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.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Whoa! Over 900 Posts!! (This is the 902nd)

I forgot to check this earlier so I could commemorate the event properly (I hope I remember to do it for the thousandth post), but it looks like The PhD Problem was my 900th post. How fitting, no?

900 posts in two years (minus 4 days, the blog's anniversary is coming up, hmmm, I better start looking for that photo of me)... it's not much, but quite a bit. Let's see... (thanks to the new blogger stats):

5 posts in 2004
91 posts in 2005
175 in 2006
235 in 2007
240 in 2008

and so far only
155 in 2009 :-(

So it looks like 2009 will have less posts than the previous years and mark a decline in my blog posting. I'll blame the depressive year -- you should be glad I didn't blog more, believe me. Even I am (because I'm a whiner, sorry about that). These numbers do make me feel a bit sad, though... since I'd been writing more and more every year. Should I try to write 85 posts in the 56 days left in 2009 so I can measure up?

Hmmm... Don't dare me, but probably not. Although I would like to be able to post 500+ photos to update my poor neglected 365 blog. Crazy me.

OK, enough fluff for today. Maybe more later (or some seriousness... it'll depend on my mood).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This cyber schooling thing is tiresome. I do enjoy it (apart from having to nag my firstborn a lot), but it's still exhausting and all-consuming. So much so that I haven't had time and the energy to update the new blog I started. I guess I'll just abandon it, since I don't like the name anyway (I much prefer Mama to Mom, I don't know why I titled it Cyber Schooling Mom. I even like the silly "mommy" better than mom. Oh well).

I'm quite content with my life right now and I'm not really looking forward to the stressfulness and craziness of the trip to Brazil that will take place in short 26 days. I love spending my days with the boys and I'm even doing more things around the house (I want to write a post about that, let's see if I end up doing it or not). Traveling changes everything all of a sudden, although I'm quite used to it. Our lives are pretty chaotic and not very predictable, let me tell you. And that's how I like it.

That's why moving is not a big deal to me, really. For an expatriate, nothing will ever compare to the radical change of leaving your country, your family and friends, your whole life (even though it's a short life of only 25 years) to start again in another country. Of course after 13 years I'm finally feeling kind of "settled" (now that I have a dining room set and new bedroom furniture, I just wanted new living room furniture too ;-), but this "settling" is always shaken up by trips here and there, plans for the future and the feeling that perhaps the "definitive settling down" never happen... sigh.

OK, I'm just rambling here. I don't know why in the world I had to write two humongous posts on the same day (I guess I didn't realize that both were going up on the same day -- I could have changed the day of the second one for today so easily!). If with some small posts I barely get readers, now I'm doomed not to have anyone check those out! In any case, I needed to get them written. The first, because I wanted to finally have a decent "weekend/travel update" that was still immediately relevant, and the second because I just had to react to an article titled "The PhD Problem" -- how could I not? Given that I am a walking, breathing "PhD problem." :-p

So, dear, gentle readers... do check them out, will ya?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Ph.D. Problem (as if there was only one...)

When I read Laura's well written and creatively titled post (which it departs from two smart "metaphors" before introducing the subject of this post in a comparative framework) mentioning Louis Renand's recent article in the Harvard Magazine (in pdf, if you so prefer) I felt almost sick to my stomach. This problem is just too close to home for comfort (well, it's not merely close, but inside my house and family, which has two PhD recipients either under or unemployed as current readers already know). I waited patiently for over 24h to find some time to read it carefully and to comment here. Let's see if I can manage to do so without shedding any tears or ending up trembling with rage/nervousness (you can see many of my previous "academic rants" here).

Note: This is not a coherently organized essay or review, but a collection of personal reactions to the article.

The first tidbit that effectively caught my attention:
the most important function of the system is not the production of knowledge. It is the reproduction of the system.
I'm quite sure that I actually produced knowledge with my dissertation, but that doesn't matter, because my topic/methodology is not something that fits in with the system at all, it's just a bit too unorthodox. So, the fact that I'm not reproducing the system means that I probably won't enter it. Neat, no?

This statement: "the median time to a doctoral degree in the humanities disciplines is nine years" [11 if one counts the stops] was truly a consolation to me, since it took me "ten years and two sons" to get done -- and I imagine those nine years on average don't generally involve two sons, right? [precisely -- I wrote that before reading the explanation about the 11.3 years average counting the breaks, which means that I actually beat the average!].

