Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Welcome 2014!

I don't want to think about 2014. I just hope it'll be a good year.

Above all, I don't want to think about work because it's really complicated. :-(

I pray that everyone in our family will be healthy and safe and that there aren't any unexpected negative events.

I'm truly thankful for my life, my family, my friends, everything. And also for blogging and my virtual friends wherever they are -- you are really important to me!

I wish you and your families a great 2014!

New Year's Eve at the Beach in Brazil

The beach is the best place to spend New Year's in Brazil. People stay up until midnight, often dressed in white and there are fireworks -- the best show is in Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Practitioners of the Afro-Brazilian religions Umbanda and Candomblé have some ceremonies with candles and lots of people throw flowers and gifts in small boats for Iemanjá -- the sea goddess.

It's been many years since I've been at the beach for New Year's Eve and it feels just perfect! We're at a small town in the Northeast, but there is an all-inclusive resort just North of us, so it looks like we'll be able to see some fireworks after all!

Tomorrow we're going to have to wake up early to go see the natural pools formed in the barrier reef in the ocean. I hope it'll be a nice outing!

Praia de Antunes, Maragogi, Alagoas, Brasil

We are a short walk away from this beach!

3 More Posts!

I know other people will want to use the computer, but if I manage to write three more posts I will fulfill my goal and blog more than last year! ;-)

I hope it works.

I will try to post photos now, we'll see how that'll go!


In 2013...

... my niece (my brother's daughter) was born!!

... I saw my brother again after 3 years, his wife after 5 and met his son and daughter.

... I worked the most hours and drove the most miles I ever did in my life (thankfully I also made the most money ;-) -- though not enough to get us to save money just yet -- boo!).

... my father-in-law managed to bring all his sons & families to this wonderful beach in Brazil!

I'm sure more happened, but I can't check the blog for reminders and links (it will slow down the connection).

One thing I'm really glad about is that it feels like this year went by really fast and I hope next year will be as good!

It worked!

Yesterday I tried to blog, but it didn't work, but today it did! I want to try to post a photo, we'll see if it's possible.

It's awesome here! And even better now that I was able to blog a bit. :)

I can now write about 2013 and my "resolutions" (not!) for 2014. My apologies for the boring "meta-blogging" post! ;-)

Last post of 2013?

written yesterday afternoon
I won't blog more this year than last year as I usually aim to do, but it's for a good reason.

We're at a rental beach house with K's whole family, 17 of us, 10 adults, 7 kids from 11-3. I will try to post some photos in the next post.

My parents, my brother & his family are a short walk away in another gated community, so we get to spend some time with them and my baby niece and nephew.

I should be at the beach right now, but I haven't applied sunscreen yet and it was my turn to use my mother-in-law's laptop & hotspot.

All right, let's see if I can publish this,  if I do it won't be this year's last post! ;-)

Thursday, December 26, 2013


I don't sleepwalk, but right now I'm almost sleepblogging...

Intense days with family + travel motivated sleep deprivation = exhausted blogger.

I don't know how much access I'll have to wi-fi in the next ten days, so I waited until my husband did all the online banking he needed to do, sleeping on and off seated on the couch so I could blog a little bit now (it's 12:30 am here).

We woke up at 3:50 am this morning to catch a 7 am flight with K's whole family - 17 people (10 adults & 7 kids aged 11-3 years old) + his paternal great-grandmother. I slept on the second flight, but it wasn't enough.

In any case, in family vacations sleep is overrated 'cause we need to spend as much time with each other as possible, right?

A few highlights of the past week in Brazil:

- potluck lunch with two families of dear friends who drove 2h (each way) to see us;

- photo session with my family + parents, brother + family;

- three separate Xmas celebrations (my family, both families, K's family);

- some shopping on Xmas Eve's eve (crowded stores!) for a friend;

- two flights to arrive at in-laws' apartment in Maceió;

- grocery shopping and shopping for local artisan works this afternoon;

And we still have to drive nearly 2h to the rental beach house tomorrow. Then, finally, it's supposed to be only R&R for two days. My family arrived there yesterday, but I haven't talked to them to find out if their trip was ok, only tomorrow.

OK, gotta go to bed now! I hope there's WiFi at least at my mom's rental house there! If not, I won't blog as much as I wanted to this year, but I'm perfectly OK with that!

How were your family celebrations this week?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Busy in Brazil

Too busy to blog, obviously... Nah, not really, but it's hard to think of what to blog, there's just too much to be shared! And I wanted to post photos, but that's a hard thing to do (downloading, choosing which ones, etc).

The last few days were crazy busy, though, but hopefully once we're settled into the rental beach house in Maragogi next Friday things will be more relaxed!

OK, this post's function is to end my "blogger's block," so I'll come back with more soon!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

In Brazil & Getting my Fix :-)

I arrived on time for my connecting flight, after having a good flight watching No & Jobs! (I hope to have more time to comment on the movies later)

And even though we left a little late we arrived just on time in Brazil. It's kind of sad to arrive at the gate with no one waiting for you (Love, Actually style), but it was ok. I found a place to sit with my cart & huge suitcases (it was hard to drag all that to the bathroom!) and I actually laid down on my packpack & neck pillow and napped for nearly 2 hours.

Then I came to eat something at a place right next to the exit gate for the international flights that has WiFi. I had to get my fix! After all, I won't be using my iPhone constantly for 3 weeks, but I will still want to try to get online pretty regularly on the laptop if I can.

OK, I have to go try to find my parents now! They should have arrived. And, if all went well, K & the boys' flight just landed!! YAY!!! (their flight was 1 hour late :(  )

I'll be back at night!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chilean Film "No"

I'm so glad that I'll be able to watch "No" on the plane! They don't have a wide selection, but I really wanted to watch that film, so I'm happy. I hope I'll stay awake for it. I have to sleep on the second flight, so I may as well watch now! ;-)

P.S. one of my students is on the same flight, it was so surreal to see her! She's so tired, poor thing! (Not because of my class! :-)

Flying Solo & Going Phonelss

I'm about to embark to Brazil. I'm flying on Copa airlines via Panama City on my own while K and the boys will fly United via Chicago.

Oh, and today is our 19th wedding anniversary and we'll be separated, oh well. The joys of award travel trips! (I'm not complaining, it's just how it works).

In the past year I started using an iPhone and I think I'll miss it during the trip. Well see! It was ok in Canada back in August (but I could still text). 

OK, I should get ready to board now! I forgot to ask for a window seat, I hope I'll get one! Nah... It's a B seat...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Day Before!

My dad has this funny saying that he loves to repeat, tongue in cheek (in Portuguese, obviously):
"The happiest day is always the day that precedes a vacation!" ;-)
And I couldn't disagree more with him! :-P For me, the day that precedes a trip (any trip, but even more so an international trip) is utterly chaotic and stressful.

Yesterday, amidst the chaos and confusion of having to switch gears from finishing the grading of one group of students to another and panicking that there was so much that I needed/wanted to do to get ready to the trip and pack, I emphatically said (OK, more like screamed) to K that I don't ever, EVER!!!! want  to go on an international trip at the end the year/Fall semester again!

And I mean it!

I'm always horribly stressed before flying to Brazil and I hadn't done it yet at the end of a semester after I went back to work in 2010 (last time was back in 2003). I already had good reasons against traveling to Brazil for winter break before (I think that the break is too short, the boys have to miss several days of school and we don't get to stay long enough for my taste), but now there's one more: the end of the semester stress does not mix well with the stress of getting ready for a long trip.


So, daddy, I'll happily enjoy each day of the actual vacation and I'll let you savor the anticipation of it all you want!

Grade Submission Fiasco

well, well, well...
      written last night
I was so absorbed in grading the exams and online materials of U#2's students in the last 48 hours [Sunday & Monday] (after all, this is the school that employs me full time) that I completely overlooked that the deadline for grade submission for U#1 was this afternoon [Monday] at 3 pm. I had never even remembered to check it -- foolish me!

When K got home after picking up the boys from school and asked me whether I had already submitted the grades that were due at 3 I totally flipped, panicked, started screaming at everyone, it was awful! I managed to calm down, and I even quickly finished grading my class that has only 5 students and submitted their grades online without a problem around 5 pm. So I was still pretty upset, but hopeful for the other class

However, there was a long, LONG way to go for the other class with 20 students! Checking homework online, grading PDF tests and exams in an iPad (loaned by the university, not mine) and, last by not least, finishing to grade the 6 page final. I emailed the students before I started to let them know that grade submission would be late and that they should check their grades in the online platform instead.

By the time I was done it was past 9:30 pm and, guess what?! I could no longer submit the grades online, so I (uselessly & annoyingly) panicked again. Sigh... Sometimes even I can't stand myself!

