Thursday, December 6, 2018

Advent 2018, part one

Not "week one," because it's only been six days, and because I don't know if I'll try this once a week or not anyway. I probably shouldn't even call it "part one" until I know for sure that there's more, but anyway, here goes, for Advent 2018 so far...

December 1st: It was the staff-plus-family Christmas party for the organization my husband works with, so that checked off "doing something Christmasy." I do have photos, but they all include other people.

And before I went to bed, I remembered that the next day was the first Sunday in Advent, so I got the Advent wreath out of Lukas's closet. (All of the children have large built-in floor-to-ceiling closets, so the top parts are for our use. Katie's top ones are filled with Marie's things, the top ones in Helen's and Elisabeth's room have car seats and clothes-to-grow-into, and Lukas's have clothes, bedding, Christmas stuff, and suitcases--he has the most closet space.)

December 2nd: Before very many people had had breakfast (we do NOT have breakfast together, this decision having saved at least our marriage, if perhaps too late for my sanity), I remembered to set up the Advent wreath. We have plenty of candles, but not many of them overly useful for the wreath...


And this candle didn't do well with spending summer in Cyprus in a box...

However, there being little other choice, I made the melted candle into three candles and found another stub. Certain (male) members of my family were not impressed, but I'm rather dedicated to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Melted vertically into place, and the first candle lit!

And after the girls were in bed, Jörn and I went for a walk, the first walk we've taken since we moved in. Usually, we manage at least a walk or two a week, but with Rock and moving and all the rest of everything, it hadn't happened.

December 3rd: A typical Monday: I went swimming with friends, did a little bit of schoolwork with the girls, went to Oasis (community center for refugees) supposedly for an hour to meet with pregnant women and young mothers and stayed for an hour and a half, fell down on my walk home and made one elbow and both knees bleed without putting any holes in my clothes, helped in the drama class for 3-5-year-olds, and got to participate in the adult drama class in the evening. I don't think we managed anything Adventy or Christmasy...

December 4th: A typical Tuesday: I went for a walk with my friend Sue, took Helen and Elisabeth to their piano lesson, we spent the rest of the morning with Sue, Helen and Elisabeth had dance class (Helen helps in the first class, for small children, and then she and Elisabeth are both participants in the second one), my Tuesday English student (an eight-year-old girl) came and we made cookies (oops--no photos, but if I'd taken photos, they'd probably have included her, because I forget to think about taking photos for my blog, so I couldn't have posted them anyway...), and in the evening my husband and I played a game with friends. No photos. Oh, except for of Helen rescuing the mammoth from the water tank, but that's another story, which all of my FB friends know anyway.

December 5th: Usually I'm home Wednesday mornings, but there was some concern about one of the pregnant women. It took a little while to get sorted out what her name is and where she lives, and then I went to see her, because I wasn't understanding enough on the phone. She was fine, though, not in labor after all, and now I know where she lives, which is useful, since I may be the one taking her to the hospital when it's time to go. Communication is difficult, as I don't speak either of her native languages and her English is limited, but it was good. (And quite amusing that it took a few minutes to convince her and her flat mates that I do NOT speak French, since I apparently pronounce her name very well!!)

Anyway, I was eventually home, and Jörn had gotten some greenery for the wreath. He'd also bought four red candles, but, well, see above on my "Use it up..." etc.

In the afternoon my Wednesday English student came (a nine-year-old girl), and we drew a lot of pictures of Christmas-themed things and labeled them (I was going to make cookies with her, too, but not being home in the morning, I hadn't made dough). And then we got out the Advent boxes, so she got to learn lots of really useful words like "stocking" and "camel" and so on. I used to always make sure everyone was home to do ANY decorating, but I gave up on that years ago, so it was just Katie and Helen and my student and I. (I have no idea where Lukas was, Jörn was at a staff meeting, and Elisabeth was at drama class.)

So here are the bookcases with our current (not necessarily permanent) solution:

Close-up of the stockings, which were hung in random order, and then today Katie noticed that the girls are together and the boys are together and they're symmetrical in their basic color: green, blue, red, green, red, blue, green.
I haven't asked Jacob yet if he wants his stocking at his place or here, or if/when he's coming for Christmas Eve/Christmas morning etc. It was one thing having Marie in a different country for Christmas (2015 and 2016 she stayed in the U.S., last year she came to Cyprus for Christmas), but confusing having Jacob living a five-minute walk away!

