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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Making Sunday a Day of Rest

This Sunday we had leftover Chinese food for dinner.  We had gotten takeout earlier in the week and Brandon, planning ahead, ordered enough to have leftovers for Sunday dinner.  Church had finished quite early because we were the only ones attending that day, so Brandon and I got a two-hour nap before eating lunch at 1:30. 

After everyone finished up dinner, we threw away the takeout containers and put our dishes in the dishwasher.

Cleanup finished, I pulled out the five dozen cookies and frosting I had made the day before.  We all spent an hour or so decorating cookies, loaded them up on plates, and dropped them off at a few friends' houses (mostly men whose wives weren't around to bake them their own Christmas cookies). 

Service for the day finished, we read our Advent scriptures, let the lucky child open the chocolate door while everyone else watched and anticipated their own turn to come, and ate our fill of Christmas cookies.  Then the children went to bed, and Brandon and I spent some time reading and relaxing. 

It was a wonderful Sunday and truly a day of rest.  I didn't do any cooking (well, Sophia did cook scrambled eggs this morning), I got a nap, the family spent some pleasant time together, we served people in our community, and the children were in bed by seven.

My Sundays haven't always been like this, and until recently they have been much more stressful.  I have always viewed Sunday as the day of the tastiest dinner of the week.  All of the good food that I don't have time to cook on the weekdays I cook on Sundays.  Homemade spring rolls (made with homemade wrappers because Central Asia)?  Let's do them on Sunday!  Chicken tikka masala with parathas and deep-fried pakoras?  Lots of time to cook after church!  Fresh whole wheat pasta with tomato cream sauce?  Sunday!

I sometimes have a weird sense of standards and felt like Sunday was the day when my family deserved to have all of the good food.  But that usually meant three or four hours in the kitchen every Sunday, no nap, and not much time to do much other than cook and clean.  I would usually be exhausted by the end of the day and not ready at all for Monday.

Brandon, being the voice of logic, often asked me to do something else for dinner - like tuna fish sandwiches - but I just couldn't give up the idea of making tasty dinners on Sunday. 

But this year one of my resolutions was to try and at least do some of the dinner preparations for Sunday the day before.  Some weeks I have been better than others, but I have gradually gotten used to thinking about Sunday dinner before Saturday night rolled around and Brandon was running to the store at nine in the evening. 

I've been used to treating Saturday as play day - something you can do when a housekeeper cleans your house, shops for you, and the children fold the laundry.  But there is less time for playing when you make chicken pot pie on Saturday in addition to whatever meal there is for Saturday evening.  We have definitely hiked a lot less, something that nobody that me has missed, but we can go hiking if I take the time to plan things in advance.

It's also helped to lower my standards.  If we lived in America, Sunday would be frozen food day.  Instead we have random leftovers, sandwiches, crockpot meals, takeout bought the day before, and boxed pasta.  Part of me still dies a little every time we have something quick and easy for Sunday dinner, but in the end, calories are the same whether they come from some meal that took two hours to cook or something that was made two days ago and reheated. 

And it turns my Sunday into an actual day of rest instead of a day spent slaving away in the kitchen to make something that will only be a memory half an hour after it's done. 

Having an actual day of rest has been wonderful for me, and even more, to Brandon.  He works hard all week and truly appreciates a day without the relentless schedule driving it.  I also enjoy having time with the children where I'm not making them do some sort of work.  It's wonderful to have time set aside where I can just spend time with my family without the structured schedule of the rest of the week.  I love feeling like I have had a day that is a break from the rest of my week.  I never realized how amazing it would be until I actually got a day of real rest.

And if it takes old Chinese takeout to make it happen instead of gourmet meals, I guess I'll take it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Edwin

This past week Edwin turned eight.  

We started out his birthday with his breakfast of choice, overnight baked pumpkin (it's time to use it all up again) french toast.  And because homeschooling means you never have to have school on your birthday, we spent the morning at the botanical garden.

It was pretty cold, below forty, so we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  Also riding oddly-spotted deer statues.

After a dinner of Chinese food (takeout because I don't cook dinner and a birthday cake), we moved to cake and presents.

