Friday, October 20, 2017

Traveling, Part Two: California Part One

Either I hardly blog for years or a manage a bunch of posts at once. (The "books I finished" posts don't really count, I think.) And for the week we were in California, I can EITHER write a sentence or two ("We stayed with one of my sisters at the beginning and end and went camping with much of the rest of the family in the middle, and it was cool that Marie was able to join us for that, too.") or write way too much. I'm opting for the way too much. Oh well, nobody is obligated to read this.

So we arrived late Monday night (September 25th), California time, in San Francisco. My sister Erin lives in San Bruno, ten minutes from the airport, in the house where my dad grew up, and in fact, where I lived from when I was three and a half until I was nearly six. The first couple of times returning to that house without my uncle and Grandma there were really strange, and even now, I half expect to see Grandma walking out of the kitchen, asking us what we want to eat while already preparing half a dozen things and sending Uncle Rich across the street to 7-11 to buy something else. Uncle Rich died in December 2007 and Grandma in August 2008, so it's been awhile now, but we don't go that often, either. (Katie and I visited Grandma in May 2008, our whole family went in December 2009/January 2010 to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary and my brother's wedding, we went again not quite a year later in November/December 2010 for my sister's wedding, and then in November 2015 for my mother's 65th birthday.)

Anyway, Erin came to meet us, taking half of the family to the house and then going back for the rest. It was well past midnight and we'd been traveling for well over 24 hours by the time we arrived, so the only thing on the agenda that night was to collapse. Jörn and I got our own room and the children distributed themselves over the living room.

Tuesday, the main thing on the agenda was to Stay Awake. Erin and I took the girls shopping for underwear (that's the one thing, after 26 years of living in Europe, that I still regularly buy in the U.S. when I can...in Europe, I can EITHER pay for it OR buy sufficient numbers), and as usual, I was way overwhelmed by the sheer quantities and varieties of EVERYTHING. Oh, and we got Elisabeth shoes, too. In Germany she informed me that her shoes were too small, and I had a look, and sure enough, they were. It would have been nice to know that before leaving Cyprus, as she probably has at least a dozen pairs of shoes. Oh well.

Then we packed a picnic and walked to the park.


When I first moved to Germany, the U.S. was in a phase of freaking out about dangerous playground equipment and they were taking out all the merry-go-rounds, swings, and fun slides. So for many years, I've thought of German playgrounds as being awesome and U.S. ones as being pretty boring. However, they've apparently come up with compromises in safety and fun, and we got to visit several pretty cool playgrounds in our short time in the U.S. Still no merry-go-rounds, but swings are back, and big climbing things.

We kept them awake as long as possible, but at some point, the battle was lost with Elisabeth and Helen...

Lukas was the only one who didn't fall asleep and didn't even doze, and he also slept through the first night and every night and was never up early. It was like he didn't have jet lag at all. (My sister-in-law told me that my brother doesn't believe in jet lag. I guess Lukas doesn't, either. I'd love to not believe in jet lag, but I'm not convinced that I can just "choose" not to...)
 Lukas and Jörn made, and all of us ate, dinner, and then my parents arrived. I don't have a photo of my mom, but here's one of my dad, with the girls awake (but ready for bed) and Jörn nearly asleep.

Shortly after, Katie succumbed:

And finally, Marie arrived!

She was shocked to see how much all the girls have grown, but that does happen when it's been a full year! Marie spent December 2015-June 2016 living with my sister Erin, just for a "different experience," including taking one psychology class at the community college, and working in a pretzel store in the mall. Then after the summer in Cyprus, she returned to the U.S. last year in September to help take care of my other sister's daughter. In August she moved out, to a shared apartment in Rocklin, and is enrolled full-time at Sierra College, where my dad got his AS degree when I was a child, and where I took a few classes during high school and an over-full load between Mexico and Germany (1990-1991), but never finished. At least one of my siblings, possibly two, also took classes there.

So here we are, still not the whole family, because Jacob stayed in Cyprus. Lukas trying hard to look tall...

Without a spirit level, it's STILL not conclusive if Lukas has quite passed up Marie in height yet. I think the book slants slightly to the right, but it also appears to be angled slightly back, so...I don't know. His shoulders definitely seem higher, anyway. By Christmas, the next time we see Marie, I'm sure that Lukas will have gotten another half centimeter or so and it won't be a debatable topic anymore. He's been slow to take off growing, but has grown quite a bit in the last year, finally.

And...one last photo, of the girls coloring. They spent a LOT of time doing that, both in San Bruno and while camping, and it was such a peaceful activity that my sister even lent us some nice pencils and a mandala book, but they unfortunately haven't been as interested here in Costa Rica.

On the Wednesday my sister took Helen and me to Target again, to look for socks for me (unsuccessfully--I was annoyingly picky, because I don't need socks in general, I wanted some specific running ones like I've found at Lidl in Cyprus occasionally), and to get more underpants for Helen, since the first ones we got were too small. (So now Elisabeth has a very large supply.) I also fixed the insides of my walking shoes with duct tape, which worked very well.

And at some point, we loaded ourselves and lots of stuff into my parents' RV and my mother's car, and set off for Santa Cruz...and so the next blogpost will be about the camping trip, but yet again, I hear small people stirring, so it's time to close the computer.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Traveling, Part One: Germany

Jörn and Lukas left Cyprus way back on September 13th, to go to an art conference in Germany. The three younger girls and I then flew to Germany (via Belgrade and Berlin to finally arrive in Düsseldorf: exactly 13 hours of travel when a direct flight would be about 4 1/2 hours, but saving lots of money) September 21st, which is when I got the camera back in my possession. And here it's already nearly an entire month later, we've been in Costa Rica for over two weeks, and I figured if I'm going to blog about our trip at all, I'd better get started!

