Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Longer Girl-Less

My husband's family is no longer girl-less. This afternoon in Brazil, my sister-in-law broke the spell and gave birth to my niece, Baby A.

If you're not keeping track, my mother-in-law had four sons: K1, K2, K3 & K4.
I'm married to K1 and we were the first to have children: two boys.
K2 & D were next and had... yes, you guessed it, two boys.
K3 & A had one more boy (born on my birthday!) and
K4 & M just had N (whose birth I witnessed)...

The math:
4 sons + 6 grandsons = 10 males in MIL's life (plus her hubby)

Well, now we all have A, to love and spoil. I just hope (against hope) that we'll be able to meet her before her first birthday. It's sad to live so far away from family members (but it's quite the norm nowadays). I think K3 & A won't mind if I share this photo of Baby A with you:
Last, but not least, besides breaking the family's spell by being a girl, A has broken two significant "records" in our family regarding birth:
  • She made her grand entrance the latest in the pregnancy, five days after her due date -- her five cousins & her brother were born either on or before.
  • A is the only baby in the family born in Brazil (5 in the U.S., 1 in Canada).
(I had originally written that she was the biggest baby, at 8 lbs 6 oz/ 3.8 kg, but my nephew M was actually bigger at 8 lbs 12.3 oz/ 3.99 kg -- this post set me straight).

Welcome dearest A. I'm looking forward to being your "oldest aunt." Your oldest cousin, Kelvin, my son, loves your mom (his favorite auntie), so I hope we can have a nice relationship too when you grow up! ;-) Oh... I'm also thinking of your brother and wondering how he reacted to your arrival. I think he's going to be a wonderful brother. Lots of love to you, mommy, daddy & big brother. What a beautiful new family of four!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Immigration is Good for You, U.S.A. ...

... too bad a large chunk of your population cannot see that. :-(

I don't talk as much as I could, or perhaps should, about immigration. It is a thorny issue, even for me, who have always been a here legally, given that I know so many people who don't. And then, again, the episodes of "comment hate" I've experienced in this blog are related to this subject, so I'm not as vocal as I wish I could be for fear I'll be attacked again.

I just saw a link on twitter, though, and that made me remember something I heard on NPR a while back, so I had to come write this "linky" post.

Apparently, "Immigration Increases Your Pay" and some scientific studies suggest that "Rise in Immigration May Help Explain Drop in Violent Crimes" (other links here) -- I'd first heard about this on NPR.

So, yeah... take that, Arizona, take that, U.S.A.

First Day & Starting with a Bang!

The first day of teaching was nice and I still cannot believe that almost two weeks have passed and I haven't yet blogged my sons' first day of school. I'll get to it eventually.

The class was nice and I hope the semester goes by smoothly. Tomorrow evening I teach the second class and in spite of the fact that the students are beginners, I hope it goes as well as today's.

In fact, I'm not going back into this half-heartedly, no! I already organized an event for the students next week to celebrate Brazil's "Independence Day" which will include a movie & food (brought by myself, the former teacher and, hopefully, some other Brazilians from the community).

I had no idea, but it turns out that there is a lot of red tape to go through to reserve a room for an event on campus. Luckily, with the department's secretary's help, I got all the necessary forms in last Thursday! It's particularly tricky to plan something in which food is involved because one needs special permission to bypass the school's official caterers. I was granted permission to bring it because it's for an instructional use (food is part of the culture, right?).

I made a pretty flyer today (making sure to include in the bottom that the event is sponsored by such & such department!) and it will be put up around the department's building and some other ones soon. I'll let you know how it goes. Yeah... as we'd say in Portuguese, I'm really farofeira (which loosely means a person who likes to throw parties & stuff). Yeah, that's me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Working and Mothering, Take 2 (or Children & Universities)

Tomorrow I go back to work for real. Wow.

And it so turns out that on our first day of teaching, the boys have the day off from school. Same thing on Labor Day (we teach that day). So in my very first day back to "working motherhood" after six years (I won't count the year at the school) I'm already having to struggle with the "home work" balance!