Because he had lemon meringue pie for his birthday last year, he had lemon meringue pie for his birthday this year.  "Mmmmm, I love that sour taste!" 

All of his presents arrived in time, his favorite being the dinosaur hand puppet sent by his grandmother.  "Great!  I was hoping to get something that would scare William!"

For his birthday Saturday, Edwin decided to go to the park.  We had heard rumors of a park that had been remodeled - there's a new mayor in Dushanbe and he's initiated a lot of refurbishment around town - and had a playground.

Our whole time here in Dushanbe there have only been two American-style playgrounds in the entire city (probably country, really).  One is at the embassy and the other has a thirty-minute time limit and a locked gate.  There are lots of little Soviet-style 'playgrounds' stuck in empty trash-strewn lots that are made of rusting pipes that are just begging to give tetanus to every child that climbs on them.  But nothing with trees or grass or slides that don't dump you right on the gravel or asphalt.

After the park we came home, made pizza, and watched Elf.  

It's crazy to have three children who are eight or older.  I remember when Kathleen turned eight and how old she was.  Now, almost without noticing, I have two more children who have reached that shocking milestone.  I have to remember when I am handing out assignments and responsibilities that Edwin is actually very capable.  I've gotten used to having two older children to carry so much of the load that I forget how much Edwin can do.  He's very helpful and responsible and I'm looking forward to see him grow even more into himself.  It's enjoyable to have a son who isn't little anymore; it's something different than the girls.  He talks about things other than dolls, his jokes are pretty funny, and he always makes sure to open doors for me and carry all of the heavy stuff.  I quite enjoy his company and am very glad he's part of our family.

Happy Birthday, Edwin!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Decorating

I love decorating for Christmas.  Normally I am not a decorator.  I like the idea of decorating - having a lovely house is a pleasant thing - but the mentally energy, time, and money required to do that are beyond what I want to invest.  

But Christmas is different.  I love the coziness of a house decorated with all of the Christmas things that my conscience can allow me to fill our allotted HHE with (luckily globe ornaments are mostly air).  

As an added bonus, Brandon loves Christmas decorating every bit as much as I do and so he is completely behind spending money and weight on things we only use for one month out of the year.  Sometimes we like to sit down and browse Pinterest for new Christmas decorating ideas.  Now that's perfect compatibility.


Every year we decorate it takes longer because we have new awesome things to do.  Last year we added a globe chandelier.

Brandon likes to joke to guests that we opened a box of ornaments and they just flew up into the air.  Which is kind of true, but only a lot more slowly - like three hours slowly.  But that's what we have children for, right?  Everyone was very happy to finish after six hours of decorating.  But it was completely worth it.

We hosted a caroling party this week and I finished the decorating with greenery.  Normally we visit our local park and help prune the trees and bushes, but recently it got bulldozed. 

Instead I actually had to buy the stuff.  But, at less than ten dollars for enough greenery to decorate the entire living room, it was a bargain.  I should have been buying it all along.  

During college I spent a semester in Vienna.  We took trips on the weekends and I started collecting Christmas ornaments as souvenirs.  Fifteen years later, I've collected a lot of ornaments and love remembering all of my travels when we decorate every year.

Last year I started a new Christmas tradition, making ornaments with the children.  I found a lovely beaded snowflake pattern online and tried to teach it to my family.  By the end, I finished all of them as everyone else complained about how hard it was to make ornaments.

This year I got smart and we made icicles.  It turns out that everyone can get behind stringing a variety of beads in a wire, and we made over thirty before the children got tired.  

I started collecting nativity sets here in Tajikistan, and so far I have one made locally and one from Kyrgyzstan.  The angel in our Tajik set is riding a two-humped camel (bactrian, which are the ones you can find in Central Asia) and Mary has a unibrow.  

Our Kyrgyz set is made of felted wool, also has a bactrian camel and instead of a stable, Mary and Joseph have a yurt.  As a bonus, both sets can be played with by the children.  Often I'll pass by and find some new strange combination of figures adoring the Christ child.

This year I am determined that have eight completed stockings before Christmas Eve.  A long time ago when I only had two children and a lot more free time, I hit on the brilliant idea of making handmade stockings.  And each stocking would be hand beaded in individual patterns.  

