Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Home

We're in Hamminkeln, Germany, which is legally our home (at the moment it still is, that is, and has been for seven a half years, but we'll be unregistering next week, which is another story...), but have never lived here. Our other legal home is in Cyprus, and is definitely the place we call home. It's where I keep my books. :-)

We often stay in Hamminkeln while we're in Germany, as our sending agency has their headquarters here, and a guest house we're able to use. This time, we're actually here TO be here, for the Family Camp they're running for the third time. 25 children and 26 adults participating this year, plus plenty of staff, and as wonderful as always! There's a children's program during the morning and evening sessions, and lots of free time, to relax and to chat with other people.

And this evening's topic was TCKs: Third-Culture Kids, which, by definition, my children are. And three years ago I wrote a post about why I believe I have Aquired TCK-ism, identifying considerably more with TCKs than with my "passport culture," although maybe I'm just multi-cultural. Whatever. Anyway, it was interesting, although not new information for me, and I especially enjoy hearing people's anecdotes. (Had to laugh especially at one the speaker shared. She had overheard a child being asked where he's from, and he shot out with one rushed sentence: "My-mother-is-American-and-my-father-is-German-and-we-live-in-Cyprus." Guess who THAT was. Her point was that he answered quickly as if he were used to answering that way, that none of us can give simple, quick answers. Totally true.)

One thing that was said tonight was something I hadn't noticed before in definitions of just who is a TCK, though. It was that "you know you will be returning 'home' someday." That's a difficult concept for me, partly because I am always "home" where I happen to live. (I said that in the post I linked, too. I have never lived 'away from home', because where I live IS home.) And it makes me wonder if that then disqualifies my children from being TCKs, as it is highly unlikely that we, as a family, will ever return to Germany (and cannot, as a family, "return" to the United States), and if any of them did ever move to Germany, I don't think any of them would think of it as "returning home." Marie, who spent the last seven months in the United States and is going back there in September did not "return home" when she moved to her passport country; she moved to the United States. I wouldn't even call it "returning home" if I were to move back to the United States (which I have no intention of doing, but there are a lot of things I never had any intention of doing...), and I did live there 19 (non-consecutive) years, still the most years in any one country, although less that half of my life.




So I then asked a few of my children what they would answer if asked where home is.

Helen (nearly 8) said, "Well, I would ask if they know where Faneromeni is, and then tell them to go down the street the same direction as the church, and turn left at..." and gave complete directions to our house. In Cyprus, of course. (She's lived in Cyprus since she was four months old, in that house since she was six months old.)

Katie (11 next week) said, "In Larnaka, in Cyprus. Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, between Turkey and Israel." (And NOT part of Greece, as we have found we regularly have to explain...)

Elisabeth (6) started at me like that was a dumb question, and as she highly disapproves of dumb questions (that is, questions that she knows the questioner knows the answer to), she finally just said, "I need to go to the loo" and left. Proving again at least her international-ness, as "loo" is BRITISH and NOT a word I ever, ever use!!! (I have nothing against it, but it's not part of my vocabulary.)

Lukas (14) said, "Cyprus."

So, I thought I'd add a photo or two of our time here, but I just checked the camera, and so far, the only photos from the Family Camp are of cake and of Duplo. We're too busy enjoying ourselves to take photos, I guess.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

More Laura Ingalls Wilder

Facebook reminded me that five years ago today, I blogged about my interest in (read: obsession with) Laura Ingalls Wilder. What I don't understand is why I didn't mention The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, which, as far as I remember, was the reason I wrote the blogpost in the first place. Unless maybe I didn't have the book yet, just wanted it? In any case, I have it now, and I've bought myself one more book since then and received another two, so I definitely need to update.



