Friday, July 29, 2011

Before July's Over -- 40th B. Celebrations

I just wanted to share these pics before it's too late. I wanted to wax poetic about this watershed birthday, but the words have fled. I'm too busy to think reflectively right now... Hope you like the photos.

Mismatched candles -- the 4 is from both boy's 4th birthday, 5.5 and 3 years ago. The zero? Can't even remember. Could possibly be from my 30th? I hope not! ;) (gotta check my photo albums)

 Delicious truffle chocolate cake made by my dear friend Carolina:

The silly ancient husband o mine. Why not 740? ;)
Lily & Lilies -- I also wanted to write a post about why I resist reinventing myself & going by Lily instead of my name. I guess I can do it in a sentence or two: it's partly a cultural thing (in Brazil we don't use nicknames so pervasively as you do here in the U.S.) and also a conscious choice since when I was a teen I actually loved Lily. Go figure. But I still lived in Brazil then. 

So, these were blooming on my birthday (two days later in this pic). Our yard's birthday present to me! (coincidentally -- really, I was supposed to have bought mini, pastel colored calla-lilies, but the vendor didn't have them anymore -- stargazer lilies were also in my wedding bouquet -- see here).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This is True, But People Don't Want to Listen: Forks Over Knives Documentary

I can't wait to watch this documentary, but I know that a lot of people just don't want to believe the evidence and think that food is pretty irrelevant where health issues are concerned. I've read scathing reviews of The China Study and I know that it is a very radical concept that they are presenting both in the book and in the documentary, but I think that the results of people changing their diets should speak for themselves.

I've believed in these truths all my life and, for the most part, thanks to very health and food conscious parents, lived it. I was basically cured of all my allergy symptoms when I became vegan at age 18, but I slowly went back to dairy food and though now I'm still pretty symptom free (unless I consume a lot of cheese), I believe I could have nearly eliminated the boys' chance of having asthma (they have mild cases & other allergies) if I had been careful with my diet during the pregnancy and the 5.5 years breastfeeding them. We're trying now to stick to a food based diet most of the time, but I wish I had not exposed the boys to these foods for the past 9 years. :(

Edited to add: 
Filmmakers Discuss Forks Over Knives:

Friday, July 22, 2011

iKelvin and his Dream Come True

I was going to blog about my 9 year old earlier this week, when in one day he watched two 80 minutes long Apple keynote addresses (one of which had Chris Martin performing at the end -- I watched that with him!) -- that's my boy, geeky and Apple obsessed, that's why we call him iKelvin, but today I have to blog about him.

So... after several days of deliberations that involved tears when daddy thought we shouldn't do it and the coming together of two very "generous" brothers that gave up all their savings (U$ 390.00!), we...


Got an iPad today!

Too bad that the friends at whose house we're staying in PA don't have internet today, maybe Comcast is having troubles because of the heatwave. So... iKelvin and I had to come to Panera bread to get itunes for the laptop and go online to get the iPad to work. Now we're going back home and maybe we'll go into a 94F pool, naturally heated by the sun.

OK, I'll have to blog about the Nikon camera that we also bought later. It's like Christmas day for our family today. ;)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Decision-Making Challenged Professor

I'm not really absent minded, just hyperactive, distracted and overwhelmed and, to be frank, I feel a bit of an imposter calling myself a "professor" (it's that whole depressing issue of being contingent labor, yada, yada, yada).

In any case, I've always had a horrible, really awful time making decisions. I HATE that about me, but I just can't be someone else, you know? The sad part is that my oldest son seems to have inherited this unfortunate trait. :(

When the decision in question is/was just an inconsequential one, like deciding with shoes to buy or which entrée to order at restaurant, it can be annoying (to me and anyone with me) to waste so  much time trying to decide, but when it's a more serious decision -- such as, which books to teach in the Fall -- it can have some serious consequences.

You see, I decided to propose a new class for the Fall and my department graciously let me teach it (I think any department is happy to offer more general education classes, no?). I even participated of a workshop on syllabus writing, back in June, but since then, I've been frantically trying to decide which books to teach.

On Monday I went to the university to check out two more books from the library (and I obviously got 6) and to make some copies of texts I have already decided (gasp!) to teach. I took this opportunity to talk to the secretary who is in charge of book orders (I had been meaning to email her for ages, of course, but was waiting until I could make a decision). That conversation didn't go very well, initially, because she told me that the deadline had passed (in May!) and then she had to comment that the people at the bookstore would hyperventilate when she sent them a book order this late. (nice!) I explained the situation to her (brand new class, no way to have decided back in May -- of course there was the whole month of June, but... well... what is a month, wait, nearly TWO months by now! ;) and she calmed down.

