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Monday, April 30, 2018

Party Party Party All the Time

The children and I have now been camping out at my parents' house for five weeks.  After an initial round of despair about what I was going to do with my children for five and a half weeks, we've settled down to a routine.  I am a person who can't function without a daily schedule that has all the slots filled with things, and so I had to make a schedule that was labeled in my brain as 'The Schedule for When We are Not in School But Still Need a Little Bit of Something to Keep Children Busy."

Because it turns out that I still have stuff to do and the children needed something to keep them busy while I was doing stuff that did not have me teaching them school.  Six unoccupied children at my parents' house is way too much chaos for all adults who had to live with it.  So I ordered some new math books (and accidentally had them shipped to Dushanbe.  Oops), found a typing program, hauled them to the library, and found art tutorials.  It is just enough school to keep them from getting into too much trouble but not enough that I have to chase them around to get it done.

We have also been spending a lot of money on medical care.  I did something to my back while I was packing suitcases, and so have been visiting the chiropractor three times a week.  Sophia has needed her adenoids removed, so she got those removed, in addition to her tonsils and inferior turbinates (I didn't know these were a thing until it cost $3600 to reduce them).  Everyone of school age got their eyes checked, and Joseph joined the ranks of four-eyes in the family.  Kathleen went back to just two when she got contacts.  I got a yearly exam because hey, why not?  We still have teeth to get done and I have to get my skin checked for anything suspicious.  We will all head back to Central Asia tuned up and ready for another year away from decent medical care.

In between the medical appointments we have been partying with friends.  My parents live in the same house that I grew up in, so a lot of friends from church and high school are still in the area.  I've gone out to dinner multiple times (thanks, Mom!), we've had park play dates, and I even ran into a friend that I hadn't seen since my wedding while at my local elementary school playground with the children.  I really love meeting back up with friends every year and catching up while staying out much, much too late. 

The children have enjoyed being back in a real ward where they have things like Activity Days and Cub scouts.  Kathleen keeps bemoaning the fact that she just missed being able to go to Young Women, and I am sympathetic to her.  But, Brandon's still not going to quit his job so we can move back to America.

My parents are being great grandparents and taking the children shopping, bike riding, and to their cousins' house to visit.  Their neighbor recently got rid of a swing set that had two slides attached to it, one being a large curly slide.  My parents have their own swing set with one slide on it already, but my dad spent one afternoon attaching the two new slides and rechristened the whole affair the Monkey Palace.  One warm afternoon the children tested out their functionality as water slides and declared it 'a very fast ride.'

But, just as we've settled into a routine, it's about to come to an end.  Brandon oversaw the packout of all of our stuff last week, and despite his fears, we came out underweight - by 275 pounds.  The house is now empty and he attended three farewell events in two days this weekend.  He has three more days and then he will be on a plane heading our way.

And then the real party will begin!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Shopping in America

A week ago, I went to Target.  For ex-pat American women, Target is almost a religion.  When we get together and hear about someone's recent trip to America, one of the first questions that gets asked is how many visits there were to Target.  We all fantasize about one day living within ten minutes of Target.  When we are in America we take photos of ourselves at Target and post them on Facebook.

My parents live 1.7 miles from the closest Target.  And 3.5 miles from Costco.  And 3.5 miles from Trader Joe's.  But the other day I was at Target.  I only needed a few things - some groceries, diapers for William, a pair of pants for Sophia - but I decided to browse just because.  My children were all at home without me and I was alone at Target without a fixed return time. 

I never browse stores in Dushanbe.  Mostly because the only store I ever go to is a grocery store, and those aren't very exciting after the first few visits.  I shop for everything online because it's easier and faster and most things I couldn't find in Dushanbe even if I wanted to.  So browsing is something that I've fallen out of practice doing.

First I visited the clothing.  After looking through a few racks, I found a couple of shirts that looked promising.  Then I looked at the prices.  And considered the sizes.  And thought about trying them on.  When I reached the third step, I panicked and put all the clothing back.  Next I tried the children's clothing.  Was this dress really worth $16.99?  Would Sophia actually like these pants?  How many shorts does Joseph have that look decent? I took a quick exit from the children's section.

I always enjoy browsing home goods, so I fled there.  Picture frames were on sale, and I picked up some I liked.  Then I thought about putting them in my suitcase and hauling them to Uzbekistan and put them down.  I looked at lamps and wondered how much they cost online and if they were too big to ship to the pouch.  I looked at furniture and knew that it was definitely too big to fit in the pouch.

Then I noticed the time and headed over to the groceries.  When I saw the avocados, mangoes, ice cream, bacon, fresh orange juice, Oreos, and candy and didn't put any of them in my cart, it was an amazing moral victory.  It was also difficult to put only three gallons of milk in my cart instead of eight.  Target is only 1.7 miles away, I reminded myself.  You can come back in a few days for more milk.

When I finally went to check out, the total came to over a hundred dollars.  While I was busy resisting the clothes, groceries, home furnishings, and delicious food, a couple pairs of earrings, shirts for William, shoes for Eleanor, mini chocolate chips, flavored cream cheese, tasty yogurt, and other very necessary items had snuck in.  I shook my head and promised myself that I would stay away from Target for a whole week at the minimum.  At this rate my suitcases wouldn't have any more room and my Target card would be in serious trouble. 

Good thing I have a whole other card for Costco.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

Last Friday afternoon, while gathering children together for an Easter egg hunt, my phone rang.

"Hi Ashley, this is Dr. F-.  We just got your CT results this morning and it looks like everything is clear.  I hope your have a good Easter!"

And with that phone call, the next five weeks changed from a medical emergency to five weeks of... waiting.  When I told the children, their first question was if they had to fly back to Dushanbe.  I laughed and told them that no, they didn't have to go back because we would have enough time to get over jet lag, pack up the house, and then fly right back.  And also, I didn't have a spare $16,000 to spend on plane tickets.

So now we are squatters in my parents' house, eating their food, driving their car, and messing up their house.  They have been very gracious and keep insisting that really my kids aren't bothering them - too much.  Better parents have never existed in this world.

We didn't bring any school books with us - I didn't think that I would have time to run school while dealing with whatever - so there's a lot of spare time on our hands.  My mother has borrowed four bikes from various friends and Kathleen has had a taste of the delicious freedom of being a child with a bike in suburbia.  We have gone to several parks.  We've gone to the library.  We've gone to visit friends - twice.  We've helped my mom with yard work.  And we still have four more weeks to go.

I've told my parents that we are happy to take an educational trip when seven other people in their house gets to be a little much, and they have left us this week to spend time in the Outer Banks, so hopefully we can make it through our togetherness without any permanent loss of good feelings.  But still it is a long time to live with someone else. 

I can't help but wish that we were back in Dushanbe - a thing that a friend still there couldn't believe - and in my house and with my husband and finishing up the last week of school before getting ready to pack out.  Brandon tells me that my flower beds are really starting to bloom and the apricot tree has leafed out.  I wish that I could be there to see them.  I'm sad that we missed spending a week in London with friends.  May is a nice time to be in London. 

It's funny how great it is to be in America, but I'd rather be in Dushanbe looking forward to America instead of idly filling my time here.  I think we can never be quite satisfied.

But the important thing to remember is that I'm filling my time and not looking forward to surgery or something even worse.  And that I'm grateful for.