Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Katie was saying today (and has said similar things several times in the last week or so) that she wishes we could live like in the Little House books, with chores to do and growing our own crops and milking cows and such. Of all children, this is the most ironic one for it to come from, because she also loves to dress up, wants earrings and high heeled shoes and make-up (she's SIX!!), wishes we had a bigger house so she could have her own room, and she and Helen have the biggest room as it is, which is barely visible because of all the STUFF they have in there, none of which Katie is willing to part with, nor is she willing to put any of it away. And she doesn't eat much in the way of vegetables, so I'm not sure why she's so eager to harvest crops. Oh, and she says that she wishes they had a bigger room, that we should just make the living room into the girls' room.

However, she's been parting with a lot of it lately, and hasn't even noticed...

We have a separate flat with our house, with a separate, locked, entrance, and nobody is staying there at the moment. Last week I put all of the stuffed animals (cuddly toys), a big basket full of dress-up accessories (shoes, hats, gloves, etc.), and a large laundry basket full of bags (handbags, backpacks, etc.--all "toys" belonging to the children) down there, the next day added all of the big dolls and some miscellaneous stuff lying around. They haven't noticed. In fact, last Friday we had a visitor with high-heeled shoes, which Katie and Helen took turns borrowing and making loud noises with, and then Helen said excitedly that in their dress-up clothes (again, a translation for the non-Americans: "dress-up clothes" are "fancy dress" clothes, costumes (not swimming suits, SA friends!) and funny hats and old grown-up clothes, etc., for imaginative play) they had Mommy's wedding shoes, which had high heels. (Not VERY high heels, but they do make a lot of noise when being worn by a three-year-old.) Helen went to look for them, but came back without them...because they're downstairs, of course, but there's so much OTHER stuff in their room, that I'm sure that she just thought they were buried under something else. She didn't say anything, and neither did I.

This evening I added two of the three doll buggies (the two collapsible umbrella strollers), all of the doll clothes, the small dolls, the toy kitchen stuff, the box of vehicles, and the box of plastic and wooden animals. That was after they went to bed, though, so I'll be curious to see if they notice in the morning. Last summer I did a major sorting out and labeling of the girls' room, complete with little pictures. Even Elisabeth is able to see the drawing of cars and put cars there. In fact, Elisabeth is the only one who DOES it. I have cleaned it up (tidied it up, for my non-American friends, not actually literally "cleaned" much...) quite a few times since, sometimes with their "help", more often without. Katie thanks me profusely and explains that she's now going to keep it nice and neat, and the next day, everything is all over everywhere, and she throws a tizzy fit if I ask her to pick up "just the books" or even "just that doll". It's too much work and not fair.

They still have the dress-up clothes, Duplo blocks, wooden (Brio and other brands) train set, building blocks, lots and lots and lots of books, one doll buggy with whatever is still in it (blankets and pillows and maybe even one doll), too many chairs (oh, maybe I should put some of the little chairs downstairs, too), all the jewelry and hair-thingies, and plenty of Miscellaneous, not to mention bits and pieces of the categories that are already downstairs. In the living room we have Baby Toys (more building blocks, Primo, stacking cups, wooden puzzles, rattles, and more Miscellaneous), the box with regular Lego is in the boys' room (not that it's visible, under all of THEIR junk, but I've just been focused on trying to get the girls' room in order for the last six or more months), and we have books in every room of the house except for the bathroom (my German husband won't allow that) and the laundry/shower room (they'd be ruined by the humidity). None of the children have much Playmobile anymore, because over a year ago I declared that any Playmobile I found outside of children's rooms automatically became Mine. In my (locked) closet in the girls' room, I have a box that is actually labeled "Mommy's Playmobile", and it is full to overflowing. And last October my friend Peggy brought the children an entire suitcase full of second-hand Playmobile, which they played with for the two and a half weeks Peggy was here, but which I said they couldn't bring upstairs until there was a place to put it. So that Playmobile lives in the storage room downstairs.

Editing to add some photos from last October:

Here is the girls' room last October 2nd, not even at its worst.

And here it is after I spent several hours working on it.

 Helen decided that the step-stool made a good bunk-bed for some dolls. Please note: they DO own a LOT of clothes for the dolls, but for some reason, always strip them.

