Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Morning walk, day 13...

I've always enjoyed walking, but almost two weeks ago I started intentionally doing that dreaded "E"-word: exercise. All that means is that I'm walking on purpose, daily, and fast. (For me, anyway...) If I can sneak out of bed and house early enough and quietly enough, I go by myself. I took Elisabeth with me once, and Lukas with me a few days ago. (He had to trot to keep up with me, but that didn't stop him from talking non-stop, which I enjoyed very much, and also darting here and there off of the trail to look at things, and then he STILL beat me when I was silly enough to suggest racing him a short distance...) I'd be very happy for Lukas to join me every morning, as it's starting to get kind of boring on my own, but he's usually asleep when I leave.

This morning I woke up at about 5:30 and decided not to leave just yet, fell asleep again, and woke up just before 6:00. As I was getting out of bed, Katie appeared and said that Helen had wet the bed. (As it turned out, Helen hadn't--she'd woken up crying that she had, but it was only that she needed to go to the toilet.) And as I tried to get Helen re-settled in bed, Elisabeth woke up. I obviously wasn't going to get any actual exercise by walking today, but not wanting to break the habit...I went anyway, taking Elisabeth and Helen so that Jörn could sleep. (I think the children have been waking up shortly after I leave more often than he tells me, but I couldn't with good conscience leave when I KNEW they were awake...)

I had no intention of going very far, but even as slow going as it was with Helen, it was so much more interesting with her along that "all of a sudden" we were at the end of the Nature Trail! Of course, it took 35 minutes as opposed to the 18 minutes it takes me on my own, but the time felt so much faster with someone to chat with. And I took the camera with me. :-)

My shadow, nice and tall and thin (so obviously distorted by the time of day, just before 7:00 a.m.), with Elisabeth on my back (the bump at the top right) and Helen leaning against me.

Helen admiring the view.

Helen asked me to take a photo of the windmills on the other side of the Salt Lake.

If you look carefully, you can see the aiport (towards the left) and a mosque (towards the right).

Proof that we made it to the end of the trail!
  Since I'd taken a photo (two actually, and I meant to delete the one with her eyes closed but have now given up trying...I spend more time fighting with this blog than writing on it...) of Helen, she wanted to take a photo of me. Here's a fairly lousy one of my face and barely showing Elisabeth, so I asked her to take another one with Elisabeth... she did. At least it's not another bad one of my face...

It doesn't really show in this photo, but on the middle of that lower branch is a bit of branch camoflauged as an iguana. At least, I always think it looks very much like an iguana, so even if nobody else can see it, I finally had to take a photo. Or two.

We sat on EVERY bench on the way back. Helen never exactly complained, but just under five kilometers was maybe a bit far for a three-and-three-quarter-year-old.

And Elisabeth wanted to get out of the Ergo, so here they are being cute together. I hadn't bothered getting Elisabeth dressed or putting shoes on her, since I just had her on my back, but the walk back was SO slow, and Elisabeth kept bouncing around, that I did wish I'd put shoes on her, as she wouldn't have had any problem at all keeping up.

It was fun, and I'm happy I finally photographed my iguana-tree! But I hope I'm able to sneak out on my own (or just with Lukas) tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another Monday

Last Monday, I posted on Facebook "What a day!" Later on, I elaborated:

