Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We were just going to have left-overs. We hadn't planned anything special... but last minute I decided to run to the store and grab some stuff to make a nice dinner. It is top secret, but I'll tell you it involves rib-eye and pioneer woman... well not exactly the woman herself, but her website.

I got to sleep in until 9 today (this is major when you have kids). I went running. I am now showered and clean (the only proper way to leave a decade, right?) I survived the new year's eve supermarket last minute rush with NO obsecenities... ok, maybe a few remarks under my breath, but it was very zen-like. We'll have a nice dinner some champagne (not necessarily at midnight, but... you know, we are old)... and just like that 2009 will be over.

I have no resolutions. Normally I joke that I only make suggestions for my husband's improvement because I have already achieved perfection. Of course, that is false false false, but I get a good laugh over it. I don't like resolutions, it is too much pressure... and really, how can I top a Ph.D. in 2009.

However, if I had one hope for myself for the next decade it would be to learn how to embrace happiness in the moment. It sounds so simple, but sheesh it is hard for me to accomplish.

embrace happiness... embrace happiness... embrace happiness (that and be more patient, less bossy, less controlling, more flexible, more fun, more spontaneous... which are all, of course, intertwined)

That is my mantra for the next decade. (which is a pretty tall order for an anti-resolution).

Whatever you have planned or not, whatever you resolve to do or not, I hope you have a smashing good time tonight, bring with you all that was good in 2009, leave behind all that was negative in 2009, tomorrow you re-start the clock with a clean slate.

(and know this my bloggy friends, connecting more with some of you via blogging has been one of my highlights of 2009, so I will think of you tonight and hope that you are embracing happiness in your square foot of the universe)


Monday, December 28, 2009

... and now it is over...

We have had a good week...

We played outside in the leaves and had a leaf fight with papi. I won the fight when I stuffed a handful of leaves down his pants. As I reflect back over 2009, I think that this moment of sheer glee may have been my highlight for the year.

The kids have laughed a lot and stayed up late.

We now have a house full of trucks of all sizes.

Our friends invited us over for a seafood boil, which was divine. I made pisco sour which was fabulous and flan which was sublime.

There is always a strange feeling when Christmas is over. So much build up and then it is gone. I can't believe it is the last week of 2009.

New Year's Eve looks promising... not because we have exciting plans, but because this may be the first year, in many, that we actually make it to midnight.

I hope your Christmas was lovely. Are you ready to ring in 2010?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crocodile Tears

I don't know if you knew this about me... but I am a softy and a sap.

I think I have cried at some point during every movie on earth.

If there is: love at first sight, love after conflict, an unrequited love, a rekindled love, a new love, a lost love, a birth, a death, a sickness, a mother-daughter moment, a father-son moment, sibling rivalry, someone lost, someone found, a new house, a house burned-down, a special gift, a surprise, a promise fulfilled, a promise broken, war, peace, a kiss, an almost kiss, a refused kiss, an animal in danger, a heroic moment, success, a failure, a wave good-bye, a hug hello, if someone says "I'm sorry" or "I've always loved you", if someone cries...

I will shed a tear or two... I may even request a box of tissue.

Luckily, my husband is a softy too. We look at each other during a poignant moment to see if the other has teared up yet. If you cry first, there is an unspoken agreement that you have lost... and then we laugh.

I cry at everthing, but I think tonight... I hit a new low...

I cried at a Folger's commercial.

It is before Christmas. There is a knock at the front door. A traveller has arrived after a long absence. His sister, who has been waiting for him opens the door. They put on a pot of Folger's and the smell wakes up their parents. They intuitively know that he has arrived and get out of bed. Meanwhile, downstairs the world-traveller gives his sister a gift from a far-off land. She takes off the bow and puts it on him. She says: You're my gift this year.

(... signal...) the springing of the tears

What a sap huh? Or did that one get you too?