To make a long story short, I was supposed to fax the printed out grades this morning, but the signal was busy in the registrar's office, and I just walked over there and dropped it off. Mission (finally accomplished). Sigh...

well, gotta go now, packing for trip, doing tons of things, etc. Good thing grading is finally done!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

In Grading Jail...


After a week of driving around this part of the state and giving final exams, now it is time to brace down and grade like a maniac.

I hope I can finish by the end of the day tomorrow. That's my greatest hope. Then I can concentrate on packing and getting ready for the trip.

I just wish I weren't so tired! I hope I can stay awake to grade as much as I can (and also to watch SNL ;-)

A good activity that is helping me with the mind-numbingly boring task of grading 7 page long finals is scanning old Christmas photos from 1997-2001. My scanner is super slow and scans one photo at a time (even if I can put four on the "bed"), so I can effectively grade a couple of pages of exams while I scan.

I have brought reinforcements, though, chocolate and tea. These are tried and true grading "allies," according to my friend Jo(e). It's always good to know that I'm not alone, that many of my blogging friends are in the throes of grading as well.

Good luck to all of us!

Friday, December 13, 2013


Just a few days back I posted that I longed to drop everything I needed to do to go pack for my trip, but now that most orders have arrived and our friends' and family members' orders too (BIG TOYS! tennis shoes galore)... I'm just DREADING packing.

And I'm getting more and more nervous about the trip.


And I haven't mentioned how much I have to grade and how I haven't had ANY time to grade. :-(

OK, I will have to pack whether I feel like it or not. So this whole discussion is moot!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Consumed by Photobooks

I was going to title it "Death by... Photobooks (?!)," but I thought it was a little extreme, no? :)

In any case, K & I spend the last two days assembling two beautiful photo books, one for each of his grandmothers. I designed his paternal grandma's book in Shutterfly while K designed the book for his maternal grandma in iPhoto (he loved it and refuses to use Shutterfly).

I've been assembling photos of the grandmothers for weeks now, since I talked to my mother-in-law on Thanksgiving and found out that she had photographed a lot of old photos of her mother's and she really wanted to make a photo book.

We couldn't work on them last week, though, so we had to do it this week and in the end I had to pay 27 dollars for shipping for the Shutterfly one so we'll have them before we fly to Brazil next Wednesday.

I'm happy to report that most of my shopping is done. YAY!!! I actually did lots of things that were NOT in that "To-Do List" and I just realized that I didn't do others. So now the best thing to do is to add the things I did and cross them out. YAY!

In any case, I'm going to Universitiy #3 tonight to give the final exam in person and feed Brazilian food for my students. I'm long overdue in talking about this "problem" that I have, but more on that later!!

I'm still SUPER stressed out about the trip and overwhelmed by the amount of grading I need to do. In fact, I should be consumed by grading now, and I will. I have no choice!

Wish me luck! And good luck to all those who are grading and grading and grading right now! We will survive!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Packing for Summer & "Paradise"

I don't feel like finishing the job of shoveling the driveway that the boys almost completed (we had about an inch of snow & sleet)...

I don't feel like cooking rice to eat with the beans from two days ago...

I don't feel like writing addresses on Christmas cards (I know I could print labels, but there should be something handwritten on them!)...

I don't feel like doing anything but packing for our incoming trip!

ONLY 11 DAYS!! (Can you hear the panic & exhilaration in my voice?)

Particularly packing my many summer dresses, blouses and sandals. I had been stashing them in a plastic bag for months and last Tuesday I carried them downstairs close to the suitcases I put down on the floor. And I haven't even touched my bikini & swimwear drawer yet!

I was just telling K that I probably have selected way too many clothes for the trip, but I just can't help it! I LOVE hot weather clothes and here in the U.S. I don't wear them enough (and of course I'm always buying more pieces, dirt-cheap, in clearance racks).

OK, let me go cook the rice, we need to eat, but the truth is I can't wait for our trip to Brazil and, most importantly, to "Paradise!" (scroll to bottom of post)

The Torture is OVER!

My plan was to have written this earlier in the week or a couple of days ago, titling the post "The Last Week [or Day] of Torture," but now it's all over!

All over but the finals and grading, that is. ;-)  But I can administer and grade lots of finals without a problem if I don't have to drive 152 miles every single day of the week.

IT'S OVER!! And I'll never do it again!! (next Fall I'll go M-Th and I intend to stay overnight once a week.

Yeah, and this past week I didn't even drive every day because of K's procedure on Wednesday (he's doing well, BTW). It was still hard to do it on Thursday and Friday.

All right, I'm up in the middle of the night trying to do Christmas shopping... sigh, but I guess I'll go to bed now!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

On Being Permanently "Done"

Right now, all the way across the country, my dear (and slightly older) cousin is being induced into labor and preparing to give birth to her first child (a boy!). In spite of some well-documented "on and off" desire to have another baby, I didn't want to be in her place! I've given birth twice and it was the most amazing thing that happened to me, but this morning we went ahead and got permanently "done."

Well, it will take a few months for it to be permanent so that I can have this removed from my body, but after putting it off for so long, we finally went ahead and scheduled K's "procedure." I don't like anything medical, but I watched it and it was pretty interesting. I did feel a bit sad when each "vas deferens" was cut, but then I thought again about my age and how we really can't have another baby for all kinds of reasons and I was fine with our decision. Sigh...

I thought I had more to say about this, but I don't. I have been so busy that I don't have the head space or the time to "wax poetic" about anything. Sigh... K is doing fine so far. He took Valium and another relaxer, so he slept most of the day. I hope he'll have a swift recovery! (especially because we travel in two weeks)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

To-Do List

OK, so it'll be very useful if I make a to-do list to help me with the crazy next two weeks:
I will probably edit it later, and try to cross-out items
Trip related:
- Buy extra suitcases, and stuff that people asked me to take to Brazil;
- buy items needed for trip;
- Pack luggage;
- plan trip to airport (where to leave car); 

Teaching related:
- order books for next semester's lit class online in Brazil
- finish elaborating final exams
- administer and grade last tests and exams
- administer oral exams & final and grade them
- enter final grades

House related:
- arrange with people to take care of cats while we're gone;

Same old, same old. Travel is so extremely stressful! I think the stress is proportionate to the fun we're going to have on the trip, unfortunately! :-(

I'll keep you posted of our progress!

Crazy Two Weeks and a Half!

I have less than two weeks and a half (less than 18 days) to prepare for our trip to Brazil.

And these trips will be the most intense of this semester. Exams, oral and written, final exams (TONS of grading), trips back and forth. Packing. Children's year-end activities. Christmas live, outdoor "theater" event with church.

CRAZY! And I want to help my mother-in-law to make two special photo books for the great-grandmothers (hence the photos of the previous post).

Sigh... I don't know if these books will get made, which will be pretty sad, but we'll see! Wish me luck! Thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

The Missing Grandparent

My mother-in-law took photos of some old pictures of her mother, so we were able to have a rare glimpse of my MIL's dad, who died in a tragic car accident when she was only 10 years old, back in 1961 or 62.

Here he is:
I think my husband looks quite a bit like him. It is sad to have such a gaping hole in a family's past! Maybe sometime I will share more of K's family history.

P.S. I was a minute late for this post, so I'm adjusting the date of this and the next two posts. ;-)

Four posts in four minutes?

I wanted to write 30 posts in November, but in order to do that I need to write 4 posts in the next few minutes... we'll see about that. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 -- 11 Years with BIL's Family...

... and maybe the last year for a while.

In 2002 & 2003, our first two Thanksgiving Days together, K2 technically didn't have a family, it was just him and D, but in 2004 two little boys, our own L, and their little D joined the family (and made them a family).

In addition, for three years in a row, 2002-2004, we drove all the way to Michigan (from Massachusetts twice and once from Pennsylvania) to be with K2 & D. Thankfully they moved closer to us and in 2005 we had the first of two Thanksgiving celebrations at our house in PA (I posted recipes in 2006).

From 2007 on (nice photos here, as well as a holiday recap), the celebrations were held at their house, for seven years in a row! 2008 was the seventh year, and 2009 was the last year with my in-laws living here, too bad we had a Thanksgiving "Grinch" for a neighbor! :(

2010 was the only year we "cheated" and went to Florida for Thanksgiving, but we came back to spend time with family over the weekend. The following year was spent with another family visiting K3's house and in 2012 the holiday was low key, but still nice.

This year was great! We had great food (maybe more on that later), 14 people, since K4, the youngest brother, drove from Montreal, and it was lovely to spend this day with those we love. We will miss them A LOT, particularly on Thanksgiving, when they move to Egypt, but I'm sure they will have a good experience there!

I'm falling asleep on the computer, so I have to go to bed. I'm glad I decided not to do any more shopping on "Black Friday" (or Thursday night) -- I only went to one store briefly this evening with my eldest son.

How was your Thanksgiving this year? 

