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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pets, Take Three

Last year we got bunnies.  That didn't turn out very well.

A few weeks ago the gardeners handed the girls a baby bunny and it became their pet for an afternoon.  Then a girl in the neighborhood told them it had been lost and returned it to the owner, who promptly gave it to somebody else.  A few days later it got run over by a car.  I dried a lot of tears that week.

This week two kittens showed up on our back porch.

Brandon hates cats.  He supplements this hatred with allergies.  We've had plenty of discussions about his cat hatred, and I think I can sum it up by saying he doesn't like the independent nature of cats.  He likes dogs' dependent nature better - they know who's taking care of them and love you for it.  I'm not sure what that says about our marriage.  Maybe I should be a little more dependent?

Feeling sorry for the kittens and not being a cat-hater, I started feeding them what we had on hand.  After all, who can resist two cute kittens?  I can't.  When he found out, Brandon tried to warn me off.  "Don't you remember what happened the last two times when we tried to have pets?  And what about the 'no warm-blooded pets rule?  What's going to happen to them when we leave?  Are you really going to take my hard-earned money and feed it to cats?!?"

However, in addition to hating cats, he also loves his daughters with a secretly tender heart.  He couldn't hold out very long while watching Kathleen and Sophia do exactly what little girls (and maybe their mothers) do when two little kittens show up at their back door - fall in love.  By the end of their second day on our porch, the girls had named the kittens and Kathleen had told Sophia at least twenty times that this was the thing that she had always dreamed of.

So after feeding them what we had for a few days and watching them piteously mew at our door for more, I knew I had to get cat food.  The kittens had decided that our house was the place to get food and stuck around constantly waiting for the next handout.  It was clear that we were there only source of food.

Thursday morning I asked Brandon what I should do about the cats - what we were feeding them wasn't enough and they were hanging around our house all day.  "Well then scare them off!" he replied "if you feed them now, you'll just break the girls' hearts when we leave.  And the kittens will get used to the food.  They'll starve when we leave."

"Okay," I told him (being the obedient wife that I am), "but I'm not telling the girls they need to scare their kitties - the kitties that they've already named - away.  You do the job.  You look into their tender little faces and tell them to get rid of their kitten friends.  I'm not going to do it for you."

When I came down for breakfast, the girls solemnly informed me that they might have to scare the kitties away.  I looked at Brandon and arched an eyebrow.  "Might? What exactly does... might... mean?"

"You know," he hedged, "we'll just play it by ear.  See how things go."

"Play it by ear...?"


"Um, you know..." he paused.  "Play... it... by... ear.  Yeah."  More silence.  "Okay!!  Buy the darned cat food!!  Fine!!  But you'll be the one drying tears when we leave!"

So on Thursday I bought a bag of cat food.  We are now the semi-owners/food source for Harriet and Beauty.  We've explained to the girls at least twenty times, enough for them to quote us, that we are not taking them with us when we leave.  I have no desire to take them to a vet, give them shots, get them fixed, and try to cram them into an Oakwood apartment with my cat-allergic husband.  I like cats, but I have no intention to try to kill Brandon while making my life crazier than it already is.

But for now they're really cute little kittens.  Our kitchen opens onto the back porch where Harriet and Beauty hang out, waiting for the next mealtime.  The girls have modified a cardboard bunny house into a cat house (yum!! It smells like bunny in here) that the kittens like to chase each other in and out of.  They curl up to sleep together under in the shade Edwin's big toy truck.  When not sleeping and eating, the kittens wrestle and fight and chase each other around the porch.  Harriet even condescends to let the children pet here until we call them off.  The girls are in absolute heaven.

But we all know this is going to end in tears.  Kathleen assures me that it won't, but what seven- and five-year old girl won't cry about leaving two kittens behind?  I don't know if it would have been better to chase the kittens off and keep the girls from this pain or two let them have six months of enjoyment from their kittens.  I used to think that when my parents made a decision, it was the cosmically best decision that could ever have been made.  They were my parents, and so they were all-knowing.  After all, how did they get to be parents?