I was alone, but I am pretty sure my husband would have cried too, and that makes me feel a little less lame.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Next time: Movie-yes; Lunch-not-so-much

Yesterday morning we had a girls' morning out. G and I went with her neighborhood bff and my neighborhood bff (who also happen to be a mother-daughter team) to see the Princess and the Frog (very cute btw, if you can stomach Disney movies).

We don't take G to the movies very often, but I am happy that she is old enough to sit through one at the theater. I am also glad that kids' movies are full of kids with their parents--so when G exclaims out loud "There's a kitty" or "Mickey Mouse!"--it fits right in with all the other kids who talk out loud during movies (Why is he sad? Oooh a frog!, etc.) G loved it, though we had to go out to get popcorn (you must have the whole movie experience, no?) close to the end.

After the movie my friend asked if we wanted to have lunch. I said Ok, because I try to be brave, even though eating out with kids is my very definition of hell. It is SO NOT relaxing. We rarely eat out. Really only when my father-in-law is visiting, (when we eat out several times a week, at fancy restaurants, way too late in the evening where we spend most of the dining experience entertaining/taking to the restroom/feeding/cleaning up after/and quieting kids) and those moments of extreme pleasure last us until the next year when he visits.

We went to Jason's Deli, which is kind of restaurantish, but you order like it's fast food. You order at counter one, take your ticket to the register to pay, pick up food at another counter, get drinks at the drink counter, find a table carrying tray and snapping at child who is exploring. Not fun... Annoying!

G odered a hot dog (from the list off of the kids' menu). She picked up just the hot dog (the weanie), dipped it in her ketchup and then licked the ketchup off the hot dog, swirling her tongue around in a way that would have been quite indecent if she were 10-15 years older. I tell her to stop. Then she starts "painting" her hot dog bun with ketchup using the hot dog. She was not interested in eating at all. Her friend, in the meantime, is having a hard time keeping her hands and feet to herself. She grabs G's juice and spills it all over G. Then they are coloring and need more space and almost end up pushing a stack of plates off the table.

Our mother-daughter friends go to the restroom for the second time. Then G says she needs to go. I take her, clean the seat, pull down her tights, get her situated, and she decided she really doesn't need to pee. I tell you, the fun never ends!

Plus, G loves to run, the main word in her vocabulary is "NO!", and she pretends to be hard of hearing. So I spent all morning hollering for her to "stop," "come back," "walk by me," "just hold my hand," etc.

All of the positivity of the movie-moment was squandered in the lunch-moment where I had to squelch the desire to shake G into submission (which my hubs so insightfully points out is not my finest parenting instinct.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

The other "B" word

Bureaucracy is a beast and a burden.

Bureaucracy is even hard to spell (I always have to google it), so naturally it is even more complicated to be embroiled in. Now that we have decided to move back to Chile, we are just starting those pesky little issues of paperwork, that we now fully admit, we should have done years ago—like register our marriage (so that it is recognized by Chile).

Though we have a Chilean Consulate a 2.5 hour drive from us, from what we have gathered, we are supposed to register the marriage in the consulate that has jurisdiction over the state where we got married (which is San Francisco since we got married in Oregon). That, of course, started a panic—how can we pay for an unplanned trip? do we both go or just one (depends on how we want to register the marriage)? What to do with the kids?

Dealing with that panic, we discovered that the document we were given when we got married, is purely ornamental… not an official legal document. So I had to figure out how to get a copy of our legal marriage license.

I asked one woman if we could just register it in Chile, she said yes. When I asked another woman she said it can’t be done in Chile. Of course, to get my visa, apparently we have to do it anyway, so that’s that.

We also have to register the kids, so that they can officially be considered Chilean. Since the kids were born in Texas, we have to register them at the consulate here. Though it is not standard practice, the consulate here offered to let us sign for our marriage registration and then dispatch it to SF, if I could get the consulate in SF to agree to accept it. (We have to show them our marriage license anyway to register the kids.) The woman in SF told me (very curtly and unhappily) that it should not be done that way but that if I could arrange it with the consulate here, then so be it.