(Almost) Home for the Holidays

started on Wednesday 11/27
As I was driving yesterday evening, I wrote multiple blog posts in my head,* but this is the one I planned to write as soon as I got home -- too bad I didn't have time to do it!

When I finally arrived past 6 pm and I unloaded the car in pouring rain** by myself (I had gone shopping) K had arrived from his conference already (YAY!), but I couldn't sit down and enjoy a cozy home because had to cook some soup for our family, his parents & my nephews.

So... now that they've left for K2's house (my husband's younger brother), we are enjoying some relaxation, in spite of the fact that I still have a lot to cook for tomorrow.

continued on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday 11/28
I titled the post "almost home" for two reasons, I was arriving home (on Tuesday evening), but we weren't going to spend the holiday home, but going to my brother-in-law's house (we drove this morning). If K4 (K's youngest brother) and family weren't coming from Canada, we would have spent Thanksgiving at our house, but they are (we're still waiting for their arrival).

We're more than happy to come to their house, though, because this is likely to be the last of our eleven Thanksgivings together (except for 2010 when we arrived from Florida to spend the weekend). We even made a video to celebrate all these years, but we haven't showed it to them yet. Let me know if you want to see it. :)

* most full of job-related angst -- I'll probably write them sooner or later.
** because of that, the storm door ended up staying propped open all night. :( Not good for the heating bill!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kind of sad

But not really much... (And I was going to write "kinda" & thought it wouldn't be vey proper... Sigh...)

I'm missing my kids' Thanksging program right now, but I should actually be happy & relieved that my in-laws made it! With my nephews too! And I am, but I feel kind of sad that as long as I work here I won't be able to attend... :-( 

I miss K as well, but he'll be back tomorrow night,3 days isn't long...

My latest worry is the leaves in the backyard & the foul weather that's coming... I did plant the bulbs late afternoon on Saturday!!!!

But now I have to concentrate on the drive back (I'm walking to the car) & I need to decide what to do about the fact I haven't yet eaten today... Sigh...

Friday, November 22, 2013

120 Minutes Driving, 100 Minutes Teaching

That's My life, every Monday and Friday! On Wednesdays I have office hours to add to he mix. :-(

All I wanted was to stay home and to plant bulbs!

But I had to drive to work instead... :-(

I don't have any free time during the day to do anything out in the yard and that's really bothering me. 

A least in the Spring I will have Tu/Th mornings till 2 pm if I want! The problem is that if I want to see more of these:
I need to plant the bulbs I purchased NOW!

Maybe his afternoon I can try to do as much as possible before it gets dark. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four Boys from Liverpool

I'm not very familiar with the Beatles (though I do enjoy the music I know*), but I have known for a while that my mom wanted to own some of their "Ballads" and I want to surprise her with them for Christmas. I think that she wants to be brought back to her teen years and I'm more than happy to help her! (My parents don't own a lot of music, just some classical and religious stuff).

How could I figure out which are their "ballads" as opposed to their other songs when I'm not very familiar with their catalog, though? So with the help of Wikipedia I looked at the tracklist of this double compilation album, listened to part of all the tracks on YouTube. Then I bought the 1 CD (used, with free shipping for 4 bucks!) because it had four of the "ballads" plus many other big hits. Then I bought six other tracks on iTunes - links to YouTube videos if you feel like listening to these ("Across the Universe", "All My Loving", "And I Love Her", "Michelle", "Here, There and Everywhere", "Here comes the Sun"), so hopefully I'm all set!

I'm just wondering whether it will be possible to burn the iTunes tracks onto a CD so my mom can play them?? Is anyone familiar with that? (I may need to ask my sister- & brother-in-law). I've googled it and didn't get a clear answer. I hope it works! One thing we should probably give my mom is an iPad or at least an iPod. If I can't burn a CD I can at least download iTunes and teach her to use it in her computer.

I LOVE to plan and to buy presents for people! (at least for people I'm close to and know what to give ;-) I already bought gifts for my brother's wife, my nephew & my mom and I'm planning what to buy for my brother. For my dad it's harder, we'll see about that.

* Not so much the one album I own, Love, a compilation prepared for the Cirque Du Soléil spectacle of the same name which K brought for me from London back in 2008 -- he wanted to buy something with "local flavor." :)

Interestingly, the best introduction to the Beatles that I've had/heard (apart from being tired of listening the standards "Yesterday," "Hey Jude" and others) is an album by a Brazilian singer/songwriter named Rita Lee. The album (Aqui, Ali em Qualquer lugar in Portuguese) was weirdly titled Bossa N Beatles)

Doctors & Lunch Date! (with Bonus Nap!!)

Today I had not one, but TWO doctor's appointments with teaching at U#2 in between (Hello Daily 152 mile commute! NPR had a piece on mega-commuters & political engagement yesterday -- K was saying that they forgot to mention poor but highly educated people as a category ;-)

Because of the second appointment at 3 pm (first was at 8:45) I cancelled my office hours and then drove as fast as I could so K & I could go! on! a! RARE! Lunch date! I know, annoying exclamation marks... It's just that such a rare event leaves me almost giddy with excitement! ;-)

During the lovely Indian buffet lunch we had a good idea that may help our in-laws next week. We offered to host the Thanksgiving meal since they are busy working and trying to get ready for their life-changing upcoming move to Egypt. (They still don't have a date, but are preparing because a container will be shipped with their stuff).

The doctors' visits were quick and objective. The first one was with a plastic surgeon (crazy, huh? yes, I know!) so he could take a look at this cyst that is growing on my left palm. Since it doesn't hurt, the best course of action is to leave it alone. The second visit was with a nurse practitioner (I think! or a brand new doctor) with a GI tract/colon practice. We talked about my IBS and when I should have another colonoscopy (next year), given a family history of colon troubles. That was it!

K & I felt tempted to go see a movie and just leave our youngest son with a friend for a couple of hours instead of just a few minutes, but we decided against it & went to pick him up and come home.

So... it was a nice day!

I probably won't be at the boys' Thanksgiving event next Monday anymore (NH actually offered to teach the classes for me, that was nice of hir!) and it's kind of sad to have to teach Monday and Tuesday, but it's my job, I'm being paid to do it and I shouldn't complain! ;-)

Edited to add: we were sooo tired when we got home, so K & I took a nap. He got up after about 20 minutes (he is going to a conference from Sunday to Tuesday and has to prepare his presentation), but I slept from about 4-6 pm!! It was a GLORIOUS relaxing nap! And I'm so absolutely thankful and happy I had it and I can't remember how long it'd been since my last nap... (probably a couple of months)

If only I didn't have to drive 152 miles tomorrow and Friday again! Sigh... This morning I had to stop at a rest area to relax for about 15 minutes (I never fell asleep) before I continued my drive to teach.

Nothing Like a Day After the Other!

We were all very frustrated yesterday, but today was much better!

Kelv had a GREAT time in his field trip as we knew he would and came home in good spirits.*

My in-laws changed their reservation to an earlier flight and will probably be able to make it to the Thanksgiving Banquet. 

We still don't know what the problem with the car is, but it was towed (for 50 bucks) to our mechanic. Keep your fingers crossed it won't be a truly expensive repair! In any case, K was oh, soooo thankful that the car broke last night instead of breaking during the field trip. PHEW!

In addition today was a good day in other ways, but I'll save that for the next post (I need to get caught up with NaBloPoMo &  my goal of posting more than last year!).

* He's been a moody guy from babyhood, prone to saying extreme things that go from "today was the best day ever! This is the best food ever!" to "my day was horrible, this completely spoiled everything, etc..." I'm deathly afraid of what hormones will do to him and his moods in a year or two!! :(

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Everything Goes Wrong (On the Same Day)


Everything that matters is well, but today a few unexpected things went positively very wrong -- particularly for our boys.

First, the car broke. It was the minivan and I wasn't driving it (PHEW!). It broke in the elementary school's parking lot when K was picking up our oldest son from his bell choir practice at 5 pm. After the car failed to start even with a jump start, a classmate's father gave K & Kel a ride home.

The car is still sitting in the school's parking lot because we don't have any type of roadside assistance!* I know we'll figure out what to do to get the car to our mechanic (only 6 miles way) and hopefully the car can be fixed, but it's a huge inconvenience not to have the car for who knows how many days. (I can drop K off at U#1, go to work at U#2 and pick him up on the way back, but Tuesdays & Thursdays are complicated!)

The worst thing, however, is that Kelvin has a field trip tomorrow and K was driving him and some classmates and now K can't go anymore (no room & no need for more chaperones). Kel is devastated because he's been complaining for months that in the past two years we haven't been to any of his field trips, but have gone with his brother. (mostly true) :(

The second problem is that months ago when I found out that my in-laws were going to be here for Thanksgiving I invited them for the Thanksgiving Banquet that the elementary school prepares for all the seniors in the community. The boys were ecstatic because they were going to be with their grandparents for the very first time (most kids have theirs attend). It was a big deal for the boys particularly because it is going to be Kelvin's very first bell-choir public performance!

