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Friday, May 29, 2015

It's the most tastiest time of the year

Once upon a time I wasn't aware of seasons.  I was aware of the weather seasons - it's pretty hard not to notice that part of the year it was snowing and part of the year it was really really hot - but not aware of food seasons.  When you can get strawberries any time of the year, why would you ever think that there was such thing as a strawberry season?  Aren't they always available?  And if they're not actually growing out of the ground, then there's some magical storage place that can keep them indefinitely so that I can have strawberries on my pancakes in January.

I knew that sometimes you couldn't get cherries but I wasn't quite sure why that was.  Sometimes there are cherries and sometimes there aren't.  That just how cherries are - much more finicky than the always available strawberry.

Then I moved to countries that were very far away from Chile and California.  Egypt wasn't too bad - tomatoes grow in the field in January - but there were still definitely seasons.  Mango season, the best season in the entire world, only comes once a year, so when those green globes of happiness start appearing, you'd better eat them until you are sick.

Baku was more restricted than Cairo, but they still access to a warmer climate - Iran - to stretch out their seasons.

But Dushanbe, well, it's a little isolated.  It's so isolated, in fact, that it costs on average twenty-five percent more to ship things here than any other country in the world.  They do have access to produce shipped in from Afghanistan, but last time I checked, Afghanistan wasn't really known as the California of Central Asia.

We moved here in November, pretty much the end of any growing season.  I prepared for this by shipping lots and lots and lots of canned tomatoes.  You can actually buy tomatoes year-round - evidently tomatoes are a staple food everywhere in the entire world (what did they do before Columbus?) - but they get pretty expensive and pretty mealy in the middle of winter.

For our fruit neds, we have been existing on oranges and apples since November.  In the fall I could find some kiwi and pears, but they've been long gone for quite some time.  As the winter has progressed, the apples have gotten mealier and mealier and the oranges mushier and mushier.  Even though I made sure the children got some fruit with lunch, I stopped eating apples when they practically fell to pieces at the touch of a knife.

Then, finally, at the end of April, the strawberries started appearing.  A few years ago I decided that my luxury food item isn't nice cuts of meat, seafood, or fancy cheeses, it's in season fruits and vegetables.  When strawberries only come once a year, I don't care how much they cost, I'm eating strawberries until I can't stand the sight of them any more.

Strawberry season is about at its end, but that's okay.  Because we're in the middle of apricots - oh how I love fresh apricots - and cherries.  Just this week I've bought four kilos of cherries alone.  When we first saw apricots while out for a hike, I bought two kilos on Monday.  They were gone by Tuesday afternoon.  Soon come plums, followed by peaches, then apples and pomegranates, grapes and pears.  I've been mentally mapping all of the blackberry patches in the neighborhood and watching the buds and then flowers appear, counting the months until blackberry season.

Some friends have a mulberry tree in the yard.  They are gone for the summer, so were happy to lend us their keys.  The children and I made our first trip to pick on Thursday.  After all of the eating, we picked and froze a gallon.  On Saturday I took Brandon and we picked a gallon and a half more.  I have plans for another trip this week.  Because who can turn down free fruit?

I know that in a few months all of the delicious abundant summer produce will be gone and we'll be back to bleak winter mealy apples and mushy oranges.  But right now it's the season of abundant deliciousness.  Mealy apples are a distant memory and a theoretical future.  Now is the time of never ending fresh, tasty produce.  Time to eat until we black out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Birthday Saturday

At some point in the last eight years, we started a family tradition of Birthday Saturdays.  I think maybe it was a way to avoid spending money for anything but special occasions, or maybe it was my guilty subconscious compensating for our anti-birthday party policy.  So we decided that in addition to celebrating birthdays on the actual days, we also have a special family activity that costs money.  With seven birthdays in the family, it works out to a lot of birthday celebrations.

For Sophia's birthday Brandon and I decided to go to the "Central Garden," an amusement park a mile or two from our house.  The children have been ogling it every since they saw the Ferris wheel on our first drive to the embassy.  It is only open in the summer months and so we hadn't had an opportunity to try it out until recently.