Next, I learned in no uncertain terms that independent scholars are "the strongest non-professional[s]," i.e. people who don't have a Ph.D. but still attempt to produce scholarship. Now, if one assumes that "independent scholars" necessarily do not have the degree, what happens when one does have the degree but not the professional affiliation and then has to be relegated to the despised rank of "independent scholar" as I was at my latest conference/fiasco (ironically in Harvard itself)? I guess they should create another term to define this pathetic "other" -- the credentialed researcher without the job (insert contemptuous snort here). Credentialed, but non-institutionalized, "profession-less."

The historical analysis of the problem, whose root lays in the disproportionate (to undergraduate enrollment) creation of doctoral programs, was common, logical knowledge to me from the times in graduate school. I was also aware of the problem with the humanities (my area, obviously...) -- less and less undergraduates enrolling, however, seeing the numbers was really scary.

Reinstating the obvious, but still worth articulating:
What is clear is that students who spend eight or nine years in graduate school are being seriously over-trained for the jobs that are available. The argument that they need the training to be qualified to teach undergraduates is belied by the fact that they are already teaching undergraduates.

And here's an interesting idea that would do away with dissertation troubles (and which could be adapted to fit in with different areas, say, two or three peer reviewed papers):
If every graduate student were required to publish a single peer-reviewed article instead of writing a thesis, the net result would probably be a plus for scholarship.

Now comes the part that Laura alludes to when comparing us -- maimed human beings with a Ph.D. -- to dogs formerly used in dog fighting and former football players:
One pressure on universities to reduce radically the time-to-degree is simple humanitarianism. Lives are warped because of the length and uncertainty of the doctoral education process. Many people drop in and drop out and then drop in again; a large proportion of students never finish; and some people have to retool at relatively advanced ages. Put in less personal terms, there is a huge social inefficiency in taking people of high intelligence and devoting resources to training them in programs that half will never complete and for jobs that most will not get. (italics mine)
The italicized part hits close to home again. My husband is weary that he still doesn't have a "real job" a year and a half shy of 40 years old. His job search feels like a race against the clock. Sigh.

The obvious (and very familiar -- this describes my life!) again:
Unfortunately, there is an institutional efficiency, which is that graduate students constitute a cheap labor force. There are not even search costs involved in appointing a graduate student to teach. The system works well from the institutional point of view not when it is producing Ph.D.s, but when it is producing ABDs. It is mainly ABDs who run sections for lecture courses and often offer courses of their own. The longer students remain in graduate school, the more people are available to staff undergraduate classes.
And here goes my shout out to "the graduate-student union movement" -- a consequence of this appalling problem -- which allowed me to have full health and dental care (and not pay a penny for each of my son's delivery) as well as almost decent wages. Lucky me that I went to a state school. Those graduate students in private universities are often barred from unionizing, in case you didn't know.

And, YES!!! That's just what I thought and felt, given my rather "iconoclastic" research: "The academic profession in some areas is not reproducing itself so much as cloning itself. " The biggest problem, Menand argues, is that because it's already so hard to pursue an academic career in the first place, there is a "self-sorting" process that goes on before students even enroll and only those who already fit in enter. "If it were easier and cheaper to get in and out of the doctoral motel, the disciplines would have a chance to get oxygenated by people who are much less invested in their paradigms."

NOW, here come the foreign graduate students/Ph.D. recipients like myself!!!

Some of us, perhaps many of us, do not fit in to begin with, but enter graduate school precisely because it's not that hard, really (at least for those of us who are/were well prepared by our education abroad -- WHICH WAS FREE to begin with, at least in Brazil at top state or federal universities) and thus, we could signify some change, if only we were given the chance to get TT jobs.

I don't feel I fit in with what Menand says here: "Students who go to graduate school already talk the talk, and they learn to walk the walk as well. There is less ferment from the bottom than is healthy in a field of intellectual inquiry." I don't already "talk the talk" or "walk the walk" thank-you-very-much! I long to be "ferment," if given the chance. And I most definitely was NOT and am NOT "neurotically invested in the academic intellectual status quo." I guess that's the main reason why I haven't yet given up on this whole academic idea!!

How interesting! Reading this essay and finding more about myself and my previously uncovered motivations to remain an academic. How refreshing! And I thought I would be depressing...