You know where this is going, right? We told my in-laws which day the banquet would be, but when they asked my husband to confirm the date last week, he said that it was a "Thanksgiving Dinner" and they assumed that it would take place in the evening. So they bought a ticket to go to Massachusetts & scheduled the return flight for 9 am so they can't be here on time for the banquet.

K is on the phone with them right now and they are checking their options (it was a 60 dollar non-refundable ticket to Providence which cannot be changed)... so maybe there's a slim chance they could still come.

When I walked into the house this evening after K called me to share the double bad news I went into damage control mode immediately! I told the boys I would cancel my class to come to the banquet and see them perform. Poor Kelvin said that it was the only good news all day... Sigh... I have emailed NH to ask whether it would be OK to cancel classes for that day or whether I would need to find someone to come show a movie or something. I haven't heard back from hir yet...

Sigh... Wish us luck!

P.S. yesterday I was less than 10 minutes late to class!

P.S.II Somehow these misunderstandings feel like a "bad omen" regarding our end of the year trip. I hope not!

* Ha! I keep telling K to do something about this! With two very old cars it's a pressing need! We always had it through our car insurance, BTW, but now we have the cheapest insurance for car+ home in the world and it doesn't include it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Photos - Part II

The mystery continues, now with an interesting twist!

I wrote on the previous post about the mystery of November 2008's photos and then I read some of my posts of that period and I was reminded that it was part of the "dark days" when I was "teaching" an online class for University of Phoenix's affiliate Axia College -- the most horrible job I've ever had in my life!

So I reasoned that I had probably forgotten to take our camera when we went to my brother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving. Then I visited them this weekend and looked through their computer to copy photos of times and events that I was missing.

Look what I found!
Photographic proof that I was photographing that weekend. Sigh...

So the mystery continues! I doubt that I will ever find those photos and I'm OK with that. I suppose these crazy things happen, even with the most organized photographers. (I think I'm pretty organized). In fact, it was pretty interesting to come across this photo!

Super Stupid me! Stuck on traffic

Before we left the house, my husband told me that he had heard on the radio there had been an accident on the highway close to university number two. I assured him that I knew the parallel roads and all the exits I could take and that I would be okay.

There were also signs on the highway telling where the accident was And warning is that the right lane was closed. 

However, I was talking on the phone with my mom and when the exit right before the exit where the accident exit was came, traffic was just running fine and I just drove straight ahead. 

Ha Hah Hah

Alas! Now I am stuck in a 7 mile long traffic jam and I have to teach in 35 minutes. 

How dumb is that?

Have you ever driven a standard shift car in a traffic jam?

Huge sigh…

In any case, I don't regret the phone conversation, I really enjoy talking to my parents while on these long drives and I was using earbuds as well.  Talking on the phone while on long drives is a lifesaver for me and my husband, because it keeps us awake.

I bitterly regret missing the exit because I was so engrossed in our conversation.

Well, rant over. 
now I have to go write an email to my students, wish me luck!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quick Scheduling Update

I was going to post this yesterday (or Wednesday night?), but I forgot. Here it goes.
Yes, I can definitely teach Monday through Thursday!! No more worries about that for now.

Two of my classes will still meet two class periods more than a regular class while I am being paid the same, but hopefully that will change, wish me luck!

Sigh... will I have to endure this life of "contingent labor" forever? I think it's pretty likely. I'm getting to old go get a "real" job. It would be possible only, perhaps, at U#1, but the way things are going with academic positions, I don't have much hope. Sigh...

At least I'm striving to "ameliorate" my own working conditions, right? :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

L's Bot

That is really funny!

I hadn't done a "Meme" in a really long time, but this (What Would I Say?) is positively HILARIOUS! It's an app that scans your fb account and comes up with possible status updates that sound like you.

Thanks for the heads up, Jamie! (I was so tickled to find the many references to breastfeeding in your Bot updates!). I have a couple in Portuguese and it's so interesting to see lots of things that I've really said jumbled up together! (I'm alternating "quotation style" with plain, I hope it looks goo!)
we've moved to the street finished it with us in New Zealand, he had a business trip goes smoothly, including security at the airport, my nephew who just so we have a fifth nephew or, finally, a niece.
I'm very relieved and thankful that made the semester Two exams next week, a delay of over seven years ago yesterday 03/09...
I'm very relieved and thankful that while the boys will be working to fully empty the day teaching earlier update, but on my update, but it with his four sons and SIX years away from the HUGE parties we've thrown in Providence, RI for five days.
mas vai embora com as letras do seu nome com e 9 meses, então tá ok, né?
My aunt was optimistic when she talked on the proper equipment, it would be just so nice to see you that detect, I guess the tables were in Brazil, so we don't want everybody else to be our first significant snow this to Portuguese [class]. Last, but I cannot bring myself to be moving to [New State] K[] will be online, my sons and a split second, there...
mas vai pra fazer um abraço! Depois dos metais fazerem a introducao! A gente conversa mais, tenho q ir preparar prova, desculpe. ;
You guys have yet And see my hopes up.
I have a little today.

I really like the next to last one. Yeah, hope, I love hope! ;-)

Almost On Track for NaBloPoMo

This is my 13th post this month and today was the 13th day (I know that technically it's the 14th already, whatever! ;-) So I'm basically on track.

I do enjoy posting every day or more often, so this is actually very easy for me -- for once in life I give myself "permission" to blog with abandon. YAY!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


After last week's meeting I'd been a bit worried about next Fall's schedule.

As usual, I'm beyond exhausted by all the driving and all of the teaching and just thinking I'd have to keep on commuting 5 days a week next year was pretty upsetting. (sigh...)

Well, this afternoon, NH stopped by my office and at the end of our brief conversation he had the idea to suggest a mixed schedule: M/W mixed with Tu/Th. That way the class would still meet for 5 class periods a week over 4 days and I wouldn't have to teach on Fridays.

I talked to the department secretary who deals with scheduling and we brainstormed a bit. She also called the registrar's office and they said that such a thing would be possible, but I'd be teaching in two different classrooms (M/W & Tu/Th).

So... I'm hopeful, BUT, I still need to ask them to pay more for these two classes, they've been literally exploiting me these past two years (last Fall and this Fall) with me teaching a 5 day a week class and being paid the same as for a class that meets three days! I wish they could compensate me retroactively because this is NOT fair. (and the meeting with the chair totally confirmed the unfairness!).

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Photos

I'm indulging in my favorite obsession these days (OK, last Friday and tonight): dealing with our thousands and thousands of photos! I began to do this because I decided to compile photos from the past 11 Thanksgivings, given that this may be our last one with K's brother's family (they will probably soon move).

I am very close to having all of our photos in one place -- an external hard drive that I bought last year. However, in the process of trying to transfer all the photos, I found that some months were incomplete or even nonexistent!

After looking for back-up CDs and DVDs from 2003, I finally figured out where some of the files were stored -- in an extra hard-drive inside our old desktop computer, one that isn't even connected to the internet!

So since I started writing this post I already recovered some photos I thought were lost, i.e. November 2003 and 2005.

November 2008 remains a mystery, though, I cannot find photos of that Thanksgiving anywhere! :(

Dealing with photos is a great "mental hygiene" for me as we say in Portuguese (it means relaxing activities and it totally does NOT have that meaning in English! NYC actually has a department of health and mental hygiene, which I gather should mean "mental health! :-)

In any case, apart from the small frustrations associated with the missing photos mystery, I'm enjoying a lot my "mental hygiene"! ;-)

P.S. This has got nothing to do with anything, but I thought I'd mention that toilet paper is actually called hygienic paper in Portuguese! (papel higiênico) This is totally the kind of comment that I abundantly make in my language classes -- random word association language tidbits. Particularly when a word has an "inappropriate" usage. Hihihi! (no examples of that sort here, though! This is a respectable blog. My classroom is respectable too, except when I go on these random digressive teaching jags!) :-D

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grading Day & Fallen Leaves...

I FINALLY am grading and starting to make a small dent in my huge backlog of overdue papers, compositions and tests.


It does feel good to be working and getting things accomplished, but I wish so much I could be outside planting some bulbs while K & little L rake, blow & vacuum leaves...

I don't think last year I blogged about cleaning leaves, but it was a very prominent topic in this blog back in 2007-2009 when we lived in a house with huge trees & huge mountains of leaves. I will try to link to some of those posts:

Oct 2007 - leaves and job angst

Dec. 07 - "chewing" my scarf  ;-)

Feb. 2008 - (photos) Piles of leaves (wow, I only cleaned them in February? crazy!)

Nov. 2008 - raking in the moonlight (no photo)

And I hope to be back with some photos later... I'm actually surprised at how FEW posts about leaves I've written over the years, given that I always take photos intending to blog them.