Thankfully I've gotten faster at beading over the years, and William's stocking is only missing two lines of beads to be finished, which is a record.  He will be the first child to have a completed stocking for their first Christmas.  

Years ago I also bought stocking holders from Target (our bookshelves stand in for the fireplace as we've never actually lived in a house with one of those).  They came in sets of three, so I bought three sets.  We now have eight in use, which means that we can only have one more child.  

Of course all of this decorating will have to be taken down in less than a month (last year Brandon did all of the un-decorating alone and it took him ten hours), but I am really enjoying it right now.  Hooray for excess!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Thirty-Five Happens to Everyone Who Gets There

When I was younger (by a decade or two), I remember my mother telling me about the dreaded thirty-five.  "You hit that age, your metabolism slows down, and that post baby weight that always melted off refuses to budge."  And, being younger, more naive, and possessing a firm belief that the rules of reality applied to everyone but me, I didn't believe her.  "Not me, that will never happen to me.  Maybe you, but I'm different.  You'll see."

A year or two ago, a friend who had hit thirty-five mentioned that no matter what she did (and she was a Crossfitter), she couldn't get that last five post-baby pounds to go away.  "Ha, that won't happen to me," I thought (older, but no less naively).  "That weight will come off for me."

I never have trouble losing baby weight.  Well I suppose that waking up at five every morning and almost never eating snacks might qualify as some trouble, but it certainly isn't anything herculean.  After the baby is born, it takes awhile, but eventually everything fits again and I'm back to the same body I've always had.  A little more stretch in the midsection, but mostly the same.

William is nine and a half months and those last five pounds just won't come off.  I eat just like I've  always eaten, exercised like I've always exercised, and been every bit as active and those five extra pounds just won't budge.  I can button my jeans, but they aren't very comfortable when I sit down, and Eleanor has asked me multiple times if I have a baby in my tummy.

So, it turns out that thirty-five has happened to me.

I always thought that I didn't care that much about my appearance.  Obviously I care about how I look, but I try not to get too obsessive.  I've been happy with my body for a long time and thought that it was because I was virtuous.  But then it changed on me and I realized how much I really do care about how I look.  I care that I look pretty good for having six children, I care that I've worn the same pants size for fifteen years, I care that I look decent in a swimsuit.

Only now I'm not quite so happy with my body and I've realized that this is what the other side of my life looks like.  I've always had a young, functioning, decent body that pretty much did whatever I needed it to.  If I wanted to run six miles, I could do that.  If I wanted to spend ten hours cooking in the kitchen, I could do that.  If I wanted to have six children, I could do that.  I was happy in my own skin because my skin was reliable.  It was functional.  It was attractive.

But now it has started to betray me.  When my thyroid went south a year and a half ago, I accepted it with some grace.  After all, aging does hit at some point, and it turns out that a thyroid's function is pretty easily replaced.  Not as good as having a functioning one, but still pretty okay.  Much better than cancer.  But I do remember taking my first Synthroid pill and realizing that I would take one of those pills every single day until the day that I died.  It was a disorienting moment.

Then my joints started bothering me.  This issue still doesn't have a definitive answer, but one of the possible answers is that I will have to deal with this, like my thyroid, for the rest of my life.  I was hoping to get a few more decades along before the chronic conditions started showing up.  Like four or five more decades.

And now I need to buy all new pants.  I suppose I could kill myself trying to shed those last five pounds, but I'm not going to.  I like not worrying about what I eat and only spending 45 minutes exercising every morning, and if new pants can keep that happening, then I will just go out and buy new pants.  But it is demoralizing to realize that one is human just like all the other humans out there.

And so it appears that my mother has been right all along.  Thirty-five apparently does begin the imperceptible shift of tides from waxing to waning.  I'm certainly not ready to drop dead and definitely have almost all of the energy, good looks, and vigor that I had just a year ago.  The crows feet and spider veins haven't blossomed overnight.  But I'm not going to get any more energy, good looks, or vigor and in fact it's going to drain away drop by drop and I'll always be looking back to that high water mark and not towards it.

