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Friday, October 31, 2014

Shots in the rain, again

Last Wednesday was shot day and so it rained.  The Wednesday before was also shot day and so it also rained.  As Brandon works for the Federal government, we have semi-socialized medicine (thank you, all of you faithful tax-payers!) and have to go to FSI, where Brandon has class, to get our pre-departure shots.  Kathleen's the only one who has had a full course of rabies shots, so we still have more round of shots before everything is finished up.  While we already in for rabies, we get some extra ones thrown in for good measure.  I'm not sure what they are, but it's always good to be efficient about getting poked.  I've already got my sleeves rolled up, so poke away.  The children don't mind because they get a lollipop for each poke.  More pokes means more lollipops!

Going anywhere with five children is always a circus, and going anywhere with five children in the rain is a monkey circus, but the goat-rope monkey circus award goes to going to FSI with five children in the rain.  Why is it that nobody else ever has any children at the same time I'm parading my five look-alikes through the hallway?  Brandon always walks fast, but it's never fast enough to evade the stares.

So last Wednesday it was raining, hard.  We owned two umbrellas before coming to Virginia, but Joseph pulled them out of the UAB pile when we were separating items to be sent here.  When we got to Virginia, our two umbrellas were in Belgium.  Now we own three umbrellas (all black), but only one is currently in Virginia.  Since I carry the baby (whose car seat shade-thingy is missing) I got the umbrella and the other children trailed behind me, ducky-style with their hoods pulled up.

I had been late for the last shot appointment, so I made extra sure to get everyone out of the house on time.  Well, almost on time.  We would have been pretty close to being on time if I hadn't missed the light, missed the turn, and had to pull a U in order to wait at the light again.  After showing the guard my ID and placing it on the seat next to me, I barreled down the road to visitor parking and almost ran into Brandon, waiting in the rain to tell me that visitor parking (all five spots) was full.

He hopped into the car and we circled the parking lots along with five or six other cars looking for open spots in the rain.  I could see that anything remotely close wouldn't be open, so I dropped by the entrance and ordered everyone out to wait inside while I trekked back alone, with the umbrella.  After ten minutes of circling (and now fifteen minutes late for our appointment), I finally gave up and parked illegally.  Everyone else was doing it, so I gave into peer pressure.  After all, who would be towing in the FSI parking lot?

I muttered curses against the trees and verdant lawns that hadn't been paved over for parking as I hiked the half-mile back to the entrance where Brandon and the five children were patiently waiting.  Brandon didn't say anything as I dug into my purse to retrieve my wallet.  That was sitting back in the car.  So then I took my turn patiently waiting while Brandon got to double my own trip, in the rain, with no umbrella.  He returned a few minutes later, panting, my red wallet in hand.  I reached for my license, which was still on the passenger's seat.

There are times in marriage where it's just better when both parties say nothing at all, so I waited again, patiently, while Brandon went back out in the rain, with no umbrella.

Thankfully nothing else was going on in the med clinic, so we all recovered from the soaking while watching old episodes of Friends.  I think that Beauty and Beast would have been more audience appropriate, but I don't think my children were interested enough to ask about various jokes.  I watched, fascinated that Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox's hairstyle and clothes were ever considered attractive - by me, no less.

Eight pokes and six lollipops later we were done.  The travel office is just down the hall from the med office so we stopped in to schedule our plane tickets.  Did you know that mileage plus members flying from Dulles to Dushanbe via Frankfurt and Istanbul can earn 7,134 miles?  Eleanor just joined mileage plus last week, that means that our family can earn 49,938 miles in one trip.  Not too shabby.

Brandon decided that taking all of the goat-rope monkey circus out in the rain to trek a half mile back to the car was a bad idea, so he dashed out for his third trip in the rain to our Golden Sienna-Van.  I waited patiently with the children, watching the clock and wondering, as the time ticked from five minutes to ten if maybe there were tow trucks prowling the FSI lots looking for foolish crowd-followers who park in white-stripey places.  I pulled out my phone to think about calling Brandon just as it started ringing.  Apologies on my tongue, ready to promise good behavior for the next month, I answered it.  "I'm just outside."

Relieved, I shepherded the goat-rope monkey circus outside and into various carseats.  As I finally climbed into my own seat and buckled in, I caught The Eye from Brandon.  I figured it couldn't be too bad, considering that he was driving the car, but I pretended nonchalance as I asked about his return trip.