Jörn and Lukas had stayed with friends during the conference, then Tuesday (19th) they went to the Daniells' in Angermund, Düsseldorf, where another friend also visited them, unfortunately before the rest of us arrived.

Düsseldorf is where I lived for my first three years and a bit in Germany, just down the street from Margaret and Phil Daniell. It was through the house group that met at their house that Jörn and I met each other. :-)

Thursday evening was dinner and hanging out and bed, and no photos. Their flat/apartment has only two bedrooms, but is perfectly laid out for guests and we've stayed there several times for a night or two. The three girls and Jörn and I all slept in the upstairs guest room, and Lukas slept on a mattress in the living room. Friday morning the children and Margaret and Phil played outside (there is a huge back garden) while I did a major re-packing: Jörn had sold a couple of paintings and a sculpture, so suddenly had LOTS of room in his suitcase, and we also didn't want to take everything with us to our church retreat that weekend, partly because it simply wouldn't fit in a vehicle. Once I'd finished, we all went for a walk.

This bridge is right at the entrance to the woods, maybe a five-minute walk from where I lived as a nanny. Margaret and Phil have moved now, but not very far away and live nearly as close to it as they did then. We played Pooh Sticks, which Lukas pointed out happily that we ALWAYS do.
 In the photo above, see that moss-covered pipe on the bottom left? It's fairly wide and nearly flat, and I started to walk across it...and very quickly felt very dizzy and had to stand still for quite awhile before I could back slowly off of it. That was rather annoying and embarrassing, and then I realized the reason: a few days earlier, I had gotten new glasses. This is my third prescription of varifocals (progressive lenses), and the lower portion, for reading, was what had changed the most since the last prescription. So when I tried to look down at my feet, it was impossible, as they were just a big blur. Oh well.

Here's the only posed photo we took--Phil's head is just barely visible there behind/between Lukas and Jörn, but it's nice of Margaret. The only evidence there is that I was at the Daniells' was that someone must have been holding the camera.

 As we continued our walk, Elisabeth got upset about something, I don't remember what, and stormed off and sat down. Lukas was very sweet with her. And look at all that GREEN!!! 

Friday afternoon our friend Christian came, and we loaded all the luggage and all of us into his car and Phil's car, and drove to our church, where we stored all of the suitcases. Then the six of us and our carry-ons fit into the car with Christian, and we said goodbye to Phil and headed off to the church retreat, less than an hour away.

The retreat was in a hostel in the mountains, and it was beautiful. And for us, coming from Cyprus, a little bit chilly, as evidenced by Lukas NOT in shorts, but jeans, and Helen playing chess with her hands inside her t-shirt!

We did take more photos at the retreat, but all of them have photos of other people's children. We had a great time re-connecting with friends from when we lived in Germany as well as friends who were just acquaintances when we left but we've gotten to know better since, and meeting lots of new people.

On each of the mornings (Saturday and Sunday) I also went for a long walk, which was wonderful. It didn't occur to me to take the camera, however. I was also a little puzzled about my heels hurting the second day, and about having holes in the heels of both of my socks, which I'd only worn maybe once or twice before. When I looked in my shoes, I discovered holes on the inside almost down to the soles! The soles themselves and the entire rest of the shoe look practically new, still, so that was very strange. I've never had a shoe wear like that before.

Christian unfortunately had to leave on Saturday, but left us his car. Sunday afternoon Katie left with our friends Gary and Elisabeth, leaving five of us to take Christian's car to go pick up our luggage (which then fit in the car because there were only five of us, not seven), and then go to Neukirchen-Vluyn, where Gary and Elisabeth live. Once again, I spent a lot of time there re-packing, after doing laundry, which was a nice treat. And once again, we took no photos, but had a very nice time with them.

Monday morning at something like 6:00 we loaded ourselves and our luggage into two cars (theirs and Christian's) and drove to the airport in Düsseldorf. Our flight wasn't until 10:50, but security personnel were on strike, so we were told to get to the airport three hours before our flight. At the airport, it occurred to us that we ought to take at least ONE photo, and hey, I'm even in this one, as it was taken by Lukas. Katie and my Elisabeth don't look all that pleased about being awake, but Helen sure looks chipper!

So, Düsseldorf to London, London to Dallas, and Dallas to San Francisco: another 22 hours of traveling instead of a direct flight that would have cost three to four times as much.

To be continued...but who knows when, because I hear children stirring.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Books finished in August 2017

When I opened my notebook (made of paper, people!) to write (with a ballpoint pen!) the titles of the last three books I finished, I was very surprised to see that I had already finished three other books this month. It sure didn't FEEL like I'd read that many, because the last two weeks were totally consumed with one book that I spent approximately 25 hours with, and didn't even really read. But I'll explain when I get there, in the meantime, here are the books I completed in August...

Farewell to the East End, Jennifer Worth  I'd never even heard of Jennifer Worth until my husband gave me Call a Midwife last Christmas, and then a friend lent me the second book, and then I found this third one in the give-away pile at the library just before the library closed for the summer! (Aside: the library opens again this Saturday! Yay!) Again, I enjoyed the writing style and the stories, in one of my favorite genres: memoirs that read like fiction.

