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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mommy's little helper

A few years ago when Edwin was a baby about Joseph's age, Kathleen became intensely interested in helping Sophia get dressed, brush her hair, eat her dinner, and other domestic tasks.  I encouraged this, and Sophia was perfectly happy to go along.

Sophia has reached the same age Kathleen was when I could ask Kathleen to get her sister ready for bed, and Kathleen would do it.  Recently she has shown that same strange interest in helping her brother.

Edwin is no Sophia, however, and I don't think that anyone could call him 'docile,' so I figured that I would be dressing Edwin until he showed some interest, any interest in dressing himself.  Maybe when he was three.  Or four.  Maybe five.

Recently, however, he's been letting her dress him for bed and even being so kind as to not kick her.  Kicking is such a signature move of his, that when Joseph was born, the girls fought and fought over holding him because he 'doesn't kick us.'

So on his good days, Edwin will submit to having his hair washed by Sophia in the bath, and even occasionally letting her put his diaper on and dressing him.  Kathleen, however, has only every gotten kicks for her attempts to dress him.

This evening Brandon and I sent the children upstairs to get ready for bed.  Even though we usually get Edwin ready, he followed his sisters.  A few minutes later Kathleen came downstairs and told us that Edwin's diaper was dirty.  I had known he was stinky and sent him upstairs intending to change him, and was annoyed that Kathleen had come all of the the way back down just to tell us to do something about the smell that was bothering her.

So we went upstairs and found Sophia carefully unbuttoning Edwin's shirt while getting him ready for bed.  "See!" Kathleen told us, "Sophia changed Edwin's diaper!"  Somewhat in disbelief that our three and a half year-old had changed our two year-old's dirty diaper, we checked.  It was clean.

Afraid of how it had happened, Brandon asked where the dirty diaper had gone, expecting to find it in the room or on the bathroom floor.  "Sophia put the poop in the toilet," Kathleen explained patiently, "and put the diaper over there," gesturing to the pile of cloth diapers waiting to be put in the pail.  I went to check the diaper - a disposable one he wore to church - and sure enough, it was fairly clean and just waiting to be washed.

Now if we could just get her to finish eating her breakfast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Living in Baku: Church

This post is dedicated to my friend, Bridget.  When she comes to collect her prize, she can add Baku to her list.

Wherever Brandon and I are posted across the world, no matter what country or culture or situation, we know we will always go to church.  And although that fact never changes, exactly how church itself is run can vary a lot.

In Cairo, we were part of a lovely branch that met in a rented villa every Friday.  We had enough members (between forty and ninety depending on the time of year) to have a full three hours of church, complete with a primary of twenty-five children.

We knew when we left that our branch was a rarity for the region, and prepared ourselves to have the Sherwood Family Group in Baku, meeting in our house every Sunday.  We were happy to learn, however, that we would not be the only members of the LDS church in Azerbaijan.

When we came in December, we brought the number of LDS members in Azerbaijan to a respectable thirty-seven.  The adults barely outnumber the children, with twenty adults and seventeen children.  Joseph is the youngest child and takes turns with the three other babies making disruptions during sacrament meeting.  The primary has twelve children including Edwin, who got to attend primary the same time Sophia did, since primary and nursery are now combined.  There is one youth.  And he gets his own Sunday School class.

Just as in Cairo, the church is not officially recognized in Azerbaijan, so we are not allowed to proselytize.  We have mostly Americans with a Brazilian, a Taiwanese, a Russian, and two Scots adding to the mix.  About half of the branch works for the Embassy, and half for oil companies.

We meet at the Branch President's house, and if you're early you can snag a comfy couch to sit on and avoid the folding chairs or dining room chairs.  The whole meeting block lasts two hours, with the time split evenly between sacrament meeting, sunday school, and Priesthood/Relief Society.

