Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009, The Difficult Year

I wish with all my heart that I had the time to do a "2009 in photos" post (oh, yeah, and I also do wish you all an awesome New Year with all my heart ;-). I don't have the time, however, so a text only post will have to do for now.

Saying that 2009 was a tough year for me (and for us as a couple and family) is an understatement, but yet, if one looks at our photos, the year looks so much brighter and better! It's good that one can't photograph anxiety, stress, disappointment, heartbreak and other sad states of spirit.

The main tough things this year: the bitter taste (if a great relief) of being kicked out of the online teaching job in February, which meant the loss of extremely needed income. This led to the utter despair and fear of losing our house the month of March, so we put the house on the market in April. It was not until June that we heard back from the bank and the mortgage was renegotiated. In July our dear friend and pastor was laid off, something which upset us a whole lot. Then in August there was the school board thing fiasco which made me depressed for a while. From then on things calmed down, but I did become very discouraged in the process.
Oh, I almost forgot to say that my uncle had a brain tumor and is quite disabled now and his situation drove my mom to a sad depression. I'm glad she's much better now, but I'm worried that my uncle is about to spend a month undergoing therapy at a facility close to their house. Hopefully my mom will be OK.

The good things now. We began the year spending some time in Florida with dear friends. Then, I felt the relief of being free again from the sheer servitude of that online gig. A trip to Boston and Massachusetts (in the height of the despair) gave me much needed respite from the pain as well as the precious chance of reconnecting to one of my closest friends. We also got to visit dear friends in Western MA. At the school it was very fulfilling to prepare and present a full musical with the kids.

It was lovely to enjoy the short visit of my youngest brother-in-law and his wife after they immigrated to Canada. We also visited them twice, once in July and another in November. The good news of the renegotiation of the mortgage was an unbelievable relief and joy and our first Camp Meeting ever was great. Then, my sister-in-law and I took the boys to Sesame Place (it was truly great). It was a nice summer, we even had a couple of guests from Brazil!

The last four months were a whilrwind of cyber school work -- exhausting but still rewarding -- peppered with a few short trips (two to MA, one to Canada, a few to Maryland). I do hope that the next four months fly by!

All in all, it was a loooong year, but I think I'm fully recovered from my short bout of depression and negativity and I'm looking forward to the future very positively again. This trip to Brazil is helping some (although it's cementing our idea of possibly not coming back) and K's job search has made me hopeful. In the end, I don't know if this really was "the worst year ever" since I met K, maybe it was. I truly hope we don't have to go through the anxiety and stress about the house we had this year ever again.

As for my hopes for the new year? I guess I'll leave those for another post!

We had a good time here in "Sampa" (Sao Paulo city) -- Sampa [link to video with song and images of the city] is the title of a song by Caetano Veloso [link to Caetano singing it], one of the best and most famous Brazilian singer-songwriters.

We had lunch with the aforementioned childhood friend and her husband's family, then came to my brother-in-law's house and watched the Sao Silvestre race on TV while playing with the cutest nephew ever. The other brother-in-law and his family arrived and the five cousins played a lot in the playground downstairs. We ate in the downstairs "party room" (all residential apartment buildings and condominiums in Brazil have those) and came upstairs to watch the fireworks and countdown on TV. As I wrote on one of my rare facebook updates, New Year's in Brazil is very noisy, but it also feels "right" and great. Christmas with hot weather feels very strange, but New Year's is awesome!

Well the two people reading this must be totally bored by my post and I need to go to bed because it's past 1 am here in Brazil, so, without further ado...

... Happy New Year to all of my blog friends!!! I hope 2010 is a great year for you and your family!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunburned and Doing Laundry

Well, the laundry part is not 100% precise because my mom's washing machine is 35 years old and she's the only one allowed to run it. I can still pre-treat, sort, and hang the loads on the clothesline, though. :-)

We've just arrived from two days (three nights) at this awesome thermal water park and my shoulders are very sunburned, in spite of the sunblock I used at all times. I guess that the hot water pools and standing in the sun watching the boys go down the slides again and again did it. I hope to post photos soon!

Tomorrow we go to São Paulo (city) where we'll spend New Year's eve with K's parents and three brothers (plus my three nephews). "K3" and his wife will be running the 15 Km (9.3 miles) 85th São Silvestre race tomorrow and we'll be assembled watching on TV and baby-sitting my nephew.

On Friday we return to my parents' home (two hours from São Paulo city). Then, on Sunday we travel over 400 miles to another thermal resort town, Caldas Novas, this time for a family reunion of sorts on the week of K's cousin's wedding. Sigh. I just hope I don't get sunburned again!

P.S. Next week is a regular school week for my cyber-schooled sons, but we won't be doing any work, just going to the cyber cafe (they call them "Lan house" here) to log in daily. I don't want to think of the accumulated work that I'll have to deal with when we come back. Sigh. Everything has already been posted online, but it'll be hard to get the boys to work on the next few days.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Card 2009

I wanted to share our holiday card with all my blog readers. Merry Christmas for those who celebrate the date! I'd write more, but family awaits!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Forgotten Job Search News!

This just in: Two phone interviews scheduled for K.

NJ and VA (from that list -- which is incomplete, BTW).

I'll keep you posted!

P.S. And things are unraveling at my kids' former school (and my part-time workplace) and church. I want to move just so so so much!

Catching up: Brazil so far

The mosquitoes are "killing" my eldest son who has over 30 bites all over his body. We're sleeping with an electric mosquito repeller plugged in every bedroom, but they still manage to attack us. After a few cooler days (it can get pretty chilly in the middle of summer in the Southern/Southeastern part of Brazil) it's now very hot. Thankfully there are summer storms to bring the temperature down every few days.

Recent Arrival:
After more than 48h K (11h of which were spent in Mexico City in transit) K finally arrrived here last night. The boys were ecstatic to have daddy around again and me too, obviously. :-)

Solo Trip to Curitiba:
The trip itself was absolutely wonderful. I got to spend some quality time with my cousin who is like a brother to me and get to meet his gorgeous daughter and get to know his wife better.

Now, the problem with this trip was the somber tone it had because of a horrible accident that happened on Saturday in which a young man who was an acquaintance of several of my family members -- a recent medical school/residency graduate -- lost his life when his car was run over by a fuel truck. His widow (they'd gotten married only two months ago!) was spared, but left badly burned and with a mother on the brink of death (the young woman's mom was in the car with them and reportedly got out first and pulled her daughter out of the car). I went with my cousin (and several other aunts and uncles) to his wake and I was really upset when I found out the next day that my sister-in-law (the one who is newly pregnant) was devastated and feeling very sick because she was a childhood friend of the young man who died. What a tragedy!

It's been grueling hard to keep on going with the hot weather and the boys' obsession with riding bikes around my parents' house and on the street. (This obsession it comes and goes at our house, it can go on for a month or so then wanes, I guess by the time we return, they'll be tired of it). The problem is that here there are many more distractions and Kelvin just finds tons of excuses not to work. K's arrival has helped some and we may be able to get all work done tomorrow with Kelvin (Linton's basically done, but then again Kindergarten is way easier than 2nd grade). My parents have felt my pain and they think I shouldn't be doing this, but I do enjoy it, in spite of everything. It's complicated, maybe sometime I'll blog more about it.

Upcoming Trips:
On Sunday we're leaving for this hot water resort/water park. It's been very hot here (in the 90s), but my BIL and his wife have assured us that in spite of that we'll be able to enjoy the resort. I surely hope so, and I won't mind if it rains and gets cooler.

Reason for not blogging more:
It's very complicated and it's ridiculous to write only a couple of sentences about it, but I haven't been blogging more because let's just say that blogging is looked upon very disapprovingly by my parents. Sigh. Dangerous subject, so, enough said.

That notwithstanding, there'll be more tomorrow, though!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Left the Boys Behind...

... with my parents, and took a bus to Curitiba last night.

I think I've written a bit before about Curitiba, the capital city of the state of Paraná where most of my maternal and paternal extended families lives. I just couldn't bear to come to Brazil and not to come here, so I just did. Cyber schooling made it impossible for us to spare a day to drive here, so I came by myself.

What a blessing that was! I got to talk to my two favorite cousins. I'm staying at the house of my favorite female cousin and I spent the afternoon and evening with my favorite male cousin, his wife and one year old daughter. He's like a brother to me and in addition to spending most vacations in our childhood together we were classmates for five years (grades 8-12). Without the boys to worry about I was able to catch up with him and to really have him and his wife share their experiences of their first year of parenthood. I'll see them tomorrow again.

