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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Happy Birthday, Sophia!

This week we celebrated Sophia's birthday.  Twelve doesn't have the same significance now that children transition from primary to the youth program at the beginning of the year they turn twelve.  But still it feels like a milestone to me, as I've spent my whole life seeing twelve as a big year. 

Now I have two daughters who have become young women, and two to take to the temple next time we're in the US.  I remember being at a family dinner with Kathleen when she was a new baby and talking with my uncle.  His oldest daughter had just graduated high school, and he commented that one day your baby is just a few months old and then you're sending them off to college.  I still remember thinking that it wasn't possible for time to move so quickly, but I understand him much more now. 

It doesn't feel like it was that long ago that I only had two little girls who couldn't talk and needed me to do everything for them.  Now I have two young women that can take care of their five younger siblings, cooking for them, feeding them, getting them ready for bed, putting them to bed, and cleaning everything up while Brandon and I are on a date.  I confess that life is a lot easier than it was back then!

As with Eleanor's birthday, we had to celebrate Sophia's at home.  Uzbekistan is more open than it was a few weeks ago, but all of the fun places are still closed.  However, she did get to have school off on her birthday, as our school policy is that birthdays are holidays for everyone.  The children are always happy to have so many siblings when birthdays roll around. 

Since Brandon is still working from home, we got to have a proper birthday holiday, complete with sleeping in an a leisurely breakfast of crepes with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce.  We spend most of the day cooking or getting food for Sophia's birthday dinner (which was not nearly as easy as Eleanor's), but Sophia was perfectly happy to keep me company and chat.  I love that my girls still enjoy talking with me.

We finished the day with dinner (eggs Benedict) cake (strawberry chocolate meringue torte) and presents, which weren't that many as the mail has been sporadic and no presents were ordered.  But there were enough to make Sophia happy, and so it was a good end to the day. 

We are all grateful to have Sophia as part of our family.  She is patient and calm with her younger siblings, something that I probably take advantage of too much when things get crazy.  I know that William and Eleanor often do, begging her to read them books, push them on the swing, or make toys for them.  She is capable and confident, and I look forward to watch her increase in both of those things as she continues to grow up.  Happy Birthday, Sophia!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Family Home Evening in the Pool

Spring here in Tashkent has been rather uneven.  Of course, spring is a season of uneven weather - never does the weather slowly warm up in a perfectly rational climb of increasing daily temperatures.  But this spring has been annoyingly uneven for people who want to swim in their pool, especially when one of those people is me.

But, as I remind Kathleen every time she complains about yet another cloudy, rainy Saturday followed by a clear, sunny Sunday (and there have been a lot), soon enough it will be clear, sunny, and hot every single day.  For four months straight.  So we don't need to rush the advent of summer that much.

But this past Monday it was one of those clear, sunny, hot days.  Our pool heater has proven to be a little wimpier than I'd like and the water hasn't spent much time above the 85 degree mark - my bare minimum temperature for swimming.  But on Monday the weather was perfect for swimming - 93 degree air temperature and 85 degree water temperature.

I had some yard work to do that afternoon, and spend a couple of hours sweating while watching the children splash in the pool, asking me to come swim with them.  Finally, I was finished and rushed to put my own swimsuit on.  It was close enough to 5:00 that I didn't feel bad asking Brandon to come join us.

Usually I start cooking dinner at 5, but I kept revising my dinner plans as we kept playing.  We started with swimming, followed by fruit tag, then a rousing game of keep away (parents vs. children), after that a very uneven game of chicken (anyone sitting on Brandon's shoulders was guaranteed a victory), and finished the evening with cannon ball contests (I won). 

By the time we finished, dinner time had come and gone and it was 7:30.  Brandon and I unanimously declared that we had just had our activity portion of Family Home Evening.  I then made up a new meal - dinnssert - where we combined dinner and dessert together in the meal of waffles with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce.  Everyone approved. 

We rounded out our Family Home Evening program with a discussion of goals while eating waffles, cleaned up the meal, and then sent everyone off to bed.  They all fell asleep quickly and slept soundly, one of the wonderful effects of a long afternoon in the pool.

Usually I'm a very scheduled person; the schedule works for me and I can loosely contain the chaos that is seven children.  Everything is neatly packed in, all of the pieces having found their place over the years of trial and error.  From the time I wake up in the morning until the children go to bed in the evening, life proceeds at its measured pace.  It has to, or the chaos will slip its bounds and explode the household into a noisy, crazy, stressful mess.

