Thursday, December 27, 2018

Advent Gratitude Calendar

When I unpacked the Advent box this year, I found a piece of paper in it headed "Advent Gratitude Calendar." I have no idea where it came from, and googling turned up MANY different ones, but not this exact one. I am assuming that the author does not mind it being shared, considering the topic and attitude behind it!

It is headed with John 1:16: "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace."

Then follows the explanation: Most Advent Calendars present us with a gift each day leading up to Christmas. The purpose of this Advent of Gratitude is to remind us of the gifts we already have, what we often take for granted, what we can and should be grateful for. Each daiy reminder includes a suggestion for payment, a small monetary gift that in 24 days will grow into a donation payable to a charity of your choice.

Every few days throughout the first 24 days of December, after lunch or dinner, I got down the donation jar and read what was suggested each day, and each person in the family made a decision whether or not to donate. The most important part to me, though, was reflecting on what it means that every single thing listed on this page is a LUXURY: it is above and beyond what we need to live. (I've left the dollar amounts in. We obviously use Euros, and didn't follow this exactly anyway.)

Day 1: Pay 50 cents for each woman in your family who graduated from high school.

The first question for us was how we define "graduate from high school". Marie, for example, didn't graduate from high school, never having attended high school, but is now nearly halfway through her second year of university. Since the point is that females having the opportunity to receive formal education to the same extent as males is very unusual in many places, we decided that Marie counts. But she doesn't live then do we count extended family? My mother, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, etc, have all graduated from high school, so it could quickly get out of hand. We decided to count Marie for this one, both as a family member and as having had that opportunity at education, but no extended family, and for the rest of the "family" questions, we're just going with the six people who live in this house.

Day 2: If you rode in a car today, pay $1. Pay $2 if you drove the car. 

There have been many days in the last couple of months in which I have NOT actually ridden in a car, but as Jacob now has the use of another vehicle and I have my car back, and it's been raining a lot, I've been in my car a lot more lately. And almost every time I ride in a car, I drive it.

Day 3: Count the light switches in your home. Pay $.25 for each one.

This one got expensive--we have 34! Two of them don't turn on lights at the moment (one because of a light bulb that needs replacing, on our back porch, and one because there isn't yet a light there, on our bedroom balcony), but we didn't think that was a reason to disqualify them. Also, there are quite a few lights that have two switches, and we agreed that both switches should still be counted. All three original bedrooms have two light switches just for the ceiling light: one by the door and one by the bed. An additional luxury, that one can get into bed and THEN turn off the light! Both sets of stair lights have two switches and two of the living room lights do, too. And we currently have four reading lights plugged in, and will have five when I finally figure out which box my reading light is packed in.

Day 4: How many pairs of shoes/boots do you own? Pay $.10 per pair.

This was interesting: Lukas has only two pairs of shoes, and Elisabeth claimed seven (and I'm sure she has more), although when it's time to leave the house, she can hardly ever find any. And when I stopped to count them, I had a LOT more than I thought I did--six pairs, I think. Helen has no real idea how many pairs of shoes she have. I just know that both of the younger girls have a LOT, and can rarely find them when it's time to go anywhere.

Day 5: If you have never experienced having your electricity or heat shut off due to inability to pay the bill, pay $5.

This one had nothing to negotiate, as this has never happened to us, but it generated a great deal of thoughtfulness in the girls: It was fascinating watching their faces as they realized just what that meant, how it would affect their lives to not have electricity.

Day 6: If you have travelled outside of the U.S., pay $2. Pay an extra $2 if you have travelled within the past 6 months.

We adjusted this slightly, considering that I'm the only one of all of us who was even BORN in the U.S., so we changed it to "traveled outside of your country of birth." That's all of us, obviously, Elisabeth at eight and a half being the only person who even lives in the same country in which she was born, and she left that country for the first time at six months of age. And double if having traveled in the last six months, which was four out of six of us, although I just barely qualified for that one, as it was 5 1/2 months earlier that I had gone to England. 2018 is the second calendar year in the lives of Helen and Elisabeth to not have travelled by airplane, the first year being 2011, and 2011 being the ONLY year I haven't travelled by airplane since my trip to Japan in 1986. (And 1987 and 2011 are the only years of my life to have not travelled internationally since that Japan trip.)

Day 7: Pay $2 if you bought a gourmet cup of coffee in the past month.

Defining "gourmet" as buying at a coffee shop instead of making at home, that was just two of us, but Katie said that the hot chocolate she bought herself should count, too. Another good discussion of what it means to be able to choose to occasionally (or ever) pay insane prices for something one can make oneself, or at least buy in a grocery store, for a tiny fraction of the price. So having a 200-ml glass of apple juice in a restaurant for 2.50 when a liter of apple juice costs about one Euro is paying 15 times more than necessary, just for the luxury of not having to pour it yourself and wash the glass.