Katie arranged all the various nativity scenes:




The wise men and the camels are on the opposite side of the room. I reached up to put them there, and held the phone over my head to take the photo...only now am I seeing how dusty it is...
The plan, as every year, is to move the wise men and camels a little closer each day, and for them to arrive at the main Nativity scene on January 6th, Epiphany. The reality is that we might remember to move them once or twice between now and then, and we might not, so on January 6th they will take a flying jump to get to where they belong.

Anyway, as soon as my English student was picked up, Helen and I left for her to get to rehearsal for the choir concert that night, where I was also helping out with raffle tickets and stuff. If I could figure out how to put the video of her solo in here, I would, but I haven't figured that out yet, so oh well.

December 6th: This morning I took the lady I visited yesterday to her regular check-up. I don't think I will ever understand the system. She had an appointment for 11:20, but we were there over an hour earlier. First she had to wait in line to register downstairs and get part of her file, then she had to wait in line upstairs to sign in and get her file, then she waited for awhile and finally was weighed and had her blood pressure measured, and then she got a number. Apparently, the time of the appointment wasn't relevant, just in which order she arrived. She ended up being the very last one to see the doctor, and we weren't done until nearly 1:00.

On the way home I stopped quickly and bought chocolate Nikoläuse, as it's Nikolaus day. We'd talked about making plates of goodies for the neighbors, but...yesterday was sort of busy. Anyway, I can't count: it was a package of five, so I thought I'd have to get two packages, but then I calculated that without Marie or Jacob, five would be plenty, and if Jacob showed up for lunch, I just wouldn't have one. But six of us live here. Jacob didn't come for lunch, but I still didn't get one.

Then at lunch the first of the white candle stubs burned down completely, so got replaced with a nice new red candle. There was further discussion about whether this looked stupid, but as we do generally remember to light the candles at least one or two meals (usually all three) every single day, we're very likely to go through all four of the red candles also and need to replace them before Christmas. So, once again, my "Use it up..." took precedence over aesthetics:

When I unpacked the Advent boxes yesterday, I also found some Advent activities that I'd either found or been given rather late last year (some arrived in a Christmas package in January, for example), but thought to pack in the box for this year. Six days in, we did decide to start this, or our version of it:
The idea is to make a small donation every day of the first 24 days of December that reflect the fact that something that seems totally normal to us is something not at all taken for granted by much of the world, and that if we stop to think about it at all, we are likely to be extremely grateful. Catching up on the first six days at once got rather chaotic, but we have a jar and will see if we keep it up. Definitely got some good discussion out of it, anyway. And that may become another blogpost, but for now, here's our first quarter of Advent.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Keepin' it real

I hear that fewer and fewer people read blogs, but I still do. One that I read regularly is about ex-pats, written by ex-pats, all over the world. Single and married, with and without children, homeschooling or public schooling or private schooling, Christians, non-Christians, temporarily where they are, permanently where they are, speaking the local language or not, multi-language families or not, etc. A large majority are originally from the U.S., some are not. In October they ran a feature called "This Global Home," with a post each day from a different country, introducing the houses. I haven't actually finished reading them yet, although nearly--I've read 22 of them, I think.

One of the early ones had a phrase which then recurred several times over the month: "Keepin' it real." The photo with that statement was of a bedroom with a toddler in it. The toddler was sitting on the floor, and there were several things on the floor. A teddy bear, a book, a pair of shoes. Or something like that. Definitely not more than three or four items, anyway. The author said something like, "Keepin' it real, folks--impossible to keep everything cleared up with children in the house."

Personally, I would have considered that bedroom sparkling clean and completely tidy. Never in my life has any room of any house I have ever lived in looked anywhere that close to an Ikea display room.

I've been wanting to blog for MONTHS about our move. I've wanted everything to be finished, so I could write a nice concise (yeah, right) post about the process of our room being built, moving in, and finally living here. Photos of boxes everywhere, then photos of no boxes. Photos of the roof with spray paint marking where walls would go, then photos of the frame going up, then the finished room.

The four younger children and Joern and I were in the mountains for a few days when Jacob actually got started, August 27th. This is our room when we got back September 1st. Keepin' it real, folks, keepin' it real:

The place where a door was supposed to go turned out to have rebar in it...

...so here is our doorway, which also made the room several square meters larger.

