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.

Elisabeth's first birthday

How did a year go by so quickly?! (Not to mention another five weeks...Elisabeth's birthday was June 11th.) We had two families over for a simple dinner (fruit salad and bread rolls) and cake on the actual day of Elisabeth's birthday. Elisabeth wore the same dress that Marie, Katie, and Helen all wore for their respective first birthdays, a dress that we bought in England when Marie was a baby because it was so hard to find baby dresses in Germany. Marie got the most wear out of it, but her little sisters were all bigger than she was at the same age, and even Elisabeth could barely fit into it, although I thought she was my "skinny one."

Here's the "birthday table" aka piano. It's been hard for Helen watching one person after another have a birthday, while she has to wait all the way until September. Helen and Katie appropriated those balloons, by the way, but Elisabeth didn't seem to mind.

Katie's present for Elisabeth, a bouncy ball.

Next, Elisabeth opened a present from my parents, a ball from Guatemala. Elisabeth loves balls and immediately threw it down and said, "Get it!"

Concentrating on the story in her new book from Richard and Sue.

Beautifully decorated gift from the VR-G family:
Carefully reading the card that had arrived in the mail from Margaret and Phil.

Cake! And a candle, which Mommy won't let me touch!

Better yet, bananas! And I get to touch them!

Birthday hug with Sue! Blurry, but a gorgeous picture anyway. :-)

Jacob's 12th birthday

On June 3rd, Jacob's actual birthday, Marie made a cake for him.

Jacob's birthday party was a couple of days later. His request for the cake was "water balloon theme", and I was pleased that he was pleased with the result--one of the easiest cakes I've made.

Preparing for the water balloon fight:

Just the people living in our house (family plus one houseguest) would have meant nine people at the party, so it didn't make much difference how many more people Jacob invited...I think he invited 12, and 10 were able to come. We started with cake.

We unfortunately didn't get a photo of Elisabeth at her dirtiest, but I like the seriousness with which she approached "helping" me fill water balloons.
I spent the entire water fight filling balloons as fast as I could. We didn't buy many ourselves, but as all the guests knew that there was to be a water fight, Jacob was given a LOT more. I estimate that we used about 400. The guests all brought various water squirters, as well, and I think Jacob received four or five as gifts. Some of them, thankfully, are already broken.

We have way too many photos of the actual water fight, but there are always lots of other children in them, and I'm not sure if all of their parents are okay with their photos being posted, so here's one of Lukas, standing on top of the clubhouse that my brother built out of the two crates with which we moved to Cprus:

Katie and Helen, enjoying being wet:

We finished with dinner, for which some of the parents and siblings also joined us:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Children helping

(I don't know why I didn't post this one, either. It was written in April, while Jörn was in Germany. Maybe I was planning to take an oh-so-exciting photo of the drying racks?)

Quite a few years ago we went to our first homeschool conference in Germany, when Marie was only three, and we only had two children. I found it very interesting listening to talks by a woman who had six children. (SIX children!! Can you imagine?!), and she must have been a very good speaker, because I still remember several things she said.

One that I recall regularly is about children and "helping." She said that the first about seven years are pretty difficult. It's important to let them "help" around the house so that they learn how to do things, but it's really a lot more work than not having them help. From seven to 14, the work they create and the work they take over are about even. And as of age 14, "pay-back time!" were her exact words. I don't even have a 14-year-old yet, but my two oldest are definitely already in the category of relieving more work than they create (in some areas, anyway...) Lukas is pretty solidly in the middle category, and I agree that Katie and Helen are in the "first seven years category."

Elisabeth generally is too, but a few days ago, she helped me with the laundry! The camera in in Germany at the moment, so I can't take a photo, but we have three big drying racks as well as a small green thing with clothespins hanging from it where I hang washcloths and underwear. That hangs from one of the big drying racks, quite low to the ground. So I sat down on a chair, with Elisabeth on my lap and the basket of laundry on the ground, and started to hang things up. Elisabeth soon struggled to get down, so I set her down and kept hanging up laundry, and then Elisabeth started handing me pieces, one at a time! I thanked her for each one and she had a huge grin on her face the whole time. And she was actually handing them to me so fast, that it WAS a help, that I got the laundry hung up faster than if I'd been doing it on my own!

sorting shoes

(I don't know why I hadn't posted this yet, probably because I wanted to add a photo of the children in their Crocs or Elisabeth in her new sandals, but I'm just going to go ahead and post this like it is...)

