Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January reading

So many people had posted at the beginning of January how many books that they had read in 2011, that I was curious how many I had read, but had no way of figuring it out. However, I did write down the books I read this month. I have a few friends who regularly write rather cool reviews of all or some of the books they read, but if I try to do that, I probably won't read anything else this year, so here are the titles, with just a sentence or two each:

Facing the Music by Mary Sheepshanks: a novel about a flautist who marries the wrong guy. I enjoyed much of the book because of the interaction between different characters and the scenery in Scotland, as well as the internal wrestling, but I didn't like many of the main character's decisions.

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw: historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt. I read this because it was scheduled with Sonlight Core 6/G, which Marie and Jacob are now doing. I have no idea why it was scheduled as a read-aloud, as it was a pretty easy read, but they're reading all the books on their own anyway, and I'm just trying to keep up. Historical fiction is my favorite genre anyway and I really enjoyed this book.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw: another historical fiction story set in Ancient Egypt, by the same author, but totally different and considerably more mature, also read because of it being part of Core 6, but this one WAS scheduled for the children to read themselves. If I had younger children in this Core, I would not particularly want them to read it on their own! Marie and Jacob and I had a great discussion about this book--we all loved it, but for different reasons. Marie and I were very pleased with the romantic ending, while Jacob didn't even notice it! Interestingly, both books contain grave-robbing episodes, but they happen in entirely different ways and for completely different reasons, and in one it's a very negative thing, in the other actually positive.

A Free Woman by Libby Purves: a novel, but I'm trying to remember it...Oh yeah, two completely opposite sisters and some very unexpected (to me) twists, and a corny and wonderful ending that satisfied me completely.

An Elephant in Our Garden by Michael Morpurgo: Jörn gave me this for Christmas, and I keep meaning to research whether there's any basis of truth in it, but haven't. It's set in Germany near the end of World War II, with the bombing of Dresden and the subsequent escape to the Allied lines in the west. Historical fiction about WWII AND set in Germany should make it my favorite, but the writing was pretty choppy. When I could ignore that, I enjoyed the story.

Mother Country by Libby Purves: another novel, about various themes, but the one that fascinated me most (for probably obvious reasons) was that of a woman who'd lived in many places and was more-or-less trying to figure out where she was from.

More Lives Than One by Libby Purves: hands-down my favorite of the Libby Purves novels I read, probably my favorite book of the month. A couple madly in love (with each other!) and married for ten years (to each other!) faces some amazing challenges...and stays together. I liked that.

Continental Drift by Libby Purves: reading this one immediately on the heels of the last probably was partly why this was easily my least favorite book, although I thought I was going to like it when it started with Eva (I think that was her name?) from Poland backpacking around Europe. All the romances went in the wrong directions and there were too many of them and none of the characters stayed consistent with themselves. Diana was especially irritating to me.

The Spiritual Power of a Mother by Michael Farris: the only non-fiction book I read beginning to end this month, and I could have done without it. The parts I liked I already know, and the rest seemed to be about perfect people. Since I only have six children, not ten, and none of mine are perfect and neither are their parents, I couldn't relate very well. (It probably didn't help that I didn't like the book his wife wrote, either, A Mom Just Like You, which I read maybe five or six years ago or so. The main thing I carried away from that book is that she is NOT a "mom just like me." While homeschooling ten perfect children, she also found time to write a book!!)

So that was nine books that I read for the first time, as well as a couple of books that I finished after having started them in December, and I'm in the middle of several more now. Three more books that I might have counted had I been reading them for the first time were The School Story by Andrew Clements, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and White Stallion of Lippiza by Marguerite Henry, all of which I read aloud to Lukas and Katie and enjoyed very much. Also, on January 9th I started a challenge to read the Bible in 90 days and have read through 2 Samuel so far. And I've read a million, give or take, picture books to Helen and Elisabeth.

