend arrives from Brazil, this time on "business"... Our new "business" -- bringing baby and children's clothes from seasonal/end of stock clearance sales to Brazil to sell there. Yeah, I know... not really a job or anything. But I have to confess something. I enjoy all the shopping, particularly for the cutest baby girl clothes -- I revel in that! This all began years ago when this friend and his wife sent me some money to buy clothes for their son and daughter. I did it for two-three years and they had even suggested that we begin to bring more clothes to Brazil to sell, but it was only this year, after buying some irresistibly cute baby girl dresses for another friend's daughter (my "borrowed niece," daughter of K's best friend who just spent 24 hours here) for a mere dollar each, I decided we should give it a try. Let's see how it works.

So now you know why I was so busy back in January when my husband first went to Brazil carrying a couple of suitcases full of cute children clothes. It does feel weird to be doing that, though, because I really don't like consumerism and I try to curb it in my personal life as much as possible. In addition, and I'm appalled at how absolutely fictitious clothing prices are since after the season is over stores can sell them at 80-90% discount -- which suggests that these clothes are sold at an OBSCENE profit to begin with and people still buy them! Well, and don't get me started in talking about fashion -- oh boy, I really have lots of issues with THAT! Yeah, I don't feel very good, particularly seeing where all those clothes are manufactured. Oh well... why am I even writing about this, I wonder.

Oh, yeah... and I should be working on my dissertation's conclusion, and not preparing spreadsheets with lists of clothes and packing them into suitcases for my friends. It's an interesting distraction, though... particularly the girl clothes :-) (sigh).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Healthy Child Healthy World -- Mother Talk Blog Book Tour

Healthy Child Healthy World is both the title of a book and the name of a great non-profit organization, which, in their own words, "is dedicated to protecting the health and well being of children from harmful environmental exposures." They aim to
educate parents, support protective policies, and engage communities to make responsible decisions, simple everyday choices, and well-informed lifestyle improvements to create healthy environments where children and families can flourish.
I am excited to be part of this Mother Talk sponsored book tour since I haven't participated in a blog book tour in a while and the subject of this book is one that I've become increasingly concerned about in the past year. Various research studies have been showing for years now that chemicals pervasively used in the manufacture of everyday objects that surround us and our children, as well as found in our food and polluting the air and water, can cause many chronic and even fatal conditions, from asthma and allergies to cancer. The biggest problem, says actress AmyBrenneman in one of many "Parentblog" contributions, "the biggest emotional struggle is not getting overwhelmed" (12). That is why the book is organized in a way that emphasizes the small steps, ten for each chapter/subject, that we as parents can take to make ours and our children's lives as well as our homes "Cleaner, Greener, and Safer" -- which are words in the book's subtitle.

The book and the Healthy Child Healthy World organization are supported by many celebrities who contribute by sharing their personal experiences and reflections on the subject in the "Parentblog" sections. These and the personal contributions of author (and CEO) Christopher Gavigan bring the wealth of information presented in this book closer to home as well as demonstrate that different parents have different perspectives on the issues at hand and that flexibility is important in dealing with these overwhelming problems.

One of the main ideas that guides all the warnings, suggestions, and "recipes" presented in this book is the "precautionary principle" as Dr. Harvey Karp emphasizes on p.7. Since it has taken so many years for various substances to be proven toxic and cancerous, e.g. tobacco smoke, asbestos; even the suspicion or, animal studies, that certain substances may harm our children should be seriously examined. Children are much more at risk than adults, various parts of the book emphasize, because their smaller size makes the effect of even tiny amounts or toxic substances much more harmful and these can also affect their development. Many previously uncommon childhood illnesses that are on the rise such cancer can be cured, but at a serious cost to the child's future health.

Last, but not least, the main subjects addressed in the ten chapters of this book are: pregnancy, cleaning, food, body care, toys, outdoor spaces, water and air, pets, and house and home improvement. The last chapter is a "wrap up" that shows how we can maximize our impact for a greener life and a greener world. The book also presents a "Healthy Resources" section with information on manufacturers, blogs, books, magazines, and organizations that can help us achieve our goals. Be sure to check Healthy Child Healthy World's website as well as their sponsors. I had a nice trip down "guilty lane" when I browsed through the awesome gdiaper site. Well, it's too late since my boys are basically out of diapers now, but I know that there are many other things I can do from now on to make our carbon footprint smaller and my children safer from toxic substances. I am already using glass containers for most of our food, I avoid buying water bottles, and I am about to join a CSA. You may remember what happened to our clothesline back in January, but yesterday its replacement was delivered! So, in spite of the fact that there's room for improvement, I guess we're doing our part. And this cannot be emphasized enough (from p. 10):
No One Can do Everything.
Everyone Can Do Something.
P.S. Although I was already aware of a large portion of the information presented in this book, a lot of it was new brand new to me. I particularly enjoyed the recipes for many things, from household cleaners to finger paints and fun "gloop" to play with. My favorite so far was the recipe for vegetarian pet food! The pet section had a lot of things I'd never heard about and it was fun to read about it too.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Things I Dream of Doing or Post Dissertation Resolutions

When the dissertation is done I dream of...

~Re-organizing my photos and putting them into semi-scrapbook albums (I use most of my photos, not just a selected few, crop some, use some stickers and special paper, but cannot stand full-blown scrapbooking).

~ Making more online photo albums for family and friends who are away, maybe even ordering some nice photo books.

~ Continuing to work on the house renovation projects.

~ Joining the Y with the family and having the boys take swimming and gymnastic lessons.

~ Exercising there too. I'm seriously lacking in this area.

~ Gardening as much as possible.

~ De-cluttering my house and trying to keep my stuff more organized.

~ Using an online tool to classify our books and CDs.

~ Watch more DVDs.

~ Cook more healthy and varied meals for our family.

~ Go more often to Longwood Gardens. I'm absolutely heartbroken that I haven't been there in over three months.

~ Join the Zoo and visit with the boys (although I don't like zoos too much, I feel depressed for the animals).

~ Blog more.

Just enjoying life and spending time with my family and friends.

P.S. I just sent the only chapter that was overdue to two of my committee members. I'll work on it some more and email it to the other two. Slowly but surely this is going to end!