Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baby's First Passport

We will be going to Costa Rica in December to visit Lucas' family. His mother, older sister and younger brother live there. Since it's Gaby's first international trip, she never had a need for a passport until now. Saturday we finally went to apply for it, considering the fact that we fly in 5 weeks, we are cutting it close. According to the US Department of State, it is now taking about 3 weeks for the application to be processed. I sure hope they are right. The applying part was easy enough. I took Gaby to the CVS pharmacy to take her pictures and downloaded the application from the website. Our local post office is an acceptance site, so we didn't have to go far. Since Gabs is an infant both parents had to present. The ID's needed were, her certified birth certificate and our driver's license. We got there and the clerk had us sign the application which needs to be signed on site. She made copies of our license but the original certificate was to be mailed with the application (will be mailed back to us). We paid by check, $60 application fee (made out to US Department of State) and $25 processing fee (made to post office). I found out that I could have taken the pictures there for a $15 fee ($7.99 at CVS). Next year I will have to go through a similar process for myself, my passport will be expiring in July. I can't wait because the one I have has a terrible, now 10 year old, picture. I hope that the passport will be used to go to Brazil (if I don't get to go before it expires!). Can't believe I haven't been there in almost 10 years!!!

Daddy's Birthday

Tuesday was Lucas' birthday. Between voting, work and a doctor's appointment it was not possible to truly celebrate the occasion. That night had baked salmon (his favorite) for dinner and bought a peice of cake at Shoprite. I also called his two best friends to schedule a lunch for Sunday. Unfortunately Wilson could not make it but Jose came with his wife and two children. I made lasagna and tres leches (Lucas' favorite cake). We had lunch and sang happy birthday. First we sang in English and Spanish. Finally I sang it in Portuguese. It was interesting that the minute I started "parabens" Gaby started clapping but she had not done that with the other languages. That is because when teaching her to clap I always sang happy birthday to her in Portuguese. Now, everytime she hears it, she claps on cue...hehe That afternoon, Carolina (Jose's wife) and I took the kids to the playground a couple of blocks from our place. I went down the slide and on the swing with Gabs. The kids had a great time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes we can...and we did!

I placed my vote at 6am yesterday morning. I have never been as proud to be an American as I am today. I am grateful for the privilege of being part of this historical election. Despite the fact that the need for change is so apparent, I was still afraid that once again the polls would be wrong and that we would have to suffer another four years of ill administration. I thank God that this was not the case! It was a beautiful acceptance speech. Obama showed composure, dignity and humility. He confirmed what many of us have known but others have doubted...that he is ready to be the president of the United States. I see in him a leader with a heart as well as a conscious. His election marks the beginning of a new era in American politics. The election of Barack Obama proves that dreams do come true.

"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

That day has come!

Friday, October 24, 2008


Last Saturday was Red Ribbon & my On TRACK girls had the opportunity to perform before a good size audience. Ryan, the dance instructor, was not going to be able to make it to the event but in the end showed up. It was quite a surprise for the girls...they were thrilled! The time finally came for them to perfom, I was so excited! It almost felt like I was the one going up :-) I couldn't hold back the tears as I watched them "do their thang". We've been through so much drama these last 6 weeks and they pulled it off beautifully! I am so proud of them and the work that we've done together.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Red Ribbon Day

Red Ribbon week honors the memory of USDEA Agent, Enrique Camarena and others, who lost their lives in the fight against drugs. It is a nationwide campaign to raise drug awareness. Prevention Links, the organization I work for, is the host for the main event in Union County, NJ. The 10th annual Red Ribbon Day will be this Saturday at Nomahegan Park in Cranford. It is an all day, fun-filled family event. Activities include a countywide parade, rock wall climbing, face painting, helicopter landings, award ceremony, and performances. The main performance will be by the On TRACK kids. This is the group of kids I work with.On TRACK is one of our agency's youth program and the one I am personally in charge of. It stands for Teens Reaching Artistic Creativity & Knowledge of Self. It's A weekly after School & Summer Program designed to build each child’s internal assets and foster the development of healthy life-skill while integrating creative arts activities as means to help each child tap into his/her unique talents. The program is funded by the Union County Youth Services Commission.
The group I am currently working with is composed 7 very dedicated 12 year-old girls. We hired a hip-hop dance instructor who has been working with them for the past 6 weeks. In this little time they learned the moves and will be dancing to "I Believe I Can" by Yolanda Adams. It is on the "Honey" soundtrack. If you read the lyrics you'll see that it is the perfect song for this program. I am very proud of the girls and can't wait to see them perfom tomorrow!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Preparing for the GRE

I will finally start my GRE preparation. For my international readers, the Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test required for admission for many graduate schools in the US (some other countries as well). There is a General Test and various Subject Tests. Most graduate programs require the general one. This exam measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking and analytical writing skills. From what I understand, the material tested is not particularly difficult, but, as with all Standardized exams, time constraint is everyone's problem. I can't say I'm a terrible test taker. I definitely get very nervous, but if I know the material I can get myself under control. I know people whose minds go blank or they get sick to their stomach, even though they know the material.