I've always known that this point would come, but of course there's a vast difference between imagining things and actually having them happen to you - and having them happen to you for the rest of your life.  The point of inflection is always a difficult one, when the realization has just hit but not yet had time to settle in.  In six months or a year, I'll see nothing in the mirror but my body as it is and I'll forget to mourn it as it was, and my pants size won't be a unpleasant surprise anymore.  Just like Synthroid isn't a new experience every morning, it's part of the routine.  But right now, I'm in mourning for the end of a part of my life.  It will end, and I will settle in to the new normal.

I imagine that this isn't the first unpleasant realization of mortality that will come as I make my way down the other side of that hill, and I will probably laugh at how distressed I was about the troubles I had at thirty-five.  I will probably curse myself for taking so many things for granted that I didn't even realize would be a problem in a decade or two.

But this is the first time I've felt the gentle decline and it is disorienting, as is the first unpleasant experience of anything.  But, I'll get over it, mostly.  After all, I'm not the first one two hit thirty-five.  And I certainly won't be the last.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Time for Christmas

This year we got a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving.  The new chargĂ© found a random local holiday (Flag Day) to justify the time off and everyone at the embassy was very grateful.

We usually decorate the Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but since we were all around on Friday, the Christmas season started one day early.  

I was in a bit of post-Thanksgiving stupor, so we had a lazy morning and didn't even finish breakfast (cold cereal, because I don't cook anything the day after Thanksgiving) until eleven.  Life really is great when your children are old enough to watch cartoons while you sit in bed and read Facebook instead of feeding them breakfast.  

Brandon hauled out all the boxes and the children opened them all up and pulled everything out of them.  It is definitely more orderly to decorate without children, but you can't beat the excitement level of five (not six, because William has no idea what Christmas is) children at the beginning of the happiest season of the year.  Eleanor doesn't remember much of Christmas last year, so this is her first Christmas season.  She ran around the whole day asking if it was Christmas yet.  When she was told yes, she immediately asked if it was time to have candy.  Ahh, the uncomplicated joy of a three year-old.  

We've slowly accumulated decorations and have enough to make our front room very cozy.  I got to skip putting the lights on the tree (or anything on the tree, for that matter) and instead spent three hours hanging globe ornaments from our enormous chandelier.  Sophia, while cutting threads and attaching them to hangers for me commented that Christmas decorating can get a little tedious.  Especially when you contemplate taking it all down in a month (which Brandon got to do all alone last year), it doesn't seem like a good idea while you're in the middle of decorating.  

However, when all is done, tidied, put away, and one is sitting by the tree enjoying the warm glow of twinkling Christmas lights while listening to "The Christmas Song," it's definitely worth all the work.  Because, as we all know, Christmas really is the best.  Even without the presents.

After we finished decorating, we all had Thanksgiving again (leftovers are the second best part of Thanksgiving), made hot chocolate, and watched White Christmas.  And, as per tradition, I fell asleep sometime after Betty left Bob and woke up to the final strains of everyone belting out the iconic song.  

Sunday afternoon we made some more hot chocolate (after having Thanksgiving again) and spent an hour or two cutting out snowflakes.  I'm not sure what's so relaxing about turning little paper squares into intricate repeating designs, but it really is quite enjoyable.  The children have really gotten into making snowflakes and spent the whole time trying to make 'mom approved' ones.  

I love tradition and Christmas is a wonderful time to pull out all the stops on tradition, doing all the fun things together as a family.  As the children have grown older it's become even more enjoyable to share the traditions with them and see them get excited about making wrapping paper or ornaments or gingerbread houses.  I'm already not looking forward to the time when they've left me and I won't have anyone to do those things with.  Someone will have to live close so I can just do them with my grandchildren.

Most of all, it's wonderful to have a whole season to celebrate the birth of my Savior.  His birth meant that we will all be given the opportunity to return to our Father in Heaven and live in eternal joy.  And not only that, His birth has given us the ability to be happy here on Earth.  When I decorate the tree with my children, I know that they will be my children forever.  Life doesn't end at death and I have more happiness that I can imagine to look forward to.  The happiness of the best Christmas ever doesn't even come close to that happiness that is in store.  I love the comfort that comes when life is hard, knowing that it won't be hard forever and also knowing that my Savior knows exactly how to help me through it.  And when times are good, I love knowing that at some point, they'll stay good forever.

