Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some statistics for 2011

The population of the southern part of Cyprus was determined by this year's census to be at just under 839,000. Interesting, I suppose, but the most interesting part to me was the following quotation:

Georgiou noted that the increase in the population was also due to the number of foreign nationals, which reached 21.4% of the total population, compared to 9.4% in 2001. A total of 179,547 foreigners were recorded, of which 62.6% from EU countries and 37.4% from third countries.

My question is this: how were we counted? Eight of us live in this house, all of us "foreign nationals", seven of us from an EU country (Germany), seven of us from a third country (USA). We are by no means an unusual representation. I'm pretty sure that I know more people with dual nationality than with just one. I imagine that for the state of statistics, anyone with Cypriot nationality was counted only as a Cypriot, and non-Cypriot Europeans counted only as Europeans, which would mean that our family consists of seven non-Cypriot Europeans and one U.S.ian, but I couldn't find anything to confirm that. And of course, there's the little issue that after nearly three years here, I'm still not actually legally registered here. I'm also not illegally here, my paperwork is officially "in process". For that matter, it just occurred to me that we haven't bothered to get Elisabeth a residence permit, either, so only six members of the family have their yellow slips. So maybe we were counted as six Europeans and two non-residents?

Of more interest to me personally are a couple of other statistics that are of no interest whatsover to the rest of the world. One is that 2011 was the first year since 1985 that I was not in an airplane, not even once, and the first year since 1987 that I haven't traveled internationally. The furthest away I went the entire year was to the Troodos mountains, less than two hours away by car, and my guess is that 2011 was the first year of my entire LIFE that I spent every single moment within two hours of my home.

Another milestone to me was that, at near as I could calculate, in April or May of this year I passed the 50% point and have now spent over half of my life outside of my birth country. That is calculating both the times that I spent outside of the U.S. while I still actually lived there (to Japan with my family when I was three, to Japan as an exchange student when I was 15, and to Costa Rica as an exchange student when I was 17) as well as all the visits back to the U.S. since I left. However, I won't have lived in Europe for half of my life until the end of February 2012, and that still won't have been half of my life actually IN Europe.

2011 was also the first year since 2000 that I didn't spend any part of the year pregnant. There have been some years in there that I didn't spend very much of pregnant, but I had been pregnant at least part of every single year since 1996 except for 2000, and now 2011.

Another topic: December 26, 2010 I set a goal of breaking a particular habit and have kept track throughout the year. There have been about 15 days in which I slipped up, but compared to probably more like 360 the year before, I guess I should be pleased.

One goal I set for this year was to get caught up with photos, not too happy with being well over a year behind. In October, very briefly, I was just under a year behind with putting photos in albums, but as time marches on, I was quickly behind again. However, I have continued with sorting and editing on the computer, and as I write this post, I am in the process of uploading the photos from the second half of November 2010 to, already did December 2010, and have May 2011 ready to upload and will then be able to place an order today. I've already gotten January through April 2011 printed, so as soon as my November-December 2010 photos arrive, I'll have six months' worth of photos to put in albums. (I couldn't do November-December before because I was waiting on copies of my sister-in-law's photos from our last visit to the U.S..) I plan to spend January continuing the sorting of 2011 photos and hope to have June through December ready to order by the time I receive the order I place today, and don't want to be more than a month or two behind after this. Yes, I'm probably slightly OCD in this area.

I don't think I'm making any "New Year's Resolutions" for 2012, just continuing on with some of my goals, which aren't tied to a particular year. I guess I figure that if a particular habit is a good one to start or a good one to stop, then today is the best day to start/stop it, whatever the date. But I don't want to write about any of those goals in such a (theoretically) public place, even though the only person I know for sure who reads this probably knows all of them anyway.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Second week of Advent

This first photo has nothing to do with the topic, but I liked it. :-) On the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent, while Jörn, Mom, and the boys were at the art workshop, Dad and the little girls and I went for a long walk in the Salt Lake park. We were looking for flamingos, and did see them, but so far away that I didn't bother taking a photograph of them.