Day 8: If you went to work today and earned an income, pay $2.

This ended up being pretty funny, because I DON'T normally have a personal income. I do now have two English students, but they are on Tuesday and Wednesday, and this was a Saturday. But...this was the one day I babysat, and was paid, so I was caught out. Everything I earn goes straight to luxuries, too: piano lessons, dance classes, and drama classes for the girls. However, we as a couple do receive money from our mission agency, all of which is donated to them for that purpose, and we do not have concrete working hours, although Joern most certainly does put in at least as many hours a week as at any other job, which can be random hours any day of the week. (Nor, officially, do I "work" as far as our mission agency is concerned--however, it is the fact that I do not need to go to a regular job that means I can volunteer in various capacities as time allows.)

Day 9: Pay $1 for every refrigerator/freezer in your home.

I don't remember if we counted the small one that is standing in the middle of our living room at the moment or not! It's not being used, and I want to sell it, but we do have it in our home. And we also have a brand-new one in our kitchen, bought in September, the first new fridge/freezer we've ever had.

Day 10: Count every cell phone in your home. Pay $1 per phone.

Well...Joern has two, although one he uses only as a camera, and Lukas has two, and Katie and I have one each, so the six people living here have six, although two of the people don't have one at all...Four of them (one for each of us) are even smart phones, not a single one purchased by any member of our family.

Day 11: If you graduated from college, pay $1 per degree. 

This was a little complicated, because "college" in the American sense doesn't exist in Germany, and Joern never attended a normal university. However, he does have several German degrees in banking and translating, which are certainly the equivalent of U.S. B.A. and M.A. degrees, as well as an M.A. from the Open University in the UK (all done by correspondence), and I have an Early Childhood Education degree from Germany as well, which I think is somewhere in between an A.A. and a B.A. We counted them all.

Day 12: How many televisions do you have? Pay $1 per TV. Pay $1 extra if you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or a similar subscription.

There was a certain amount of smugness in the room as I read this out loud. We have no televisions and no such subscriptions. However, looking ahead on the list, there was no mention of computers or internet, so we decided those should be counted here. The smartphones practically should have been, as well, as they access as much as a computer. However, we left it at Joern's laptop, the laptop that belongs to my friend Sue and I have here and occasionally use, my Kindle Fire, and Lukas's iPad (given to him by his saxophone teacher.) 

Day 13: Open your pantry. If there is more food than you can consume in 2 days, pay $2.

We don't have a pantry, but we didn't even bother getting out of our chairs and looking through cupboards and the fridge. Even the teenagers who often claim "there's nothing in the house to eat!" immediately realized that we most certainly had enough food to last way more than two days.

Day 14: Pay $2 if you have more than one bank account. Pay an extra $2 if you have investments that earn income.

My banker husband (who worked in the bank in Germany for 25 years, but doesn't like to be referred to as a banker, but truly still is...) started asking what kind of accounts were meant and arguing about which ones shouldn't count. I told him it didn't matter, and in any case, if we just count the main account in Germany and the main account in Cyprus, that's two right there. There was also a bit of discussion on the definition of "investments"--Germans love insurance policies, and while we've cashed in some of them in the last few years for various reasons, we haven't used them all up. For the most part, yes, they will return more than we pay into them, if we don't cash them too soon. (I've said before that I think the German for "insurance" actually means "savings account"...)

 Day 15: If you slept in a warm bed last night, pay $2.

Not much to discuss here, we definitely all did.

Day 16: If you have visited your doctor this past year, for something relatively minor, pay $2.

Quite a lot of discussion on this. Is a dental check-up "relatively minor"? A broken leg isn't, we agreed, but what about the number of check-ups Lukas went to afterwards? When we had our excellent German insurance, I was pretty good about taking everyone to the dentist and the optician regularly, but I've done that a lot less in the two and a half years since we lost the German insurance, as the Cypriot insurance doesn't cover those. There have been some other things that I might have gone to a doctor about with our German insurance, which I haven't because of not having it, definitely gave us food for thought.

Day 17: Count the faucets in your home. Pay $.50 per faucet.

We have seven: two bathrooms with sink and a shower each, the kitchen sink, and two outdoor faucets. Not counting various other water attachments, such as the inlets to the toilets or the connections between water tank and pumps, etc.

Day 18: If you've bought gifts for others this season, pay $1. If you added "a little something" for yourself, pay an extra $1.

Yep, all six of us. Even me, and I'm lousy at gifts and hate having to deal with them. I did a lot less than usual this year, though, after money was stolen from my wallet a couple of weeks ago. There has been no confession, so no direct consequences for the perpetrator. However, I declared that I wasn't doing stockings, which did relieve my stress a great deal.