Gypsy, Lesley Pearse  This was a story of the kind I very much enjoy, historical fiction about people braving the trip to the New World in the 19th century, and then even beyond, to Alaska. I can't actually remember having read anything about the Alaskan Gold Rush before, except that it happened. I really could have done without the rather explicit bedroom scenes that seemed dropped into the story just for the sake of having them, rather than to further the plot, and without them, I could have handed this book to Katie to read. Also, too many people died, which I suppose was pretty realistic, but it sometimes felt like the author was killing them off to prove a point, not because it had to happen. And I felt that one rather main character changed character rather suddenly just to make it easy for the author, but that was one of only very few moments during the book when I remembered I was reading a book, rather than living in England, traveling across North America, climbing a mountain, etc. It was awesome reading this in the summer--I was startled sometimes to look up and realize that it was hot out, because I'd thought I was shivering in the snow! Despite my comments of what I DIDN'T like, what I enjoyed stood out to me much more.

Change of Heart, Charlotte Bingham  Parts of this book felt totally surreal, all the more so because of how realistic most of it felt. Unusually for a novel (at least, of those I've read), and even more unusually for a novel written by a woman, the main character is a man. Or at least...the main character for the first part and the last part. The middle part (I don't have the book in front of me and can't say what fractions these parts are) is not exactly a flashback, but a backtracking to fill in the childhood of the woman to whom he is attracted. I found it frustrating how dense some of the characters seemed, not realizing what was going on, but also thought that was probably a better reflection of the complexities of real life than the books that have everybody always understanding everything immediately. And I liked the ending, although I had to read the last several pages several times to figure out what exactly had happened!

Housewives Can Change the World, Ann S. Eagle  I received this book from the author at the end of July and started reading it immediately. This is her story (but not her real name) from childhood until about seven years ago. The combination of title and content brought somewhat the same feelings as a book I read many years ago that was written by a homeschooling mother of ten, called A Mom Just Like You. In that case, although I enjoyed the book, it was a bit difficult to believe that a mother of ten, who was homeschooling all of her children and whose husband was traveling a lot AND who wrote a book, could realistically claim to be anything at all like me. I think I had three children at the time and couldn't write a page, much less a book! (On the other hand, now that I have six children and the youngest is seven years old, I also realize that time runs differently when they're all small and many things ARE easier now than it was then with only half as many...but not all things.) In this case, "Ann" had rather more challenges to overcome than I've ever had, and moved as a married adult to a foreign country, which I think is considerably more difficult than to do so as a single 20-year-old, which is what I did. She also moved to a considerably more different culture than I did. She claims that she's "just a housewife," but certainly appears to be more involved in the work than I've ever been. (Not to mention that I refuse to call myself a housewife: I am not married to my house. But I do realize that that's just a matter of semantics.) I was fascinated by the story and then misplaced the book not just in the middle of a chapter, but the middle of an emergency scene, and didn't get the book back until the day before yesterday! I didn't actually think there was any chance at all of finishing the book that day, because I had way too much other stuff to do (see the next book...), but ended up reading for nearly an hour during the girls' piano lessons, then drove Jacob somewhere that evening and had to wait for him "just for ten minutes," which turned out to be just over half an hour and exactly enough time to finish the book.

Intercession through Creative Expression, Jörn Lange  You may be very interested in this book written by my husband, which is available at Amazon and at CreateSpace, but please do NOT order it until at least the 5th of September or so, because the version currently available is NOT the final proofread version! The new one was uploaded in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday (29th to 30th), but could take 5 business days to actually have the changes. I wasn't entirely sure whether I should include this book, because although I read every single word of it, much of it out loud, and took approximately 25 hours over 12 days to do so (over half of that in the last three days of that time), I can't say that I took a whole lot of it in. I wasn't actually going to have anything to do with the proofreading of this book, nor did my husband want me to, because, so he claims, he wanted "British English" rather than American. But when I saw the proof copy and saw about ten errors on the first page, I more or less begged to proofread it, although I do not at all enjoy proofreading and am sure that I missed many things. And, of course, with very few exceptions, I much prefer American spelling, so it wasn't like I was even going to notice things like "realize"...until I saw "realizing" and "realising" both in the very same paragraph. The biggest issue wasn't errors so much as inconsistencies, in punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. Our friend Richard spent countless hours on the layout of the book (and also designed the awesome cover), during which he found and corrected plenty of typos himself although he wasn't even intentionally reading the text, and then countless more making all the changes I'd marked. Richard is very good at very many things, and one of them is using "search and replace" effectively. So they searched for the letter-combinations "ize" and "izing" and if the word was realize or symbolize or such, he changed it to realise or symbolise. And if it was size or seize, he of course did know better than to change it to sise or seise, although that would have been interesting. ;-) Likewise capitalized Nouns (my husband is German, and in German, ALL nouns are capitalized...) I definitely should add that the parts of the book that got through to me I found quite interesting, and not too much to disagree with theologically. It's not at all the type of book I would read normally, but I think it's an excellent book for the people to whom it will be interesting, namely, artists who seek to use their arts (painting, dancing, composing, etc.) in worship and intercession. I apologize (not apologise) in advance for typos and inconsistencies I missed.

