The views expressed in this blog are personal and not representative of the U.S. Government, etc etc etc.
Read at your own risk.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Midnight thoughts

Last night, in between multiple bathroom trips, I was woken up by a strange pain in my abdomen.  After a few seconds, I realized that I was having a contraction.  As I've never had a contraction without pitocin before, I panicked.

My first thought was 'Ow!  This hurts!  A lot!'  My second thought was, 'I can't go into labor, I have that consumables shipment to get together!'  Then I started thinking through how much time I'd have to send Brandon to various stores after we'd gone to the hospital, gotten the baby out, and come home again.  I supposed that he could do it, but it would be a lot of trouble.

My third thought was, 'I can't go into labor, I don't have any good books to take with me to the hospital!'  I considered that the hospital probably has WiFi and I could take my laptop, but really, there's no substitute for a good book.

Thankfully, the pain went away and I went back to sleep, at least until the next bathroom break.  But now I've been put on notice and I have some things to do.  Like go to the library.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why I can't hack it in the US

We've now been actually living (not traveling or visiting) in the US for seven weeks.  There are a number of things that I love about being in the motherland.  Public libraries are amazing.  Same with public parks.  Although sometimes illogically bizarre, having a GPS makes getting around much easier.  And of course, Target, as always.

I looked forward to being back to the land of Wonderful Things, but one thing I didn't think about when looking forward to all of the amazing things I could do was that in order to do those things, I'd have to leave my house.

In Cairo, we had a lovely, large apartment.  So on days when I didn't feel like leaving, the children had lots of space to ride bikes, push strollers, build houses, make cushion mountains, and scatter their toys.

I think that the townhouse we're renting (at a price that I'm not going to name, but let's just say that it's a good thing State pays housing) could probably fit into the front room of our apartment.  And that includes the staircases and three bedrooms and bathrooms.  We have a deck, but it opens onto a communal hill, and even Edwin can easily unlatch the gate, so I have to be downstairs in my room to supervise if they want to go outside.  So the children have the kitchen, the living room, and their room to play in.  And any time they bring out a toy or two (of the three we brought with us) the entire house immediately looks like a hurricane went through.

So yes, the parks are amazing.  I love the library, and maybe we'll make it to the zoo.  But when doing any of those things involves loading three children (soon to be four) into the car, unloading them, keeping them from running away or being run over, putting them back in, driving home, and unloading them again, I think I'll actually take my apartment in Cairo some days.  I guess I've been spoiled.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why I love language training

When we first realized that Brandon was going to need language training, I was apprehensive about it.  I had heard unpleasant things; that he would be in class all day and doing homework all night, I would never see him again, or he would go crazy with all of the language he had to learn in such a short time.

Now that he's been in training for over six weeks, I can officially say that I Love Language Training.  It's fantastic.  It's wonderful.  I haven't bathed my children in weeks.  If we didn't have to live crammed into a tiny townhouse without much of our things and living on base pay, I'd be happy to have Brandon in language training perpetually.  And so would he.

Some days he has to stay really late, like until four o'clock.  Then he doesn't get home until almost four thirty, after leaving at seven in the morning.  Those are the rough days.  At least once a week, he'll get off early enough to meet me and the children at the park and we'll walk home together, often after spending some quality rock-throwing time at the creek next to the park.

The other day I had an OB appointment at one in the afternoon.  Brandon told his teacher that he had to leave a few minutes early, and he was home in time for me to go to the doctor all by myself and read a book while waiting.

And to make life even better, Brandon really enjoys learning Azerbaijani.  He is in a class with three other men, all Russian speakers, so they spend half of the time speaking in Russian so he gets to work on that also.  According to Brandon, Azerbaijani is a very logical language, and even has the added bonus of the odd Arabic word thrown in, and so  he is happily doing quite well.  I asked him a few weeks ago how long it took him to get to this point in Arabic (after majoring in Arabic in college), and he looked at me and replied, "never."