Since sacrament meeting only lasts forty-five minutes, we only have one speaker a week.  When it was my turn to speak last week, I looked at the number of adults in the room, and realized that it would be less than six months before I would be up at the front again giving another talk.  If you come visit, I may or may not recommend a guest speaker.

But it doesn't matter how long church is, or where it meets, or if you get to speak a lot, the spirit is the same and so are the people: wonderful.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lessons Learned

My mother is not a pack rat.  She periodically has manic cleaning sprees where she tears through the house, throwing away anything that could have the smallest claim to being useless. I think that she must derive strange joy from filling trashcans with things that once cluttered her house.  I'm amazed that any of my baby pictures survived to be foisted of on me once I got married and could take the stuff myself.

I'm not naturally a pack rat, and my mother certainly didn't encourage any tendencies otherwise.  Moving around the world hasn't helped either.  I confess that sometimes that joy from full trashcans creeps into my soul when a cupboard is cleansed.

So when I was mucking out that Corner That Collects Random Junk and saw the purple booklet that contained all sorts of useful information about my cell phone service - in Azerbaijani - I decided to toss it.  I had held on to it for a whole month and it hadn't done me any good and I couldn't read it anyway so why keep it?  In to the trash it went, and one more battle was won in the war against the CTCRJ.

Two days later I pulled my cell phone out of my back pocket.  I am not a habitual cell phone-carrier.  Once I Cairo I discovered my phone tucked into a pool bag with a two-day old text message inviting me to a play date on it.

However, that was in a one-level apartment.  I now live in a three-level house.  So I attempt to carry my phone with me.

My back pocket has been very social lately, attempting to call, and successfully calling various contacts.  It might have even sent a text or two.  If that was to you, I apologize.  I'm trying to teach my back pocket to not be so forward.  On Wednesday, I found a message on my screen: enter PIN code.  So I entered a PIN code.  It was the wrong one. I tried a few more, and then the phone asked for a PUK code, so I tried to replicate my back pocket's favorite number combinations.  No luck.  So I resorted to a higher authority and asked my housekeeper.

Oh, she told me, you just have to enter the PUK code that came with your purple cell phone book.  You mean the book that I threw away two days ago?  Oh, yes, that book.

And so that's how I found myself driving around town with Samir the driver looking for an Azercell store so I could buy a new SIM card - and replace the entirely unused 15 AZN ($20) minutes card that I had just put on my phone.

Lesson learned: don't throw away anything associated with your cell phone.  Even if it is for the fight against tyranny, oppression, and clutter.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will it fit?

When I was pregnant with Edwin who was my first boy, I constantly heard the refrain, "oh boys are so different..."  I always asked why, and nobody could get very definite.

For those of you who are expecting boys, here's a boy thing (or maybe just and Edwin thing): putting thin items into small spaces.

In Cairo, I noticed my credit cards slowly disappearing.  I looked everywhere for them, and not a one turned up.  Then one day I pulled the mattress off my bed.  The credit cards were all stuffed in between the mattress and the frame.  Later on they took up residence under the edge of the carpet.

One day I caught Edwin stuffing a pen under the belt on the treadmill.  I got the pen out, but the cap is still in there somewhere and the treadmill has never quite sounded the same.

A few weeks ago, the girls caught Edwin cramming kopecks into the transformer.  Brandon shook them out.  And then he shook out about twenty puzzle pieces.

While I was sitting on the couch, I noticed a few keys slightly depressed on our new digital piano.  I went over to investigate, and found another kopeck wedged into the crack in the front of the keys.  A few days later, Brandon found two more in the same place.

While I've been typing this, Edwin found out that business cards slide nicely into the DVD drive.


I just remembered an incident from my childhood.  Way, way back in the day before iPods and even DVDs, our wood-paneled Chrystler minivan had a tape player.  After awhile the player stopped working, so my mother took it to a repair shop to have it worked on.

She came back a few hours later, and the tape player worked again.  She asked the technician if they had had to replace the part.  No, he replied, it was a simple fix.  And then he showed her a handful of coins.  'We just had to take these out and it worked just fine.'