A week later, with the rubble finally removed:

...and our room, looking rather more cleaned up:

The materials that would eventually become our room:

The whole getting-the-house process was ridiculously long, for reasons having nothing to do with us (well, unless one counts the fact that our insistence on honesty did slow things down a bit...): we put in the first offer in April, which was turned down, then after meeting with another bank, put in an offer on May 9th, which was accepted. August 10th the deposit was paid and the first contract signed, and we got keys the next week. (The owner still had keys, and was coming and going, watering the garden ("yard" in American English), feeding a cat, and phoning us every time she thought we hadn't closed enough shutters or turned the key enough times.) August 27th, Jacob started work on the roof, building a fourth bedroom. And September 6th we finally paid the balance (well, the bank did) and got all the keys. (And stopped closing all the shutters every time we left the house for ten minutes.) Four months.

We "moved in" (in that we slept here for the first time) September 26th, but our bedroom was nowhere near finished. Lukas, however, was in England from September 8th until October 30th, so we were able to stay in his room.

We moved into our room October 30th, while Lukas was literally in the air on his way back from England.


And I'm pretty sure he'd already actually landed by the time I had his bed put together in his room:


Those boxes, by the way, are all ours. Everything of Lukas's, with the exception of one large painting, fit into one of the closets in his room. (Oh, except for the stuff he has stored at Jacob's workshop/warehouse...)

And I take no responsibility for the color--Lukas painted that before he left for England.

Anyway, here is our door now, three months later:

I have plans for that landing, for a desk and my very own space for the first time in 24 years, but the wall isn't finished and Jacob still has a ton of stuff there.

And here's what the outside looks like:


It was supposed to take three, maybe four weeks. It's been three months. And rather obviously, is not finished. Keepin' it real, folks. Keepin' it real.

A friend has told me several times that she admires my patience. I had to tell her a story about Elisabeth, three years ago. We were in the U.S. and five-and-a-half-year-old Elisabeth tried to talk to my sister, Erin, while Erin was talking to me. Erin asked her to wait for a moment, and after she (Erin) had finished, she turned to Elisabeth and said, "Thank you for being so patient. What would you like to say?"

Elisabeth said very firmly, "I was NOT patient. I was just QUIET."

I never had much in the way of patience, and I'm running out of quiet.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Blogposts written in my head

In no particular order, here are some blogposts I've meant to write and haven't. (I should add "yet," but...some of them are definitely not going to get written anyway, probably none of them...)

Throughout 2017 I kept a list of all the books I read. (After about February or March I limited it to just the books I was reading for the first time.) I still have my list of books read in December 2017, so I could still do a blogpost on that. A lot of people keep ongoing lists of what they've read, but I never had. I did so for a year, got no joy out of it, and was absolutely thrilled when I finished my first book of 2018 and thought "I don't have to go write this down anywhere!!" All cool for those who love to do it, but I don't love to do it. Every single book I've finished this year has reminded me that I'm very happy to not feel like I have to write it down!

So-called "bullet journaling" got so popular that I had no interest in it whatsoever. But as I kept seeing post after post about it, I started to get more and more intrigued, and it's sort of what I do. Nothing decorative, and almost no "journaling," but lots of ideas taken from the concept that have worked excellently for me for almost two years now. But...that could be written at any time, so no hurry.

In May I wrote a post called "Why my children are not taking swimming lessons this month," about all of our everyday things and why there simply wasn't time to add swimming lessons to the schedule. June was supposed to be way less busy, but it wasn't, so I was going to write an ironic post called "Why my children have time to take swimming lessons this month," with the just-as-crazy-as-May-but-different schedule. But I didn't, and sure won't now.

Oh yeah, and I was also going to finish writing about our trip last year, six countries in nine weeks. I don't think that will happen, either.

Then there's the fact that we looked at 25--TWENTY-FIVE!!!--properties between January (or Februrary--I can't remember, but I have it written down, but I don't feel like going and looking for that notebook at this moment...) and May this year. When we made the appointment to look at the final one, we both said that this was the last one we were looking at. We were pretty resigned to not buying a house after all, were considering other options, fine. I paid very little attention to that last house, and when the owner wouldn't come down enough in price, I wasn't surprised. And then...things happened, and that house is now ours. I thought a blogpost on some of those properties that estate agents dared show us could be interesting, or one about the issues with this house, or even one with photos of the new house...