"Everything okay?" I smiled, "You really could have taken the umbrella, you know."

"Welllllllll," he drew it out, focusing The Eye on me.  "It all ended well.  But you'd better be lucky that I run so fast and was able to beat the white truck that boots all of the cars that are foolish enough to park in illegal spaces."

And then he went back to driving.  I kept sitting.  And we stayed quiet for awhile.

Maybe next time we'll just take the Oakwood shuttle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eleanor, almost six months

So Eleanor is almost six months old.  If she was my first child I would be counting in weeks, days, hours, and minutes, but since she's my fifth, we'll just call her six months old.  

I remember thinking that Kathleen was an enormous giant that was about ready to head off to college when she was six months old.  She was hardly even a baby anymore!  I blinked in May and now I have a six month old baby.  It's pretty shocking.

After acting the punk for her first two months she's really settled down to a happy, smiling baby who is completely relaxed about pretty much anything.  I was resigned to giving up our adventure Saturdays until next year, having to work around baby naps, but Eleanor just rolls with whatever we're up to - camping, hiking, or just going to the playground with friends.  I carry her around in my carrier (thank you, Laura, for that recommendation so many years ago) and she falls asleep when she gets tired and the adventure continues.  When we're home she is kind enough to sleep through most (and sometimes all) of school and go to bed before I get dinner started.  I don't think that I could ask for a better baby.  

Every evening when it's my bedtime I feed Eleanor one last time.  Then Brandon and I sit around and admire just how darn cute she is.  I think that I could sit and watch her all day.  I'm probably biased but I think that she might just be the cutest baby ever.

I'm not looking forward to spending four days traveling halfway across the world with a six month-old baby, especially one that has just discovered that the best cure for boredom is to make continual high-pitched baby squeals interspersed with coughing, but I'm pretty sure that we'll all make it there intact.  Because, after all, nobody can stay irritated very long with a baby that is just so cute.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Welcome to Crazy Town

We have just a tad over three weeks left before we hop on a long sequence of airplanes that will eventually deliver us to Dushanbe.  So far I've managed to keep a lid on the Crazy, (mostly) keeping to our normal schedule and fitting in all of the necessary pre-departure administrative items around regular life.  Brandon and I started a checklist and have been steadily marking tasks off to make room for new items.  I checked the initial date on our list a few days ago and realized that we've been working on leaving since the first week of August.

So far we've gotten new passports for everyone (that was a fun dog-and-pony show to take down to Main State), gotten our Tajiki visas, renewed our medical clearances, gotten Eleanor medically cleared, added Eleanor to Brandon's orders, booked plane tickets, booked two hotel rooms in Frankfurt, had two of our three shot appointments, bought consumables, shipped consumables, scheduled our packout, hired a financial planner (to manage the loads of cash we make in our high-class lifestyle), taken everyone but Eleanor to the dentist and half of us to the optometrist, repaired our camera and shoes, and hung out with a variety of friends and family.  It's been busy.

But now life's about to get serious.  I feel that I've actually done a pretty good job of managing the multitude of tiny details; my native tendency is to seriously underestimate the amount of time it takes to get everything done (really, how hard is it to book a few tickets, right?) and then forget about the twenty pre-steps that pop up when you're trying to get one thing done.  Which inevitably leads to complete disaster and all semblance of normal life ceasing for much longer than is healthy for the children and their long-term education.

Life I said, however, this time I listened to my husband's advice (yes, we all get smarter over time) and I really feel like I've got the meta-situation under control.

But it doesn't matter how well you've prepared, eventually three weeks is three weeks is three weeks and life just gets crazy because you can't fit in all of the things that have to be done in around the edges of your normal life.  So next week is our last week of normal life - we'll have school, visit the library, go to the park, spend some time with friends, and enjoy the last week of consistently cooked dinner.  Then, normal life gets packed away for at least four weeks (yes, all of you who know better, I'm being optimistic) while Crazy Town is in session.

