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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Doughnut Night

Did I ever tell you about how I love doughnuts?  Maybe, I don't remember.  But just case I didn't tell you before, I love doughnuts.  I love anything sweet, but doughnuts hold a special place in my heart right next to ice cream.

Krispy Kreme was a historic landmark in my town (I'm really not kidding) and the Saturday before Christmas was always marked by our annual holiday Krispy Kreme run.  My parents would wake all five children up early, bundle us into the car, and make our way downtown where dozens and dozens of boxes filled with fresh Krispy Kremes were waiting to be put into the back of our wood-paneled 1985 Dodge Caravan and then delivered to all of our friends and neighbors.  "There's a reason Krispy Kremes come in red and green boxes!" my mom used to explain when she was discussing how to make it through the holiday season without going crazy.

The best part of our Saturday run was the rule that you could eat as many Krispy Kremes as you wanted with no limits.  By the end of the day the tan upholstery of our minivan would be drifted with shattered flakes of doughnut glaze and none of us wanted to see another doughnut for at least three or four hours.

So yes, doughnuts.

So far Brandon and I haven't lived anywhere that hosts an international Krispy Kreme store (although I've heard they exist) and so we've had to live without those heavenly rings of fried perfection in our lives for years on end.

I've found a delicious recipe for cake doughnuts and honed my doughnut skills on those until I can say that I turn out a pretty good cake doughnut.  But we all know that cake doughnuts aren't the same as raised.  They're tasty, but they're no Krispy Kreme.

And so when Brandon and I moved to the US for language training, I decided to institute Cousin Doughnut Night as a way for all of the cousins in the area to see each other and hang out once a month.  Because who doesn't like family and doughnuts?  But really, it's just an excuse to find the perfect Krispy Kreme doughnut recipe so I never have to live without them again as long as I have oil, a pot, a deep frying thermometer, and a doughnut cutter with me.

Last Saturday was our first CDN and attempt #1 at finding the ultimate raised doughnut recipe.  I've never made raised doughnuts before and was happy to find that they're not very hard at all to make; they just require time.  I was not happy, however, to realize that I had forgotten to put the salt in the dough.  Combined with the gummy chocolate glaze, I have things to work on for next doughnut night.  But I didn't find anyone complaining.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Last Snow Day... Really

So it snowed Tuesday.  Nothing started until around 8 in the morning, so everyone was saved from yet another day off from work and school.  The temperature never dropped below freezing so I didn't expect much (after all, it's the end of March for heaven's sake).  But by the afternoon enough snow had accumulated for the children to have some fun sledding.

The children had fun and drove the school kids coming of the bus crazy with jealousy (Mom can we go sledding too?).  And I enjoyed watching them, assuring myself that yes, this is the last time I see snow this winter (spring?).  Really.  I promise.  For real.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Snow Day... Again

Last week my aunt invited us over for dinner at her country home house in southern Maryland.  I actually have a lot of family in the DC area and so she invited everyone for a family dinner last Sunday after we all finished church.  As the week progressed the weather forecast started calling for snow on Monday.  Then it called for snow starting Sunday evening and as the forecast became increasingly dire, people started dropping out.  But Brandon and I weren't afraid of a little snow (and we really like seeing my aunt and uncle) so we packed up the kids and figured that we would be just fine.

The snow started falling around seven and so we bid our farewells and started the hour and a half drive back to Falls Church, figuring that there couldn't be that much snow on the roads yet; after all Saturday had been 65 and sunny.  It takes awhile for everything to cool down enough for snow to stick, right?

By the time we got to I-66, we could barely see the lane makers and I swear we were sliding sideways around the corners.  I haven't had such an exciting ride since we drove though torrential thunderstorms on our way out of St. Louis.  Perhaps we should have stayed home like everyone else who believed the forecaster's dire predictions.  But, we made it home in one piece and the next day Brandon was out of work for the second time in two weeks.

Unfortunately for the children homeschool never has to have snow days and so they had a full day of school and I did my usual ten loads of laundry.  Sometimes making your own schedule has its downsides.

But in the afternoon they were finally able to test out their new snow gear in the seven inches of snow that had fallen and I got to see if my stop sign-red, calf-length down coat would be as warm as Lands' End claimed it would be.

