Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Front Door Laptop Blogging: Cyber School & First Best Friend*

It's a very rare thing when I get to use a laptop on my lap and in odd places (like in bed, or outside) like it's supposed to used. At our house I usually prefer the desktop and when I use the laptop, it is always on our second desk.

I think I've blogged once from the backyard of our former house and once in our bedroom at the current house, but I think that was it. It's never too late to increase my "repertoire" of blogging in unusual (for me) places, right? So I'm taking the advantage of the fact that have to supervise my sons and their older cousin bike riding and I brought the laptop outside. I can feel a few stray raindrops, though :-( and they don't have a front porch, only a tiny stoop (it's a townhome). Oh well, I'll try to be quick, since it's not really raining, just sporadically "sprinkling"...

OK, we're here in Maryland at my brother-in-law's house. K stayed at home and will be able to put in long hours at the lab -- good for him and, hopefully, for us, because we want to try to go somewhere for a few days without the kids in the next 2 months. I drove with my parents yesterday evening so they can spend time visiting and caring for my uncle, who recently had brain surgery for the removal of a tumor. I left my parents at my (empty) aunt & uncle's house and came to BIL's house where my sons will be able to enjoy the last two days of VBS at uncle's church. Their very first one -- discounting ones I co-directed in MA when Kelvin was 5 months old and then 17 months old. Yeah... the churches I've attended in the past 5 years didn't have them, the boys were two young, and I was too lazy to take them VBS hopping in other neighborhood churches in spite of the fact that I really enjoy VBS & I've love co-directing them in the past.

So, yeah... boring update blogging, but still, blogging. I want to try and update the Project 365 blog. I did post a couple of photos yesterday (dated from my birthday).

Oh, another important update: we finally picked the cyber school our sons will be "attending." I hope it's a good choice, but I have a feeling it will be. That's how it went: on Monday we went to a friend's birthday party* and while talking to one of the moms there I found out that she had just enrolled her children at a cyber school and she had done two years of home/cyber schooling in the past, but with another school (which she didn't like that much). So, she explained to me why she chose this particular one and I thought it was a good choice.

When I got home I read their whole website and talked to K who also liked the school. Yesterday before leaving for MD I printed out and signed the forms that I needed to sign, found Kelvin's latest report card, and picked up their immunization records from the pediatrician's office. That's why we only left at 5 pm and missed VBS (6-8) :-(. Poor K had to fill out all 20+ pages of forms for EACH BOY and he mailed the forms this morning. So, hopefully that will be all set. And so far, I'm no longer actively looking for work although we would really need the income. Sigh. This is what I really, really want, though, to stay home with my sons. And since working from home for evil for-profit "educational" institution named after bird that came up from the ashes was a living hell and didn't work out, I really don't know what other pursuits to tackle from home. We have several ideas for websites, let's see if we can implement any of them. So, wish us luck! I'll let you know if we start anything.

ETA: Oh, and in the end it never started raining and I'm still out here while the three cousins (7, 5, 4 [2 months to 5]) ride their bikes (without training wheels).

*The brother of Kelvin's very first and very recent "best friend" -- this is a brand new thing for him since this boy had two other best friends for each of the past two years and Kelvin never had had a best friend, he was always friends with everyone. I don't know if I like the gossipy feel of "oh, you're no longer my best friend and now you are," but the former best friend seems ok (I still want to talk to him -- all these boys were my students last year), but it's funny to see Kelvin and C, looks like they just started dating or something, it's cute. Being a girl, I don't know much about how this "best friends" thing works for boys, and I ask the more experienced friends out there -- how does it go? Are there any books I should read on the subject?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blog Description

On a whim, I changed my super-prolix blog description and made it even longer... I'm feeling chatty today, like, hmmm, always! ;-)

A mother (mamãe) of two boys (born in March 2002 and May 2004) between two languages (Portuguese and English), two countries (Brazil and the U.S.), two "worlds" (academic/ home-front). After being a doctoral student for 10 years she is now trying to figure out what to do next with her life now that she has a Ph.D.