Although Crazy Town is, by its very name and nature, crazy and therefore kind of exhausting and pretty unsettling, it has its own appeal.  While we're living in CT, long lasting issues (how are those piles of cash doing?  What about the long-term emotional health of current problem child?  And Ebola?) don't have to be dealt with because we're so busy sorting through piles of crap stuff that has found our apartment and hidden in drawers and closets so it can jump out and scare us two days before the movers show up.  In Crazy Town, nutrition no longer exists (pancakes! again!!), along with healthy sleep needs.  And all of those AAP guidelines about screen time?  They don't apply at all.  The more screen time, the more suitcases I can pack in peace.

By the time we get to Dushanbe, detox from jet-lag, unpack suitcases, figure out how to cook without having to resort to our welcome kit knives, and get some more sleep I'll be ready to leave Crazy Town behind and get back to a life where I have to cook dinner every night, teach school every day, and get up at five every morning.  So it works out pretty well.

But that time is more than a month, several continents, and over seven thousand miles away.  So for now, welcome to Crazy Town!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Camping and Camping

Did I tell you that we went camping again?  No?  Well, we did.  And then we did it again.  But now we're done for the year (only four weekends left) and our stuff is rolled up and waiting to be shipped halfway across the world.

A few weekends ago we went to a state park on the Shenandoah river.  While not as beautiful in a mountain sense (I think that really the only place to camp is the mountains) as the National Forest a few miles away, it did have a lot more stinkbugs to crawl into our tent and scare Kathleen into a whimpering mess.

The trip was a reasonable success (nobody got hurt, it didn't rain), but we realized that camping is a lot more fun when you bring other adults that don't have children.  Then you are somewhat distracted from having to take care of five children outside in a public place.  And then the children can get distracted by the other adults and not swarm you while you're trying to roll up six different sleeping bags.  

We also sorely missed the songstress/game leader/cheerful presence of my cousin's wife, especially when we were about a quarter mile into our four-mile hike and the only response I could think of when the inevitable whining started was 'quit whining because you're driving me crazy!'  Also, when there are witnesses around, you're less likely to commit physical violence upon your whining/fighting/arguing/yelling/crying children.  Just sayin'.

Last weekend we went camping again with my Aunt and Uncle.  The plan was to try our luck on a first come, first serve camping spot in Shenandoah National Forest, which was evidently the plan of everyone else on the east coast because every single campground in the entire park was full by the time we got to them.  So instead we drove the entire 105 miles of Skyline Drive before exiting the park and finding a commercial campground to sleep for the night.  Not quite as atmospheric, but there was a playground.  

We had a beautiful hike the next day, which was made even better by having two adults to take turns carrying Joseph when he decided (about twenty feet in) that hiking really wasn't his thing but being carried certainly is.  I've realized that it's generally not the baby that causes problems on these outings, it's the two year-old.  

The next time we go camping, it will be on another continent in a country where there is no such thing as a campground.  While I'll certainly miss having running water and especially toilets, I do look forward to not having to camp next to anyone but the sheep.  There's something to be said for being away from the rest of humanity when you have five children who occasionally fight and might sometimes have to be loudly reprimanded for it.  Just sayin'.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mt. Vernon, With Friends

I am a very bad tourist.  Since we've gotten to DC in late February, Brandon and I have taken the children to see one (1) point of historical or touristical notice - the Museum of Natural History.  This is the exact same museum we took them to last time we saw something of note in the area - which was three years ago, during the Arab Spring evacuation.

We have, however, seen a lot of parks and gone camping three times.  So that's something.

Recently I reconnected with a good friend from high school who is now living in Richmond.  It turns out that she also has five children, all about the same ages as mine.  We almost got the same gender mix, only getting out of sync on the last children, who were born within two weeks of each other.  And since she homeschools her children (with the same curriculum we use) we decided that a reunion/field trip would be in order as soon as we recovered from the babies.

So a few weeks ago I got to play tourist and meet up with her and her own five children at Mt. Vernon.  I think that perhaps I could hear George Washington rolling over in his grave when we all showed up.

Thankfully, my friend's mom was in town so we had three adults versus ten children eight and under, which was a slightly better ratio.  I was very grateful that most of the day was outside and the weather was cloudy so that there were much fewer people to give our rowdy children the stink-eye as they tore around the estate.

We didn't help much because we were too busy catching up and comparing notes.  It's funny how you can not see some friends in over a decade and pretty much catch up right where you left off.  We were of similar mindsets and temperaments in high school and it was pretty obvious that things hadn't changed very much.  