We've decided to bring the boys to the university since I can just come home with them after I teach my class. Not only that, though! I'm planning to bring Kelvin to class with me and have him speak Portuguese with the students who are learning it. Of course that's not the reason he wants to come -- all he really wants to do is help me with the projector, the computer, DVD player, screen, etc. (it's a "media room"). I'll let you know how it goes.

Linton is staying in dad's lab, watching videos -- good thing dad will be teaching a 50 minute class just down the hall. Both boys have already spent time at the computer in that lab and they've been to "dad's building" many times, but last Friday was the first time I took them to my side of campus so they could see my tiny office (shared with I-don't-know-how-many other part-timers) and the classroom where I'll be teaching.

They loved lots of things about our trek to the university: the parking garage (they LOVE parking garages) and its elevators, my intricate building and its elevators, and the gleaming building and classroom where I'll teach (especially Kelvin).

Why, oh why, though, people seem to think that children are slightly "strange" sight in a university campus? We didn't see a lot of people, but we did get plenty of stares. Mostly, smiles, particularly from students. When we were walking back to the car, this man who was walking alongside us on his way to the parking garage jockingly said:

"They're a little too young to be in college, aren't they?"

I'm not a witty person (unfortunately), so I couldn't think of anything smart to say and I just gave out a loud, non-genuine laugh "Ha Ha Ha!" And I felt kind of sad that I didn't know what to say. I thought of saying something lame like "Well, this is just bring your child to work day" for me, or something. Whatever. And I just felt defensive about being there with my children.

I'll tell you what, I LOVE bringing my children to campus. I always have -- after all, this is my second take at teaching and mothering. For the first two years of Kelvin's life I'd bring him to my office hours nearly every week and I "passed him" on like a baton to my husband K before class and retrieved him after, for three Spring (he was born in the middle of the first one) and two Fall semesters, two summer sections and one winter one.

And now it starts all over again. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach at 5 pm, so on those days I'll stay home, pick up the boys up from school at 3:15 and drive to the University where I'll pass them along to K who will drive back home while I teach. That's why I've added the label "Tag Team Parenting" (the title/theme of my friend Aliki's former blog) to the blog, as well as "Working Motherhood."

One more academic milestone linked to motherhood (bringing the boys to the university on my first day back teaching) -- the hard-core readers may recall I wrote a rather long rejected essay about this subject a while back. (I feel like re-titling that post, or, maybe finally editing/rewriting the essay and reposting it with more prominence in this here insignificant blog [ha ha! prominence and insignificance are pretty meaningless together]. I'm kind of glad it wasn't published because it doesn't say flattering things about my former department. It was all true, though. Oh, and because I continue to be insignificantly semi-anonymous! yay! Maybe I'm safer that way).

Well... still in the MARGINS, though. I have some more things to say about adjuncting, so I'll try to come back and do it some other time.

Now, I'm not yet done with my preparation for tomorrow's class (see! I shouldn't be blogging!), so I have to go do that...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

on facebook (annoying!) & twitter / links

I think facebook is very, very annoying. I try to spend as little time as possible in there. I just do it so I can know what's going on with friends, family &, mostly, acquaintances. Can't stand it apart from that, though. Blah!! (if it weren't so rude to simply unfriend the acquaintances... :-( )

Twitter is not much better, a bit less of a waste of time if I quickly check it at the end of the day.

I think I'm getting really, really old -- blogging is it for me and I can't move on to other, more superficial things. I like depth & I stick to it. Am I wrong?

Fb & tweets are only food for thought when they link to good stuff (which today some of them did -- Dawn shared this link to a most moving essay that mentions adoption disruption). That's all.

Oh, and Lauren pointed out to an interesting article about Philly -- makes me miss it there. :-(

And Laura this article about how a great famine is coming. If this were her blog, this post would be titled "Spreading Love #xyz" ;-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Remembering the "Good Engine Noise"...

Our two "crumbling Hondas" (no comments on that long post, I thought it was fun, but probably too wordy, as most of what I write) have been to the shop a few times and we've spent over a thousand dollars in them. We had budgeted that expense and our plan is to keep those cars until they "die" and only then replace them. Today my dad was stressed out about the Odyssey and K took it to the mechanic for a few minutes in the morning so he could listen to this rattling noise, so I drove the boys to school in the (even older) Civic.