So maybe he comes by it honestly.

Friday, February 10, 2012

And no, not even on Facebook

Dear Winter,

This has gotten ridiculous.  When it snowed a few weeks ago, I was slightly bemused.  I could appreciate the novelty of snow for the children's sake.  But then you didn't let up - it just kept snowing and snowing and snowing.  And snowing and snowing and snowing and snowing and snowing.  I lived in Utah for nine years, and never had such a snowy three weeks.  You may claim that you gave me a three- or four-day break, but that doesn't count - the snow didn't even come close to melting.

And then you sent the cold in addition to the snow.  At the same time that my heat started going out.  Every few days, and then every day, and yesterday twice.  I'm getting really tired of waking up to a very cold house.  Thank heaven I bought the children those slippers for Christmas.

And then you had to send bad weather and ruin our outing to Swan Lake with the girls - a ballet they've only watched the DVD of at least fifty times.  Couldn't have you just let up a little for sake of my girls who haven't been out of our compound at all (except for the grocery store once) in the last month?

I suppose that maybe we could still be friends after all of that trouble.  After all, you were pretty amazing in Cairo.  I can't argue with eighty degrees, sunshine, and bougainvillea in February.  And it wasn't your fault that I was gone for part of the winter both years.  People have told me that you're usually not so bad here, so I guess I might forgive you on promise of future good behavior.

But no, not any more.  We're never going to be friends now.

Our friendship was forever broken when this arrived in my inbox yesterday:

Hello Mr. Sherwood,

I hope this email finds you well.
Please be advised that the vessel carrying your POV shipment has been delayed into port due to poor weather conditions. I have requested a new ETA and will advise as soon as I am notified.

Please advise if you have any questions or concerns.

Why did you have to delay the shipment of my car?  Why??  You knew how much I'm counting the days until I can go to the grocery store without calling a taxi or asking a friend for a ride.  You knew how much I was dying to try my hand at Baku driving.  And I know you overheard me telling everyone how much I love having a car again.  How I daydream constantly of climbing into the rich corinthian leather seats of my big, black, V-6 Pilot and having the seat warm my backside as I go wherever I want.  Whenever. I. Want.  That's just not fair.

Winter, you've got some 'splainin to do.

And that date with my pretty cousin?  Definitely not going to happen.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Yes, we have that

This past week I unpacked my last box.  Which I consider to be pretty good - only five weeks after arriving in a completely new country, all of my things are unpacked.  Our final household shipment arrived on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the furniture warehouse brought over some more furniture for our third floor.

I know, I know life is really rough when you have to go through the trouble of having people bring extra furniture that you don't have to buy up to the third floor of your house.  I'm trying to deal with it.

Part of the furniture delivered was slated for our special closet I like to call Little America and the girls like to refer to as 'the store.'  We've had our consumables for three weeks now but with no shelves to unpack things onto, I didn't want to open all of the boxes.  On Wednesday, however, we finally got the shelves and so that was the day for unpacking.

If you were wondering what I decided was crucial for two years in Azerbaijan, I'll give you a tour.

I wouldn't be Mormon without my sacks of wheat, sugar, beans, and popcorn

The Great Wall of Charmin.  Because you need to take good care of your bum.

Chicken stock, anyone?

To go with the masa and tortilla press.

If you've ever lived overseas, you'd understand.

And this, too.

This is what two hundred pounds of brown sugar looks like.

Don't forget the Cheerio-hugging toddler.  Very essential.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Snow Day, part 2... and 3

Baku is not known for its snow, in fact it hardly ever snows.  But on Thursday, we woke up to more snow on top of the last snow that fell.  Not only was it snowing, but the wind was blowing, so Brandon was happy to stay home from work.  And when work was cancelled again today, we were happy to have him home again.  However, I'm done with snow days for this year.