I don't remember that much about the actual historical side, but I do remember having a great time and being surrounded by a continual swirl of motion and chaos that drifted around us as we strolled through the grounds.  Like I said, it was a good thing we came on a cloudy October weekday.

By the end of seven or eight hours together (we only left because it was closing), we decided that we had to do it again before I took off to the other side of the world.  Hooray for friends and hooray for history!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

...And Kathleen is Never Getting a Smart Phone

Girlfriend is already too fond of selfies as it is.  I shudder to think what would happen if she got her hands on an internet connection and Instagram account.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Last Six Weeks, or "Oh shoot! I forgot to do that and that and that and that..."

As of Monday, we officially have six weeks less in America.  Yesterday while shopping at Costco (where I got to make two trips with a lunch break in between) I realized that I was probably buying my last quart of Land O' Lakes cream for the next several years.  It's always sad when you start reaching the 'last of' stage before moving.  I'm really going to miss bulk amounts of... everything.

We've known about our impending departure for quite some time now, but somehow nine months feels like an eternity and six months is quite a lot time and four months is probably too early to start things but two months - wait!  That's only eight weeks!  And suddenly travel orders need to be changed and shots scheduled and pack-outs (yes, that's with an 's') arranged and consumables purchased and medical clearances updated and plane tickets scheduled and passports renewed and visas obtained and hotel rooms reserved and shuttles booked and luggage purchased and shoes repaired and doctor's appointments scheduled and cameras fixed and laptops obtained and eventually, finally, at long last, at the very end, all fourteen suitcases packed.

It's a lot to do.

And then, of course, just like that cream will no longer be available in a month and a half, neither will we.  And the cousins and aunts and uncles and former co-workers and friends and former roommates and future co-workers random people that you've been meaning to see over the last several months need to all be fit into the next six weeks.

So if you're dying to see me?  Let me know.  The weekends are almost gone, but we still have a few weeknights available.  I've never felt so popular.

But right now I'm in a good spot, emotionally.  We're leaving far enough away that it still seems possible to get everything done in an orderly fashion and I can still enjoy my cream a little while longer (note to self: eat more ice cream).  But it's still soon enough that I can start to really anticipate finally getting on that plane (or rather, finally getting off that plane).  I'm busy enough that I'm not bored, but not too busy that I'm feeding everyone cold cereal for dinner every night.

Of course in about four weeks, I'll be a crazy lady, trying to get everything done and cram one last visit and date and movie and park and library in before it's too late.

Until then, however, you can find me in the ice cream aisle at the local Safeway.  Mmmmm, mint chocolate chip....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Just call her four-eyes

Brandon and I both have glasses.  I got my first pair in fourth grade and Brandon got his in high school.  I remember having to strain more and more each week to read my teacher's handwriting up on that fuzzy trapezoid of light cast by the overhead projector in the stuffy darkness of twenty-five bored children learning about the nine planets (back when there were nine) of the solar system.  It was months before I finally confessed to my mother that I might need glasses, shamed with my inability to see.

So when Kathleen asked what hymns we were singing in church and I directed her to the handy large numbers on the wall that told her and she admitted to not being able to read them, I wasn't surprised.  She's been reading in the semi-dark for years now (crazy to think that it's been over four years now) and it was just a matter of time before she needed glasses.

Being lazy, I just waited until her eight year-old check up.  Pediatric care has gotten fancy since I was a child and instead of the chart on the wall, the nurse now takes a magic picture of the child's eyes which magically tells me that - guess what - your child needs to go see a professional and your life just got a little more expensive.

The problem with children is that when they come out they're not too expensive to keep - a few diapers, some onesies, maybe a toy or too - and so you have another one and maybe another one too as long as you're having them.  And then by the time they start needing things like glasses and braces it's too late and you have five children and they rest are likely to be just as, if not more, expensive as the first.  And I'm not going to even think about thinking about college.  Hopefully they'll be too dumb to go to college.

So last week Kathleen and I trotted down to Target and visited with the eye doctor that confirmed that yes, Kathleen was definitely in need of glasses.  Kathleen was ecstatic.  We had a fun time trying all the pairs of children's glasses sitting on the cool white pedestals, just begging to add some hipster to your child's life.

After a few days, Kathleen's glasses were ready.

I don't even want to think about braces.