Friday, May 4, 2018

Why my children are not taking swimming lessons this month

It is May again, and this May is very similar to the last several Mays, with regards to busy-ness, but with more variety in the past. However, no children are taking swimming lessons this May.

Monday: Okay, so the Monday of this week was actually still April, but as a typical Monday, I'll include it.

At 5:35 a.m. I wake up to an alarm, something I hadn't done regularly for the last 20 years until last June, and which totally scared me this Monday, because it my first time using my new-to-me phone given to me over five months ago. My friend Dagmar collects me and (usually, although not this particular Monday) another friend, Jeannette, and we go swimming at Makenzy Beach. The water this Monday was REALLY calm (λάδι, we have learned to say, which means oil or something to do with oil, and I have no idea if I spelled that right) and they'd put in some new buoys, so instead of just swimming to one and back, as we often do, we swam from one to another, about six in all, I think. We didn't draw any faces on buoys this time.

At 9:00, three children arrived who will be joining us Monday and Thursday mornings for the next month or two. They've lived in Cyprus on and off, but had been gone for the last year, and just got back (temporarily) last week. Neither of their parents are native speakers of English, so I'm giving a bit of support to the two seven-year-olds. (The parents speak excellent English, but they understandably prefer to speak their respective native languages with their children.) The 13-year-old is a very good friend of Katie's, and the two of them disappear into Katie's room for the duration. I do some things together with the boys and Helen and Elisabeth, and then I rotate who I work with individually in the living room while the others occupy themselves otherwise.

At 1:30, the little girl, M., I've been taking care of several hours a week for the last year and a half arrived, and Helen left with M's mother. She teaches really awesome children's dance/movement/gymnastic classes, which Helen now goes to as of a couple of months ago. (I got to watch a class several weeks ago, and was very impressed, and Helen loves it.)

I didn't take anyone to Pathfinders (a church activity group for 6-11-year-olds) this week, because our church building sustained pretty serious water damage a month or so ago and has been meeting in a hotel at Makenzy. It's not THAT far away, but it's very difficult to be at Makenzy at 4:00, return M. at 4:00, and be at Catherine's at 4:00, so I just do two out of the three at the moment. So Jörn and I BOTH drive to essentially the same place, where I park at Catherine's and take M. over to her mother at the American Academy (where the dance class happens), and Jörn picks up Helen and drives her and Elisabeth (and this week, Katie, who has been helping, but usually has to be there early, but didn't this time) to Pathfinders.

From 4:00 to 5:00 I help in Catherine's "First Steps" drama class, for 3-4-year-olds. Helen attended that class from when it was first started, I think six years ago, and then Elisabeth did, and and some point, I started helping. Elisabeth outgrew the class, but I didn't. It's one of my favorite times of the week.

At 5:30 I picked up Lukas (who also helps at Pathfinders, but had gotten a ride with the leader to be there early), Katie, Helen, and Elisabeth from Pathfinders. At that point, I also had to take M.'s car seat out, but when I opened the trunk (or boot, or as Jacob informed me, simply "the back" to avoid confusion) to put it in there, I discovered a pallet-board creation and my guitar, both left there by Jacob, who has been using my car rather a lot lately. I was not happy. The pallet-board thing had to go across the girls' laps, and the guitar had to go in the front with Lukas. I was not happy with Jacob.

Normally, Jacob, Lukas, and Katie all go to Youth Alpha (dinner and a Bible Study) Monday nights, but because we had guests coming for dinner, Lukas decided not to go. Also, Jacob stopped by the house with his friend Max, because they'd been working all day and hadn't eaten. So we'd thought we'd have eight people at dinner (only half of them Langes), but ended up having 12 (because at the last minute, Katie decided to eat something too). Jacob, Max, and Katie then headed off to Alpha, while the rest of us had a very enjoyable evening at home.

One Monday morning a month I have Writers' Group, and having two extra children in the morning is a new thing, but that was a fairly typical Monday.

Tuesday: This week's Tuesday was a holiday, but we didn't do anything different than usual, except that grocery shopping wasn't possible. (And since I don't do the grocery shopping anyway, that's not actually relevant.)

I walked in the Salt Lake Park with my friend Sue (no alarm for that--she texts when she's awake, and I'm almost always awake before that), and then we sat on her garden swing and chatted until Jörn phoned and asked if I was aware of the time. Oops. So at 8:15 I rushed home, rushed a shower, rushed breakfast, rushed children, and left late, stopping at the bank for money for piano and saxophone lessons, then realized that my darling son had left me with an empty gas tank, so stopped at the gas station as well. As we pay the saxophone teacher per month and the piano teacher per lesson, I paid for that from the saxophone money and will pay him the rest next month.

So Lukas had his saxophone lesson while Helen and Elisabeth had their piano lessons (the teachers live across the street from each other!), each of them doing their written music theory with me during the other one's lesson. They're supposed to do that at home, but often don't. When there's time, they also each do math during the other's lesson.

From there we drove to Sue's house, where we've been going Tuesday mornings for about eight years, I think. Lukas walked home from there.

I'd accidentally turned off my new-to-me phone after Katie had called me during the music lessons, so I didn't get any of Jörn's many attempts to call me and tell me we were rather late for lunch, until he called Richard instead.