Oh, and then there's the fact that I've been using a smartphone since April (given to me last November, but it took me that long to get up the courage to try it out...), but I'm not finding it straightforward to get photos from there to the computer, so although I have plenty of photos (way, way, WAY too many photos...), I haven't posted any on FB since June. Our camera works sporadically, but it doesn't seem worth it to replace it, with smartphones taking better quality photos now than any camera we could possibly afford.

Speaking of June, I got to go to Oxford for a weekend for a "reunion" at which I had no business being, as the people I HAD met before I had only met once, 15 years earlier...but they'd invited me, and my husband who loves to give good gifts had booked my flight before I'd absolutely confirmed that I'd understood which dates it would be!! It was an amazingly awesome time. And it was the first trip I've done all by myself since I started dating Jörn. (Which will be 25 years ago next week. So my last "all by myself" trip was to Costa Rica, just over 25 years ago, July/August 1993.)

Another topic is helicopter parenting, lawnmower parenting, and who has accused me of what. And what makes me laugh and what doesn't.

Also, how I "take criticism" in general. I had an interesting experience a few months ago, receiving two batches of fairly strong negative criticism (in that two different people told me very loudly and clearly what I had done wrong, on two different topics) on the same day. One of them, I immediately recognized what I had done wrong, apologized, and corrected it. It in no way affected our relationship, and I bore no grudges of any kind. I was wrong, and was glad to be corrected! The other, I disagreed (and still disagree), but I could have just listened and gotten over it, but what really wound me up was all the "fluff" around it, "don't want to hurt you," "hear my heart," and so on. She's welcome to her opinion. She needs to allow me to have mine. I will not do what she asked me to not do, and I will not grudge her that. But when it has nothing to do with her, I'm not going to go along with her opinion, either! (If Person B is happy with me picking her flowers, I don't need to let the fact that Person A doesn't want me to pick Person A's flowers stop me from picking Person B's flowers! And no, it had nothing to do with flowers.) Still, it wasn't even the difference of opinion that bothered me so much, but the fact that she wouldn't acknowledge that it WAS an opinion. And even more than that was the beating around the bush and claiming a bunch of other things that were irrelevant to the topic at hand. If you don't want me to pick your flowers, that's fine. I won't pick your flowers. But whether I like your dog or not is not the same topic and not relevant. Now I'm really rambling on it (practically doing the blogpost already, I guess...), so I'll stop there. Maybe I'll expand another time.

Then, as every year, there are the dates of the births of the babies we had who were born dead. (Common phrasing is "miscarried," simply because they were born before they could possibly have been revived. I don't even actually know if they were already dead at birth, since the problem was never with the babies themselves, but with the ability of my body to carry them.) I don't often think of their original due dates (I never think of the original due dates of any of my living children, either), but today was the due date for our fourth child, who was born 14 and a half years ago.

I could always throw in a post or two about home education (or homeschooling or unschooling or free range learning, or change the topic altogether and just discuss semantics...) and what my children are up to.

And I keep wanting to write about our friend Bobby, who died several weeks ago. How can there be a world without Bobby? But I can't.

And there's always the fallback of just describing a day or week in our lives. Which isn't too crazy yet, because most activities won't get started until the third week of September, or even October. (Even less crazy over the next few days, because there are only three of us at home!! Except that since the only two children home are the two youngest, I might need to arrange babysitting a couple of times, which is something I haven't had to do for awhile, with a range of resident teens to choose from...)

Any other ideas? I have lots. But in the meantime, I'm getting accolades for "all I'm doing," when the reality is that I'm not doing terribly well any of the things I'm supposed to be doing. (That could be another blogpost, a list of all the activities I've somehow found myself a part of, and WANT to be a part of, and COULD do well, but...maybe there are too many...)

This and that, buying a house, children scattered, etc....

So...I just read my last blogpost, and was interested to see that we'd just met with someone about a house, but she couldn't come down in price and we couldn't go up. That was, by the way, house number 25 that we had looked at, having started in January or February. We weren't really all that serious about buying when we started looking, more just extremely frustrated with the situation with the house where we've been living for 9 1/2 years. Then when we found out that we couldn't get a mortgage past Jörn's 65th birthday, we got a little more serious, because that put a lower cap on our maximum than we'd expected, and also meant that we would have to buy NOW or not until we have no children at home, because all we'd be able to get would be a one-bedroom flat...

Well, newsflash: we have now bought that house.