I have to agree with Katie. Things would be a lot easier if she had A Doll, and that was It. And one dress for weekdays and one for Sundays, and one pair of shoes. And if we all had the equivalent, we could ALL live in the living room, which is probably bigger than some of the houses in which Laura Ingalls Wilder lived.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Birthday season

Helen, who is nearly three and a half, has been somewhat obsessed over the last few weeks with talking about when people's birthdays are. She was asking over and over again when each person's birthday is, but for the last week or so, she's just been informing us over and over again, although usually just of the month, not the day. We've gotten a few really funny conversations out of this, too, such as last week when she proudly informed Jörn that her birthday is "in September thith." Jörn said, "Ja, das weiss ich." ("Yes, I know.") I then added, "You know why Papa knows? Because he was there!" Helen opened her already very big eyes even wider and said, "Oh!" And then I said, "You know what? I was there, too!" To which, with EVEN wider eyes, Helen said, "Wow! That was very nice of you, Mommy!" Just for the record, yes, we HAVE explained that she grew inside of me, and also that a birthday is remembering the day that the baby came out, but it still seemed quite a revelation to her that her parents were present at her birth.

So. The children's birthdays are all fairly close together, with three in June, one in July, and two in September. We've had a sort of policy for quite awhile now that we don't start planning anyone's birthday party until the previous birthday is over with. I think we might have to relax on that a little bit in June, though, as there are eight days between the first two birthdays and then ten more days to the third one. This "policy" doesn't, by any means, stop any of the children from talking about what they want for their birthday, what they want to do, what they want to eat, what the cake should be, etc. Katie's the main one doing this all the time, in fact, she started planning her seventh birthday BEFORE her sixth birthday last year, because not everything she was planning would fit in one birthday. But it does mean that I don't have to commit to anything. I don't know what we're doing to celebrate her birthday this year, but it's a good guess that her party won't be on the day, as she will be spending the day in an airplane. (Along with Helen, Elisabeth, and me--just the four of us are going to Germany for a week, but that's another topic.) But I am NOT planning it until Lukas's birthday, which is a full 33 days earlier, is over with!

Since Katie talks about it a LOT, we remind her fairly often that there are other birthdays to get through first, and I suspect that it's because she recites them so often that Helen has gotten interested. "First Mommy's, and then Papa's, then Jacob's, Elisabeth's, and Lukas's, and then MINE! And then Helen's and Marie's. And then Christmas and then we start over!" Every time she says that, I just agree with her and leave it at that, but every time she says it, I'm thinking inside that no, my birthday is NOT the first birthday of the year.

The first birthday of the year in our family is today, but it's one of those birthdays that nobody celebrates, because it's also the same person's deathday. And I'm sitting here on a sunny Saturday morning writing about this, smiling and laughing with any children who come bouncing through the living room, knowing that none of them even know the date (although the two oldest do remember the event, and all of them know about it), nor does my husband remember, and that it won't do anybody any good to be miserable. I suppose, in a way, I AM "celebrating." I'm certainly remembering, and writing it down here so it won't be forgotten, but I'm also celebrating the life exuded by the children I have here.

Birthday season officially opens here with my birthday next month, and the concentrated, stressful birthday season opens in June. But for me, the list will always go: T, Mommy, C, Jörn, Jacob, Elisabeth, Lukas, A's due date, Katie, Helen, T's due date, Marie, C's due date, A. And then Christmas and then we start again.

I think it's pretty cool that, although we repeat months rather a lot, we don't have a single day of the month the same. With 11 people and 14 dates (if I add in the due dates of the three babies we lost), we have 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 21, 22, 24, and 25. I know it's silly, but I like that fact. When I remember (which isn't always), I sing a silly little "Happy Birthday" on the day each month to each of the children. Okay, so that doesn't work in Greek or Spanish or French or probably a whole bunch of other languages, but in English (and German), the word "birthDAY" doesn't implicitly refer only to the (yearly) ANNIversary, even if that's how we generally understand and use the word, so I'm happy to reappropriate it.

Either way, I'm not really singing "Happy Birthday" to T today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jacob's chickens

A few months ago a friend asked us if we wanted chickens. "We" didn't, but Jacob did. After much discussion and many promises on Jacob's part to be 100% responsible for the chickens, we finally agreed. The friend kept them for us until the middle of January, when they (the chickens, not the friends) moved into a converted doghouse on the balcony outside the boys' room. (This same balcony is also outside of the girls' room, but the doors to it aren't exactly accessible...) Jacob had made a new door for the doghouse and rigged up a heating light. Our friend Richard took a photo of the chickens shortly after they moved in.