Home for lunch and reading with the girls until Helen had to be at drama rehearsal at 3:00. As Katie was out, we took Elisabeth with us, and after dropping off Helen, met a lady for coffee to discuss the house she has for sale, which is more than we can afford. A very nice conversation, but, very understandably, she really can't sell the house for what we can pay.

Back home, and then Jörn picked up Helen at 5:00. Dinner (bread and stuff--I'd made bread after lunch, lunch being a cooked meal), read to the girls (Swallows and Amazons at the moment), then once they were in bed, Jörn and I went for a walk of about 7 kilometers, which we do once or twice a week.


Swimming with Dagmar, schoolwork with the girls until 10:30, and then I went to Oasis, the refugee community center where I taught English last year, but haven't this year.

Between the two English classes Wednesday morning, another lady (a retired midwife) and I are trying to get a support system for pregnant women and new mothers going. Nobody has actually showed up yet, but because of it being announced, one woman who was there for English told another woman back at the refugee camp about it, and she contacted us, back in February. I was able to accompany her to a couple of check-ups, and then support her through labor and the birth of her baby. We've also visited a couple of others in the hospital, and been to Kofinou (the refugee camp) once, but as both of us have fairly limited time, we've unfortunately not been able to do as much as we'd like. Still, people are starting to know we exist, so that is good.

As I was about to leave, Katie phoned me and asked me to pick her up. She'd walked to church in the morning to help with cleaning up, but I'd said I might be able to pick her up, as it's getting rather warm. (In fact, it was 30 degrees yesterday (86 F), and very humid, so I would actually call that "hot" rather than warm...) I picked her up, and then we went downtown, where I wanted to try on some Birkenstocks. Seeing the prices, I think it's just as well that they did not have my size in the style I like.

Elisabeth's rehearsal for "Alice in the News" (to be performed May 27th) was 2:30 to 5:00, and I'm also helping in that class. There's a certain amount of telling people to be quiet and not sit on each other backstage, etc., but I really love this group of 7-9-year-olds, and I actually have things to DO backstage. Of the three plays, this is the one that I really enjoy working with.

And Wednesday night, after the girls were in bed, we went to Sue's and Richard's to play Cities and Knights (Settlers of Catan extention), as we do most Wednesday.


Thursday morning was walking with Sue again, and having the three extra children in the morning. Also, at the last minute I had M. for the morning (well, from late morning, and then until 4:00 p.m.), as well. She mostly sat on my lap and listened to the boys reading to me. None of my own toddlers would have done that!

Normally M. arrives at 1:30 on Thursdays, and M.'s mother takes Helen, but since I already had M., Jörn took Helen to the dance class. At 3:00 I took Katie to her drama rehearsal and picked up Helen, then we went shopping for birthday presents for Jörn, then we picked up Helen's and Elisabeth's friend Sophia, came back to the house (very close) to put the presents in the house, and then drove to the Greek Evangelical Church, where the three girls go to Midiclub, an activity group similar to Pathfinders, but as of age 3 and really only until about 8 or 9. They started it for ages 3-6, as there wasn't anything for that age group, but they've expanded it as the participants got older, and now divide into two age groups for some of the activities. That's from 4:00 to 5:30, and I used to stay and help a bit, but now I have M. until about 4:15 and Greek class at 4:30. So I drop off the girls and drive to the American Academy (which isn't far at all and I should walk...) to return M., but yesterday, M. had fallen asleep after shopping, so I parked in the shade and cleaned out the car while I waited for M.'s mother. A pair of shoes and socks belonged to Elisabeth. EVERYTHING else (drink bottles, candy wrappers, receipts, etc.) were from Jacob or Jacob's friends. I put everything in the back. Once M. had been collected, I drove back to GEC to park, as Oasis, which is where my Greek class is, is across the street.

The classes are free and are actually meant for refugees, but were made available to other people in the community if there was space. I started a week late, and the only class in which there was space was the most advanced class, which is about halfway through a book I finished eight years ago. However, since there are only two or three of us in the class, and the teacher (at my insistence!) does NOT speak English with us, it's a very good opportunity for me, and I'm hoping to finally make some more progress. We're really just using the book as a way to start conversation, and are talking much more than in any other class I've had, except for the one-on-one lessons I had last year (and would like to continue, but schedules are difficult to coordinate...). Greek finishes at 6:00, so Jörn picks up the girls (including Katie, who walks from drama) and takes Sophia home.

Last night at 8:00 I had a phone call scheduled on the topic of home education in Cyprus, which was very interesting. Jörn and I often go for a walk, but I had to wait for the phone call (which ended up being about 45 minutes long), so he went for a walk by himself.


This morning I went swimming as usual, and it's almost 8:00 now and I haven't showered yet. In the winter, I turned on the water heater before I left to go swimming, and got in the shower the moment I got home, to thaw out, but it's 28 degrees already today, so no danger of freezing, nor have I needed to use the electric water heater for a couple of months already. The girls are required to appear by 9:00, so I have some time. Lukas left with Jacob before I even got home from swimming.

Normally, Friday morning I would be home all morning and we'd get a decent amount of schoolwork done, but today I have a meeting at 11:00, with the group planning Roger Jones' upcoming tour of Cyprus with the musical "Rock," about the life of Simon Peter.

