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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Oh the Fun We've Had!

Last weekend Brandon's brother Seth got married.  Despite being from two large families, Brandon (one of nine) and I (one of five) haven't attended any family weddings (or any, for that matter.  I guess we have even fewer friends than I thought) since we were married over nine years ago.  Brandon had one sister get married two years ago, but she chose to get married on 11-11-11.  Which is a pretty awesome wedding date, but it was just after Joseph was born.  I did point out, however, that I was pregnant before she got engaged and chose a date.  I'm very diplomatic like that.

So when Seth started circulating the possibility that he might be getting married, I started looking up plane tickets to Seattle.  Once, long ago, this would have been a Big Trip.  Seattle, after all, is all of the way on the other side of the continent of North America, three whole time zones away.  My definition of reasonable travel, however, has been warped all out of any reasonability and will continue to go downhill after we spend four days traveling to Dushanbe in a few months.  

But since travel is no thing to me, we very happily planned an extended weekend jaunt to Seattle.  My brother lives in Seattle, so we decided to have a two-for-one and visit him too.  Even before I started pricing out tickets I planned on leaving the four oldest children, and after I started calculating totals into mid-four figures, I definitely wasn't going to bring anyone who required their own seat.  Thankfully my wonderful aunt and her husband (the same aunt who came to my rescue at three am) actually consented to take all four of my crazy little monsters beautiful, well-behaved children for four days and nights.  I won't lie that maybe that was the best part of the whole trip.  I'm even more excited for my little brother to get married in March because I'll get have to be gone even longer.

And as if abandoning my four oldest wasn't enough freedom, I actually joined SitterCity (yup.  Paid the money.  Brandon made me) just so that I could hire a complete stranger (who had a background check) to come and watch Eleanor at our hotel room while we partied at the wedding.  Isn't money a beautiful, wonderful thing?

This was my first six-hour, sit-down dinner, speeches and dances and cake-cutting wedding and I have to say that it was awesome.  Mormons tend to have toned down affairs, more of an in-and-out style reception (Brandon's sister joked that she wanted a drive-through wedding where the guest would hand in the present and someone would hand them back a hotdog) for a variety of reasons, one of them being that we're cheap.  When you have to finance three or four of the things you tend to err on the side of simplicity.  

For this wedding, however, we showed up at 3:00 and didn't leave until after 9:30.  There were speeches (which were all amazingly wonderful.  I really wish that someone had said those things to me at my wedding).  There were toasts.  There were pictures.  There were more speeches.  There was a very tall cake.  And there was dancing.  I had warned Brandon that he wasn't going to get away this time and he didn't believe me.  But he should have.  And now he has no excuse for the next Marine Ball.  We had a great time.

Seth and Emily, of course, were handsome and stunningly beautiful (respectively) and Seth smiled more than all of his brothers combined.  The first time I met Emily was at the Sherwood family reunion in July and I was incredibly impressed when she jumped right into the craziness without batting an eye.  One afternoon I wandered to the upstairs great room to find her deep into a game of Risk with assorted nieces and nephews and nary an adult in sight.  Teagan and I have held the sister-in-law club with just the two of us for the last nine years.  You'd think with six boys we'd have members right and left, but we've stayed small for far too long.  But the wait was worth it.  I can't think of a better fit for Seth and a more wonderful sister-in-law to join the insanity.  Congratulations, Seth and Emily!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kathleen!

Last week Kathleen turned eight.

In a fit of kindness, I declared school to be off in celebration of the day.  We had just been gone the previous week, so what's another day of hooky, right?  As further proof that my brain had been baked too long in the sun I packed everyone up for a morning at the park with a picnic for lunch.

We swung by work and picked up Brandon to play with Kathleen while Sophia and I went birthday present shopping.  Kathleen and her father made a big fort together to pass the time before heading off to a friend's swimming birthday party.

I cooked up Kathleen's favorite meal (bulgur lentil pilaf) to watch in front of her movie of choice (The Princess Bride), but she couldn't wait until later to open her presents.  So we sung "Happy Birthday" with no cake, which was okay because I forgot to buy candles.

I still can't believe that eight years ago she was sleeping in my arms, fresh from the hospital.  I've been grateful to have every single day since then.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pictures by children

A few months ago I bought a small point and shoot camera.  I'm still holding fast against smart phones, so the point and shoot is theoretically supposed to give me a more carry-able option than my big DSLR camera.  That, of course, supposes that I remember to take it around with me and then I have to actually use the thing.

The children, however, are happy to have another camera to steal and use.  Often they start out their photo shoots by asking if they can use the camera and I try to limit the number of pictures taken.  Then they completely ignore me and take as many as they like.  That's how, when I unloaded the camera last night, I had four hundred pictures waiting for me - most of them complete surprises.  It's almost like the days when we had to wait for film to be developed.

Self-portraits are always popular.

Maybe there's a reason our downstairs neighbors complained about 'bumping' and 'thumping.'

Who knew that flash reflected in a TV would be so interesting?