Later in the afternoon, just my dad and Helen and Elisabeth and I went over to the Salt Lake park to get pine cones for the Advent wreath. As I was starting to drill holes in them (the Advent wreath has four spikes on it, on which Jörn's family used to put apples, but I prefer pine cones and have a feeling that apples would get eaten anyway...), a waytoobigandscary spider came crawling out of one. So I ended up taking all the pinecones outside and spraying them with Biokill (an insecticide that is supposed to be harmless to mammals, and yes, I know that spiders are not insects, but it also kills spiders, and no, I don't ususally kill spiders, but I also don't willingly provide homes for them in the middle of my eating table), leaving them to dry.

On Sunday, my parents and all the girls and I went to Larnaca Community Church (where they did have an Advent wreath and lit the first two candles), then went home and played a game until Jörn called from the house church to say that it was time for lunch, then the three younger girls and my parents and I joined them for lunch there. In the afternoon/evening we were at Sue's and Richard's house to play games and have a meal, so we never did have a meal together at home, so the fact that we didn't have any candles yet wasn't really that relevant. I did drill holes in the pinecones and put them on the wreath either Saturday night or Sunday morning, though.

Monday morning Jörn had to work and Marie didn't want to go out, so the other eight of us squeezed into our seven-seater car and tried to go see a free museum that had been closed on Friday, and turned out to be closed on Monday, too. It was just across the road from Rizoelia National Park, though, so we went with plan B and drove up there, playing on the playground for awhile.

We did have my dad on the see-saw too. In fact, at one point all eight of us were on it at once. :-)

After the park we stopped at home to let Jacob out, then went to see the mosque across the Salt Lake from where we live, but the only photos I took were blurry.

When we got home, we realized that we didn't have much in the house for lunch, so Jacob rode his bike to the grocery store. While he was there I called him and asked him to look for candles, so along with lunch supplies, he brought home four gold-colored candles, which we added to our still-not-green Advent wreath. In the center I put our wedding candle, being a large white candle. That's something that my German husband still finds a bit strange. In fact, in German there's even a rhyme that says "In Advent first the first candle burns, then the second, then the third, then the fourth. If the fifth candle is burning, you slept through Christmas." We call the fifth candle the Christ candle, and we light it on Christmas Day.

Although not the most flattering photo of any of the people involved, here's a photo of our Advent wreath, finally with candles and two of them lit, on the second Monday in Advent:

My parents left Monday afternoon. They wouldn't have minded at all joining us in an Advent study, I'm sure, but their visit was so short and we were so busy, that I never got organized for it. So it was on the second Tuesday in Advent that we finally started a family Bible study, something we've thought of doing during Advent for many years and never had. In that respect, I guess starting over a week late is better than we've done before! There were pictures to color in, which most of the children helped with, and we hung them up on the kitchen door:

The top left is the cover page, then comes the theme verse for the entire study, John 8:12: "Jesus said to the people, 'I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't be sumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.' ". Underneath is the cover page for the first week, about the prophecies around Jesus' birth, as well as a drawing of Samuel annointing David, and some sheep to go along with David, I guess. We took two days to do week one, and on Thursday started week two, about angels. Katie and Helen did color in some pictures, but I'm not exactly sure where they disappeared to. We'll finish week two today, putting us on track for week three, which we'll probably start on Monday, as we again won't have any meals at home together tomorrow.

First Wednesday in Advent

So, off to a slow start...but Advent DID start the very earliest possible date this year, with Christmas Day being on a Sunday, so that's my excuse. :-)

My parents arrived on the Tuesday, late in the evening. The next afternoon/evening was the first day of the prophetic workshop that Jörn had organized, in which Jacob, Lukas, and my mother also took part. While it might have been nice to have had a nice, festive, family activity, putting up the nativity scenes (yes, plural--it's a bit out of hand) and decorating the Advent wreath, etc., the idea of actually getting all ten of us (or even eight of us) together at once didn't seem likely, so I didn't even try.

So: the first Wednesday in Advent, I hung up the stockings...

...cleared off the top of the piano and set up the nativity scenes...

...and tried to keep Katie and Helen out of the box of stuff, somewhat unsuccessfully. Helen pulled out this wall-hanging, and not knowing what to do with it (I never know what to do with it, either), she put it on Elisabeth, who was asleep on the couch.

Later that night after consulation with Jörn, I put a blue tablecloth on the piano, underneath the nativity scenes, and also put the globe on the piano, but haven't taken a photo, and if I wait until I have, then I never will post this.

