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Sunday, April 28, 2019


When Brandon and I first started talking about marriage, the conversation about children was had at some point.  I knew that Brandon came from a big family and liked it, but he was insistent - and has always been so - that we could have as many children as I felt comfortable having.  I had come from a family of five children, and always thought that five - being the number that fit in the minivans of the day - was a perfect number of children.  But when I married Brandon, I knew that five was probably not going to be enough.

We never discussed exact figures, and decided that when I hit thirty-five - the line at which terms like 'advanced maternal age' start getting used - we would stop.  I did some math in my head, and figured that if we had children every eighteen months (I was very ambitious and not as acquainted with reality, as most young people are) I could squeeze in seven by the time I was thirty-five.  So secretly to myself, I always set the number of children at seven.

We never did quite hit the eighteen-month frequency, only coming close at nineteen months once, and once we joined the State Department timing started having to take tour lengths into consideration.  Then my health decided to have a voice, too, and my timing schedules got completely thrown off.  Life often does that.  So by the time I reached advanced maternal age, I was pregnant with only my sixth child.

After William, Brandon and I both looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and decided that maybe advanced maternal age wasn't such a hard and fast cut-off date and really why not have just one more because our family didn't quite feel all the way full yet.  And then I could be secretly satisfied with that long-ago decided number of seven.  Because it's always nice to reach one's goals.

Things didn't work out exactly according to plans, but about four months after I started looking for it, I got that exciting double line for the last time (theoretically) of my life.

It's strange, after spending over twelve years in the baby business, to be contemplating the end of that particular career.  I'm not sad to be finished with the last first trimester of my life, and I'm happy that good-looking maternity clothes will no longer be my problem in six or so months.  I look forward to losing twenty-five or thirty pounds at a go one more time and then just deal with the weight swings of regular life.  I don't like being pregnant.  I won't miss it.

Everything comes to a natural end and we move on to the next part of our life, and I can definitely feel that end coming on now.  Having babies is really a thing for young people and I'm rapidly approaching 'not that young' these days.  You've got to stop at some point, and thirty-seven is a good point for me.  As Brandon pointed out one day, "You've done a good job of 'multiplying and replenishing' the earth.  It's okay to pass the torch on to someone else."

The children, as soon as we told them that there was a younger sibling, started the lively debate of whether the girls' team or the boys' team was going to win.  Right now it's an even tie, and both wanted to claim the last - and therefore eternally beloved - baby for their team.  While in London for first-term screening I was able to have genetic testing done and also had the gender results sent along.

When Brandon pulled the fourth pink egg out of a sack (the internet guilted me into doing something clever to announce the gender so I borrowed some of the children's empty Easter eggs) at breakfast this past week, the girls erupted into cheers.  I had cheered just as hard the night before when I opened the results.  I'm happy to end on a girl (we are all allowed to have our preferences), and Eleanor will be happy to have a little sister to play with.

The debate over names still rages and almost every meal time includes several handfuls of ridiculous name suggestions thrown out for the general amusement and I'm pretty sure a final name will not be declared until the baby has actually made her way into the world. 

But for now we're all enjoying the anticipation.  It's fun to have so many people to share the excitement with for one last time.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter 2019

Easter this year wasn't going to be very festive.  I spent most of the week in London and so didn't put much thought into Easter celebrations.  

To be honest, however, I generally don't do much for Easter.  My mother never gave us Easter baskets and I think we all turned out to be healthy, normal people, so I use that as an excuse to continue the deprivation into the next generation.  My children have plenty of candy and they have more than plenty toys.  Yes, my Grinchiness extends to more holidays than Christmas.  Poor children.

The embassy had an Easter egg hunt, but I never got around to signing up the children for the event. So instead we spent Saturday morning eating a late breakfast and doing chores.  Yes, I really know how to party.  I definitely was planning on attending, even despite Brandon's protests that the last thing he wanted to spend his Saturday morning on was seeing people that he had seen all week.  But somehow my desire to write that arduous email never lined up with a free time slot.

Instead I spent almost forty pounds on British candy and called it Easter candy for the children.  Never mind that I always bring candy back when I go to London, this time it was for Easter.

But then a friend decided to host Easter and everyone got saved from having Pad Thai for their Easter dinner.  Sometimes my laziness even embarrasses me.  

This friend loves cooking and loves friends, so we got to have ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, funeral potatoes, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, salad, pickled beets, cream cheese jello salad, and rolls instead of noodles with sauce.  Everyone was much happier with the change of menu.

In addition to the strawberry pie, chocolate covered strawberries, carrot cake, and apple pie, the children also got to have an Easter egg hunt so that they could all experience the joy of Christ's Resurrection, celebrated with brightly-colored plastic eggs filled with brightly-wrapped chocolate candy.