As I was pulling out of our driveway/parking lot, Kelvin said, in a wistful voice:

"I miss the good engine noise of the Mazda* when daddy pulled out of our old house's driveway every morning..."

"Yeah," said Linton. "I can hear it now" (in his head, he meant).

Because we were home all of last year, they did hear it every morning, sometimes when they were still in bed. This simple statement made me marvel at the perceptive, sensitive memory of children. Not only that, but also at how one small memory can bring so many things to the forefront...
... the long driveway and our old house.
... the "good" car and its nice leathery smell.

Parts of our "old life."

"But I didn't like that school" (the small school Kelvin went for 2 years back in PA), "I like our new school better," Kelvin said cheerily.

"Me too!" Responded Linton.

See? The "new life" has many advantages too! It's not all old cars and cramped (but nice) rental house. ;-) It's also lovely new school, quiet rural neighborhood, new friends and brand new job for mom and dad!

* The post linked to above has some photos of the Mazda.

Edited to add: If you read the old post, you'll be interested in knowing that both cars still have the engine lights on, but both passed inspection. Phew!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Am I really entering the "Twilight Zone"? Oh, yeah, no doubt about that!

If I had written this post last week, it would have been titled "Entering the 'Twilight Zone' in Full Force," but I didn't, so it will feel kind of weird to write it today (I'll explain soon enough).

Oh, but first, a few definitions or clarifications for you, my faithful readers!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What do I mean by "Twilight Zone?"

I am shamelessly borrowing the term from Anastasia, one of my favorite academic bloggers (I still can't believe she wrote that last week & made my day!). She wrote this post last week, in which she elaborates on what happened here (I'll summarize for you, she had a surreal conversation with two administrators who marveled at how amazing it was that they could hire so many adjuncts). I did let her know I'd be doing this and I'm sure she doesn't mind.

So... "twilight zone" refers to adjuncting (a recent "verb" that spell check doesn't recognize).

Further details for those who are not academics out there (maybe one or two of my five readers). Adjuncts are part-time faculty, hired to teach one or more classes and paid a flat per-class rate PER SEMESTER (generally speaking 3K for those with PhD, 2.5K with MA/MS) . With no benefits and very few rights. And all the work and all the obligations of teaching. That is, same work, but NOT the same pay.

It was through a former blog called Invisible Adjunct that I first encountered blogging and later became a blogger myself back in 2004. Nearly six years later, after reading thousands upon thousands of words (particularly written by my friend Articulate Dad in his former blog) maligning all the "adjuncting" signifies,** I am about to become one. Nobody can tell me I'm not going into this with my eyes open, well aware of the implications. Willingly, even. Sigh. Dare I say, almost "thankfully"? (because I happen to have an "almost job" at the same university where my husband is teaching).
** And I won't get into that discussion in detail now, maybe later, if I have the time and energy to write other posts, if you want to get a feel for the issues involve, read this recent post & comments and this one (4 days ago) by Dean Dad -- some people hate what he says & I don't fully agree either)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, so, having gotten the definitions and the background information, and some of the angst (no! not that!) out of the way, here are the facts:

I would have written that I was entering "full force" into adjuncting last week because that's when I found out (less than two weeks before the first day of class -- that's TYPICAL of what happens with adjuncts, we get TONS of advance time to prepare for a class we've never even taught before, look at that, how professional!) that I would in fact be teaching not one, but TWO different classes. My pocket is happy, but I'm kind of freaking out because it's a 100 level class and I hope to be able to do this (I will, it's OK, but still...). In my department's defense, I knew since before May, I think, I'd be teaching the other class and it was because of a sudden event (surgery in the family of another adjunct) that I was given this other class to teach. These things happen all the time, that's why they need us part-timers, right?

Well... not exactly!

Let's get back to today. What happened today is what initially made me feel that it would be strange to write this post -- hence the question in the title -- and at the same, what made it feel so right (hence the answer). Today I participated in the new faculty orientation at the university where K and I are teaching. And I thought it was so nice that they invited us, part time faculty, to fully participate! And I thought throughout the morning how ironic it would be to write this post today, of all days. I was happy and "up in the air" like a pretty balloon.