I'm changing it to:
A prolix and opinionated mother (mamãe in Portuguese, hence the [e]) of two boys (born in March 02 and May 04) between two languages (Portuguese and English), two countries (Brazil and the U.S.), two "worlds" (academic/ home-front). After being a doctoral student for 10 years she is now trying to figure out what to do next with her life now that she has a (so far useless) PhD. It's easier to stay home with the boys and blog than looking for an nonexistent academic position in her area!

I don't know if I like it, I may change it again soon!

Academia is an Exercise in Sameness

I was in Harvard at a conference when I said this to someone for the first time. Inside the famous, beautiful Memorial Hall, where we had been offered a free lunch in this imposing room the day before:Actually, we were having a conversation right under this window:
Of course what I am saying is nothing new to any academic. You're supposed to build upon the work(s) of people who came before you, you have to think and research about the same things before you can move on to new discoveries, and create new information. However, I think that academia, with all its rituals, all its elaborate peer reviewed journals, big conferences with myriads of panels has taken this "sameness" to a whole other level. It has perfected "sameness" and made it a way of life. Particularly in the humanities, but perhaps in other areas too.

In literature, for example, people can be analyzing many different authors, but the way they do it -- which necessarily follows whatever theories and theorists are fashionable at the moment -- is basically the same! And if you dare to be different, if your area is not what's en vogue, you cannot ever belong or get a job!! If you dare not to worship all those theorists that people think are like demi-gods or something, you're doomed.

If you don't absorb all the more famous or previously relevant researchers/theorists/studies in your subject area, digest them, and them spit them back out in a slightly different and highly condensed form and then, only then, try to present your own voice and demonstrate as well ad you can how you, poor insignificant you and your ideas fit in or contribute, and then, hopefully you'll get these people to read your work and respond (all in writing, in dry academic prose) -- they you will amount to nothing. And if you do all the above mentioned things like I tried to do in my dissertation, but the relevant/famous people don't know about your work or don't care aobut it, then... you will be worse than nothing.

Yeah, that's what the academy does to you. It's your reward for years of trying to fit in.

And the rare academic who does something different, like the guy I found out two weeks before I defended my dissertation, if they're recognized (after years and years of work), they say they're lucky (his words to me in a very kind email). Yeah, very very lucky, because his work, for example, is described as nothing sort of "heretical." I do/did something similar to what he does, but it's not something defended/advocated by any theorist and I can't just move to California, knock on Moretti's door and ask to work for him as a postdoc or something. This doesn't exist in the humanities.

What about academic conferences? I've written about them at length here, but, for the sake of this argument, all I have to say is that these conferences are the epitome of the "exercise in sameness" mentality. Ideally, you should go to conferences to learn new things and interact with people with different points of view, but all people do is present at panels with like-minded people and if there is something too unusually different there, it's just politely ignored (like my presentation at the conference in Rio, right after the woman who's the president of my discipline's association in this country and who works here). At the MLA, hundreds of panels have only a handful of people attending, it's depressing! And I understand that there's not enough time for people to get distracted with other areas that not their own, but aren't real scholars supposed to be working in several different areas? My interests, OTOH are just so multi-faceted that I have a hard time to arrange a schedule to go see all the presentations I want to see in conferences.

I guess it's not as bad when one analyzes publishing in peer reviewed journals, but who reads these things anyhow? Going to conferences, publishing become simply obligations to be able to fulfill tenure requirements and not really to "advance knowledge" in any significant way. These exercises in sameness bear little relevance to real life and therefore we academics become the butt of jokes and at all the idealistic "forces for the good" or for the advancement of society and humankind that we may aspire to be.

I know, it's pathetic, ridiculous even, but those who want to belong and who are, perchance given entrance into the select and ever more rarefied "club" of tenure track professors, go on playing by the same rules. And the rest of us just have to give up, I guess.