I also realized that this photo doesn't even have all of the nativity scenes in it--at least half a dozen more have been added, and all have been re-arranged numerous times by every child except Elisabeth. And it's not for lack of trying that Elisabeth hasn't gotten to them, she just can't reach, even from the piano bench, and we've managed to foil her every time she's actually tried to climb ONTO the piano.
I also got out the Advent wreath things, but having no greenery and no candles, didn't bother taking a photo. That's for the next post...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday in Advent

Last Sunday our family of only eight people managed to be in five different churches. Marie went to LCC (Larnaca Community church), where she's been active for almost a year now, and Jacob went to the house church, which we as a family started attending regularly two and a half years ago. For nearly a year, I have been more often than not staying home with the three younger girls, but occasionally attend LCC, the house church, Grace Church, or St. Helena's. Last Sunday we went to Grace Church. Jörn and Lukas were in Germany, and Lukas went to church with the friends with whom he spent the weekend, and Jörn went to our home church in Düsseldorf, where he also had the opportunity to make a small presentation about what he does here in Cyprus.

This Sunday was more back to usual, in that Marie went to LCC and Jörn and the boys went to the house church, except that Katie also joined them at the house church, as a new Sunday school has been started there. (While I don't think there's anything at all wrong with children staying in a regular church service, nor do I like it when children are not welcome in a church service, three hours or more was simply too long, in my opinion, to expect any child to sit still AND to not resent being forced to be there. Or at least, it was too long for me...) So it was just Helen and Elisabeth who went with me this morning to yet another local congregation, the Greek Evangelical Church, for the first time.

I enjoyed the singing very much, being familiar with a couple of songs from the house fellowship (which is bilingual, but most of the singing is in Greek), and at least knowing the tunes of some of the others, although I hadn't heard them in Greek before. Only one or two were totally new to me, but not difficult to follow, and I understood almost everything. I understood a great deal of the talking from the front, as well, although it would have been difficult for me to translate, because my energy was going into understanding the gist of things and there wasn't any energy left to look for English words. The man who did the children's talk asked me if the children speak Greek, and when I said no, he asked someone else to simultaneously interpret. Although that was thoughtful of them, I really don't think my 17-month-old and three-year-old got much out of it anyway, being about persecuted Christians in Egypt, and then comparing it to how we might feel at school as compared to home. As I find simultaneous interpreting extremely distracting when I understand both of the languages, even as limited as my Greek still is, I probably understood less of it myself than if it had just been in Greek.

After that, "the children" were released for Sunday school. The children consisted of Helen, Elisabeth, a baby who's about six or eight months old, and one girl who I'm guessing was around 12 or 14. The baby didn't go out and I didn't plan to go out with mine, but when someone else suggested it, I figured I might as well, as they were getting a bit restless anyway. However, we never did find that one girl (and I don't think she went to "Sunday school", as when she came back towards the end, she had a drink cup from the bakery with her...), and eventually went back in for the sermon after all. The sermon was actually mostly in English, by someone who is visiting Cyprus for three months, from Philadelphia. (I spoke very briefly with his wife afterwards, which is how I know that.) As it was consecutively interpreted, rather than simultaneously, it was easy to follow and good for my Greek, as well. The talk around communion was all in Greek again, and the final song.

And then we came home and had lunch. Marie put in a brief appearance before heading off to basketball, and Jörn, Lukas, and Katie just arrived home. (Jacob is also at basketball now.) We'll be leaving in a few minutes to go to Richard and Sue's house, where we spend every other Sunday afternoon and have dinner. Marie and Jacob will join us there after basketball, so we'll finally all be together as a family then for the first time today. And tomorrow we might get around to making an Advent wreath.

Edited: Actually, Jacob didn't go to basketball today, but I hadn't seen him come in, because he went straight to his room to work on a card he was making. I was rather startled to see him when we left the house. 8:20 p.m. now, everyone home, four children heading for bed imminently...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Counting games

You know those counting-backwards songs and rhymes? "Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head" and so on? Anyway, we had a counting backwards (and some back and forth) day yesterday, but I'm not even going to begin to try to add rhyme and rhythm, won't even guarantee reason.

There were eight of us for lunch, not necessarily a given, as Jörn isn't always home for lunch and Marie and/or Jacob are sometimes out. For that matter, on Wednesday this week, Jacob and Lukas were both out for lunch.