The children had a wonderful time sledding down the only hill at Oakwood and slamming into the apartment wall at the bottom and were quite happy with their warm new clothes.  "This is much better than two pairs of jeans and tights!!" Kathleen reported.  My toes turned numb, but the rest of me was quite warm.

As the children flopped down for one more snow angel before going to raid the hot chocolate machine, I told them to enjoy it because it would be the last snowfall of the season.  Definitely.

But guess what's on the forecast for Tuesday?  That's right.  Snow.

Monday, March 17, 2014


So back a long, long (you know, at least eight or nine months) ago we made a reservation with Oakwood.  After staying three months at the mothership (or Oakhood, or whatever derogatory term is current) back in 2011 when we were evacuated I swore I would never, never ever live in Oakwood again.  It was old and dark and small and every one of the several hundred apartments had the exact same framed picture with the orange sand, blue sky, and white salt pan.  And really, anywhere that involves multiple trips on an elevator to haul your groceries home is not okay.  It just isn't.

But life has a way of wearing you down and this time around money started talking really loudly.  Since we are TDY (temporary duty) we receive per diem to pay for housing.  The allowance starts off reasonably generously, but then drops every sixty days until it is a quarter of what you started out with.  This isn't a problem if you're staying a short time - four or five months - but it starts to be a problem when you're in town longer.  You know, like nine months.

There are quite a few landlords willing to work with strange wayfarers like us who have most of our possessions lurking in a warehouse... somewhere... and need fully furnished lodgings.  But their accommodation comes at a price that can get pretty high after awhile.  Oakwood, however, has something worked out with State where they deal with the money end and we stay here as long as we need without having to work out how much the per diem has dropped lately.  So one can see the appeal.

And then after considering Oakwood's gym, pool, weekly maid and linen service, and shuttle to Brandon's work, I had to admit that maybe I was a little hasty last time in saying never.

When we made our reservation we were told that we were confirmed for a two-bedroom apartment and would be placed on the waiting list for a three-bedroom.  I didn't worry too much because we had a long time between being placed on a waiting list and actually moving in and there would be plenty of time for something to open up.  Right?

Well, we've been here for three weeks and we're still waiting for one of those three-bedroom apartments to open up.  Like everything in the government, there's a pecking order to the waiting list and we haven't had enough children yet to be at the top.  Who knew Oakwood was such a hot spot for families with five (and six) children?  Who knew there were so many families who were crazy enough to have five children?

So, for now we're all pretty chummy.  I managed to squeeze two rollaway beds into the second bedroom and everyone is getting pretty good about taking turns in the two bathrooms (I know, we were spoiled with five in Baku).  The children's closet is working multiple duties as suitcase storage/baby supplies storage/winter gear storage/bookshelf/school book storage.  During quiet time each day Joseph goes to sleep in the children's room, the children play in the kitchen/living/dining room while I put in ear plugs and take a nap in the only other room in our apartment.  I've learned that at least once a day everyone has to get out of the apartment to stretch their legs and make noise where nobody can complain to management about it.

And really, I can't complain that much since I intended to have all four share a bedroom anyway so that we could use our third bedroom for a toy room.  So we're doing just fine.  I think maybe if this were our permanent situation I might have something more to say about it, but it's not.  It's just a small pause between ginormous overseas houses.  And plus, I have libraries, Target, parks, national museums, and family to console me.  Not a bad swap.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

After 4 3/4 Pregnancies

Warning: this post discusses bodily fluids.  If you are disgusted by that, please skip this post and tune in next time for something a little less... liquid.

I am not a vomiter (is that a word?).  Everyone has illogical fears - spiders, small spaces, heights - that really don't make any sense when one talks through them but nonetheless give you the cold sweats when you even think about having to deal with them.

Until recently one of mine was squat toilets, but I've conquered that one.  I still don't like using them, but the cold sweats no longer trouble me when I have to use the bathroom in a third world country.  Vomiting, however, is still one of my illogical fears.  I usually go years between getting sick, which probably doesn't help me deal with the fear.  How can you get over something that happens a few times every decade?  It's like dealing with fears about comets.