Of course I know different now and know that a lot of decisions don't even have a cosmically best answer even if I knew to choose it.  It's very disappointing to discover that most of life is spent choosing between options that don't have a 'best' choice - just one that you have to make and deal with the fallout from.  But you still have to make the choice.  It comes with the job.

So this time the choice was kitties.  I'll get back to you about the fallout in about six months.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Too Many Choices

I hate lunch.  Everyone has low spots in their day, and lunch is mine.  Dinner is a close second (sometimes pulling ahead of lunch depending on the day), but usually lunch is the worst.  Coming after three hours of hair-pulling agony school, it's just one more thing to hurry people through before I get my own blessed break.

We eat leftovers for lunch because they're easy and cheap.  Sometimes we have a full refrigerator to choose from, sometimes the pickings get a little slim.  Sometimes I have to resort to bread, cheese, and fruit if my cooking has been insufficient (read: eating cold cereal for dinner).

When we finally make it to lunch time, school is finished and everyone is in clean-up mode, which is also known as drag-your-feet-and-whine-to-make-hungry-tired-mom-crazy mode.  So while Edwin tries to make things instead of clean up the legos, Sophia draws pictures on the paper she's supposed to be putting away, and Kathleen reads her textbooks instead of stacking them, I get lunch ready.

Sometimes I'm nice and give people options.  Sometimes I'm not and put whatever we have on the table.  This usually results in someone deciding that death is worse than leftover soup.  So either way I have to put up with some kind of whining.

Today I had two choices: macaroni and cheese or rice soup.

Kathleen wanted macaroni and cheese.  Sophia, the rice soup.  Joseph, not being vocal enough to whine, got soup.  Next I asked Edwin.

"Would you like rice soup or macaroni and cheese, Edwin?"

"I'll have pasta!"

"We don't have any pasta.  You ate it all yesterday.  We just have macaroni and cheese or soup.  That's it."

"How about cabbage?"

"No cabbage.  We haven't had cabbage for months.  Just soup.  Or macaroni.  Either.  But nothing else."

"Black beans and rice!"

"No black beans.  No rice.  Soup.  Macaroni.  Just say one of those two words.  Say soup.  Or say macaroni.  Soup.  Macaroni.  Your choice."

"But I don't want polenta!!!!!"

"No.  No polenta.  No black beans and rice.  No cabbage.  No pasta.  Just.  Soup.  Or.  Macaroni.  That's all.  Nothing else.  Two choices.  Souporpasta.  Pastaorsoup.  Pasta.  Soup.  Soup.  Pasta.  Just say one!!!"

"Could I have a milkshake?"

[pause to keep the scream from escaping]

"Okay, macaroni is always a great choice!"

I think that next time, everyone's getting Soylent.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Living in Baku: Summer

Friday was the first day of summer.  It was also the first day of swimming lessons for the girls.  One of the summer hires (children of mission members) teaches swimming lessons in the States, so she got drafted to teach lessons here while she's not making copies and running errands down at the annex.  So this year we have free swimming lessons.  Hooray for summer hires!

There are several hotels in the area that offer memberships to use their pool facilities, and most American expats have memberships at one of the hotels.  Our Ambassador's residence also has a smaller pool that we can use for free, so being the cheapskate that I am, we've been using the free one this summer.  It's not that big, and the shallow end is five feet deep, but it's private and nobody cares if my children lay on the pool deck, splash, or are rowdy.

Some of my friends were at a hotel pool during Eurovision last year.  The children were playing and splashing like children do at pools; nothing too disruptive, but acting like children.  One of the hotel guests came up to my friend, got in her face, and asked if he was going to get a nap that afternoon.  She told him it didn't look very likely. Like I've said before, I'm not big into cultural experiences and am perfectly happy staying in the bubble.  So having a private pool works for me.

