The first time I remember my husband being away for several days (it was a whole week, in fact) since Marie was born was in July 1999. Marie was 22 months old and Jacob was 6 weeks old. I was quite excited to manage a shower on about the third day. AND the three of us traveled on our own from Germany to England, where we met up with Jörn and continued on to Costa Rica and the U.S.
The next time I remember was in March 2003. Jörn went to Uganda for ten days, and I had the most exhausting ten days of my entire life. Marie was 5 1/2, Jacob was nearly four, and Lukas was nine months old. They all got sick. I had three children throwing up on their beds, my bed, and me, all one night.
If Jörn did any other traveling before we moved to Cyprus, I've blocked it out of my memory.
However, since we moved to Cyprus in January 2009, he's traveled quite a lot, and often takes a child or two with him. This week he's in Turkey, and he took Helen, who will be nine in September. If I'm counting correctly, this is his sixth trip this year, the previous ones being to England in January, Israel in February (with Katie), Germany at some point, England again at some point, and Greece (with Jacob). In September he'll be going to Germany again, with Lukas, a week before the three younger girls and I join him, and then after our time together in Germany, the U.S., and Costa Rica, he will probably be going to yet another event in England.
However, this is the first time EVER I have been home alone with just ONE child for an extended period of time. Jörn and Helen left yesterday after lunch, and this morning Jacob, Lukas, and Katie (first time for Katie) headed up to Youth Camp in the mountains and won't be back until Friday.
Elisabeth was not very pleased when she found out that she was going to be home alone for nearly five whole days with just boring old Mommy. However, she was appeased somewhat when I mentioned that we might go out for souvlaki at some point, and she's been busily planning the week. (Including suggesting that we sleep in one room, so that we can use just one air conditioning unit and save money, so we can buy ice cream after the souvlaki. I said that that was very forward-thinking of her, and she said, "No, I'm just planning ahead.")
We even got a practice run yesterday afternoon, as the three youth headed for a pizza party at 4:00 in the afternoon, and Jörn and Helen had left at 1:00. Elisabeth and I played Ticket to Ride (I won 129 to 128--she's become an extremely competent player, but doesn't take new destination cards until she's finished what she has in her hand. I often do, which often works out well...but not always. My record lowest score was negative 3.) Afterwards she informed me grandly that she was going to go listen to a tape in her room and I was free to do whatever I wanted. She also got herself dinner (we just have bread 'n' stuff for our evening meal) and went for a walk. But she was very relieved that Katie was home for bedtime--as was I, because I then went out for the evening myself, and played Settlers of Catan with five friends!
This morning I got to go swimming as usual, because the older children were all still home, but not long after I got home from swimming, children started waking up.
Very hyper children. Okay, Jacob wasn't "hyper," but he WAS awake at an earlier time than usual (he got collected to go shopping for camp with another one of the leaders), and Lukas is in a mode of EITHER acting like an overgrown two-year-old OR a too-cool-to-look-interested-in-anything teenager, and happily, he was more in the second mode most of the morning. But Katie was very excited to be going to camp for the first time, and Elisabeth was even more excited to finally start on all our "plans." Before that, though, Katie had to make cookies to take to camp, and discovered that we were out of eggs. So I sent her to the bakery to buy eggs, as well as bread for breakfast and for their packed lunches.
After hours and hours and hours between 8:00 and 10:15, it was finally time to take the teens and almost-teen to the drop-off for camp. While waiting in what passes for a traffic jam in Cyprus (Cyprus has plenty of traffic issues, but after having lived in the most densely populated part of Germany for 17 years, I cannot truly label anything I've experienced in Cyprus a "traffic jam"), just around the corner from where we were going, Jacob remembered he'd forgotten the ice cream in the freezer at home. He needed it for a game he will be leading. I don't think I want to know. I said I'd drop them off first and go back home for it. As we pulled up, Katie remembered she'd forgotten her phone. And as I started to pull away, Jacob remembered he'd offered to lend someone a sleeping bag. So I drove the five minutes home muttering "ice cream, phone, sleeping bag" the whole way, and it worked. I returned with all of those items AND Jacob's hat AND someone else's bicycle helmet that had been left at our house.
When Marie went to camp the first time, eight years ago, I took lots of photos and was a little bit emotional. I stayed until the bus drove away, waving after the bus just in case she was looking out the window. The last few years, I haven't even waited every time for them to get on the bus, but it being Katie's first time this year, I did. And I couldn't take photos, because our camera is in Turkey. (I did borrow Katie's phone to take a photo of her, at least, though.) Elisabeth and I left before the bus did, but Katie's phone was on the bus anyway, so I couldn't have taken more photos.