It's a Sunrise, Not a Sunset, Ann S. Eagle  After finishing the proofreading of Jörn's book Tuesday night (August 29th) just before 10:30 p.m., and handing the final page to Richard while he was working on the third to last page (timing...), I most certainly did not expect to finish reading another book this month, or at least, not one that I wasn't nearly finished with anyway. However, yesterday the children wanted to go to the playground to meet with some friends who have been here for the summer and are going home on Sunday. I do not DO the playground in the summer. But it's been a little bit cooler (well, less hot) the last few days, and there is some shade there, so I finally agreed to take them, with the understanding that I was going to sit and read and was not going to play. (I do usually play when we go to the playground, just ignoring the signs that have some random comments about ages on them...) So I took this book with me and read for over two hours, and at the risk of using Christianese, it really "spoke to me." I must admit, that after 25 hours proofreading one 300-page book, I had considerably more sympathy with proofing errors in this book than I had had while reading the first one by this author, and was able to appreciate the content more. Either way, I think I could relate personally to this book more than to the first anyway, because it's about Ann in the last several years, as a mature woman with children of ages similar to my children's ages, facing changes in her life similar to ones that we may be facing soon. So when the children all wanted to meet up again in the afternoon at the beach, I said yes, as long as I could stay in the shade. (I normally only go to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon/evening: in 8 1/2 years in Cyprus, yesterday was the SECOND TIME I was at the beach during the day.) And so I got to read for another hour or so (we were there for two hours, but the time was much more interrupted, with keeping an eye on the children, and talking with them, and talking with the other children's grandmother, etc.), and then tonight after Helen and Elisabeth had gone to bed (and after I'd finished reading the last chapter of Peter Pan to them--now THERE'S a weird book!!), I actually finished it.

I'm fairly sure that I read some books on my Kindle this month, but didn't write them down. I have another three weeks to read books on paper, and then it will be pretty much only my Kindle for at least...well, I don't really know how long. That's another story. Which I don't know yet.

Oh yes, one paragraph in particular in It's a Sunrise, Not a Sunset that I felt like I could have written:

"Have you ever been so hurt, disappointed, disillusioned, without hope of any reconciliation and yet not giving up on God? It's a weird feeling. To have peace with God, feel secure in His love, not blame Him for all that happened around you, yet feel absolutely hopeless with your surrounding circumstances."

Yep.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Days Four and Five of just Elisabeth and Mommy at home

Our five-day week alone is up, and we enjoyed it very much.

Yesterday and today involved more games of Enchanted Forest, Ticket to Ride, and Hase und Igel. I might be done with those games for a little while. Also did more laundry (I'm caught up!!!!), finished cleaning and sorting the refrigerator (tomatoes from three different bags are now in ONE plastic container, onions from two bags in ONE box in the door, carrots from TWO bags as well as all of the cucumbers and one zucchini in a drawer, all the bell peppers in the other drawer, plums that I didn't know existed in one container, except for the four or five I ate...), did more proofreading, made halloumi bread (yesterday, and there is still some left today!), cleaned the bathroom (but nothing else), washed dishes (takes two minutes once a day for two of us), and continued reading Little House in the Big Woods to Elisabeth.

Yesterday we also went to WOW! Action Park (an indoor playground) with a friend, getting in for half price. It was nice chatting with that friend and another who was there, but it's so LOUD in there...when we left two hours later, I realized my ears were ringing. We then drove to Sue and Richard's house to help with an airport run. There were four people (their son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren) needing to go to the airport, along with their luggage for two years, and they and the luggage wouldn't all fit in the one car with the driver (or without the driver, for that matter.) Three months ago we'd helped collect them from the airport, but I'd used Jörn's new car, which has lots of space. Jörn's car is parked in the north at the moment, and the luggage wasn't going to fit in my car, so I drove their big van. I've driven it often for deliveries with Jacob, so am fairly comfortable with it, and am insured on that but not on their car anyway. Daniel (and Elisabeth) rode with me, and at the airport we got out and said goodbye to everyone. I returned the van, while Sue and Richard stayed at the airport for a bit to say goodbye. That was my first and probably only airport run in August--just squeaked by to not break my record of having been to the airport at least once every single month of every year from at least 2012 onward! (It's very possible I did that in previous years, as well, but 2012 was when I noticed it.)

Today we also had some diversion, going to a friend's house about 10 minutes away. Elisabeth played very happily with their children, and I probably talked off the ear off my friend. Elisabeth and I have gotten along very well this week, but I've been somewhat starved of conversation with adults... We got there at about 10:00 and didn't leave until after 2:00, at which point Elisabeth and I headed for Souvlaki Express, just around the corner from home, for the promised and long-awaited treat of "eating out." I was happy that Elisabeth opted to bring it home to eat, though, as it was hot and noisy there.

At 5:00 we met Sue and Richard at the beach--from being seven of them (the four who left today and their other son were all there with them last week) and four of us (only four because three children were at youth group) last week, we were down to two of them and two of us today. I played in the water with Elisabeth for awhile, but then she went off playing on her own, as well. I think the fact that Sue and I were talking was boring to her, but she didn't whine or complain, just occupied herself otherwise. Richard ended up in conversation with an acquaintance of mine (the mother of a drama classmate of Elisabeth's, but I've interacted with her more on Facebook than in real life) we happened to meet there.

And then at 6:30 the campers called that they were ready to be collected. Sue and Richard offered to take Elisabeth home so I could leave quickly and I thought she would jump at the chance, but instead, when I suggested that to her she came out of the water immediately and was ready to go faster than I was! She really missed Katie, and still misses Helen, who will be home tomorrow night.