The Wilder Life was written by someone who actually makes me look only mildly interested in Laura, yet, in another world...as in, if I lived in the United States and had the time and money, well...I would have loved to research and write this book myself! It was a fun, light-hearted read, with no new information for me about Laura, but enjoyable going on the journeys of exploration with the author.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, was my birthday gift to myself a year ago. It was exactly what I'd been wanting for at least 35 years, and even better. What really amused me was how many of the negative reviews on amazon convinced me that I would probably love it, and I was right. "Too many footnotes" was my favorite comment--that was what I WANTED! And there were people who complained because it destroyed their picture of the original Little House books as absolute fact, people who complained that it gave Rose too much credit, people who complained that it didn't give Rose ENOUGH credit, people who complained that it was "just a rough draft," people who pointed out that a facsimile of the original rough draft is available for the cost of photocopying, etc. I don't understand why those people bought the book in the first place, because none of those were hidden issues in the book description! As for the people who complained that it wasn't like the TV show...there's just no answer. In any case, I absolutely loved it. AND, for the first time in many, many years, I actually learned new things about Laura and her family!! Okay, not very many, to be honest, but a few. ;-) The absolute only drawback that I found with this book is that it is huge, and therefore, can't be read in bed, as it's far too dangerous if I drop it on my face. (Or on my sleeping husband's face...)

Laura Ingalls Wilder: a Family Collection and Little House in the Ozarks are both collections of Laura's writings for newspapers and farm magazines and there is a lot of overlap, but they're both worth having (for a die-hard fan, anyway!), and are organized quite differently. I'd read a very few of these articles previously, so it was quite exciting to have so much new-to-me information.

The Family Collection consists of about 80 articles Laura wrote for the Missouri Ruralist between 1911 and 1918, but is arranged by theme, and none of the articles are dated, which is a little frustrating to me. It does say that they are arranged chronologically within each section, though. And at the end of each thematic section there are a few footnotes.

Little House in the Ozarks, is likewise organized by topic, but does not keep the articles in chronological order, although each article is dated! I'm pretty sure that most or all of the Ruralist articles in the other book are also in this one, but this book continues through 1925 and has nearly 150 articles altogether. There are a few footnotes throughout, on the relevant pages rather than collected at the end.

I see no need for yet another collection of the same articles, but if I were to be the editor of one, I would keep it strictly chronological, with the date and location of publication on each article. I prefer the footnotes on the relevant pages, as in Ozarks, but don't like the quotation boxes (there's probably a more technical term than that!) throughout and would have the layout more like in Family. And I would include photos, which neither of them do!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Weekly activities

So, there was a comment that one might have a biggish family if there are multiple outside activities every day of the week, although nobody does more than one or two things. Yep, I think that's pretty accurate. There was also the question of what being so-called "homeschooled" means in the teenage years, which will be mentioned here some.

Elisabeth, age 5 years and 10 months: church/Sunday school, Midi-Club (activity group at the Greek Evangelical church for children ages three to six), and drama class.

Helen, age 7 1/2: same as Elisabeth, except that her drama class is preparing a play, so has two rehearsals a week. Oh, and piano lessons.

Katie, age 10 3/4: church/Sunday school and drama. (Her class is also preparing a play and has two rehearsals a week.)

Lukas, age 13 5/6: church,  two drama classes (meaning two plays, and four rehearsals a week), youth group, and saxophone lessons. The weekly youth group, Friday evenings, is an inter-church group run jointly by members of several churches and attended by 12-18-year-olds from even more churches and not in churches. There's also a youth ministry run by our church, called MTB ("More Than Bacon"), which has a brunch once a month, Bible studies sometimes, a movie night once a month, and occasional other activities. Oh, and the youth used to play basketball every Sunday afternoon, but that hasn't been happening much lately.

Jacob, age 16 5/6: at church he's sometimes in the band (plays djembe and cajon), always plays when the youth band plays, and is sometimes on sound. He's also in drama (his play is in less than two weeks, so two loooong rehearsals a week at the moment), youth group (and the youth band), and MTB, and has been working a lot, both for a construction company (installing locks in hotels) and privately in home renovation, as well as with his own business buying and selling used pallets and building custom-made furniture and other things. He hasn't, somehow, had much time lately for blogging or other writing. (He published a pamphlet about slavery in the chocolate industry a few years ago, published a youth magazine for a couple of years, and has had several articles published in local magazines and on-line. The fact that he didn't learn to read until he was eight years old and I never required any reading or writing of him does not appear to have slowed him down any.) Oh, and he has a girlfriend.