I love Christmas!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

This year Brandon and I hosted Thanksgiving.  While cooking Thursday morning, I added up the times we've hosted Thanksgiving.  This is our third hosting in Dushanbe, after hosting it in Baku twice and Utah once.  Six doesn't sound like that many times, but it sure is a lot of cooking.

I have sadly realized that, unless we live somewhere near family, I will spend the the next three or probably four decades hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  That was a little disheartening to realize, but I suppose I'm the one who decided to birth enough children that it practically requires a whole extra turkey just to feed us.  Hosting pretty much comes with the territory if we ever want to eat dinner with anyone other than just ourselves.

To add insult to injury, when I was checking Facebook Thanksgiving evening after finishing the clean-up around seven, my older sister posted a picture of the beautiful Thanksgiving morning sail they had gone on at my aunt and uncle's house.  The sail they took while someone else cooked the stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, rolls, pies, and sweet potatoes.

I've hosted Thanksgivings overseas long enough to realize that the Thanksgivings of my youth - a day spent cooking with family, lazing around and watching movies afterward - are not the Thanksgivings of my adulthood.  It turns out that most holidays are a lot better when someone else (the adults) is doing all the hard work.  I like being an adult almost all of the time, but sometimes being a child really is a better gig.

But the children have gotten older and more useful, so I'm not the only one running the show these days, which is nice.  They didn't do much cooking, but they did clean up the house, set the table, and scrub five kilos of potatoes.  And after everyone left, the girls helped clear the table, put the food away, and wash the dishes.  The value of children who are old enough to be truly helpful can never be underestimated.  We were able to finish early enough for Brandon and I to relax and enjoy that most wonderful of Thanksgiving traditions - watching TV.

We did have a nice Thanksgiving, even if there weren't any sailboats in our day.  We had two families over and had an enjoyable dinner together.  The children mostly ate their food and then played nicely together so the adults could enjoy talking together.  We had plenty of tasty food to enjoy with our good company and much to be grateful for.  I didn't get around to taking pictures of our guests because we got too busy eating and having a good time together.

It's always good to have time to reflect on the blessings in our life, including having enough food that it takes two days to cook it and an hour and a half to clean it up.  Also, dishwashers.  But more importantly, friends and family to enjoy the day with.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Marine Ball 2017

Last Saturday was the Marine Ball, our third and last Ball here in Dushanbe.  Brandon would usually be perfectly happy to stay home and watch a movie with the kids, but since I like dressing up in a fancy dress, getting my hair done, and partying with my friends, he indulges me.  Just like prom, but for adults. 

This was my fifth Ball, so I had long shed my expectations of a romantic night, and had a fun time sitting around and talking with friends.  Just in a fancy dress.  I remember being amazingly disappointed when I realized that all parties are just people sitting around talking to each other, sometimes with dancing.  Somehow all those movies seem to make parties look like there's some other, more exotic element.  But nope, it's just talking.  The children find it completely ridiculous that we like to do this in our spare time.  

In keeping with the prom theme, I went with some friends earlier in the day and we got our hair done together.  Yep, just like high school.  Except the pregnant one was married.  We had a fun time gossiping, passing around hair style ideas, and being loud enough that the salon receptionist asked us to quiet down.  I've had this happen at restaurants before, too.  I'm not quite sure if it's because Americans are loud, or I'm just loud.  Probably me.

I wore dress #1, figuring that we've been here so long that only one other person would recognize the dress I wore two years ago, and she didn't remember it anyway.  It was such an excruciating project that I intend to wear it until I don't fit it anymore.  It mostly fit this year, so that was a good thing.

By eleven, Cinderella had talked, eaten, toasted, danced, and was ready to turn into a pumpkin (those high school days are long, long gone), so Brandon took me home and to bed.  I'm sad that next year we'll be in a new post with new friends.  But it was a fun time.  Until next year!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Months and months and months ago, I decided that Brandon and I needed to take the children to Dubai.  Normally, I am not the type of person who likes to travel with children.  I've always reasoned that I can stick needles into my eyeballs for free at home, so why pay good money to do it in another location?  I like my children just fine, and I even love them, but taking the circus traveling is really just too much for me and the general public.