The only problem with this setup is the weather.  Baku is not the place for swimming pools.  The weather here is very moderate* and the summer rarely gets very hot.  Last weekend the temperature climbed all the way up to ninety degrees.  We went swimming, and the water was hot enough to swim for twenty minutes before climbing out to warm up.  But it never stays ninety degrees.  It will warm up for maybe four or five days and then dip back down into low-eighties territory for the next two weeks.

This is fantastic weather for the summer for just about everything but swimming, if you're from North Carolina.  For everyone else, it's probably too hot to do anything outside, but still too cold to swim.  And since the weather can never work itself up to prolonged warm temperatures, the pools never quite get warm enough to swim in.  When I say warm enough, I mean over eight-five degrees.

So Friday was the first swim lesson on the first day of summer.  When I looked out our window in the morning, the tree-tops whipped back and forth underneath grey clouds.  Not good swimming weather.  The girls asked if they could be spared the lessons but I, being the perennial optimist, told them to hurry up and get their things on and maybe the weather would clear up on the way over.  The weather here can be fairly locational, so maybe in the ambassador's neighborhood it might be sunny.

It wasn't and the wind was even worse.  Our car told us the outside temperature was sixty-eight degrees and as the goosebumps raised on my arms I regretted not wearing jacket over my cover-up.  I also told Joseph there was no way he would be swimming.  The other kids straggled in, and we stood around the pool looking at the ice-blue water being whipped into miniature whitecaps.  The teacher showed up in a  jacket and leggings, which she never took off the entire morning.

Eventually the girls and their friend decided that they were up for swimming despite the whitecaps and hopped in.  Edwin joined them.  I huddled under a blanket brought by a friend who had been smart enough to step outside before deciding what to wear.

After the warming numbness wore of and the real state of affairs set in, everyone jumped out of the pool to huddle under towels.  We tried the hot shower, but the drain was clogged.  And so huddle it was.  The sun finally struggled through the clouds, or rather the wind ripped the clouds from the sky, after an hour or two and everyone decided playing tag around the ambassador's house was a safer activity than trying to swim.

It's a good thing the lesson were free.

And so that was the first day of summer in Baku - sixty-eight degrees with twenty mph winds and clouds.  I never thought that I would miss Cairo in the summer, but on Friday, I did.

*I grew up in North Carolina, so that's where I'm coming from.  Obviously if you're from the Pacific Northwest, you're going to have a different idea of hot.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Brandon!

Brandon decided to start his birthday celebration this year by having a migraine.  He has had migraines since a teenager, but they haven't bothered him much during our marriage, with one exception.  Other than that one, however, he's been pretty trouble-free.

We managed to make it to the baptism of a child in our ward in the morning before he fell apart.  Since we have no building and no members with a pool, the places to be baptized are fairly limited.  Having nowhere else to go, she was baptized in the Caspian.  Usually the sea is pretty calm; last time we went to the beach there wasn't a single wave.  That day, however, was the roughest I had ever seen it, and the few locals wandering around must have been pretty puzzled.  Man and child fully dressed in white wade into the water.  They attempt to stand for awhile, after which he raises his arm, then shoves the child under the waves.  Then he does it again.  Gotta love strange religious rites.

We came home quickly after that and left Brandon moaning on the floor in the bathroom to go to a barbecue at the friends' house.  I felt bad, but he probably had a better chance of surviving the pain without four noisy children making their usual ruckus.  I remember leaving my father at home one Thanksgiving, sick as a dog, while we went off to party with friends that believed in half a pie per person for dessert.  Such is family love for a sick father.

The next he spent recovering.  I had the kindness to make him a cake, but he prepared the things for grilled cheese and green beans while we left him again for church.  I did have pity and took Joseph with me so Brandon could get a nap.  I hadn't remembered to order presents in time; I kept meaning to, but got busy and by the time I finally did, it was too late.  Sometimes I really miss two-day shipping and the mall.  So instead he got a burned copy of Boston greatest hits, and a Kindle book for presents.  When he opened it up, he was really confused why I had wrapped up my Kindle for him.