But it was wonderful to celebrate Easter with friends and fellow Christians.  Holidays are always better celebrated with others, and I was grateful to my own friend who saved my from my own lack of preparation.  It's always nice to be saved from ourselves even when we haven't done anything to deserve it.

And I suppose that is the message of Easter - we all can be saved from ourselves and we all definitely don't deserve it.  I am grateful for the resurrection of my Savior so that I can be saved from myself so that I can spend an eternity with all of my friends and family and those who I love.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spending All of Brandon's Money on Plants

I love plants.  I think, perhaps, that I got this love from my mother.  She and my father spent a lot of money extensively landscaping their half-acre suburban lot and her escape from us children was working in her garden.  Instead of going jewelry shopping, her favorite place to visit in the springtime is the local gardening center to find new delights to make her gardens even more beautiful.

One of the earlier disagreements in our marriage was over buying plants.  We lived in a small duplex in Utah while Brandon was going through the State Department employment process, and there was a little bit of bare dirt to put plants in.  Eventually we settled on personal allowances, and mine went to plants.

In Egypt we lived in an apartment with a few very shallow balconies, but those I filled with bougainvillea and jasmine.  In Baku I experimented with home container gardening, which worked out okay.  We didn't have any empty spaces to put plants, so I had to stick to pots.  In Dushanbe, I bought trees, planted wildflowers, and filled pots with herbs and flowers.

Our house here only has grassy areas with nowhere to plant anything in the ground, so I have to stick to containers again.  Back in the fall I visited Chorsu, the main bazaar in town, and bought house plants and made plans to return in the spring when planting season began in earnest. 

My Russian teacher does a wonderful job of helping me out with errands that overreach my Russian skills, so she agreed to meet me at Chorsu a week ago so that I could get all the things I needed to make our yard a garden paradise. 

When I entered the plant area of the bazaar, I was amazed by the selection.  I shouldn't have been shocked, as Uzbeks seem to love plants just as much as I do.  Every few weeks, more planting beds pop up been put in the public areas around town.  The highways are lined with new tree plantings, complete with sprinkler systems.   I've even seen areas that are already covered in trees get interplanted with saplings.  "Here's a little bit of empty ground," seems to be the thought process, "let's put a tree in it!"

Just inside the bazaar gate I found rhododendrons, azaleas, wisteria, hydrangeas (some coming all the way from Holland), irises, lilies, honeysuckle, and roses.  After the initial offering of plants were flats and flats and flats of flowering bedding plants, tempting even the most casual gardener with their bright, cheerful blooms.  Further in were the fruit trees - cherry, pomegranate, peach, plum, apple, pear, quince, nectarine, apricot - all planted in temporary rows of dirt that had been hauled in and dumped on the concrete floor.  And to top it off were the ornamental trees and bushes, where you could buy anything from lilac trees to crepe myrtles (here they're called 'Indian lilacs') to bougainvillea. 

I hardly knew where to begin.  If I were in America, perhaps I would have set a budget, but I didn't even keep track of what I spent as I tore through the market, spreading soum lavishly around in my wake. If something looked interesting, I bought ten of them.  Or twenty, or fifty.  But the end of our trip, I had not one, but two cart men hauling my goods behind them out to the car and the whole of the car was filled with the spoils of my trip to Chorsu. 

Then I set to planting.  My pomegranate tree - which was supposed to fill in a mud hole dug by the boys - went in the backyard after I found that the mud hole inexplicably had a concrete bottom (we could have told you that, Mom!).  My honeysuckle vines draped themselves artistically over the railing surrounding our pool cabana. 

And everything else went into planters - snapdragons, floss flowers, cana lilies, zinnias, alyssum, and some local flower that I didn't recognize but liked the look of.  I filled planters and planted flowers and filled and planted until I thought I would die of exhaustion.  By the end of the afternoon, I realized with sick dread that I hadn't bought enough flowers and I didn't have enough dirt.  I was going to have to return to Chorsu.

So that Saturday, my ever-patient Russian teacher met me again and again I liberally spread around the soum and returned with a car that was slightly less full.  Again I filled and planted and filled and planted and thought about how really I would be happy I did this.  Really.

And then I realized that I had forgotten my banana tree.  I had a vision of a pool surrounded by tropicals and a banana tree would be perfect.  So, I dragged myself (and my Russian teacher) back to Chorsu on more time.  By then some of my plants had died, so I bought a few (seventy) more plants.  And since I had brought a friend and she was perusing the selection for her own yard, I bought some foxgloves and a bougainvillea plant just for fun.  Because what's the point of money if you can't spend it, right?

By that afternoon after I had planted over seventy more plants, I decided that I was done with plants.  There are enough plants in my yard.  I will enjoy their flowers and be happy that I have a lovely yard, but I'm not buying any more plants.  At least until next year.