But it was nice to spend an evening in the pool instead of marching to the usual schedule.  I was happy to break my own rules to play with the children, taunting them for their inability to catch the ball as it sailed over their heads (but not for much longer).  I enjoyed having children that could wait a little while longer for dinner without dissolving into tears or fights as we enjoyed a perfect evening together.  I hope they'll remember that evening as one of the times where - despite the world outside our gate - everything inside the gate was perfect and everyone was happy together.  When they think of their childhood, that happy time will hold a special glow.  A time when we were all together, enjoying being a family of people who love each other and love being together.  I know I will. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Easing Up

Friday morning, I bundled the kids - complete with masks - into the car, and we left the house.  As we drove through the neighborhood, everyone started commenting on how different everything looked with leaves and flowers.  I realized that the last time we had been in the car together - and the last time several of them had been in a car - was a Friday morning six weeks ago.

Ten minutes later, we pulled into the stable parking lot, and everyone jumped out of the car and practically sprinted to the stable to greet their favorite horses.  It was good to be back.

Uzbekistan continues to do well with their COVID situation, with only ten deaths for the entire thirty-three million population, and so the government has begun easing restrictions.  They have allowed more businesses to open up, including plant sellers, construction materials, dry cleaners, bakeries, and (just in time for Mother's Day this weekend), florists.  On April 30, they allowed private cars and taxis to operate in the mornings and evenings.  Uzbek Air announced that it will resume international flights on June 30.  

As I've been around town, I keep seeing more cars and more people about, as everyone has grown tired of being home and the weather has grown more pleasant.  Tashkent is not the ghost town it was a month ago.

This hasn't made a big difference in our daily life, other than our return to the stables.  Brandon and I have stopped playing taxi driver for our household help, which has been nice.  He is still working from home, and will be working from home until certain benchmarks have been met.  

A lot of our friends are still in the States, and nobody is sure when they'll return.  We're hoping that we can see them this summer and be able to meet again together for play dates and parties.  Some of my children are eagerly looking forward to the explosion of sociality and some are dreading it.

We're glad that things are getting better here.  We'll take what we can get.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Happy Birthday, Eleanor!

This week Eleanor turned six.  Uzbekistan has loosened up their lockdown this week, but all the fun places are still closed.  It made for a pretty quiet birthday celebration, but we were still able to help Eleanor feel special for the day.

She got to have her favorite breakfast (apple cinnamon rolls), play birthday princess dress-up with her older sisters, have a family pool party, and order schawerma for her birthday dinner.  She also received a visit from our newly-emancipated Russian teacher who brought candy and a new tortoise.  When I asked her what kind of cake she would like, she opted to buy one from a local cake store instead of having me make one.

We had a fun time with Tashkent's semi-functional delivery system.  The pouch has been irregular and restricted to necessary items, so we weren't able to order a present from America.  Instead I turned to delivery here in Tashkent.  The first store I ordered from declined our order because they wouldn't take cash.  Thankfully, the second store was able to come through with a doll. 

After ordering the cake, I got a phone call informing me that - despite being available on the delivery bot - the cake we ordered (pink) wasn't available.  It was at that point I decided that delivery really wasn't making my life earlier.  So instead I packed Eleanor and William into the car and we just drove a couple of miles to the store and picked out the cake in person.  There was no pink cake, so we got a purple one instead.  I think it was black currant.

I'm still coming to grips with Eleanor turning six.  Being my fifth child, she's the oldest of the little kids.  I've always been used to her being in the baby category, but six is definitely not a baby.  She's almost done with kindergarten this year and is quite capable, having learned to write and spell in both English and Russian.  She loves to make bottles for her baby sister, and is a fish in the water, happily swimming for at least an hour every day. 

I remember Kathleen turning six and feeling like she was just about ready to head off to college, so it is strange to see my fifth child reaching that same age and being just as capable.  Eleanor, of course, is happy and proud to be such a big, grown-up girl.  Thankfully, she's still happy to cuddle up on my lap each evening for her story (despite being able to read all the books herself) and loves to have her daddy tell her stories every evening before tucking her in to bed.  I'm happy to keep her that way as long as she wants to be.