So, this year's birthday wasn't the best.  I have a history of Brandon birthday fails and he is used to the off years, or so he says.  And the last two in a row have been good so that means I have the good balance on my side and I can slack off next year.

It's probably good Father's Day is near his birthday so I can try again.

Happy Birthday, Brandon!  Even though it may not show, I love you!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Resident Crazy-House

I used to think that I was one of Those Moms.  You know, the ones whose children always look like a Gap ad, whose houses look a Pottery Barn catalogue, and are really nice to boot.  The ones that Have It All Together, despite having more than 1.5 children.  I always made sure my children stayed in their seats during church, I never ever wore sweatpants to the grocery store, and I would make sure to straighten the picture frames before anyone came to visit.

I have come to realize recently, however, that I've been fooling myself.  I'm actually one of Those Moms, the kind that are in the epicenter of a continuous disaster.  I can keep it all together (mostly) in public, but at home the story is a little different.  Having four children home all day every day creates a lot of messes.  I like to call it Independent Problem Solving (IPS), but Brandon just calls it messes.

Usually this IPS also includes occasional yelling, some screaming, and often tears.  It seems like there is always one child upset, one child making a mess, and one child blissfully happy at all times, oblivious to the storm around them.  Occasionally everyone is happy, but that's usually when they're asleep.

Personally, this doesn't bother me much.  To stay sane, I have developed a zen attitude.  You two can't agree?  Well, work it out without yelling or hurting each other.  You want to use the hose to create a mud pit in the back yard?  That's fine with me as long as you clean it up.  Hmm, I see you've been cutting paper into drifts of little pieces.  Make sure to get them all into the trash.  Oh look, the bathroom floor has two inches of water on it.  You know where the towels are.

And this works for me.  It may look a little crazy, but I've got everything under control.  Mostly.

The only problem with our little setup is our house.  Our house looks onto the area where all of the gardeners, guards, and various assorted men who work in our neighborhood hang out.  The front windows are four feet from the road that everyone and their dog saunters on.  And when the windows are open, everyone can hear just about everything.  Trust me.  I've heard other people's fights through their windows.

So, to summarize: house full of crazy children, an audience of at least four men at all times.

I've come to accept my role in life as the Crazy White Lady.  There aren't many Westerners here, and even fewer with four small children, and I think maybe none of those drive themselves everywhere with all four children in tow to shop at local fruit stands.

So when the gardeners scold me for letting Sophia sit on the ground without shoes, I shrug back at them.  I don't know what you're saying, I smile and nod, and I don't really care.  When the children construct their favorite locomotion machine out of Joseph's stroller and Edwin's bicycle and use it to tear around the neighborhood with all three riding, I just wave at the guy driving the Jag who has to wait for them to get out of his way.  One rainy day the gardeners brought Sophia and Edwin back from their tromp (I remember how much fun it was to go for a walk in the rain) because they had gone somewhere that the guards thought was dangerous.  I smiled, brought the children in, and shut the door on them.  I don't care what you think my children should be doing.  I'm happy to let them do strange (to you) things that make them happy.  I'm the Crazy White Lady.  We do that.  It's our right.

By this point I know that we have a reputation.  Yeah, you know, that crazy American lady who has four children that don't go to school whose house is noisy all of the time and their yard is a mess.  I'm not all defiance, however, and have some shame.  Obviously not enough to shape up, however.

This past week, I was upstairs taking a break while the children were in the bath.  Sophia likes to bathe and dress Joseph (another IPS opportunity!), so I throw them all in and then cook dinner or whatever else I want to do while everyone is occupied.  It's my own half hour of sanity before the big dinner-bedtime push takes place.

Eventually responsibility kicked in and I headed down to the kitchen to finish dinner.  Our house has three floors, with the toy room/study on the top, bedrooms in the middle, and everything else downstairs.  The middle floor has two balconies and one of them is on top of the front porch, overlooking the neighborhood grassy common area.