I thought it would be fun (and easier than cooking) to take everyone out to dinner at a nearby tapchan restaurant that I had scoped out while driving around the city.  Brandon pointed out that we had just recovered from intestinal issues, but I'm a gambler at heart.  The restaurant served a local specialty, yogurt with flaky bread soaked in it and tomatoes and spices on top.  Brandon had heard good things about the dish so he decided to try it out.  

The children, after one fourth of a bite, declared it not so good, and nibbled at the cucumbers and sambusas while trying to drink as much juice as possible.  Eleanor tried to crawl all over the table and Joseph tried to loll everywhere while unintentionally kicking at the food.  Brandon manfully ate everyone's portions and some while I tried to amuse Eleanor with my phone, a bottle, a spoon, a cup, and diapers.  She still was somewhat dehydrated so I gave her some water, which promptly came back up along with her lunch all over the nice green cushions.  Brandon made sure to give the waiter a very big tip before we hastily retreated.

But, not being ones who were stopped by a little vomit, we went home and changed the baby before heading over to the amusement park.  The children started out on the bouncy slide.  Well, Sophia, Kathleen, and Edwin started out on the bouncy slide.  Joseph watched.  He got up his courage to try it a few times, but couldn't ever bring himself to climb up to the top.

Eleanor watched.  All the rides.

The children rode this exact same ride in Georgia.  I also saw the double of a ride the children rode in Baku.  Evidently everyone gets their tacky fiberglass rides from the same place.

Why children enjoy riding in fiberglass contraptions that spin and play "Mambo Number Five" is completely beyond me.  At least it was cheap.

Bumper cars, I can understand a little more.  Because, bumper cars!  Who doesn't like motorized crashes?

Poor Sophia could never quite get the hang of driving her car in anything but backward circles.  Eventually one of the park workers took pity on her and, after removing a sobbing Joseph (the bumping part wasn't his favorite), drove her around.  Kathleen, on the other hand, was in love.  Edwin, too.

After ice cream - nothing beats ice cream for the whole family for less than $1 - we rode the Ferris wheel.

Brandon hates heights and abhors dangerous situations with children.  Combine those and you've got a Ferris wheel.  The view was nice, but I don't think he saw any of it.

Joseph, however, approved.

We finally left around dusk, after two hours of fun fun fun.  The grand total for our outing - dinner and the park - came to a whopping $38.  With three more years - and all of the birthdays that will come during those years - I imagine we'll probably be returning to the Bogi Poitakht.  Maybe by the end we'll even get to ride some of the fun rides.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sophia!

This week Sophia turned seven.  I'm so used to thinking of her as my little girl, I can hardly believe that she is seven years old.  Seven really isn't so little any more - it's only a year away from being baptized.  I remember my uncle, as we were looking at two week-old Kathleen scrunched into her enormous carseat, telling me she looked so little then, but it wouldn't be too long before she was graduating from high school and leaving me.

Sophia was Eleanor's age when we joined the Foreign Service and now she's seven years old.  It really feels like it has maybe been a year or two.  Funny how time does that to you.

Sophia's birthday was, yet again, not quite what it should have been.  Brandon had stayed up until five that morning getting Pedialyte into Eleanor before succumbing himself.  I had stayed up until one thirty keeping him company, so we had a relaxed morning (no school on your birthday!) while I got a nap.

Then Sophia and I went to the grocery store for dinner supplies - eggs benedict as always - and some snacks.  We came home and picked up everyone minus the sickies and went to the embassy to play on the playground.  After dinner was cake ice cream (Sophia swore she would rather have ice cream than cake) and the best part, presents!

Presents always make any sub-par birthday better, right?  

Sophia continues to be a joy in our family.  She is kind to her younger siblings and often comes to me asking for work because she's bored.  She always (mostly) wants to do the right thing and is often the peacemaker when Kathleen gets bent out of shape about something.  I'm pretty glad to have her.

Happy Birthday, Sophia!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Adventure Monday (with Pictures!)

Last Monday was a holiday, so we did the same thing we do every holiday - we went hiking!  Now that Brandon's extension has gone through, I'm really looking forward to having three more years exploring all of the hikes we can find, and even having enough time to revisit our favorites.  I can hear (fill in child's name) regaling their college roommates with tales of Tajikistan.  "And every. single. weekend. we went hiking!  My parents were the worst. parents. ever.  I thought I was going. to. die.  I am sooo glad to be in America, where there are cool things to do."