Friday is unique in that is the one day that none of us are in any way involved in theater! However, Some of us have discussed the possibility of getting involved with the drama club at the British military base, which has a group Friday afternoons...

I have M. again from 1:30 to about 3:30 (sometimes 4:30), and Sue and Richard come for dinner. Jacob, Lukas, and Katie go to youth group, and we usually have to pick up Katie.


The last several Saturdays have only had one rehearsal, but this Saturday will be Helen's group (8-10-year-olds, performing "The Twits" May 20th, and Helen is one terribly awesome Mrs. Twit) in the morning and Katie's (11-13-year-olds, "Bog Boy") in the afternoon. I'll help at both rehearsals, which with Helen's group isn't much more than occasionally raising an eyebrow, and putting away props and scenery at the end. The main reason I'm there, really, is to be familiar enough with the show to be of help to Richard in the sound box for the performance. I'm happy to do it, and it's not exciting, but it's fine.

Katie's group, on the other hand, is one that should absolutely not need anyone helping. They do not need any help with props or changing, they're old enough to help with scenery, etc., and they OUGHT to be old enough to sit quietly backstage. I spend the whole 3 1/2 hours glaring at people, physically moving people away from each other, removing props from people's hands, and holding my finger to my lips. I'm supposed to be getting familiar with the show, but haven't been able to watch much of it at all, because I'm running crowd control in the back. And their play is this Sunday.

After the rehearsal, Jacob will be arriving with his truck, and we'll be loading the scenery into it in preparation for Sunday morning.

Saturday evening, I usually go over to Sue's and Richard's to play some game that is NOT Settlers of Catan. Jörn doesn't go, because he only wants to play Settlers.


The last several Sundays there have been two rehearsals, but this Sunday, I'll be at the theater (REAL theater, or I should spell it theatre, as in Scala Theatre in Larnaka!) from 8:00 in the morning, transporting and setting up scenery. The children will arrive at 10:00 for rehearsal, at some point there will be a lunch break, and then the play is at 5:00 p.m., so we'll probably be there from 3:00 or 3:30, I guess. It's a very nice theater, but doesn't have any real dressing rooms, so most of my time back there is spent telling the boys to stay where they were told and the girls to stay where they were told. At least, that was my experience the last two years with this age group!

And this is why nobody is taking swimming lessons this year in May.

At the end of May, Catherine is off to China for a month, to perform "Just Imagine," and is taking Jacob with her for lights and sound. So there will be no drama classes or rehearsals at ALL, after having them every day of the week except Friday for the last couple of months! Unless, of course, we do check out the Dekhelia base drama clubs...Lukas and I are both interested in lights, sound, and backstage stuff, and Helen in acting.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Facts about me, according to my daughter

 My oldest daughter, Marie, who is 20 and lives in the U.S., answered a questionnaire on Facebook for adult daughters to fill in for their mothers. She did extremely well, and I started to respond in far too much detail, so decided to make a blogpost out of it instead. :-)
1. What is she doing right now?
*checks time* At 9 pm, probably either on her computer or playing a game with the Fairheads.

Those were excellent guesses, but last night at 9:00 p.m., I was actually out with my husband. For that matter, I was actually with both my husband AND my oldest son, in the backyard/courtyard of a house that we had looked at earlier in the day, so that Jacob could have a look at it and tell us what the possibility of building another room on might be.
We do play a game with the Fairheads once or twice a week in the evening, so there was perhaps a 3/14 chance of that being right, and Jörn and I go for a walk at least once or twice, sometimes three times a week, so there was a 2/7 chance of that one. Of the other half the time, at 9:00 p.m. specifically, Jörn is actually more likely to be on the computer than I am, because my computer is out of commission, so he'll be on the computer at that point and I'll be reading, and then I go on the computer later.

2. What dressing does she eat on her salad?
None? I think.

Correct. Maybe lemon juice, or salt on tomatoes, but no dressing, ever. Yuck.

3. Name something she hates?
Being told what to think

I absolutely love it that Marie got this one 100% correct. :-)

4. What does she like to drink?
My coffee. At least, I conclude that she must like drinking it, because even though she always complains that I put too much milk/sugar in, she still likes to take a sip when she sees I have coffee...
Weeeelll...yes, I admit that I have a tendency to take a sip of Marie's (or Jörn's) coffee, especially at church, but I have no idea why I do so, because I never like it!

5. Favorite music to listen to?
Sandra Boynton

Hmmm...depends on the moment, really, but that's true often enough. Brian Doerksen and anything Roger Jones (especially with Devon Brown) are higher on my list, though. I also love hearing Helen and Elisabeth playing the piano and Lukas the saxophone, and also love hearing Helen just singing all day long. I also love singing with Marie while we wash and dry dishes, but haven't gotten to do that for a long time. Likewise I love hearing Marie play the violin.

6. What is her nickname for you?
“Ja- Luk- Ka- whatever your name is!”

Um...guilty as charged...

7. What is something she collects?

Can't contest that one, either.

8. What would she eat every day if she could?
Chocolate. And “anything I don’t have to cook myself”.
My daughter knows me. Especially the second part. And the first.