And then mid-afternoon rolled around and while they were holding the meeting to present all the benefits that full-time faculty have, they had this half-assed round-table for part-time faculty to which only 7 of us went (I'm sure there were many many more in the morning meeting).

After the round-table ended, four of us (all women, the other 3 were men) went outside to chat and to escape the coldness of the air-conditioning. That's when I learned that I was in "heaven" with my two sections of 10-12 students. My new friend, I found out, would be teaching 3 sections of a 300 level Spanish class to nearly 100 students.

Then, I turned to the other two women and I found out that were teaching 120 and 150 students each. The latter has four sections of an Art History class (she has an MA, so she won't be making that much, if her department pays the same as mine). The former teaches 3 sections of a Philosophy class and she explained to me that she's "one half of a two body problem" (i.e. one half of an academic couple -- worse yet, a couple in the same discipline) who had a tenure track job in Kentucky, but decided to move here where her husband as a tt job because she liked it better here.

These things happen all the time in academia. And unfortunately lots of us academics are married to other academics, so it's actually the norm -- one "half" having to choose between spouse or tt job.

So, yeah... my cheery and floaty "balloon" of the first half of the day was quite deflated as the day came to an end. Much more so when we got into the car and drove to pick up the boys to go to the faculty and staff picnic and K told me that the benefits were "really good." Oh well... lucky thing for me and those two other ladies to have tenure-track spouses and have the benefits too. I don't think that the woman teaching four classes (plus one at another college) has that, though. That's how she lives.

You know that I don't really aspire to have a tenure track job, but I still think that some things are fundamentally flawed. By the number of adjuncts teaching Spanish it looks like they sh/could have at least two or three full time professors to do it. Maybe it's the same case with Art History? Or maybe, as Dean Dad would say, it just so happens that these subjects are "in" now, but might be "out" in a few years. It's hard to be convinced of that.

There's so much I could say about this, but I'll stop now. After all, I should be preparing to teach my classes, and not be blogging, right? Oh well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I missed them, yes I did

I'll have to write more about the first day of school tomorrow, but for now I'll just say that I missed my boys and, of course, they didn't miss me. Not one bit!

Last night Kelvin was not looking forward to going back to school, but tonight, after he declared this to be the best day of school ever, he said "I can't wait to go to school tomorrow!" Phew! Just what I needed to hear.

As for Linton, he thought the day was boring. I still don't know why. Will try to ask more questions tomorrow as we drive to school.

Good night!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tomorrow my "baby" goes to school

Both boys are going back to school tomorrow, after our tough "cyber-schooling" year (I couldn't blog much about it, but maybe I'll use the other blog I created to reminisce and reflect about our experience).

So, in spite of the fact that Linton is going to 1st grade, tomorrow will be the first time he goes to school. I think the boys will enjoy going to school and I love their school* and the teachers.

I will probably miss them since I've been home with Linton for the past 6 years and Kelvin only went to school by himself for one year (the other one I taught 3 days a week there). However, it will be good for me because I'll be very busy this semester (more about that in another post).

Tomorrow I'll post the requisite photos of the first day in school & write about it. I kind of missed those for last year (can't remember if I posted anything...).

I'm both excited and sad. Good thing I'm not worried (I thought I'd be because of Kelvin, but I think he'll be fine, in spite of the fact he's not very happy to be going back to school -- I hope that feeling evaporates soon). Let's see how it goes.

*It's a small K-8 private school and their classes have two grades together (1-2, 3-4), around 20 children in each room (the teachers have an aide).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Almost a Given

The roller coaster ride continues. The second visit for K/ possible interview for me to the other university will be scheduled shortly (K got an email about this last Friday). That means there will be an offer for K. And maybe for me too. (what?!)

I really don't know what to think or say about that (it's really complicated). Except that Anjali will be really happy. ;-) (& I'm sure Scrivenings won't mind).

Sunday, August 15, 2010


K was late to pick up my parents from the airport on Friday because I had a court hearing at 9 am on the summons that I received as a "welcome to our town" gift the day we moved here (speeding, going 41 in a 25 miles an hour zone -- I mentioned it here). Our Civic hadn't passed inspection and had to be fixed that very morning, so I had to drive the minivan to court.*

Thankfully all went well and my explanation that I was driving for the first time on this road on the very day I was moving here so I couldn't have possibly been aware that the speed limit was 25 convinced the judge.