So, five people under the roof tonight, and my bed to myself. (Just for the record, Elisabeth no longer sleeps Desperate-Octopus style. However, she does still do Starfish very well when she's in the bed alone, so I had to fold her up to find space for myself. She flung her leg over me one time only, which isn't bad for four nights, and when I removed it, she rolled over. And she talks in her sleep, as do all of my other children and both of their parents, but I didn't understand any specific words except for possibly "table".)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Days Two and Three of just Elisabeth and Mommy home

Yesterday was a nice full day. I noticed Elisabeth getting out of bed at about 7:00, but I carefully kept my eyes closed (looked at the time after she'd left the room) so she wouldn't notice I was awake, and then I fell back asleep. I didn't wake up until Elisabeth knocked on my "door" (my bedroom doesn't actually have a door, but the children are supposed to knock on the bookcase outside of the curtain, or at least say "knock, knock"...) just after 8:00.

On Monday I'd given each of the camp-goers some little juice boxes, which are a rare treat, and Elisabeth of course wanted some too, but I told her that she was having enough treats on Monday and she could have hers on Tuesday. She put it in the freezer on Monday and reminded me Enough that I'd said she could have it on Tuesday. She'd asked if she could have it after breakfast, and I said that as far as I was concerned, she could have it WITH breakfast.

So...Tuesday morning just after 8:00 she informed me that she'd gotten her frozen juice out, cut it open, eaten half of it, put half of it back in the freezer, cleaned up the mess on the table, and had a bath, because she'd also gotten juice all over herself. She hadn't washed her dishes, though, she told me, because one of the shelves for the refrigerator was balanced across the whole sink, soaking. Since she doesn't normally ever wash dishes, it hadn't occurred to me that the sink needed to be kept free for her...

She wanted to play a game with me, but agreed that I could get up, have a shower, get dressed, and even have breakfast. As it turned out that she hadn't had breakfast yet either, just the juice, she also had breakfast.

Then we played Hase und Igel again, which I won by only three moves. She likes to take the chance option on that game more than I do, which means that my carefully planned strategy sometimes gets wasted!

A little after 10:00 we left for Sue's house, where we go every Tuesday morning. Elisabeth and Sue's three-year-old grandson played quite happily together, and it wasn't difficult to accept the invitation to stay for lunch. Elisabeth should have had a piano lesson at noon, but had adamantly refused to go without her sisters.

We left there at 2:30 and stopped by the house briefly to collect our swimsuits and towels, and then drove half an hour to Mazotos where other friends live. Actually, last week was the first time we'd ever socialized with them, the main person in the family with whom we'd had contact being their two-year-old daughter, Mi. I'd babysat her two afternoons a week for the last year, and two or three times her four-year-old brother, Ma, as well, but had never spent time with their mother except when we first met, and for drop-off and pick-up, and had only met their father, very briefly, twice.

When we arrived last week, Mi had first looked shocked and clung to her mother, but once my children had jumped in the pool and I'd sat down and been handed a frappe, it was easy to see the wheels turning in her head. Normally, my appearance meant the disappearance of her mother, which she was fine with at OUR house, but certainly couldn't allow to happen at HER house. "But...the children are all in the pool, and She-ah is sitting down, so maybe Mama won't disappear?" After she'd looked back and forth between the others in the pool and me on the sofa several times, she then climbed up on my lap and requested some of the games we play, and she stayed with me most of the time we were there. :-) Ma also had plenty of fun with us, and I got a message from his mother the next day that he wanted to know when we were coming again. Also, when we were leaving last week, he was very disappointed that we hadn't played trains with him, so I'd promised him we'd play trains with him when we came again.

When Elisabeth and I arrived yesterday, there was no hesitation at all on Mi's part, and she cuddled with me almost the whole time. I read her one book in German (actually, a book of songs, which I sang to her...) about 15 or 20 times, and I also got to read her a book in English, as well as one in Hungarian. No, I do not speak ANY Hungarian. Mi giggled all through it. We also played with trains, and Mi and I played with a balancing game. The children were in and out of the pool, and then after dinner (Hungarian pancakes with a meat filling that were scrumptious) the three adults joined them. We didn't end up leaving their house until 10:00!

Elisabeth slept well last night and I woke up before she did this morning. :-)

Today, in contrast, we never left the house. I lost count of how many times we played Hase und Igel, but only played Ticket to Ride once (Elisabeth wasn't very happy that I won 177 to 100 and claimed I cheated) and Enchanted Forest once (Elisabeth won that one, of course). I also finished proofreading the third chapter of Jörn's book and Elisabeth had a very long bath, and during dinner I cleaned yet another shelf of the refrigerator. (The last shelf is in the drying rack now, so tomorrow I'll do the drawers. It's an exciting life. I also hung up one load of laundry and put another on to wash.) After dinner we were in my room looking at some things on the computer when we heard someone calling to us. It was three GROWN-UPS who were here to pick up something. It was nice to see them and get to say hi (and bye--two of them are leaving Cyprus tomorrow), but they didn't have time to come in. They probably sensed my desperation, too, which would increase their need to hurry off...

Finally, I read the first chapter of "Little House in the Big Woods" to Elisabeth (she read part of it to me, but she wants me to read it to her, because I've read it to all the other children, so she thinks she should have a turn, too), and she officially went to bed. Since she claims she doesn't go to sleep for hours anyway (not true, of course, but it's true that she doesn't go to sleep right away), I told her that she obviously wouldn't mind me doing my Greek lesson, and she couldn't really protest. LOL

I did get to talk to another grown-up today, when my sister Erin phoned. Elisabeth was very miffed and not getting to talk with her, and after I got off of the phone, she said, "It's not FAIR! Not even letting me talk to my AUNT! She's my AUNT, which means she's IMPORTANT." But she did indeed stay quiet through the phone call, which Erin had asked her to do, promising that she'll speak with her the next time she phones in the morning.