As I went down, I noticed the balcony door open.  There was some commotion going on outside and someone had decided to see what was happening.  A few stairs further and I saw who it was.  Edwin was leaning on the balcony, watching two girls run through the sprinklers to the dismay of a guard.  And he was completely naked, fresh from the bath.

When I asked him how long he had been standing outside, he thought for a minute, "a long time.  Those girls were being bad, mommy."

Then we had a discussion about getting dressed before standing on the balcony for the entire neighborhood to see.  He agreed it was a good idea.  Then he got dressed.

I suppose every neighborhood has to have their crazy house.  One day, however, I hope it will be someone other than me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summertime and The Living is Easy

It's summer.  Officially we have five more days to go, but according to me, it's summer.

Brandon and I have a long-running friendly dispute about summer versus winter.  He likes winter.  I like summer.  Brandon has his reasons - he grew up spending summer doing endless outdoor chores in the hot sun.  I grew up spending every singe day at the pool with a break for going to the beach.  So I can see both sides of the argument.

But I still love summer, even if he doesn't.

Friday night Brandon and I went out to dinner for his birthday.  I suggested one restaurant that was defunct, so we tried option two, in a newly opened park overlooking the city and the Caspian.  The view was wonderful, but the restaurant ended up being a tea house.

We were near the bulvar so we started walking to option number three.  We strolled past couples and through groves in the cooling evening.  Everyone was out, enjoying a summer promenade.  As we went to cross a road, I looked left and saw Chinar.  Plans changed and we had Chinese for dinner.

As we drove home, full of overpriced (but very hip) food, the sun was just setting over the city.  The light turned even the old soviet apartments to gold.  The wind tangled my hair through open car windows and the green trees lined our road home.  Cold, dark, hurrying winter was a lifetime away, banished by the slowly setting summer sun.

Yesterday when we woke up, the air smelled hot.  If Brandon was going to mow the lawn or pick rocks, the air would have smelled of misery.  Instead, we were going swimming and the air smelled of a perfect summer Saturday morning.  The children peeled off their flip-flops and cover-ups, begging to jump into the beckoning blue water and the promise of cool relief.

We swam and sunned ourselves on the baking stones to warm up and swam again to cool off.  Edwin watered his car and filled buckets and begged to be dipped until our arms ached.  Kathleen and Sophia swam from ladder to ladder entertaining us with their swim show.  Joseph tried to lean far enough over the water to give Brandon a heart attack.  We got hot and swam the heat off.  I baked myself in the buttery warm sunshine, roasting the last dark bit of winter out of my soul.

Today I grilled hamburgers.  The smell of charcoal drifted through the open kitchen door.  Our zucchini and eggplants had stripes, and only the sound of lawnmowers was missing.

In a few months, summer will have overstayed its welcome.  Fall will come with its own delights.  But for now, it's summer and I love it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Friday Night Date

Friday night is date night in our house.  Sometimes Brandon and I go out and sometimes we stay in for pizza and a movie.  But whatever we do, Friday night is date night.  If the children complain about never ever getting to watch a movie with us, I point out that Saturday night is family movie night.  Then we all pick a movie (half of the time Princess Bride), crowd on the couch in front of the computer and watch a movie together.  As a family.  But Friday night, that belongs to mommy and daddy, not mommy and daddy and children.  So go to bed and stop complaining.

This past Friday, however, Brandon was 'invited' to an official reception.  Sometimes the invitations include my name, but most of the times they just have Brandon's and then I offer sympathy for having to be stuck talking to other diplomats about diplomatic things.  Somehow movies seem to make it look glamorous, but really it's just boring.  Really boring.  Much less exciting than eating pizza, drinking ice cold root beer, and watching a movie in your pajamas.  It just shows you that you should never believe movies.