I'm really tired now, it's past midnight here now, so I have to go to bed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

15 Years Ago Today

K and I got married at an unusual (at the time for Brazil)* late morning ceremony -- scheduled for 11 am, but actually started past noon. It was a wonderful day and I wouldn't change anything about it -- OK, maybe perhaps the photographer :-).

It was a BIG wedding for American standards (most of the weddings I've been to in the U.S. have been very intimate affairs), we sent out over 400 invitations and we calculate there must have been upwards of 500 people at the ceremony and luncheon reception that followed in the cafeteria of the college where we worked.

I wanted to write so many things about that day, starting with a detailed account of the hundreds of flowers that I picked and bought myself (they all cost around 600 dollars, half of which another bride paid and the lady who arranged them did it for free because she was a friend of the second couple), but I don't have the time nor the frame of mind to do it (I'm in the middle of a busy and frustrating as usual cyber schooling day). And you already know that K is at home and I'm here, so no celebration for us today, just this post. I hope you enjoy the photos that follow with some commentary.

Note: I didn't ask K's permission to post photos of him, but I guess he's going to have to let this one pass since I've been waiting so many years to write this post and share photos of our wedding day.
Here's the invitation
(Very unusual too, to this day.
K and I helped a friend of ours design it. We love green and bamboo).
The wedding bands are the photographer's.
My bouquet is on the right bottom, on the upper left are the dried flowers from the reception table decorations and on the top center are some of the flowers from the church.
The small wreaths at the bottom were the (handmade) party favors. I have over ten of them that I still hang on our Christmas trees!

This is my favorite photo of the two of us at the church, my dad has just "given me away" and we're getting ready to climb the steps to reach the pulpit at the podium. Can't you feel our happiness?
Both our dads are pastors, so K's dad spoke first, then my dad, who read a very moving letter that she wrote to me after I was born (he met me only when I was almost 3 months old) -- actually I think we lost the letter after the wedding :-(. At least we have the video.

A close up of us and a panoramic view:
I've always loved children, so I had sixteen (!) kids as part of the wedding party.
The photos below feature the kids that had matching outfits (I bought the fabric too), there were two more, brother and sister -- photo below)

These are the girls (minus the youngest one, only two at the time). Three were my students, two my cousins' daughters and one the daughter of a second cousin of K's mom.

Here are the boys.
Four are my cousins' children, the oldest is K's cousing and one is my student. The littlest cousin is missing from the shot, he was only 12 months old.

This is my favorite photo of all.
And it's so cool that I just had to include a "watermark" on it. Hopefully nobody will steal it.

Here is a photo of us with my handsome brother. He had long hair at the time, which my mom hated! :-) Coincidentally, K's second brother, who was also in the wedding party with his girlfriend (now my SIL, the one famous for party decoration), was wearing the exact same cream colored suit as my brother!
The cake was just for photographs because we had two or three huge sheet cakes that were shared with everyone. It was a simple white, moist cake with a marshmallow and coconut frosting. It had two fillings, both based on sweetened condensed milk, one with dried apricots and the other with nuts. We didn't get to taste it and the piece we froze for our one year anniversary didn't have much filling. :-(

Look at us with all those children! (there's one girl missing)
And here are the cute brother and sister, children of a friend.
Me and my flowers. Those were natural flowers in my hair and dress.
Here are two of the photos we took in the hallway of the school where I worked. I like the first one, so I "watermarked" it too.
Before taking off my dress so we could drive to the airport for the honeymoon I took this photo with my grandmother: We weren't able to take this photo in the reception because the photographer had to leave by 3 p.m. No photos of my family (my parents, my brother and us) were taken either and no good photos of my mom's extended family. My mom regrets this very deeply, but she couldn't do much because she was the hostess for the reception (in Brasil it's usually the bride's family who gives the wedding reception).

OK, it's almost 12:30 in the U.S. around the same time I entered the church (here in Brazil it's almost 3:30 pm), so let me post this. Enjoy!

* A lot of people prefer night time weddings in Brazil, but since 1994 apparently daytime weddings have become a bit more common.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friends that Are Closer than Siblings

Yesterday was a nice day because I got to spend some time with my best childhood girl friends G & J (technically we weren't children anymore when we met, we were 13 going on 14 back in 1985, but I knew about them for years before we met). They're twins, one of them (G) is married to another of our best friends (K and mine) and they have two children, a girl and boy, the same age as mine (incidentally, my eldest son decided years ago that he wants to marry their daughter... we'll see about that, but it's surely cute!). The other friend (J) just had a baby girl in Boston (she's the friend I went to visit several times this year there) and this was the very first time I visited her house since she got married years ago.

G and her family stopped for a day in São Paulo on their way to Australia and New Zealand, where they're going to spend the holidays with my brother, his wife and his in-laws (G's husband M is my brother's brother-in-law). It's wonderful to feel like family, or more than family, around friends, isn't it?

The weekend at the beach was just "half good" since it rained all day on Sunday. We did get to enjoy the beach on Saturday and Monday (just briefly, before driving up to São Paulo). I'll try to post photos soon, but I just thought I'd write a quick update. More later, then.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quick Update from Brazil

We arrived well last Tuesday, in spite of the heavy rain that was falling and which made the landing quite turbulent. We didn't know that several of São Paulo's roads were under water (there are two rivers the surround the city) and that the situation was very chaotic. They almost didn't get us our luggage, which got on the container to be sent on to Rio, since the flight continued on (they apologized and blamed the lack of personell due to the flooding). My parents waited for us for over two hours outside of the gate and customs.

When we finally got out, we learned that my parents and uncle were there only because my uncle (who came to pick us up too because in Brazil most cars are tiny and wouldn't fit our luggage, so we need two cars to get us at the airport) had checked the news when he was having breakfast at a bakery in his town and called my parents. Then they took an alternate way to the airport and got there safely and on time, they just had to wait for us a long time.

The weather here has been a bit on the "chillier" side (60s at times and mid-70s) for this time of the year because it's been raining a lot and it's been windy. We're driving down to the beach today and I hope we don't get rained it all weekend!

The boys and I have been overwhelmingly busy with cyber school work, that's why I didn't post earlier (and shouldn't even be posting now). That's not a lot of fun because we don't get to relax and enjoy being here as much, but at least we're here.

I'll try to write more next week, OK? I want to share some photos, obviously. :-)

P.S. and here it's 10 am, not 7.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Finally! Airport Blogging!

I've often wanted to blog at the airport, particularly on those rare times (three to be exact) I traveled alone since I became a mother. I often turn a bit introspective at the airport, this place that's the epitome of my life's "in-betweeness." (And here I want to lead you to this superbly beautiful post by Dinka about airport meetings and goodbyes -- I think it's better than the opeining and closing of Love Actually [airport arrival meetings, for those who didn't watch the movie] -- "Born in Different Time Zones").

Today I haven't had much chance for introspection, though, since the boys are getting older and more active and verbal. The five year old wouldn't stop talking on the short flight between Philly and D.C., and I almost wanted to ask him to please be quiet... I got them to do some school work and now they're playing with the pay phones in front of our seats.

Bad news: the flight has been delayed for an hour (from 9:50 to 10:45), so my hopes of the boys being able to have dinner (it never happens on these late flights, I feel for them, they love eating in the airplane) have neaerly vanished. :-( Well, they just announced that it might be boarding a little earlier and be able to leave around 10:15 -- I hope it works out!

Because of my "bad motherhood" (i.e. often putting them to bed late), they will probably be able to bear it all pretty well. They're great travelers and LOVE to fly in airplanes (as you may recall from this post). That's no surprise, because they are veteran travelers - Linton's first flight was at six days old!

In any case, waiting for six hours to travel is quite taxing, but so far so good.

I was surprised to realize that in the end it was the most relaxing (considering the circumstances) pre-trip morning I've ever had. I think the secret to calm airport trip is the scheduling of other things to coincide with the trip that force you to go very early to the airport. Yesterday, for example, yesterday, we left my MIL 4 hours before her flight at the aiport because we wanted to go to the Guggenheim. Today, K had to teach, so he dropped us off around 3 hours before our flight. I can't not having time to spare when we leave to the airport late, it's very nerve-racking. I wish we could be on time or early more often. Sigh.