Marie, age 18 1/2: she's living in California, USA, at the moment, with my sister. She's volunteering in a literacy program in a public school, taking a psychology course at the local community college, and recently got a job in a pretzel shop at the mall. She'd also recently joined the music team at the church she's attending, but I don't know if her new job has interfered with that. (She plays the violin.) She'll be home in June. Incidentally, she self-published her first book three years ago, and has been talking about completely re-writing it and submitting it somewhere for "real" publication.

Me, age 45 (much to the shock of a young mother yesterday, who couldn't figure out just WHAT to say--I could totally see her face going, "But, you don't look that old! Wait a moment, I can't say that, because then I'd be implying that you're old! But you don't look that old!"--I was highly amused): I've been attending a particular church more-or-less regularly for about two years, after four wonderful years of not regularly attending ANY church. The last year has been pretty much every Sunday, and since last September, I've been teaching Sunday school (the youngest group, 3-5-year-olds) two Sundays a month, and helping in the creche/nursery one Sunday a month. I get to go to drama, too, helping in the 3-5-year-old class (in which I no longer have any children--I just love that age group!), and as of two weeks ago, helping backstage for two of the classes that are preparing plays, Helen's (7-10-year-olds) and Katie's and Lukas's (10-13-year-olds), so that means three or four rehearsals a week for me, too. For the last year and a half I've been attending our church's twice-monthly "Ladies' Fellowship," but we had a meal together last week which I think was the "end of the year meal," meaning that we won't meet up again until autumn. I go to Midi-Club with Helen and Elisabeth (well, at the moment, I only get to go for the last half hour, because it overlaps with Katie's and Lukas's rehearsal). And I have writers' group once a month. Oh, and Greek lessons once a week.

I can't even start on Joern. He has work at the House of Prayer, art sometimes there and sometimes at the studio (oh yeah, that's work...), meetings with all sorts of people (oh yeah, that's work...), pastors' and prayer leaders' meeting every other week (oh yeah, that's work...), worship evening at the House of Prayer every other week (oh yeah, that's work...), lots of time on the computer (oh yeah, that's work...), and...there's a bit of a trend here. It's pretty cool when one loves one's work!! (I just asked him what I should write for him, and he said "shopping." That's grocery shopping, which he does 95% of, as well as most of the cooking! I am in a GOOD PLACE. ;-D )

I think those are all of our formal activities. We go to the library every other week; sometimes go to Little Muse's Saturday morning shows; spend every other Sunday afternoon with our friends Sue and Richard (the children watch a movie while the adults play board games, then we have dinner together); have what we call "house group" every Friday (a shared dinner here and then sitting and chatting for anywhere from the next 30 minutes to the next three hours, which sometimes includes the Bible and often includes the dictionary and/or looking things up on the internet); have people over for meals; go to Sue's and Richard's to play games (just Joern and I, that is); very occasionally get invited to other people's homes (there are a lot of us...); I walk and/or jog most mornings at the Salt Lake Park (three days a week I walk with Sue); Joern takes each of the children out once every two weeks; Joern and I occasionally go for walks in the evening; Lukas goes with Joern to art and each of the girls occasionally go; I go to Sue's one morning a week with anywhere from one to four children (usually two), where they/we play with Lego and read books and talk; and...I think that covers it. More or less.

Oh yeah, and we homeschool. Which is another way of saying, we live life. And read a lot of books. Which we would have done anyway, but have more time for both because we homeschool.




Sunday, April 10, 2016

Moving our last toddler out of our bed

With all of our children, we found it most convenient for the baby to sleep in our bed from the very beginning. I'm a firm believer in everyone sleeping where everyone sleeps best, and it just happened to work with all of them that we all slept best when the baby was in our bed. Neither the baby nor I ever had to really wake up for breastfeeding, my husband never really had to wake up at all. Win-win.

However, everyone has their limits SOMEWHERE, and my limit was, that as committed as I was to what is known as extended breastfeeding (I'd prefer it to be known simply as "normal", in that it's not premature weaning...), I couldn't bear the thought of two babies trying to nurse all night, and our oldest did NOT approve of my attempt at night-weaning her, so when she was 19 months old, we moved her into her own bed. It was considerably less traumatic for her than for me, and she very soon was happily calling for Papa in the night. :-)

The next four have their own individual stories, but in all cases, the decision about when they moved out of our bed did have some relation to when their next sibling was due.