Usually when Brandon has these things to attend, I feed the children dinner early, send them upstairs to watch a movie ("If I hear any fighting about which movie, I'll just send you to bed instead") and work on one of the twenty sewing projects waiting patiently in my bin.  I'll listen to an audiobook, ignoring the yells coming from upstairs (if there's blood, someone will come get me), and revel in having whole hours to devote to a project without anyone interrupting me.  It's funny how motherhood helps you appreciate the rare luxury of uninterrupted time, something that once was just a thing to get bored with.  

But last Friday, I just didn't feel like sewing.  I've been sewing a lot lately, finishing Kathleen's summer wardrobe, making a doll for Sophia's birthday, and thinking up clothes for myself that I'll never have the time to make.  I really enjoy having a project to think about, see the progress on, and having done something that will last when I'm finished.  It think that all women enjoy making things.  It brings us all a little bit of sanity.

But for whatever reason, that didn't appeal.  I thought of something else useful I could do - write a blog post, cook something, catch up on some informational reading.  After all, three- or four- hour blocks of uninterrupted time aren't that common, and they should be put to good use.  There's always something that needs doing.

After trying to figure out how to make best use of my time, I decided to give up on productivity and just enjoy my Friday date night by myself.

So I went and found a birthday present from Brandon that I hadn't read yet and a bar of chocolate remaining from my Christmas stocking.  I arranged all of the throw pillows into maximum-comfort reading position, made sure the lamp was pointed for good illumination, covered up with a blanket, and started my completely useless fiction book.

The children finished their movie after awhile, came down to kiss me goodnight, and put themselves to bed.  I ate chocolate.  And read.  It was fantastic.

I spend most of my time being productive.  With four children to watch, three to school, meals to cook, and a husband to take care of, I have to be.  And I like it that way.  I like feeling that my day was well-spent with useful things that I feel pleased about.  I like being able to check off a list of things I've done by the end of the day and count up my accomplishments.  We all have our neuroses, I suppose.

But sometimes, every now and then, I throw productivity to the wind.  Forget lists, children, projects, meals (and even sometimes my husband).  Every now and then it's fun to get lost in a really good book, the kind of lost where you look up and the night has fallen in a matter of five minutes.  Children cease to be a cause for concern.  Food is something for other people.  Schedules tatter to pieces.  All that exists is me, the couch, and a book.  I suppose it's cheaper than a vacation to a deserted beach in warm place.

But now, of course, I have a major problem: a 900-page book that is just started (and half of a chocolate bar calling my name).  And not only is it just started, it's a really good book, the kind that only ends up in pancakes and macaroni and cheese for dinner, with children tearing the house down around my ears while I finish just one more chapter until it's done.  I always start out with the most perfect of intentions - read only when I have time, without neglecting the children and having delicious meals waiting for Brandon when he walks in the door.  But it never ends up that way.  Ever.  So if you don't hear from me in the next few weeks, you'll know why.  Maybe you could drop off some dinner if you live close by?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Living in Baku (Azerbaijan): Wildflowers

We are posted to Baku for two years.  Sometimes two years feels like a really long time.  Especially at the beginning, when you look at your teeny-tiny seven week old baby and realize that when you leave they'll be walking, talking, feeding themselves, and maybe even (fingers crossed) not in diapers.  That's a long time when you're getting up three times a night because someone is screaming about being hungry.

But when you think about seasons, it's not that long.  Last year spring came in a bit of a blur.  Hooray, the weather is warm so I won't get scolded about not covering my baby's head anymore!  We did some exploring, but not much.  When your baby is on a nap schedule, interrupting it is a very serious business.  

So it wasn't until this spring that we got out exploring, heading into the mountains beginning in March at least every other or every third weekend.  Because all of them are far away, we gotten to watch the landscape change each time.  And I've discovered something I never would have thought: Azerbaijan has beautiful wildflowers.  

They started in March with little tiny irises hiding near the ground.

Then out come a profusion of yellow and white flowers.

After that is poppy season.

And then these pink things.