At 4:00 Marie left for band practice, so we were seven.

At 5:00 we dropped Jacob off early at youth group Bible study (it starts at 5:30), leaving six of us in the car. (As it's dark now before 5:00, I don't like him to walk by himself.)

At 5:20 we parked at the airport, check-in was very quick (Ryan Air--just a matter of turning over the one piece of checked luggage, as they'd checked in on-line and printed boarding passes), and we said good-bye to Jörn and Lukas, who are spending a week in Germany. The main reason is for Lukas to visit his orthodontist, since it is MUCH less expensive to fly to Germany every six months, and have orthodontic care there that is covered by health insurance, than to pay for orthodontic care here. However, they're of course taking advantage of being there to visit quite a few friends, and Jörn will be meeting the new pastor of our home church.

That left just four of us to drive back home, and on the way home, Elisabeth fell asleep. So then there were three of us.

At 6:00 four friends arrived for house group, so that did more than double the number, but having only seven people at the dinner table, especially when four of them are guests, is a little strange! I made half as many baked potatoes as we would normally have for just our family, and they didn't even all get eaten. (With Jacob and Jörn both missing, I really shouldn't have been surprised...) One of the guests was another boy who headed off to youth group (starts at 7:00) as soon as he'd eaten, so we weren't seven for long.

After dinner, I put Helen to bed. She was absolutely exhausted and totally hyper and it wasn't a pleasant experience for either of us. But once she was finally asleep, that left just two Langes. Happily for me, Sue had been entertaining Katie while I was wrestling with Helen. I do not have any idea how I used to get small children to bed when I only had two or's so much easier now, with older siblings to help. That they're not home Fridays isn't too bad, though, because Jörn is generally home every other Friday, and even when he's not, our house group is meeting here, which consists usually only of three other people, all of whom are very helpful with the children.

Katie eventually went to bed, but I don't remember if that was before or after Elisabeth woke up, so I'm not sure we ever did get down to just one Lange. Elisabeth had woken up before Marie and Jacob were home from youth group, though, so we did get back up to four Langes and very briefly, four guests. Dena and her son left soon after Dena got back from picking up the three youth group people and  then Jacob went to bed, so it was back to three Langes and only two guests. Then they left, and some time afterwards, Elisabeth finally went back to sleep. At some absurd hour (I'm very bad about going to bed at a decent time in any case, and am worse when Jörn isn't home) I wrote on Marie's Facebook wall that it was time for bed (she was on Jörn's computer, I was on mine), so she said goodnight...and I did eventually turn off mine and go to bed. And read for another couple of hours...

I don't know HOW many times I got confused about how many people should be around today. Jörn and Lukas are of course not home, Jacob was at King Malu all day (as he is most Saturdays), and Marie slept until noon, so it was only the three little girls all morning. Around 11:00 Sue arrived, as the family who used to live in this house (they now live in Nikosia) was coming by. That filled some time, and Marie made an appearance in time to have some lunch before going to her violin lesson. After lunch both Helen and Elisabeth fell asleep! Elisabeth didn't sleep long, though, and she's asleep now (it's 10:30). Helen, on the other hand, slept for well over two hours. Marie is trying to get her to bed at the moment. Oh, and Marie was out for a couple of hours this evening, watching a movie at a friend's house, so she wasn't here for dinner.

Right now, it's just me. :-) Okay, so Marie and Helen are awake, but they're in Helen's room, and Elisabeth is asleep here on the couch with her feet on my lap, but for all intents and purposes, I'm about as on my own as I ever get.

It's quiet.

It's weird.

It's nice.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Marie's 14th birthday

Poor Marie--she's been 14 years old for over three weeks, and I still haven't blogged about it! For that matter, although I'd uploaded (and backed up to my external hard-drive) all the photos between Helen's birthday and last Saturday, I hadn't even LOOKED at those photos yet! However, now that I have, I'm pleased to post them here. We didn't go overboard with photos of Marie's birthday--too busy having fun, I guess. (Yes, the younger children's birthdays are fun, but I'm more an observer than a participater, so take a lot of photos...)

Marie had originally hoped to have a sleep-over, but far too many events were coinciding to find a possible date within a reasonable length of time from her actual birthday. So she settled on a pizza party at home, the evening before her actual birthday.