OK, now we're going to get a hot chocolate at the Starbucks right next to our seats and start getting ready for our nine-hour long flight. The boys have window seats and I hope Kelvin doesn't mind going in front of me (not seated with me).

I'll see you again in Brazil now! I'm excited about the trip, it's always fun.


We took this photo last week with the tripod, Kelvin & I with our new hats and Linton with the old but famous "family heirloom" Jester hat that everyone comments on. I was planning to post it to indicate that the cold had arrived, but it was never getting cold, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s nearly everyday.
Not anymore, right! And this weekend we were surprised with snow! I loved it and my mother-in-law loved even more her "goodbye" present, so-to-speak, because she loves snow. She is back in Brazil now (I hope she had a safe trip, we haven't heard back from her). I'll try to post later (or in Brazil) about our afternoon in NYC, it was great!

Well, we have to go to the airport soon, I shouldn't be blogging!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Planning Airport "Stay"

I want to write two other posts before I travel, but I have no idea whether I'll get to them or not, what with all the packing and making sure I'm not forgetting anything, etc. I think it's very nerve-racking to travel, particularly long international travel for so many days away (40 in our case).

Tomorrow the boys and I will probably be gone from our house for over ten hours, perhaps close to twelve, when we're finally airborne and actually traveling to Brazil. Because K has to be teaching two hours before our flight leaves the Philly airport, he'll have to drop us off three hours earlier or more at the airport (yawn!). Then, our layover in Dulles International will be over six hours long! To make things worst, Dulles is one of the airports I like the least (and it's not only because I once had to spend the night on its main terminal floor, back in 2000 when we were coming from a trip to Europe and because I once was horribly sick with a stomach flu before a trip), but perhaps the shuttle trains will be ready by now and it'll be better, because those huge shuttle-trucks are/were pathetic! Yeah the long layover comes courtesy of traveling with multiple award travel tickets -- they put you in random flights.

In any case, I'm browsing the airport map and the eateries and I'm planning to pay for wi-fi so we can cyber schooling. We'll have to get a table somewhere and just claim it for ourselves for several hours, or maybe we'll just have to use the uncomfortable waiting room chairs.

In any case, I do intend to blog from the airport tomorrow for the very first time ever (I've never bought wi-fi at airports before). At least I hope so, if my sons let me touch the computer! :-) Well, I hope to come back with more posts before I go to bed. Wish me luck with the packing.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Like Pieces of a Puzzle

Today in the late afternoon we were coming back home when we drove by Big Pharma (K's former employer).

"I miss Big Pharma," said my seven-year old.

"I don't, really. Hmm, that's right, Kelvin, you've been inside there!"

"Yeah, I was in there twice."

"Twice? Wasn't it only on that day we sold out house and Daddy picked you up at school and brought you to work? You were only five back then." I said.

"No, I'm sure I was there twice," he replied, "but you only drove in a few times to pick up daddy -- I was the only one who went inside."

"Hmmm..." I responded, "I wonder what was the other time you were in there with daddy. When was that?"

"I really don't know," said Kelvin.

A few minutes ago I was randomly thinking, as I finished preparing my pumpkin "puddings" (for church potluck tomorrow), about getting a PhD and how, you know, it's not a big deal, really. I mean, "anyone" can get one. Then I thought about my defense and how K wasn't there and I wasn't at his defense either. So sad! Such a supposedly significant event in each of our lives... I wish he'd been there, since he's my best friend, the most important person in my life.

And I recalled the day, the fact that my parents were there with Linton, who impatiently thought that "the sermon" was too long.

And then it hit me. That was the second day Kelvin went to Big Pharma with daddy, the day of my defense. And all of a sudden I felt all tearful and sad... thinking of that "lull" period in our lives, post K's layoff and being hired back, in which I was able to finish the dissertation and finally "get a-hold" of the PhD. Before K decided to turn his back to that unsatisfactory job and venture into academia again. One year before the big storm hit this year.

We were more innocent then. I don't like to think of K missing my defense, there with Kelvin at Big Pharma... such a useless, sad job, which brought so much heartache to our lives.

And like small pieces of a puzzle my early evening and my late night came together while I contemplated for a moment the image of this part of out past.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

"We're Using All the Colors of the Alphabet!" or Kandinsky in Kindergarten

With some minor edits.
"We're Using All the Colors of the Alphabet!" is what my cute five-year old son just said while doing a cool shape collage, Wassily Kandinsky- style for his art class. When I started laughing and began to correct him ("all the colors of the rainbow") he was not too happy, he doesn't like when people laugh at him.

In any case, I love his art and music classes in Cyber School. How cool is it that they're learning about Kandinsky in Kindergarten? If all goes well, we're going to the Guggenheim on Sunday to see Kandinsky's artwork (has video & sound, probably temporary link) with our own eyes! (we're taking my MIL to the airport)

After he was done, Linton said:

"It's a beautiful artwork that I made! Look at that! It's beautiful"

Yes, indeed it is. Take a peek:
I think it would be good to own a bigger scanner, to allow for bigger artwork and photos to be scanned...

Anyhow, here's the video that Linton's art teacher posted in her lesson:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New Developments

At least five new positions have appeared since K sent his last round of applications, and my previous post was even missing a few places (before the new ones).

Now, the most interesting development is that there is one local university with openings. I don't know how I would feel about not moving. I suppose I could take it, particularly with the new lower mortgage payments ;-). I think I'd rather move, though.

Oh and it's official that K has not passed in the job selection process in Brazil (he saw the results online yesterday).

I'll try to update the list of "possible future places of residence" soon. Meanwhile, I have to go back to packing for the upcoming trip to Brazil.

I'm sad that NaBloPoMo is over (mostly for the blog reading, not so much the posting), but at the same time, I don't have to stress out about posting before midnight anymore. My apologies that this blog has become the most boring blog ever. Hopefully it'll get better.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Well, Apparently, I Did It!

NaBloPoMo is over and I'll be sad to see the frequency of new posts to read dramatically dwindle down , particularly in these first few days when people are still affected by the "hangover" from posting every day for a month! ;-)

I didn't like any of the badges offered by NaBloPoMo's site :-( and if I don't find one I like until I hit publish, this year I won't have one.

And I do want to publish this quickly because I'm watching a documentary on Joni Mitchell on Netflix before I put my account on hold. Gotta use as much of those 5 bucks as possible :-).

Yes, I will use tons of silly "emoticons" today, OK? :-P

Oh, I'll take a look at some of my fellow bloggers, maybe someone found a better badge. I have only 6 minutes! :-D Nah... no luck there.

OK, I've got to publish this. So, which one would you choose if you were me:

None, right? right?

Back to Joni Mitchell now.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Before It's Too Late

It's the next to last day of NaBloPoMo and I want to post early not to risk being late this evening. There's a great likelihood that we won't be home before midnight, although K wants to leave right after lunch (who knows what time lunch will be anyway? We still want to take the boys to the pool, etc...).

In any case, I need to go finish packing our things before we head to the pool. It'll be the fourth day in a row that the boys go to the pool and they're delighted. They're playing Wii and bickering right now, particularly my youngest, who's an angry, choleric little boy. :-( On Friday night he was such a sore loser that K had to take him out of the game they were playing -- not Wii, a Bible card game -- to have a serious talk with him. Sigh. I sometimes think that I'm failing my boys entirely because of my own quick temper -- they learn by example, not by the things they say. Raising kids is just a most overwhelming responsibility. I still love every minute of it, but I do feel angry and at the end of my rope way too often for comfort during our "regular days."

OK, I really need to go finish packing, and we're helping MIL to leave the house ready for the movers to come on Wednesday. I feel bad about our own messes here, we need to get everything out of her way ASAP so she can concentrate on her own stuff. And I have one week to get all my things ready -- thankfully it's not for moving, it's just a trip!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Family Is Everything

At least when you're blessed with a wonderful one.

We're having a really good time together, eating, talking, entertaining the boys, shopping... Well, at least the ladies ;-).

We headed back to the outlet tonight and it was quite empty (very unlike yesterday), which was great. Of course the Black Friday deals were long over, but there were still some discounts to be had.

Seeing my mother-in-law's accumulating pile of stuff for her upcoming move is making me nervous and stressed out already for the preparations I need to do before we travel in only eight days. Sigh. Sorry, but right now I'm too tired to post anything. Oh, and I realized I forgot the cable to transfer our photos to the computer, so I can't even post any photos. :-(

More later then...