We I decided to head east this time, into the Romit valley. I had read about a hike our Tajikistan book and talked Brandon into another wild goose chase.  If I had to write directions to the hike, they would go like this: "Drive east out of Dushanbe.  When the road forks, go through the archway that says 'Romit' (in Cyrillic, of course).  Drive until just before the pavement ends.  This takes longer than it would seem.  Sometimes the pavement gets lost under mud and ruts, but it hasn't truly ended.  Keep going until you reach a big(ish) village.  Turn left in the village - the only left turn you can make - and wander around until road ends in between a stone wall and hillside.  Then start hiking.  Oh, and be careful going over the bridges.  Some of them aren't in very good shape."

"Also, watch out for the massive herds of goats."

We got to the trailhead late (we had to swing by the embassy to gas up the car and then get it jumped after the battery died), so didn't hike as far as I'd planned, but it was still a very pleasant hike.

Edwin is going to regret this picture in about a decade.

And this one, too.

Kathleen is thinking about her coming entry into 'moody pre-teen' territory.

I think they were looking at sticks.  Because, you know.  Sticks.  

Every hike has a different feel.  This was in a river valley which was strewn with rocks.  Good for throwing in the water.

Eleanor is thinking how grass feels funny on her legs.

And it isn't a hike without some stream crossing.

Everyone pretending to smile for the camera.  

The end.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stop the Vomiting!

Did I ever mention that I hate vomit?  It's not so bad that I sympathy vomit or run out of the room in terror like Kathleen does any time someone makes an allusion to it, but I really don't like vomit.   At all.  Ever.

In the last five days Edwin, Sophia, and Eleanor have vomited more times together than I have in the last twenty years of my life.  Brandon and I have washed six sets of sheets, four blankets, countless washcloths, a pillow, a sleeping bag, two pairs of my pants, three sets of Edwin's pajamas, Sophia's pajamas, all of Eleanor's clothes, seven or eight bowls, the kitchen floor, the bathroom floor, Eleanor's floor, Eleanor's crib, Eleanor's changing table, Eleanor's wall, Edwin's bunk bed, the study couch, my favorite brown chair, and the boys' carpet - twice.

When I bought a carpet cleaner several years ago, Brandon wondered if we really needed yet another appliance to fill up our weight allowance.  We have used it seven times in the last four days - four of those times in the last twenty-four fours.  Now the carpet cleaner is his very favorite appliance in the entire house.  At the first sound of the telltale splash, he starts trudging up (or down) the stairs to hook up all of the hoses and top up the never-empty water tank.  The children't don't even come running when the noise starts up - they know.

Everything started Wednesday night.  We had gotten fresh strawberries and everyone gorged themselves at lunch.  Strawberry season only comes once a year here and so when it's strawberry time, everyone eats as much as they want before the strawberries are gone until next spring.  Edwin had a great time, eating at least a pound all on his own.  That afternoon he started complaining of a stomach ache.  During bed time story, he almost made it to the toilet in my room, but not quite.

He quickly went to sleep after that, on the floor with a bowl, just in case.  While relaxing with Brandon a little while later, I heard Edwin start screaming and Joseph shouting something about throw up.  I opened the door just in time for Edwin to get his second bout all over me.  Then I started screaming.  I'd always hoped to avoid having someone else's vomit on me, but I suppose eight and a half years of parenting was probably stretching my luck a little too thin.

The next day was my turn.  I never did actually throw up, but by the tenth trip to just hang out in the bathroom, I wished that I had just gotten things done the easy way.  I never even made it down to dinner that night - I think that Snickers bar is a very fine meal replacement.  Aren't peanuts legumes?  And chocolate does have dairy in it, so that's two basic food groups.

Friday I spent most of the day in bed, recovering from Thursday's ordeal.  Kathleen and Sophia kept things running well enough that I was able to watch almost all of season five of Downton Abbey on Thursday and get well into a Neal Stephenson novel on Thursday.  I'm glad that I never ever have to go back the very young children part of my life.