Most of the wood for the house came from one of the two crates that we had our things shipped in to Cyprus three years ago. My brother had remodeled them into a clubhouse for the children, which has been played with intensely by all of them, so it was much to my surprise that the vote was unanimous to dismantle half of the clubhouse to get the wood. I know I have a photo somewhere of the whole clubhouse, but if I wait until I find it, I'll never get this blogpost finished, so here's a photo of the half that is left, with Lukas climbing down from the roof. The other crate was in front of this one and didn't have anything exciting, just one diamond-shaped window and a whole side off. The part left has a loft inside (so one is standing in the loft when looking through that round window) and just the one small door, so it's the best part of the clubhouse anyway.

Jacob really did do the work almost completely independently, so I never thought to take photos. It was finished on February 10th. If you look really closely, you can see ventilation openings around the top with wire stapled over them. I did about half of that stapling. That was my complete contribution. Here, the chicken house is already finished, and Jacob and Lukas are putting cardboard down inside it.

Jacob being Jacob.

This photo should be up with the other one of the clubhouse, but it's too much trouble to try to move it. It shows very well how big the door is--Elisabeth, 20 months, just barely has to duck to go through.

Jacob encouraging the chickens to come out. He did let them out on the balcony most days (which reminds me...I need to remind him to clean the balcony!!), so they weren't stuck in this little house all the time, and they're fairly tame.

No, I have no idea which chicken this is. Four of the chickens are: Meggie, Lady Cinnamon, Fun Roon-Gifford (named after the Van Roon-Gifford family, and called Rooney, for short), and Scramble. The fifth one is called Simon James Alexander Ragsdale by Jacob (Simon for short), Megan by Helen, and Chocolate Mousse by Katie. None of the chickens answer to any name anyway, so I suppose Chicken Number Five doesn't really mind.

The chickens in their new house.

On Saturday the 11th, I took pity on Jacob and spent about six hours helping him with the coop, fitting and stapling chicken wire. Jacob built every bit of the frame with wood salvaged from rubbish heaps, and built it entirely on his own, all I did was staple wire on. He built the door Sunday morning before he left for church, and when I got home from church (I went to a different, much shorter, service, but that's a different topic) I finished the wire on the front and above the door. The wire across two-thirds of the top, two-thirds of the front, the door and section above the door, and the ventilation areas on the house, was from a pile of rectangles of chicken wire found by the boys in the mountains last summer, probably from illegal trappers. Jacob would have done the whole coop with that, but here I took pity on myself and sent him to buy a few meters of complete wire for the top between the house and the fig tree and the third on the left, partly going around the fig tree. There was enough to use it down the right-hand side, as well.

Jacob had hung the door with hinges taken from a closet door Lukas had brought home from somewhere, but hadn't made a latch yet. I couldn't wait to release the chickens, though, so held the door closed like this:
On the house, you can faintly see "Jacob's" written in chalk. Lukas did that at some point.

This photo is taken from above, by the fig tree. Our house is on two levels, with a steep driveway down to the bottom level, so both levels are "ground floor". The chickens are next to the garage (which we don't use for the car) on the bottom level, and to take this photo I was standing at the street-level, near the entrance to the stairs up to the roof.

The chickens seem happy with their new home, now we're just waiting for eggs. Near the beginning of this project, Jacob asked if we'd pay for necessary supplies, and when I said, "Well...they're YOUR chickens, aren't they?" he answered back lightning-fast, "Okay, I'll pay, but then you have to buy the eggs." I re-thought that one, and yes, we've paid for the supplies. Which consisted of some wire, a box of screws, a box of staples, a water-thingie (Jacob was happy to use a yogurt pot, but when I saw one for three Euros at the warehouse where we bought the flour, I couldn't pass it up...), and food. If we had to pay for the labor, the chickens would never pay for themselves! However, we figure that once they start laying, they'll need maybe a month to pay us back on the actual cash-out-of-pocket. Jacob will keep track, and after that we'll re-negotiate.

Bread experiments

We bought a bread machine in December 2009. I worked out how much it cost to bake a loaf of bread (about half as much as buying the bread we like best) and kept track of how much I made for awhile. Because I was still only making about half of our bread and we were also gone for about six weeks, it was nearly six months until it had paid off, but it's cool ever since then to know that with every loaf of bread I bake at home, I save about a Euro. I'd really like to get a grain mill, but so far, I haven't found whole grains that cost enough less than flour to make it even close to worth it. Maybe someday.