Friday, November 27, 2009

HA HA HA - Midnight Highway Madness Indeed!

I was done with my post-Thanksgiving shopping before 6 am, thankfully. The midnight thing never happened, though!

I had warned my MIL and SIL that the traffic would be stopped in the highway trying to get into the outlet, but we tried to go anyway. HA HA HA! One whole exit before the highway came to a standstill and it took us half an hour to reach the exit (driving through the shoulder) and turn back around.

It was nearly 2 am by then and some stores were going to open at 4 am and it wasn't worth going back home, so we went and parked at the mall and took naps. At 3:30 JCPenney opened and we ran in with a bunch of other people who had been waiting as well. My husband really, desperately needs a winter coat to go on his interviews (and to wear to work too), so 49 bucks on one was a great deal. I ended up getting a steam floor cleaner too, thinking I could return it later if I didn't want it, but I think it'll be really useful -- not to mention "environmentally friendly" :-).

We then did quick stops at Kohls (micro-plush blankets for my kids) and Target (micro plush robe for hubby) -- I LOVE micro plush, it all started with blankets a few years ago, but now we have a sheet set (for our king bed, no less), pajamas and robes. Then, we took MIL to Wal Mart (where she scored a Cuisinart stand mixer for 139!) and drove home in MIL's Corolla to have my BIL join her with the minivan because they're going to buy bulky items.

SIL has gone to bed already, but I drank tea before we left and then ate some dark chocolate (delicious! Godiva with raspberry filling, from Kohls checkout lane), so I'm very awake. It's pouring rain outside, but it's not really cold. I'm glad SIL and I were done so quickly with our shopping, but we're just sad that MIL didn't prioritize the TV she wanted/needed to get for her move back to Brazil so she didn't go stand in line at WM where she should have gone first to try and get the 500 bucks Sony TV (I think they might have had very few of those cause we were there only half an hour after the store opened and didn't see any TVs in people's carts).

The line to go into Target was ridiculous, BTW, we just couldn't believe it! All because of the noname brand TVs there. Every year for many years now the TVs are always everyone's first pick -- Americans love their TVs, right? Good thing at least the checkout lines were short there (not at Kohls -- we "divided and conquered" for that one).

I agree with you, MemeGRL, that people watching is quite fun on Black Friday. The people in their pajamas (one lady had black footie pajamas on, with shoes, obviously)! The folks who stayed up all night in line. The dishevelled hair and the bleary eyes! Yeah, it's lots of fun, but I'm glad I'm back home and that I spent very little.

Last, but not least, we're veteran Black Friday shoppers in this family, but I think we're doing less and less of it every year that goes by . Once upon a time K and K2 stayed up all night outside Circut City to buy a 400+ laptop, but no more! Online shopping is much more efficient these days.

OK, I'm getting sleepy, finally, so I'll go to bed! It'll be tough to manage four boys on no sleep, but SIL and I will take turns. I'm going to try to call K now, I think he's already arrived in Miami. I just don't know if he'll have his phone on.

Have a great day, everyone!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I Am Thankful, But the Neighbors Downstairs Are Not


I so wanted to write a happy, mushy post tonight about how delicious the food was and how thankful I am for various things... However, the gruffy bearded guy, smelling like smoke, who came to complain about the noise a few minutes ago just took away any joy I might have right now... He was the Grinch who stole the end of out Thanksgiving... ha ha, lame joke. :-(

In any case, I know now from experience why K doesn't like to come visit his parents with the extended family. And, frankly, I know it's crazy to pack that many adults (4 this time, but it's usually 6-8) and 4 boisterous boys into one small two bedroom apartment on the third floor. Sigh... Last year when the whole family (minus one SIL) got together in August we were the last ones to arrive -- and although at the time I complain, I have to say that K was right. Mother-in-law says that this guy complains everytime any of the grandkids come. We're lucky he didn't last October in the day and a half we spent here with our friends.

The unfortunate truth is, lots of people who live in rental places are not very nice or family friendly. Many of them can't stand children. So, yeah, I'm very thankful for home ownership. Particularly of a single family home (that's a pretty recent thing, only 2 years and a bit). And I'm trying not to be too upset of nervous about spending two more days here with the four little boys. It doesn't help that three more adults arrive tomorrow. Sigh. And I'm also aprehensive that K will be anxious the whole time he's here on account of this. We'll have to find a place to go on whenever we're not at the pools with the boys.

So... I'm sorry I had to write about that, it was not in the plans at all! In the end, our day was quite relaxing, actually! The boys went to the pool with SIL, then BIL (Kelvin went later because he needed to work on a Math assignment first, I took him and stayed for a bit) and my SIL and I cooked, with some help from MIL. We had:
- salad (mostly organic, from my CSA's last share)
- this vegetarian "roast"
- potatoes (chopped, seasoned and baked)
- rice
- manicotti -- two kinds, one with heart of palm filling and red sauce and another with spinach and ricotta cheese and white sauce.
- cranberry sauce*
- brussel sprouts*
- Yams (from CSA share) with pecan praline*

In the end we didn't make gravy ('cause we didn't buy a ready made powdered vegetarian option).

For desserts: I made an apple buy with store-bought crust, and two crust-less, pudding style squash pies (squash from CSA too!) -- a maple one and another one with condensed milk.

* Only my sister-in-law and I eat these. K does too, we're saving his portions for tomorrow.

In other news, K is on his flight back to Brazil right now, he's probably boarding and waiting for the plane to take off, actually, since it leaves at 2 am in Brazil (It's 3 hours later there). He was not too happy with how today's part of the interview went, but that's OK, I'm glad he's on his way back.

Another thing, although I can't spend anything, I'm going to the stores with my SIL and MIL -- first to the "Midnight Madness" at the outlet (I know, YUCK!) and then the 4 & 5 am opening stores. MIL is going back to Brazil and has a really long shopping list of items that she has to ship there and SIL has several small things that she needs to buy. I'm mostly going to buy things for my friend in Brazil.

So, yeah... I won't sleep tonight. See you, sleepily, tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Later

annoying little post, read at your own risk

Just a quick post to let you know that the "blogger meet up" of the year did take place. It was way too short, obviously, but at least it happened! An illustrated post will come later, but meanwhile, it's midnight and my sons are not tucked in bed yet (one is dozing off while doing a nebulizer treatment and the other is eating a sandwich -- ah... growing boys). Good thing the youngest nephew here only fell asleep some 15 minutes ago.

Mostly to blame, a host of factors -- middle of the night awakening last night due to travel and sleeping in today, the last minute Thanksgiving food shopping, and the talking. Of course, there's the bad mother as always and... Daddy being away (he mostly does the bedtime routine). Stubborn nephew who hates to sleep had both parents around, though, so, well... it's me, but not just me.

K is doing well in Brazil, but he just found out that the post he's applying/interviewing for is a two year contract only and not a TT job. Sigh. And he spent 600 bucks on airfare to go there for that... The last part of the interview is tomorrow afternoon and he'll be here with us on Friday. That will be a relief!

You know, I love Thanksgiving, it is my favorite holiday, but frankly I'm not looking forward to all that cooking this year. And I think that K not being here to enjoy it with us is a big factor.

Sorry for all the grumpiness. Hopefully i'll feel better tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Almost Ready to Leave

My brother-in-law will be here any minute and then we'll drive the Massachusetts together. Four little boys and three adults in a mini-van. It's our first trip together, so I don't know what to expect. We hope the boys will be tired and will fall asleep soon, but we never know!

If we hit traffic on the George Washington bridge in NY and beyond it won't be pretty... (they won't be sleeping by then anyway, I think). Well, wish us luck, I'll let you know how it goes. And now I need to go finish packing. Sigh.

And... drum roll... tomorrow we're planning to have one of the greatest and most expected family blogger meet ups in the history of this blog! There is a handful of other bloggers (like 3 or 4, list on another day) whose children are exactly the same age as mine and whom I've always wanted to meet and have our children play together too! I hope it all works out tomorrow and I just can't wait!

OK, back to packing.

P.S. Hubby arrived well in Brazil. Tomorrow he starts the concurso (job selection process for a tenure track appointment). He saw our cute nephew (click -- super cute photo!), and I'm jealous, but we'll soon be able to see him too.

It's Actually Two Weeks

Just a quick correction -- in the previous post (already corrected) I wrongly stated we'd be in Brazil in a week, but it's actually two. I wanted to have come edit the post, but I just fell asleep in my clothes and contact lenses when I put the boys in bed and got up at 3:30 am to get changed and take the contacts off...