And then...there was Elisabeth. She liked her space and stayed mostly sleeping happily on her "baby balcony" (a bed frame I built for a crib/cot mattress, so that it fit snugly between the wall and our bed, at the same level as our bed), and no little sibling was expected, but SHE started talking about when she would "get to sleep in the girls' room." It was a LOT easier to have her in our room than for one of us (okay, usually my darling husband...) get up if their were any issues in the night, so I kept putting it off, but on April 9th, 2013, when Elisabeth was two months short of three years old, we finally moved her into the girls' room. It was even easier than with the others: we just moved the "baby balcony" in there, between the wall and the bottom (double) bunk of the bunk bed, where Katie and Helen both slept.

And then on the 10th, I wrote this at around 8:40 a.m.:

Yesterday I moved Elisabeth's bed to the girls' room, and my first thought this morning was, "Cool--Elisabeth slept all night in the girls' room!" While out on my walk, I wondered if maybe actually Jörn had gone to her in the night and I'd just not heard him/her/them, but when I got home Jörn confirmed he'd slept all night, too. Then I thought it might be nice to take a photo as proof that Elisabeth had spent the night in her bed...but she wasn't there! Some panic as I couldn't find her anywhere, then Katie said, "Oh yeah, I remember--Marie took her to her bed." I don't know why Marie didn't bring her to us, but I certainly have NO complaints! 

Yay for big sisters! (Marie was 15 1/2.)

And then 20 minutes later, I posted this: 


Elisabeth just appeared, and I said, "So where did you sleep all night, little girl?" and she said, "In a box!" 

??? 

Turns out, she thought I was talking to the kitten. 

When I then asked, "Okay, so where did ELISABETH sleep?" she said, "In my bed with my pajamas next to Helen." I said, "Really....?" and she smirked and said, "No...I sleeped in Marie's bed after I closed my eyes and opened them again."

Incidentally, some of the children had a tendency to join us in the night more often than the others, but the two who from the very beginning of being in their own beds were the least likely to ever come to ours were the two who left our bed at the oldest ages. Elisabeth was positively insulted once when she was maybe 3 1/2 and not well, and I asked her if she wanted to sleep in our bed.

Napping with awake toddlers

Posted on April 10, 2010, at 11:19 p.m.: Katie was four, Helen was 19 months, and this was two months before Elisabeth was born...

Why am I still awake? Oh yeah, because I had a nap. And a nap with awake children and dh not home was not one of my most brilliant acts. Among other things, Katie and Helen are stamped all over with "printed matter" in red letters. And who knows how many bananas Helen ate, now that she can push a chair over to the counter, climb up, peel her own banana, AND throw the peel away...

All I have to add is that I'm impressed that Helen was throwing banana peels away at that age. None of the children (including Helen) are very good at it now, except when I've written their names in permanent markers on the bananas...

Saturday, April 9, 2016

You know you have a biggish family when...

My post on Facebook four years ago today:

You know you have a biggish family when...
 ...it's a peaceful treat to go out with only three children.

I should have known that people would take that as a challenge to come up with their own conclusion to that sentence, and they did! So here are their responses, with some additional comments from me now, because, hey, rambling on is one of the things I do best:
 
From a family with four children (twins aged 10, a six-year-old, and a three-and-a-half-year-old):  
 
...you don't own any small pots and pans and cook EVERYTHING in bulk!
 
We do actually own one small pot, and one small frying pan! But they're certainly not used for family meals--more for when just a couple of people are home or when a teenager is making a midnight (or any-other-time-of-day-or-night) snack. My husband also often (far, far, FAR too often) uses the small frying pan to make mushrooms and/or onions. He's the only one who eats them.
 
From a then-mother-of-one (now mother of two), but referring to her own childhood:  
 
You count the children as you load them into the van, and occasionally leave one or two behind. (Memories of my childhood)
 
Well, obviously! Except that we don't have a van. :-( We did have a seven-seater car until last summer, but it died. Now the challenge of making sure we have all the children is made more complicated by the fact that on the rare occasion that we do go anywhere as a family, we have to take two cars, so it's that much easier to leave someone behind, but I don't THINK we've done it...)
 