I think I'm not presenting any more compelling arguments here and I'm just getting bitter and personal, which doesn't help at all. It's just that I want to be able to say something, anything, because I don't agree with the "establishment" (hahaha) and I don't think I will ever fit in, not that I want it, given that I disagree so strongly with certain things that academia holds so dear.

And this, in the end, doesn't matter, because -- to use their own beloved jargon! -- I'm talking from the margins, I am, in a sense the other and, as the other, I can only be the subject of study, never in the center myself. Yeah... I don't want to be wrapped up in sameness, I want to be different! Vive la différence!, or, should it be différance? :-D

Facebook is distracting me from blogging...

... and I don't like this too much because I like blogging so much better!

Facebook is ok and stuff, but I don't feel comfortable sharing too much there just because I feel exposed to so many people, from family members to grad school colleagues, former dissertation director, personal friends and blogosphere friends. It's a mess, really! Isn't it weird that I would feel more comfortable writing in my non or semi-anonymous blog than there?

I actually feel bad that most of my blogging friends are there, but I don't even reveal the existence of this blog in my fb account. I guess it's the last thread, the last few hopes of ever getting a job in academia (BLAH -- I really did give up, but I'm still holding back). I have so much to say about that, and also about blogging in general... and I guess I'm just holding back writing here too.

I feel like this blog is a failure because I never tried hard enough to make myself known. I don't fit in well anywhere (and I've talked about that before) -- I'm not really an academic mama blogger anymore -- just a mother with a stupid, useless, hard-earned but meaningless-to-anyone-but-me PhD (and, no, I'm not crossing out the stupid and useless -- I thought I would, but I'm not).

OK, I'll go write another post right now to say what I really really think about academia. I think I'm on a roll here. I might blog all night long (nah... probably I wont). And just to finish the previous paragraph a bit... I could have tried harder to make myself known, commenting consistently at Laura (11D) or Bitch PhD's places... etc. Or, I don't know, whatever... but in the end I read the people that I enjoy reading, and that's about it. And I feel frustrated that I wish I could be a best known blogger but I'm not. whatever... and the expatriate part of my life doesn't interest anyone but me, I guess... that doesn't seem to be/have a particularly strong blogging community anyway.

So, yeah... going back to the subject of this post before I close, facebook is not helping much, but since everyone is hanging out over there (and now I'm friends with even more blogging peeps -- thanks!), I can't help it but do it. And plus, it's the best place to see gorgeous photos of my nephew!! Yay!

Gotta go rant about academia now before I run out of steam.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

There Goes His Birthday Money!

Well, good thing that there was some money left to begin with, right? In fact, I don't know if I should be glad that it took seven years for our sons to be finally acting in a way that caused property damages of a significant cost or upset that it's probably just the beginning (I've been thinking lately how in the world one can let a 16 year old drive one's car!).

That's how our desktop LCD monitor looks like after my angry youngest son threw a battery at
his brotherit:

Close-ups of the "broken" part (in white & black - click to enlarge):

In sum, the desktop is useless until we can buy a new monitor. :-(

The funny thing was that the day after this happened, my five-year old was "bragging" about it in church, telling people that he'd lost all his birthday money because he'd broken the monitor... It didn't sound like he was sorry about it at all. Sigh. I hope this event can help to get him to learn not to throw things at people (or against other things) when he's angry. Should I start reading about anger management for children? My only hope right now is that nothing else gets broken at our house!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

41 Years Ago Today...

... My parents got married. Lucky for us their children * it has always been and still is a very loving relationship and I could not be more thankful and delighted about this!! Congratulations mami & papi, I love you so much!!