Day 19: If your home has more than 25 books, pay $1. If more than 50, $2.

We all started laughing when I read this. And were glad it wasn't $1 per 25 books, seeing as we have an estimated 3000 books...

Day 20: If your parents had a high school education, pay $1. If one attended college, pay $2. Pay $3 if both attended college.

We weren't sure just whose parents were meant. However, both of my parents and both of Joern's parents attended college, as did both Joern and I in the sense meant, so there was no getting out of the maximum amount there.

Day 21: If you are travelling more than 100 miles for Christmas festivities, pay $1. Pay $2 if ou are confident your vehicle will get you there.

Weeeellll...we actually walked 15 minutes to where we were going, and wouldn't have taken a car at all, except that then I walked home (long story...), and ended up driving back. Not that I was confident that my car WOULD get me there, as it has been sporadic about starting, twice not starting on Saturday, then no problem on Monday or Tuesday (Christmas day), but not starting today (Thursday)...

I probably should have gone to the mechanic today to see what's going on, but I didn't need to go anywhere (once I couldn't go swimming) and it's raining and I just didn't feel like it. But it occurs to me that we're supposed to be going to the north next Wednesday (over 100 miles, I guess), and the mechanic will definitely not be open either Monday or Tuesday, so I really should have gone today...

Day 22: Count the coats in your closet. Pay $.25 per coat or jacket.

We didn't do this. We just listed the ones we actually use, which was a rather large number, considering the mild weather in Cyprus. But I do have an additional cupboard stuffed absolutely full of coats, so if anyone needs one, we'll be able to find one. Not that we've actually BOUGHT more than about three or four of them. Okay, four: the one that I use most (it was my summer jacket in Germany and is usually the only one I use here in the winter) I bought 18 years ago, and my winter coat I bought 21 years ago, Joern's long winter coat was bought at a second-hand store in Germany probably 15 years ago, and his short winter coat from Peru was 12 1/2 years ago.

Every time someone does need a new coat, I open up the coat cupboard and dump them all out, one is chosen, and half a dozen or so are sorted out and taken to the thrift store...

Day 23: Pay $2 if you can name more than 5 people who love you.

Even the people in the very worst moods at the moment we discussed this had to grudgingly agree than each of us has WAY more than five people who love us, even not counting immediate family.

Day 24: If you have a pet, pay $2. Pay an additional $2 if you have more than one.

We have three cats. Or three cats have us. Two more cats than I consider necessary. But whoever has whomever, we buy the cat food, so...yep, more than one pet.

Advent 2018, part three

Here's part one and here's part two. And now, to the third and final part of Advent 2018 in the Lange chaos...

December 17th: I didn't go swimming because I couldn't bear the thought of getting home to a cold shower, but the plumber came at 8:00 to replace the heating element in the hot water tank. Which meant emptying 250 liters of water onto our non-waterproof roof...

See the black part where all the water is puddling? There's a drain about where the left-hand yogurt pot is floating, and the water did go down that drain just fine (and out into the courtyard behind our kitchen, where it is NOT draining very well...), but the reason that area is black is because extra water-proofing stuff has been painted on there over the original white, obviously because it pools there and has leaked before. And it wasn't working. (And the yogurt pot had been to catch a leak from the pump, which the plumber also fixed.) I have since re-waterproofed the entire roof (the roof over the stairs and our landing, that is, which the water tanks are on top of, so not a huge area), but it hasn't rained much since I finished that, so I don't know yet how well it will work. (My paint is white, not black, so that will hopefully help keep it a little cooler in the summer, especially when I've done the whole rest of the roof, over Katie's room, Helen and Elisabeth's room, and the bathroom, which is currently all black. It's only leaking in Katie's room, but I just want to do all of it BEFORE it springs new leaks. I can't do it until everything with our room is finished, though, because wood and drainpipes and tools and such are occupying a large part of the roof.)

The rest of the day was a more-or-less usual Monday, with Oasis in the morning and 3-5-year-old drama class in the afternoon, which was also a Christmas party. I wore my footie pajamas, but I'm pretty sure there aren't any photos of me! (For one, I have the camera during most of the class! There were photos taken of me while I was Santa Claus, but then I'm in a Santa Claus costume, obviously...) here's one of those, taken from Catherine's page. As the page is public, I'm assuming it's okay for me to post this? You can see my pajama feet. :-) (I got those pajamas for Christmas when I was 17, I think, and those are the only ones I own, and I have NEVER worn them to bed, as I really can't stand anything on my legs when I sleep, except bedding. But they're awesome for pajama parties!)