When I was about 10 or so, I got left behind after church. I was sitting in a corner of the fellowship hall, reading, and didn't notice that everyone had left and the doors had been locked, until my dad unlocked the door to come in and look for me. (I'm the oldest of five.)
 
From another friend referring to her own childhood:
 
You hear your mother say, "Of course you should join us. It's just 2 more potatoes." (I'm the 4th of 5 daughters.)

Or your husband, in my case, since he does most of the cooking for the family and most certainly ALL of the cooking if we're having guests. I'm not quite sure why this relates to large families, though, since we were like this before we had children, too!
 
From the oldest of eight children:
 
You hear: "there will only be six people at dinner. It doesn't seem worthwhile to cook."
 
Well, my husband cooks anyway, even if it's just the two of us. (Um, not that it's exactly often that it's just the two of us, but he cooked every day for the three years BEFORE we had children, too.) It's not uncommon now to only have three children home for a meal, and the table feels so empty, with just five of us! But if my husband and older children aren't home, no, I don't see any point in cooking.
 
From my sister (who now has 11 nieces and nephews):

You have 8 nieces and nephews, and there are 20 something people at your family of origin reunion

I'm not even sure how many people we DID have at Thanksgiving in California last November, and one of my brothers and one of my nephews weren't even there.

From the youngest of six:

Cuando te dicen 5 nombres diferentes antes del tuyo (When they say five different names before they get to yours)

...and the same idea, from my oldest daughter:

Your mom calls you three or four names before she hits on the right one.


...and another from the same oldest of eight quoted above:
 
Your grandparents have to run through about ten names before they get to yours. And you're one of the oldest.

What can I say? I think this is pretty universal. Although also not necessarily exclusive to large families, as I managed to do this when I had only ONE baby: I kept calling her by the name of my youngest sister!!  And when I told my mother about it, she confessed that when I was born, she kept calling me by the name of HER youngest sister.

Another from the youngest of six quoted above:

Y cuando los hermanos se van y la casa se siente grande! (When the siblings leave and the house feels big!)

I'm the oldest, so never had that experience. Maybe when/if my children have all moved out?

From the oldest of seven (I think just six at the time) children:
 
...you're at the park and most of the kids playing there are your siblings!
 
That's usually the case for my children when we go to the park, since we tend to go at times that aren't popular for other people!
 
From my oldest daughter again, several of them:
 
...you say someone else has a "small" family because they "only" have four children.
 
I don't know...I'm with my mother on the idea that once you have three, you have more than you have hands, so after that, it really doesn't make much difference. (Except that it actually get easier. It's a LOT easier having a baby and/or toddlers with teens in the house than not!)
 
...the house feels empty because there are only five people home.
 
Yep. 
 
...your youngest child will NEVER be stuck with no clothes to wear because of all the hand-me-downs.
 
I had to laugh out loud at my oldest child saying this, since the vast majority of HER clothes have been hand-me-downs, too. We were given the first two huge bags of baby clothes more than a year before she was even born (and after I washed them--they smelled of cigarette smoke--hung them in the living room to dry rather than in the common drying room, so the landlord wouldn't see them), and in the months before she was born, was given enough baby clothes to clothe at least triplets by another friend. That friend continued supplying us with hand-me-downs until her daughters stopped growing. In fact, my youngest daughter now is wearing some clothes that have been through both of my friend's daughters AND all five of my older children. And many other people have given us hand-me-downs as well. This is wonderful for me, as I have very little (read "no") interest in clothes, detest shopping, and am not that keen on spending money, either.
 
...there's always some outside activity going on, every day of the week. And everyone only has one or two activities.

Um...I started to write a comment on this, and the answer by itself was getting longer than an entire blogpost ought to be, so I guess that confirms the truth of it...

From the same fourth of five daughters above:

The neighbor kids come over to hang out and watch the "Three Ring Circus" that is your family life.

I haven't actually observed this one myself, unless I count a couple of adult friends who like to come over for that purpose...

From a mother of eight:   

...everyone you meet has a mock heart attack when you answer the question "How many children do you have?"