That evening Edwin and Sophia both started complaining about stomach aches.  Both got bowls and an early bed time.  Sophia used hers first, and properly.  I've never understood the beauty of a child who can manage their own vomit before Sophia showed my how wonderful it is.  No sheets to wash, no carpets to scrub.  Just back rubbing, water-fetching, and sympathetic noises.  I can do that.  She even got it done before Brandon and I started our movie for that night, The Imitation Game.  I love that girl.

Right about the time Alan was meeting Judy the first time, Joseph came running out of his room.  "Throw up!  Edwin's thrown up!!"  We went running in.  Edwin had moved back to the top bunk, so he had more height from which to spread the joy.  I hauled down Edwin's sheets and blanket and along with Joseph's sheets and blankets and added them to the growing pile of laundry.  Brandon started scraping off the bunk bed frame before pulling out his trusty carpet cleaner.  Edwin headed for the shower.

Brandon and I finished our movie before going to bed.

Saturday morning started with Eleanor in the bath and all of her clothes, blankets, and sheets in the laundry pile.  After cleaning up the floor, wall, and crib frame, Brandon opened the windows in a vain attempt to clear out the diarrhea/vomit smell.

I cancelled our invitation to a friend's birthday party.  We all stayed home.  Between getting some more work in on Neal Stephenson and napping, I changed Eleanor's diapers and cleaned up her vomit.  It's times like that when I'm grateful for the back-up stash of disposable diapers I keep for emergencies.  And four sets of crib sheets.

Today we had church.  Sophia and Kathleen (who had escaped the vomit, but not the fever) were feeling better.  Edwin looked a little down.  Joseph was still as chipper as ever.  Eleanor had breakfast and then around lunch decided that really, food wasn't her thing after all.  After one nap, I found her in a pool of vomit with a dirty diaper.  Maybe she just coughed a little too hard and it went flying out both ends?

Edwin tried to finish his dinner, but couldn't make it before everything came right back up again.  Thankfully the kitchen floor has no carpet.  Brandon fetched the carpet cleaner - those things work really well for hardwood floors too - and Edwin headed upstairs for the bath.  Eleanor joined him.  I rotated another load of laundry.

I've always felt, in the sickie aspect of parenting, that I've gotten a little too lucky.  Friends regale me with tales of multiple children at the same time - the best story ever from a friend in Cairo who flew back by herself with all five of her children for her college graduation and ended the trip sitting in a pool of vomit surrounded by four vomiting children while the fifth slept peacefully through the entire ordeal.  Every time I've wondered how I would be able to handle such a horrid personal nightmare.  Sure, I've had kids vomit every now and then, but not too often and only ever one at a time.

Now, I feel like I've graduated to Real Parent status - at least in the sickie category.  I can tell stories with the best of them and clean up vomit while covered in it without even batting an eye.  It's not necessarily an area that I really aspired to gain great heights in, but it's done now.  But for now, however, I'm happy with Real status.  No Professional any time soon, thanks.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The perfect Saturday afternoon

Saturday morning started out well.  It started after seven, with no children waking me up, only cheerful morning sunshine.  After cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs for breakfast, Brandon and I cleaned the car with Joseph and Edwin 'helping.'  Joseph helped by not getting in the way, busily driving us all to Tajikistan.  I'm not sure where he starts his journeys from these days, but every single one ends in Tajikistan.

My housekeeper came around eleven to take the girls to a relative's wedding party.  The communication between us is minimal, so I'm never quite sure what is going on when she takes my children to various places.  All I know is that she seems happy to take them along, and the children are having a fantastic opportunity for cultural immersion.  Maybe they'll end up less culturally uninterested than their mother.

After the car was cleaned and the smaller children put to bed for naps, I put myself to bed.  There are few things more luxurious than a Saturday afternoon nap.  I spend some time browsing Facebook, reading all of the links I never have time for, before drifting off to sleep without any commitments or alarms to wake me.

The girls returned in the early afternoon, full of tales about fancy dresses and headpieces with two-foot long feathers on top.  Everyone had treated them nicely and the food was delicious too.  It was so much fun, and how fancy those dresses were!

The afternoon was pleasant and sunny, so Brandon and I decided to have a picnic dinner in the botanical gardens.  I love living in a society that takes picnic-ing very seriously.  Grass is not sacred here, and the whole garden is free to anyone with a blanket and something to snack on.  After Cairo and Baku, where nobody would walk on the grass any sooner than they would walk on the flowers, it's nice to be with reasonable people again.

