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Friday, September 23, 2011

No Longer a Little Girl

Sophia has always been my cuddling girl.  Whenever she's sad, tired, lonely, or just bored, she will go get her blanket, climb into my lap, and cuddle up while sucking her thumb.  She started sucking her thumb at six weeks old, and has been an addict ever since.

Until this week.  We've successfully flown across a third of the world and driven through eleven states with the aid of Sophia's thumb and blanket to keep her quiet.  But now there is a break before the next adventure, and so it has become time to stop the thumb-sucking.

And so this week, with Sophia's full and eager participation, we made out a star chart, found the band-aids and a red marker, and filled her with promises of a mysterious and amazing surprise after a full chart of thirty stars.

The first morning she marched triumphantly down the stairs with a dry band-aid and un-smudged red circle.  "I didn't suck my thumb!" she proudly announced as she carefully placed her first star.  The next morning brought another star, and every morning since.

A few days ago, she came to me with her blanket for a cuddle.  She curled into my lap while wrapped in her yellow cocoon, and looked up at me, "I can still cuddle, right Mom?  I just can't suck my thumb.  Because I'm a big girl now, not a little girl."

I know all little girls grow up into big girls, but I didn't realize how much I'd miss those little girls sometimes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The day after Labor Day, Brandon started school.  I packed his lunch for him, got up early to fix him a good breakfast, and kissed him goodbye as he walked to his first day.

The day after Labor Day, children in Arlington started school.  Kathleen ate lunch at home, took a nap, and helped me begin to unpack our UAB.  The next day she had lunch at home again.  And the next day.  She's had lunch at home every day since school started, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

Because she's not going to school.  Instead she's staying home for school.

I like to consider myself a fairly mainstream person - conservative mainstream, but still mainstream.  All of my children have been born at hospitals, and with epidurals.  I stay at home with my children, and they take naps and go to bed early.  My children have all been vaccinated, and I don't buy organic produce because it's too expensive.  My husband is a bureaucrat.  I've never even dyed my hair, and don't own a single pair of skinny jeans.

So I am somewhat unnerved by knowing that while almost all of the other children Kathleen's age are learning the classroom rules and where the bathroom is, she's at home with me.  I think that Kathleen is much less uneasy than I am with the arrangement.

Brandon and I made this decision some time ago, and have reasons we consider sound, as do most people for most decisions they make.  But now that my child is officially not attending public school, I almost feel like I am getting away with something against the rules.  

I know that when I home school Kathleen, she will miss out on experiences she would have in traditional school.  But I also know that if she were in traditional school, she would have experiences she wouldn't have at home.  No choice is without consequences.

But at least when she visits with her therapist in about twenty years, she'll have something solid to start with when she's blaming her parents for her problems.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Did I tell you about how much I love parks?

Now that I'm going to have a car at my next post, I think that parks are the number one thing I love about being in the States.  And the parks around here are wonderful.  I love that not only is there a trail within walking distance of my house, but there's a park within walking distance on that trail.  The townhouse we are renting is nice, but it's a little... cramped... compared with our apartment in Cairo.  So I really enjoy having parks to frequent when there's no room to ride bikes in the house.

After having nothing to do every Saturday except go to Maadi House for two years, I'm really enjoying have the ability and weather to do any of number of things on a Saturday.  So this past Saturday, we had an outing to the park.

For Kathleen's birthday this year, we got her a bike.  And as Kathleen got a bike, we made sure to include Cannonball the red tricycle in our UAB shipment for Sophia to use.

So after spending Saturday morning shopping for supplies and making treats, we loaded up Cannonball the Elder (our Honda Pilot, which was my number one favorite thing about being in the US during evacuation) with Cannonball (the Younger), Lucy, and Edwin's stroller.

Our first activity was bike riding.  Kathleen has had a rocky start to riding a two-wheel bike, but on Saturday she thoroughly enjoyed wheeling along beside Four Mile Run while passing Sophia on Cannonball.  Edwin pointed out every squirrel he saw from the comfort of his stroller.

After bike riding, everyone parked their conveyances and played at the park.  Edwin especially enjoyed hanging out of high openings and giving Brandon heart attacks.

And then to finish out the afternoon, we had a picnic on the grass for dinner.  Everyone had an immensely enjoyable time, and not one single person asked to take our picture.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I Prefer to Live Overseas

One of my very favorite parts of living in Egypt was Rere.  Not only did she clean my house, iron Brandon's shirts, shop for food, and wash the food, but she also watched the children when I needed to get things done.  My visiting teaching appointments were always on Sundays or Wednesdays.  I shopped alone, occasionally taking the girls for a treat.  When Edwin was a little baby, the girls' swim lessons were always on the days when Rere came.

That has all ended.  At least for the next four months.  So when I had my first OB appointment Tuesday, everyone got to tag along.  The girls at least were excited.

My OB has her office in the local hospital complex, and so I made sure to look up online to see what part of the complex the office was located in.  It didn't tell.  And instead of calling them as I should have, I piled everyone in the car and set off for our grand adventure.