Anyhow, Laura, I don't think we need to be rescued, really, perhaps we just need to fight harder, particularly those of us who are slightly "misfits." I'm not saying that I'm changing my mind about not pursuing a tenure track job, I just want to recognize that I'm not done with academia just yet and that it feels comforting to have an insight into the reasons why I'll keep trying a bit longer.

The Sweet & Long Awaited Blogger Meet Up

The sweet part first, if you're wondering what it's about:Now that you're there drooling over those most amazingly delicious and gorgeous macarons from the suggestively named "boutique" Point G that the friendly blogger bought for us to share, I'll share the background story.

Many years ago (more precisely 15-13) K had a student (math in 7th, 8th and physics in the first half of 9th grade) named Keiko (her late dad was Japanese, thus the beautiful Japanese name, which is actually her middle name, but the one she was known for). Keiko -- who a few years earlier also happened to have been one of the lead singers in a children musical group from the institution where we worked -- I say that just to embarrass her ;-) -- is obviously well over 10 years younger than K and I, but little did we know that 10 years after we left Brazil to the U.S. she would be making the same trajectory and becoming one more rare kindred spirit in our circle of friends.

It is very rare and precious indeed to find people who understand K and I in all aspects of life: expatriate from Brazil in North America, doctoral student/researcher, parent of young kids, not to mention having grown up in the same place where I lived from 13-25 years old (in her case from 0-25, I guess). And to top it off, she and I have one more thing in common, which makes the connection even greater: she blogs!!! Unfortunately she does so in Portuguese or I'd recommend that you read her humorous, witty and well written posts about her life as an expatriate-doctoral-student-mother-of-young-children (not that she's having a lot of time to blog lately -- sadly). (A few more words about her blog. It's titled Tirando o Sapato-- Taking off the Shoe, which is a reference to the fact that in Canada everyone takes off their shoes when going into other people's houses. If you go visit over there, make sure to refresh the site a few times to see the several cute shoe pictures!!)

A meeting had been in our plans since she started blogging (and us interacting via blogs and email) back in 2006 and the idea of my brother-in-law and his wife emigrating to Canada was only that, a very abstract idea, almost a dream really for them. Three years later, BIL has been in Montreal for six months and we have visited him twice already. It so happens that during the first visit, Keiko had gone to Brazil for a few days with the, thus frustrating our plans of meeting. We even went to her house (with a bunch of other people) and her absence, as well as that of her children, was keenly felt.

Until last Friday, that is, when we finally managed to meet (albeit later than we had intended -- see lack of time mentioned above)!! Our children played together -- well, the baby girl mostly watched her brother and these two big boys play and be really noisy (particularly Linton and Zack, 5 and 3, who hit it right off). Here they are playing trains:
Oh, and last but not least, my friend lives in an awesome place, here (July photo):She lives in one of the buildings shaped like a triangle at the back of the photo which were part of the former Olympic Village from the Montreal 1976 Olympics. The buildings have a view to this place (which is were the photo above was taken -- from the inclined elevator):
The Olympic Stadium and the Biodome.

What about the macarons, you must be asking yourself? Well, there is an explanation. A while back, more precisely six months ago, Keiko posted about them here (scroll down for cute photos of her daughter). And ever since I saw those pictures I've been dying to eat them! So Keiko was kind enough to purchase some (the plan was to meet at Point G, but that didn't work out) so I could try them. Yummmm! We had to cut them all in four so the kids, and Keiko's sister-in-law (visiting from Brazil) could also have a taste! OK, here's Zack, ready to dive in (let me know if you're OK with the photo, Keiko, 'cause it shows both of your kids):Of course this post is missing something... a photo of the two bloggers. We forgot to take photos, though, because we were too busy talking away! Maybe next time. :-)

This Just In

Remember the "life changing possibilities"? Well, last night we found out via email that the concurso (competition for a tenure track position) has been scheduled for the Thanksgiving week (Wed-Fri).