But I'm going just a little bit stir-crazy. The only concrete plans we have tomorrow are driving someone to the airport, and Friday Elisabeth has been invited somewhere, but I haven't, and don't know what I'll do during that time. I can only proof-read for a maximum of an hour or so at a time, sometimes not that long. We're probably going to the beach Friday afternoon with friends (two GROWN-UPS!! Yay!!), and the three campers get back Friday evening. I imagine that on Saturday I'll be missing the quiet week we've had. Elisabeth is a great companion--never whiny or bored, spending a lot of time with me and talking, but also wanting to go off and do her own thing as well--but I've simply never had so much quiet time in my whole life. It's still WEIRD.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Day One of just Elisabeth and Mommy at home

The first time I remember my husband being away for several days (it was a whole week, in fact) since Marie was born was in July 1999. Marie was 22 months old and Jacob was 6 weeks old. I was quite excited to manage a shower on about the third day. AND the three of us traveled on our own from Germany to England, where we met up with Jörn and continued on to Costa Rica and the U.S.

The next time I remember was in March 2003. Jörn went to Uganda for ten days, and I had the most exhausting ten days of my entire life. Marie was 5 1/2, Jacob was nearly four, and Lukas was nine months old. They all got sick. I had three children throwing up on their beds, my bed, and me, all one night.

If Jörn did any other traveling before we moved to Cyprus, I've blocked it out of my memory.

However, since we moved to Cyprus in January 2009, he's traveled quite a lot, and often takes a child or two with him. This week he's in Turkey, and he took Helen, who will be nine in September. If I'm counting correctly, this is his sixth trip this year, the previous ones being to England in January, Israel in February (with Katie), Germany at some point, England again at some point, and Greece (with Jacob). In September he'll be going to Germany again, with Lukas, a week before the three younger girls and I join him, and then after our time together in Germany, the U.S., and Costa Rica, he will probably be going to yet another event in England.

However, this is the first time EVER I have been home alone with just ONE child for an extended period of time. Jörn and Helen left yesterday after lunch, and this morning Jacob, Lukas, and Katie (first time for Katie) headed up to Youth Camp in the mountains and won't be back until Friday.

WEEEIIIIRRRDDD!!!!

Elisabeth was not very pleased when she found out that she was going to be home alone for nearly five whole days with just boring old Mommy. However, she was appeased somewhat when I mentioned that we might go out for souvlaki at some point, and she's been busily planning the week. (Including suggesting that we sleep in one room, so that we can use just one air conditioning unit and save money, so we can buy ice cream after the souvlaki. I said that that was very forward-thinking of her, and she said, "No, I'm just planning ahead.")

We even got a practice run yesterday afternoon, as the three youth headed for a pizza party at 4:00 in the afternoon, and Jörn and Helen had left at 1:00. Elisabeth and I played Ticket to Ride (I won 129 to 128--she's become an extremely competent player, but doesn't take new destination cards until she's finished what she has in her hand. I often do, which often works out well...but not always. My record lowest score was negative 3.) Afterwards she informed me grandly that she was going to go listen to a tape in her room and I was free to do whatever I wanted. She also got herself dinner (we just have bread 'n' stuff for our evening meal) and went for a walk. But she was very relieved that Katie was home for bedtime--as was I, because I then went out for the evening myself, and played Settlers of Catan with five friends!

This morning I got to go swimming as usual, because the older children were all still home, but not long after I got home from swimming, children started waking up.

Very hyper children. Okay, Jacob wasn't "hyper," but he WAS awake at an earlier time than usual (he got collected to go shopping for camp with another one of the leaders), and Lukas is in a mode of EITHER acting like an overgrown two-year-old OR a too-cool-to-look-interested-in-anything teenager, and happily, he was more in the second mode most of the morning. But Katie was very excited to be going to camp for the first time, and Elisabeth was even more excited to finally start on all our "plans." Before that, though, Katie had to make cookies to take to camp, and discovered that we were out of eggs. So I sent her to the bakery to buy eggs, as well as bread for breakfast and for their packed lunches.

After hours and hours and hours between 8:00 and 10:15, it was finally time to take the teens and almost-teen to the drop-off for camp. While waiting in what passes for a traffic jam in Cyprus (Cyprus has plenty of traffic issues, but after having lived in the most densely populated part of Germany for 17 years, I cannot truly label anything I've experienced in Cyprus a "traffic jam"), just around the corner from where we were going, Jacob remembered he'd forgotten the ice cream in the freezer at home. He needed it for a game he will be leading. I don't think I want to know. I said I'd drop them off first and go back home for it. As we pulled up, Katie remembered she'd forgotten her phone. And as I started to pull away, Jacob remembered he'd offered to lend someone a sleeping bag. So I drove the five minutes home muttering "ice cream, phone, sleeping bag" the whole way, and it worked. I returned with all of those items AND Jacob's hat AND someone else's bicycle helmet that had been left at our house.

When Marie went to camp the first time, eight years ago, I took lots of photos and was a little bit emotional. I stayed until the bus drove away, waving after the bus just in case she was looking out the window. The last few years, I haven't even waited every time for them to get on the bus, but it being Katie's first time this year, I did. And I couldn't take photos, because our camera is in Turkey. (I did borrow Katie's phone to take a photo of her, at least, though.) Elisabeth and I left before the bus did, but Katie's phone was on the bus anyway, so I couldn't have taken more photos.