Hmm...that's already two days ago, but I'll try to remember. To begin with, I finally finished unpacking. (But no, I didn't finish putting everything away, and still haven't...) Did four loads of laundry. Dug a grave. Buried a chicken. Comforted children. Had spontaneous visitors who arrived just until lunch and stayed until after dinner (and took Jacob and Lukas home with them for the night--thank you, Dena and Joseph!), had other visitors come in the afternoon with cheesecake just after Panos had arrived with five kgs of very ripe strawberries for us. Everyone ate as many strawberries as they could, then I pureed the rest, poured some over the cheesecake and the next morning made what was left into popsicles. Oh yes, and the refrigerator had quit on Sunday, but at least the freezer was still working. Three telephone calls with the landlord and finally, too late in the day, a phone call with an electrician, who of course couldn't come until Wednesday because Tuesday was a holiday, but told us how to use a hair dryer for a temporary fix. Made bread for us and granola for the visitors who Jörn went to pick up in the evening and I had Greek class, but Birgit had an easy evening babysitting because of the boys being gone and Elisabeth asleep before I left. Oh yes, and Jörn got lost and was over an hour late and had a hitchhiker try to get into the car, but made it, and found the visitors (not people we'd met before and no way to contact them). Some other adventures that can't be shared in public because of politics, but everything ended well. I met Jörn and the visitors just before midnight at the place they're staying until tomorrow (when they move here). Oh yes, and in the course of the evening, my computer decided to stop letting itself access the internet. (I posted this status from Jörn's sloooow computer, but that's in our bedroom and Jörn couldn't sleep with the typing, so I was only on the computer for about five minutes. Just got my computer working again a few minutes ago.) I think those were the basics of the day. Also did all the usual stuff, reading to the children and correcting math and trying to maintain some semblance of discipline...
Yesterday was Monday again, and I can't believe that I thought LAST Monday was busy.
The morning was filled with quite a few phone calls and checking of websites, etc., trying to figure out if everything was okay with the arrival of two more people (the rest of the family that had arrived last Monday evening--the last two arrived yesterday morning), including driving over to where A is staying, since I couldn't contact her by phone. Jörn went shopping twice in the course of the morning, once just for eggs and milk (the chickens had only layed two eggs at that point, and I needed four), and then after breakfast for all the regular stuff. I made waffles for breakfast, which is a ridiculously slow procedure with what must be the slowest waffle iron in the history of the world. It only makes two waffles at a time to begin with, and making 16 waffles took a full hour and a half.
While Jörn was shopping, I took the three little girls with me to get swim goggles for Katie (well, I took her to the store--she bought them herself) and bathing caps for Lukas and the children of our friends. As we were getting into the car, Katie dropped all of her money in Elisabeth's car seat, one Euro coin of which fell into the plastic molding in a place we couldn't reach. The only way to get it out would have been to take the carseat out and turn it upside down, but it's such a pain getting that seat back into the car, that I said I'd do it later. Oh, and I also dropped off an empty plant pot at a friend's house.
After lunch I started to make Jörn's birthday cake and discovered we were out of baking soda, so went to the store again, stopping on the way to drop off a couple of things I'd forgotten earlier to two different people. Once I had the cake in the oven, I went over to A's to pick up two of her children for swimming lessons, and to lend A Marie's phone and tell her that her husband and oldest son would be arriving by bus, but I didn't know what time. Since Elisabeth wanted to come with me, I took the blue car. (We have two cars: the car known by the females in our family as "the red car", except by Elisabeth, who calls it "Papa's car", is known by the males as the Suzuki, and it has five seats. The blue car, called by Elisabeth "Mommy's car", by the other females "the blue car", and by the males "the Mitsubishi", has seven seats, and that's where Elisabeth's seat is. The booster seats for Lukas, Katie, and Helen get switched around constantly.) I had taken the red car on my first outing, the blue car with the three girls, and the red car to get the baking soda, so it was the blue car's turn anyway.
So, as I put Elisabeth in her seat, I did notice that she rather smelled, but I was only going to be gone for five minutes, so decided to change her when I got home. When I got home, Jörn was just about to move the red car at the request of the workers who are opening up the street in front of our house for the FOURTH time since the major construction of a sewer system in this city started last August. Since he needed to leave to take six children to swimming, I offered to move the car instead. So Jörn went off in the blue car with six children (four of our own and two others), three of them sharing two seats in the back so as not to have to take out Elisabeth's carseat, and I put Elisabeth and Helen in the red car, no seats and no seatbelts, and moved the car across the street.
As we got out of the car, I REALLY smelled Elisabeth, so when I came in the house I put her down on the bed to change her, not bothering with the changing mat. After I finished changing her diaper, all of her clothes, and the bed, I changed my shirt as well. Big Yuck, but not exactly a new experience in 14 1/2 years of diapers.
After taking the cake out of the oven, I decided to drive to a different busstop than the one where A was waiting for her husband and son. When I got out to the blue car, I discovered that Elisabeth's leaking diaper had not started on my shirt as I'd carried her into the house, but was on the back seat where she'd sat while I moved the car. So I cleaned that up, put Elisabeth in Helen's booster seat and Helen in Lukas's (both legal, but I'm not convinced totally safe...), and drove around town, finding out nothing until just before I got home, when A called to say that she had her husband and son.
Jörn and the children got home (he dropped off the two extra ones at A's on the way home), I decorated the cake, and then I rushed out the door with Lukas and Katie to take them to Discoveries. Again, Elisabeth wanted to come with me, so I headed for the blue car. As I put Elisabeth in her seat, she said, "Poopy!" and I answered, "No, that was in the other car." But then as I reached under her to get the seat belt, I discovered that she was right...her leaking diaper several hours earlier hadn't started on the seat of the red car, either: it had started in her car seat. So I took her out and stood her on the sidewalk and rushed in the house for wipes. It turned out to be too big of a job for wipes, so Jörn drove Lukas and Katie to Discoveries after all (in the red car), while I changed Elisabeth's clothes again and took out the car seat, took the straps out and the cover off (and turned it upside down and got Katie's Euro coin out), and put on my third load of laundry for the day. (Along with the dark blue carseat cover, I put in the two new dark blue sheets Jörn had bought that morning, as well as several dark blue towels. If the new sheets bled any dye, it could only have been helpful to the ancient carseat cover and towels!)
When Jörn got home, he suggested we go to the various second-hand stores to have a look for a piece of furniture I would like. (Something with glass doors, to store/display all the silly dust collectors we brought back from storage in Germany...) We happen to have THREE toddler carseats, so it wasn't a problem to get one out of Marie's room (where it's been sitting on the floor for the six months since Helen outgrew it, waiting for me to find a place for it in a closet...) and put it in the blue car.
For this outing (my fifth or sixth? I've lost count), I went in the passenger seat, though, at least to start with. The first store we went to (Second Time Around) had one thing that was kind of nice, but rather small and expensive, and one thing that would have been perfect if not such an ugly color. If it had been cheaper, we might have gotten it anyway and said that we'd paint it (not that we likely ever would have, but we could have at least pretended, so as to excuse us having something so ugly), but it was too much money to spend for something we didn't like. Jörn had already been to The Family Thrift Store (that morning or last week, I'm not sure), so we skipped that, and went to Larnaka Thrift Store AKA "First of April Street Thrift Store". There were several possibilities, but as usual, we wanted THIS shape with THAT color and the OTHER price. We sat on a comfortable (but ugly) couch for awhile and considered, just relaxing, and finally left without buying anything.
By this time, it was nearly time to pick up Lukas and Katie, so we headed over to LCC (the church where Discoveries takes place), and all went inside to have some water and wait for them to finish.
At home I went downstairs to make up the beds for A and family, who were going to come to our place last Thursday after our last guest left, but who decided to just stay put for a few extra days, and did another load of laundry. After we had leftovers for dinner, I started trying to get children to bed, hoping to have them in bed before I left for Greek, since Jörn was really tired. But Elisabeth was screaming for me so I asked Marie to take over with Helen and Katie, and then I ended up taking Elisabeth out for a walk and skipping Greek. Jörn went to bed early and I stayed up until about 2:00, glad to just be sitting down for the first time all day. 
And those were the bare bones of yesterday. I'm glad that the extra rehearsal Marie and Jacob were supposed to have for their play was cancelled, anyway. The four older children will have swimming lessons twice a week for the next three months, but other activities will gradually be winding down, finishing completely by the end of June.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trip to Germany, day two