Yeah, I've long given up sharing photos here, haven't I? Sigh...

Friday, November 08, 2013

Eating out with my boys!

We hardly ever eat out (we try to stick to our frugal lifestyle as much as we can), but this evening the boys & I are going to enjoy dinner after a nice day at U#2 together. The food just arrived, so I'll share more about our day later!

6:01 am

That's when my eyes popped open this morning (I got up to look at the alarm clock next to my husband) -- I hate this "automatic waking" time! :(

Thankfully I was able to go back to sleep (and have some very interesting dreams about my family looking at the Alps and being close to my birth-place while we were visiting Europe -- big real dream of mine)! I did get up briefly to brush my teeth, 'cause I fell asleep on my clothes yesterday AGAIN (like last Friday)!

But I went to bed relatively early, before midnight for sure, I think it must have been 11:30.

In any case, I think yesterday I couldn't go back to sleep because I was stressed out thinking of my work and that meeting and all the grading I still have to do and on which I am SOOOO behind. In addition, one of my cats (Lepton) hadn't come into the garage the night before, so I also wanted to go call him so he would come in.

I ended up going outside in my robe and pulling the dead tomato plants from my garden bed in the backyard and also pulling the tomato cages. It was pretty therapeutic. And I wasn't late because of it -- I need to leave before 8 am on Tu/Th so I'm not late for my 9:30 am class.

Today I'm taking the boys to U#2 with me. I hope we'll have a good time. I only teach two 50 min. classes, so they stay with me and maybe even speak Portuguese to my students.

Later we'll walk around the campus, eat somewhere and go to a couple of model train stores that they say that town has. We'll end the day by stopping at TJ's and driving back home, maybe stopping at the library if we have time? (maybe not)

P.S. and to be blogging in the morning before work! So decadent! hahaha! There's nothing like being well-rested, is there?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Automatic Waking (or the woes of "Falling Back")

I agree with other people who are OK with "falling back" to Standard Time that it is hard to wake up/get up when it's dark, but I really really really DREAD how short the days become.

I can't wait for December 21 to come so days can begin to get long again.

My biggest problem is that after a few weeks into the semester, I begin to wake up automatically at a certain time, even before the alarm clock and by last week I was pretty good at this. When K was away (in Canada) three weeks ago I woke up before the alarm every morning.

And then we "fell back" last Sunday. So this morning I "automatically" woke slightly startled at 6:11 am -- because I would actually have been late, since it was after the old 7 am time -- I had been waking up before 7 am.

I'm going to bed now and really really hoping that I don't automatically wake up. Especially because the boys don't have school tomorrow and we could all sleep in a bit.

I'll let you know what happens... sigh...


I knew it was going to be hard, but I thought that somehow I would survive it and I am (surviving, that is), but I'm having an extremely hard time handling the exhaustion.

It's too much. Teaching nearly 7 hours plus over two hours driving. Having breakfast (bread, fruit) & lunch (some chips or crackers, a bagel, or sometimes almost nothing) in the car... Doesn't leave much time for rest, or for grading and preparing.

Today I was frankly frustrated at my exhaustion, at how much I work and how unfair it all seems. I couldn't help but share with students that I was just way too tired and they sympathized. They too are pretty tired, though not as frazzled as I am at this point.

OK, pity party over (for now), just to give way to angst-ridden thoughts. (Ha Ha, welcome to my life!)

What can I do if I realize and decide that I really don't want to spend the rest of my life teaching language? I don't feel I have much chance of getting a "real" academic job -- nothing short of a "miracle" would bring that about.

Right now I just have to keep on living. Trying to plan for next year and not to think too much about the future.

(good luck with that, says one obsessed with planning)

I hope it will all be fine and that in 10, 15 years I can look back and feel good about my life.

I just have to trust and pray that it will happen.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Dad's birthday

OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!

Today was my dad's birthday and I didn't even call him. That's HORRIBLE! My mom's birthday was last week and though I didn't blog about it as in previous years, at least we called her.

Can I feel a little better about my daddy because I blogged about it? :( OH WELL.

Let me go to facebook and write something for him (I just did! My mom actually made a fb account for dad!). Sigh...

I had a horribly busy day with my husband gone for two days, but thankfully only one night (last night), he's back!!

I still feel bad for forgetting... :(

A Tale of Two Meetings

In spite of the semi-pompous title, I don't really know how to write about this in an interesting, not pessimist way. Sigh...

A week ago I met with the chair of my department (who is new this year, but who has been chair before for a long period) and today I met with new hire (NH for the rest of the post), my "boss."

Last week's meeting was kind of perfunctory because I suspected its outcome: I have been assured full-time employment for next school year, albeit in a one-year contract. The chair said s/he will try to secure me a three year contract (which for my friends meant a pretty significant raise of 14K), but probably not for next Fall.

I used this meeting to introduce myself to new chair. We had met before and talked pretty often, since we taught in the same building and at the same time last Spring, but s/he didn't know too much about me. Then I made my requests, the most important of which would be not to teach five days a week next Fall (mostly because I am not being fairly compensated for the contact hours I teach). He immediately told me that he is in favor of changing to 3 days a week like they did for the main language of the department.

I also shared with the chair the literature class that I am going to teach next semester and I presented some ideas that I have for a new possible class and he was pretty enthusiastic about it.

Fast forward to this afternoon. It turns out that my strong suspicion was true: New Hire is the person responsible for the denial of my request to teach only four days a week.


And NH is pretty adamant about this issue -- s/he thinks the introductory intensive class should be taught 5 days a week.

Moreover, NH thinks that we should offer LESS literature classes because there aren't enough students to take them and that we're competing against each other.

Deeper sigh...

I was right in thinking (in my realistic pessimist way) that these literature classes that I'm getting to teach could be my first and my last. That's why they're such a treat. A window into a world that I will be prevented from being part of because I cannot (and probably will not ever) get a tenure track position.

And we always go back to this issue. It seems to be the central theme of my life right now. I wish it would just go away!! I wish I didn't need to feel so deeply torn apart by this (im)possibility in my life. Literally "shredded" by my need to have a paying job, whatever it is, and my desire to do research, to publish, to pursue academic passions.

In any case. It wasn't a bad meeting. We get along well, but it is very clear who is in the driver's seat -- the poor metaphor I've been using since NH got the job and I had to step aside.

OH... and there's more!! From next Fall on I will have to use the syllabi and program created by NH! NH sternly advised me against giving students many tests and quizzes (I cover 8 chapters of the language book, therefore I give 8 quizzes and 8 tests -- fair enough, no?). NH believes I should only give TWO exams and a final.

Because spending lots time grading, according to NH is NOT OK.

SERIOUSLY??? I will need to talk to lots of other language teachers before I can be convinced to subscribe to such a philosophy.

It sounds like a LAZY way of teaching that does a disservice to students. I think I'm being PAID to spend time grading. NH quickly calculated that with the number of evaluations I give I must spend over 50 hours a semester grading and was HORRIFIED.

Sigh... yeah, and I was horrified at NH's thinking. And I'm going to have to put up with it for who knows how long. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Pixie Blossoms is Back!!

I'm so thrilled that my friend Zilá (featured here in the Land of Nod) is back online and has started to blog again at the Pixie Blossoms site she had closed back in 2010.

Welcome back, querida!

I'm glad you kept your Etsy shop open and that you're back at Pixie Blossoms. You are extremely talented and I hope you find even more success as you continue to create and share beautiful art with the world!

You can check more of Zilá's work at her facebook page. I love it when people resurface like that, it is such a treat!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

NaBloPoMo On My Own Terms

I still want to write 30+ posts in November this year, but I will do it on my own terms, that is, I won't force myself to post everyday.

I missed posting on Friday because I was just SOOOOO exhausted that I fell asleep on the couch with my youngest son around 9:30 pm (while my husband and eldest were playing piano). Poor K carried me to bed where I woke up 6:30 am on Saturday morning still wearing my Friday clothes. I got up, changed, brushed my teeth and went back to sleep for a couple more hours. Bliss!

(that's why I wasn't sleepy last night)

I will try to blog more from my phone, though, and that may help me to post more often (I did write last night's quick post on my phone).

I just noticed that I had a dedicated NaBloPoMo label for  for every year from 2007-11, I just didn't create a tag last year & I won't this year either (I just created a plain label without a year, but I don't know if I'll label posts).

OK, boring meta-blogging, I need to move on. ;-)

I can't wait to read daily posts from other blogging friends who have decided to blog more often this month, YAY!!

SNL Tonight is just so GREAT!

edited to embed clips
Especially "Shaquille O'Neall" in Weekend Update!

And how they made fun of themselves by diffusing the uncomfortable  situation of never having had an African American woman in their cast.