9. What is her favorite color?
Except for eyes, yes.

10. What would she never wear?
Yoga pants
That's for sure.

11. What is her favorite sports team?
I’m fairly sure she doesn’t care.

12. What is something that you don't do that she wishes you did?
When I lived at home the answers would have varied from “Get up at a ‘reasonable’ time” to “Keep my room clean” - now that I live in California though, I have no idea. Maybe call her more?
Oooh....loaded! I think I'd better not respond to this one... But phone calls are so complicated, with a ten-hour time difference, etc., that although I enjoy them, I don't mope around wishing she'd call more. E-mails would be cool, though.

13. You bake her a cake - what kind is it?
Chocolate, obviously. Although if it were a generic dessert that is not specifically cake then I would make oatmeal cookies.

Absolutely. :-)

14. Favorite animal?
I’m not sure... Cats that sit on her lap without attacking?
Marie!!!! Don't you remember the socks you gave me for Christmas??? 

15. What could she spend all day doing?
And have. :-) 

16. Who is her favorite child?
She always says she doesn’t have one
Correct. Although children can gain temporary favorite child status. For example, by doing dishes without being asked. Or by being the only one out of six to say "Mama" before "Papa" as a baby. Or by giving giraffe socks for Christmas. Or by cleaning my car. I can think of a lot of other things, too. ;-)

17. What's her favorite sweet?
Assuming the person I copied this from (thanks Molly!) copied it from someone who was writing in British, I’m going to go with either Jelly Bellies or Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts.
Close, as I do like those very much, but nope. Correct answer (if one has to exclude chocolate) would be gummy bears or other gummy candy.

18. How many brothers & sisters does she have?
Two brothers and two sisters who are genetically related, four brothers and two sisters who are not, and too many in-laws for me to remember
I like this answer. :-)  (And seven in-laws.)

19. Favorite alcoholic drink?
Uhhhhh I know she likes a glass of wine with dinner but I don’t know if she has a favourite
I don't, really. Sometimes one is particularly delicious, but I never can remember what it was.

20. You're in jail & you call her, what's her response?
“I appreciate you wanting to talk to me, but you probably should have used your call to contact someone who’s in the same country and can actually come bail you out.”
This answer made me literally laugh out loud, because I'm pretty sure that's about exactly what I would say!! 

I love you, Marie!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Traveling, Part Three: California Part Two

Now it's December and we've been to Costa Rica, Mexico, back to the U.S., to Germany again, to Scotland, to England, and home to Cyprus since I posted Part Two. If I take the same amount of time and include the same amount of detail for each part of the rest of our trip, I won't finish blogging the trip until...well, until all the children are grown, I would guess. So I'm going to go ahead and upload here the photos from our camping trip (way too many photos, and nowhere near all of them--with a great deal of effort, I got it down to only 23 essential ones...) that I already sorted out and watermarked in Picasa back in October, and I will attempt to make minimal comments (I say that now, but the likelihood is that I will ramble on quite a bit...), and after this I will try to make much shorter posts. In any case, the people who read my blog are all on Facebook with me, so I really should just upload all the photos to Facebook and leave it at that. (If there's ANYBODY, just one person, reading this who is NOT on Facebook with me, let me know!!)

So...on Wednesday, September 27th, we eventually arrived at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where we set up camp. (And as an aside, finding that link just now, I learned something I may expound on later!!) Marie, Katie, and Helen shared one tent...

...and Elisabeth had (by choice) her own tent, where she slept the first night until about 2:00 a.m.

As of about 2:00, she slept in the tent with Jörn and me, and did the second and third nights as well.

Mom and Dad slept in their RV, of course, and Lukas did, too, in the bed over the cab.

Once camp was set up, we went for what at least my mother and I would call a walk and my husband and some of the children would call a hike. Either way, the redwoods fascinate me as much as they ever did.

Interestingly, there is also quite a lot of sand there, where a lot of ancient sea creatures have been found. The park is not far from the coast, but much higher, but was evidently under water at some point in the distant past.

Back at camp, I got this photo of my four daughters:

At some point, my brother Shawn and his wife Lindsey and their two daughters arrived. S is 4 1/2 and we'd met her several times, as they had visited us in Cyprus when she was a baby, but we hadn't seen her since we were last in the U.S., two years ago. We hadn't yet met N, though, as she won't be two until January. S jumped right in with the cousins, but N was a little more wary. Helen, as usual, was immediately entranced with N, who was happy to be followed around by H. All of the girls spent a lot of time coloring while we were in camp.

Thursday morning Shawn and Mom made breakfast...
..and shortly after, Shawn had to leave for work.

I had gotten up early Thursday morning and gone for a walk, but didn't take the camera. Nor did I take a map, but when I looked a map later on, I realized that a lot of the trails weren't on the map anyway. The trails themselves are well-marked and I have a good sense of direction, so I wasn't worried about getting actually lost, but I like returning a different way that I started out, so it took a bit longer than I'd anticipated.

After breakfast we packed lunches and everybody set out. We found Cable Car Beach, as planned, so those who like freezing cold water put on their swimsuits and splashed around.