Very convenient for K to travel (he won't miss teaching any classes), but quite sad for us to be without him for my favorite holiday as well as the 8th Thanksgiving in a row with his brother's family (this time with his mom and his youngest brother too - visiting on the weekend from Canada). In any case, he'll go and participate. You know I have very ambivalent feelings about going back to Brazil, but still, someone who doesn't have a job cannot waste any chances of getting one, right? I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The "Window Smile" Boy

So, this was the second biggest event of the weekend in Montreal (the first will be the subject of the next post) and it happened on Saturday morning -- although the photos were taken 24h later on Sunday morning (my apologies for the fuzzy photo, I wasn't using the flash):Yes, my "baby" is officially gone now that his first top tooth is out (the bottom don't really change their smiles that much) and has been replaced by a funny smile. I'm not looking forward to the big teeth that are likely going to come out of his gum :-). Yes, I wanted them to stay little forever, too bad we can't hold time still. Only in photographs.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

8 Hours in a Car

That's what we'll be doing for the next 8+ hours, driving down home from Montreal... Sigh

So that's all I can post today, or else we'll get home later than we could.

We had a good time at the Science Center of Montreal, the boys, their uncle and I (K and auntie M had to work), courtesy of our membership at the Franklin Institute! There's nothing better than being able to visit other science museums for free all over the world! (Well, we've done Boston and Montreal, so I guess that counts as all over North America, at least... but there are other countries involved :-).

OK, I really have to go now... it's hard to keep up with NaBloPoMo while traveling, I tell ya!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

In Precisely a Month...

... the boys and I will be inside a jet plane flying to Brazil. I'm glad we're going, but kind of sad that we'll spend so much time away from K. And traveling is a really stressful thing. Sigh.

I'm late again posting today, but it's not my fault!! Seriously, this may sound as the lamest excuse ever, but we were stuck in traffic for nearly an hour on the Pont Champlain -- the bridge that crosses the St. Lawrence River into Montreal. We had traveled a bit to visit some friends and encountered a huge traffic jam on the way back. Not fun.

It's been a lovely weekend so far. Long awaited blogger/friend meet up, some time with the brother- and sister-in-law... It's very tiring, but in the end it's so worth it! So now I have to go to bed because tomorrow we drive another 7+ hours back home. More posts and photos later...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Cute Netbook

I'm blogging from the cutest sleek white netbook and it's not that bad to type in its tiny keyboard after all! It's my husband's, he got it for his teaching and the consulting work that he's yet to start. As if researching, adjunct teaching and applying for jobs (which in and of itself is almost a full time job) were not enough, he found this consulting gig which hopefully will help pay some of our outstanding debt, if only he can finds the time to work on it. From midnight to 6 am, maybe?

In any case, I hope to be back with another post later (there's a much awaited blogger meet up coming up this evening!!), but I wanted to send this out just in case, since NaBloPoMo awaits my daily posting.

Our trip was OK (for me) -- we didn't leave until 7:30 pm and got hear close to 4 am. Poor K drove most of the time and at the end had to stop several times to take short naps. Yuck. He's napping now, poor guy. We should have stayed home for him to work on his applications and for me to work on out neverending piles of leaves, but we just came... oh well. More later then...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ready to Move On

Late last night, when I was coming and going to partially fulfill my monthly (sometimes bimonthly) janitorial duties at our church* I thought that I am done with Pennsylvania. I mean, I'm done with living here and I am so ready to just move on. I like to feel this way because it makes what could possibly be difficult moves and changes in life so much easier to bear! I know it's going to be a pain and way too much work to move, but I'm used to this by now, having moved so many times.

I hope K does get a job in a nice place so we can move and start over again. Yesterday I spent most of the day blowing leaves and raking and I was thinking that I didn't want to do this again next year. "One more Spring," I thought, "it's all I want from this house." Which reminds me I wanted to have planted more bulbs, but the few perennials I added will have to do -- it would be a waste to spend money on bulbs at this point, even though they might possibly be my last tulips, crocuses, hyacinths and daffodils ever (if we return to Brazil or move way down South).

So, yeah, I'm done. I know it won't be easy to sell the house and that we'll have to redo the bathrooms anyhow as well as doing the whole staging thing again (blah! At least for twice in my life I can pretend I have a spotless house), but I'm even looking forward to perhaps renting for a year or two. Yes, I am out of my mind, I never thought I'd feel this way! By the time it's all said and done, however, we won't have enough down payment for a house, IF we end up with anything at all (probably not).

One last thing. Reflecting on this led me to the conclusion that I want to feel that I am done with the United States before we return to Brazil, but I don't feel that way at all right now, so it won't be easy to go back and I hope we don't. I want to give your country one more chance ;-).