I'll try to post again later... we'll see. Off to piano and music lessons now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Going to Bed/ Two Weeks from Now

After two humongous posts last night I think we all deserve a break, no?

K is on a flight to Brazil right now and I've had a really long and stressful day with the boys here, so we're going to bed (yes, they're still awake. bad mother). Tomorrow night we take a ride with brother- and sister-in-law to Massachusetts to spend the Thanksgiving holiday saying good-bye to Grandma's house in the U.S. Three years were not quite enough, but we're thankful for what we had. Oh, and regarding that incensed rant, it turns out FIL's visa was denied only verbally, there was no stamp on his passport, so it's a smaller, less serious problem. My husband will be back on Friday and we're very happy about that.

I can't believe that precisely [edited from one to two] two weeks from now the boys and I will be boarding our flight to Brazil (after six long hours stuck at Dulles Intl Airport in the D.C. area...). The boys can't wait. I'd be more excited if traveling weren't so stressful. :-(

OK, we're going to bed, good night!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are -- A Review and... What's one to do when mommy feels like a "wild thing" at times too?

So last Sunday I finally went to see Where the Wild Things Are [site with sound -- I LOVE the soundtrack, BTW] with K and a family of friends (I finally caved in again and had my other friend watch the boys -- I've had her boys before many times, but only twice before asked her to help with mine). I loved it, but then, again, contrary to my blogger friend Caroline Grant, I think we're more of a Wild Things family than an In the Night Kitchen family like hers (our boys are the same age, BTW), but more on that later. Her review of the movie in Literary Mama is great, but and I'm glad I waited until I saw the movie to read it (since it has spoilers -- I actually waited until I wrote my own review below before I read it carefully -- you might not want to read this review if you don't want spoilers). You should also check out Caroline's fascinating and rare "insider take" on the book -- previous professional contact with Maurice Sendak himself!! (I'd already linked to it in my previous post about Where the Wild Things Are in the old PTM).

I had already been moved to tears just by watching the trailer, so it was no surprise that I cried through most of the movie again (in spite of K's constant teasing -- "Don't cry too much now!"). I think that perhaps this commenter (or spam person?) was almost right when he wrote in that this is mostly an "art film." More than that, though, as Caroline says in her review, it's a movie about childhood that is very moving for parents and, hopefully, for young folks who are just leaving childhood behind. It's definitely not a "children's movie" although it is based upon a beloved picture book.

As a mother of two boys, when I saw the movie I would constantly see my oldest boy in Max and that alone moved me. Max's need to be "babied" a little bit on the one hand and his fierce need for independence on the other mirror my son's needs and attitudes very closely. Moreover, I'm also the mom who types her boys' stories into the computer (that part just moved me beyond expression). Oh, and back to being a Where the Wild Things Are kind of family -- I think I'd qualify us like that because as most Brazilian folks, we're often very loud and exuberant, "wild rumpus" kind of folks. Not only the kids, at times, but everyone. The fact that I had previously taught the book several times also made it one of our favorites here at home. And, last, but not least, unfortunately, I've also inherited some "screaming genes" from my mom and sometimes I wildly "explode" like Max's mom did, more on that at the end.

Now, whenever a film is adapted from a piece of literature, I, the "supposed" literary scholar, am always very very picky. And, of course, I always like the book more in the end. That's not the case necessarily here, since the film expands on the book in an unprecedented way, given that it's a very short picture book, so it's basically another work of art, simply based on a previous one. The details that surprised me the most were small but significant -- the fact that in the movie the words "Wild Thing" that are so central to the book are not used at all! (please correct me if I'm wrong Caroline) The mother screams that Max is "out of control" and there's no mention of going "to the land where the wild things are." I think that this small detail is more significant than the fact (which bothered my husband more) that he did not go back to his room but ran away, so a forest didn't grow there, leading him to sail away. My (poor, lay) interpretation is that Spike Jonze didn't want to use special effects here (the room turning into a forest) and wanted to make the voyage more literal.

The voyage in the book is poetically rendered thus: "he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are" whereas in the movie we just get the majestic images of him braving the sea in that small boat and the almost as equally poetic scribbling of his name on the side of the boat. The visuals of the island are beyond stunning. I was wondering about the film's locations and according to IMDb it was all filmed in Australia (when not in a studio) -- I'd thought that perhaps it might have been New Zealand, of Lord of the Rings fame (and where my brother now lives!).

I really enjoyed the fleshing out of the Wild Things (which are stunningly faithful to the book's drawings) and their varied personalities. I think this whole movie is a plateful for for any psychoanalyst or for a Freudian/Lacanian analysis (I'm not big on psychoanalysis, I have to confess). The conflict between Carol -- who is the Wild Thing most closely identified with Max -- and KW mirrors the conflict and longing in the relationship of Max with his sister, and so on and so forth. Oh, and KW's protective "eating" of the boy -- a plateful and such a profound/new way to see the "I love you I'll eat you up" line from Sendak (which is, obviously, uttered by who else but KW at the end!).

Now, the second departure from the book that I found quite significant was the fact that Max doesn't really tame the Wild Things with a magic trick (of looking into their yellow eyes and not blinking once -- I'm loosely quoting from memory here) -- they're just way too big and too wild for that. Therefore, they never unanimously declare him king. He is the one who introduces himself as one in a rambling and very weak and tentative "make-believe" re-creation of himself and the Wild Things end up convinced by all his arguments (which obviously crumble in the end, uncovering his fantasy and make believe). I think this fact makes him a much less authoritative king that the book would lead us to believe. In addition, he never sends the Wild Things "to bed without their suppers" -- "Freudian-ly" imitating his mother -- like in the book. He just brings a degree of confusion to their lives, given his inexperience and incipience as a leader (I particularly disliked the war scene, it just made me cringe and thing that I hope my children's games don't go wrong like that -- although I know some are bound to).

I didn't mind any of the other changes and additions, I think they just enriched the book and provided new layers and fascinating interpretations of such a short text (338 words). The one review I'd read prior to seeing the film is Mary Pols' Time magazine's and it's pretty good, although I think she exaggerated a bit Max's relationship with his sister (I didn't find it as heartbreaking as she did) and I don't think the movie stays for too long in the "Wild Things" land. This is a minor detail in Pols's analysis, but I didn't see Max in school as a "typical bored boy." I don't like it when reviews predispose me to interpret things a certain way (that's why one might not want to read them before seeing the work).

It is a sad movie, I must say, full of the angst and confusion involved in the serious business of growing up. I can totally see why Maurice Sendak would have loved it, given that many (if not most) of his works address dark subjects (just to cite two recent examples, Brundibar and We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy -- which uses two nursery rhymes to take on homelessness and poverty). I can't wait to see Jonze's documentary on Sendak, since I've long been fascinated by his work.
Back to the film... I really enjoyed it and was moved by it, but I also felt a bit disturbed and hence the long question I decided to include in the post's title. I could see my boy there in Max and the Wild Things, but I could see me too. And that is a clear deviation from the plot. The reviewer Mary Pols wants the film to go back to the security of Catherine Keener's superbly played mother, but what if sometimes the mother is there in the Wild Things land with her son?

I don't know if I can elaborate further on this, it would be too much of "cheap blog therapy" and I don't want to end the review in this tone. I'll just say that in the recent months, dealing with my son because of cyber-schooling has both brought us closer than ever, but also brought too often to surface a "Wild Thing" mother that I don't want to be. I want to be the nurturing one, but at times I just can't help but scold and nag and go all wild. :-( Is there room in the world/film/life for a at times transgressive "wild mother"? Or is that too dark and scary and also too dark for words?

Déjà Vu -- My Nightmarish Foray into the World of "Pseudo Education"

It wasn't really déjà vu, but almost. Yesterday K got a message on his phone from one of our friends in the Brazilian church who was inviting us for her birthday party. We weren't able to go (see yesterday's post), but the moment K told me about the party I felt all angry and almost sick inside.