The last time I got sick unto vomiting was when Sophia was three months old.  She's now coming up on six.  And I've never, not once, ever gotten sick because of pregnancy.  Or even during pregnancy.  I've had my fair share of other sicknesses - especially those that involve food and third world countries - and Brandon often makes fun of me for catching just about every bug that comes through the house when I'm pregnant.  Just none of those that involve throwing up.

So last Friday I had my first OB appointment at the practice that will deliver this baby (it's Brandon's turn to name the baby and he hasn't decided on a name yet.  I'm not just being coy).  I had scheduled the appointment within a week of landing in Missouri after faxing all of my prenatal records in so that the doctor could decide I wasn't a big old malpractice lawsuit risk.  By the time of the appointment I was 31 weeks and so it was reasonably important that I go in and get things like the nasty sugar-water test and a real 20 week ultrasound out of the way.

And of course Friday morning, after dropping Brandon off at work by seven so that I could pick him up at one so that I could make my two-fifteen appointment, I started feeling off.  Pretty soon off turned into impending doom and I started mentally flipping through options.  Rescheduling seemed like the best idea, so I called the office.  No appointments for the next two weeks.  How about their other office?  One for the next week, but only at 10 AM.  Since my babysitter (I draw the line at taking four children to the OB) has to be in class during that time, it wouldn't work.

So it was going to have to be that day.  I rested up, stayed close the the bathroom, and turned on the TV for the children.  Around 12:30 I pulled myself together, apologized to the cleaning lady who had just come in to clean our apartment, and drove everyone down to FSI to pick Brandon up.

I made it home to drop everyone off and stopped by McDonald's to get a Sprite so that my hands would stop shaking.  Thankfully I didn't have too long to wait for my appointment and made it through the preliminaries (give a 'sample', step on the scale, have my blood pressure taken) without too much trouble.  I was glad my history was easy, and therefore quick, to relate - that much faster to get home.

Then the doctor looked at my chart with a wrinkled brow.  "You haven't done your glucose level test yet?"  No, I was driving around the frozen wasteland at 28 weeks.  "Well, would you like to do it today or come in next week?"  I did some fast thinking.  It takes an hour for the test and I wasn't feeling too great.  On the other hand, coming in the next week would mean having to set up an appointment, arrange with Brandon to take the kids, and spend five dollars more on parking.  I looked up.  "I'll take it today."

For those of you who have never had to pleasure of drinking a glucose drink in less than five minutes, I'll sum it up for you: nasty.  It has just as much sugar as a soda, but somehow the combination of being un-carbonated and the most un-appetizing flavors the makers can think of, the drink manages to be one of the more unpalatable things you have to chug (in less than five minutes).  Despite being sick, I managed to get all of the bright red, fruit punch-flavored bottle of disgusting down in less than five minutes.  Then I had to wait.

Thankfully I had my faithful Kindle and nobody to interrupt me so the time passed more quickly than I had feared.  Molly had just managed to get Cynthia's letters back from Mr. Preston when I went back to the lab to get my blood drawn.  I used to be uncomfortable with the idea of needles being poked into my veins (so much that I didn't give blood until I was a junior on college) but having four children has cured me of that.  After a little bit of rubber, a prick, and a bandaid, I was on my way.  I had finished my blood test, finished my appointment, and only the drive home was in between me and my bed.  Good thing I hadn't tried to reschedule.

As I stood up I felt a little unsteady but resolutely made my way to the office door and out into the hallway to find my way back to an elevator, the parking garage, and my car.  As I started to walk down the hall I realized that I had better sit down.  I looked around.  Blood sample box?  Floor?  Then I realized I might want to look for a bathroom instead.  I remembered seeing one close to the water fountain, but it had a sign on it about getting the key from the doctor's office.  What good is a bathroom that is locked?  I might as well just go back to the doctor's and use their bathroom.

But then it was too late.  Too late to get back to the office's bathroom, too late to find somewhere without carpet, and definitely too late to find that bathroom key.  And so I got to experience my very first episode of pregnancy vomiting right in the middle of the hallway just outside the door to the office.  It was humiliating - after all, adults are supposed to be able to anticipate situations like this a little better and not just upchuck wherever the fancy strikes them.  That's what two year-olds do, not thirty-two year-olds.  There's nothing like leaning over your own mess in a public place with tears streaming down your face to wish for the days where mom took care of your when things like this happened.  Unfortunately, now I'm mom.  At least if I were at home, I would have the privacy of my own bathroom to be miserable in.  But instead I got to surprise the patient after me with a big, bright red fruit punch mess on the floor.  She was kind enough (heck, we've all been there) to go and get a nurse who brought me water and something to wipe my mouth with (after watching me having a few more rounds) and ushered me back to the office and into a room where I could lay down and recover.

