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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Out and About in Baku (with pictures!)

Thursday was day two of Brandon's Novruz vacation.  The snow here has finally melted (after snowing three times last week) and the sun decided to come out and warm the temperature up to a balmy fifty degrees.  With such nice weather, Brandon and I decided to take the plunge and go on an outing with the children.

The car still isn't registered yet, to we took the children on the Metro to the bulvar, a promenade that runs along the Caspian.

We started with lunch from a local fast-food chain, "Miracle Bakery."

Followed by pictures.  The girls had their first photo shoot with some local girls.  After Egypt, we were happy to only have one picture request.

And then a ride on the best thing in the world - a carousel.  I've seen at least four around town.  I suppose they're very popular.

Edwin was dubious at first.

But then he decided it was fun.

 After the carousel, we attempted to stroll along the bulvar, but the locally cold foggy weather was too much for the children.  So we went home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sophia, the running fool

Yesterday was grocery shopping day.  It was also the first (of three!) day of Brandon's Novruz holidays, so he was upstairs entertaining everyone while I blow-dried my hair and attempted to look presentable.  Sweatpants and Crocs are nonexistent around here in the city where women wear three-inch stilettos in four inches of snow.

As I applied mascara, polka music started to drift down the stairs.  After a few minutes, I heard Brandon encouraging someone to do something faster.  Clean up the toys?  Dance the funky chicken?

I finished my preparations and went up to the toy room to see what the party was about.  I found Sophia running in endless circles to the cheery tunes of "The Pennsylvania Polka," with Brandon egging her on.

She stopped, panting, and eagerly asked, "are you going to put this on your blog, mom?"  So here she is, in all of her glory.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Novruz Bayram!

This week in Azerbaijan, the holiday of Novruz is being held.  According to Wikipedia,

"Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, the same time is celebrated in parts of the South Asian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals."

Around here, Novruz is fairly similar in importance to Christmas in the US.  And as we all know, one of the best parts of being in the Foreign Service is getting to celebrate U.S. and local holidays.  So the Azerbaijani embassy employees and the charge d'affairs hosted a Novruz party Friday afternoon. 

The party is usually held outside so that everyone can jump over the ritual bonfire seven times, but ironically it snowed Friday so we had it indoors.  

The party started off with traditional dancing and music, to which the girls had a front-row seat.  They loved the traditional costumes, and were entranced to see a girl their size dancing.  

(if you go to the source and look very carefully you might see me)

And the local TV cameramen and news photographers were entranced with our children, as each one got filmed at least two or three times.  At least nobody asked to hold the kids.

After the dancing, everyone went outside for the bonfire jumping and came back in for a big feast of lots and lots of very tasty food.  Now that it's been celebrated, hopefully spring will get the cue and hurry up and come.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Joseph (yes, he really does exist)

About four months ago, I had a baby.  And about four months ago, I put a picture or two up.  But Joseph has changed a bit since then, and I'm starting to feel guilty-mom syndrome creeping up.  So I can post pictures about my consumables closet, but not my son?

Despite what it may look like in the following pictures, he smiles all of the time.  Just not when the camera is within twenty feet of him.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grocery Shopping

There are various things I really enjoy about living overseas.  I like trying new food.  I enjoy learning about the way things are done around the world.  And I love going to grocery stores.  

In Cairo, we had a commissary, so I almost never went to the local grocery stores.  I didn't have the time or inclination to make several stops on shopping days, so I was stuck with most of the same products I found in the US.  Some of the dairy products were brought from Europe, and there was a small case of deli-type things, but there wasn't much else.

So far I've only gone to the grocery store with someone, so I haven't had the opportunity to browse the aisles, perusing the various and sundry types of sweets and candy that take up one quarter of the store - more than the baking section and dried goods combined.  But once I get to have my first solo run, I plan to take my sweet time.

But, today while in the checkout line, I found a familiar product, with an unexpected twist.