P.S. This past Saturday (Oct. 31) marked the two year anniversary of the unraveling of our lives here (the day K lost his big pharma job) and I didn't even remember it! K, on the other hand said that he thought about it all day, but for some reason didn't mention in to me until Monday. The ability to forget and the fact that time does bring healing are surely great things!

* I still need to go finish cleaning before we travel to Canada this afternoon/evening. Things are crazy around here!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Just heard from my five-year-old:
Mommy, you're the bestest mommy that you invented.
Yeah, just as I was thinking that reinventing myself as a better mom would be a good idea ;-).

There have been a lot of spontaneous mommy-loving statements from him in the past weeks. I know it's a passing phase, like everything else in childhood, but I sure wish it would last forever!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Existentialist

This afternoon my seven year old suddenly turned to me (at Target, of all places) and said:
I'm so glad that I exist! Can you imagine how I'd feel if I didn't exist?
He also said he was happy that he existed in our particular family (he says that quite often, which is reassuring). He is a confident child and he's bright, I just wish he would work harder in school. I'm often upset with the fact that I have lots of trouble to get him to work with certain things (mostly writing) at school and I feel extremely aggravated with him (and then guilty about it). It's somewhat of a relief to know that he had these problems at the other school, with me and the other teachers. Maybe I'll blog more about it some other time, but maybe I won't...

Meanwhile, I'm reassuring my son of my unconditional love and support and telling him that I'm also glad he exists!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Application Marathon (and a gratuitous sad reflective moment about academia)

I've been falling asleep with my sons several nights lately (which justifies being late half an hour for this daily posting) because K has been away at a conference or just "absent while present" working on his job applications day and night and I want to give the boys some needed extra attention at bedtime (daddy is usually the one to put them to bed every night).

No, I wasn't talking about my job applications there in the title. I've kind of given up on that entirely for the time being. Not only because with the cyber schooling I don't have the time and the mental/emotional energy for it, but because I'm entirely convinced of the fact that I do not want a tenure track job. I want to have a life, and my work is not my life right now, it's just on hold for a little while.

I think often of my dissertation and of various articles I want to write as well as research that I'd love to do. I even got accepted to present at a conference in Montreal (but just missed the deadline for the most important conference in specific area that will take place in NYC -- so close!). I miss my academic life, I do, and writing this makes me all sad and weepy all of a sudden, at least at this very moment, when I think of it.

Why do I have to feel so ambivalent about academia? Why all this angst? In the little poor earnest idealistic heart of mine I wish things were not the way they are... so involved in politics, in fashionable topics that come and go, in the rigidity of a system that you can only enter if you've been well prepared during your whole "training" (from college to grad school) -- and I am anything but prepared. Even though I can write pretty good cover letters that can almost or actually land me interviews...*

Even after years of being "slightly in," presenting at various conferences, trying to interact with peers, I continue to feel like an outsider. My unorthodox research and methodology coupled with my interest in a country/literature that very few care about in the United States are major deterrents.

Well, I don't like this defeatist (or, should I say overly realistic and not ambitious at all?) attitude of mine. Truth is, I'm saving all my bets for K and his job search, as usual. Then, after he accepts a job offer, I'll send out those letters offering my "services" as an adjunct something. Please BITE ME if I don't send them under those circumstances, OK? Thanks. So, yeah. I'm done. I'll have a full list of places of application soon. I want to keep tabs on those, just for my reference (and yours, if you care to follow one more job search in the Casa in Translation).

* I got one interview at the MLA, mind you, which is not really a big deal, of course -- and, OH, I had forgotten! This stupid MLA interviewing is one of the main reasons why I'm just not sending out any applications -- I will be in Brazil then and I know they will just pick their candidates at the "meat market" over there -- great! I can stop crying now... (sarcastic laugh).

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo -- Here We Go Again!!

My third year of "National Blog Posting Month" is starting today and I'm excited! I really enjoy writing every day and I have a backlog of posts to bring to light, several of which will have a bunch of photos. I hope you'll enjoy that! (I just wrote a post like that yesterday, do check it out).

I love the NaBloPoMo graphic above, it has some of my favorite colors. I saw it at American Family and copied it. Thanks A!

So, here we go... See you again tomorrow!