He dismissed it. And I didn't even have to pay anything like it happened when I got my first and only (until last June) speeding ticket.

What a relief!

* This whole thing happened because of our first big blunder after moving to a new state: we had registered the minivan in VA & gotten new plates the week before, but didn't know that it had to be inspected right away! (I think in MA we had a week). We found out about it on Thursday evening after we got the Civic's plates and so we got the Odyssey inspected that afternoon, in the last time slot, so the Civic had to be inspected first thing on Friday.

That wasn't it...

Another boring, though quick, "meta-blogging"* post for you.

After I "published" the previous post (I think it's so preposterous to call putting up a blog post "publishing"!!) I realized that you'd probably think that the bulleted updates were what I was talking about in the previous post, but no, they actually weren't.

I have at least three more "update" posts coming up, OK? Just thought I'd clarify that, not that it matters at all.

* translation for those who may need it: blog post that talks about writing in the blog.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Short Random Updates (with pools and trains and... Cancun?)

  • My parents arrived safely from Brazil.
  • I love the clothes my mom brought me, some new & some barely used by one of my best friends (who just moved to the U.S. and got rid of lots of clothes in a tag sale there in Brazil).
  • I bought a package of dice in the dollar bin at Target the other day and now Kelvin is addicted to Yahtzee (we read rules online & printed forms). I've played a few rounds with him too, but I haven't caught the bug. I prefer "thinking" games to luck based ones. (yeah, I know, I'm really annoying, right?).
  • The boys spent two weeks playing with their trains nearly everyday, all day. I was sad to dismantle the huge track on Thursday so we could set up the office/guest room for my parents. Here, take a look:
  • Pathetic confession: I'm way better now, but last week, when I found out that BIL and his family are going to Cancun for a week (they thought we knew since February when they bought the all-inclusive package, but we didn't, distracted much?), I was just a tiny bit jealous (gross understatement). They're not planning to do anything, though (not even to see this or that). That right there just squelches my jealousy almost entirely. What a relief!! [I'm secretly hoping they change their minds, but I don't think they will, haha :-( ].
  • With all those travels I took almost 6 GB of photos & video in July. And that's because our camera takes only 8 mega pixel photos. I'll have to delete tons of photos when we get a higher resolution camera. And buy a terabyte or more external hard drive.
  • Even more pathetic confession: You just can't refuse invitations to visit friends who have a pool. That's why we went to PA last weekend. Really? Well, not really, but take a look too:
C'mon, do you still blame me/us?
(K took the photo & I'm the one with the hot pink rash guard there -- I don't want scorched shoulders ever again in my life!)

Well, I'm sure I could find tons of more random things to say, such as that I already made and froze my first two batches of tomato sauce (marinara style sauce). I even have pictures to prove it. Or to report on how well my four tomato plants are doing (no photos), or maybe you'd like to know that I'm being a good host and I cooked lots of yummy food for this weekend. Yeah... but I think the post is long enough already.

P.S. I saw professional photos of my newborn nephew online today. He's the cutest thing! I also saw him on Skype. Did I mention that they're coming to visit too? AWESOME!!

oh, and it took precisely 50 minutes to write this post. uploading the photos takes time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lots to Write About...

... but I'll post the different things in short, "Twitter-like" or facebook style, updates.

Of course it's useless to blog during the weekend, so if I do, I may have to do a "wrap up" post on Monday when people resume blog-reading and blogging (not that anyone reads this blog, mind you ;-).

Meanwhile, this article about life in a "post-antibiotics" world is freaking me out big time!! World, please stop, I wanna get down!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Every Two Years, from Two Days to Two Weeks...

... that's how often I see my brother.

I often say this as a joke, but sadly, it's (generally) no joke. After my brother "took to the world" back in 2006 when he moved to China, I can no longer count on seeing him when I travel to Brazil. (and I used to go every year, but now it's more like every year and a half :-( ).

And now he's in New Zealand, in a job in which he travels so often even his wife doesn't get to see enough of him. Good thing my parents get to see him more often because he's been able to travel to Brazil (or via Brazil) a few times and see them.