Snickers!  With hazelnuts!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If they're illiterate, they can blame Facebook

Currently I am hiding from my children upstairs while Kathleen finishes her writing lesson, Edwin is hopefully not coloring on hymn books or scriptures, Joseph is waiting for me to get him up from his nap, and Sophia is crying in her room because she can't pull it together enough to read b-i-g.

Some days are good days, some days are bad days, some days are frustrating days in our world.  A year or two ago, I would have thrown up my hands, found a good book, bribed the children with Wallace and Gromit, and called it a day.  I still want to do that, today more than most days, but I'm starting to wise up to the reality that I can't hide from life in the pages of a book.  Or the J.Crew website.

The truth is slowly trickling out among friends and acquaintances here that I'm homeschooling Kathleen.  Most of the time when I am talking about it with them, they ask how I can handle it with four children.  I smile, say something about housekeepers, and almost admit the truth: some days I can't handle it.

However, since I've heaped the responsibility on myself, I have no choice but to handle it.  Or wave the flag of surrender and march down to the local school to enroll Kathleen in kindergarten.

So.  I'm now going to go back downstairs, pick up Joseph, calm down Sophia, and try again.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sophia's first trip to the ER

Monday was Sophia's first trip to the emergency room.  Brandon has been predicting her visit since she started walking two and a half years ago, swearing almost every day that she was going to not pay attention and fall down and break her neck, her leg, her skull, her arm... whatever bone he was thinking of at at the moment.

Thankfully his predictions were more dire than the actual event, and she only ended up splitting open her chin and biting some nasty gashes in her tongue.  She had dressed up in tights and a leotard to dance to Swan Lake and slipped on the hardwood stairs and fallen on her chin.

After looking at her chin, I decided that some stitches might be necessary and called Brandon.  And then called my saintly neighbor who took the other three children while Sophia and I got a ride with mobile patrol through the traffic-clogged streets of downtown Baku to SOS clinic which caters to the expat crowd.

Sophia ended up coming out with a glued chin and a shiny pink plesiosaur sticker, having charmed her Bulgarian doctor and everyone else in the clinic with her bravery.

We had a nice time talking during the slow creep home and got back in time for dinner, following which everyone got dessert for being so good.  After doing the calculations for how long we took to get there, I started making contingency plans for any major wounds involving massive bleeding.  But hopefully we'll just stick to things that can be fixed with glue and shiny pink dinosaurs.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Date Night

Last night Brandon and I went on a date.  I love going on dates; it's time when I can talk to Brandon without anyone interrupting, I can eat dinner without having to clean up spilled milk or tell someone will you please just take a bite already, and I don't have to look at my messy house and think how somebody really ought to put that dirty diaper in the trash.

Usually Brandon and I go out to dinner, since it doesn't count as date night if I had to cook anything more than macaroni and cheese for the children.  When we were in Cairo, dinner was about the only option anyway because anything else started too late or was too far away.

Yesterday, however, I wanted to do something different, so we went bowling.  I hadn't thought there would be bowling here either, but Brandon had heard that it could be found somewhere, and my best friend Google confirmed that yes, you can bowl in Baku.

Our car has now arrived in country, but is waiting in the Chancery parking lot for its registration to be completed, so we went by metro.

The Baku metro was built during the Soviet era, and has remained almost entirely unchanged since it was built, except for the advertisements plastered all over the cars and stations.  Sometimes while riding I imagine what the planners would have thought if they could have seen this American lady riding their metro in her green capitalist western coat.  And then seen the ads for English classes plastered all over their chandeliered stations.

After riding in a Soviet metro car, we walked a few blocks and found our destination, Park Bulvar, a new shopping mall near the Caspian that houses Bennetton, Sbarro, Baskin Robbins, and an AMF bowling alley.  Which is right next to the movie theatre sporting posters for The Vow, We Bought a Zoo, and The Artist.  In Russian.