The main reason for our latest visit to Germany was to attend the wedding of a very good friend of ours, Peggy. Lukas also needed to go to the orthodontist (it being considerably less expensive to fly Lukas and one adult to Germany twice a year and have it covered by our German health insurance than to continue his treatment here and have to pay it ourselves), so we first considered just Lukas and Elisabeth going with me to the wedding. (Peggy's son, Florian, is Lukas's best friend, and the two of them were the "Blumenkinder"--"flower children", which are like flower girls in an American wedding, but is totally not gender-specific by tradition or practice in Germany.) However, we hadn't been back to Germany as a family in over 16 months, and Jörn is very good at filtering through a multitude of travel websites and finding us good deals, so in the end, we all got to go. Then there was the question of balancing our desire to see as many friends in Germany as possible and not wanting to miss out on activities here at home, in particular rehearsals for the plays that all four older children are in. After talking with their drama teachers, we compromised on being gone for just nine days, missing only one regular rehearsal each, and both teachers scheduled extra rehearsals around our trip.

So, all that background to say that we would have loved to see a lot more people, but were very glad to get to see the people we did during a relatively short visit, and overall we felt we found a pretty good balance. (Our first trip back was CRAZY! We had over 45 different gatherings/meetings/appointments in only three weeks, one day having FIVE different meetings! I point-blank refused to do that again.)