But I feel like I could go to bed now. ;-)

Edited to add: but we ended up going to bed 2:30 am (actually, 1:30 with the fall back) just talking about the day & our friends.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Six Years Ago

This evening I finally took some time to talk to my husband (even though I'm blogging in the middle of the talking while he's reading about the Red Sox on my phone ;-) and he just remembered something very significant.

We were wondering why we couldn't remember at all the Red Sox's World Series victory back in 2007. Especially since we had watched all games in 2004 when they had incredibly beaten the Yankees after being down 3 games to none (by 19/9 in the third game at Fenway no less!).

Well... it turns out our life was crazy-busy in October 2007 when we had just moved into an old falling-apart fixer-upper house, just before our life as we knew it "ended" on October 31st, 2007. (and just days before that my dad had had an accident in which he hit a drunk man who later died)

I hardly ever think about that day six years ago. I'm glad I sounded so "together" in that post and I'm even gladder that K kept the job for several more months (so I was able to finish the dissertation and earn my PhD in relative calm) and that things only unraveled in March 2009. Sigh...

In any case, K turned to me half an hour ago and said "It was six years ago today that Big Pharma laid me off, no wonder we don't have any recollection of Red Sox's victory earlier that week!"

So I went looking for my diary, but couldn't find it, then turned to the blog and found no mention of baseball, obviously. We were also thinking that we probably didn't have cable either. Sigh.

Six years. A lot has happened in the past six years and thankfully time has healed most of the grief that threatened our lives back in 2007 and then 2009! It's fascinating to look back and realize that things did turn out just fine in the end. Nothing like hindsight, right?

First Time in 95 Years!

I let the boys stay up until past 11 tonight so they could see the Red Sox win the World Series. We'll see how their day will be tomorrow, but we just had to see the Sox's very first victory at home in 95 years! ;-)

I don't ever watch baseball, but once every few years is OK, right?

P.S. I'm just SOOOO busy I haven't found time or energy to write. Sigh... hopefully soon. I haven't decided yet whether I'll post everyday in November or not and/or whether I'll try to post more than last year. We'll see.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I like this one!

How couldn't I like it? ;-)

Cancelled :( or Something's Gotta Give!

Things are going really well so far -- Thursday's dinner was lovely (I really, really, really want to share some photos & I hope I will) and the visit of the in-laws is going great! It's been so long since they've been here. Sigh...

That's why I had to cancel tomorrow's dinner with my students -- I can't believe I was dumb enough to schedule that on a day I already knew was going to be extra busy. Sigh... yeah, it was totally stupid.

I am relieved now that I sent the email, but I feel awful because I know the students were looking forward to it and that some of them had made arrangements and plans to come. It's only 4 students, though, and I know that it'll be so much better for them to come at another time.

So I had to come and do some blogging therapy. Thanks for listening!

And I do like to cook for friends & family (and even for strangers!), but this weekend was getting out of hand, wasn't it?!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

And this is going to be One. LONG. Weekend. of Cooking... Sigh...

It all starts tomorrow. A friend who left for medical school last July is coming back to town for a few days, so I wanted to have a special "Fall Dinner" for her, so we're having that tomorrow night because...

... on Friday my parents-in-laws will arrive with brother-in-law and family, so it's cooking and more cooking until Sunday lunch.

But, guess what?!

I've decided to have my U#1 students for dinner (only four students, thankfully!) on Sunday night, so... yeah, CRAZY!!

I know it'll be fine and sister-in-law will help me a lot, but still... yeah, all the cooking.

P.S. I need to confess something about cooking though, but I won't do it in this post. Maybe Sunday night after it's all over. (HUGE SIGH.... ;-)

What's up with that, Wordpress?

I hate it when I want to write a quick follow up comment with a correction and Wordpress tells me "You are writing comments too fast, slow down"

BLAH. I finally, on my third time, was able to post the comment, but that is surely annoying. It suggests that the blogging platform is not as fast and good as it should be.

You know, no wonder with the efficiency we encounter most everywhere online and which we've grown accustomed to (I've never encountered that problem on blogger, for example), it must be horribly frustrating not to be able to access the Affordable Care Act website. I wish the best of luck to the government as they try to fix their website! And good thing I don't need to use it, or I'd be really mad! ;-)

Monday, October 21, 2013


Introductory note: my husband "K" has three younger brothers, and I've named them "K2, K3 & K4" here in the blog. I have only one brother. 

Back in 2006 I blogged about the pretty incredible family internationalization that took place that year: first, my father- and mother-in-law moved to the U.S., then my brother & his wife moved to China. Later in the year, K's uncle moved to South Africa. The second "wave" happened in 2007 when "K3" moved to Turkey with his wife.

Things shifted slightly in the next few years: first, "K3," K's brother who had spent two years in Turkey moved to Brazil in the summer of 2008 and my brother moved from China to New Zealand. In June 2009, K4 (my husband's youngest brother) and his wife moved to Montreal, Canada and in November 2009 my in-laws moved back to Brazil.

It was quiet for a while, but this year (and last) things started shaking up again! K's uncle came back from Africa (where he'd moved from South Africa to Mozambique 3 years before) last year and my brother moved back to Brazil this past August, but the biggest change is yet to come.

"K2," K's brother who has lived close to us for the past NINE years is most probably moving to Egypt (Cairo) with his family very soon. :( The only thing that would prevent them from going would be a visa denial, but that is highly unlikely.

They are very excited about the move and professionally it will be excellent and challenging for brother-in-law, but we'll miss them a lot! My youngest son will miss them the most because he had the great privilege of growing up for 9 years close to his cousin (they are only 4 months apart). I hope they can interact well online, but it won't be the same at all (playing for hours and hours together many times a year). Sigh...

I hope they have a good experience in Egypt and, most importantly, that the political turmoil there can calm down.

P.S. I also hope that we can't visit them since of all the family members above who moved to different countries we have only visited K4 in Canada (OK, and K3 in Brazil, but that doesn't count because we always go to Brazil!).

Two Years from Today I'll throw a "Back to the Future" Party

Someone posted a Photoshopped Back to the Future photo to facebook just now and a smart commenter remarked that the day Marty arrived in the future in the movie wouldn't be until 2015. I went to check here and she was right!

I'm sure that in two years this movie history "event" will be on the news as well and my husband just said that lots of other people will probably be throwing parties. Too bad it'll be a Wednesday, but I want to do it anyway. K & I (and his brothers) are big fans of the Back to the Future trilogy. Last winter we introduced the movies to K's cousin and it was lots of fun to watch them once more.

Well, this definitely was a "Really Random Stuff" post, right? ;-)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wealth-Inequality in the U.S.A.: Mind Blowing Visual Representation

This is very true, and probably hundreds of time worse in Brazil:

It is outrageous, but I think there's no way out of this inequality. It will continue to get worse...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Look what he brought me!

K Arrived safely last night and look what he brought me!
There's only one store for this boutique in Montreal, so he had to take the subway and walk a whole lot to get these. That is love!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Last Day as a (Temporary) Single Parent

I'm exhausted! Good thing K is arriving tonight at 11:30 pm, 'cause I can't live without him, seriously! 

The house is pretty messy (he does most of the tidying up), except for the boys' room. Two days ago the boys put away all their clean laundry -- I was super productive on Tuesday and did two loads, in addition to the one from last Friday.

Our bedroom and the living room are pretty messy (and the kitchen is under control, but needs some work).

OH NO!! It just started raining really hard! :(

I'm afraid that his second flight to our local small airport may be cancelled!! :(

I'll go back to cleaning the living room now and I'll keep you updated. Oh, I'll check his flight first.

Update: So far airline says flight is on schedule. Let's see!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Singing Performing Group - "Dream Stuff" I

I don't think I this dream will ever come true and I had actually forgotten I had it.

I sang in choirs for most of my life prior to coming to the U.S. 17 years ago and I just loooooove to sing in a group. I feel sad that I haven't been doing it for years (except for a 3 year period in Philly when we had a group at church). Sigh...

My crazy dream, though, was/is to be part of a singing/performing group, not a church choir or religious singing group. And this group would not only sing great vocal arrangements together, but perform in the sense of doing some comical sketches while singing or dressing funny/funky during the performances. And, of course, I would rather sing Brazilian music and not predictable showtunes & stuff.

I remembered this dream just now when I was listening to this great vocal arrangement of Estrela, Estrela (Star, Star), by Victor Ramil, one of my (recently) favorite songs -- I would just LOVE to sing that. The arrangement was made for Gal Costa (one of my favorite Brazilian singers) back in 1981 (or around that time):

Oh, there's a name for what I'd like to be part of, "coro cênico," in Portuguese (something like performing choir)

There was a group in Brazil that was awesome, they had the crazy name "Garganta Profunda" (Deep Throat). Here they are a looooong time ago back in 1987 performing the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby (there are very few live videos of them, most on youtube only have the vocals

Well, even I am getting surprised at the "stuff" I'm finding within! ;-)

"From 8 to 80" -- The New Piano Teacher

Yesterday Last week on Wednesday afternoon, very late into the school year, our sons started piano lessons again.