When I talked to her on Monday, I said that the students wouldn't need the books I'd be requesting until the 3rd of 4th week of classes (this calmed both of us down and it was true at the time). However, when I finally made the decision yesterday, I realized that I will actually need one of the books from the beginning.

One last unfortunate thing. I emailed her at noon yesterday and felt very relieved and happy. I also emailed the registered students. Today I went to the university to work for a few hours at K's office (with the boys -- very hard to work), but then, the internet was DOWN and I couldn't check my email. I also forgot to do it at home while we were getting ready to drive to PA -- this was fortunate because I would have been very upset during the whole drive. I finally opened my email tonight and... guess what? The secretary had emailed to say that she needed the publishers (I'd given her titles, authors and ISBN numbers) before she could send the order to the bookstore. And... she also said that she was taking the day off on Friday!! That means that the order will be sent out only on  Monday.

I feel truly awful about this. :(  I know it'll be OK in the end -- I will already plan the syllabus not trying to rely on the book I need for the first two weeks -- but still, I hate to make blunders like this one... It makes me feel even more imposter syndrome. I've PROMISED to myself that by October 1st I'll have my book order for the Spring ready to go! (I want to teach yet another class in the Spring. My husband thinks I should teach the same one, but I want to spread my wings and do something more literary for a change ;). It will be easier too, I think. 

Well, if you've read this far, thanks for your patience. Oh, and, of course, I have another awful problem, in addition to the difficulty in making decisions: I'm the world's biggest procrastinator. :(  I even procrastinate writing blog posts. It can't get worse than that, can it?

Edited to Add: and of course instead of finishing up my syllabus, now that I've FINALLY decided about the books, I'm here writing this post! Shame on me!

P.S. last week I read the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother book and I'd love to blog about it. If only I could find the time!  I liked it and was surprised by a few things. The way she writes about her career is bizarre, I mean... is it really like that in law? If it is, I don't think it's a field that can be taken that. (I'm talking about how apparently easy it was for her to get her jobs at Duke and then Yale).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Exasperated with Blogger & Internet Browsers

This is a "throw-away" post, a small rant when there's so, so much more that I want and wish to post about... in any case... here it goes. Consider yourself warned. ;-)  (all three readers of my blog)

You know, I feel really stupid for not having switched to Wordpress yet and the latest trouble with Google (my son feels upset now when he sees me checking my email and even more upset if I ever open Google +) makes me want to consider ditching Google altogether (although I really love their email service and I've been with them forever*).

My latest problem is not a big deal, but it's still REALLY super annoying. I use the blogroll in this blog as my "feed reader" and I click on people's blogs on my sidebar once they're updated. There's just a small problem -- if I leave my browsers open (Firefox & Chrome are my browsers of choice), even if I close the blog's tab and reopen a new one next time I logon -- my blogroll simply doesn't update or reload, no matter how many times I press the re-load button!!!

Do you know what I can do to avoid that? Do I have to close all browsers and shut down my computer whenever I'm not using it? That sounds unreasonable!

In the first few times this happened, I went and opened Explorer and... voilá! there was the blogroll, freshly updated (which kind of ruled out a problem with Blogger). HOWEVER, today I tried that (and explorer has been closed for a few days) and it didn't work!!!\

So, yeah... I'm getting really annoyed. And I know it may be my fault and I'm really a dumb computer user & stuff, but still... whatever.

Thanks for listening. I feel WAY better now. phew!! ;)

Edited to add: of course the minute I publish this blog post and click on "view blog" -- there is the blogroll, updated! Well, I guess the universe is trying to tell me to blog more often, what do you think? :D WHATEVER!

*I haven't been able to figure out how long it has been! There are thousands of emails in my inbox and I don't have time to waste clicking back to my earliest emails and figuring out when they were sent. I'm sure I'm just DUMB and there must be a way to do it. I went to my profile and poked around & found nothing. When was gmail created? I got my account soon after. I checked, it came out in April 2004... that means that Linton has had a gmail account since right after he was born --> see? Back then we didn't

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Made My Son Cry Too or How Google+ Ruined Our Evening

First, I have to let you know that this post's title refers to Martin Sutherland's post Google Made My Son Cry, written a week ago. You should read it (or at least check it out), as well as its follow-up post, because our experience tonight was very similar to his and he explains it all so much better than I can/could.