Unfortunately, the evening class for adults was cancelled, as too many people were unable to make it. I really hope we'll be able to continue in January, as I've very much enjoyed the half dozen or so classes we've had in the last several months.

December 18th: Piano lessons for Helen and Elisabeth as usual in the morning, then we stopped by the home of a refugee lady and her month-old baby to give them a gift from Oasis, as she wasn't able to be there the day before. I have lots of photos of Helen and Elisabeth holding the baby. :-)

No English student in the afternoon, as she had left for Slovakia for Christmas, and no dance class for the girls, so I imagine we played games and I probably got a decent amount of schoolwork done with the girls. Elisabeth also declared that she wanted her hair cut, so I went with her to our neighbor at number 3 (we're number 7 of seven houses in this court), who has a hair-cutting salon. She doesn't speak any English, which was why I took Elisabeth with me, to be able to explain better. I just wanted to make an appointment, but she said she had time right then, and when I asked how much it would cost, she refused the idea of any payment. Elisabeth's hair needed to be washed, however, and she couldn't reach the sink, so we went home again and Elisabeth showered. I then took a photo before her hair was cut, but forgot to take one afterwards. It doesn't look much different, it's just that much shorter that Elisabeth can now reach to comb it herself better. Here's the before photo, though:

Oh, and our electric kettle stopped working, and when I unplugged it I discovered this:
I threw the adapter away, but we got a new plug and changed it, but the kettle still wouldn't work. So we had to boil water on the stove for about a week, but now have a new kettle.

December 19th: We cancelled swimming in the morning because of the rain--I took this photo of our garden to send to the friend who said it wasn't raining at her house:

I had my Wednesday afternoon English student as usual, and I took this photo at dinner:
Well, after dinner, to be more precise. The cake Lukas made was delicious.

December 20th: We finally had clear weather, with several consecutive dry days forecast, so Jacob worked on the house. (I think it was about the 18th of December that the news said that there had been 123% of the usual December rainfall so far...there's been a lot of rain, which Cyprus very much needs, but is not conducive to construction!) Here he's filling in a gap between our house and the neighbor's:
All the water from the side of the roof on our room (which is at least 80% of the roof) was running straight down into the space between the wall on the neighbor's roof (that's where Jacob is standing) and the wall of our room, which starts on the top of the wall on our roof, which is about 20 centimeters lower than theirs. The two houses have separated over the years, so there was a gap of maybe 1-2 centimeters between them at the top, which is no big deal with just rain. However, with the addition of the room and the collection of all of the roof rainwater, a huge amount of water was essentially being funneled into that gap. And from there down between the houses and into our kitchen, which is why one wall of our kitchen looks like this:
Hopefully, that problem has now been taken care of, but we won't know until this has dried out enough to re-paint AND it rains heavily again...

In the afternoon Elisabeth had a Christmas party at Midi-club. Parents were invited, but I really, really wanted to be working on the roof in the sunshine, so Joern went for the first part of the party and I went at the very end. Then we had guests for dinner--lots of photos, all of which include one or more adorable children, as well as some of my children. The next day it did occur to me to take a photo of the plate of goodies they'd given us, but unfortunately, not until we'd eaten most of them...

December 21st: Elisabeth wanted a photo of her playing the piano, so here it is. (With no evidence of the fact that she CAN now comb her own hair...)

Jacob got a great deal of the plastering done, and I took this photo from the parking lot behind our house (not our parking lot):
The dark part (looked nearly black before it dried, now it's much lighter grey) is our room, and that little balcony on the top right is off of our bedroom. (And a whole bunch of water was pouring into Lukas's room, which is just under ours, but I don't have any photos. It's in the process of being dealt with.) The big balcony underneath that is Lukas's, and his room and his balcony are over the kitchen. The green mesh is on the wall around our garden (yard in American). The building to the left is a separate house.

And yes, Jacob is in a safety harness in the photo, suspended from ropes over the roof and tied to the frame holding the water tank.

In the evening, Sue and Richard came for dinner, as they do every Friday, along with their son Tim, who was here from the UK for just a week.

December 22nd: In the morning, Helen went to Tim's house for a sort of "master class" in music (he was her first piano teacher, an extremely accomplished pianist and all-round musician), which she absolutely loved. I basically did understand the theory the two of them were telling me about, with accompanying chords and such, but I still can't do what Helen was doing, which was singing a melody and accompanying it with broken chords. It sounds awesome. (Our piano does rather desperately need tuning, though...)