In a few months, we'll move on to post where Brandon will have to work a real job again with real hours and I'll have to bathe the children again.  But until then, I'm really enjoying the break.  And so is he.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's in a name?

In three and a half weeks, if nobody decides to make a surprise entrance, we will have a new member in our family, a little boy.  In three and a half weeks, I'll have to fill out the information for a birth certificate, which I will then use to procure all of the documents necessary to transport our little boy to Baku.  I have all of the necessary information - after all I've done this three times already - except for one thing.  A name.

Back, back a long time ago before I was even pregnant with Kathleen, Brandon and I talked about baby names.  He asked how I liked the name Edwin, and I said that I liked it just fine.  Edwin is the middle name of his maternal grandfather, who Brandon got his first name from.  And so we decided to name our first son Edwin.

Then we talked about my Aunt Kathleen, who I've always been close with.  As a child, I used to drive my parents crazy be claiming that I'd really been meant to go to her and not the crummy family that I'd been stuck with.  Then we decided to name our first daughter Kathleen.

We both liked Sophia, and its meaning, wisdom.

So when Kathleen was announced to be a girl, it didn't take any time to decide on her name.  Sophia was named just as easily, and Edwin didn't have a chance to be anything but Edwin.

This baby, however... I suppose that's what happens when you have a larger family.  All of the good names get used up early, and then you have to stretch for the next ones [sorry baby, when you're old enough to read this.  We love you just as much].  Brandon knew a family whose fifth son was named Quentin.  Sometimes creativity fails after awhile.

I've had a name that I've like for quite some time now, but Brandon just isn't sold on it.  And every time we try to discuss names, nobody can quite get serious and choices like 'Thor' and 'Ignatius' are thrown around.  So baby boy is still referred to as baby boy.

I know we'll have to make some sort of decision soon - as in three and a half weeks soon - but I have no idea what that will turn out to be.  I do know, however, that it won't be Ignatius.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Consumed by Consumables

In the LDS church, members are encouraged to have a one-year food supply.  My parents have always had cans of wheat lurking underneath the stairs, buckets of sugar in random closets, and tins of salt in cupboards.  I have never been that organized.

When we lived in Cairo, I tried to have three months' worth of non-perishable food stocked in my cupboards in case of emergencies, which is about as adherent I'd ever been to the one-year food storage guidance.  Previous to moving to Cairo, we had lived in various places, all small and all thought to be temporary, so I never invested in a supply figuring that I would be moving soon, so what would be the point?

I now have the opportunity to make up for that laxity.

Over the past few weeks, I have been filling in a several-page spreadsheet.  I've driven my children crazy at the store, slowly perusing all of the aisles while jotting down prices in a notebook.  I've just about driven myself crazy trying to find the absolute cheapest price for coconut.  Despite owning a Costco membership, I'm buying one at Sam's for just one visit, because they stock Ghirardelli chocolate chips, McCormack chicken stock, and fifty-pound bags of popcorn.

In the next few weeks I get to put together not a one-year supply, but at two-year supply of everything I can think of that can't be found in Baku.  When we were in Cairo, we had a lovely commissary, but in Baku no such luck.  So instead, Brandon is entitled to a consumables shipment, 2,500 pounds of whatever we can use up and think that we can't live without.

Think of whatever you go to Target to buy.  Ziploc bags, diapers, shampoo, laundry detergent, plastic wrap, toilet cleaner, deodorant.  And then think of buying it for the next two years.  Then think of all of those American foods that you enjoy so much.  Chocolate chips, black beans, whole-wheat pasta, cold cereal, goldfish crackers, peanut butter.  Two years of those also.  I've made sure to put two years of root beer on our list.  And brown sugar.

Which is why I've been driving myself insane filling out my spreadsheet, figuring out the price per ounce of vanilla, or oxy-clean, or coconut, or butter-flavored Crisco.  Because when you're buying two years' worth of brown sugar (approximately two hundred pounds), an extra twenty cents a pound starts to add up.