It is going to take months...

I have to start gathering my own Visa-required documents, such as an FBI background check which required me going to the Department of Public Safety and getting my fingerprints taken. Good times… especially with two kids running around.

Plus I had to take G in to her 4-year well-check. She was so excited that she got to go to the Doctor because she hasn’t gone in a long time, but always comes when I take Nico. She had to get a couple booster shots. She hadn’t had a shot in probably two years, so though I told her it would hurt a lot, like a bee sting, she was totally unprepared for the pain. She was so pissed!...and proceeded to shriek like a banshee for a good while. It was much worse than getting shots for a younger one—they are so much more easily distracted by cheap toys, or juice, or oh, look! Goldfish! G was just furious! Now she keeps saying that she doesn’t want to go the Doctor any more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lucky 13

That was then...

Sometime around mid-December (exact date has never been determined), thirteen years ago, my husband and I started dating. Can you believe it? 13 years! I didn’t get to post back in July for our wedding anniversary, so I’ll write our “how-we-met” story now.

I was 22, and had just graduated from college earlier that year. After majoring in Spanish and studying abroad in Ecuador, I wanted to live abroad for a while longer and “perfect” my Spanish. (I put that in “ “ because it is hilarious that I once thought that my Spanish could be perfected—not because it was already perfect, but because it is hard to perfect a second language). I almost went back to Ecuador, because I had a job offer there. Yet, I was kind of itching to go somewhere new and had applied to a teaching job in Santiago, Chile… the end of the earth!

As I was walking to the mail room on campus to fax my acceptance letter to Ecuador, I checked my mailbox first (these were pre-email days folks) and found a job offer from Santiago. It all fell together very quickly: getting my work visa, making all of the necessary arrangements, getting a cheap flight (on Lacsa, which is/was the air equivalent of the famous chicken-buses of Latin America). I flew out on July 4, 1996 and landed at 2 in the morning on a very cold Sunday.

I taught English in a kind of shady under-paid operation. It had the worst “pedagogy” you could imagine and its entire reputation was based on the fact that it had to be good if the classes cost that much.

I am slow at making friends. I am even slower at finding decent dates. In high school I didn’t have a boyfriend at all, and didn’t date much. In college I dated someone twice my age, which is another story perhaps. I went out a bit in Chile, had a few very awkward experiences, and kind of decided that I did not understand the Chilean dating game (you do know dating is a game, right?—it just varies from country to country.)

I met my husband in November. He was 25 and had just graduated from college as well. He was getting ready to go to Rotterdam, Holland for a 4-month long seasonal job. His dad, figuring that English might be more useful, all around, than Dutch, had given him a graduation gift of a “private” (one-on-one) English class—every day for about 6 weeks.

When I was first notified of the class at work, I was annoyed. Grunt English teachers usually have kind of split-shift schedules, early morning and late evening, which is when most adults take classes. I had one 4-hour chunk during the day so when I was told that I would be getting a class right in the middle of it, I was unenthusiastic, at best, even when the secretary told me he was such a nice young man and that they would try to find another teacher if I was very unhappy taking it.

Well, after the first day, they heard no more complaints from me. The guy was sweet, attractive, funny in a shy kind of way, and had this je ne sais quoi about him, that kind of translated as tranquility.

It started out very slowly… after class we would both, coincidentally, be waiting for the elevator to leave the building: he to go home and me to go run errands or grab a bite to eat or just get out for a bit to walk around downtown. One day he asked me if I wanted him to accompany me to the post office and I said yes. And that is how we started hanging out after class. We’d go to art galleries or go get coffee or he’d come with me to run errands.