The then-owner of that house suggested contacting a different bank to see if we could get a bigger mortgage. We didn't see much point in it, as Hellenic Bank told us the age-65 limit was Cyprus law, but Jörn phoned Bank of Cyprus. They told him that Cyprus law is age 70, but usually they only give loans until age 65. There are some exceptions, but he "wouldn't qualify." They refused to tell him over the phone what the exceptions might be, so he made an appointment to meet with them in person. Eventually, they said that the reason is that retirement is at age 65. Jörn pointed out that he has a German contract and won't/can't retire before he's 67. That gives us two more years, juuuust enough to put in an offer on that house. Which was accepted. (And then the bank randomly offered to extend the mortgage for an extra year, "just because," which is fine with us. I could do a daily series for a year on the rest of the chaos, but I'll leave it at that for now.)

So...with all of our savings (the entire amount we got out of selling our flat in Germany ), a loan against one of Jörn's life insurance policies in Germany (Germans love insurance, but as we cash in one after another for things like going to the U.S. and buying a house, I'm getting the impression that "life insurance" is just German for "savings account"...), and a mortgage from the Bank of Cyprus, we bought a house last Thursday. Because yes, four months is how long it took for the bank, the seller, the lawyers, the municipality, and the land registry to all get their acts together all at the same time. And with an additional amount of credit that Jörn was able to get from the bank in Germany because he's still an employee there (on unpaid parental leave since January 2009, but still with a contract...), Jacob is building a fourth bedroom on the roof.

Lukas sort of painted one wall of his room and the majority of his stuff is now piled there. (He also took a bunch of stuff to be stored at Jacob's warehouse this morning.) He's now on his way to England to do a work experience in landscaping and gardening, for at least three or four weeks, maybe up to six weeks. (In fact, looking at the time, he should be at the airport in Paphos by now. I was going to drive him, but I have an infected tooth or something that is making my jaw hurt, meaning I didn't get much sleep and am probably not safe to drive, so when our friend Mick offered to drive Lukas, I was happy to accept. I hope to have a text within the next half hour or so saying that he's gotten through passport control okay. He's traveling on his U.S. passport, but that's another story.) (*Update* Lukas phoned to say that he got through passport control with no problems!)

Katie painted most of her room and I might finish it for her tomorrow afternoon. She and Jörn left for Germany at 5:00 this morning. Katie will be seeing an orthodontist in Germany for a second opinion, because the one here wants to do waaaaay more than we think necessary. However, no longer having German health insurance (as of two years ago when German residence laws changed), she won't be able to have treatment there anyway, we're just hoping that that orthodontist (who handled Lukas several years ago) will agree with us that "wait and see" is a viable option. Next Wednesday, Katie will fly home (her first flight by herself!), and Jörn will fly to England for another art conference.

Helen and Elisabeth and I painted Helen and Elisabeth's room a couple of weeks ago already. (After we'd paid the down payment, the owner gave us keys to the house so we could get started.) They were excellent painters. They've taken a couple of boxes over already, too.

Helen and Elisabeth and I have also put paint on a large portion of the living room walls, and Jörn did most of one wall, but some parts need a second coat, and some parts can't yet be done because I'm waiting for Jacob to repair some plaster.

We're not painting the kitchen at this point, because the kitchen is fairly ugly, and we kind of hope that in a year or two we can somehow redo the kitchen...

As for Jörn's and my bedroom...it doesn't exist yet. A doorway from the top of the stairs onto the roof has been knocked through the wall, but not evened out, and a bunch of stuff has been delivered, but nothing else has happened. Jacob said "three to four weeks," but started two weeks ago, so I admit that I'm getting a little nervous about whether it will be finished by the end of September...

And no bedroom for Jacob, because he plans to move out on the first of October. He's welcome to stay with us if he shares with Lukas, or puts a tent in the garden, or builds another room on the roof at his expense...

There was a break in there for dinner, during which Lukas phoned, and Helen is on the phone with my sister Erin at the moment. Elisabeth is getting ready for bed, and when she and Helen are ready, I'll read to them.

I've written a lot of imaginary blogposts in my head, maybe after the girls are in bed I'll write another one. But don't count on it...

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.

Wednesday:

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:

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.

Friday:

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.

Saturday:

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.

Sunday:

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?
Books

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?
Blue
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.
Correct.

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?
Reading
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:

BUCKEYE TRAIL CLOSED BETWEEN RIVER CROSSINGS
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...