When it comes to my performance on the GRE, my main concern is the math section. I am one of those "I can't do math" people. Rationally, I know I can learn math if I put enough effort into it. The problem is that after years of telling myself "I can't", it's ingrained in my subconscious. I know that the first step in my GRE math preparation is to change my belief system in regards to my math abilities.

In that spirit, this morning before work (I don't start until 1pm on Thursdays) Gaby & I finally made our way to the Kearny Public Library. I'm ashamed to say that I've been living here for months & only now did get my card. My first thought as I walked in, "God I miss Rutgers". After getting over how small & cramped the place was, I found the math section. I took out 6 books, including a GRE prep, an algebra textbook (algebra is my math monster), and a conquering math anxiety book. The other 3 are also math books but will probably not be used. For some reason I have a difficult time taking out few books from the library. It becomes a problem when I miss the due date & end up paying fines for books I never opened.

I can't see myself going back to school until Gaby is at least two, so I won't be taking the test until sometime next year. I figure by then she'll be a more independent (she'll be walking!) & I'll have a little more time. I'll also have been in the workforce for a while and it will be easier for me to change my work schedule to accommodate my classes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ana Rebeka Andrade

Wednesday my friend Patricia and I went to Ana's wake. It was difficult being there and seeing her family distraught by the tragedy. It was closed casket. Knowing why it had to be closed saddened me, but I couldn't help the feeling relief when I realized I would not see her. It was a night of mixed emotions. I was happy to see many people I had not seen in years but sad that it happened under those circumstances. I had thought my emotions were under control but the wake brought it all gushing back. I couldn't help the tears. At home I couldn't sleep and I was having a hard time being alone. At every idle moment, my mind wondered back to it all. I felt despair. Despair in knowing my friend had died a terrible death. Despair in knowing that, so many times, I had disregarded the urge to see her and that, in this life time, I would not have that opportunity again. I felt a great sense of loss. A feeling that I had felt weeks before, when I thought about her but now intensified to the 1000th power. In Portuguese, we have a word... saudade. That's what I felt. Saudade of the good times we had together. Saudade of our many conversations and laughter. Saudade of all the moments that could have been but never were. After nights of lost sleep & even nightmares, I made the decision to honor my friend by laying to rest all what-ifs and simply cherishing the years we were in each other's lives and those wonderful memories.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Loss of a Friend

The last 12 hours have been very difficult. Yesterday, a good friend of mine was a passenger in a fatal car accident. Ana died at the scene, she was only 24 years old. She was an extraordinary person with a heart of gold and the voice of an angel. I'll always remember her beautiful smile.

I had known Ana since the 6th grade, but unfortunately we grew apart after high school. It saddens me that, since moving back to New Jersey, I had been meaning to reach out to her but never made the time to do so. It's amazing how easy it is to postpone things, thinking there is always tomorrow. How easy it is to take for granted the chances we have to be with those we care about. Life is so fragile. We know this, but often forget it. I pray that God may comfort her family, bringing them strength to endure this trying time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Halloween: to be or not to be... a part of its festivities?

It is October first and Halloween is right around the corner. For most American, whether or not to participate in Halloween tradition is not even a question. I however, only dressed up & went Trick or Treating once. I was seven years-old & had just move to the US from Brazil in April of that year. My cousin & dressed as witches, my little brother was a pumpkin. That afternoon, my aunt took us out. We walked around stopping at stores/homes along the way, collecting candy & other goodies. In Brazil we do not have Halloween, and I still remember my amazement with the holiday. The art projects, the costumes...even School was so much fun that week! A national day of free candy & fun, what a marvelous idea! "They should have this everywhere!", I thought. When we returned home, my mother said she had been listening to the Spanish christian radio station & that she had heard a very long sermon about the evils of Halloween. Out of genuine concern for our souls, my mom decided it was not a good idea to celebrate the holiday and that was the end of it for my brother & I (my aunt thought it was ridiculous to spoil an innocent day &

continued to allow my cousin to participate). For the next few years I resented the fact that I was the only person in my class who could not get involved with anything that had to do with this day. And every 31st of October I was allowed to miss school. I can't remember exactly when I embraced the non-practice of Halloween as my own, but eventually I did. Once that happened, not only did it not bother me to not practice it, I felt proud to make a public statement of my beliefs. Now, almost 20 years later, Halloween is once again haunting me.

Six years ago, it would have never crossed my mind to involve my child in Halloween. Since then, I have questioned many of my beliefs (this being one of them) and have struggled with finding a balance for my life. I still consider myself a Christian. Most Christians I know probably would not, but I still do. When it comes it this, I almost feel like putting the issue on a shelf until Gaby is old enough to make the decision for herself. That means I would have to resist the temptation to dress her up! What scrap booking mom would not want to see her cutie patootie as a lady bug, bunny or a little lamb?