The photo below is the only one I have (my mom needs to scan more :-). It features my dad's family and brings me some bittersweet thoughts -- some breathtakingly sad mixed with happy ones. The one in the far left is my dad's oldest brother, the one who preached at the wedding, because he was already a pastor. This uncle's wife (portrayed next to him) left him only a few years later. Next to her is my aunt's husband Joao, who died nine years later in a freak car accident (I intend to tell this story someday -- this aunt was always the closest to us since she's always been good friends with my mom and my brother and I grew up as siblings with her daughter and son). Next to my mom is my uncle who is currently awaiting surgery from a newly found brain tumor in Washington D.C. (I mentioned this uncle at the end of the previous post, but I didn't know about the tumor then. Please pray for him and his wife if you can!).

Unfortunately, we are mostly estranged from the two remaining aunts in the back and my uncle, the one in between them, lives by himself in the small town where they all grew up (in the one house that remained after they sold my grandpa's properties after his death back in the late 70s) and is painfully schizophrenic. My dad visits him yearly, bringing clothes, checking on the house and what my uncle's been up to. So sad.

The little girl to the left of my grandpa is my dear aunt Ber who lives in Nashville and whom I try to see every year and visit at least every two years. I love her dearly I am so glad that we can still be close and interact whenever we can. Grandpa died back in 1978 and if you're a regular reader you'll know that my grandma died back in December.

My dad's family is complicated, but they are beautiful blue-eyed German-Polish Brazilian folks and I love them all, whether we're in touch or not. I'm glad that this anniversary and the photo I have made me think about daddy's family. And it's good to be spending time with family here in Montreal!

* The link is to the recent Time magazine cover essay by Caitlin Flanagan about marriage that I thought was interesting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

O Canada!

We arrived in Montreal at 2 am last night (I guess that technically I should I say this morning...) to visit K's youngest brother, "K4" and his wife M. They immigrated to Canada in the Spring, marking the last step in the family's internationalization. Regarding this topic, coincidentally, "K3" and his family arrived in Brazil today -- my SIL coming from TX with my youngest nephew [who just turned one on my birthday!] and K3 from flying from Turkey with their possessions. They're going to teach at one of the American Schools in São Paulo for at least two years. So, until my father- and mother-in-law move back to Brazil next year they will be the only members of K's immediate family in Brazil! My brother and his wife remain in New Zealand and K's uncle who was in South Africa is moving to Mozambique... it's interesting to have family members all over the globe.

This is my fourth visit to Canada and I'm enjoying visiting another country that's not Brazil, for a change (my last visit here was back in 2002 when Kelvin was 4 months old)! We haven't left the apartment yet -- K just went downstairs with K4 so the boys could ride their bikes in the neighborhood (they live in this calm location) while I cooked lunch and now we're resting a bit, napping, playing with the ipod, watching TV and blogging.

I have been very busy gardening (after going to Maryland to visit K2's family and celebrate my second nephew's 3rd birthday last weekend) and I also went to the doctor (that has been taken care of). The neverending gardening was one of the reasons why we were so late leaving home yesterday... I'll share some photos soon, ok? My apologies for the boring updating post... I think I'm too tired to write a coherent post right now. Oh yeah... and I'm glad that we have wireless internet here because I'm feeling pretty strange not being able to use my cell phone...

Oh, I almost forgot, I wanted/needed my phone so I could check on my uncle's health (my dad's brother who lives in the D.C. area). He fell on his driveway on Monday and broke an arm as well as bruised his face badly. They suspect he may have had a mini-stroke because he cannot remember what happened leading to his fall. I was shocked at the news because we'd just been with him and my aunt last Saturday when we went to MD. Please pray for him and/or keep him in your thoughts because he's in pain and in quite depressed. Good thing my parents will be here in a little over a week -- my dad will be able to go stay with him for a while...

So that's it for now...

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Fresh Start , Last Day to Enter Carefree Fresh Start Fund Contest! & Carefree Ultra Protection Blog Tour

Hi there! This is a Mom Central Review feature (others here), first, though, I need to let you know that today is the last day to enter an exciting contest, the Carefree Fresh Start Fund, which is giving women a chance to win $10,000, $5,000, and $3,000 for a “fresh start.” All you have to do is register here and write about why you’d like to have a “fresh start” or a time in your life you did something to start fresh.