Mom, Jörn, Marie, and I decided to walk a bit further to the visitor center:
From the visitor center there's a fenced-in loop one can walk around, but we only walked through half of it, back the way we'd come but parallel to the trails, and then out of that at the end and back to the trail.

When we got back to where the others were still at the river, Dad asked if Katie had found us. No, she had not. Apparently, not long after we had left, Katie said she was going to catch up with us. Mom and I immediately started back towards the visitor center, Mom on the road and I on a path at the side. I hadn't jogged since last year November, but found myself moving pretty quickly, and in sandals, too. When I got to the parking lot and still hadn't found her, I was not feeling particularly calm, but as I headed towards the building, I saw Katie through the window, talking to a ranger inside. The time I made on the last 25-ish-meter sprint is probably the best time I've ever made. Neither Katie and I had cried until I was hugging her.

While there was basically only one road from where we were to the visitor center (the footpath and the road are usually visible from each other), we'd been inside the loop while Katie was still on the road, so didn't join the road/footpath again until Katie had already passed that part, which was how we missed each other.

Friday morning I went for an even longer map, still without camera or map, but I was intrigued by a sign to Big Rock Hole and tried to find it. I went about half a mile down a very narrow, very steep path that had a lot of cobwebs across it, so I slipped and slid down the trail with my arms in front of my face, thinking "I sure hope that the next person on this trail appreciates the lack of spider webs!" And then I got to a river, and to a sign saying "trail closed." At least on the climb back up, I appreciated that there were no spider webs...

Shawn arrived back in camp sometime late Thursday night, and on Friday he and Lukas headed back to Cable Car Beach to go fishing. They caught several crawdads and fish and Lukas, at least, had a wonderful time.

My dad volunteered to stay in camp and all the girls (my four daughters, my two nieces, my sister-in-law, my mother, and I) drove to the visitor center and walked the Redwood Grove loop.

This is INSIDE a living tree.

The girls played on this natural slide for ages:

Then we went to a playground, where there was also an old covered bridge. S got a splinter in her foot, which Lindsey removed with the tweezers from my pocketknife: easily the most used part of my pocketknife in all 22 years that I've had it! I included this photo more because it shows N wearing an outfit that had been a hand-me-down to Katie and was also worn by Helen and Elisabeth. :-)

Friday night my youngest sister arrived, together with her daughter, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's two daughters, but I don't have permission to post any photos of them. There was one really cool moment with one of her boyfriend's daughters, about six years old. She'd asked my daughters what grade they're in in school, and Helen said, "Oh, Mommy teaches us." Without the slightest bit of confusion, M responded, "Oh, you're homeschooled. My cousin is, too." It was incredibly refreshing to have someone just see it as totally NORMAL!!

Saturday morning I went for yet another walk, still determined to find Big Rock Hole. I'd looked at a map and determined that Buckeye Trail was the way to go, and and figured out one way to go there and another to go back, and that I would have to cross a river without a bridge. The river wasn't very deep, so I took off my shoes and socks and crossed it and picked up the trail on the other side...but didn't find any signposts, and the trail petered out and I was no longer sure if I was on an actual trail or just a deer path. When I found another loop of the river, a bit narrower and therefore a bit deeper, I stood there for quite awhile trying to see any trail on the other side, but there was nothing obvious, so I very reluctantly turned around and went back the way I came.

And TODAY, three months later, when looking for the link to the Park, the first thing I saw on the webpage was this:

The Buckeye Trail is closed between river crossings due to extremely rough terrain, making hiking between Buckeye Trail and Big Rock Hole impassible.  

 Ah. It would have been nice if that had been marked on the trails or on the maps...

I got back to camp when breakfast was over (they'd saved some for me) and the rest of the morning was spent packing up camp (at least for the grownups), and then Shawn gave everyone who wanted one a ride on his motorcycle, which is what is being admired at this point:
 ...And here is a photo of the first time ever that I've been on a motorcycle!!

 S had never been on her dad's motorcycle before, either, but wanted to do what everyone else had!
 She was pretty pleased. :-)
 N also wanted to go on, but the helmet was already rather too big for S, so there was no way it was going to work for a 20-month-old! She wasn't very happy about that, but did accept a cuddle from Lukas, of which I have an adorable photo, but it has other people in the photo, so isn't here.

We drove back to San Bruno where my parents dropped off the seven of us and picked up their dog, and then started their 6-hour drive home to Eureka. Erin was out of town and we just relaxed (and did laundry) the rest of the day.

I originally had an even longer title for this post, but the sub categories were getting a bit ridiculous, so I just left it with California Part Two...but there's going to have to be a California Part Three, as well, as we had another three full days. After that, though, I'm going to have to scale waaaaay down on details of the rest of our trip...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Books finished in November 2017

I read a lot more books in November than in December. Part of the number increase was due to the number of short books (mainly Hourly Histories, which only take about half an hour to read), part was because of having the opportunity to read actual paper books (five of them, in fact), and part was because for the two weeks we were in Scotland, we had no internet in our room so when I should have been in bed, instead of going on-line I read on my Kindle.