While Helen was out, Joern and Katie went shopping, and Lukas was still in bed. Elisabeth used to complain mightily when she was the only child around, but she was quite cheerful about it, and while I worked on the roof, she entertained herself in the garden. I took a photo of her, but you can't really see her, so took a blurry close-up, as well:

At some point, I went to run some errands, after having Jacob jump start my car, then having to have it jump started again, then going to the mechanic, which was closed, but one guy was working on his own car and looked at mine and said the battery and the alternator were both fine. He turned the engine off and it started again with no problem. It started again all the other times I used it in the last several days, but not this morning. Not cool.

Anyway, when I got home, I found out that Elisabeth and Sophia had been on the phone quite a bit. (This is why, when Joern suggested that maybe we don't need a land-line anymore, I said yes, absolutely we do, as long as we have children too young for cell phones. And Sophia's mother is of the same opinion, especially when Sophia and Elisabeth are talking to each other on their respective mother's cell phones...) They've been trying to talk us into a sleepover for ages, and I'd said not until the girls' room was cleaned up. So Sophia phoned ME and asked if she could come over to help clean up the girls' room! I caved and said yes. However, they didn't finish it, and Saturday is not a good time for a sleepover anyway.

We did keep her until after 9:00 p.m., though, as we went to the carol service at the Greek Evangelical Church. (Where, incidentally, some songs were sung in Greek and some in English, but the lyrics were up on the screen in both, and were often not even an attempt at a translation, but simply an entirely different song! Also, I interpreted the sermon for Katie, but before anyone gets too excited about my Greek, there are three points to make: the speaker is a non-native speaker of Greek (but very, very good), which means that he speaks Athenian Greek and is very clear; the sermon was quite short; and the topic was Light and the phrase "Jesus in the light of the world" was repeated in various ways many, many times, so it really wasn't too challenging.)

December 23rd: This was the fourth Sunday in Advent, but the morning was rather hectic and I didn't get a photo of the Advent wreath until later. We were allowed to take photos at church (usually, we weren't), but still can't post any faces on-line of anyone except our own children, and I don't have any of mine without other people. I did love this photo I took of one of the other teachers and two angels, which I think is okay to post:

Our friend Ingeborg and her friend Pamela (whom we've met several times at Ingeborg's house) came for lunch, as did Sophia, who spends many Sunday afternoons with us, and from whose mother I have permission to post her photo:

And we set up and decorated the tree:

Later in the afternoon we went to a "Christmas drop-in", where we saw lots of people and had a wonderful time, but of course, lots of photos with lots of other people! Here's one of Joern and Katie, though:

December 24th: I went swimming in the morning, and when I got home, the door to the girls' room was open, and this was what I saw:
It's taken a long time, but I love seeing Helen enjoying reading now.

Helen still had a couple of Christmas presents to get, so while we were out, I finally took her to get her promised tenth-birthday present (and yes, her birthday was in September):
If I think about it at all long, I really don't have a very positive opinion about bodily mutilation for the sake of fashion, but I'm just generally not at all legalistic, so now Helen has joined her two older sisters and her mother in having intentional, permanent wounds through her ears.

And I liked this photo of Katie using Connie to keep her feet warm:

In the afternoon we had more guests, a family who moved to Cyprus just a month ago and have two ten-year-olds. We had a very nice time, and I took a few photos, but once again...other children are in every photo!

The plan to finish Advent with finishing our "Advent of Gratitude" donation jar didn't go so well, as when I went up to my room after dinner to get it, I discovered that most of the money had been stolen from it. So I got my car keys instead and took a book and sat at the Salt Lake Park for three hours. Which is not festive and not something I should write, but it is what happened. I didn't take any photos. I did finish my second Agatha Christie (Murder at the Vicarage), which I enjoyed very much, but I think I liked Murder on the Orient Express better, which I read last week.

Christmas Day is a whole 'nother story that I probably won't blog. Short version is that I've never cried so much on Christmas day in my life, Jesus was not, that I recall, mentioned a single time (I imagine he was mentioned in grace before lunch, but I wasn't at lunch), but I did get the whole roof over our stairs and landing painted, so that's good. It's been raining off and on for the last two days, with no leaks, so that may have worked, but then again, it hasn't leaked in Katie's room in that time either, and I haven't done the part over her room yet, so it might not have leaked only because there hasn't been such heavy continual rain as there was before.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Advent 2018, part two

So, I had a part one, which covered six days, and here's part two for the next 10 days. Again, we don't have any specific Advent plans this year, no calendar or anything like that, just the Advent wreath.