Then one day in class we were talking about the new Almodóvar movie that had just come out and I wanted to see and another movie that he wanted to see. We decided that I would go with him to see his movie if he would go with me to see mine. So we went to the Almodóvar movie (thinking back, I don’t know if we ever made it to see the movie he wanted, but that was not due to scheming, we did see a lot of movies (oh those were the days… wistful sigh… which are now over because of kids… resigned sigh)). After the movie, he rode the bus home with me (concerned for my safety) and then took a bus to his house.

The next day before class, he was sitting on the sofa waiting and I walked out from my early-morning class and saw him. I really wanted to touch him, nonchalantly, to make the greeting more personal. So I reached out kind of hesitantly, almost changing my mind, and touched his arm, lightning fast, and withdrew it, kind of embarrassed. This goes down in history as the most awkward touch of all times. We still laugh about it, though he thought it was sweet—or so he says.

Our next date we went to the beach to meet up with his sister and her boyfriend to do this jeep-parachute-parasailing(?) Kind of thing along the beach. We drove there the night before, late, and I remember stopping at a Copec (gas station) so he could get coffee. I watched him inside, amazed at how calm and composed he always was. (Of course, I know now, he was probably half-asleep at that particular point, narcoleptic as he is!)

The parasailing was a blast and we had our first kiss that weekend, so I think that was when it first became official. Of course, it didn’t really ever become officially official according to Chilean standards, where the guy kind of formally asks the girl to go out (le pide el pololeo). It probably isn’t even done anymore, but we got asked that quite a bit… if we were “officially pololos (bf/gf).”

I think what I most like about him was that there was no game. He liked me; he showed it; he told me, but without coming on prematurely strong; there was no “rico-suave-latin-lover” nonsense, (which is NOT as enjoyable as it sounds). He is sweet and gentle; he rarely gets mad, even if I deserve it and when he does, he doesn’t remember the next day. He reads me better than anyone else I know. He is a great dad. Every time I wanted to quit my doctorate, he told me he was dead set on having a wife with a Ph.D., so I had to keep going. Everyone loves him, even after meeting him once: he has that je ne sais quoi I mentioned, it is just uncanny. It takes people a bit longer to like me… if they ever do; I have a je ne sai quoi that works against me sometimes.

We have struggles, like all couples. We are both freakishly stubborn which is fun. Though I love his peace and serenity, if I come off even half as frenetic in my blog-life as I am in real-life you may have suspected that after 13 years that “tranquility” may also drive me a little insane sometimes, but that is another post.

This is now...

Can you tell what my catch-phrase of the day is?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lessons from Ancient Greek

First let me be clear that I do not care about sports or athletes. I am not awed by celebrity status and do not follow celebrity news. But the big story of the week, which has been inescapable, has me totally disgusted.

I have one word for you Tiger Woods: HUBRIS

You are the quintessential definition.

Your own pride and arrogance will be your demise. I don't care if this scandal has nothing to do with how great you are at golf. I hope you lose all of your sponsors and I hope your beautiful wife decides that no amount of money or renegotiating of the pre-nups is worth keeping your sorry arse around. Now in addition to witnessing your poor sportsmanlike behavior when your game is off (rumor has it anyway... though I don't watch golf), every time we turn on the TV, we all get to watch as you demonstrate what kind of man/husband/father you really are.

Ok, that was more than one word there at the end... I just want him off the news.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feeling Funky

I am kind of in a funk. Does that ever happen to you? I was in it all weekend. I was an absolute joy to be around. I was tired and grumpy and all three of the other members in my household got on my last ever-lovin’ nerve.

Today is no better, I am afraid. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, so to speak, and I feel a little lost and despondent and just plain annoyed. There are a lot of things on my mind and I just feel really anxious.

Saturday was graduation, but I didn't go. Isn't that silly. I was in the middle of a writing frenzy when the last-call to order (even rent) a doctoral robe passed and I missed it. I didn't really want to go anyway because I didn't want to drag my husband with two small tots to bore themselves to death at a long ceremony. My hubs was upset because he wanted a picture for the kids. I said we could just photoshop my B.A. graduation picture with a few more wrinkles, but he didn't find it humorous. Graduation ceremonies are for families and friends to come celebrate your accomplishment, and as I mentioned before, I kind of feel much of my family doesn't care or understand what I am doing and why.