I'm a bit embarrassed that all of my own reading has been in English (or at least, all of the books I completed were in English), but at least I've read picture books in all four languages (English, German, Spanish, and Greek), and have even started "reading" one particular book in all four, just to try to make the text a tiny bit more interesting. (Opposites. "Big. Small. Up. Down. In. Out. Long. Short." I'll stop there...the rest of the text is fairly predictable.) I admit that I was getting tired of Elisabeth's previous favorite, Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, but I wish she'd found something different than Opposites to glom onto. With hundreds and hundreds of picture books to choose from , they always want the same ones over and over! I love re-reading books myself, but interspersed with plenty of new ones.

If this month was a typical one (and I probably read less than usual because of the 90-day-Bible-reading and other stuff I've been doing), I suppose that means I read around 120 books a year, not counting around three or four full-length books a month to the children (so around 40 or 50 a year, maybe) and all the picture books.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Still here...

First of all: DeeDee, if you're reading this, yes, I read your password-protected post a few days ago and have been praying and will keep doing so!! I tried to post a comment, but it kept claiming my e-mail address wasn't valid. For anyone else reading this, know that Germany is not the only country being TOTALLY STUPID in evaluations of what makes a healthy family and what doesn't.

Next, yes, I'm still here. My excuses for not posting here pretty much all have to do with my I-don't-do-New-Year's-Resolutions-but-January's-as-good-a-time-as-any-to-start-new-habits activities. So here they are.

Number one: with rare exceptions, I don't turn the computer on until the four younger children are in bed (8:00 p.m.ish). Last Sunday when I was still recovering from cold/flu and Jörn (dh) and Jacob (ds12) were in Malta and Marie (dd14) was at church, I broke down and let the other children veg out on one computer while I vegged out on the other. And yesterday, while Jörn and the four older children were all out and the two youngest children were sleeping, I also turned the computer on. :-)

Number two: when I AM on the computer, catching up on e-mails and sorting photos are high priority. I'm now completely finished with photos through May 2011 and have done the initial sorting and labeling of June through September 2011, but still have to edit (crop, straighten, red-eye: picasa is really cool for that) them and make collages of some before I can order them. I'm up to October 18th or something like that in the initial sorting, but October is being a pain because I have photos from five different cameras in four different time zones, one camera thinking that it's January. I only have photos physically in albums up to November 13, 2010, so when I've finally ordered the rest of November and December 2010, I'll also be spending time putting photos in albums. (I've already gotten January through April 2011 printed. It's complicated and uninteresting as to why.) Oh, and I'm down to fewer than 60 un-answered e-mails...

Number three: not in importance, just not directly related to computer time, I'm participating in a challenge to read the Bible cover-to-cover in 90 days (started January 9th). I did this last year for the first time (starting in July), and thought it was great, this time I'm reading The Message, which is quite interesting. In 1989 I read the KJV cover-to-cover five times in less than five months, because I was living in Mexico and so desperate to read ANYTHING in English, that that's what I read. On the fifth reading it suddenly clicked that this was REAL, that Jesus was REAL. Amazing and exciting and wonderful. And then I didn't even read the whole Bible again until 2006-2007, when I read the NIV aloud to the children. (Old Testament in 2006, finishing Malachi at a friend's house at a New Year's Eve party, New Testament in 2007.) I will confess that there were a couple of verses I re-worded or just plain left out, as my children were 8 and younger when I started, but not many, literally maybe four or five total. Over the years I've certainly read most of the Bible again and again, but reading it in one go in a limited amount of time is really cool for the big picture. (A good children's Bible is good for that too, actually. I'm currently reading the Egermeier Bible for the fourth time, this time to Katie.)

Number four: again, not directly related to computer time, since I'm not turning the computer on during the day anyway, I started thinking about what recharges me, relaxes me, helps me cope with daily chaos, and I've been making a concentrated effort to DO those things. One is play the piano, and since getting the piano tuned just before Christmas, I've played almost every single day. Sometimes only for two or three minutes before it gets too difficult with the weight of children hanging off my arms, sometimes even for an hour or more. I'm far from great, but I've finally improved enough that I'm enjoying it and can just about sight-read the pieces I used to play when I was ten or so. Another is go for walks, which I haven't managed much, but I like the idea. I especially enjoyed the walk I had two Saturdays ago with Sue. I do see her quite regularly, but almost never without at least a couple of children and/or our husbands, and it was a novel and exciting experience to get to finish whole sentences!