It's easy for me to think about this subject since we're just starting fresh after putting the house on the market and planning to move and then finding out that now we can stay here and enjoy this home for a while longer. I want a fresh start, I plan to take better care of the house and the garden and value more what we have. I think I learned a lot from the exhausting process of staging the house for showings and maintaining it in good shape for over two months. So, I guess I want to have a fresh start in keeping the house more organized and pretty from now on.

I also received a sample of the new Carefree Ultra Protection (through Mom Central) to try out and review here in the blog. I guess I'm a good candidate to try out and evaluate this product for two main reasons: 1) I used to wear another brand of pantiliners; 2) Although I don't wear them on a daily basis I was looking for a good pantiliner to wear during the extremely light periods (more like spotting) I have with this contraceptive. I didn't post earlier because I was actually waiting for one of my light periods ;-) and it came this week.

I really liked the Carefree Ultra Protection pantiliner, particularly because it is very thin and soft -- you can hardly feel it. The addition of "wings" makes it more protective and although I didn't have a chance to try its absorbency (I mostly "spot"), it looks like it can be trusted (the product website claims that it absorbs ten times as much as a regular pantiliner). I think there's a good chance that I'll be using this product again in the future. You can try it out as well by requesting a free sample at the product's website. And don't forget to go here and submit your perspective on a fresh start and have a chance to win some cash, as well as a trip to NYC!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On NOT Opening a Window

So, I'm calling the insurance and the doctor to get my current contraceptive removed and replaced so we can avoid having babies for the next five years. Sigh.

I'm getting it done in spite of the fact that yesterday, on my birthday, I was "deliriously" thinking that this was my last window of opportunity (again! I know! And just two weeks ago I said I was almost "recovered" from this!) -- the chance of removing the contraceptive and having another baby even before my 39th birthday, but I will act rationally and not do it, for reasons I have exhaustively discussed here and elsewhere.

So, yeah... as soon as the phone rings from the doctor's office, the appointment will be made and this will be it. The beginning of the end of my reproductive years. I should be relieved because babies ARE too much work, but no... I just feel nostalgic.

I should follow my own advice and go read the journals from after Kelvin and Linton's birth, right? Or go visit my friend with the newborn (no... that might steer me in the opposite direction! ;-).

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

40 Minus 2

That's how old I am now...

I had a lovely day and I really really enjoyed the countless "scraps" that I received in orkut (site similar to facebook and popular among Brazilians) and wall messages in facebook. Thanks, everyone, you made my day!

We had friends visiting from Brazil and we went out to eat Japanese food at this great sushi buffet restaurant. Then we came back home and while our kids played, we sat on chairs in the front lawn, under the shade of our big hickory nut tree, talked and sipped lemonade. Our friends left around 6 pm and then I received several more phone calls and emails... so nice! There will be no big party this year, but all I really want is to enjoy this house with family and friends, and that already happened!

As the tradition goes (I couldn't find the one for last year!), here's a recent photo of myself (from 2 weeks ago), this time with the boys. We took some photos today, including one of my colorful plate at the sushi place, but I haven't uploaded those yet. thanks for being part of my life!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Day!

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves (all photos taken by the talented Kelvin, only 7 years old! Thanks baby!):

P.S. AD, your delicious gift or raspberry apricot jam arrived today, very fitting, thank you so much!!

They're Coming...

... (my parents, that is), so this means we're not going to Brazil -- in case you were wondering what was the final decision in this quandary. They purchased their tickets this morning and will stay here for two months. I'm OK with my decision, but I hope we can go to Brazil in December/January. There's more news, but I'll write another post shortly! ;-)

Oh, and thanks to all those who responded to the previous post, particularly my dear friend Lucy, whose beautiful comment brought tears to my eyes! We have to meet your baby, Lucy -- let me know if you want my dad to dedicate her!! We'll go and sing too ;-).