With store-bought pitta breads and a bunch of prepared toppings, everyone created his or her (the only "he"s present being Marie's male siblings and parent) own pizza, which was much enjoyed by all. It did amuse me to have one of the girls compliment me on my "cooking" on Facebook, referring to the pizza she'd had at our house, considering that I had NOTHING whatseover to do with them! Okay, so I kept the smaller children away while my husband cut up vegetables for toppings. That was about it. And I did make my own pizza, of course. But didn't take a photo of it, or anyone else's.

I did, however, bake and decorate the cake. True to my usual style, it wasn't finished until well after the guests had arrived, but at least it was finished before dinner. (Oh, and that would be another reason I wasn't taking photos...I was in the kitchen decorating the cake.)

Marie's been playing the violin for five years, and is quite good. I didn't even like violin music much before she started playing and I tried to discourage her from starting lessons. I told her she had to learn piano (from me) first, and that then she had to practice every single day for a month, without being reminded, before I'd even put her on the waiting list for violin lessons at the city music school in Mülheim, Germany, where we lived at the time. She did it. Then I hoped that the waiting list really was as long as they said, but she got in within a couple of months. Much to my surprise, however, she wasn't squeaky at all, even at the beginning, and now I love listening to her play. Anyway, so much to the theme of the cake. I guess I'm making up for lack of photos by rambling.

Fourteen candles is a LOT of candles to light. One of them turned out to be a trick candle, which kept appearing to be out but then re-lit itself when she blew them out. (Yes, I re-use birthday candles. They're all in a big jar and I just mix and match. Or not match, as the case may be, because I'm not coordinated like that.) I think we'll be going with the rule that as of 18 (or maybe after 18?) the birthday person no longer gets the correlating number of candles for his or her age.

On Marie's actual birthday, September 22nd, Jacob made her a jelly roll (Swiss roll), and this time she only got two candles, and one of them was even a new one, straight from the package. The "4" was left over from my last birthday.

Happy birthday, to my first baby forever, no matter how old she gets!
I think there's probably an "awareness day", or week, or month, for just about every issue or event imaginable, as well as for a whole lot more that aren't imaginable. I don't know how much they actually accomplish. Maybe I'm just too oblivious to too many things anyway, but I generally only notice the ones that do mean something to me, so they don't actually help me, personally, to become any more "aware" of anything.

So with that disclaimer, here's the announcement that today, October 15th, is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I did remember that it was in October, but I never remember the actual date until one or two (or three or's amazing how many people there are that are touched by this, and I don't actually follow that many blogs) of my blogging friends and acquaintances mention it. Come to think of it, I didn't even see a mention on Facebook. And I'm not going to post anything there, either, because I'm too busy praying for good friends in New Mexico, USA, who had a baby on Tuesday and are all praying that she doesn't join the statistics of "infant loss."

The dates I do remember are, selfishly, my own private ones. February 25th. December 1st. April 17th. Birth-days that all came far too early and were cause for mourning, not rejoicing. Dates which are remembered usually only by me, and not celebrated by anybody.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Helen's third birthday

Wow--here it is only five days after the fact, and I'm already blogging about Helen's birthday! For the same story from a different point of view, check out Sue's blog.

Although I didn't manage to remember with any of the other children this year, I did remember to get the semi-traditional "day before" photo of Helen, still two. Actually, she'd been telling everyone for the last six months that she's "two and a half" and resisted all efforts to correct the math, but for the last few weeks, did happily tell people that she was going to turn three.

And here's Helen three at last:

In the early afternoon, our friends Dena and Joseph (known to Helen as "Jo-fess") came over to give Helen a present. She was happy to cuddle with them, but didn't want to open her present, so it got put on top of the piano to be opened with the other presents.

Here's a not-at-all-organized collage (I've been having fun with picasa!) of the gift-opening. A Guatemalen bear backpack from my parents (inspiring another round of "Backpack was a little bear, little bear, little bear!" learned from Starfall...), a card with stickers and such from Margaret and Phil in Germany, fishing game from Dena and Joseph, and of course the presents from the guests and her siblings. There were officially only two guests: Aimee and Sue. Aimee will be three in October and came with her "bodyguards" (so we call them, as Helen is rather larger and rougher than Aimee), her three older brothers and both parents. And Sue of course came with her husband, Richard. Our downstairs guest also joined us for the party, so we were 17 people altogether, which isn't bad for only inviting two! (Nobody gate-crashed or was unwelcomed by Helen, it was just that Aimee and Sue were the only "official" guests.)