Number five: this one is directly related to computer time again, in that I've also been using the computer for writing, unofficially (in that I didn't sign up anywhere) taking part in a challenge to write 1000 words a day for the first 100 days of 2012. A couple of times (like, literally twice, I think) I wrote by hand, but I type a LOT faster than I write by hand. Blogposts don't count, though! (Of course, since I'm not officially checking in anyway, I could just count them for myself, if I felt like it, couldn't I...) And I also use the computer to read blogs, although since reading them at googlereader, this doesn't use up so much time and keeps me from being tempted to blog-hop much, and I have been fairly regularly visiting some of the Sonlight forums, especially the International one. And Facebook, which is not usually more than about five minutes a day.

Number six: something I regularly re-start is an attempt to go to bed at a decent hour, which I define as "by midnight." So that gives me four hours, absolute maximum, on the computer, and I most certainly don't get that every day, or even most days! Monday and Wednesday I have Greek until 9:00 and Friday we have house group, and usually at least one or two other evenings a week we play games (usually Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride), either just Jörn and I or with Marie, or with Richard and Sue.

And of course, I still want to read for myself, and I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to do that during the day, and occasionally write in my journal, and even spend time with my husband! And I usually put on a loaf of bread (takes me a total of seven minutes, if I have to wash the bread pan first, which I usually have to do, because I never wash it right away when I take the bread out) and sometimes hang up a load of laundry (depending on contents, can take 15 or 20 minutes, sheets only take about two minutes) and often have to take Helen to the toilet and sometimes get (or even make) a phone call and in any case, if Elisabeth has had a nap (which she doesn't often), she's up until at least 10:00 or so, so...

...all this to say that I haven't had much time to blog, and if I did, pretty much all I would have to say is all of what I just did, just repeated over and over again!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

...and the answers to the stuffed-animal guessing game!

Okay, so I had all of these photos already in here, but hadn't written anything to go with them. In the last post I said that "nothing had expired." None of the animals have changed much in less than a year, so that part was true, but some of the children sure have! Still, if I wait until I've taken new photos, I'll never post anything, and my four faithful readers will be desperately sad at having been left in the lurch, so here goes with the answers.

I gave a ridiculously easy clue for this one. Arnold the Lion is the newest addition because he was a gift to our newest human, Elisabeth. We often (not always, but often) name our cuddly toys after the giver, and sometimes the animals even keep those names. Arnold was given to us by a whole family, and Gary-Elisabeth-John-Rebecca would be a bit of a long name for a little lion, so we just called him after their last name. Elisabeth doesn't look much like this photo anymore (it was taken when she was 10 months old and now she's 19 months old!) She knows very well that Arnold is hers and makes that very clear to any potential lion-nappers.

When Katie was two years and nine months old, she and I flew to the U.S. for one week to spend time with my paternal grandma, who didn't have long to live. (She died not quite four months later.) We also spent as much time as possible with my maternal grandparents, and it was that Grandma (so Katie's Great-Grandma) who gave her this bear. This bear has gone through many names, was known as Purple-a (the spelling was explained to me: that "hypen a" was extremely important) at the time when I took these photos. I don't know if that's the bear's name right now, but everyone in the house does know that this is Katie's-bear-from-Great-Grandma-and-don't-touch-it.

When Helen was born, she was given the usual far-too-large array of toys from many generous friends. None of my children have ever become totally inseparable from any given toy, but Judy-Rabbit (which is her full name, but I couldn't say that in the clues, because that would have given it away!) is the closest we've come. Helen loves Judy-Rabbit, and yes, she still goes by that name.

Lukas's best friend in Germany, Florian, has had quite a few health problems over the years. In the quest to find out what's going on, he's spent too much time in the hospital for a small boy, and had too much blood drawn. Instead of getting used to it, he was being less and less cooperative. About three and a half years ago, his mother asked if she could take Lukas along for Florian's next trip to the hospital. The boys had a great time together and each of them received a bear. No, I do not know why the bear's name is John. Lukas has also named earthworms and ants John and has said that if he gets a hamster, it will be called John. Anyway, John-the-bear is much more than a toy, he's also an important tangible link to Florian.