Hey guess what?  When you turn the camera upside down, it takes upside down pictures!!!

Windows, also popular.

And who doesn't like baby feet?

Hey girls! Put that camera away!!  Now!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Beach

Yesterday was our last day at the beach.  We had a pretty good week so far; the weather did not start out promising when we pulled into the house in the middle of a rainstorm.  The drive down, all though uneventful regarding the children, was incredibly unpleasant traffic-wise.

Between an unexpectedly long lunch (note to self: don't go to the Five Guys in Emporia at noon on a Saturday.  And note to Five Guys: put more than one women's bathroom in your restaurant) and random patches of slow and stopped traffic all along I-95, we managed to spend nine hours on what should have taken six hours to drive.

Sunday continued rainy all day and only let up when my little brother Mike put up a prayer so that he could propose to his girlfriend, Adrienne.  Almost my entire extended family was there this year (minus one branch.  We miss you, Pullans!) and we had a dessert function Sunday night.  So Mike thought it might be a good idea to put a ring on Adrienne's finger before the questions got too impertinent and she could could still back out.

But, the weather steadily improved throughout the week and we had a lovely time playing on the beach.  Adrienne really proved herself as a worthy in-law by playing with the children and letting them bury her in the sand one day, complete with seaweed hair and beard ("let's pretend she's a boy, okay?")

I managed to survive reasonably well without Brandon, mostly thanks to Eleanor's willingness to take very long naps while we play outside.  Brandon was so lonely that he actually told me that the house was too quiet.

It's strange to think that we have been coming to the beach since the year I was born (I have more sympathy for my mother now).  I am now re-living my own childhood, but now I'm playing the role of my own mother, right down to the gender mix and number of children.  With our ever-changing life, it's nice to have something to always come back to every summer.  I'm already looking forward to next year.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Oh consumables closet, how I miss thee

A few days ago, Brandon asked me where we kept the extra toilet paper.  I directed him to one of our closets, the catch-all closet that serves as laundry room, toy storage, rubbermaid bin depot, stroller home, paper products repository, and Eleanor's bedroom (but only at night).  He came back a few minutes later, empty handed.  I sent him next to search our bathroom.  Nothing.  The children's bathroom - none there.  Finally he came back from the toy room bathroom with two rolls of toilet paper - all the toilet paper we had in the house.

We're now down to about three quarters of a roll, split between two rolls for two bathrooms.  Sophia just came out of her room to request the other roll that floats between their bathroom and the toy bathroom.  I go to the store in three days, but I don't think we're going to make it that long.  We do have kleenex, however.  And plenty of paper towels.

My mother raised me to always keep backups, and I took her seriously when we moved to Baku and had to take two years of backups with us (although, ironically, we did run out of toilet paper there too).  Whenever we ran out of something - chicken stock, chocolate chips, wheat, Pam, q-tips, toothbrushes - I just had to take a little trip to the third floor and get another one.  I never worried about running out because I had spent a lot of time, money, and Brandon's health making sure that I wouldn't run out.

But now I've gotten lazy and don't remember to check my TP stash before going shopping.  I don't know how many times I've realized that I'm out of some essential household items just after unloading my bi-weekly shopping haul and squirreling it all away.  One memorable evening I went to Target not once, but twice to get something I had forgotten.

Soon enough, however, it will be time to gear back up again.  We leave in four months, and we can ship our 2,500 pounds of essential American products two months before we leave, so that gives me only two months to get everything in order for two years of toilet paper, brown sugar, toothpaste (we got through that a lot quicker than I thought we would), wheat, black beans, and printer paper.  Friday morning I was researching the cost per square foot at various retailers for Charming Strong and cost per ounce of Colgate whitening toothpaste.  When you're buying a two year-supply of those things, costs add up so it pays to do your research.

It still feels like we have forever to go before we head out - we just passed our halfway mark after all - but it sneaks up on you when packing your suitcases is just the last step in a months-long process.  All of our passports expired in June, Eleanor doesn't even have a passport (but she now has a birth certificate as of this week), we have to get visas and shots, schedule flights, schedule hotel rooms in Germany, purchase and schedule a shipment for all of that toilet paper, our UAB, the HHE we've picked up in Virginia, and oh don't forget four days of traveling.

And in August we have a week of beach, Brandon's friend visiting, his brother's wedding to attend in Seattle, and somewhere in there Eleanor has to get blessed and Kathleen baptized (for which I ordered the fabric to make the dress yesterday).

But in the end it will all get worked out as it always does.  Even though I like to complain about all of the to-do we go through in our migratory lifestyle, secretly I wonder how stationary people live their lives without regularly scheduled excitement to break up the monotony of every day life.  If I ever sigh to myself about some aspect of my life that irritates, I always perk up and remember that if I just wait long enough it will change.  And of course it does.

One day, however, I'll actually settle down and then I'll have to remember to buy my Charmin on a regular schedule instead of in two-year increments.  That might take some time to get used to.