The cat, of which I don't have a good photo but Sue does (taken by Helen!), was crocheted by Marie. Not sure why Sue is getting the hug, except that Helen often needs to randomly stop and exchange cuddles with Sue.

Dinner for everybody, and finally the cake. As of their third birthdays, the children get to request whatever they want on their birthday cake, and I do my best to make it. Lukas and Katie in particular had been trying to give Helen ideas for months, but it was always easy to tell when the idea wasn't Helen's. I finally got Helen on her own and asked her what she would like on her cake. She first told me she wanted a camel and wanted her birthday at the Camel Park, but when I asked her where she got that idea, she said, "Lukas said it to me very quietly in my ear like this," and then whispered in my ear. So I asked again what SHE would like on her cake, and she said, "Mmmm...white and brown cake." I said, "You would like a chocolate and vanilla cake?" "Yes, for my birthday when I'm going to turn three!" I tried again and asked if she would like a picture from a book, and she thought about it some more and said, "Hmmmm...yes! A roof!" I did hear the sounds, but wasn't sure what they meant, and repeated, "A roof?" "Yes, a roof. With a hippo-hoppamus. Eating special cake." We don't actually have this book, but Sue does, and she has read it to Helen MANY times, and for that matter, I've read it to Helen a fair number of times myself. is the hippo-hoppamus on a roof, eating special cake. The "cake", incidentally, is dried, candied mango! But the cake underneath the frosting is indeed chocolate and vanilla.

And here is a photo of the book cover, and a photo of the two-page spread with the exact picture Helen requested:

Our oven, by the way, had quit a week earlier, so I baked the cake in Sue's oven that morning. (We did get a new oven the next day.) When I took it out of the oven, Helen said, quite quietly for her, "Is that my birthday cake?" When I said yes, she said, even more quietly, if possible, "Are you going to make me another one?" I said no, this was her cake, just like she wanted, with chocolate and vanilla. (I put half of the batter in, added chocolate to the second half, and poured it sort of on top, sort of swirled.) Then her lip quivered just a bit as she said even MORE quietly, "But I want a hippo-hoppamus on my cake." Poor Helen! I explained that I would decorate it later when it cooled down, and she was happy again.

And so, a final photo of Helen admiring her cake. With a roof. With a hippo-hoppamus. Eating special cake.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Katie's sixth birthday

And now we have...September. Two more birthdays coming up, so I thought I'd better blog about Katie's, first, which was at the end of July!

We very often remember to take a photo of the birthday child the day before his or her birthday, holding up the number of fingers they "still are", then one the next day with the new number. Jacob's birthday was first, and it's hard to hold up either 11 or 12 fingers. Then came Elisabeth's, who wasn't willing to hold up one finger for the camera, either. The day before Lukas's birthday he got (ahem...) sent to bed early and I forgot to take a photo. So I figure that the tradition just doesn't have to happen this year, and we didn't get a photo of Katie holding up five fingers. However, on the morning of her birthday, she suddenly remembered and requested a photo of herself with six fingers. Only when I uploaded the photos to the computer did I notice that her hair hadn't been brushed yet...

Katie is very into all things Pink and all things Princess, so requested a "pin-the-tiara-on-the-princess" game at her party. I traced her and she colored herself in, as a princess.

For her cake she wanted a tiara. Not a crown, a tiara. She explained the difference to me, that on a tiara, the sides of the points swoop. I thought maybe I hadn't swooped them quite enough, but she was pleased with the cake, even if everyone else did think it was a crown. The background, incidentally, which looks purple in this photo, was actually pink, colored with homemade strawberry jam, which was yummy and I'll happily do again.

As the children arrived, they were given two tiaras each to color--one on cardboard (the back of cereal boxes) to wear, and one for taping on the princess later on. Here is the princess with her choice of tiaras.

Katie wearing her crown (I mean...tiara...although the sides don't swoop enough...), holding the plant that Lukas gave her.

