Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sunday, September 19, 2021
The children have been back in school now for three weeks. Our routines have settled back into their usual groove, and order and sanity have resumed their usual supremacy in the house. Our summers are a welcome break from the rigid schedules of the school year. Everyone is happy for a chance to do some relaxing, spend more time playing, and not be so ruled by routine. Summer always ends in the climax of our yearly trip to the US where the routine and predictability get entirely tossed out in window in a wild month of staying up late, seeing friends, and partying non-stop. So by the time we get to fall and school, I (and perhaps the children) am happy to be embraced by the routine again.
This is our second last fall in Tashkent. All last year I spent thinking that it would be the last fall, winter, and spring we spent in Tashkent. When pumpkin somsas came into season in the fall, we ate as many as we could because this was the last time we'd get to enjoy the delicious mix of sweet and savory inside a flaky crust (if you've ever had them, you'd know exactly the heaven I'm describing). After going sledding once last year, I bid the mountains farewell because we wouldn't be visiting them again. And in the spring, everyone gorged themselves on the last season of amazing Uzbek strawberries.
But here we are again, and it's fall again, and we're still in Tashkent. Sometimes I imagine a parallel life where I'm in DC right now, settling into a tiny little apartment while Brandon learns Kazakh and we enjoy a Virginian fall. And then I look around and see the same fall I'm having for the fourth year in a row.
That's not to say that I'm unhappy about another fall here in Tashkent. And when compared with the alternative - hemorrhaging money while sleeping on top of each other and waiting to see what the next place will be like - I'm very happy to be here for a fourth year. I haven't seen four falls in the same house since I was a teenager at my parents' house. And I'm not likely to see another string of falls until Brandon and I retire and we finally settle down, whenever that will be.
This fall has been the usual September of Shattered Hopes. After a long, hot, dry Uzbek summer, everyone is desperately waiting for a breath of cool air so we can all stop sweating the second we walk out of our houses. And as is usual, the beginning of this month offered a false hope, a string of crystal-clear, blue-sky days that never got hotter than the low eighties. I opened the windows, pulled out my cardigans for date nights, and looked forward to the next two months of beautiful weather. Then, as usual, it got hot again. Yesterday Brandon had an office farewell/welcome party, and it was outside next to his co-worker's pool. Nobody said anything, but I know at least a few of us were looking longingly at it as we tried to hide in the shade from the 97-degree heat. Eventually it will cool down for good, and then I will really have my last Uzbek fall.
We have grand plans for this fall, with camping, fishing, and horseback riding planned. I've been scouting out some hikes to go on, and we might even try to make some friends for our final year here in Tashkent. After all, if we don't have friends, there won't be anyone to have Thanksgiving with.
I'm happy that this is our last, last fall in Tashkent. One day I look forward to settling down and not having any last seasons at all as I actually don't like moving around very much. But although we live in Tashkent, this isn't our home and we've always known that we would leave at some point. So when it's time to leave, I'll be happy to go and explore the things that Kazakhstan has to offer. Every place has something good about it, so I'm looking forward to finding those things out.
But for now, I'm happy to be here and have another year of stability. And also, pumpkin somsas.
Sunday, September 12, 2021
Two weeks ago, on the first day of school, on a whim I decided to put Elizabeth in undies. The timing wasn't really the best, but it was going to be happening soon, so why not make an already crazy week even crazier?
My three least-favorite parenting tasks are sleep training, potty training, and teaching children how to read. There are lots of unpleasant things about parenting (the noise is definitely one that gets old), but those three tasks are ones that call for a high amount of patience and faith that at the end of your effort, you'll get a child that is a little more like a real human being.
I think they are also frustrating because there often seems to be a lot of work put in for very little, if any, discernible progress. It's nearly completely random reinforcement, with almost no tie between what you do and what results come from the child you're trying to teach. It's an unfortunate reminder that even though you may want your child to pee on command in the place you want them to pee, if they don't want to, it's not going to happen. That is one of the great frustrations of parenting - there are two wills involved, and usually the one that is less logical wins in a head-on confrontation.
This year I also started teaching William to read. And if I'd had another child, I'd probably be sleep training them right now too. But thankfully I only have to do two of my least favorite things simultaneously instead of going for the unholy trifecta of complete insanity. Everyone is happy that is the case. It's funny how much an unhappy mother can make everyone's lives fairly miserable.