OK, I am feeling a bit better and more at peace after reading Martin's posts (I read them with my son), but I'm feeling a bit disgruntled and sighing a lot, because after all, it was a hard and sad experience. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Soon after our sons were born, back in 2002 and 2004 after we had been using gmail accounts for a bit (I cannot remember find out when we started using gmail, it's just too hard to do it using my inbox, does anyone know how I can do it more easily?), we created gmail accounts for our sons because we wanted to save their names. In the end, K forgot Kelvin's password and that account was lost (and that name cannot be used anymore, blah!) and only Linton's original email is still available.

Then, three years ago (I blogged about this, but I'm too lazy to look up the exact date/post) I got an email for Kelvin and he used it sporadically to email family. This email has just been disabled today and will be permanently deleted, with all its content, in 29 days. As I understand it, until fairly recently (up until last year is what I was able to surmise from forum postings online), one didn't need to provide a birthday to open a Google account, one should only agree to their terms of service. And it is in this respect that Martin and I did wrong -- since we should have been aware, from something that is not even clearly stated in those terms, had we read them, that our sons could not have an account until they were 13 years old.

Well, but our sons did have gmail accounts and when they tried to join Google+ and entered their birthdates, they lost access to their accounts. What made Kelvin most upset of all was that I, unaware of what could happen, had agreed to his suggestion that I add him to Google+ (I honestly thought it'd be OK since he already had a gmail account -- we were both aware that he was not supposed to be part of facebook until he was 13). So I had failed him big time. :(

Losing that email account is not such a serious problem for Kelvin (perhaps only for the code for Bejewled Twist that he had in an email there) since most emails he exchanged with friends and family were fairly short and unimportant, but it was still very upsetting for him. And obviously I feel/felt very guilty about all this.

I'm very thankful that I found Martin's posts, but I'm upset that my son had to go through this. He does have other gmail accounts and I hope we can keep those. One thing my husband was wondering about is about the username -- will he be able to use the same username in three and a half years?

It's strange moments like these that remind me that we're definitely living in a "brave new world" and that so many of the things that people and, most importantly, kids nowadays take for granted are, indeed, very recent and new.

I haven't been that excited about Google+ and now I'm definitely very upset at this -- according to Martin -- unintended consequence of its roll-out: depriving children of their cherished email accounts.

How would you feel if you could no longer use your email?

P.S. Martin received lots of really nasty comments for his original post. I hope I don't get those here. I supervise my son's use of the internet. He would check his email once a week, sometimes once a month at best. I am actually very relieved that it was not such an important thing to him. PHEW!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Forty & Fabulous? You be the judge of that ;)

Cris, a dear friend whom I haven't seen for several years turned forty a couple of months ago, shortly after her beautiful wedding. "Forty & fabulous" was what she posted on facebook on her birthday -- and she most certainly is really, really, fabulous -- to which I commented back "I hope I can say the same in my birthday that's coming up." I don't know I can be so assertive, but you can take a look at some photos of this day.
First, my boys brought me breakfast in bed, yum!

And K adapted the mug he got on his 30th birthday to match the day:
After we had lunch at an Indian buffet, I decided to have a haircut. Since self-portraits are usually the worst and I wanted to show you what I really look like, here's one, taken with my cell phone in the car, right before the haircut:
And this is after the haircut, with my camera, at home:

I have decided that I'm ready, in August, to cut the back of my hair really short and have the front longer -- K loooves my neck and says he's always told me that short hair was the way to go, but I have resisted all these years. I think now I'm ready for that, as long as the front is longer and assymetrical. Hopefully I'll look very "modern" hahaha. So... it looks like I'll really embrace a different look in my 40th year, right?

I hope to post more later, but thanks to everyone who has already sent me birthday wishes on facebook!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

10 Best Accomplishment of the Past 40 Years (40th Birthday Preview Post 2)

Kate asked: "what are the 10 accomplishments (big or small) you are most proud of from your first 40 years?"