In the meantime, for the first year or so with the bread machine, I didn't do much experimenting. I generally used 400 grams of whole wheat flour, 100 grams of rye, and 100 grams of white flour, always used honey to sweeten it, used half milk and half water, usually added flaxseeds, and sometimes added sunflower seeds. A visitor accidentally turned off the bread machine once (by turning off the socket--the sockets here all have switches) and in an effort to save the dough, I kneaded it by hand and baked it in the oven...and discovered that it was crustier, everybody liked it better, and I could cut it into more slices. So since then, I usually just use the dough setting and do the last kneading by hand and bake it in the oven. It's too hot in the summer to do that, though, so just the bread machine!

About a year ago I discovered that between 50 and 100 grams of rye flour and the rest whole wheat was just fine, and maybe six months or so ago I stopped using milk in the bread, which is also fine. I also occasionally replaced some of the flour with oatmeal, sometimes put in barley flakes or rye flakes, and I've used barley seeds, as well, although I'd kind of forgotten about that until I found some in the freezer this morning. For the last couple of months, I've been replacing at least 100 grams of the flour with oatmeal.

Towards the end of January I tried experimenting with no sweetening at all, with no success. The bread tasted fine, but didn't rise. We don't use a lot of sugar in our family anyway, but would like to cut back more. It won't be with leaving it out of bread, though.

And now, some photos, and I'll try to remember why I took each one...

This is a failed loaf from February first. I don't remember the details, but I imagine it didn't have any honey. This might have been the loaf I got 25 slices out of, because it was so dense. (Usually I get about 14 or 15 slices out of a loaf of bread.) It tasted fine, though. Not that I remember this particular one, but there hasn't been a problem with the taste of a single loaf yet, just the shape and texture.

February 4th, dough made with the bread machine, the kneaded and shaped by hand and baked in the oven.

This one from February 5th looks basically okay, although not as high as it ought to be.

This is barley bread, which some of the children and I really like, but some of the children and my husband don't particularly care for. It's the only alternative to wheat flour that I've come up with so far, and another advantage is that it's fast, so I can make it when I've forgotten to make bread in time.

I also sometimes make biscuits (we're talking American "breakfast biscuits" here, something like scones, NOT the British word for American cookies! My poor multi-cultural children were SO confused the first time I made them...), also because they're fast, and everybody else in the family likes them. They taste too much like baking powder to me. Tortillas are great and although they take more time than biscuits or barley bread, they take less time than regular bread. I prefer them with corn flour (again, I'm speaking American here: I mean ground-up corn, the consistency of any other grain flour, kind of yellowy: NOT the British word "corn flour" which refers to what I would call "corn starch"), but have only made them that way once, because corn flour is very expensive. I've been making flour tortillas about every other week, though. It hasn't occurred to me to take photos, as it's a lot of non-stop work. Maybe I'll get one of the children to take photos sometime.

This was an experiment on February 9th. The dough on the left was made completely by hand, from the beginning, and the dough on the right in the bread machine. I really enjoy kneading the bread by hand, it's just a bit challenging to keep little fingers out of it.

These are the same two batches, shaped.

And here they are an hour and 20 minutes later, after they'd risen.

And finally, after they'd baked. I don't know if the color is different because of the placement in the oven (the one on the left, which was the one made completely by hand, was in the back), but the texture and taste were exactly the same.

On February 13th, I had my own six children and four others for the day, so I wasn't going to be able to make enough bread in the bread machine anyway and decided to make it all by hand. This is a double batch, mixed and kneaded by hand.
The difference isn't really noticeable in the photo, but this is an hour or so later, after it had risen. I kneaded it again, divided it into quarters, then one quarter (so half a loaf of bread) into eight pieces. Jacob (12) and Ryan (10) decided to play "too cool" and didn't want to make their own, but Marie (14), Jed (10), Lukas (9), Katie (6), Ethan (5), Helen (3), and Aimee (3) each made their own shape. I managed to distract Elisabeth and just added the last bit in with the rest of the dough.

Having just been given two bread pans, I made the bread in them for a change (one with the dough for a 1 kilogram loaf, one with the 9/16th of a kilogram) and put them and the children's creations in the oven to rise.

This is after they'd been rising for an hour...I suppose one can sort of see a difference. I entirely forgot to take photos after they were baked, and they were eaten up rather quickly. I'm not exactly sure why the same bread dough shaped by oneself tastes better than cut off of a loaf, but I do remember from my own childhood that it's true...

And here's a decent-looking loaf of bread from the bread machine, for a change, made today. This one has too many different things in it to determine why it worked, but it was delicious and Jacob informed me that it's the best bread he's ever had. I used, for the first time, carob syrup instead of honey, and I also opened a new packet of yeast today (and a new brand, in a 500-gram package rather than silly little 11-gram envelopes).