Potty training has had its usual and expected triumphs and disasters which are common to teaching any child a new skill. I've cleaned up puddles, washed sheets and blankets, handed out chocolate chips, listened to (seemingly endless) wailing, and let everyone in the house know of all Elizabeth's successes. Thankfully her siblings are happy to clap for a potty full of urine. She, as is usual, hasn't liked it, but she's submitted to the program because I'm more stubborn than she is.
At this point, we're over the worst part of the process and nobody in the house wears diapers during the day. Elizabeth toddles around the house wearing tiny little undies, which is possibly one of the cutest things that toddlers can wear. I love their round little bellies poking out as they wander around the house with no shame, not yet realizing that everyone else is wearing clothes and their lack of them is an unusual thing. I have perhaps two more years of this before she vigorously defends her modesty and insists on things like locked doors when she dresses.
I have found, as seems to be true about many things with my later children, that this process hasn't been nearly as hateful as it used to be. I don't know if it's because I'm older and less prone to hysterics, or I'm older and just don't have the energy to get wound up about things, or I'm older and have more experience and perspective about what things are really worth getting upset about, or I'm just older. Whichever it is, I'm happy to be older. It seems to make some things in life easier.
But even if potty training is less unpleasant than it used to be, I'm still happy that this is the last time I have to try and figure out where the puddle is, use my mom-senses to figure out if that crying fit is caused by a full bladder or just pique, haul the little red potty around the house, and have endless conversations about the state of one's bladder. Bathroom use is something I'm very happy to not to have to think about for anyone other than myself.
There are lots of things I'm going to miss about having small children - having them cuddle up in my lap and fall asleep into limp relaxation, watching their pure delight with simple, little things - but I'm very happy to be done with diapers. I can't stop my children from growing up and leaving innocence behind, but at least I can enjoy them leaving dependence behind also. I've been changing diapers for fifteen years now, and I'm happy to quit for good. I feel like I've done my time and I'm ready to move on with my life. I'm happy to change diapers occasionally for someone else, but I'm happy that that stage of my life is almost over.
She started the day with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which everyone was quite happy about. Even though I make homemade doughnuts, there's nothing that matches a fresh Krispy Kreme. She also got to spend the afternoon swimming and then have her birthday dinner and cake of her choice.
For her present from her grandmother, she went shopping with Sophia and her cousin (to celebrate their birthdays also) and out to lunch afterwards. A few days later, she got to go riding with them and Eleanor tagged along for her birthday present from my mother.
Kathleen also got to spend her birthday at Driver's Ed, learning how to drive from my parents' neighbor who teaches part time at a local driving school. She managed to get through the three days of driving without causing any accidents, so I'll call that a win.
It's strange to have a fifteen year-old in the house. She is now three inches taller than me, has bigger feet than me, and wears my old clothes. In less than three years, she'll be gone, the first one to leave the house. That time that never felt like it would come is now quickly coming at me and I'm constantly surprised had how fast it has arrived.
With Sophia's thirteenth birthday earlier in the summer, I'm now the mother of two teenaged daughters. Having been the mother of at least one teenager for two years now, I can say that I mostly enjoy my teenagers. They're often interesting to talk to, are usually quite dependable, and we get along together pretty well most of the time. We've yet to have any of the terrible conflicts I've heard tales of, which I'm very grateful for. Both Sophia and Kathleen have commented that they've come to the sad realization that I hold all the power and fighting is useless as I can make their lives pretty miserable. I'm glad that they can understand that without having to try it out first.
It was fun to watch both the girls spend a lot of time with their great aunts while we were at the beach this summer. I would often see them out in the waves, chatting with their adult relatives, or talking with them long after dinner was done. I am happy to see that my children enjoy the company of the people I love and respect and aren't so annoying that the adults run when they see the girls coming.
I'm enjoying watching Kathleen grow up and come into the first stages of budding adulthood. She's not ready to leave and run her own life yet, but we can both see that on the horizon. Our conversations have shifted to talking about that coming time and how to prepare for it. She still likes some things that she's liked since she was a child, but her interests are also maturing and turning into things that she will be able to enjoy throughout her life. It's fascinating to watch.
Everyone is happy to have her in our family and I'm happy to have her as my firstborn, the one that I get to experiment and learn on. She's very patient with me, and I'm grateful. Happy birthday, Kathleen!