Last year we "went" to her party, that is, K and the boys got to enjoy it, but me? I just went downstairs for a few minutes to eat (delicious food!!! a mix of Brazilian and traditional Thanksgiving, well, at least the turkey) and spent the rest of the time at my host's computer frantically answering emails and grading for my "pseudo educational"/"pseudo-work" with Axia college, part of the University of Phoenix "conglomerate." "Facilitator," is what my "job" was/is called. And if it's at an actual location (I've been contacted to go to an interview for this), it's called "practitioner faculty" -- what in the world is that supposed to mean? I have an actual degree and teaching experience, I don't need/want to be simply "facilitating" or being a mere "practitioner" using materials (which aren't that great to begin with) produced by a corporation which aims at profiting from other people's need to get an education, particularly from home, or part time.

I feel sick to my stomach just thinking of those two months. If I hadn't had a ten-day break for the holidays, I don't know how I'd have survived. How can one do it for straight nine weeks, I wonder? I know that after the first few weeks some of my colleagues only spent a couple of hours a day working and were able to manage the grading (we had around 60 students and strict deadlines to respond to assignments: 48h for the shorter ones -- at least per student per week, and 7 days for the weekly long assignment), but I just wasn't able to. I mean, I got nearly everything graded, working into the night (until 2 am) several nights a week and I still ended up overlooking a paper or two (typically one that had been turned in late or too early).

Of course I am to blame for the fact that I was working part time a few days a week and never did my "facilitating" first thing in the day or earlier in the week (not that this was exactly possible because I had to respond to students as they posted their contributions), but only after I'd worked, taken care of the kids and house and had a bare minimum of "me" time online. I just couldn't "have a life" and hold this pseudo job... as I ranted in the blog a few times.

There's another thing I am to blame. I just could not "pretend" to grade the students' work so I could do it faster. I gave them real feedback, individualized comments, I corrected their mistakes and advised them on how to get their work better next time. I don't know how I could have done that using less time, but apparently that didn't matter. The quality of my work didn't matter, only it's "automatism" -- fitting into their system seamlessly.

So, yeah... I know I could be earning some 900 around 600 bucks a month [after I wrote the post I realized it was less than I'd thought -- not enough for all the work], which would be helpful, and I'm making NOTHING, but at least I'm happy, right? RIGHT? As I wrote here before, this particular "work" had all the responsibilities of teaching with none of the fun and enriching parts. I felt enslaved to the computer and to being available to questions 24/7 and I knew I'd be penalized if I didn't answer a question or query within 24h. Big brother was watching.

Main regrets: I wish the students had been given the opportunity of evaluating my work, regardless of whether I was 10 minutes or an hour late posting a correction, and I also wish that I had been given a chance to evaluate my terrible, discouraging "mentor" -- she was all, but a mentor, that's for sure! She derailed me on week two with a frantic phone call and I never recovered from the utter nervousness and (momentary) despair caused by it.

Several students thanked me profusely for helping them, but I guess their voices will never be heard, I doubt that they had an opportunity to evaluate their "facilitator" -- I was just replaceable cheap labor, other people more desperate for home-based work were probably waiting and already trained to take my place.

Is there anything else you'd like to know from my (thankfully) brief "foray into the world of pseudo education?" I'm willing to speak up now. I should actually go check whether other people have blogged or written online about this or if they're just afraid to name the big corporation.

This is definitely not what I intended to post today, but I've wanted to write this for a long time. I'm just a little surprised by the way that I came about to writing this! How a simple recollection brought along all the feelings of entrapment and helplessness that I felt while trying this "line of work." It was enough. Working in the margins shouldn't come at such a high cost to someone's peace of mind. I didn't work for 10 years on a degree to submit to that. Hell, no (and I don't generally even use this kind of language).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let's Pretend I Live in the West Coast...

... and it's 10:18 p.m. there now, instead of 1:18 am the next day.

I was going to title this "my nephews ate my homework, erm, time to post on time" but thought it was a little bit too silly!!

We were out of the house all day and arrived here late, followed by brother-in-law and his wife. We'd picked up the nephews while they went here with their church. The boys are now asleep and the older boys are talking and I... who should also be there talking, am blogging while I wait for a load of laundry to wash so I can go hang in the basement. Very boring stuff...

I'll try to blog more tomorrow, but that's it for today, folks!

Oh, and I picked up our holiday on Thursday cards and they look fantastic! I'll be sharing them in about a month, OK? Please be patient ;-).

P.S. After I posted this an went upstairs I discovered that they were going to bed already. I talked a bit to K and came back to check on blogs and wait for the laundry. The washing is not done yet, but it's going to be sunny tomorrow, so I can go to bed and hang it out to dry (and not go hang it in the basement tonight)! YAY! 2:22 am.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some (Good) News and Assorted Odds & Ends

I forgot to mention something a while back (around a month, I think). You may remember that my first despondent thoughts about this house and the possible need to sell it earlier this year were prompted by the fact that German big pharma purchased American big pharma. We feared that if the local company were to shut down, house values in this area might irrecoverably plummet.

The good news is that the merger has happened, the name of the company has been changed, but it is still there. This area is safe for a while longer.

Last week K stayed home for a day and a half to work on the yard and twice that day a man stopped by to talk to him. It turns out he was one of the people who were really interested in buying this house (in his case even before we bought it back in 07) and the only reason why he didn't make an offer was that he hadn't been able to sell his own house or get a "bridge" loan. He's still interested and if his house sells we could "sell by owner" to him! We think that this is a very good sign!

Some other quick things: I have a few edits to do in previous posts and I'll do them soon.

I just had this idea to get things moving a bit again at the 365 project blog -- I want to post photos of foods that I took throughout the year on those days. I'll keep you posted.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

A Preliminary Answer/ Clarification

I just wanted to let my SIL know that I haven't been purposefully avoiding answering her question, it's just that this is such a complicated issue -- going back to Brazil or not -- that could take several posts to address.

First, I just wanted to say that I don't think that we're "vehemently discarding" going back to Brazil, it's just that we want to be able to approach all employment possibilities for K on the same footing. If there are no job offers here and he has one there we will most certainly go. The problem with next week's concurso is that they need three professors to begin in February and that K cannot possibly do. If they want him to go later (in August) then it might work out.

In addition, we want him to wait until any possible interviews and offers that might take place here to make a decision. This would probably be around April or even May. So, I guess the short answer is that we don't want to go back before making sure there are no jobs available for K here. Does that help?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Hole in the Underpants

From the drafts folder.

I love doing laundry (not so much putting it away), but I don't do it that often because I like to save energy (and work) by washing a lot of clothes at once (I can't recall who is the other blogger I read who does the same, I don't know anyone in real life like this -- please shout out if it's you!).* I separate the dark clothes (which take at least 2-3 weeks accumulation in summer to make a load and about a week to a week and a half in winter, we wear more dark clothing then), but that's it, I hardly ever do loads of whites. I wash towels and sheets together with our clothes and... once in a long while, I do a load of hand washables or "delicate" clothes. This "concentrated washing" of big loads is the main reason why last year I broke my clothesline one warm January day when the temperature went up to the 60s (check out photos here).

I guess I mentioned briefly before that we haven't used our drier since last December, when we were forced to buy a new washer. We decided to upgrade the washer and didn't go with the cheapest and simplest front loading Kenmore model, so the old drier won't fit on top of the new one, so it can't be installed in our hallway "closet" laundry, unless we build a wooden "podium" for it to perch on top of the washer. The problem is the exhaust duct that is too big for the lower part of the "closet-style" laundry and if we install the drier, we cannot close the folding doors...

This sporadic laundering is only possible because we do have lots of clothes, particularly underwear. Late this summer I had a really good laugh with my mom because I hadn't done laundry for some weeks and my husband had already complained he was running out of underwear, so as we were hanging the clothes outside I set out to count how many pairs of his boxer shorts I could find in the wash. It turns out there were 22!! So, I hadn't done laundry for twenty-two days!