And I also used brand-new flour. A couple of weeks ago we finally went to a warehouse-type place that friends had been telling us about for ages and bought five kilos of what they said was whole-wheat flour. I don't know exactly what it was, but I'm not at all convinced it was whole grain, because it was so fine and much lighter in color than I'm used to, not to mention that not a single loaf of bread made with that flour rose as much as it should have. (It all tasted fine, though.) It took us about a week to use up that flour, then I used regular store flour (whole wheat, but not the best bread flour) until yesterday, when my husband went to the warehouse again. He brought home two kilograms each of rye flour, whole wheat flour, and a mixture of whole wheat, oatmeal, and seeds, all in unmarked plastic bags, for considerably less than the packaged flour in the stores. I made bread yesterday for dinner, which didn't rise properly, and I later realized that I'd used the rye flour rather than the whole wheat flour. At least I'd only used half that, and half whole wheat flour from the store package, so it wasn't completely a failure. In today's loaf I put in 100 grams of store flour and 500 of the wheat-oat-seed mixture. When the machine beeped to indicate it was time to add seeds or such, I checked the dough to see if it was mixing properly and discovered it was WAY too wet. I suddenly realized that 500 grams of a flour-oat-SEED mixture obviously wasn't 500 grams of FLOUR, but I have no idea what the proportions are! So I just poured flour in, watching it until it looked right, and left it to finish the job. And it worked...but I have no idea how much of what it has, so it would be difficult to reproduce.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Favorite picture book authors

Being curious about what the children's books that I like best have in common, several days ago I sat down on the floor next to one of our bookcases and started glancing through the books. I later commented to a friend that the majority of books I like best are written AND illustrated by the same person. She started pointing out one classic author after another that has books illustrated by someone else--A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I conceded initially, but then pointed out that none of those are picture books, they're "just" children's books that happen to have pictures. This afternoon I decided to test my theory with numbers, and was only going to pull out the first ten picture books that I like. I got a bit carried away and pulled out a whole lot more, and then three certain little girls started getting excited because I had all the best books in a stack, and they got all mixed up and I no longer have any idea in which order I took them off the shelf. Anyway, for what it's worth, and in no particular order, here are some author-illustrators I like very much:

Peter Speier
Sandra Boynton
Dr. Seuss
Eric Carle
Leo Lionni
Beatrix Potter
Judith Kerr
Jane Hissey
Rosemary Wells
Ruth Heller
Helen Oxenbury
Kate Duke
Robert McCloskey
Tomie dePaola
Ezra Jack Keats
Helme Heine
Maurice Sendak
Arnold Lobel
Ludwig Bemelmans

We have multiple titles by most, if not all, of these 19 author-illustrators. We also have additional books illustrated, but not written by, several of them. Anything illustrated by Eric Carle is wonderful, no matter what. Same with Tomie dePaola and Helen Oxenbury. I also always like Maurice Sendak's illustrations, but we have some that I only keep because his illustrations are so wonderful, not the story (written by someone else). None of the books written by, but not illustrated by, Dr. Seuss are on my "favorites" list. I don't blame him for using yet another pseudonym for the books illustrated by someone else.

And here are the authors and illustrators of the books on the other pile:

Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban
Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak
Astrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland
Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault (co-authors) and Lois Ehlert
Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
Margaret Wise Brown and Felicia Bond
Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond
Edward Lear and Helen Oxenbury

Only eight authors and eight illustrators, and note that Maurice Sendak and Helen Oxenbury, as I said before that I like anyway, are two of those illustrators. And I kind of stretched it including some of these at all. I don't like all of Margaret Wise Brown's books, the Astrid Lindgren picture books are really for an older age-group than the rest, I think I really only like the Frances books (Russell and Lillian Hoban) because of the nostalgia factor, Laura Joffe Numeroff (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, ...a Moose a Muffin, ...a Pig a Pancake, etc.) was cute the first time but I have no desire to have any more of her books, Edward Lear is just fine without any illustrations, Walter Wick actually made the illustrations FIRST for the I Spy... books and then Jean Marzollo wrote the rhymes, and so on. Another book that would have made it to this pile if it had happened to have been on the ONE shelf I went through (we have picture books on shelves in at least four different rooms, not to mention NOT on shelves all over the house...) is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" which I'm pretty sure is by Bill Martin Jr. and I know is illustrated by Eric Carle, and another is "Animals, Animals" which is a collection of poems by many authors, illustrated by Eric Carle. Come to think of it, I think my favorite book on this pile (probably Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert) would still come below my least favorite from the first list. Nah, maybe I'd put Arnold Lobel underneath. Maybe.