I took these photos back at the beginning of May. Various children were outgrowing their shoes, but before heading to the shoestore, I checked out our own supply and ended up not needing to buy any at all. So here is yet another fascinating photo-documentary of life with six children...

First things first: dump all the shoes from the too-big closet in one big pile.

I don't like flip-flops, but my children love them, so Lukas and Katie were thrilled to find some that fit them. There were two pair that fit Lukas and three that fit Katie, these being their favorites:

 Lukas, Katie, and Helen excited about their "new" summer footwear:

The flip-flops are all hand-me-downs from I've-no-idea-whom (everyone seems to assume that because we have lots of children, we must love lots of hand-me-downs. And they're right, because I first of all utterly detest shopping, and second prefer to save up for books and for flights to the U.S., Germany, and Costa Rica than to buy clothes.)

These shoes, however, I actually bought for Jacob and Marie, when they were two and four, because they had complained about sand at the playground getting in their sandals. BOTH pairs fit Helen now, which I can't quite figure out.

Once everything was sorted, these shoes/sandals went into a bag labled "too big for Lukas." I actually bought all of these shoes, for either Marie or Jacob. The sandals I bought new, too big for Jacob, because they were on sale at the Birkenstock outlet in Germany...and then forgot about them when they would have fit him, so they've never been worn. The top left ones have been worn about three times, the white tennis shoes probably not much more. The black ones were worn quite a bit by Jacob while working on King Malu and are spattered by paint, but that was the only pair that Lukas thought was "cool" and he was disappointed that they're still way too big.

And these were the too-big-for Helen shoes. Katie was in tears about the pink sandals (hand-me-downs) and glittery white shoes (bought for my brother's wedding a year and a half ago) that no longer fit her, and Helen was in tears that neither of them fit her yet. Helen was extremely unimpressed with the two pairs of buckle sandals (more Birkenstocks from the outlet in Germany, and hand-me-downs from Marie and Jacob), as well as with the nice close-toed shoes that had also been Marie's and Jacob's, respectively.

Katie wasn't thrilled with any of the too-big-for-Katie shoes/sandals. Even the one "pretty" pair (and the only pair I actually bought, for Marie) were disappointing because they have buckles (yet more Birkenstocks from the outlet), not velcro. However, she did make out with three pairs of flip-flops, two pairs of sandals, one pair of dressy shoes, and one pair of tennis shoes.

While I was in the middle of this, Jörn got home, having bought himself a new pair of sandals on the way home from work, so I of course had to take a photo of them, as well:

And these are the too-big-for-Elisabeth shoes. :-) Actually, now that she's started walking and I've tried them on her, I've discovered that the pink sandals on the bottom right are too small for her (they're hand-me-downs from no-idea), and three pairs of the sandals fit her, but she won't walk in them, preferring a pair of hand-me-down imitation-crocs that I didn't photograph!

These are, in order, Marie's first shoes (winter in Germany!), Jacob's (bought in Karstadt in Thüringen), Lukas's (hand-me-downs from our friend Jakey in Germany), Katie's (hand-me-downs from our friend Charlotte in Germany), Helen's (bought around the corner here in Cyprus), and the ones that I thought would become Elisabeth's. (They were too big for her in May, and are too small for her now in June!)

These used to be my shoes. :-) They were my little sister's when our house burned down when I was ten years old, and were in the car at the time. After she outgrew them, I claimed them back, but they aren't in very good shape and Marie, Katie, and Helen each only wore them once or twice, pretty much just to be able to say that they had worn Mommy's old shoes.

One last photo: Katie's new-to-her pink sandals.

Later on I found another bag with a pair of rain boots (they could fit Helen, but we're rather lacking in rain here) and the tiny crocs that Elisabeth likes, but didn't take a photo at the time.

Ironically, the preferred shoes of all SIX children are crocs (mostly imitation, mostly hand-me-down), and I don't have photos of ANY of them!