In any case, I last saw him back in 2008 and -- oh, joy of joys! -- the two year thing will hold true, since he's coming to visit for a few days (more than two! or so it seems) at the end of September.

In the past 14 years (since K and I moved to the U.S.), this will be only the third time my brother comes to our house. The first time was in Dec. 96-Feb. 97, then ten years later in 2006 on his way to China with his wife. Too bad she's not coming this time. But maybe next year both of them (and her whole family plus my parents) will come to the U.S. for Christmas, now that her older brother moved to the U.S. too.

Well, it will be wonderful to have him here, particularly because the boys haven't seen him for so long -- he's just so good with kids it's very sad that he only sees his nephews so rarely. :-(

I'm just so happy right now!

P.S. My parents will be here too, they arrive this Friday. It will be a nice family reunion.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

One is (way) Better than None! My Trip's Blogger Meet Up

This post comes to you incredibly late, but better late than never...

I had this plan, this dream, almost, of beginning and ending our road trip with blogger meet ups. The first worked out wonderfully, but the second couldn't happen. :-( Maybe someday, right, Jo(e)?

In fact, there was no need to write this, I could just tell you to go read Pithy Dithy's lovely post about our visit, but I have some more pictures to share! ;-)

My boys had lots of fun with Finn & Cullen's train table and toy kitchen, but Kelvin was really fascinated by their Magnatiles, particularly after Mr. Pithy helped him build this huge arena (all the boys posed next to it before bringing it down):Foolishly, I didn't take any pictures in the first evening, when the weather was nice, then, the next morning, it rained! But we went out in the rain anyway to see the town (you can see that our boys monopolized the umbrellas so the moms got wet):The last part of the visit was a great and thorough tour of the Fire Station led by Mr. Pithy. In the end the four boys got firefighter hats:
Thanks again, friends, it was wonderful! We hope to be able to stop by again someday on our way to Canada!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Missing Limb

Note: Cat lovers, could you please answer the questions at the end? I need some help thinking through things.

I was sitting at the dinner table looking at a magazine when I had this illusion, this fleeting impression that my cat had just quickly passed by behind me. Sadly this happens more often than I'd like to happen. Like the amputated limb that keeps on hurting because the nerve endings leading to it don't know it's not there anymore, I feel the absence of my cat Blues almost physically.

and it hurts. oh, how it does.

A few days ago Dooce (Heather Armstrong) wrote this post and it reduced me to a messy aching pile of tears. My throat begins to hurt just thinking about it.

And then there was Friday night in VBS when my youngest son took me to see the drawing he had made and which was taped to the wall.

"Mommy, I come see what I drew for you!"

"Oh sweetie, a cat!"

"I had someone help me."

"Which cat is it, baby?"

"It's Blues. I miss him, mama."

I just had to hug him tight, saying "Thank you" and fighting tears.

Another sad thing is that Linton doesn't understand very well why I keep on crying about Blues. On that fateful day I cried and cried in the car after getting the news he said we needed to pray about it and he/we did. Then weeks later when he saw me crying he said, "But mommy, we prayed about it." And I had to explain that praying might not bring him back and make everything all right with me. It could only bring some consolation.

Last week Linton said that Blues was coming back and we explained to him that no, he probably wasn't. I think that stayed with him and made him draw the cat for me during VBS (I don't know what was the prompt for their drawings/sentences).

The hardest thing is that I keep on thinking about the boys' cat allergy and thinking that I won't be able to have a cat again anytime soon. We have other friends who are allergic to cats and had a hard time coming to visit us. And there's family (BIL K2) in particular who can't stand cats (he's apparently allergic).

How do you cat owners who read this blog cope with family and friends who are allergic?

Would you just not have cats because of allergies?

(I'm afraid that the boys were fine because we'd had the cat since they were born and now that they aren't being exposed to it anymore they'd have strong reactions, but I'm just hypothesizing).

All this thinking leaves me sad and, at times, angry. Why can't I have cats just because of other people? I've always loved cats, they make me happy.

One more thing to muse about while the roller-coaster ride of life continues to roar on endlessly.