And I was just going to put all those books away so that I could write down that I'd done so, and I discovered that the vast majority are no longer stacked on the couch behind me, but are stacked on the floor with three certain little girls very peacefully absorbed in them...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Today: two versions, both true

Version one

I overslept this morning and therefore got a late start to the day, didn't oversee anyone's breakfast, didn't make bread, and left much later than planned to spend "the morning" (not even an hour and a half) at Sue's house with the three little girls. It drizzled a bit on the way there, and Katie was on close to her worst behaviour (I have no idea what she had for breakfast, just know it wasn't refined sugar, as all sugar has been locked into the guest flat downstairs for nine days now) and Helen was starting to copy her. When I got home I found Jacob perusing things on youtube instead of doing anything he'd agreed to do. Jörn arrived home with Lukas at the same time I did, and then had to turn around and go right back out to work, without Lukas, who proceded to track mud into the house and let Elisabeth out, who got her tights all muddy. After lunch Jacob was working on the chicken house, which he promised to finish about three weeks ago, and left the front door open and Elisabeth got all muddy again. Later in the afternoon, I made myself a cup of coffee and set it down to separate Lukas and Katie, who were fighting on the sofa, and Elisabeth pulled it down and spilled it all over herself and the floor. I hardly got any reading with the children done and Jörn left immediately after dinner, as he always does on Tuesday evenings, and the kitchen is still a mess. Nobody went to bed without fussing and being threatened with loss of privileges, and when I finally got onto the computer and went to Facebook, I found out that a friend of mine died this morning from cancer, seven years younger than I am, and leaving two young sons, and that, of course, just makes all the other stuff just TOTALLY nothing.

Version two

My amazing children slept in today, which meant that I actually got to sleep until I woke up on my own. That was cool! And the children all got themselves dressed and breakfasted (well, except for Elisabeth) while I had a nice, hot shower. There were a couple of raindrops as we headed out to Sue's house and I considered taking the car, but the girls were happy to walk, and happily, it didn't actually rain and we enjoyed the walk. Although we weren't at Sue's for as long as usual, and Katie was obviously not feeling her best, since I wasn't doing well dealing with her it was very good to have that time with a good friend who could handle both the girls and me. When I got home it was pleasant to be greeted by Marie and Jacob, both very cheerful, Marie having already practiced the violin and started some of the other things she was planning for the morning, and Jacob reading some news articles. Jörn and Lukas arrived home at the same time and I was reminded how much I appreciate my husband's work hours, that allow him to have Lukas with him on Tuesday mornings so that I can go to Sue's house. Although he had to leave again a few minutes later, I knew he'd be home again in only three and a half hours, Tuesday being his short day. Since I hadn't had time to make whole wheat bread in the morning, I made a loaf of barley bread for lunch, which is not only much faster, it also contributes to our attempt to cut back on wheat. It came out very well. Elisabeth twice managed to get outside unsupervised and get covered with mud, and I was happy that I'm caught up on laundry and that she has so many clothes--none of which I have bought!--that it was no big deal to change her. And when she pulled my coffee down on herself, it was just AFTER I had added milk, so no longer boiling-temperature. I stripped her down immediately, but although every article of her clothing (undershirt, turtleneck, dress, sweater, and tights) had gotten splashed, I couldn't find a single mark on her. And the coffee didn't even spill on any toys or books! Jacob finished the chicken house this evening and I'm very impressed with what my 12-year-old son has done completely on his own. Despite the busy day, I read some to the children, and they enjoyed playing outside for awhile, taking care of Elisabeth, while I played the piano. Jörn cooked a delicious dinner, as usual, before going to the Tuesday-night prayer meeting, and Marie was very helpful into getting the little ones to bed. I was very saddened to read on Facebook that a friend just died, especially as she leaves behind two young sons. However, she'd been fighting cancer for quite some time and I know that it's also a relief to her and her family that she's no longer suffering. I'm so glad that I got to meet her through La Leche League five or six years ago, and that we even managed to make the connection that she's actually a distant relative of Jörn's, and that her father is Jörn's godfather! They'd lost contact many years ago and were happy to be put in touch again by Janina and me. She'll be missed by many, and remembered with affection and love by just as many.