Africa in 2017
Since I last blogged, we received our next assignment. In 2017, we will move to Libreville, Gabon. The equator runs right through the country. The official language is French, but there are many other native languages spoken there. Its neighboring countries are Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Republic of the Congo. A large part of the country's border is coastal, and the capital itself is on the coast. It will be the first time I've lived so close to an ocean since my one summer in Maine, so that will be fun.
We assume we will leave Mexico in December 2016 or January 2017. We will have six months of French language training in Virginia (so excited to have time in Virginia again!), as well as a month and a half of homeless home leave, where we'll wander about visiting friends and family. We'll arrive in Libreville in, most likely, September 2017. (I'm hoping for August, so the kids miss less school.) I think in a month or so, we'll receive more firm information on our comings and goings and whens.
This video will tell you almost everything you need to know about how we feel about our next assignment.
Life with Four
I remember a while back reading an article someone posted on Facebook about how three children was the most stressful number to have and that mothers of four reported being less stressed. The author of the article postulated that mothers of four children were less stressed, because they had finally started "letting go." I read that when I had three children and couldn't imagine myself "letting go" and simultaneously wondered what I would "let go" of.
Well, there have been a few things that I have just had to stop caring about, because there are only so many minutes in a day and I need to remain sane.
1. My car. I gave up. I do collect the trash quite frequently, but other than that, I've let it go. There is sand EVERYWHERE. And smashed Cheerios and a million other crumbs. And so much sand. I had no idea how much sand there would be everywhere, all the time, living here.
2. Naps. I used to be SO strict about naps. Now they just sort of happen whenever they can happen. I feel kind of bad about this, but I've had to let it go. Sometimes I don't let the older kids play outside, because Gordon really does need to nap, but other times, he misses his nap, because he's outside playing in/eating the sand while his siblings run around. Some days all of his naps happen in the car driving between school and various activities.
3. Markers. Jill and Daniel NEVER had access to markers when they were Alice's and Gordon's ages. But now that Jill and Daniel are older, I don't want to keep the markers up high, because I want them to be able to use them when they want them. As such, Alice can also get them. As such, they are often on the floor for Gordon to grab and never seem to have lids on them.
On the other hand, there are things that I guessed I might let go, but that I just really can't yet.
1. Folded clothes. I do a lot of laundry—a lot. And every now and then I wonder when I am going to stop caring if the kids' clothes are neatly folded. It hasn't happened yet. Usually about twice a week, I go through all of their drawers and make sure everything is in neat piles. Well, this is almost true. I make sure Jill's, Daniel's, and Gordon's clothes are in neat piles. I leave Alice's alone. She's three. I don't mess with that. I have a theory that my children will get used to things being neat and tidy and will want them to stay that way. It is somewhat working so far.
2. Toys. All of the toys get stored with their corresponding toys in specific bins. I have not yet graduated to that place of dumping all the toys wherever and walking away. I keep thinking that day will come, but it hasn't yet. And my kids actually (in line with my hopes for tidy clothes) know which toys go in which bins with which sets and when it is time to clean up, they are pretty good at putting everything in their proper places.
My four joys
A taste of life with four kids.
This is life with four.
Life kind of shut down for a week in February, because the Pope not only came to Mexico but also came to Ciudad Juarez itself! Everyone was way excited and terrified of crazy crowd and bridge lines, but as far as I heard, it actually all went pretty smoothly. We didn't try to go see him, but I enjoyed that the Consulate closed for the actual Pope Day, and that the schools closed the day before and the day of (and the day after was optional). My kids and I have enjoyed all of the billboards that are everywhere welcoming the Pope to our city. (My especial favorite was the one that claimed the Pope preferred their pizza. Ha. Sacrilegious?) Jill was often heard saying that the Pope was friends with our Prophet. And Daniel mispronounced "pope" as "hope" and could often be heard saying that "the hope was coming to Juarez." I thought that had a nice ring to it.
No Mexican ever laughed when I tried to make jokes about how
"papa" means "potato" and "pope." Apparently that's not funny.
International Woman's Day
My last baby turns one year old next month, and I have no plans to go for a fifth child. That has caused me to reflect a lot. I got married at 20 with a goal to have four kids before I turned 30. And I achieved that goal. I had no idea when I made that goal what it would entail, but here I am. A success. Goal achieved.
In achieving that goal, I was stripped down. Worn down. Softened. Only the essential core of what made Mimi Mimi remained. But now I'm almost out. My body is almost mine again. I almost don't have a breastfeeding infant. In a few months, I think I'll start getting uninterrupted nights of sleep sometimes.