We'd arrived in Germany October 26th, stayed two days with our friends Margaret and Phil in Düesseldorf, then stayed the rest of our time in Germany in Hamminkeln at the guest house of our mission agency. On November 1st Jörn flew to England for an art conference, on Friday the 3rd Lukas left to spend the weekend with friends before starting his two-week introduction apprenticeship in gardening and landscaping in Mülheim, and on Saturday the 4th, the three girls and I flew to Scotland (from Dortmund to Luton to Glasgow, all three being new airports to me, and Scotland being a new country to me), where Jörn joined us the next day. We participated in an awesome retreat for long-term missionaries for the next two weeks, where the children also had a great program, and there was lots of free time and some group outings. After that finished, we slowly made our way to Birmingham, visiting friends near Manchester for two days, then staying another two days with friends in Birmingham and getting to visit with four others there. November 23rd, nine weeks to the day after the girls and I had left Cyprus, we flew home. (Lukas had returned home on his own from Germany three days earlier, and Jörn had been gone for 10 weeks and one day, having left Cyprus eight days before we did.)

For some odd reason, I haven't managed to read anywhere near as much since we got home...

Isambard Kindom Brunel, Hourly History  I felt like I'd heard of this engineer before, probably in something I'd read out loud to the children, but nothing at all sounded familiar, and it was very interesting. And in the five weeks or so since I finished this, I must have seen his name mentioned at least half a dozen times! I never would have picked up a biography of any length (not even a 30-minute read) on an engineer, but since it was there...I read it. I'm enjoying the Hourly Histories for the opportunity to be introduced to historical figures I wouldn't have looked up on my own.

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah  On the Monday that we were in Germany, I got to visit my friend Leigh for six hours. I've probably known her for about 26 years, although the first conversation I remember with her took place only 24 years ago, when her oldest daughter was about six months old. We had never, ever, in those 24 years, spent time together without children around. We used to talk on the phone fairly often, but always with interruptions from her children or mine, or more likely both. I absolutely loved the afternoon/evening with her, both of us finishing whole sentences and even stories. It wasn't quite long enough, though. And she gave me this book, which was fascinating. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa five years before Apartheid ended, to a black mother and white father. Most of his first five years were spent hiding, because if anyone in authority had found out he existed, his parents could have both been arrested and imprisoned. This is biographical, but not chronological, and there are some inconsistencies, such as his constant mention of never having had any friends, except in the many chapters that detail escapades with his friends. He's apparently now a famous comedian in the U.S., but I'd never heard of him. Jacob had, however, and was quite excited to see me unpack this book. Language warning for people who will be offended by that, but otherwise a great book.

So Deeply Scarred, Howard Morgan  Friends gave me this book, which is about how the Jewish community has been persecuted throughout their history, all over the world. It could be quite an eye-opener to someone who hasn't read much on the topic, but I have. Much of it consisted of lists and statistics, so not exactly smooth reading, but not long.

Like Grounded Swallows, Gerhard P. Drumm  My mother gave me this book in September and I started reading it while in Costa Rica, but most of my reading was done at night on my Kindle, so I didn't get into it until we were in Scotland, when I read it every available moment until I finished it. Gerhard Drumm is, like my mother, a United Methodist pastor (although he is now retired and she is not yet), and he signed this copy of the first part of his biography, covering the time from his birth in Serbia (then part of Yugoslavia) in 1929 until his escape, together with most of his siblings, to Austria in 1947. It was extremely interesting reading this book, about the persecution of ethnic Germans during and after World War II, around the same time as reading So Deeply Scarred, five biographies of important political figures (see below), and two other Hourly Histories about World War II. I've read so much about World War II, but never before had heard about persecution of ethnic Germans in non-German countries. Gerhard Drumm is 88 years old and living in California, and it's strange to think that he was born the same year as my father-in-law, who has now been dead for over 12 years.

Emma & I, Sheila Hocken  I actually paid money for this book, I think something like 90 pence, at a second-hand bookshop in West Kilbride, Scotland. It was admittedly the author's name that first caught my eye and made me pull the book off the shelf, but the topic then interested me as well. I enjoy memoirs and biographies in any case, and this was autobiographical. The author had a congenital condition that meant she'd never been able to see well, and eventually lost her sight completely as a teenager. The "Emma" referred to in the title is the guide dog she received when she was 17, and which changed her life completely. There was quite a surprising ending. This isn't the most well-written book in the world, but I did deem it worth bringing back with me to Cyprus, although I finished it while still in Scotland.

World War II Biographies: Adolf Hitler, Erwin Rommel, Benito Mussolini, George Patton, Joseph Stalin, Hourly History  These were really five books, each one taking half an hour. I'd never read biographies, even short ones, of any of these people before. I'd started the book quite awhile before finishing it, definitely in October, and probably while still in Costa Rica. These key characters in the Second World War have remarkably different backgrounds, histories, and characters. I was left thinking with Hitler in particular that "if only...." so many things had been different, he wouldn't have turned out as he so infamously did, whereas Rommel's character is so awful from childhood on, that one wonders how he could possibly have become involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I knew that Mussolini was more of a follower than a leader, who changed sides constantly, but not that that had also been a life-long pattern. George Patton should be seen as a "good guy," being on the Allied side, but he was just plain not a nice person. Joseph Stalin held the fewest surprises for me, probably because I'd read more about him previously.