And WOW, what a change!

We have this expression in Portuguese that refers to extreme positions and that is used in sentences like this: "Wow! You cannot be balanced in life! With you things are either 8 or 80!" ["oito ou oitenta"]

So in the "piano teacher for our sons" aspect of our lives we have suddenly gone "from 8 to 80!" (quite literally, see below! ;-)

The boys' piano teacher for the past three years (and Son#2's very first piano teacher) was a "church lady" who came to their school and taught the children there for a ridiculously low fee (10 dollars for half an hour). It was extremely convenient because I didn't have to take them elsewhere (she taught them during school hours in the afternoon) and initially the boys were doing OK. However, in the past year Kelvin had completely lost his motivation and wanted to quit.

Kelvin had another teacher for a year back in Pennsylvania. She was a lady from church as well, but she had the proper training and her own piano and Kindermusik studio in her spacious house. Son#2 only did Kindermusik, but Kelvin had a great start in piano. Two years ago a dear friend who is an orchestra conductor and doctor in music had warned us that we should switch the boys to another teacher if we wanted them to make any progress, but it took us all this time to finally do it.

Our sons are now (as of yesterday) last week, taking lessons with a person with a doctoral degree in music and who happens to be an assistant professor at a local university. (! ! ! even I am surprised!)

I think that she decided to take our sons because of how late we registered for lessons (at the university's music education department). At a dollar a minute I wonder that, given the choice, other families may decide to go with a more affordable instructor!

She is awesome, though. I wish I could link to her website so you could read her teaching philosophy and other statements. I can tell that the boys will learn a lot and, most importantly, be motivated to practice and learn piano on their own. She definitely puts them in charge of their own learning and praises them in just the right way to motivate them and boost their confidence. YAY!

I sure hope their experience with this teacher is completely different from mine!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All I Want is to Sleep!

I'm exhausted. And I had to be grading right now, but I'm laying in bed with my computer instead.

I guess this is that time in the semester when I will have to beg my students to be patient with me as I deal with exhaustion and lack of energy to grade their tests.


It doesn't help that I'm home alone once more -- K is at a conference in Montreal (staying at his brother's house!) until late on Thursday night.

(bigger) Sigh...

Weekend update:

We had a good Saturday, though it was tiresome for me to cook for our get-together with our one Brazilian friend in town (I made moqueca (fish stew) since my friend wanted to eat it). We finally watched most of SNL -- Bruce Willis was great and then I tried to watch some of last week's (Miley Cyrus), but started falling asleep in the middle of it.

On Sunday morning the boys and I left slightly late for Pennsylvania where we visited the Railroad museum and the Toy Train museum. We ended the day on a model train store. Sigh... We drove an hour to our friends' house and while our kids played we talked. Then talked some more until close to midnight after the kids went to bed.

(it was slightly emotional driving close to where we used to live. Sometimes I don't feel anything, sometimes I'm close to tears. our time in PA was tough...)

Yesterday we left as early as we could (around 10 am) and went straight to the Choo-Choo Barn (huge model train display) where we spent over an hour before heading to Sight & Sound to see Noah. We returned to the Barn to spend more time looking at the trains & going to the model train store again.

Then I stopped at a couple of stores at the outlet, went to Christmas Tree Shop & drove home.

3 hours and a half.

We only snacked in the car all day and our only meal was breakfast (a bagel, a blueberry smoothie, hash-browns, cooked mushroom -- yum! Thanks to my dear friend (we share a name too!). We got home at 10:20 and although I did have a good night of sleep I'm still exhausted.

Today I took the boys to school, did two loads of laundry & tried to grade (wasn't very successful). It was just SOOOOOO hard to drive to town and teach at U#1. I can't believe I always have to do that during my Fall Break at U#2. :( The boys had to stay in after-school care and the good side of that was that they did all their homework there!! Less drama at home. Piano practice, putting away clothes, dinner, that was it. YAY!

Tomorrow I resume work at U#2 and I'm not looking forward to that at all. Especially because I want to go to bed NOW and I won't finish the grading because I'm just too tired and without energy.


Friday, October 11, 2013

"Dream Stuff"

I'm not a "dreamy" person. At least not anymore, because pretty much everything I dreamed about when I was a dreamy and overly introspective teen came true...

... I found a wonderful guy to share my life with (and I met him just at the right moment!).

... I traveled to the U.S. and saw and did so many things I wanted to see and be able to do (back in 1993 with K & his family).

... I moved to another country to have an experience abroad (we all know I'm still here after 17 years).

... I learned French and spent over a month in my birth-place.

... I traveled to almost every place I wanted to visit in Europe (except for Giverny & the Loire Castles & Carcasonne & some other locations).

and.... the "dream of dreams:" I had two babies of my very own.

And lots of things I didn't ever dream about (but maybe hoped would happen) happened: I earned a Ph.D. (sigh...). we own a house (and have owned 3 others), we have jobs, etc.

Of course I have "wishes," but wishes aren't exactly dreams, are they? So today in class, while my students worked on their exams and I kind of "daydreamed," a student mentioned something about a Brazilian children's book and it came to me...

...This idea that I do have things that I love, that maybe I do have dreams, both feasible and crazy "dreamy" dreams. So I decided I'm going to make a conscious effort to at least "name" this "dream stuff" (or these "dream things" as I had originally titled the post) in my life.

So... another "series" of posts will be coming soon.

P.S. I had to use "stuff" in the title because of Shakespeare's famous Tempest quote:
(. . . ) .We are such stuff
As dreams are made on;

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On *Being* Dreams Come True

I am beginning a new "series" of posts about dreams (not the sleeping kind) and I think this may be a good place to start. 

My sons live with the full awareness that they are dreams come true.

Yesterday, after we got home from an incredibly busy afternoon & evening (more on that later on another post about piano!) I scooped up my youngest son, sat him on my lap and asked him, not exactly expecting a response:

"Do you know what I dreamed of the most in my life?"

He immediately answered, "Children!"

"Yes! You're right!" I responded.

I was not surprised that he knew the answer, though I think that was the first time I'd asked that question directly.

I tell them every day that they were (and are) so incredibly wanted and desired and that they are my greatest gifts and treasures. And I can only hope that all children everywhere can be desired and wanted too because I know that this is not always the case and I'm heartbroken at the thought. :(

I am doing my part with the two I was given.

A Breakfast Date and... Wrinkle Cream (?) :)

Ladies, I have a question for you, please respond!!

Do you use skin products for wrinkle prevention/treatment, etc.? Which one(s)? If not, why not? Would you recommend any specific brands or types of products?

Last week I invited my husband for a breakfast date since with our crazy schedules we can't have lunch dates and much less dinner dates. We were enjoying our breakfast when my husband looked at my face  -- I suspect that he focused on my forehead -- and said, matter of factly:

"Hmmm... I can see a lot of wrinkles!"

"OK!" I cheerfully responded, "I guess it's time for me to begin to apply wrinkle cream! I just need to let you know that it's expensive, I hope it's worth it!""

Is it really worth it? I have never felt it is. And besides, I will just be stuffing my skin with chemicals! I don't even apply much of anything to my skin to begin with. I rarely use moisturizer and after Katie Allison Granju suggested Garnier's BB cream I bought it and I wear it once or twice a week.

The other problem is that I am TERRIBLE at doing things habitually (except for brushing teeth before bed & applying deodorant -- it's not that bad ;-) and I hate to think that I will have to deal with a night cream and a day cream and blah blah blah.

I am willing to try, though, if I feel that they would do any good. Frankly, for my forehead and brow I think that if I really wanted it to look better I'd just get some Botox. ;-)  (hahahaha... and I was just writing above about putting chemicals on my skin). Nah, I'm kidding -- though I know it does work (I have a family member who's done it before and thinks it's the only way to go regarding one's forehead/brow).

So... if you can take a minute to share what you use and give me any advice, I'd greatly appreciate it!!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

No rest for the weary, or how did it go...

                        {my apologies for the boring "update" post}
... I'm exaggerating, of course, but I haven't been able to rest after yesterday's cooking marathon and I won't any time soon because of the worries about the grading (I know! only 9 papers!).

The worst part is that I didn't actually do any grading today -- I had/have a good excuse (I have misplaced the rubric and I haven't been given an electronic copy by my colleague/boss), but still...

The dinner was a resounding success. There were plenty of leftovers, but I had bought 15 disposable containers and the students took lots of food home with them! So I had only a little bit of food to take back. Several students also came early and helped me cook, so they started eating at 5:30! And by 7:30 several students had helped me clean as well.