But sometime in the somewhat distant past, I decided that no, it would be a fun thing to take my children into public for an extended period of time and do things like eat around other people for multiple meals in a row.  We've done this a few times, taking the children to water park hotels on each of our home leaves, and it usually was more stressful than relaxing.  At least 3.5 drinks on average get spilled per meal time, 2.5 children decide that they would rather hop on and off their chairs than actually eat the food we paid money for, and 2 parents would want to murder at least half of the children.  And that was just the meal times. 

Let's not talk about the fun that is sleeping in a hotel room with all your children.  People pay good money to buy houses large enough to not sleep with their children, so why would we want to pay extra money to sleep somewhere else with them?  But no matter the historical precent and cold hard facts of being a parent of multiple young children, I decided that this time it would be a lot more fun, especially with two more children in tow.  I'm not quite sure where the idea came from.  But I had it.

And like all good ideas that I have, Brandon thought it was a bad idea.  Probably because he is the rational one in our relationship.  But, like most good ideas I have, I didn't give up on it.  I whined wheedled, begged, pleaded, and bothered him enough that he finally gave in.  "But don't say I didn't warn you," he warned me, "when everything goes to pieces and you wonder what you were thinking.  I told you so.  In advance."

And so, I booked the vacation.  To make things worse, I booked one of the most expensive, high profile resorts in Dubai, Atlantis the Palm.  If you're going to take your children out in public, you might as well take them out in public to places where there are Rolls Royces, Lamborghinis, Porches, and Bentleys parked in the parking lot.  Because it will be really cool when your children are misbehaving in front of people who have nannies for their nannies.  I almost died when I booked the rooms with a half board package.  The only other time in my life I have ever dropped that much cash in one go was when we bought our car.  When I told Brandon the total, he shook his head.  "Well, you'd better enjoy it.  Cause we're definitely not doing it twice."

We decided to surprise the children and so Wednesday morning we woke them up at 2 a.m., told them to get dressed, pulled out the suitcases we had packed in secret, and went to the airport.  The children were giddy with excitement because flying is one of the most exciting things in the world.  When we landed in Dubai, they thoroughly enjoyed the drive, marveling at the Burj Dubai and how everyone stayed in their lanes while driving. 

As we drove up to the hotel, they lost track counting how many floors there were.  And when they discovered that not only were there two pools, but also a beach, an aquarium, a water park, and the biggest buffet breakfast I've ever seen, they almost died of sheer happiness.  Then they fought over who got to push the elevator buttons and whose turn it was to put the key in the room door.  Because, children.

Four days later, everyone came back to Dushanbe full to the brim with good times, good memories, and good food.  Because, as it turned out, we had a fantastic time.  The hotel was beautiful, the food was delicious, the water park was exciting, the aquarium, was enormous, and the pools were stunning.  Also, the beach had water, too.  And sand.

The children behaved themselves (mostly), ate their food (buffets are awesome), only spilled twice, played hard all day long, and fell asleep before eight every night.  I didn't have to make a single meal, clean up, decide what was for dinner, or even make my bed.  Brandon took the children on rides, played with them in the pool, and read to them every night.  It really was every bit as great as I had imagined it would be.

The only problem is that now I want to do it again. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017


This trip to London was my fifth trip (if a long layover where Brandon and I did some sightseeing counts) to the city, and my third trip this post.  I've spent over three weeks there, and I think that I can say that London is one of my favorite cities in the world.  I don't actually like large cities that much, so it really is saying something when London brings nothing but warm joy into my heart - even in November.

This visit stretched out over eleven days because it took a week to get the results for some of the blood tests I needed.  When I did my check-in visit with the medical unit at the embassy, the wonderful nurse looked at me after I summed up my visit (had an exam, got a bunch of tests, told me to come back in a week), smiled and told me to enjoy myself.  "You've got nothing terribly wrong with you, and there's nothing you need to do, so live it up!  You're in London alone.  Enjoy all of the wonderful things there are to do here!"