I wasn't even going to order announcements, but my aunt asked for one,(I got your announcement in the mail Ali!) so I ordered 10 a la carte. I sent her one and then wracked my brain about what to do with the other 9. I saved one for each of my kids and sent one to my father-in-law (who is so excited).

Now, I can no longer hide under the “I am a graduate student” comfy cloak. Now I am just jobless, which sounds much more unsettling than perpetual graduate student--which is at least a title. But I don’t think I am going to be job-hunting here. I think we have mostly, kinda, sorta, basically, made the decision to move to Chile in the very near future. This brings up a lot of feelings.

We have to start thinking about selling the house (painting it first) and packing up what we are going to send and selling what isn’t worth taking. We have bureaucratic things do to—register our kids and our marriage at the Chilean consulate, and see if it is better to start my visa process here or wait until we get to Chile. We are both thinking about the job process in Chile and the details involved in making such a monumental move and getting settled.

I feel like the move to Chile is a good idea in many ways, but I am also worried about it. My father-in-law says that we have to make a decision based on what is best for our family, the kids, but I know in truth, my decision is a little more selfish than that. I want to be happy. If I am happy, we are all happy. If I am unhappy, we are all unhappy (take the last few days as evidence). And sometimes I wonder if I will be happy and if my husband and I will be happy in our relationship.

I have lived in Chile, so I know in many ways, exactly what I am getting into… but in other ways I have no idea. We didn’t have kids before—now we have to think about education, which for me is a sensitive subject in Chile. You pretty much have to pay for a private school, and many of them are Catholic, many of them are single-sex. I know, for a fact, that we will argue over whether Nico should go to the same Jesuit school my husband went to, and I just don’t know if I can stomach a religious school. There are also issues of class that bother me about the educational system in Chile.

There are also parenting issues. With kids, living in the US is so simple—almost no one makes comments about your parenting (with the exception of on the blogosphere—where they will rip you apart for anything). In Chile, almost everyone feels it is their place to tell you that your kids need more clothes on or that they should not be bare-foot, or that what kind of mother are you that you don’t blow-dry their hair after a bath and what are they eating and why can’t they have soda and such. The one time we visited with G, I almost had a conniption-fit with all the child-rearing commentary.

I feel like because one of my obsessions is Spanish and Latin America and I like living abroad and I married a Chilean, and I always said that we would move back, and now we have lived in the US for quite a while, and we will probably have good job opportunities there and our kids will grow up with family etc. etc. so it seems like the logical decision. There are huge things I know I will have to learn to live with, but now that the move is almost certain, I start panicking about random petty details: like the other day I almost changed my mind just thinking about how gross the milk is in Chile and how my kids are going to have to drink it and how I know they are not going to drink it and they’ll stop drinking milk all together and won’t get enough calcium, so maybe we should just stay here, where my kids like the milk, even if I don’t drink milk anywhere. Do you see the insanity I am creating for myself?

Since our move is imminent in the next 3-4 months, it doesn’t make sense to try to find a job here—even a crappy one, since we have to factor in child-care. So that means staying at home with the kids, which is great in many ways and not-so-great in others. But that is an entirely different post.

I just want to scream. If I scream into the blogosphere, does anybody hear it?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to endear yourself to Chileans

A few days ago there was a group post about how to alienate Chileans. There was a bit of drama in the comment section over at Margaret’s. I was lambasted in several comments for my deplorable lack of table manners and social etiquette—which is hilarious –I did say I could alienate a Chilean, and it seems I did just that. There is, of course, another side to the story: how to endear yourself to Chileans. Some of the other gringas mentioned some great general suggestions in their posts, so I tried to come up with some different ones (though some are similar).