And it makes me wonder who I'll be. I used to be a hospice volunteer. I used to be an editor. I used to be a member of an auditioned community choir. I used to review books. I used to be a reader in a writers' group. I used to blog a lot more. I used to play soccer. I used to try to write songs. I used to write the occasional poetry. I used to research family history. I used to scrapbook. I used to try to sew things.
What hobbies will I reclaim? Which will I never go back to? I don't know yet. But I'm having a lot of fun thinking about it. What kind of a woman will Mimi be in her 30s?
A Birthday Girl
Alice turned three years old in February. Her requests for her birthday: having a Minnie Mouse piñata, decorating cupcakes, and playing with her friends. Done. Done. Done. Thank you, Alice, for easily fulfilled expectations!
I asked her to show me "three" with her fingers.
She did this.
Alice, you are going to ROCK being three!
(I cut her hair! And I'm really pleased by how it turned out.)
Active Mormon members usually have something that we call a "calling." It is our responsibility in our ward or stake (our congregation or large group of multiple congregations). Jeff's calling is the Young Men's president, so he is responsible over the teenage boys ages 12 to 18. I have two related callings, ward music leader and primary music leader. That means that every Sunday, I am in charge of choosing the hymns and making sure there is someone present to play the piano and lead the congregational singing. It means I am in charge of organizing the ward choir, and it means that every Sunday, I teach songs to the children ages 18 months to 11 years old.
This past month, I received some extra assignments.
I was asked to teach primary music leader training at a stake primary training session, and I was asked to direct a stake choir for stake conference. For both of those assignments, I was given two weeks' notice. Which is not a lot. And everything is always more stressful when you don't have a lot of time, and when you're doing it in a nonnative language.
But I survived, and things worked out. I didn't sleep very much this past month, but I am pretty proud of what I accomplished. I successfully conducted a one hour training session in Spanish on how to teach music to children. I successfully led my choir, sang a duet, and sang a solo all in Spanish.
I Enjoy Being a Girl . . .
If you know that song, then imagine me whistling it sarcastically.
There I was, sitting in front of everyone at stake conference. I had just finished singing my solo, feeling greatly relieved that the past few stressful, sleep deprived weeks of musical preparation were behind me. I could finally relax.
Except that I really needed to go to the bathroom.
And there were a few warning signs I had ignored.
1. The night before, Gordon woke me up after I had gone to bed and Jeff was still up watching a basketball game. I was in the room next to Gordon, and Jeff was all the way downstairs, so obviously I could hear Gordon better, but I was irrationally angry that I was getting woken up to tend to Gordon when Jeff was still awake and clearly should be the one going to Gordon. (Never mind that I was closer, that I could actually hear him, and that I'm the one with the milk.) I was really unnecessarily angry about this and grumpy with Jeff. And I remember thinking, "why am I getting so upset? This isn't actually that big of deal, and Jeff will take his turn later when Gordon doesn't actually need to nurse, just like Jeff always does." But even while I was thinking that I needed to calm down, I just couldn't calm down. That was the first clue.
2. The second warning sign was that I got a zit on my nose. Now that I'm not a teenager, I don't get zits very often. Almost never. Except when my hormones are acting up . . .
3. Before singing, I thought I felt that my stomach was upset. It reminded me a little of how I used to feel before track races in high school. I assumed I was nervous about singing my solo, but mentally I actually wasn't nervous. I had practiced a lot and felt confident, but my body sure was acting nervous, or so I thought.
So, after the speaker finished, I dashed to the bathroom, only to discover that after not having had a period since MAY 2014 (2014!), my period decided that this—this moment!—would be a great moment to start again. No time like the present, right? I had no idea how to say pad or tampon in Spanish, but conveniently, the word tampon apparently transcends language barriers. I hightailed it back up to the choir seats in front of everyone, and passed a note around the women asking if anyone had anything. A friend did, and I walked back down from the choir seats, went to the bathroom, and then returned again in front of everyone. So fun to be on display at moments like this.
I'm just glad that I noticed as early as I did! This story could have been a lot more embarrassing.
Life Far Away
Sometimes it is really hard to be so far away from family. When we were in Brazil in 2014, I missed being near by when my sister went through her very scary emergency C-section due to cord prolapse. Here in Mexico, in 2015, I missed my aunt's funeral. Right now, I'm missing taking care of my mom. She had surgery yesterday and is still in the hospital, and while I know my dad is taking care of her, I just really wish that I could be there taking turns, too. My mom has taken care of me so well so many times throughout my whole life. And now, when she needs to be taken care of, I'm no where near. And that is very hard. And I know it will be even harder when I'm in Africa. At least now I'm only a short flight away if something serious happened, and I'm almost in the same time zone. Very soon, I will be half a world away. So yes, I love experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, learning new languages, and seeing new places. But I never stop missing being close to the people I love.
Heal quickly, Mama. I love you.