December 7: So December 6th was Nikolaus Day, which we didn't really do anything about, but that evening, Elisabeth told us all to put our shoes in front of our bedroom doors. Which we did. Both Joern and I were rather unimpressed with the notes that told us, so we thought, that we weren't getting anything.
No, not a lot in it--nothing at all. Apparently. I didn't see Joern's note itself until the next morning, though, and I don't remember now exactly what it said, but it wasn't the same as mine and seemed to hint more strongly that one had to look rather harder. So I tipped out my shoes completely, and in one I found a candy, and in the other a candy and a little hand-made bag of gummy candies:

The only other photo I took that day was of Makenzy getting cosy. She doesn't like the cold. Not that it's been very cold yet--it's 19 degrees Celsius in my bedroom right now, at 9:30 p.m., which is quite comfortable to me.

December 8th: I babysat the little girl I used to have several afternoons a week (now she goes to preschool--which she loves, but I miss her!) and her older brother, and took lots of photos, most of which include one or both of the children. We also went to Tochni to have lunch and spend the afternoon with a German friend of ours, Ingeborg. We went in two cars (taking six children--four of our own and my two borrowed ones), and with one thing and another, Joern and I hadn't really seen each other until we got there. At which point some child noticed that we had unintentionally "twinned"--matching sweatshirts (except mine has a LOT more holes, because I wear mine a lot more often...) from our DTS in 2006, black jeans, and sandals, although our socks aren't the same color.

December 9th: Second Sunday in Advent, burning one of the new candles and continuing to work on the old ones:

In the morning I taught Sunday school, and Joern sold tickets for the morning performance of Catherine's "Alice," which Helen and Elisabeth went to see, and in the afternoon  I sold tickets for the afternoon performance and Katie took tickets at the door. I only got to go in halfway through, but I have seen it at least three or four times already. Even only getting to see half of it, I still loved it.
 At the end, Catherine has all of the children come up on the stage with her. Public setting, so I think it's alright to post this photo!

December 10th: Once a month on a Monday morning, I go to writers' group, which I thoroughly enjoy. Twice a year we have a shared meal, so instead of getting home at 1:00 or so, I was home around 3:30, I think. That counts as Adventy, as that was our Christmas meal. Then I had the 3-5-year-old drama class in the afternoon as always. :-)

December 11th: Usual Tuesday of piano lessons and then going to Sue's house, and this last Tuesday was what has become pretty much a tradition, in that my daughters put together and decorated Sue's Christmas tree (of which I took no photos...oops!), as well as some picture frames...
 ...and each other.
Definitely Christmas prep.

In the afternoon, Helen helped in the small children's dance class as always, and then I went to watch part of Helen and Elisabeth's dance class, as it was the last one before Christmas and was open to watch. Elisabeth is on the left, all in pink, and Helen is the next one in the photo, with the BRIGHT pink top:

I had to leave early to get home for my Tuesday English student, also for the last time this year, as she's off to Slovakia for Christmas. (Her mother is Slovakian, her father is Cypriot.)

December 12th: My Wednesday English student was in Slovakia (both of her parents are Slovakian), so it was a quieter afternoon than usual. Joern is usually at the staff meeting Wednesday from 3:00 to 5:00, the same time as Elisabeth's drama class, but once a month there's a gathering with the families, and this month it was a "Mexican meal" from 5:00 to 7:00. As we were getting ready to eat, I was startled to be asked to pray in Spanish, but I did so, wondering why, as nobody else there speaks much (or any) Spanish, as far as I know. But oh well, God does, so that's fine. Awhile later I suddenly went, "Duh...the theme was "Mexican meal..." I can be rather slow on the uptake at times. In my defense, the food was fine, but none of it resembled in any way anything I ate in my year in Mexico!

I did take a few photos, but most of them had other people in them, so here's the one of Joern and Helen:
Not that Helen was originally supposed to be there...she was going to be singing in another Christmas concert (same choir as the week before), but had a cold and was sniffing non-stop. She wasn't at all happy about not being able to sing, but she did cheer up.

December 13th: Nothing Christmasy at all, that I can remember. We did light the Advent candles as usual, but I don't know which day which candle stub was replaced. It would have been the 89th birthday of my father-in-law, who died 13 years ago, the girls had their usual activities, and we played a game with our friends in the evening.

And a lazy cat decided to pee in the living room, and I discovered that our living room marble tiles are NOT grey, but white.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time scrubbing maybe 1/20 of the living room floor with a mixture of baking soda, washing up liquid, and warm water, which works very well...but we not only have a lot of floor, most of it is now covered with furniture and boxes.

December 14th: No photos of any interest. I went to the hardware store and bought painty-stuff to fix the leak on the roof, but Saturday afternoon (the next day, because it was dark by the time I was home with the painty stuff) when I went up to put it on, I discovered that one of the water pumps is leaking. So I put a bucket under that so the roof could dry out, then this afternoon I went to check it out and discovered another leak, so have a bucket under that. And now it's raining again. The plumber is coming tomorrow because the water heater isn't working, so obviously I'll ask him to do something about the leaks. (I did try, of course, but unsuccessfully, to tighten the pipes.) I can't paint the painty stuff (which must have another name, but I don't know what it is) on until it's dry, and until I can be fairly sure that it won't rain for at least 4-6 hours, so at the moment, we'll just keep the bucket under the light fixture on the landing outside our bedroom, and Katie will keep a bucket in her bedroom...