Ivan the Terrible, Hourly History  More of the same, as far as most of the Hourly Histories are concerned: a few bits of new information about someone I had known something about, found it interesting, and don't now remember much.

A Field Full of Butterflies: Memories of a Romany Childhood, Rosemary Penfold  I bought this one in Scotland at the second-hand bookstore, as well. It was everything I like in a book: well-written memoirs, memorable characters who were a mix of good and bad, some photos of the real people, and as a bonus, about a topic that I know very little about. I'd only ever read about Romanies, or Gypsies, as side characters in other books. Sometimes "good" and sometimes "bad" and sometimes "neutral," but never as the main characters. I enjoyed also the dropping of various Romany words in the conversation, sometimes explained and sometimes needing to be understood from context (although there was also a glossary in the back), in just the right amount: enough to be interesting, but not so much as to make it stilted or frustrating to read.

World War II D-Day, Hourly History  Having just finished the five World War II biographies, much of this information was still fresh in my memory, especially as three of those five were key figures in the Normandy Invasion. Having a picture of the personalities of those people in involved also lead to a much deeper understanding of this event beyond the mere facts.

George Stephenson, Hourly History  This started out by dispelling several myths about George Stephenson, listing one thing after another that he did NOT do, to the point where I was starting to wonder why they'd bothered writing a book about him. However, they did finally end up getting to the point, and one thing he certainly had was perseverance. He wasn't, after all, the first person to do many of the things that are credited to him (such as inventing the first steam locomotive), but he WAS the person who made many of these inventions into viable components of modern society. A great idea isn't of much use if it doesn't get put into practice, and putting into practice was George Stephenson's strength.

The Book of Dragons, Edith Nesbit  I'm not sure when I started this children's book, but it may have been six or more months ago. I finally finished it in November. I'm not sure what even made me start reading a book by an author I'm not really crazy about, but since the book consisted of unconnected short stories (all about, surprise surprise, dragons), it didn't matter if I went months between stories. I like fantasy just fine, but even fantasy needs to follow rules. None of these stories, as I recall, did. Random things happen with no logical (even fantastically logical) reason behind them, everything has an improbable happy ending, and characters are all completely two-dimensional, if that. (I'm not sure how to make a one-dimensional character, but Edith Nesbit is.)

An Awakened Heart, Jody Hedlund  Unbelievable Christian romance, in which one speech makes another person change character completely, and you know in the first couple of pages who is going to marry whom. A free book that was worth what I paid, and worth less than the time spent reading it. Also the last book I finished reading in November of this year.

Books finished in October 2017

Here it is December and I never even got around to blogging the rest of our trip after the first week, and we were gone for nine weeks altogether. Maybe I eventually will, but don't hold your breath.

All but one of the books I read in October were on my Kindle, all of the Kindle books being free. We were in the U.S until October 2nd, when we flew to Costa Rica via Guadalajara and Mexico City. We had a ten-hour layover during which we just hung out in the airport, because after our flight leaving at midnight and having virtually no sleep, we weren't up to trying to leave the airport, especially since when I looked for ideas on-line as to what to do in Guadalajara, most of the suggestions were to go someplace outside of the city. Various members of the family slept at various times throughout the day and I read a lot of the day. We were then in Costa Rica for three weeks (well, about 18 hours less than three weeks), returning to San Francisco via Mexico City. (That's another long story, but it worked out very well, and we even went into the city for the afternoon, which was pretty cool.) One night in California at my sister's house, then on to Germany, where we stayed until maybe I'll mention more about that if I blog November's books...

In the meantime, here are the books I read in October this year:

The Wisdom of Walt, Jeffrey A. Barnes  This wasn't a very long book and had some interesting tidbits about Walt Disney, but the overtone of obsession with making money and with Disneyland was kind of off-putting.

The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger  This was the one paper book I read in the entire month, gleaned from the bookcase of my host sister, Cristina. It was quite a fascinating idea, with a man who time traveled, but had no control over when or where. He often met up with himself in other times, but especially often met up with his wife-to-be, from when she was about six years old. There were many poignant and a few tragic moments, but not, really, a whole lot of story. That each chapter started with a date and the respective ages of the two main characters (or three, if Henry was represented twice), which really helped to keep it all straight for me. Then on the flight from Mexico City to San Francisco, I was able to watch the movie. It was surprisingly well-done (I actually approved of some of the changes they made, for various reasons, but they of course left out far, far too much), but there is no way I would have been able to follow it at all without having read the book first.

Triple Creek Ranch, Book One, Unbroken, Rebekah A. Morris  Umm...I had to think about this for a minute. If I remember correctly, it was a totally predictable Christian romance, not a genre I favor...

Okay, I just looked it up (and, incidentally, it's still free at amazon), and it's not actually a romance. But it is totally predictable Christian fiction, where the good guys are too good and the bad guys are too bad and there's one terrible character who becomes perfect. Still not a genre I favor.

Thomas Jefferson, Hourly History  Like the other Hourly Histories, able to be read in about half an hour, with a good overview of Thomas Jefforson's life, and with a few details that were new and interesting to me and which I have completely forgotten in the intervening two months.