Jörn's great-aunt, known to everyone as Bö, lived with us for just over three years, from when Marie was four and a half months old. When Marie was ten months old, she and I flew to the U.S. for my dad's 50th birthday. We telephoned home regularly while we were there, and Jörn faithfully related all of the anecdotes about Marie to Bö, who missed Marie very much. Marie was fascinated by my parents' cats, so Bö asked Jörn to go get a toy cat for Marie. This is Snowball. (And Marie has changed more in the last nine months than I had realized before seeing this photo!!) 

My paternal grandma gave me Cubby for my 12th birthday. I liked him just fine, but it was when I was 14 and stopped wearing contact lenses for a year and wore glasses instead, that Cubby came into his own. He was the perfect pillow for me to lie on my side and read, without the earpiece of my glasses squishing into my face. I got contacts again a year later, but by that time, there was no way I was letting Cubby leave my bed. He traveled with me to Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, and all the flights in between here and there and everywhere else. One time, around the age of 22, I dropped him in an airport without realizing it. (I didn't want him to suffocate, of course, so he wasn't IN my carry-on, but on TOP of it, under the handle.) Someone walking towards me said that someone behind me was trying to get my attention, so I turned, and a very proper looking man in a business suit was holding Cubby up by two fingers. As I gratefully walked back towards him, I heard him saying, "Lady, you dropped your, um..." He is now a rather flat lion, I have to admit. When Jörn and I got married, Jörn wasn't too happy about the idea of Cubby sharing our bed, so after the wedding, Cubby went back to Costa Rica (that was his sixth trip, I think) with my host parents, who had been at our wedding in California. After nearly three years as an exchange lion (so having spent far more time in a Latin American country than I have--I'm so jealous!), we brought him home with us when Marie was a baby. I guess with all the children in our bed anyway, Jörn doesn't mind a lion so much anymore.

Jacob was very into pillows when he was a toddler, and also very into taking Marie's toys. I have hardly ever bought toys of any description for any of my children, but I did buy this turtle pillow for Jacob, I think when he was around a year and a half old. (Maybe for Christmas?) He instantly loved it, and although he doesn't exactly do a whole lot with his stuffed animals anymore, Ben (no, I don't know why he's named Ben) is still very much his and lives on his bed. And when I asked Jacob if I could take a photo of him with Ben, he said yes, he was willing, but Ben was only willing if he could play the guitar.

I have no idea when or where Jörn got Garfield, but Garfield was in his life before I was. As was pasta. Come to think of, considering that Jörn wouldn't allow a mere lion in our bed at first, it's interesting what an array of animals lives on his side of the bed now. Garfield, of course, and a miniature Popple that I gave him, as well as a small, ancient teddy bear, and Leo the Lion often spends time there. (Leo actually belongs to Lukas, but every once in awhile, Lukas says that he doesn't want him anymore and gives him to Papa. I haven't ever quite understood that.) My side of the bed only has Cubby. And Elisabeth and Arnold. And several pillows. And about 15 books.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not a logic puzzle, just a guessing game

(I don't remember why I didn't post this nearly a year ago, when I first wrote it, but I just found this while trying to clean up my computer. So I figured I'd just post it now, as nothing in it has expired...)

I enjoy doing logic puzzles, especially the ones that start out "Mr. Green, Miss Brown, Ms. White, and Mrs. Black all live in the same town. They each live on a different street and work in a different place. The one who has a dog doesn't live on Bluebird Street." And so on. But I haven't a clue how to create one of those and make it be both challenging enough to be interesting and also have only one possible solution, so I won't try.

So this is a post that ought to be one of those games, but is really just a guessing game. There are eight people, each one with his or her own name, and each one with his or her own stuffed animal (cuddly toy), which also has a name. The people are, in alphabetical order, Elisabeth, Helen, Jacob, Jörn, Katie, Lukas, Marie, and Sheila. The animals are: two lions, two cats, two bears, one turtle, and one rabbit. Their names are: Arnold, Ben, Cubby, Garfield, John, Judy, Purple-a, and Snowball. So: which animal has which name and belongs to which person?

This is the newest addition to the family.

A gift from Jörn's great-aunt, almost 13 years ago.