The website for the office helpfully provided a parking map of the hospital, but neglected to mention which parking deck (green, gold or blue) I should pay four dollars for the privledge of parking in.  After circling around aimlessly and getting caught in traffic-light lines, I randomly chose the green deck.  With 5 minutes to go for my appointment, I hustled the children into the green building and scanned the list of offices.  Nothing that looked like OBs (I had forgotten the name and still don't have a cell phone because the charger got lost somewhere in the Virginia-Cairo-US travels-Virginia loop), and no suite 474 was on the list.

Down the stairs we went, out the parking deck, and across the street, past the oncology clinic, up some stairs, down a few sidewalks with Sophia trailing behind crying because we were walking too fast, and we were in the next building.  Still no luck.

At this point, I had no idea where to look next, no phone, no phone number, and no name.  Just suite 474.  And so I asked the nice man at information.  Oh, he told me, that office is actually inside the hospital, so I had to keep going, turn a few corners, go in the elevator and up to the fourth floor, trailing my three ducklings behind me.  Who knew that doctors had their offices inside hospitals?

When I checked in, we were only 10 minutes late for my 2:30 appointment.  The receptionist asked my name and looked up my appointment.  Oh, that was for 9:30 this morning, not 2:30 this afternoon, she told me.  By this point looking desperate, I asked her when I could reschedule.  She took pity on me, and had me sit down while asking my doctor what would work best.

Thankfully and mercifully, she came back and told me to sit down; they would work me into the schedule then.  All four of us sat and I pulled out a car for Edwin and books for the girls.  Kathleen read her book, Sophia looked through hers, and Edwin drove his car on the table.  Sophia looked through her second book, Kathleen read Sophia's first book, and Edwin drove his car on the floor.  Kathleen read her second book, Sophia looked at Kathleen's first book, and Edwin drove his car on the seat.

My name was called and I packed up all four books, the car, and Edwin's blanket.  The nurse weighed me (and I'm not telling), took my blood pressure, and sent us back to the waiting room.  Kathleen read Sophia's second book, Sophia looked through a magazine, and Edwin attempted to drive his car on the wall.  Kathleen put the books away, Sophia was done with the magazine, and Edwin started throwing his car.  Kathleen loudly asked when they would call my name, Sophia showed everyone in the waiting room her underwear while lolling on the chair, and Edwin lolled on the floor.

Finally, they called my name and we were left in an exam room.  Thankful that at least the noise and incessant motion was contained in a room away from other people who might have been thinking of having another child before they got to watch my children, I let them do whatever they wanted.  Kathleen and Sophia pushed each other around on the stool, asked what the stirrups were for, rattled the stirrups in and out, and tried to understand the diagrams on the wall.  Edwin drove his car on the loudest surface he could find.

While Kathleen was asking why I had my head hid in my arms, the doctor walked in.  We talked for five minutes, measured my stomach, and listened to the baby's heartbeat.  We scheduled a date for the induction, and said goodbye.  Edwin drove his car.

And then everyone hiked back to the car and piled in to go home.  Where we had pancakes for dinner.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So... Where are We?

Life has finally settled down again.  For a few months... until that baby is born.  And then we leave.  Again.  But for now, it's settled.  Or as settled as I can ask for this year.  I am now without excuse, and will resume the semi-regular updates of your favorite traveling Sherwoods.

But first, a summary of the last six weeks.

At the end of July, we all got on our last ridiculously early Lufthansa flight from Cairo.  One-thirty in the morning is entirely too early for me to be loading suitcases into a car.  And as we were loading suitcases into the waiting car, Brandon got bothered one last time for money.  Goodbye, Cairo.

Our trip went uneventfully, and I reveled in the luxury of having another parent to help wrestle children a very, very long day of travel.  We arrived at my parents' house in Raleigh in the late afternoon, ate pancakes, put the children to bed, and went to my father's office where he used his soon-to-be defunct OB skills to pronounce baby number four a boy.

Saturday we packed up for a week at the beach with my family, where the children had a wonderful time with cousins and aunts and uncles and crabs and sand.  We stayed another week at my parents' house before heading to Brandon's parents' house in Missouri.

We arrived after midnight following an eighteen-hour day of driving, setting a personal record for everyone but Brandon.  The girls enjoyed playing with more cousins and aunts and uncles (but no crabs, just cows) in Missouri before we headed down to Texas to see Brandon's sister and their four children.  After Texas, we spent a few days in Tennessee at a water park resort on our own, and then finished our summer progress with two days in West Virginia to see Brandon's older brother and their six children.

By then end of our travels we had visited six places, packed eight times, seen nine siblings, fifteen cousins, and traveled for over ninety hours.  I'm glad that home leave only happens every few years.

We've settled in Arlington in a townhouse a little over a mile away from FSI while Brandon spends the next four months studying Azerbaijani before we leave for Baku at the very, very end of December following the birth of our baby boy.

And maybe then I can catch my breath.