Amish Faith Renewed, Becca Fisher  Well, now, that was interesting: I had to look it up, and the description did not spark any memories. Amish romance. I started looking at the reviews to see if they would say something else interesting, and I found a one-star review with the title "Reads like a summary" that I thought might be apt to copy and paste, and then noticed the name of the commenter: it was me, in August 2015. So I actually read the book in October 2017 for the SECOND time, and still don't remember it. With no concern about copyright or plagiarism, since it's what I wrote, here it is: I'm just glad this "book" was free and that it took less than ten minutes to read. I kept hoping that the introduction would end and something approaching character development and a story would happen, but they didn't.

The Author Startup, Ray Brehm  This was all about marketing a book for the purpose of making money. In fact, it was even about writing a book for the purpose of making money. And the author must know about that, since he's apparently written lots of books about how to write books to make money, and he links to them over and over again. He seemed rather obsessed with making money. This one was free, the others aren't. I didn't buy any of them.

Angels Watching Over Me, Michael Phillips  I actually enjoyed and remember this book. I think it was a little unrealistic for the white plantation owner's daughter and the black slave girl to both be so utterly clueless about the realities of the society around them, and to so easily become friends, but it was still a good story. It's set in the South of the United States just after the Civil War. Unfortunately, it ends rather abruptly, my assumption being because then the author hopes that it will make you buy the next book after getting this one free. It wasn't a bad book, but not good enough for me to spend money on the sequel.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Books finished in September 2017

This list looks long, but most of the "books" were free Kindle books that were quite short, some of them read in half an hour or not much more. It did, however, help that my husband was gone for a week in September (so I could read one paper book in bed, but even then I didn't manage to finish it before leaving for Germany, so had to take it with us and finish it in an airport), and that for most of the 10 days of September that we were traveling, I didn't have consistent reasonable internet access, so read more than I do when I do have internet access! Also, time in airports and on airplanes (six of them in September...) contributed to available reading time.

(The above was written at the beginning of October, as was the bare list of books/authors below. I am now, over a month later, going to attempt to give extremely short comments on each one, to just get around to publishing this...)

Days on the Road, Sarah Raymond Herndon  As I recall, this was a pioneer trip and an actual diary, and I enjoyed it very much, even it was free.

The Measure of Katie Calloway, Serena Miller  Yet another very good book, with certain predictable events (who was going to show up where and why, and who was going to get married).

Ten Days in a Mad-House, Nellie Bly  Non-fiction, by a woman reporter in a time when it was rare for women to have "real" jobs. She got herself committed to an insane asylum for the sake of the story, and the scary thing is, that once she was committed, she reverted to acting 100% her normal self and telling the complete truth, but without it having been arranged for someone else to get her out 10 days later, she never would have gotten out.

Queen Victoria, Hourly History  This was the first "Hourly History" that I read, and have read quite a few in the last couple of months. Nowhere could I find an actual author's name. Most of them take me about half an hour to read, but give an interesting overview with tidbits I either never knew or didn't remember. (Contrast this book, on the life of someone who lived for over 80 years, to the book it took me MONTHS to get through, on the life of Lady Jane Grey, who lived only 17 years!) Some of these books could do with better proofreading, but I like having this "history-lite" library on my Kindle.

Mahatma Gandhi and His Myths, Mark Shepard  Another very short book, but at the very least, I should now remember how to spell GandHi, as I'm pretty sure I used to, as I see regularly, put the H after the G...

Eden Park, Charlotte Bingham   This was the one and only paperback book (as opposed to Kindle book) that I finished in the month of September. The description on the back was one of those that makes the reader think that a particular event is the main event, when it isn't at all, but as the book was better than the back cover, that was fine with me. I like books that follow different people's lives and then show how they intersect with each other.

Embers of Love, Tracie Peterson  Umm....trying to remember this one, but don't. And it's one of the first ones on my Kindle carousel at the moment, because Katie is reading it. I suspect that it's a Christian romance and basically harmless. And I feel kind of the same way about the use of the word "harmless" when describing a book as Emily Starr did. (Or was it even her Aunt Elizabeth who said that? Lucy Maud Montgomery, anyway.)

The Mayflower, Hourly History  Again, a good overview, and some facts that I'd either never learned or long since forgotten, despite having grown up in the U.S.-history-centric U.S. school system.

Ashley's Amish Adventures: An Outsider Living with the Amish, Ashley Emma  This is supposed to be an actual account, and may well be, but I found it a little unbelievable. The author was researching for writing an "Amish romance," and the Amish and Mennonite people with whom I've actually spoken about Amish romances have been generally quite disdainful about them, so it surprises me that this entire community was so happy to host the author (who was homeschooled) for her purposes.

Benny and the Bank Robber, Mary C. Findley  This was a book that started out really slow for me, and then I couldn't put it down, even when I got extremely annoyed with a twist that should NOT have happened, and yet was predictable, too. I'd guess it's written for about ages 10-12, not a difficult read, but not too terribly preachy.

Benjamin Franklin, Hourly History  No comments to add to the other "Hourly History" comments, except that I may have gotten less out of this having already read so much about Benjamin Franklin.

Andrew Jackson, Hourly History Unlike the previous Hourly History books I'd read, I previously knew very little about Andrew Jackson, so there was much more new information for me in this book, yet I was glad to only spend half an hour on the topic!

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 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. 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.