And so I did.  It turns out that I'm actually a rotten tourist, so I only actually played sightseeing tourist one day the whole time I was there.  I took myself to Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields.  But really, I find touristing much more enjoyable with someone, and we have plans to spend time in London on our way out of Tajikistan, so it didn't make much sense to go see the things that I would just be re-seeing in six months anyway.  

So instead I did the things I don't usually get to do when I'm taking care of my family.  I slept in, went running in Hyde park, went shopping for Christmas presents, went to the temple several times, went to a ballet, an opera, and a musical, and took myself to a Michelin-starred restaurant for a very tasty dinner.  

I also caught up with a very dear friend and her family, and spent a good amount of time hanging out with them.  Because being alone in a city can get, well, lonely after awhile.  So my friend was wonderful enough to let me hang out with her and her kids and crash their house all Sunday.  We even got to ditch the children with her husband one night and see Aladdin, the musical.  One thing I love about the Foreign Service is the great friends I make and the opportunity to hang out with them in random parts of the world.  

Brandon's brother, his lovely British wife, and their cute baby also live in the greater London area, and we were able to attend the temple together and then spend time at her parents' house and have a wonderful time together.  One day I want to have a perfect little town and fill it with all of the wonderful people that I never get to spend enough time with.  Until then I will just have to see them when I can.

Every time I talked with Brandon, he assured me that all of the children were alive and getting at least two meals a day, so I didn't feel like the worst mother every for abandoning everyone to go and have a wonderful time by myself.  I missed my family in a theoretical way, but I knew that I would see them again, and so I didn't spend a lot of time (or actually any time) crying into my pillow.  That probably makes me a bad mother and wife.  I'll have to work on that.

At the end of my visit, the doctor pronounced me Not Sick Enough to Do Anything Drastic, told me to keep taking high doses of anti-inflammatories, get retested if things still aren't better in three months, and sent me home to my family.  Good because I don't have to take chemo meds, annoying because the doctor didn't make it all better. 

I'm not sure that I would ever want to actually live in London and try to make a real life there with expensive cost of living, no household help, long commutes, and small housing, but it sure was great to visit.  Until next time, London! 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Abandoning My Husband and Children

A few weeks ago I started having joint pain in my hands and feet, elbows and hips and knees.  It hasn't cleared up and all of the tests available here in Dushanbe have been inconclusive, so I'm flying to London this week to see what the tests and and doctors there can tell me about it. 

This means, of course, that Brandon and all six of the children will be left here in Dushanbe to fend for themselves.  I have done this to them before, when my brother got married, when Joseph and I went to London, and when I went myself, so they're pretty used to the drill.  Our housekeeper is coming daily to come help out and we just got in a new supply of cold cereal so I'm pretty sure that nobody will die while I'm gone.  The children are happy because they have reduced school work and Brandon might even look forward to a little easing of the routine, even if it comes at the cost of his personal magic fairy being gone.  William, who is weaned and so not coming with me, will probably forget that I existed until I return.  When I do he will be so happy to remember that he does in fact have a mother and she didn't mysteriously abandon him. 

I little not-so-secret part of me that I wish would be a little more secret is looking forward to a little time by myself.  I'm conflicted because this time off is purchased by with Brandon's increased work load (he's already the acting section chief of two sections at the embassy, so the last thing he needs is more work when he gets home) and the children being left without a mother.  In order to sleep in, eat out at delicious restaurants, and shop, I have to shuck my very real responsibilities to seven other human beings whose lives depend a lot on me.  So even the thought of enjoying, much less openly planning all of the fun things I'm going to do myself feels very, very selfish. 

Because, well, I am going to do a lot of fun things.  We have foreign service friends from our very first time in Cairo living London, who I've planned a trip to Warwick Castle and an opera with.  My brother- and sister-in-law moved to London this summer and I'll catch up with them.  And as long as I'm childless, I'm going to go and take a family name to the temple and do every single ordinance, something I've never had the time to do.  I've done my research and found a stable to go riding at.  And of course, all of the food and shopping.  My hotel is, after all, right off Oxford Street, one of the biggest shopping districts in London.