Colleague acted as a "host" and talked to the students after they arrived and were waiting for the food & I was thankful for that. I didn't count, but I think we had almost 50 people, including a party-crasher from Cameroon whom "the kids" liked and who ate a lot, after spilling a lot of pineapple-mint juice (and I had to go finish cleaning).* I couldn't eat a bite because of the stress of it all, but I did drink.

They all loved the food (colleague too**) and all students were thanking me profusely for cooking all that "amazing food" (their words, not mine). And I was super thankful for all their help.

After it was over (the students loaded my car for me!!) I called my family & then headed to a nearby Indian restaurant where my hosts and some other friends, colleagues and two Mexican academics who were visiting were having a meal. I had a mango lassi and enjoyed their fun company. We headed home and I put everything in the fridge/freezer and talked to my friend while she graded.

I had a good night of sleep, just had some really weird dreams... And this morning it was raining crazily and I felt super tired and like I just wanted to stay in bed. But I had to drive to the university, teach my two classes, print out a test and materials for Wednesday's class, then drive straight to my sons' school where I had a 1h "parent advisory committee" meeting...

And at home I did have some down time online & with my sons, but I needed to prepare two syllabi that my dept. chair at U#1 needs to change to U#3 (the "teleteaching" recipient).

Meanwhile, K spent the day away in the D.C. area and he's not home yet, but I'm heading for bed. I will try to hit the farmer's market tomorrow before heading to U#2. I don't know if I'll have the energy to wake up early for that. I'm still exhausted.

* Cameroonian guy asked me whether I was an "average" cook for a Brazilian woman or way above average because he'd like to keep that in mind for future reference. I tried to answer & couldn't help but laugh one of those loud "forced" laughs that try to diffuse the awkwardness of the situation.

** so maybe I have a better chance to be a "keeper" in the dept. since part of my future depends on "hir" good-will (in spite of the fact that s/he mostly doesn't know what s/he's doing, more on that on another time).

Sunday, October 06, 2013

All that energy is gone

And I have to cook for 50 people this afternoon. Wish me luck!

I dictated this while I drove to the university, so I'm sharing with you Just for fun!
To do list
 - Prepare juices: Passionfruit and pineapple
 - Put drinks in fridge
- Make passionfruit mousse
- Cook rice & Keep warm in the oven
- Cook fish
- Prepare farofa - Keep warm in oven
- Bake cheese rolls - Serve right away
- Heat the beans
-  Fry cassava - Serve right away

Don't forget to get my pots and pans garlic press and knife

Dinner will be served around five and I have three hours to do all that!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Nine Papers to Grade & Weekend Plans

This is all I have this weekend, but I will be SO INCREDIBLY BUSY that I probably won't get anything done. :(  But I NEED to return those papers graded by Tuesday morning. So I'm blogging about it to see if it'll help me to actually get them done.

Meanwhile... I went on a blogging binge last night and wrote note one, but three posts! ;-)

Weekend plans:

  • friends & their children and his parents come tomorrow to spend less than 24h with us.
  • On Saturday night I need to cook and prepare food for the dinner I'm offering all mine and my colleague's students (over 50) on Sunday.
  • Make sure I have everything packed in the car and leave for U#2 at 12 pm on Sunday.
  • Cook for 50+ people (with some students helping) and have the dinner. Rice, beans, Moqueca, fried cassava, "farofa" (even Martha Stewart has a recipe! ;-), passion fruit mousse and juice, guaraná, pineapple mint juice.  Maybe a few other things.
  • Drive back home, possibly late, because K has to leave super early on Monday for Washington D.C.  :(
And today I have to prepare for all that, make sure all the shopping is done (including several pounds of frozen fish and vegetables, sigh...). 

Where Have I Been? On Discovering Lenine (Brazilian musician)

Last night I was up until 1 am. I needed to do some work, but I just couldn't stop listening to music (on YouTube, so lame, but that's all I can do because not all Brazilian music is on Spotify).

Tonight is more of the same, though for our benefit I also baked!!! Catherine Newman's favoritest "Rhubarb Crumb Bars." And I also got to show most of the music I found last night to my husband who was working on the desk behind me. YAY!

All I could think of as I listened to Lenine's songs over and over last night was "Where have I been that I didn't find out about him earlier?"

Well, easy answer... I live abroad and not in Brazil. I've been here for 17 years and I often don't take full advantage of all that I can access online to be in better touch with my country.

All that matters now is that I finally found Lenine's music, particularly the acoustic and orchestral renditions of his songs as registered in his 2006 DVD Acústico MTV (CD available on Amazon, but it doesn't have the last song below).

It all started when I went to check a song I had assigned for my class to listen to (I'd put it in the syllabus) -- I had found this song sometime in the past year when searching for songs with the preposition "por," "Tudo por acaso" [everything by chance]:

Then I found "Paciência" [patience] and I almost died... (there's a lovely harpist who plays with him, Cristina Braga). This one is in HD!!

And then... "O silêncio das estrelas" [the silence of the stars] -- with an English horn!! Unbelievably, indescribably beautiful.

Wasn't that English horn just amazing? It was played by Victor Astorga, from Argentina.
I think I need to buy this DVD...

Edited to add (my third or fourth edit). I just wanted to say that most of the DVD is mostly upbeat, except for these songs right here. ;-)
This one, "Medida da paixão" [measure of passion] Lenine sings with the bassist from Cameroon Richard Bona:

Thursday, October 03, 2013

On Course Design (and "Learner Based" Pedagogy)

Wow, I actually have something to say about something! Dare I say, something to "contribute"?

[that's the sad sad sad fate of adjuncts and lecturers, this perpetual feeling that we will never EVER be able to have something to contribute because we're not "chosen" by the system to be paid to do scholarship. Sigh... We don't have the time anyway, we're so busy teaching. My angst is always there, under the surface, friends, waiting to emerge.] :(

In any case, my friend Leslie blogged just today about mandatory professional development and universities' "teaching centers" providing course design institutes. Her commenter Jonathan Rees then wrote
I find mandatory administration-imposed course design institutes absolutely terrifying. You're the expert on how to design a successful history course, not some "learning scientist" . . . . Professors are trained professionals. We should be allowed to do our jobs however we see fit.
I agree, only up to a certain point. First of all, I don't think these institutes should be mandatory and they are not in the two universities where I teach. I also agree that each scholar is an expert in how to design a course on their area. Now as to whether we're trained professionals, I'm not so sure about all of us. (And generally universities do let us "do our job however we see fit" in spite of having us do institutes, etc).

My experience participating of multiple professional development events and institutes at two universities in the past 4 years (only one year at U#2) is that there are actually plenty of "trained professionals" out there who could actually use the help! Universities have many "old school" professors who do things the "old way" and who could use a fresh perspective in their teaching.

I think that people such as Ken Bain (of What the Best College Teachers Do fame) actually do have a lot to "teach us about teaching" (Bain came to our campus & I actually got to "hang out" with him thanks to my "insider status" as a member of a faculty fellowship). I have also learned a lot from scholars who argue for a "learner-based" approach to course design such as Dee Fink in his Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (this was the book we were required to read for my course design institute).

How do the two universities I am involved with approach such faculty development initiatives? The first one pays faculty extra money to participate of these institutes (up to a thousand dollars!). First, the faculty member has to apply and present a compelling case to be selected to take part on the institute.* Then, they provide meals and materials (books and such) and the resources -- extremely well organized presentations and mentorship. And then no one keeps tabs on whether you're following what you designed or not! But they do keep track of us and last year I was actually invited with three other faculty to come speak at the last day of their second institute to share how the implementation of my new course (or redesigned course) had gone.
* I was lucky enough to have been part of the very first one -- taught by folks from my current university, this was so helpful when I missed most of the new-faculty orientation last year!!

The second university actually requires that faculty interested in such professional development opportunities PAY in order to take advantage of that!! They do encourage people to take part in it (and the people who organize the institute are actual professors with years of experience in the classroom, not administrators). Full-time faculty can use their educational benefit to pay for it, but still, their approach is the opposite of U#1.

Last, but not least, I consider myself a pretty good professional, but I don't think my training was exceptional or anything. I had plenty of experience teaching during graduate school (3 years as T.A. 3 years teaching on my own), but mentoring was less than ideal in my graduate institution. I think I can design pretty good literature classes, but I'm sure I can definitely learn new ways to make my courses more relevant. And if I can be paid to do so, wow, that's great!

So these are my 2 cents on this subject!

Edited to add:  I could write on and on and on about the multiple, all compensated, professional development opportunities in pedagogy and in instructional technology that are made available for faculty at U#1-- for both full-time and part-time adjuncts such as myself! I participated of a two year faculty fellowship on learning (don't want to get too specific), and before that I was part of a "blended learning" institute. The technology training is not as good as the teaching one, but the "being paid" part is just a great incentive. ;-)