Brandon told me once about bowling on his mission in Ukraine.  "It was us missionaries and the local Mafia with their kids.  The children bowled while the parents sipped wine in their suits and Gucci loafers.  We were the only people who could afford it."

After we forked over twenty manat for one game, I suddenly understood why the six year-old we had passed coming in had an iPhone, and the bar was much more classy than any I had ever seen at a bowling alley in the States.  And when a few ladies showed up in the next lane with sparkly bangles, rings, tights skirts and cups of tea, I wondered if perhaps I hadn't dressed up enough for the occasion.

I turned to Brandon.  "Are you sure we're still in a hardship post?  Because I could almost be back in the U.S.  Except everyone here is too classy for a U.S. bowling alley." And nobody would have paid fifty dollars for two rounds of bowling.

In the end, Brandon spanked me, probably doubling my score both times.  But by then I wasn't looking because I didn't really care.  I enjoyed spending a little time with Brandon being an American, bowling.  Even if I did have to dress up for it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


When Brandon and I married, we had some adjustments to make.  He liked to watch Homestar Runner, and I was very specific about indoor lighting.  At first we drove each other crazy.  "Is he watching that stupid cartoon again?!?" I would think as he giggled while watching a stupid cartoon for the third time in two days.  "Did I just turn that overhead light on so that she could turn it off again?!?" he would think as I ran for the light switch and shut the glaring light off in favor of various diffuse lighting sources.

Over time, however, we accepted each others' idiosyncracies and then eventually adopted them ourselves.  Brandon turns of whatever overhead lighting the children have flipped on in a room before I can get to it, and the girls love it when I wear my Teen Girl Squad T-shirt to breakfast on Saturday.

There is a particular Teen Girl Squad cartoon that has the characters being dispatched by various completely random and bizarre methods.  One of the characters gets run over a van while Strongbad growls "children!!!"  There some times when the children have been so over-the-top crazy, that Brandon and I look at each other and growl "children!!!" simultaneously, knowing that we just got run over by the children van.

Saturday night was one of those nights.

Sunday morning we have church, so often we bathe the children Saturday night in order to meet Sunday morning slightly more prepared.  So yesterday evening we popped all four children in our master bathroom soaking tub (more on that in another post).  One day I'm going to have to give up and bathe them separately, but right now I can still cram them all in the same tub.

After washing Joseph, I pulled him out and started toweling him down on my bed.  Just as I got his diaper on, I heard Sophia's worried cry.

"Mom! I just peed all over the floor!"

I looked in the bathroom and saw the enormous puddle that my three and half year-old who has been trained for two years made on the floor.

"Could you give me something to clean it up with?" she asked.  It was then I decided that Joseph was really hungry and needed to be fed right then before he went to bed. "Ask your father," I told her over my shoulder as I retreated to my chair and took what advantage I could from being Joseph's only source of nutrition.

Brandon came in, brought Sophia some paper towels, and she set to work - naked - cleaning up the mess.  At least she was responsible after her irresponsibility.  "At least it was just pee," I thought, "and on the bathroom floor instead of the carpet."

I kept nursing Joseph.  Boy was he hungry.

And then Kathleen started yelling.

"Moooommmmm!!!  Moooomm!!! Edwin just pooped in the bathtub!!!"

Brandon ran into the bathroom to survey the damage.  Kathleen leaped out of the water and ran to get dressed.  Edwin started crying.  "Poooot. poooot. poooot!"  He repeated, knowing whatever had happened couldn't be good.

I kept nursing Joseph.

Brandon fished out Edwin.  He got Edwin dressed.  He helped Sophia finish cleaning up her mess.  He helped Sophia get dressed.  He fetched a bucket.  He started scooping out Edwin's mess.  He rinsed out the tub.  He rinsed it out again.  He might have said a few choice words about his two middle children.

And I finished nursing Joseph, after a good, long nurse.  Isn't it great to have a baby sometimes?