1. Becoming a Mother. Particularly realizing my dream of having fully unmedicated births (birth stories here). When I was a teenager I'd heard, mesmerized, the birth stories of two of my cousins in Curitiba (Monica and Vânia) who gave birth to their children naturally and in a crouching position* (each had two and they were all in my wedding) and I promised myself that I would deliver my children naturally someday and I did!!! Becoming a mother will always be my greatest accomplishment in life.

2. Getting a PhD. Writing a 500 page dissertation and finishing my PhD, even if after 10 years and 2 sons.

3. Meeting K and getting married to a  wonderful man who is the perfect person for me.

4. Learning English (beginning at age 15, I learned very quickly) and French (in grad school), a language I heard since I was a baby (more on that in a future post about my birth) and which my parents spoke to each other, so I knew some already and had always wanted o learn.

5. Traveling to the places I had most dreamed of visiting in my life. First, the U.S. trip with K's family in 1993 (I have to blog about this trip, I was reading my journal from it last Sunday), then going to France/Switzerland to study France for a summer in 1999 and in 2000 going on a fantastic month-long backpacking trip thorough 10 cities in Europe with K: Paris, Barcelona, Geneva, Florence, Rome, Venice, Salzburg, Munich, Berlin & Amsterdam; in 2001 we spent a week in London (I was 6 months pregnant). In 2003 we visited 7 National Parks in the American South and North West. Traveling is a passion that I inherited from my parents (that's one of my favorite posts in this blog).

6. Becoming an "accidental immigrant." This is the accomplishment that I have most mixed-feelings about, but I think I'm happy with my life as an expatriate in the United States. (sigh)

7. Helping, particularly cooking for people. In Brazil we had a group at the university and we did several weekend & long weekend retreats & I cooked for 3 to 50+ people for most of them. I mostly cooked by myself (i.e. I decided the menu, went shopping for all the food with a friend, then scheduled everyone in the group to help with each meal). I once worked for 11 hours straight cooking on a Friday and I didn't mind one bit. I really enjoy cooking for large groups (with a bit of help, of course). Here in the U.S. I also fed our campus group in MA for three years (lunch and or brunch and countless Friday night meals at our house) as well as always cooked and helped in the kitchen for the various churches we went to.

8. Blogging here and making all these marvelous blogging friends. It literally changed my life, Thank YOU so much!!! ;)

9. Becoming a teacher/ professor. First, in Brazil teaching language classes for children, then in graduate school, first as a T.A. and then instructor and now, adjunct teaching.

10. Being a caring, empathetic person/friend. Interacting with people is the thing that I most enjoy in life. In the long run nothing else matters, really, relationships are our greatest richness.Aat least that's how I feel about life. That's why blogging is so central to me & my life.

* you have no idea how uncommon unmedicated births are in Brazil, the land of the C-sections.

Expatriate Life & Bilingual Kids (40th Birthday Preview Post 2)

I hope Kate doesn't mind if I answer her question later today (after all, I had only two questions when I began my "preview" two days before my b-day), but I think I can answer American Family's questions relatively quickly (if I don't begin linking or going too deep into my answers. ;)

1) I want to know what you miss the most about Brazil (besides family and friends).

Foods: I miss the fruit (grapes, figs, fruta do conde, jabuticaba, pitomba -- I'll add links later, promise!), some foods (pastel - fried dough with filling, similar to the hispanic empanadas, just crispier!), this delicious yellow vegetable that is a cross between a carrot and a potato and which is just SOOOO tasty, we call it various names in Brazil: batata-salsa (parsley potato), mandioquinha (small manioc/cassava), batata baroa  and other names.

Architecture and urbanism: I miss the way houses are built (I have taken photos of houses to post in the blog since 2005, but since I'm not happy with how photos look in my blog) and architecture and city structure (Brazil is pretty European in this respect, the U.S. is quite unique in the world, I think as far as urbanism is concerned).

I don't miss that much, to be frank, and that's a bit sad. If I remember more things, I'll share later.

2) What did you find the strangest about the US when you first came?

Oh, my friend... I have been planning (and am already paying for the URL for months now) for years to have an entire website/blog (I want it to be collaborative with people's contribution) about the things I find strange, there are  too many to count. My favorite: how Americans LOVE fake things, e.g. fake shutters by the windows of houses, vinyl or aluminum siding that looks like fake wood. YIKES! Most brick in construction here is just a façade, it's like they're "fake bricks" too... and the list goes on and on. ;) I really need to get my website/blog started!

3) How bilingual are your kids? Are you happy with their ability in both languages?