On our first full day, Wednesday the 18th of April, we took our four empty suitcases and three carseats and got on the train, intending to go to Duisburg, where the A family was going to pick us up. However, just before Oberhausen we heard an announcement that the train wasn't going to be stopping in Duisburg because a bomb was being removed in the area. (I googled it later and found out that it was an American bomb from the Second World War, discovered during construction the previous Friday, but not removed until the Wednesday because of the preparation necessary to remove 500-kilogram bomb in an area that directly affected over 20,000 people...) I quickly telephoned the A family and we hastily arranged to get out in Oberhausen instead and see what the options were, then phoned them again and settled on taking the train to Mülheim-Styrum. No problem there, but it was a bit weird to be in Mülheim, sooo close to where we used to live! Because of some confusion, we ended up waiting there for awhile, but there was a green area nearby and children can always find something to entertain themselves.

I don't think Lukas has ever heard of planking, but one never knows...

The A family has a large attic, where we stored way too much of our stuff when we left Germany nearly three and a half years ago. We still have way too much stored there, but we made quite a dent in it. Jörn threw away about five boxes worth of paper and books and filled a suitcase with things to bring back to Cyprus, mostly photo albums, photos in frames (which I removed from the frames), and knick-knacks, as well as maybe 15 books. I spent most of my time sorting through just one box, wondering why on earth I'd stored these things, and eventually figuring it out: in between lots and lots of definitely-not-worth-keeping things (lots of photos of giraffes cut out of the newspaper, comic strips, notes from my German classes, newspaper articles, etc.) there were also lots of things I DID want to keep, mostly stories I'd written and some letters. Each and every piece of paper had to be looked at individually, so I can imagine that what happened in the craziness of the last weeks before we left was that I got overwhelmed with the sorting to be done and just shoved everything into a box. That one box took me hours. I did throw away well over half of the contents, and brought the rest back. I also eliminated three or four other boxes, but that was very quick, because they were larger objects that I specifically wanted: mainly my dolls, the Lion Quilt my grandma made for me when I was a baby (WHY did I leave that in Germany?!?), a stack of photo albums, our wedding video (not that we have a VCR or even a TV...), my dollhouse furniture, my Dirndl (not that it fits), and a few other miscellaneous things. We still have another box of photo albums, but there simply wasn't any more space. (And although I think we did a pretty good job in general in deciding what to bring here when we moved, I do NOT understand why we didn't bring all the photo albums to begin with...)

Rebecca played with the children while Jörn and I worked, which was a great help and they enjoyed, even if the only photo I took wasn't exactly a great one:

Here's a photo of my sorting orgy (not in the attic):
The pile of papers on the left consists mainly of ALL the birthday cards that the children had received up until the point we left Germany. I've saved all of the cards that they got when they were born, but finally parted with the birthday cards. Oh, and there are also quite a few pictures which various children (not my own--those are in a whole box of their own, still in the attic...) had drawn for me. I kept a few and took photos of a lot of them, which I will post on FB to embarrass them. :-)

Here is one of the things that I photographed before throwing away:

And here is a cheese I made out of clay in my art class in the Fachschule für Sozialpädagogik (not really translatable--"specialized school for social pedagogy", qualifying me to work with children in all areas except for school, in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany, so a rather useless degree at this point...):
I only got a 1- (A-) for it, because although I had, as required, demonstrated perfectly that I had learned the techniques to make a hollow, three-dimensional object with 90-degree joins and put holes in it, the teacher gave me a "minus" because I'd painted the cheese yellow, and that wasn't creative enough.

We had lunch with the A's and then Rebecca had to go to work. Jörn and I had spent far too much time sorting stuff and were disappointed not to have spent much time with Gary and Elisabeth, except for over (a very delicious) lunch, so when they offered to drive us back to Hamminkeln, we were happy to accept because it meant we had a bit more time with them. This was the only photo I took of them, outside of where we were staying.

We had other guests coming soon afterwards (and didn't take a single photo of them :-( ) and felt a bit bad that we couldn't really invite Gary and Elisabeth to dinner, so were quite happy when the family living upstairs, who had met the A's at church a couple of weeks previously, spontaneously invited them to dinner.

Thomas and Ute H came for dinner, along with another couple we didn't know but who wanted to meet us. I got to chat with them a bit over dinner, but as they were mainly interested in Jörn's work here in Cyprus, pretty soon after dinner I started the wrestling-over-tired-over-sugared-not-in-their-own-environment children into bed, which took up the rest of my evening.

And I'd thought I might get a bit further, but this is already more than long enough. Maybe by June or so I'll get as far as the actual wedding.