I have been trying so hard to step away from all the superstition that comes along with religion & I feel that this would be a great opportunity to do so. I also know that not only would I have to overcome years of mental programming & subconscious fear-based beliefs. I know I will also be confronted by my mother on this topic.

At Karena's suggestion, I will research the origins & practice of Halloween, so I can be better informed when making my decision. I would appreciate your comment & personal stand on the matter. TIA!

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's a small world after all, it's a small...

Last Saturday I went to a wedding with my friend Jennifer. It was funny how the whole thing started. About 2 weeks before the wedding , I was hanging out at Jen's place talking about work. I mentioned my co-worker Karena and this is how the conversation progressed:

Jen: Karena King?
me: What?! You know her? How?
Jen: I met her through my friend, the one who's getting married next month
(a while back, Jen had told me about a wedding she was going to)
me: Keilynn is the friend who's getting married?"
Jen: You know Keilynn?!
me: no, but Karena is constantly talking about the wedding!
Jen: Yeah! She's the maid of honor!
me: OMG! I know!

For the rest of the evening we couldn't get over it. What a small world! A couple of months before, I had made plans with Jen to go to the Portuguese Festival in the Ironbound. That Friday, I remember mentioning that to Karena & she said that she was thinking about going with her friends. Little did we know, we were talking about the same group of people. In the end it didn't work out for me because Gaby was not feeling too well & Karena ended up not going either. But Jen & Keilynn did go. Had it all worked out, we would have had quite a surprise! For four months I had been sharing the office with Karena, not knowing that she knew my friend.

So yeah, that's how I got invited to the wedding. I was Jen's d The wedding was in Galloway, nj, about 15 minutes from Atlantic City. Although the drive was long, h ad a good time. The wedding was beautiful & the food was great. I met some interesting people, like Frank Villafañe, the bride's stepfather & Latin Ja zz pianist. I had heard him & his salsa band perform at Nova Terra...goes to show how small the world really is.
Flamenco dancers performing at the wedding.

Gaby stayed with my mom because Lucas had work. It was the first time I was away from her for so many hours during the night. I missed her so much! I called practically every hour, wanting to know play by play what had happened since my last call. It's not like I don't trust my parents, they are great with her. I don't know. Everytime I thought of her I wanted to call & & tried to restrain myself as much as I could. Jen thought it was guilt. Since I hadn't really been out without Gaby since her birth, I was feeling bad for leaving her. I guess it kinda makes sense.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nine Months!

Today Gabs turned nine months old. Nine months!! I can't believe how quickly she's growing! I don't think it'll be long before she takes her first solo step. For the last couple of month, she's been able pull herself up to a stand while holding on to things and now (pics below) she stands on her own for a few seconds before falling on her butt.

When ever she hears music, Gaby dances by moving her arms & clapping (when sitting) or bendng her knees (when standing). It's the cutest thing! She' fascinated by the optimum triple play Reggaeton She'll stop whatever she's doing to look at the TV & clap.

Her new favorite foods are cheese & yogurt (she loves them!). She knows to slap the palm of my hand when I say "give me five" (although she never hits my hand only once :) and she points to my nose when I ask "Cadê o nariz da mamãe?" (where's mommy's nose?). She says "mãe" when she cries and "boo" when she wants to be breastfed.
One of the biggest changes that we've noticed is the separation anxiety. I work full time so I drop her off at the sitter at 9am & pick her up at 5pm. She never cries when I drop her off, I usually breastfeed her and get her ready for morning nap. She willingly goes into the arms of the sitter, whom my family affectionately calls " vó" (grandma). This is a great thing because if she cried in the morning, I'd be too heartbroken to leave. However, the afternoon is a whole different story. The second she sees me I have to pick her. In the past, I was able to at least go to the sink to wash my hands. Now, she'll get histerical! Instead, I keep the hand sanitizer in the car and just use that. After I pick her up, she refuses to be held by anyone else but me. Although this can be a little problematic, I've noticed a little boost in my "mommy ego".

Friday, September 19, 2008

So who is she?

Gaby is my beautiful little girl. She was born on December 21, 2007, and has since brought unsurpassable joy into our lives. She is my treasure! I am thankful for the precious gift of motherhood, and through the trials that come hand-in-hand with it, I pray that I always remember how truly blessed I am. Gaby (yes, I spell it w/one b), is the happiest baby I have ever met. She is very active, always attentive to everything around her. No matter where we are, people always stop to interact with her. She LOVES the attention! She squeals in delight & flashes her "tongue sticking out" smile :-) She's definetely a people person.


After much debating I have decided to give the blogging thing a try again, but this time in English. This gives me an opportunity to share the joy of bringing up Gaby with family & friends :)