My first stop of the morning with just one child was at my friend Dagmar's house, as I'd left my phone in her car after swimming this morning. We only stayed for about a minute, and then drove to what we call "the grain store," although I'm not sure we've ever bought any grain there. All I wanted was dried coconut (for making coconut milk), but Elisabeth also talked me into a package of sweetened dried coconut as a treat. Then we finally went to Coffee Island, which is actually just a short walk from our house. We got milkshakes--as all of the youth and all of their parents must know, as Elisabeth made sure to tell all of them that that's what we were going to do. Elisabeth had had a milkshake only once before, about two years ago, I think, and it was also as a consolation for being a temporary only child: Katie and Helen were at a birthday party and the older children were at a youth event. So this was exciting, and came only second to souvlaki in her request for treats this week. She didn't want to stay at Coffee Island to drink them, though, so we came home. (They didn't have air conditioning anyway, and they did have smoke, so home was more pleasant.)

Once we were home, I started doing the usual stuff of laundry and dishes and such, with the idea that I was hanging out with Elisabeth in the kitchen, but when Elisabeth started listening to a cassette tape, I headed for my bedroom with my milkshake and told her to let me know when she wanted to do anything with me. I only meant to go on the computer for a little while and then do some proofreading, but...

Anyway, after maybe 20 minutes or so, Elisabeth came in and asked if she could go on the computer. So I let her do that and I put about an hour and a half into proofreading 12 pages of Jörn's book...at this rate, I will NOT be finishing all 300ish pages in time, but I'll see how far I get. (I've done about 70 so far, and these 12 did go more slowly than the previous ones, without being able to clarify things with Jörn, so maybe we'll manage it when he's back, if we don't do anything else until it's done...) (And lest reading this blog has you worried about me proofreading, I'm taking out more commas than I'm putting in, even though he CLAIMED he wanted British English/punctuation rather than American. But I have to ignore sentences that start with conjunctions, because there are just so many of them. I'm also leaving the sentences ending in prepositions alone, because there are too many to deal with.) (And I'm typing here because I'm too tired to proofread, so this is not a reflection of my proofreading...skills...anyway.)

Eventually we decided we should have lunch, so I started my usual process when Jörn's away of cleaning out the refrigerator. So far, I've actually only thrown away one apple. I also consolidated five separate nearly empty plastic containers of cut vegetables into one container, gathered halloumi from three different places in the fridge to one place, stacked the five containers of cream cheese in one stack with the started one on top, and washed the top shelf. Oh, and I made coconut milk and put almonds to soak so that I can make almond milk tomorrow. (I'm not making cashew milk at the moment, because cashew prices have skyrocketed.) We ate leftover casserole from yesterday and it occurred to me that I'm not at all sure how to cook for two people anyway, never having done so. In any case, there are enough leftovers in the fridge for me to not need to cook all week anyway, but there are also two packages of raw chicken. I guess I should check the date on them, because they probably need to be dealt with before Saturday, when the big eaters are home. Yuck.

At some point after lunch, Elisabeth and I played Ticket to Ride again (I got really, really lucky with my many overlapping destination cards, and won 145 to 99, but Elisabeth took it very well), and two games of Hase und Igel. (Hare and Hedgehog is the German version of Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare, presumably because Germany are more familiar with hedgehogs than tortoises. This game is based on the idea that the players have to choose between slow and steady or lots of sporadic jumps. Either strategy can win.) Although it says ages 12 and up, Elisabeth grasped the strategy of it perfectly when I taught it to her a few weeks ago, and we had two excellent games, in which I just barely beat her.

After that she decided she wanted to go listen to a cassette on her own again, and I did a tiny bit more proofreading and of course turned on the computer. At least I thought to do my Greek lesson at that point, in case Elisabeth really did end up sleeping in my room and wouldn't go to sleep listening to Greek!

During dinner, which for me was a slice of bread with cream cheese and bell peppers and took me about five minutes to eat because I put effort into eating slowly, and for Elisabeth was at least half an hour eating pretty much the same thing (in content, but multiplied in quantity), I finished the dishes and washed countertops and other miscellaneous things, while Elisabeth talked and talked and talked. (Maybe that was partly why it took her so long?) And afterwards she chose a book for us to take turns reading, which reminds me, I need to find some white-out, because those were most definitely sea lions, not seals, on one page!!

And now she's asleep in my bed, where she convinced me to let her sleep. Of all six children, she's the only one who virtually never climbed into bed with us again after she moved out of our bed. In fact, once I wanted her to sleep with me, because Jörn was traveling and she was sick, and I didn't want to have to get up in the night to check on her. She wasn't even three yet, but she absolutely refused, quite insistent that she sleep in her own bed. This is the first time I can remember in 4 1/2 years that she's slept in my bed, and here's to hoping that she no longer sleeps desperate-octopus style, because it's way too warm for that, even with the air conditioning on...


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books finished in July 2017

It's the first of August and I'm already blogging the books finished in July!! There IS such a thing as catching up!!!

Fools' Gold, Philippa Gregory This is the third book in "The Order of Darkness" series, and although I continued to be irritated by the denseness of some characters, I was also getting to like quite a few of the characters by this point, and was very disappointed when I went on-line to discover that Philippa Gregory has not yet published more books in the series, although she said the fourth one would be out in 2016.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory  Having read the three supposedly "children's" books by this author, I finally picked up one of Marie's books. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I know I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn at some point as a teenager, but I don't really remember why. Especially as everything I've read since indicates that she wasn't a particularly nice person at all! This is mostly about Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, and there are many more details about her relationship with Henry VIII (and many other women's relationships with him...) than I was happy about. Also, enormous liberties were taken with the historic facts, more so than I feel justified in historic fiction. In a way, the story made out of the (not all that many) known facts reminded me of a movie made from a book. It was more that the facts inspired a novel than that Philippa Gregory actually set out to write a plausible "it could have been this way" story.