Considering that there were 14 children in the house (two families total...her guests consisted of one family with eight children, and one family of adults, plus of course the eight of us and one houseguest), and that this was Katie's birthday, they played some amazingly quiet games. I think this was when they were playing a sleeping game, something I was more than happy to encourage!

Opening her gift from my parents, a little Guatemalen purse.

A book I love and have given to many six-year-olds over the years, "Now We are Six" by A.A. Milne. (We now have three copies in the house, as Marie, Katie, and I each have our own copies. Since neither Jacob nor Lukas could read when they were six, I guess that's why it didn't occur to me to give them their own copies...)

We picked up these wedding crowns months ago at the thrift store for a couple of Euros. Apparently, they're traditionally used for the bridal couple in Cypriot weddings and can cost at least 20 or 30 times what we paid. The two circlets were originally joined by a long ribbon, but we cut them apart.

More books.

This was definitely the hands-down favorite gift in Katie's eyes...

Somehow I didn't take all that many photos. Here's Sue's blogpost about the party, with more photos.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lukas's ninth birthday

Lukas's ninth birthday this year fell on a Tuesday (June 21st), which happened to be the easiest day for Jörn to take off of work. Lukas kept asking about going to a water park (Water World, I think?), which to me seemed a bit silly when we've got the whole Mediterranean, but I did look it up on-line. It didn't take long for me to decide that no way were we going to drive an hour to hand over half of our food budget for a month to spend all day in the hot sun eating junk food. (They don't allow people to bring in their own picnics, or even water bottles!) Then Jacob suggested the Camel Park, which is only about 20 minutes away, considerably more affordable, and something that people had been recommending for awhile. We phoned to ask about picnics and were told that we could take our own picnic only if we paid for camel rides and went on a weekday. Perfect.

First, though, Lukas opened a few presents at home. Here, a hat and some books from the F family:

A wallet from Guatemala from my parents:

A cool plastic light-up flying thing from Jacob.

A shovel from Katie.

Acrylic paints from Papa.

Chocolate from Angie.

Then we finally packed our picnic and our swimsuits and two of Lukas's friends and ourselves into the cars and headed for Mazotos.
Jacob greets a camel.

Angie, Jed, Katie, and Elisabeth waited in the shade while the rest of us had our camel rides, four camels in a row. Jacob and Marie were on the first one, Jörn on the next one by himself, Helen and I on the third, and Lukas and Ryan on the last one. No photos of me because I was the one with the camera, and we declined to pay some outrageous amount for a photo afterwards. (I did look at them, and if there'd been one good one that included all of us, I just might have splurged, but happily, there wasn't.)

This is the head of the last camel, which kept coming VERY close to my right leg and making Helen extremely nervous.

After the camel rides, we pretty much headed straight for the swimming pool, where we spent most of the rest of the day. It had SHADE, and it had GRASS, two very cool things. This was Elisabeth's first ever time on grass, and she found it very interesting.

The website does say how much the camel rides, swimming pool, and entrance cost, but doesn't mention that you have to pay for practically every other attraction, as well, such as the bouncy castle and air hockey table and so on. My children knew better than to even ask, but Lukas did use his own money to ride the "wild bull".

We didn't have to pay to walk past the crazy mirrors, either. This one cracked me up so much that I had to take a photo of it, although it's actually pretty eery:

Swings were free, too.

Lukas's "cake" was by far the easiest one ever: he wanted lemon muffins with gummy sharks. So that's what he got!

Lighting birthday candles outdoors is never easy--it's always a matter of trying to keep them lit long enough for the birthday-child to blow them out! The towel is a windbreak.

Marie, Jed, Katie, Lukas, Jacob, Ryan

The usual rule if a child chooses an outing instead of a birthday party at home is that one guest may be invited. Lukas's best friends being twins meant that Lukas, and they, lucked out. :-) (Ryan and Jed are less than a year older than Lukas, but they're big for their age and Lukas is small for his!)

Back at home Lukas asked me to take a photo of him with all of his presents, and specifically requested that I include it on the blog and mention the dinosaur nest, which Marie crocheted for him to go along with the dinosaur she crocheted for his birthday last year. He's hoping for eggs for Christmas and baby dinosaurs next year.

A couple of days later Lukas was able to open the card from Margaret and Phil, and was thrilled to pieces with the first birthday money he'd ever received in his life.