"Two more sleeps!"  

Aaron's rather excited about our trip to the States.  I am too, though to be honest at this stage it shifts between being a welcome distraction from the unpleasantness of last week and feeling like I've just eaten a lead pancake as I mentally go through the trains to planes to automobile that we will need to get us there.  It's probably just as well that I haven't had to drive to and from school since Wednesday so I've had time to mentally begin driving on the wro-, er, other side of the road.  

As I'm packing and sorting and cleaning and preparing, it's hard not to play Then and Now.  It's been well over three years since I've seen my siblings.  Babies have been born, hairstyles (colors) have changed, weight has been gained and lost and, in my case, gained again.  And under the surface there have been subtle changes, those little daily ins and outs that just happen without ever really getting noticed.  My youngest sister has been busy putting menu plans together and sent me a worried message saying she hadn't planned anything for those few days that Aaron and I will still be there after the rest have gone home.  "You won't want to have to shop twice!" she fretted.  I had to laugh -- going to the grocery store only twice over the span of a week is a luxury I will truly enjoy, I told her.  

It got me thinking about other ways life has changed.  We still change out our warm weather gear --jackets, flip-flops, sun hats-- for big puffy coats, gloves and scarves, but our raincoats are permanent fixtures in the entry way.  Our fridge and freezer sit side by side, under the counter, and our now rare trips to Costco require the equivalent of a PhD in Tetris to get our spoils put away before they spoil.  The walls in between rooms are thick enough that if you move so that more than one is between you and the router, you'll never ever ever get a wi-fi signal.  We have one room dedicated to our clothes, but it's not connected to our bedroom.  We have one bathroom.  The toilet has its own space, outside the room in which we bathe.  The upsides are there, too -- I couldn't be happier on Thursdays to be able to clean the house, top to bottom, start to finish in two hours.  We have no grass, but if we did, there would be absolutely no need to water.  Food doesn't get lost in the back of the fridge.

Of all the things that are different, though, the clothes dryer is the thing that continually reminds me that we are no longer in Kansas.  Ours is a combo washer-dryer because it is located (as are most in the area) in our kitchen.  The washer portion has recently begun to express its distaste at the amount of laundry that keeping up with a nine year-old and an Ironman requires.  It's probably long overdue to have someone come in and tighten up all the parts that have begun to shake loose, but our clothes come out fresh and as clean as a single wash could be expected to get the clothes of those who routinely run through puddles.  

The dryer, on the other hand, is the bane of my housewifely existence.

There are two dryer settings: 12 and 13.  We suspect that is on a scale of 1-10 because temperaturewise they are roughly equivalent to "hellfire" and "damnation".  If the article of clothing you are hoping to dry has even the most minimal of natural fibers running through it, you would be well advised to keep it well away from either of the dryer settings.  The locals seem to be instinctively attuned to the weather and do very well at hanging their clothes out to dry. Unfortunately, this is not a skill easily acquired and consequently our clothing goes from clean, spun and gently drying in the fresh breeze to drenched, dripping, and drooping to the ground under the weight of the rain that I somehow didn't realize was coming when I hung them out to dry 30 seconds ago.  So they go back into the washer to be rinsed and respun.  Which might begin to explain why everything has begun to shake loose and need tightening in the little-over-a-year that we've had it!

Once winter begins in earnest and it's more likely to rain than not, I don't even bother with the line outside.  I've purchased a couple of clothes hanging frames ("airers"), one that hangs off the side of the radiator and one that stands alone with hanging "branches" jutting out like something you might find in a bohemian thrift store.  I've also got one of those hanging hooks that you clip to the top of a door frame.  The laundry process is now a multi-day experience.  Washing goes in first thing in the morning so that by lunchtime it has been washed and respun (the noise the washing machine makes during the spin cycle is inversely proportional to the amount of water it actually extracts).  Whilst washing/spinning, yesterday's load is carefully rotated from door clip to clothes tree to radiator with special attention being paid to the level of dryness in each piece.  Items deemed "nearly dry" or "dry" are easily recognizable because they keep the shape they had been pressed into during their own rotation.  Those are deposited into the waiting basket to be treated to a softening blast from the furnaces of hell before being folded or hung to be put away when the current load being washed is done.  Any article of clothing that is needed to be worn again in the next three days is carefully subjected to a peer, pick, and sniff test to determine if it absolutely must be laundered before being worn again since there is no guarantee that it will be ready when needed.  

It would be lying if I didn't admit that I am nearly as excited about using the laundry room in the hotel during our stay as I am about seeing my family.  And it has crossed my mind that it just might be worth the extra baggage fee to bring a few extra things with us...


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