Then, the weather turned bad and I didn't have enough room in my basement to hang everything. The next day my dad installed more lines, but first, he tried a new experiment in space saving clothes hanging:(It didn't really work that well, even with the dehumidifier turned on high -- there were just too many clothes to dry without that musty smell)

Well, now I have to get to the title of the post and into how it is related to laundry, right? I don't know exactly why, but one day this summer I showed Kelvin what that convenient "hole" in his underpants was for and he became an enthusiastic user of the strategic opening. Meanwhile, his little brother, who always has to do whatever his older brother does, realized that most of his underwear, including many pairs that came from Brazil and some of these handy "training pants," did not have the hole, only a sewn detail pretending to be an opening. He was very upset by this because he also wanted to use the opening! All of a sudden, his three Bob the Builder underpants became his favorites and he began to ask for them everyday, so I soon had to go out and buy him more underwear, in spite of the fact that he already had tons! (and I went ahead and donated the training pants to someone who would need them more than us)

Then some weeks later, when I was doing laundry I realized something strange -- there was a significantly higher number of pairs of underwear for Linton than for Kelvin (18 against 12, I think). And then I remembered the holes, and the fact that some days when he realized that he was wearing one of the "hole-less" pairs, Linton would go change into another pair. In other occasions he would need a new pair of underpants because using the opening had caused some accidental leaking... So, yeah, that's my (rather lame, I now realize) story, and I can't believe I'm writing a post about boys' underpants in the blog! :-) I thought I would be able to make it into a more humorous story, but I have to apologize for my lack of comic skills. Well, I guess the next and more natural step will be to go ahead and purchase some Captain Underpants books for the boys, what d'ya think?

* (I do have more to say about this ;-) As a matter of fact, I always feel a little bad when I see my sister-in-law or MIL doing countless small loads of laundry -- I sometimes think that their clothes are much cleaner than mine (and SIL really are, she swears by old top loaders, which is what she has). Now, MIL has a front-loader too, and I do feel bad at times knowing that it could hold way more clothes in each load. I guess it's just a habit that people have -- doing small loads. My first ever washer, back in 1994 when I got married, was a front-loader (something very rare in Brazil at the time) that I received as a wedding gift from my best friends' parents (it was in my gift list -- I could/should blog about that sometime, the gifts I got for my wedding, tons and tons of stuff!). I read the manual carefully and it said I could wash 4kg (around 8.8 lbs) of clothes in it, so sometimes I would actually use a kitchen scale and weight my laundry! I know, geeky me. So, I've always done big mixed loads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What He Truly Misses

And here's one from the seven-year-old.

But first, the news ('cause we're an NPR listening family): Grandma arrived safely in the U.S. this morning and is getting everything ready for the big move South. We'll see her next week and enjoy as much as we can of the pool in her apartment complex.

So, as we were driving to the Philadelphia Zoo this morning for a school trip (more on that later, if I find the time), we were discussing grandma's arrival and how sad that grandpa wasn't here as well. Then I asked Kelvin "So, you miss (paternal) grandpa a lot, right?"

"No, I miss the airplane and Brazil."

Yeah, I'd forgotten that flying on a jet plane is way more exciting than one's grandpa. And of course I'm glad to know that Brazil is pretty cool too! :-)

"I'm not cute, I'm awesome!"

The wisdom of a five year old boy with a very healthy self-esteem.

Cute is becoming a girly thing, I guess, and he wants to be a man like daddy. So, my option of being cute and awesome didn't work out for him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finally! The Possibility of a Girl in K's Family!!

Great news! Our family (on K's side) has another niece of nephew on the way, due in late July next year. And now all the bets are on to whether it's going to be a boy or girl!! Remember: my mother-in-law has four sons and five grandsons already. The pressure is on.

If my sister-in-law decides to find out the sex of the baby only at the birth we're all going to explode! She alluded to this possibility when we visited them in Montreal two weeks ago -- I don't know if she said that seriously or jokingly. I guess she must have been joking, though... It's her decision, I know, so... well, I'll just try to contain myself.

While we were visiting I found it a little strange that SIL slept most of Friday afternoon and I made a comment to K that maybe she wasn't pregnant, but, given her already normal need for lots of sleep, that in all likelihood she would spend most of her pregnancy sleeping. :-) See, I kind of suspected already!

How exciting!!! Another baby!! I've already packed these two books (which I got to review here, courtesy of Mother Talk) and put them in the car to go to MA, where we'll see BIL and SIL in only 10 days. And I'm already dreaming of buying cute girl clothes. Now... if it's a boy, D, my oldest SIL, already has several boxes of the cutest baby and toddler boy clothes saved for M (who requested it years ago). This past June the three of us actually opened all the boxes and went through the clothes and M was quite happy with them. D has already said, though, that if it's a girl, she's going to buy our niece a pink carseat and stroller and I support that idea wholeheartedly! D and I always wanted daughters and if we have a niece we'll just go CRAZEEEE!

This new development makes us want to remain here in the North so we can enjoy this newest member of the family more, given that right now we're the closest family members to K4 and M, his wife. See, I'm quite sad that I have only seen my youngest nephew once, when he was 1 month old :-(, but what can we do... Hmmm, maybe those two positions that K is applying to in Montreal are not such a bad idea after all... :-D

On the other hand, the news makes me feel sad because my brother and his wife have been trying to conceive for over a year now, and nothing so far... My SIL is actually undergoing the first stages of fertility treatment. I'm sure they're going to feel a pang of sadness when they hear the news about K4 and M's pregnancy. It seems that everything in our lives lately has a tinge of sadness to it. Perhaps this is what it's going to be from now on, we're really "grown ups" now and we have to deal with our aunts and uncle's illnesses (my uncle's condition remains the same) and begin to think about caring for our parents in the years to come. Sigh. That's life... births and deaths, happiness and sadness.

I'm truly glad for K4 and M, though. He started his new job only two weeks ago and that's why they had just started trying -- lucky fellows, got it on the very first try! Now of course we need to hope it's a healthy pregnancy and that everything continues on as planned. My first nephew/niece never came to be because my SIL D, K2's wife, miscarried at 8 weeks, right after our Christmas together in 2002, on New Year's Eve. This child would have been only around 18 months younger than Kelvin. I pray that everything goes well for M. And this is going to be one cute kid, I'm sure!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Possible Future Places of Residence -- because you're dying to know!

I'm trying to escape another depressing subject (my mom's depression & K's trip to Brazil next week for the job selection process for the job we don't want him to get, but which my parents desperately want him to so that we'll move there), by posting about this more hopeful subject. And of course several of my blog readers are anxious to know whether I might be moving close(r) to them next year! (just kidding)

OK, so these are the places we might move to if my husband gets a job there, not that we'd be willing to move to all of them, mind you. I'm listing them more or less in the order of preference, not of best university/college or more advantageous job for K, but of place we'd like to live for whatever reason (reason for yes/no in parenthesis, if easy to explain):
  1. Orlando, FL (warmer and a constant stream of guests ;-).
  2. Atlanta, GA (warmer)
  3. Virginia -- 3 places: 2 on the coast and 1 in the Western part of the state. (pleasant places to live)
  4. Tennessee
  5. Rhode Island (Impossible, though)
  6. Boston, MA
  7. Connecticut (good school, but I'd probably put after #6)
  8. Central MA (I have mixed feelings about going back to MA, but I love MA, it's my adopted home state in this country)
  9. Indiana
  10. Texas - 2 positions. (warmer, but... hmmm, Bushland?)
  11. Central NY State
  12. Western Pennsylvania-- two different places
  13. West Virginia
  14. New Hampshire
  15. Wisconsin
  16. Colorado - 2 places
  17. Michigan - 2 places
  18. NJ (Greater NY area -- we don't want to live there)
  19. Oregon (too far away)
  20. San Francisco (impossible)
  21. Chicago (impossible)
  22. Detroit (well, we could have a super cheap house, at least, with no neighbors, though...)
OK, I'm not including Montreal, for two reasons: it's way too cold and because we might lose our residency. K is still applying, though, and my sister-in-law is thrilled.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Angry, Sad, Upset (Rant about U.S. visas included)

This was not the post planned for today (OK, I have to confess I didn't have anything planned per se, but I always have tons of things to blog about), but I just have to write about this. It's not even "new news" since it happened last week, but we only talked to my in-laws this evening (at 1 am in Brazil... poor them, in fact I feel bad that we didn't know earlier, our fault).

It turns out that my father-in-law's "fate" was finally decided. He ended up being laid off from his job as a pastor here in the U.S. in a very obscure and somewhat dishonest way. It took his employer almost six months to finally contact him -- he got the letter from them only last week, after trying to contact them every week (and nearly every day, more recently) for months. And we learned just minutes ago...

The day after he received the letter he went to the American Consulate to ask for a tourist visa to come with my mother-in-law to the U.S. to sell their cars, pack their things, shop for some appliances and furniture, and ship it all to Brazil. He also wanted to spend Thanksgiving with us because he hasn't seen his two older sons and his four older grandsons for six months. The youngest son is also coming on the weekend from Canada to see us, so it would be a nice family get-together.