So when you come to visit in a few weeks, don't be surprised to see toilet paper and dishwasher detergent as our new accent pieces in the living room, with wheat decorating the upstairs hallway.  I'm hoping that our new home in Baku will have a little more space than our townhouse.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Magic Fairies Return

When we left Cairo, we left a lot of things behind.  Mango season, good friends, a large apartment, Maadi House, and of course, Rere.  Brandon asked me how I was going to cope without Rere when we were gone.  I replied that I would muddle through somehow, and kept making lists and preparing for packing.  I knew that the day would come when I was without my own personal fairy, but I didn't want to think about it.

When we moved into our temporary home, I looked around and had virtuous thoughts about cleaning it myself.  I could get the girls involved and teach them how to clean.  We could put on music and make a fun day of it.  They would be able to gain valuable skills, and continue to learn how to be helpful. 

A week went by.  The house got unpacked.  I spent almost a thousand dollars in a week.  I thought about how much more I would spend on housecleaning.  I looked at the cleaning products under the sink and tried to remember how to use them.  I told myself that lots and lots of women clean their own houses, and I could do it too.

Then I listened to the voice of reality in my head.  I am almost eight months pregnant.  I am homeschooling Kathleen.  I have three children under the age of six at home all day every. single. day.  Our townhouse is small and we have almost no toys and a back deck that doesn't come close to passing as a 'yard.'  

But really, I knew that all of those reasons were trying to make me feel better about the one reason that would win in the end: I have grown lazy over the last two years.  And really, I don't actually care.

So today, I took the children bike riding.  Before we left, I placed a check on the table and my key under the doormat (and no, I'm not telling you my address).  When we came back after riding bikes and playing in the park, the check was gone and the house was clean.  And it was worth every single penny.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rain, rain, go the heck away, would you?

We have now been in Arlington for almost an entire month.  Our boxes are all unpacked, almost everything has found a home, and we've even gone a road trip so that it really felt like home when we got back.  Cairo is quickly retreating into a distant, dream-like memory.  We've been here for awhile.  At least for a family who moves around so much.

There have been quite a few things that I've already grown quite fond of.  Every time I take the children out riding bikes, I miss the wonderful trails already.  Each time we go to the library and the children start grabbing books off the shelves and stuffing them into my arms as fast as they can, I think about how many books we'll have the weight for over the years.  And of course, Target.  No explanation needed.

One thing I have not grown fond of: the rain.  The first few days when the weather was oh-so deliciously cool and rainy was refreshing after hot, hot sunny Cairo.  After five straight days of rain, I almost shouted for joy when a ray of sunshine peeped through my window one afternoon.  But then the clouds came back, and the rain returned.  I constantly checked the forecast, looking forward to the days that called for sunshine, only a few days in the future.  But those round yellow things kept retreating away from me, tantalizingly close but never actually on the day I was actually living.

This morning we told the girls (and Edwin, but I'm not so sure about the comprehension) that we would take them bike riding.  Everyone happily finished their breakfast, quickly put on their pants and shirts and socks and shoes and jackets, and I went online to find a local bike trail to explore.  I checked the forecast, and the daily dose of rain wasn't scheduled until noon.  We were ready.  And then we opened the door.

Rain, happily pattering down on the trees outside our door.  Rain flooding the steps outside our townhouse.  Rain, again.

I looked at Brandon, he looked at me, and we looked at the children dressed to go.  And he got out the umbrella.  We've finally been parents long enough to recognize when rebellion is imminent, and went out anyway.  He suggested we go to the bike path and see how things stood there, and so we piled into the car.

Thankfully when we arrived, the rain was nonexistent to sprinkling, and so we unloaded everyone and went on our merry way.  We may have gotten a little wet, but I don't think anyone cared.

I just checked the weather forecast for this week, and watched as the round, happy sun on Monday's forecast turned into more drippy blue things.  And my hope for sun has retreated another day.  I know that I didn't have more than three hours of rain while in Cairo, but does the weather really feel like it needs to make up for that lack all at once?