I found this surprising from this particular friend, since she lives here in Cyprus, and the response we personally most often receive is "Bravo! God bless you!" However, in Germany and the United States, yes, that's the reaction we generally receive. But then, in Germany, we got that reaction with only three children...

Conclusion: yes, we have a biggish family. :-)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Straddle parenting and blog revival

I learned a new term recently (in the last half year or so): straddle parenting. And I thought of it again when I read my friend Sue's suggestions as to what to write on this blog, should I choose to revive it.

I asked on Facebook for suggestions and got responses from two people. One suggested as a topic "Why I do not write anymore?" which is interesting to ME, but not for answering in public. Short answer is that there were three somewhat-traumatic-to-me events within about four months, and those being all I could think about, but not wanting to write about them for the world (um, yeah, as if "the world" were reading this...), I couldn't manage to write about anything else. So that's that one checked off.

And incidentally, it's not that I don't write anymore, just that I haven't been blogging. Or writing creatively much. I HAVE written more in my personal journal in the last year and a half than in the previous 17 years, though (not added up, I mean, just much more often), so I haven't quit writing altogether.

Sue's response was this:

"Topics:(1) compare/contrast Cyprus and Germany after living in CY long enough to feel at home there. (2) Home ed for older children/teens, what happens as they grow up (3) Cute things H and E have said when they were younger, easier to access than FB."

The first one could be interesting, except that I have a tendency to live so very much where I am, that I have a difficult time comparing it to any place else except when specific questions come up. So if anyone has a specific question, ask away. I'm drawing a blank, myself! (And "compare and contrast" makes me shudder and think of high school, even though I was generally good at those assignments. Being good at something doesn't necessarily mean loving it. I'm very good at washing dishes, for example. I'm also very good at procrastinating.)

The second and third ones, though, immediately reminded me of that term, "straddle parenting." I so often hear and read about "this season of life," meaning ALL the children little, ALL the children in school, ALL the children off on their own, or whatever. I was talking with a grandmother today (while I was holding her 4 1/2-month-old granddaughter :-) ) who commented that her daughter had her three children very close together intentionally, because she wants to "get that part over with and go back to work." It wasn't a judgmental statement in any way, simply a statement of intention and fact. (The other two children are 3 1/2 and nearly 2.) She's clearly in the season of life of "little ones," and won't have a long break between "one in school" and "all in school," nor a long period of "teenagers and non-teenagers."

I, however, am most definitely in the midst of straddle parenting. My oldest daughter is 18 1/2 and although she is spending seven months in the United States at the moment, this doesn't let her off getting parented, and my youngest daughter is five. (Yes, she is FIVE! I refuse to call her almost six! Don't remind me that her birthday is two months away. Two months is a long time!!) No diapers/nappies in the house anymore, no baby-wearing or breastfeeding, but I still get to read "The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Story Book" out loud to a little girl cuddling in my arm, then answer the phone to hear my oldest son (16, and no, don't tell me that he'll be 17 in less than two months) asking me to check his e-mail for him to see if a customer has responded yet, because he needs to let the shipping company know if he can organize the heat-treatment of 1000 pallets. (Or something like that. I didn't really understand.) I have a daughter who has published a book and a son running a business and having three different people wanting to employ him this week and two daughters who have just learned to read "Hop on Pop." And two other children as well. And a husband. And two cats.

If I post again on this blog within another year, maybe I'll go more into detail as to what so-called "homeschooling" has meant for my teenagers, because yes, I would really like to. In the meantime, I'll include two quotations that Facebook is telling me happened on this date in previous years, to start on the third suggestion.

April 7, 2011: (Katie at 5 3/4)
"I know what the difference between us and eggs is. If you peel off the skin of an egg, it doesn't grow back." (Said by Katie as she peeled her hard-boiled egg this morning.)

April 7, 2013: (Marie 15 1/2, Elisabeth 2 5/6)
Marie offered to make pancakes for lunch, and Elisabeth jumped up and ran in the kitchen and pointed to my cookbook, and said, "This book says pancakes!"

Aaaand...to wrap it up, here's a photo of Katie, now 10, and Elisabeth, now FIVE thank-you-very-much, giving me a bike lock for my birthday last month.