My kids are fully bilingual, but in different degrees as far as speaking is concerned. Both were monolingual (i.e. only spoke Portuguese) until they were 4.5 years old -- that's one of the reason for the name of my blog, I was constantly translating for them. Kelvin learned English online (YAY for Sesame Street's website, it used to be better) and with DVDs and videos and poor Linton was forced to come into Kelvin's classroom with me for 3 days a week and had a sudden forced "immersion" in English.

Kelvin can still speak Portuguese very fluently, he can even read, but Linton -- who is really much more prone to peer pressure and to pleasing others around him -- is more resistant to the language and sometimes we feel that he does lack the vocabulary to express himself. If we could still afford to go to Brazil every year, it would be easier. According to my husband, the biggest impediment to their full bilingualism was the fact that I worked at Kelvin's school for one year and then did cyber-schooling for another year and thus had to speak in English with the boys, thus "polluting" the home environment with the majority language. Sigh.

I am trying to enforce the "Portuguese at home" rule, but it's hard. I think we'll be fine in the end and I value bilingualism very highly, but I don't think I'm a "militant" for it anymore. :(

Any follow-up questions? Thanks for asking, A!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Plans & Dreams for the Future (40th Birthday Preview Post 1)

Thanks for the dear friends who sent me questions and encouragement in the comments to the previous post. I will answer the questions in the order I got then, OK? :)

My friend Cloves & Cinnamon asked:

"what are some of the things on your to do list for the future?? Sort of a bucket list??"

Well... I am always hesitant to do "things to do before you die" lists, because my list is just too long and I really want to do so many of the things, such as visiting lots of marvelous places and reading some significant books.

In any case, there are some things, however, that I not only dream of doing, but that I am firmly planning to do in the next ten to fifteen years:

- take photography classes (after I fulfill my dream of getting a "real" camera) and learn to take good photos;

- establish and lead a "study abroad" summer program in Brazil at our university and get to go to Brazil for a month every summer for free! ;)

- hopefully have a more permanent position at work (this is just a wish, it doesn't depend on me at all) or find an alternative job or something that can help our family be better off financially;

- take my sons to Europe several times, to London, to Portugal & Spain, to France, Italy, etc.

- live in Europe (probably in Paris -- that's where my husband would easily find research work, how lovely, huh?) for at least six months and get to travel around during that time. My dream is for this to happen in six years when K gets to have his sabbatical. The boys will be 16 and 14, maybe a bit too old, but I hope they can still enjoy it (the plan is that they will know French by then -- Kelvin already wants to learn);

- send the boys to live in Brazil for at least one year. It would be cool if I could go too, but probably unpractical;

- buy a hot tub for the back patio and do some home renovations (appliances & counter in kitchen, new floors in kitchen and bathrooms);

There are more things, but small list is a beginning. It's fun to think about the future. Thanks G!

Now, I'm thinking of Kate's question. I'll answer it tomorrow! If you have any other questions, send them my way!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Truth Is...

... I am happy and have tons of reasons to be not only delightfully happy, but also very thankful for all the wonderful things I have (lovely family -- loving hubby & sons), good health, a nice house with a beautiful garden, etc, etc...

I have not, however, felt as happy as I should for various reasons that you're probably not interested in, but which have a lot to do with the kind of birthday celebrations I wanted to have for my 40th birthday.

OK, I cannot write this post. I am starting to cry.

Sorry. I will try again tomorrow.

There have been relatively heated and discouraging arguments with my husband and general and always unreasonable "whininess" from my part (this is my biggest and most annoying defect: being always whiny).

I know I could go on, but I'll get all whiny on you and I don't want that. That's something that has prevented me from blogging more often for years now. Sigh.

REQUEST: Is there anything you want to know about me as I approach this very depressing milestone in my "young" life? Yes, I know that 40 is the new 30 and that I'm, "oh, so young" (hahaha), but I still feel really old. I want to try to make-up somehow for the celebration I can't have in real life by trying to celebrate myself in the blog. I'm doubtful as to whether it'll work, but I can at least try, right? Can you help me?


P.S. I began to cry because my MIL just mentioned that one of my best friends who is her neighbor in Brazil was asking for my address & phone # and I know that my dear friends who are far away are thinking of me and my birthday and that warms my heart, but also makes me unbearably sad. Sigh. I want my friends. My twin friends (one of them is in Michigan, but it's pretty far from VA). OK, let me go to bed.