Last weekend we discovered a large stand of delphiniums growing in the middle of wheat fields (some may have come home with us).

And now comes the part where two years isn't long enough.  When we leave the wildflowers will still be sleeping, waiting for spring.  They will come up next year in riotous beauty but we won't be here to enjoy them.  Ever again.  

I hope there are wildflowers in Tajikistan.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Tastiest Time of the Year

Living in Azerbaijan has shifted my view of produce.  In the States, when I want strawberries, I go to the grocery store and buy strawberries.  Sometimes they're more expensive, but strawberries are always available.  If I am hungry for asparagus, I can have it any time of the year.  Grapes are always available too.  And eggs cost the same year-round.

I never thought about where those grapes were coming from in February until I moved here and discovered that in February, the closest thing you're going to get to grapes is raisins.  If you want grapes, you'd better wait until summer because that's when it's grape season.

So in the winter you have fairly limited (although better than I had feared) produce options.  Potatoes, carrots, and onions are always around, but as the winter goes on, the onions get softer and start sprouting green shoots, as does the garlic.  The potatoes start looking pretty scary, too.  Apples start looking pretty sad, but the pears are still okay, if a little pricey.  In fact, everything gets increasingly expensive as the winter wears on.  Apples that were 50 qapik a kilo cost 2.50 manat by April.
Tomatoes that were about the same get up to 4 manat before Iranian tomatoes start coming in May.

By the end of winter everyone in the house is thoroughly sick of roasted potatoes and carrots with almost every dinner, and the children dream of strawberries, cherries, and apricots instead of apples, apples, and the occasional pear.

But everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief because summer is upon us.  When we stepped into our local fruit shop last week, the girls squealed in excitement.  "Strawberries!!  Cherries!!  Apricots!!  Can we have those mom, please!?!"

Summer fruit season starts with strawberries.  Every time we go shopping, I buy a big bag and we sit around after lunch and dinner every day, eating our fill.  I've discovered my new favorite combination: strawberries and Nutella.  Sometimes without the strawberries.

Since strawberry season only comes once a year, we eat strawberries until we're sick of them.  Next comes cherries and apricots.  Last year we ate so many cherries that I actually stopped buying them at the end.  I never, ever thought that I could get sick of cherries.

Then come nectarines and peaches which aren't even exciting any more because we are so full of plentiful, delicious summer fruit by this time.  Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach milk shakes, peaches on pancakes, peaches for lunch, peaches after dinner, peaches with everything.

We finish up the year with apples, blackberries, and raspberries.  When I went to get apples for applesauce last year (about 100 kilos), I picked up some blackberries and raspberries for canning and freezing, and still have them around, waiting to be eaten.  Blackberry cobbler, anyone?

And then the fruit season is over, leaving us with frozen and canned remains to subsist on until the next summer brings cherries and strawberries and apricots to feast on again.  At first this bothered me - I should be able to eat strawberries any time of the year I want - because they're tasty and I like them.  What would I do when I couldn't just go to the store and buy strawberries or blackberries to make trifle out of in December?  How would I survive on apples and pears all winter long?

But I've discovered an upside to living in a place where you eat what is available in season and live without it the rest of the year.  Since those strawberries aren't being shipped from three time zones away or grapes from the next continent over, the only strawberries around are locally grown and are fantastic.

Yesterday I scooped handful after handful of dark shining cherries from wooden crates lined up at my local fruit stand.  My hands were sticky with juice by the time my plastic bag was full with green-stemmed cherries and the occasional cherry leaf.  After dinner I brought out the freshly-washed strawberries and cherries for everyone to eat to their heart's content.

"How many can we have?" Kathleen asked, always making sure to keep life equitable.  "As much as you want," I shrugged, "It's cherry season.  Eat until you black out."

And that's what I love about summer - and endless succession of fresh, ripe delicious fruit.  We can eat as much as we want, whenever we want.  Winter will come soon enough.  So pass the cherries, please.