My first stop of the morning with just one child was at my friend Dagmar's house, as I'd left my phone in her car after swimming this morning. We only stayed for about a minute, and then drove to what we call "the grain store," although I'm not sure we've ever bought any grain there. All I wanted was dried coconut (for making coconut milk), but Elisabeth also talked me into a package of sweetened dried coconut as a treat. Then we finally went to Coffee Island, which is actually just a short walk from our house. We got milkshakes--as all of the youth and all of their parents must know, as Elisabeth made sure to tell all of them that that's what we were going to do. Elisabeth had had a milkshake only once before, about two years ago, I think, and it was also as a consolation for being a temporary only child: Katie and Helen were at a birthday party and the older children were at a youth event. So this was exciting, and came only second to souvlaki in her request for treats this week. She didn't want to stay at Coffee Island to drink them, though, so we came home. (They didn't have air conditioning anyway, and they did have smoke, so home was more pleasant.)
Once we were home, I started doing the usual stuff of laundry and dishes and such, with the idea that I was hanging out with Elisabeth in the kitchen, but when Elisabeth started listening to a cassette tape, I headed for my bedroom with my milkshake and told her to let me know when she wanted to do anything with me. I only meant to go on the computer for a little while and then do some proofreading, but...
Anyway, after maybe 20 minutes or so, Elisabeth came in and asked if she could go on the computer. So I let her do that and I put about an hour and a half into proofreading 12 pages of Jörn's book...at this rate, I will NOT be finishing all 300ish pages in time, but I'll see how far I get. (I've done about 70 so far, and these 12 did go more slowly than the previous ones, without being able to clarify things with Jörn, so maybe we'll manage it when he's back, if we don't do anything else until it's done...) (And lest reading this blog has you worried about me proofreading, I'm taking out more commas than I'm putting in, even though he CLAIMED he wanted British English/punctuation rather than American. But I have to ignore sentences that start with conjunctions, because there are just so many of them. I'm also leaving the sentences ending in prepositions alone, because there are too many to deal with.) (And I'm typing here because I'm too tired to proofread, so this is not a reflection of my proofreading...skills...anyway.)
Eventually we decided we should have lunch, so I started my usual process when Jörn's away of cleaning out the refrigerator. So far, I've actually only thrown away one apple. I also consolidated five separate nearly empty plastic containers of cut vegetables into one container, gathered halloumi from three different places in the fridge to one place, stacked the five containers of cream cheese in one stack with the started one on top, and washed the top shelf. Oh, and I made coconut milk and put almonds to soak so that I can make almond milk tomorrow. (I'm not making cashew milk at the moment, because cashew prices have skyrocketed.) We ate leftover casserole from yesterday and it occurred to me that I'm not at all sure how to cook for two people anyway, never having done so. In any case, there are enough leftovers in the fridge for me to not need to cook all week anyway, but there are also two packages of raw chicken. I guess I should check the date on them, because they probably need to be dealt with before Saturday, when the big eaters are home. Yuck.
At some point after lunch, Elisabeth and I played Ticket to Ride again (I got really, really lucky with my many overlapping destination cards, and won 145 to 99, but Elisabeth took it very well), and two games of Hase und Igel. (Hare and Hedgehog is the German version of Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare, presumably because Germany are more familiar with hedgehogs than tortoises. This game is based on the idea that the players have to choose between slow and steady or lots of sporadic jumps. Either strategy can win.) Although it says ages 12 and up, Elisabeth grasped the strategy of it perfectly when I taught it to her a few weeks ago, and we had two excellent games, in which I just barely beat her.
After that she decided she wanted to go listen to a cassette on her own again, and I did a tiny bit more proofreading and of course turned on the computer. At least I thought to do my Greek lesson at that point, in case Elisabeth really did end up sleeping in my room and wouldn't go to sleep listening to Greek!
During dinner, which for me was a slice of bread with cream cheese and bell peppers and took me about five minutes to eat because I put effort into eating slowly, and for Elisabeth was at least half an hour eating pretty much the same thing (in content, but multiplied in quantity), I finished the dishes and washed countertops and other miscellaneous things, while Elisabeth talked and talked and talked. (Maybe that was partly why it took her so long?) And afterwards she chose a book for us to take turns reading, which reminds me, I need to find some white-out, because those were most definitely sea lions, not seals, on one page!!
And now she's asleep in my bed, where she convinced me to let her sleep. Of all six children, she's the only one who virtually never climbed into bed with us again after she moved out of our bed. In fact, once I wanted her to sleep with me, because Jörn was traveling and she was sick, and I didn't want to have to get up in the night to check on her. She wasn't even three yet, but she absolutely refused, quite insistent that she sleep in her own bed. This is the first time I can remember in 4 1/2 years that she's slept in my bed, and here's to hoping that she no longer sleeps desperate-octopus style, because it's way too warm for that, even with the air conditioning on...