I used to view picnics as an opportunity to make all of the tasty picnic foods that I never eat - deviled eggs, hummus, baba ghanoush, fruit salad, cookies, and whatever tasty things take to long for normal meals - and would spend all day cooking for a picnic.  So we never had picnics.  Who wants to have a picnic when it takes days to plan it?  Now I pride myself on the speed I can put together a picnic.  After all, who wants to spend all day cooking when you can buy things that someone else already cooked?

Our corner grocery store has a man who sells chickens roasting in the rotisserie oven behind his cracked plastic chair.  Brandon hands him 25 somoni (four dollars) and he grabs a chicken off its spit, bags it up, and hands it back to Brandon.  I buy hot bread from the grocery store behind the rotisserie oven for 1 somoni a round, and with the addition of cucumber and tomato salad, we have dinner.  It may not be gourmet and it isn't exactly nutritionally balanced, but it's dinner that takes me ten minutes.

So after loading a blanket, dinnerware, water, and the children into our red double baby jogger, we stopped to exchange money for dinner before making our way to the botanical gardens.  The evening was pleasant, in the upper seventies, and half of Dushanbe was out to enjoy the weather.  We got many smiles, several thumbs up (I love living in countries where five children is something commendable instead of embarrassing), and no requests for pictures.  Tajiks are friendly, but usually not intrusive.  I love Tajiks.

We found our own spot of grass, laid out the blanket, and enjoyed the supreme pleasure of dining in the gently fading air of a late spring day.  Horse carriages, filled with locals out for a ride in the pleasant evening, clopped by, and children played on the exercise equipment scattered through the gardens.  Parents sat and chatted as their children played.  Everyone enjoyed spring and the prospect of no winter for months to come.

Only a few cups of soda were spilled before the children finished and ran off to play themselves.  I love living in a place where everyone watches out for each other and all children are safe because everyone cares about them.  Brandon and I finished picking the chicken carcass clean and fed Eleanor, banned to the stroller after spilling soda over herself, her blanket, and the picnic blanket, before packing up the things.  We gathered the children and strolled through the garden as twilight set in.  The grass was vividly green and spikes of snapdragons thrust pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges into the gathering dusk.  We stopped to visit the peacocks and I marveled, as always, that they are able to walk with such long, extravagant tails.

On our walk home we stopped to watch as several men finished felling the last twenty feet of a tree that had died.  As the stump crashed to the ground, we all clapped and laughed to see it bounce off another tree and finally come down after so much chopping and pulling.  The men came to the fence and shook hands as everyone smiled, full of Saturday evening bonhomie.  As Brandon and I strolled, talking of nothing, Kathleen and Edwin ran along the mostly empty sidewalk, full of Saturday evening air.

Our last stop was at one of the ubiquitous soft-serve machines that crop up like mushrooms when warm weather sets in.  I like a culture that values their summer evening treats.  When we saw sugar cones in the vendor's plastic bin, Brandon splurged and spent double - a little less than two dollars - on all six of our cones.  We strolled through the quiet neighborhood streets as the ice cream dripped down Joseph's hand, his tongue unable to keep up with the weather.  I kindly made up the difference for him.  When we got home, everyone took to the swings or the jungle gym to savor just a few more minutes of being together in the perfect evening air.  I pushed Joseph high as I could make him go while he laughed in wild delight.  "Higher, Mom!  Higher!!  Push me higher!!!" he shouted over and over again.  Kathleen showed off her upside down hanging skills as Edwin pushed Sophia in her swing.  Eleanor watched it all, taking in these people who would always have been a part of her life.

Eventually everyone went to bed, full of chicken and bread and ice cream and soft evening air.  "Thank you," Kathleen told me, as she kissed me goodnight, "that was the best Saturday, ever."


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ten years and counting

This past week Brandon and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.  Did I ever tell you the story how Brandon and I met?

