Thursday, November 13, 2014

Living in a Glass House

The other night we had some people come over for dinner, some locals. More specifically, one of Shannon's employees and his wife and kids. I'm always nervous about having people over for dinner, because the food we eat is not like the food they eat here. If you go to someone's house here they will fill and refill your plate over and over again, whether you want them to or not. They will kill the fattened calf, so to speak, and put out a crazy big feast for you. Which really, if you think about it, is a little embarrassing. And then you're left with the question of how to reciprocate.

So when we lived in Istanbul some friends mentioned that they would always try to have people over to their home first, before they got invited somewhere. Because then they could set the stage for what was normal, for how things were to be reciprocated. They would serve a normal meal with normal food and normal portions, and then a normal dessert and of course tea and coffee afterwards. And I thought, wow, that's a great idea.

So I made a huge pot of chicken and vegetable stew, sliced some bread, and had made an apple pie for dessert. We always tell our guests that we don't (and won't) heap portion after portion after portion of food on their plates because we don't do that in America and aren't comfortable doing it, but that there is obviously plenty of food and if they'd like more to please help themselves. And we offer, but we don't force. Our guests each ate one bowl of stew. They commented on how they didn't think Americans ate things like that (probably because every time they've been guests in a foreigner's home they've been served the "fattened calf.") We served the cake they brought with the pie I made (and the mandatory store-bought candy) and tea and coffee. And they left with a loaf of pumpkin bread and a jar of my homemade jam, leaving us with half of the biggest cake I've ever seen here.

And that night, as Shannon and I were washing dishes we discussed how in America we loved having people over. I loved playing hostess and cooking and baking. But here, it's just uncomfortable and awkward. We never feel like people actually have a good time. I never know if they really like the food or if they're just being polite. We never know if we're doing the right thing by not heaping loads of food onto their plates or if we're really offending them. Should we send home leftover cake when there's no way we'll eat it all, even when they refuse it? How long do we wait after we serve dinner before we serve the tea and coffee, because no matter how many times we explain that it doesn't mean we want them to leave, it just means that our kids expect dessert immediately following dinner, they still leave 30 minutes later.

What do they think of our huge (for here) apartment? Our girls' 80 million hair bows? What does it say to them when we live in a nice apartment but I serve them chicken stew when they come for dinner instead of the spread they were probably expecting? Does it speak well of us because now they're off the hook for giving us a huge spread, or are they angry because they think we don't value them enough to prepare the feast? How does this impact things with Shannon being his boss?

I've was a nanny before for a well-off family when I was in graduate school. I noticed when they bought "extras." I saw receipts around the house sometimes for hundreds of dollars on makeup or thousands of dollars on a bookshelf. I saw the food in their pantry, the out-of-season produce in their refrigerator. The products they bought, the clothes in their kids' closets, how frequently they washed clothes and ran the dishwasher.

We have a nanny come into our home five mornings a week so I can go to language class. And I wonder what she thinks about the food in my refrigerator. The clothes in my girls' drawers. How frequently I do laundry, change the sheets, vacuum my floors, clean the toilets. What she thinks of the toilet paper I buy, the laundry soap, the dish soap, the individually-packaged tea bags. The flour in bulk but the always-expensive avocados (for Raye). Does she think I'm wasteful? Extravagent? A good manager of my home? What does she think of my children and how they behave? How they eat? What they eat?

And I feel like I live in a glass house for all to see. And it makes me uncomfortable.

Because as much as I know that we are not extravagant (at least not for Americans), that I clean as regularly as I can manage, that our intentions are pure in not serving the fattened calf, and so on, it doesn't much matter if they don't see it, too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

6 Months Old

Dear Raye,

Three days ago you turned six months old, the big half-a-year. Time sure does fly. Every time I start to get frustrated that you're not on more of a schedule yet I remind myself that another six months from now you'll probably be sleeping longer at night, you'll only be taking two naps a day, and so on. I'm much less stressed out about your loosey-goosey schedule than I would have been with Lane or Noel. Which is nice.

Snoozin' on the bus ride to Georgia.

Raye, you are such a sweetheart. You're still quite the happy and content baby, but within the last week you've started to get your two bottom front teeth, so they're giving you some trouble. You've been a little cranky about that, but overall you're still happy. You're still sleeping alright at night...I'm ready for you to sleep past 4 or 5 in the morning, but I feel bad for you because I know that your teeth are bothering you, so I usually cave and feed you and then you go back to sleep. You do usually at least sleep straight through until that early morning feeding, though, so I'm grateful for that. You're nursing about six times a day, still, but you're content so I'm not worrying about it even though I'd love to work you down to four or five. 

This month we started feeding you more solids and you are a fan. You do not like the texture (at least I'm assuming it's the texture) of the rice cereal here. You pretty much don't like anything pureed. So instead I'm cooking things in small chunks and you're chowing down. You love zucchini, bananas, and avocado. You'll eat plain yogurt and homemade oat cereal but your face is so funny because it's obvious you're not really a fan. You're still pretty slow at eating so I feel like you spend most of your day either sleeping or eating, because you still want to eat, it just takes you forever to gum things since you don't like them pureed.

Chillin' in Tbilisi.

This month you got another stamp in your passport as we traveled to Georgia. We took a bus and you did great. You were a trooper the whole trip, taking naps while I carried you in the Ergo and missing out on most of Tbilisi, but you didn't seem to care too much. Your infected hangnail is much better now and while we're still waiting on the fingernail to grow out, you're not sucking on your fingers/thumb much anymore (you prefer the paci, yay!) so you're not having to wear a sock on your hand 24/7.

You also have started to sit up a bit on your own but are not too good at it yet. You are usually trying to look at something so end up toppling over. But you can sit up well in your highchair and do well if someone is sitting behind you. You are also pushing yourself up into a "girl" pushup position but you're not trying to push yourself around much yet. I think it has to do mostly with the fact that we have wood floors and you're wearing pants because it's cold, so you just end up sliding around. You push yourself up much more when you're in the living room on our only rug. You roll all over the place, but you prefer to be on your tummy and to play on your tummy. You like to look at the world, chew on your toys, and sometimes yell at them.

You are such a sweetie-pie, Raye. We all love you so much and we all love to see you smile and interact with us. I'm so excited to see your personality develop even more and to see your relationship with your sisters deepen. You will surely all be thick as thieves.

I love you, Raye, and am so grateful for you.