The Truth About Melody Browne, Lisa Jewell  It was quite fascinating to find out about the main character's childhood at the same time she, as an adult, did. She'd lost virtually all of her memories from before the age of nine, and is completely surprised by them as they start coming back. The more she remembers, the more she goes searching for more memories and explanations.

Blue-Eyed Son, The Story of an Adoption, Nicky Campbell  I think this may have been a book that Jörn gave me long ago. In any case, it had been on my shelf for a long time, but I'd never read it. This is yet another British celebrity of whom I'd never heard (like Alan Titchmarsh), with a writing style I like very much, writing memoir-type non-fiction. It's mostly a very uplifting book about his search for his birth parents. There's nothing tremendously traumatic, but certainly issues that give him serious pause for thought.

The Potluck Club, Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson  Finally, a free book for the Kindle which I enjoyed very much! I got a little bit confused at first, with each chapter being from the viewpoint of a different person, but as I got to know the characters, I was able to know immediately who was talking without the name even being said. I never quite understood the point of the existence of the reporter guy, though, but at least his chapters (between almost all of the other chapters, which alternated between half a dozen or so women, all in first person) were very short.

Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn  None of the other books I've included this year (except some of the books I've read to children, and those I only listed in January) were books I'd read before. We went up to Rocky Point (a private campground in the Troodos Mountains--this was our seventh year in a row to go!) last week, for five days, and I READ. I'd read a tiny bit of The Potluck Club before we went up, but I finished that by reading it at night after the others were asleep and I couldn't use a regular light. (I love my Kindle Fire for reading at night!) I do read at home most evenings, too, but less, because I first spend time on the computer (such as right now...it's 10:54 p.m. at this moment...) And I read this book, as well, one that I read when we went last year, and which I was pleased to see was still on the shelf in the lodge. Although I haven't included any other books I've re-read, I just had to include this one, partly because I enjoyed it very much, and partly because it almost didn't feel like reading the same book as a year ago. Last year, it was just amusing. This year, I saw so much deeper meaning in it, about how easy it is to get stuck having to go along with something that you totally disagree with, how easily that starts and how nearly impossible it is to escape. Basically, the entire book consists of letters written by Ella Minnow Pea, her cousin, her parents, and a few other people. They live on the island of Nollup, a utopian (quickly becoming dystopian, of course) society off the coast of North or South Carolina. (I don't remember which, but it's not important.) Their country is named after the person who came up with the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs," which includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet, and they of course have a monument to him, with the sentence on it, in tiles. And then the tile with the Z falls off. The council decides that this is a sign from Nollup that they should no longer use the letter Z...and the story goes on from there with fewer and fewer letters available for use, and almost nobody left on the island. The people who really feel it is absurd and have enough guts to put actions to their beliefs all emigrate or are exiled, leaving people who increasingly realize that they're in trouble but feel helpless to do anything. Which reminds me of a LOT of situations throughout history, and at this moment particularly, of the situation for home educating families in countries where home education is not allowed...

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson I borrowed this the day before we left, started it in the mountains on Monday, and by Friday had read about 450 pages (as well as the other two books, and playing a lot of games with my family, and taking naps, and going for short walks (no hikes this year, not one!!), and hanging out with people, etc. The last 125 pages took me Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning before church, mostly in hurried moments of a few pages at a time. I very much enjoy Bill Bryson's writing style, the first book of his I read being Mother Tongue:English and How It Got That Way. Even in that first book, though, I knew that I didn't agree with everything he says, but that doesn't bother me. (I don't even agree with everything I say...) Overall, the book was a fascinating history of HOW people have researched and come to conclusions about many aspects of science. I did find it amusing, though, just how many times a chapter basically went, "First they thought this because of that. Then they realized they were wrong and thought that instead because of the other thing. Then it became clear that that wasn't right either, so they..." etc. over and over again, until the final sentence of, "But now we know this to be the fact." Really? After just spending a whole chapter explaining how many people sincerely believed something to be true, and then it was disproved?

I got in trouble three times that I remember in second grade. (Not counting all the times I got in trouble for reading. That was just constant, all through school.) One of the times was because I talked back to my mother in the hearing of my teacher, and my teacher gave me an extra page of math to do. Totally logical. Yep. Once was because we were given brown, orange, and yellow construction paper to make an owl, and the eyes were supposed to be yellow and the beak and feet were supposed to be orange, but I insisted on doing them the other way around. I was Wrong. That was Bad. (However, I got an A on the poem I wrote about it for a college English class.) And the other time was because when the teacher said that brontosaurus was the largest land creature that had ever lived, I asked how they could know that there wasn't anything bigger that just hadn't been found yet? I got told off for talking back. A couple of years later, we learned about several bigger dinosaurs. And MANY years later, I learned that "brontosaurus" didn't ever actually exist, because the specimen that was labeled as such was actually the body of one (already known) creature, with the head of another (already known) creature. Maybe. And much more recently, I researched some of the dates of discoveries, and learned not only that the so-called brontosaurus had been disproved a couple of years before I was in second grade, bigger dinosaurs had been discovered more than 70 years before I was in second grade!!. And even more recently (2015--I had to google to check on that, though), brontosaurus has been reinstated as having existed. They now "know." As they "knew" before. Basically, my take on it is that I wasn't there and I don't know, and that's cool.