Brandon and I both started BYU the same year - 2000 - but didn't meet until four years later.  I was friends with one of his roommates and spent an entire year in and out of his horrific, dank basement apartment before I even knew that Brandon existed.  One spring day my friend dropped by and brought another roommate who had just returned from visiting his family in Poland.  When I opened my front door there were three men instead of the two I was expecting.  Thinking that the third, vaguely eastern European looking male might have come back with Michal, I blurted out, "and who's this?  Your Polish friend?"  All three of them looked at me, confused.  "No," Jason carefully explained, "that's Brandon.  He's been living with us for the last year."

Then Brandon twisted the knife even further.  "We met back in February, at one of the dessert nights you hosted.  Do you not remember me?"

And that's how I met (for the second time apparently) the rest of my life.

Brandon and I spent many long hours talking together that spring semester before I headed off to Vermont to spend seven weeks working as camp counselor with a former boyfriend.  The boyfriend stayed former despite his best efforts, and I returned to Provo ready to spend more time with this non-Polish guy who liked hiking and talking for hours and hours and hours.  We would see each other every week or two and pretend that of course this was only deeply satisfying friendship, nothing more, until I forced Brandon to admit in October what we both knew to be true.  A week later we decided to get married.

Six months later we were married and six days after our marriage we were in Cairo to attend an Arabic study abroad.  I had graduated a week before our wedding and so spent seven months hanging out in Cairo while Brandon spent hours with his language partner.

Cairo was a good place to start a marriage.  It was difficult adjusting to a new culture and setting up housekeeping in a new country.  We got much too familiar with each other's bowel health and figured out how to talk about anything and everything.  On a particularly hard day, I wondered what would happen if things didn't work out.  It was then I decided that not working out wasn't an option.  We were going to stay together no matter what life would bring.

I've never regretted that decision a single day of our entire life together.  There have been conversations that I didn't know the ending to and times that have required more from me than I knew I had to give, but I've never once thought that I made a wrong decision on the night we decided we had found something that would last.

In the ten years we've been married every single year has gotten better.  My little brother got married a few months ago, the first wedding in my family since Brandon and I were married.  I remember wondering if I would always miss the heady newlywed days where everything was new and everything was exciting.  What could top that roller coaster ride?  How could you live after going through that?

But as I watched my brother hold his new wife so, so close and smile so much his cheeks must have ached for days afterwards, I wasn't jealous.  I was happy for them, happy that they would get to start down the road to something that would bring them more happiness than they knew existed.  But I wouldn't have switched places with them for anything.  Brandon and I have spent ten years working out a lot of difficulties and coming to understand each other in ways that only lots and lots and lots of time and long conversations that go too far into the night bring.  I know that when he talks about eating kittens, he's kidding, not deranged.  He knows that when I'm mad, he has to talk me off the ledge and back into reason.  We both know that neither one would ever do something to hurt the other person.

When I think of growing old, I can only smile.  I know that the difficulties of the last ten years are only a prelude to the things that we have ahead of us, the heartbreak that we will experience, the sleep that will be lost, the misunderstandings that never stop cropping up.  I can only imagine some of the things I've watched my parents and my husband's parents go through, and are currently going through.  Life only has one stopping point for hard things - death.

But I know that beside me, through all of those things, will be Brandon.  As we face life together, we will grow more into one, one heart and one mind.  Our love will grow deeper as we have more people to love.  Life will become even more beautiful.

Ten years down, an eternity to go.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Living in Dushanbe: Daylight Saving Time

I love daylight saving time.  My favorite time of year is high summer when dusk lasts deep into the evening and the children go to bed when it's still light enough for Brandon and I to sit outside and enjoy a sweetly cold bowl of ice cream in the lingering twilight.  I eagerly look forward to April (apparently, now March) each year when the evening stretches an hour further into night and I can forget that winter ever happened or will every come again.  June 21st is the saddest day of the year, the beginning of the year's march into cold, dark winter.

So far I've always lived in places that observe daylight savings time.  There has been a staggering of times - for a few weeks the deviation from US time is off an hour and even one Ramadan season in Egypt brought a month long suspension of it - but daylight saving time has always given me that extra golden hour of evening.

Not so in Dushanbe.  Tajikistan is mostly agrarian - and quite a few houses still don't have electricity or running water - so there isn't much of a need to monkey with the clocks twice a year.  When the sun rises, you get up.  When it goes down, you go to bed.  Why mess with something that works just fine?  After all, the sun has been rising and setting for a pretty long time now.