1) Cook for them: several of the others have mentioned becoming familiar with and complimenting the Chilean foods that you like. I like to think that it is not just about absorbing Chilean culture and eating Chilean food, it is about sharing cultures. I think I first impressed my husband’s family when I cooked Christmas dinner for them one year: roast turkey with oven-roasted vegetables, homemade bread-sticks, fresh strawberry pie for desert. Even my husband’s grandfather, who was on a strict diet, made an exception and ate dinner with us, savoring every bite and asking for seconds. I was also known where I worked for my baked goods.

2) Compare Chile favorably with Argentina: Chile has a bit of rivalry going on with several neighboring countries, but they feel most inferior (undeservedly so, in many regards) when it comes to Argentina: Argentina is bigger; Buenos Aires is supposedly more cosmopolitan; both Argentine men and women are famous for their good looks. Ignore all that and point out that Chile has far better beaches and that Chilean wine is superior. If all else fails tell Argentine jokes (all in jest, of course, I have Argentine friends that I love dearly, so no insults intended).

For example:

Como se suicida un argentino? Se sube al ego y se tira.

How does an Argentine commit suicide? He climbs to the top of his ego and throws himself off.

3) Fall in love with a Chilean: although younger Chilean women don’t seem crazy about this if you are a woman dating a Chilean man, the older generations and most men wink and smile knowingly. They love to imagine that they are irresistible to foreigners (and some of them are!) It then makes total sense why you have been in Chile so long. Of course, the downside to this one is that if you are not dating anyone it is harder to explain why you are in Chile—so you may want to invent a boy/girl-friend.

4) Talk about travel in Chile: one of the first questions Chileans ask you is how much of Chile you know. They don’t seem to think that you really know Chile until you have traveled quite a bit. They love talking about getting out of Santiago and discovering provincial Chile: the beauty of the lake region in the south and the solitude of the desert in the north. Ask them for suggestions on where to go for the next long weekend.

5) Tell them you met some Chileans while traveling in Europe or elsewhere: they love hearing about their own kind in far-away places. I think because they are a small country, knowing that there are Chileans spread out all over the globe makes them feel warm and rosy. As an added bonus, laugh about how the Chileans you met had outsmarted the subway system and were riding free: though Chileans are mostly law-abiding and they will outwardly lament “el pillo chileno” (the sneaky Chilean), they secretly seem to love that their compatriots are known for the mischievous ways they bend the rules.

Other ways to fit in:


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Doctor in the house!

It is now officially official.

I know it was mostly over after my defense, but I didn't want to jinx myself with all the the bureaucratic tasks that laid ahead.

I just got an email confirmation from the doctoral degree evaluator saying that I have successfully completed my Ph.D. requirements and I will graduate.

My dissertation has been uploaded to the dissertation server, it has been checked for formatting, I have turned in my bazillion signed documents verifying, confirming, authorizing, accepting all that the graduate school wants me to verify, confirm, authorize and accept. I am done.

NOW you can call me Doctor! (No, don't really, it makes me nervous.)

I have a million ways of downplaying my own accomplishments. For a long time it was the fear that I might never finish. If I think it will make someone uncomfortable, I change the subject. If I think it might come across like I am bragging, I don't even mention it. I say it has taken me a long time (though no longer than most). I say I just wanted to finish because I was so close. I say it is not all that useful or important in the grand scheme of things--it's just education after all, I won't be saving anyone's life or making a lot of money. But deep down I know it is huge.

Monday, when I talked to my supervisor for the last time before submission, she told me that she didn't want to add extra pressure, but that she was going to submit it for the dissertation of the year award for one of the major organizations in my field (she says it's well-written and that the topic is sexy--obviously not that kind of sexy, but that is what she said). She is very forgetful so it may never happen and even if it did, I doubt anything would come of it, but even the consideration is enough to tickle me pink, so to speak.