Hopefully my visit will only last a week.  Even with all of the playing and fun, anything more than a week away from my family really does get to be unpleasant.  I do, after all, love them and enjoy their company.  And I'm pretty sure that Brandon will be counting down the days even before I get on the airplane.  I am, after all, his very favorite person in the whole wide world.  It's good to know that I'll be missed.  And it's also nice to have the chance to be missed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Living in Dushanbe: Fall

Today is October 15th, which must mean that it is fall.  I used to hate fall when I was younger and time moved more slowly.  I didn't actually mind fall itself, I just hated that it meant the end of summer and the transition into cold, dark days that lasted a month or two longer than they should.  Fall was the end of the good times and the beginning of the bad.

Now that I'm older and time moves more quickly, I can appreciate fall for it's beautiful, crisp self.  The sunshine turns thinner, not smothering you with summer heat.  Light slants through the leaves on our afternoon walks, and evenings begin to promise hot chocolate and warm blankets.

Fall is a time that begs for a walk in the forest.  The yellow leaves turn the sunlight golden, and you can crunch through the fallen leaves, kicking up the spicy smell of leaf mulch from the forest floor.  I love to collect brilliantly-colored leaves, finding endless ways of combining yellow, orange, red, and brown into an infinite of intricate patterns.  After the walk, when your cheeks are tingling and your fingers chilled, a cup of hot cider warms you up perfectly.

That is how I remember fall being in America.  That is not how fall is here in Dushanbe.

I'm sure there are some forests in Tajikistan, but they're mostly in remote mountain tops where nobody can get to them with a saw to cut them down.  There are some parks with trees in Dushanbe, but they are planted mostly with sycamores, and sycamores never turn yellow, only slowly fading into a rusty brown before falling off.  The air might be crisp, but it's filled with the scent of burning cow dung and coal as everyone burns whatever they can to keep their houses warm.

But, we can warm up apple juice and pretend that it's cider.

To tell the truth, we've never lived in any country (other than America) that has those picture-perfect forests that beg for a fall walk.  Egypt has never seen forests, and Azerbaijan had a few, but they were a bit of a drive away.  But when all my friends in nice countries that see rainfall on a regular basis post pictures of their lovely fall walks, I can't help but eat my heart out.

And of course our next post in Uzbekistan won't have anything much better.  But I suppose that is the way of life.  One day I'll have my fall walks again and I'll remember the long years where I didn't have them and I will enjoy those walks even more for the contrast.  But until then, I'll just have to be patient.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

William, the Cutest Baby in the World

William is a very cute baby.  He has reached the enjoyable age where he smiles and gurgles and kicks and squeals and makes loud squealing noises that are hard to talk over.

I've always found my babies to be cute, but since William is my current baby, he is official the cutest baby in the world.  Every time I see him I want to pick him up and give him a squeeze and about twenty kisses.  It makes it hard to put him down to bed. 

And now that William can crawl, he can return that affection by following me around the house and crying to be picked up.  That's mostly cute.

He has found his favorite toy, a pair of red silicone kitchen tongs that he will chew on endlessly while watching me cook dinner.  As he is the cutest baby in the world, it's very cute to watch.  Especially when he is in his diaper.

He also likes to sleep crammed up against the side of his crib and occasionally sticks one or several limbs through the sides of the crib.  Again, very cute.

Sleeping babies are very cute, and William is the cutest sleeping baby of them all.

William is pretty okay with just about anything that anyone does to him.  His siblings love to buckle him into the stroller and run him around the yard at top speed and at various angles of incline.  He is also perfectly happy with being carried in a basket of fresh laundry.  Which is, of course, cute.

And of course he smiles a lot.  Because that's what cute babies do.

Often when he's crawling around he will stick a toy in his mouth, just for something to crawl with.  Or something.  But because this is William doing it, it's very cute.  If anyone else did it, I would take the toy out.  Because that's gross.

William's the first baby that I've been happy to keep as a baby as long as possible, probably because he's the cutest baby in the world.  And because he's so cute, none of the other children mind his status at all.  In fact, they agree that yes, William is the cutest baby in the world.  Because he is.