December 15th: Helen has been sailing with Richard in his boat, Liza, several times, and twice I was there too, and the last time, Lukas had also gone. Katie and Elisabeth had been asking to go, and yesterday they finally got a chance. It was a lot more fun for me this time, because when Lukas and Helen were there, they were very interested in (and capable of) helping out, with untying and bringing in the fenders and fending off and helming, etc. Katie, on the other hand, is quite content to just be a passenger, and Elisabeth is not only only eight years old, she was feeling quite seasick, so I got to be much more involved in actually sailing, helming most of the way. And there was also wind this time, which obviously improves the actual sailing! (Last time, there was virtually no wind at all. We did paddle some, and laughed a lot, and I enjoyed it very much, but it wasn't exactly sailing!)

I didn't take any photos while we were out, so this is after we were back in the marina:

We got home to Lukas and Elisabeth busily making won tons, which, together with rice and vegetables, we had for lunch. They were scrumptious. (And the Advent wreath finally has four nice candles! I think the final stub was finished on Friday.)

After lunch the girls and I headed to LCC for a Christmas party for refugee children. It was loud and chaotic and fun, and somewhat amusing that I spent most of the time speaking Greek, being assigned to a craft table as "the Greek speaker" for that table.

 December 16th: Today, and the third Sunday in Advent!

Our eating area is much smaller than in our other house, which is convenient, as we're generally many fewer people than we were most of the time there, but I still can't get used to it. Lukas was still in bed for lunch, so it was just five of us.

I call this Weasley's "cat pose." Yes, I know that's silly, as he IS a cat, but he just does it so well. His tail is so nice and long and it curves all the way around his paws, as he sits on the piano looking regal. (And on a book of Christmas carols...)

Just to be fair, I took a photo of Connie, too. She wasn't very impressed.

We spent the afternoon at Sue and Richard's house, as we do every other Sunday afternoon, and now the house is nice and quiet, with the two youngest in bed, and the other two doing something that isn't internet, because thanks to Richard, they only have access on their devices until 10:00 p.m., and it is now 10:18.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Advent 2018, part one

Not "week one," because it's only been six days, and because I don't know if I'll try this once a week or not anyway. I probably shouldn't even call it "part one" until I know for sure that there's more, but anyway, here goes, for Advent 2018 so far...

December 1st: It was the staff-plus-family Christmas party for the organization my husband works with, so that checked off "doing something Christmasy." I do have photos, but they all include other people.

And before I went to bed, I remembered that the next day was the first Sunday in Advent, so I got the Advent wreath out of Lukas's closet. (All of the children have large built-in floor-to-ceiling closets, so the top parts are for our use. Katie's top ones are filled with Marie's things, the top ones in Helen's and Elisabeth's room have car seats and clothes-to-grow-into, and Lukas's have clothes, bedding, Christmas stuff, and suitcases--he has the most closet space.)

December 2nd: Before very many people had had breakfast (we do NOT have breakfast together, this decision having saved at least our marriage, if perhaps too late for my sanity), I remembered to set up the Advent wreath. We have plenty of candles, but not many of them overly useful for the wreath...

And this candle didn't do well with spending summer in Cyprus in a box...

However, there being little other choice, I made the melted candle into three candles and found another stub. Certain (male) members of my family were not impressed, but I'm rather dedicated to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Melted vertically into place, and the first candle lit!

And after the girls were in bed, Jörn and I went for a walk, the first walk we've taken since we moved in. Usually, we manage at least a walk or two a week, but with Rock and moving and all the rest of everything, it hadn't happened.

December 3rd: A typical Monday: I went swimming with friends, did a little bit of schoolwork with the girls, went to Oasis (community center for refugees) supposedly for an hour to meet with pregnant women and young mothers and stayed for an hour and a half, fell down on my walk home and made one elbow and both knees bleed without putting any holes in my clothes, helped in the drama class for 3-5-year-olds, and got to participate in the adult drama class in the evening. I don't think we managed anything Adventy or Christmasy...

December 4th: A typical Tuesday: I went for a walk with my friend Sue, took Helen and Elisabeth to their piano lesson, we spent the rest of the morning with Sue, Helen and Elisabeth had dance class (Helen helps in the first class, for small children, and then she and Elisabeth are both participants in the second one), my Tuesday English student (an eight-year-old girl) came and we made cookies (oops--no photos, but if I'd taken photos, they'd probably have included her, because I forget to think about taking photos for my blog, so I couldn't have posted them anyway...), and in the evening my husband and I played a game with friends. No photos. Oh, except for of Helen rescuing the mammoth from the water tank, but that's another story, which all of my FB friends know anyway.