Dushanbe is about the same latitude as DC, varying by less than half a degree, so we still have reasonably long evenings.  Right now the sun is setting at 7:15, with twilight lasting until about eight, so it stays light enough for Brandon to make it home to work in full sunlight and we can eat outside when the weather is nice.  Of course I'd prefer to have an extra hour of sunlight in the evening, but it hasn't been as much of a hardship as I feared.

What is obnoxious, however, is the sunrise.  We live a few streets from a hill, so we're blocked in the morning from direct sunlight for quite some time (which isn't so nice in the winter), but it still gets light pretty early.  Brandon and I wake up at five to exercise, which is pretty early in the morning.  It's early enough that I've never woken up to light, even in high summer in Virginia.  I've finished my run to light skies, but never started.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that it was almost light enough to run without any light, and by now it's definitely light enough to run without any light.  This is nice - nobody likes the ambience of single bulb fixtures lighting a 1700 square foot space - and it's pleasant to not feel like one is rising before any sane person ought to be awake.  But it's also unsettling.  The sun isn't supposed to be showing up that early.  Only cold, unpleasant places, like Moscow, have to deal with really early sunrises in the sumer.  Sane places are supposed to let the sane people who live in them sleep in a little bit.

On weekdays this isn't a problem - Brandon and I are awake before sunrise and the children are up around 6:30 for breakfast - but it does get obnoxious on the weekends.  Last Saturday, Brandon rolled over, flapping for the clock.  It was on my nightstand, so I groggily checked the time.  Five forty-five.  Brandon drowsily apologized as we drifted back to sleep, "it was just so light, I thought it was time to get up."  We don't sleep in too late on the weekend - usually the fights and bathroom trips get loud enough around seven - but it's irritating to be able sleep in until seven, only to have light creeping in around the shades at five-thirty.  It ruins a good lie-in.

Thankfully (and sadly) solstice is only seven weeks away and the sunrise can only get so much earlier before it starts heading the other way and we can start to get a little more sleep on the weekend.  But until then, I might have to start wearing an eye mask to bed.  I'm not sure how you remote northerners do it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy Birthday, Eleanor!

I can hardly believe that my little baby just turned one.  It feels like we brought her home to our little three-bedroom Oakwood apartment only a few weeks ago.  Each baby I have grows up faster than the previous one, and Eleanor has grown up fastest of all.

Eleanor is not going to win any Gerber baby contests with her buck teeth and orange hair, but everyone at our house agrees that she is the cutest baby anywhere.  She is always happy to smile her chubby little cheeks and wave her hands at anyone who catches her eye.  Patty cake and peek-a-boo are her favorite games, and if she thinks you haven't played enough rounds with her, she'll grab your hands and clap them for you or hide her face behind your hands.

Eleanor is sadly behind in mobility, only learning to crawl a month and a half ago.  She thought briefly about crawling like a normal baby - on hands and knees - before she decided that her method of swimming across the floor works just fine, thank-you-very-much.  I know that one day she'll finally learn how to walk, but I'm not holding my breath for the next six months.

Eleanor's birthday is the day after our anniversary and so this year we celebrated a few days late after Brandon and I came back from a short getaway.  She doesn't know what birthdays are anyway, so she didn't complain when her birthday came and went without any cake or presents.  When Brandon and I sang to her on her birthday morning, she just looked at us quizzically.  "What is that strange noise?"she seemed to ask.  Then she fish hooked my lip.

We didn't buy her any presents because, as we explained to all of her very disappointed siblings, we don't need any more toys and she's not old enough to know what is supposed to come with birthdays.  Children only receive toys on their birthdays when they actually care, and it's only because they care - not because they need them - that presents are part of the celebration.

I made Eleanor strawberry cupcakes because it's strawberry season.  Only when she spat out the strawberry on top did I remember that Eleanor doesn't like strawberries.  She warily picked at the cupcake we presented her, daintily exploring the slippery texture of the meringue buttercream, but wasn't much interested in eating anything.  So, not to waste a perfectly good cupcake, I ate it.

And that's the life of a fifth child: birthday two days late, no presents, and mom eats your cupcake.  It's good to have things to tell your therapist in twenty years.