Eventually I felt well enough to get myself home (we only have one car so there wasn't going to be anyone who could pick me up) and crawl into that warm, inviting bed that I had been missing for the last several hours.  Where I stayed vomit-free for the rest of my sickness.  Figures.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

So There Was This Thing Called Home Leave

Every time we go on vacation or home leave I always make myself a solemn promise that this time I will keep up with events and actually record them.  And every time I get back to the States and non-stop party with relatives for weeks on end, that promise goes to the winds.

But this time I'll at least make an attempt to acknowledge that yes, we went on home leave, and we went some places and saw lots and lots of snow.  Lots of it.  Too much, really.  I smugly thought that I had escaped the worst of winter with its polar vortex and could slip in at the tail-end and show up for spring.  Wrong.

We started our home leave in southwestern Missouri and where we mooched off visited Brandon's parents for two and a half weeks.  When you have four children and finish your tour at the end of January there's really only so many places you can go that don't cost at least $150 a night, so we were very grateful that Brandon's parents would take us for so long.  My deadbeat parents are in South America for the next three years, so they'll get their turn to host us next time.

The weather started off promising, giving us a beautiful sixty-degree Sunday to get our hopes up before dashing them with twenty-degree days and snow.  I had arranged for a three-day getaway to Kansas City several months before we got to Missouri and Brandon's parents were kind enough to watch the children.  As the day got closer and closer the forecast got more and more snowy.  Eventually I had to move our reservation back a day to avoid the foot of snow that was dumped on the city.

We managed to miss the snow but arrived just in time for a -15 wind chill.  We managed to survive, but I don't remember being that cold since I went night skiing in college.  It didn't help that the city was such a snowy mess that we walked pretty much everywhere.  Next time I visit Kansas City, it won't be in early February.

After saying goodbye to Brandon's parents, we headed next to his brother's house in northwest Missouri where there was more snow waiting for us.  Thankfully his brother's six children had enough snow clothes between them that everyone was able to find something to keep them warm for several days' sledding fun.

When we wore out our welcome at their house, we moved next to his sister's house where the snow was thankfully melting.  Brandon's sister and I are due within two weeks of each other (her sixth, however), so we compared notes on backaches, Braxton-Hicks, and hospital stays while watching the Olympics and eating ice cream every night after the children went to bed.

Then, having no more relatives within driving distance to bother, we broke down and spent a few nights in a hotel.  I had gotten a Groupon deal at an indoor water park in Sandusky, Ohio, so up to the frozen shores of Lake Erie we went for some mid-winter water slide riding.  The water wasn't nearly warm enough for my thin blood, but the children enjoyed themselves anyway, which was the whole point in the first place.

And finally, on the last day of home leave, we drove down to Falls Church and checked into our luxurious Oakwood accommodations.  Where we got snowed on twice in the first week.  Next time, we're taking home leave in July.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It's Been One Week

We moved into Oakwood one week ago this evening and it's been a busy week.  In just one short week we've managed to:
 - break two glasses (that don't belong to us)
 - see friends from both of our previous posts
 - go to the park four times
 - get a personally signed letter from management complaining about the noise we make
 - obtain a library card and check out half of our allowed books in one go (including a bacon cook book)
 - spend four figures on groceries, internet purchases, and Target
 - buy four pounds of bacon
 - unpack all of the suitcases
 - fit four beds (and children) into one bedroom
 - have two days of snow
 - wash ten loads of laundry (in one day)
 - get dinner from Cafe Rio

and I have gotten sick (and mostly recovered).  It's a good thing Brandon's schedule is a lot lighter here.  What we haven't managed to do is get someone to deliver our nine hundred pounds of UAB containing essential items including knives that actually cut food, our big computer, the children's toys, and our school things.  Oh, and the plastic cups.  Those would have been helpful this week.