December 5th: Usually I'm home Wednesday mornings, but there was some concern about one of the pregnant women. It took a little while to get sorted out what her name is and where she lives, and then I went to see her, because I wasn't understanding enough on the phone. She was fine, though, not in labor after all, and now I know where she lives, which is useful, since I may be the one taking her to the hospital when it's time to go. Communication is difficult, as I don't speak either of her native languages and her English is limited, but it was good. (And quite amusing that it took a few minutes to convince her and her flat mates that I do NOT speak French, since I apparently pronounce her name very well!!)

Anyway, I was eventually home, and Jörn had gotten some greenery for the wreath. He'd also bought four red candles, but, well, see above on my "Use it up..." etc.

In the afternoon my Wednesday English student came (a nine-year-old girl), and we drew a lot of pictures of Christmas-themed things and labeled them (I was going to make cookies with her, too, but not being home in the morning, I hadn't made dough). And then we got out the Advent boxes, so she got to learn lots of really useful words like "stocking" and "camel" and so on. I used to always make sure everyone was home to do ANY decorating, but I gave up on that years ago, so it was just Katie and Helen and my student and I. (I have no idea where Lukas was, Jörn was at a staff meeting, and Elisabeth was at drama class.)

So here are the bookcases with our current (not necessarily permanent) solution:

Close-up of the stockings, which were hung in random order, and then today Katie noticed that the girls are together and the boys are together and they're symmetrical in their basic color: green, blue, red, green, red, blue, green.
I haven't asked Jacob yet if he wants his stocking at his place or here, or if/when he's coming for Christmas Eve/Christmas morning etc. It was one thing having Marie in a different country for Christmas (2015 and 2016 she stayed in the U.S., last year she came to Cyprus for Christmas), but confusing having Jacob living a five-minute walk away!

Katie arranged all the various nativity scenes:

The wise men and the camels are on the opposite side of the room. I reached up to put them there, and held the phone over my head to take the photo...only now am I seeing how dusty it is...
The plan, as every year, is to move the wise men and camels a little closer each day, and for them to arrive at the main Nativity scene on January 6th, Epiphany. The reality is that we might remember to move them once or twice between now and then, and we might not, so on January 6th they will take a flying jump to get to where they belong.

Anyway, as soon as my English student was picked up, Helen and I left for her to get to rehearsal for the choir concert that night, where I was also helping out with raffle tickets and stuff. If I could figure out how to put the video of her solo in here, I would, but I haven't figured that out yet, so oh well.

December 6th: This morning I took the lady I visited yesterday to her regular check-up. I don't think I will ever understand the system. She had an appointment for 11:20, but we were there over an hour earlier. First she had to wait in line to register downstairs and get part of her file, then she had to wait in line upstairs to sign in and get her file, then she waited for awhile and finally was weighed and had her blood pressure measured, and then she got a number. Apparently, the time of the appointment wasn't relevant, just in which order she arrived. She ended up being the very last one to see the doctor, and we weren't done until nearly 1:00.

On the way home I stopped quickly and bought chocolate Nikoläuse, as it's Nikolaus day. We'd talked about making plates of goodies for the neighbors, but...yesterday was sort of busy. Anyway, I can't count: it was a package of five, so I thought I'd have to get two packages, but then I calculated that without Marie or Jacob, five would be plenty, and if Jacob showed up for lunch, I just wouldn't have one. But six of us live here. Jacob didn't come for lunch, but I still didn't get one.

Then at lunch the first of the white candle stubs burned down completely, so got replaced with a nice new red candle. There was further discussion about whether this looked stupid, but as we do generally remember to light the candles at least one or two meals (usually all three) every single day, we're very likely to go through all four of the red candles also and need to replace them before Christmas. So, once again, my "Use it up..." took precedence over aesthetics:

When I unpacked the Advent boxes yesterday, I also found some Advent activities that I'd either found or been given rather late last year (some arrived in a Christmas package in January, for example), but thought to pack in the box for this year. Six days in, we did decide to start this, or our version of it:
The idea is to make a small donation every day of the first 24 days of December that reflect the fact that something that seems totally normal to us is something not at all taken for granted by much of the world, and that if we stop to think about it at all, we are likely to be extremely grateful. Catching up on the first six days at once got rather chaotic, but we have a jar and will see if we keep it up. Definitely got some good discussion out of it, anyway. And that may become another blogpost, but for now, here's our first quarter of Advent.