It turns out that the lady who was assigned to talk to him at the Consulate was the same one who had received their request for a visa back in June (when they lacked a key document -- the one they were waiting his employer to send all this while) and she was very rude and picky with him. She was actually upset with my 64 year old father-in-law for not having learned to speak English in the three years he lived here -- working with Portuguese speaking people, BTW (Doesn't she know that it's not easy for older people to learn other languages? For some of them nearly impossible?). So, unfortunately, she denied his visa.

If you've never depended on a U.S. visa to travel here and/or visit loved ones, you don't know what that feels like. In fact, asking for a U.S. visa is a really unpleasant experience (for most people, at least for me, who did it over 10 times, it was). And this was just so... I don't know... mean of the consulate worker. My FIL is NOT going to stay here!! Prior to working in the U.S. for three years he had already visited the country eight times since 1990!! And been granted several tourist visas previously. Did she really thing he was coming to become an illegal immigrant? When all he needed was to come and pack his things to return to Brazil? They haven't been to their home in months, all their documents (such as the deed to an apartment they purchased last year) were here, so that was a problem too... And then comes the terrible fear that even though he'll get all the documents he needs and try to get another visa in another state (closer to the Northeastern city where he owns the apartment -- oh, and they're building a house, BTW in the state of Sao Paulo), he might be denied a visa again. And thus, he wouldn't be able to visit us here anymore EVER AGAIN, you hear me? Or until K or his brother "K2" get citizenship and then apply for his residency (apparently, my U.S. citizen BIL, "K3" cannot apply because he's living in Brazil right now). This is just outrageously sad.

OK, rant over.

There's another side to this already complex story, however. One that has to do with the decisions that my FIL (and MIL, but mostly him) made in the past years. They were eligible to have applied for residency with the job he had, but decided against it mostly because they didn't want to be stuck here in the U.S. while waiting for the greencard (in most cases you cannot leave the country after you've started the residency process). My MIL owns a small tourism agency and keeps traveling back and forth to Brazil and back to organize trips, etc. She could have taken a break for a while, but FIL would hear none of it, he just couldn't bear to think of not going to Brazil several times a year. He didn't really like living here that much. The seasons affected him terribly -- last year he was depressed for most of Fall and Winter, I think he had Seasonal Affective Disorder -- but he didn't tell anyone how he felt until later, I mean, it was actually MIL who told us. So, it was not easy for him, even though it was convenient for us and great for the grandsons to live relatively close to the grandparents.

We all (meaning us and my BIL and his family who live here) understand this, but we still wanted them to have applied for residency so it would be easier for them to come visit us several times a year after they returned to Brazil for good (the plan was to return this winter anyway!). We also thought that it would be great for my MIL to work with tourism here as well (K and I fantasized wildly about the future possibilities of this business on our drive from Florida up to here on New Year's day last January and we tried to convince the in-laws to buy a house in Florida -- no dice on that either). In the end, however, we couldn't effectively convince them to apply for the greencard, and thus, they kept depending on the visa to come and go. And come and go they did, several times a year (good for them!).

Then, came the fateful mistake. With new immigration laws and regulations being passed all the time -- this country has become terribly xenophobic since 9/11, I'm sorry to say! -- it so happened that on the day(s) before their scheduled two week trip to Brazil at the end of May, they found out that rules had changed for the religious work visa and that now they needed a new document from the immigration department (that would take from 2 weeks to 3 months to arrive) in order to renew their visa. They traveled anyway, against their better judgment and the exhortations of my brother-in-law (they didn't talk to K, but they knew he was going to urge them to not travel). That's how this whole "soap opera" started.

On the one hand I'm angry at my FIL's disloyal employers and his even more disloyal and dishonest parishioners (some of whom actually lied to him on the phone repeatedly), and on the other hand I know that he could have avoided this.

And then I'm sad on behalf of my sons, who everytime we mention that a grandparent is coming (we saw my parents sporadically after they went to Maryland), ask anxiously, "Is it Grandpa A, or Grandma D?" They were used to seeing them often, visiting them in MA, getting together with them at their uncle's house, spending holidays together, etc. So they missed them a lot (and still do). That's why we wanted them to continue living here a while longer and why this whole ordeal is just so frustrating and depressing.

Well, I guess very few people were able to read to the end, thanks if you did.

One last thing -- my mother-in-law is flying to the U.S. on Tuesday evening so she can take care of everything. I'm really fearful of how the immigration officers will deal with her when she enters the country. If they want, they have the grounds to deport her -- although they shouldn't since she still has a tourist visa (her R visa is no longer valid) and has very good reasons to be entering the country. So, I'm really, really anxious about this. If you pray, please pray that she can enter the U.S. I'll keep you posted.

(I have to post another rant sometime, about my diminished status as a resident when entering the country, BTW... but I'll leave that for another day)

Yeah, it looks like today was the day of talking about the in-laws in my corner of the Blogosphere, first, American Family, then Jody at Raising WEG, now me. Such an uncanny coincidence! :-)

My Favorite Thing About NaPloPoMo...

... is having posts to read on the weekends!! Oh, how I enjoy that! Often people write in their blogs the most during the week when I'm busy and can't enjoy the reading calmly as I wish I could (I just squeeze blog reading in with the tons of other things I need to do).

Other favorite things: hearing almost as much from my SIL as I do in one whole year (after all, except for November, she's The Sporadic Post blogger :-) ). Since our blogs are one of our main forms of communication since we see each other so sparingly (once a year at most), I really enjoy reading her daily.

P.S. This shouldn't be my daily post for today, in fact, there might be a couple more.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Five Glorious Years!!

Right... five years of blogging. It's been wonderful, though, it truly has. I haven't really made a "mark" in the Blogosphere, or Blogland, or, should it be Blogville? I'm just a drop in an ocean, but blogging has made a huge difference in my life. The friendships I made are priceless and the things I learned cannot be measured. So, yeah, I'm glad to be celebrating this "milestone." :-p

And to continue a recent tradition (I guess this will be the third year) I'm supposed to post a nice recent photo of myself, only it's very hard to find one! I forgot to have my official photographer (Kelvin) take one. In fact, there are no photos of me -- except in the Christmas family photos -- to be found in the past two months, so I'll have to use one from September. I'm not crazy about it, but it'll have to do. Can you guess where I was?

P.S. I really have a good reason to be late today. We went out for dinner, K and I -- big "milestone" right there (we never do this, but today we left our sons with friends) -- then to our friends' house and only left around 11:30 and didn't get home past midnight. So, it wasn't really my fault that I couldn't blog earlier ;-).

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Can't Believe It!

1. I can hardly believe it, but I've had not one, but three or four Christmas cards ready (designed and saved at the photo site) for a week now. I just need to go and order my favorite. And it's November! No, that can't be true! And we had not one, but two "photo sessions"* since the first one turned out really bad. I may scan it and post it here if it turns out cute.

2. I am relieved to acknowledge that the leaf removal (only two thirds done so far) has been nearly painless and quick. In the past two years I had to take care of it all by my sorry self, but my dearest K took time from his busy days and nights sending out applications while trying to teach a class and work a tiny bit on his research to help me. I spent a day blowing the leaves last week (before we went to Canada) and K took the day off on Tuesday to bag them all. You know.. I think he needed a break from the applications. And besides, we were really ashamed to compare our yard with all the neighbors' -- our lawn hadn't been mowed in over a month and we had to get rid of the leaves and do it -- and K did! Oh, I love him.

3. This post was going to have only two items, but a third random one presented itself unexpectedly this evening. We're planning to start a singing group in church and while looking for a song online I found this site that sells old out of print music as well as tons of accompaniment tracks!! I couldn't find all songs I wanted, but many favorites, and I was thrilled, singing away with the demos. Now I can stop translating songs from Portuguese to sing with my Brazilian tracks. Phew!
Note: I'm not a great singer by any means, but I do OK. My range is tiny (lower F to the C above middle C -- it's not that great beyond that, it's not even two octaves), so it's really hard to find songs for me. I'm an alto/mezzo soprano. I'm great at singing bossa nova songs, I did so once at one of our department parties back in grad school.

So, yeah, one more random fact about me that perhaps you didn't know. I like to sing, in spite of not being really good at it. (and a rather lame post, but I really have to get ready to sing tomorrow and it' getting late -- I'm super happy about items #1 and 2, though, and I wanted to share).

* Asking a friend to take a few photos of our family, who's dressed with slightly matching outfits (same color schemes), right after church.