Named after the dear friend who gave this to the child.

Rather similar in many ways to his owner.

One of the very few toys I myself ever bought for a child.

A bit flat after years of being used as a pillow, very well-traveled, including almost three years in Costa Rica as an exchange lion.

This one has a twin belonging to his owner's best friend in Germany.

A gift from the owner's great-grandmother.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcoming 2012

We just had the quietest New Year's Eve ever, with just three (adult) friends by the time we reached midnight, the very first without children since Marie was born! Yes, Marie has stayed up for New Year's Eve every single year, even her first one when she was only three months old. And she did this year, as well, but not at home--my first baby went to her first New Year's Eve party. 14 does not seem old enough!!!!

Jacob, who is only 12, was also out for the evening. I'm not sure how wild the partying got at the Prayer House, though. His only complaint when he arrived home at 1:20 a.m. was that they didn't sing enough.

Lukas and Katie were going to stay up, but their behaviour left a lot to be desired yesterday and I couldn't face it. Helen went to bed right after dinner, totally exhausted (she's been in the "outgrowing-a-nap" phase for about two years: either she has a nap and is impossible to get to bed, or she doesn't have a nap and is fussy all evening until she collapses) and anyway not having any clue that anyone could ever think there WOULD be a reason to stay up, since the only time she celebrated New Year's Eve in Germany, with fireworks and greeting the neighbors and everything, was when she was not quite four months old. Katie went to bed a bit later than usual, but not a lot, and with almost no protest. Lukas stayed up until about 9:30, when Jörn got back from taking Marie to her party, and then went to his room with plenty of protest. He was allowed to have the light on and stay up as long as he wanted, but in his room. I know, spoilsport Mommy. He of course fell asleep long before midnight, but we kept our promise and didn't turn off his light until after midnight, and it was nice to NOT have him (or Katie) grumpy and miserable this morning.

As for Elisabeth, she neither had a nap yesterday nor was she fussy. She happily bee-bopped around until about 10:00, when she suddenly asked to nurse (breastfeed), but when I wanted to nurse her at the table (we were playing Settlers of Catan), she protested and pointed out of the room and said "Bed!" As I started to carry her out of the room, she turned back and wanted to hug Richard (oh, I wish I could figure out how to spell the way she pronounces his name, but I have no idea!), then Tim, but not Sue, but then as I started out of the room again, she turned back so fast I almost dropped her, as she called out "cuddle Sue!" So I took her back to hug Sue, then took her to bed, where she giggled as I lay her down, and quickly nursed to sleep. And that child slept until 10:25 this morning!!!!!

Sue, Richard, Tim, and I started a game of Settlers of Catan when Jörn and Marie left, which ended up being a very slow game, then after we finished that, played a five-player Settlers with Jörn, too, which was much more interesting. I know Sue won the second game, but I can't remember who won the first one. Jörn was rather bored, waiting for us to finish, but Elisabeth was enjoying entertaining Papa! We finished the second game around 11:30, I think, and then chatted until midnight. The others hadn't necessarily planned to stay that long, but there not being that much time left, went ahead and did so.

And here is the proof that I made it to midnight, the only two photos I took the entire evening:

This is Richard's phone, and the time is correct, so from that I was able to determine that my camera time is nine minutes off. It's very, very rare that I go to bed before midnight anyway, but Sue was more than ready to go home by that time, so they left minutes later. I sent texts to Marie and Jacob and stood outside looking at...well, nothing, really...for awhile. So different from Germany!

Our phone/internet connection wasn't working, so I couldn't make all the phone calls I'd been planning to make to my parents and siblings in the U.S. and Costa Rica. I did call my parents from my cell phone, but had no idea how fast that might use up credit, so didn't talk long. This morning I called the phone company (PrimeTel--we've been very happy with their prices and their service) and they said that a lot of phones had gone out in the thunderstorms last night, but they were quickly able to get it working again without even having to come to the house.

Internet being down last night also meant that I wasn't able to upload the last 50 photos I had to kodakgallery.de, nor to order any, so at this point I guess I'll wait until I get the next special offer from them to order photos, and will just continue working on sorting and editing 2011 photos in the meantime.