Monday, December 11, 2017

Books finished in November 2017

I read a lot more books in November than in December. Part of the number increase was due to the number of short books (mainly Hourly Histories, which only take about half an hour to read), part was because of having the opportunity to read actual paper books (five of them, in fact), and part was because for the two weeks we were in Scotland, we had no internet in our room so when I should have been in bed, instead of going on-line I read on my Kindle.

We'd arrived in Germany October 26th, stayed two days with our friends Margaret and Phil in Düesseldorf, then stayed the rest of our time in Germany in Hamminkeln at the guest house of our mission agency. On November 1st Jörn flew to England for an art conference, on Friday the 3rd Lukas left to spend the weekend with friends before starting his two-week introduction apprenticeship in gardening and landscaping in Mülheim, and on Saturday the 4th, the three girls and I flew to Scotland (from Dortmund to Luton to Glasgow, all three being new airports to me, and Scotland being a new country to me), where Jörn joined us the next day. We participated in an awesome retreat for long-term missionaries for the next two weeks, where the children also had a great program, and there was lots of free time and some group outings. After that finished, we slowly made our way to Birmingham, visiting friends near Manchester for two days, then staying another two days with friends in Birmingham and getting to visit with four others there. November 23rd, nine weeks to the day after the girls and I had left Cyprus, we flew home. (Lukas had returned home on his own from Germany three days earlier, and Jörn had been gone for 10 weeks and one day, having left Cyprus eight days before we did.)

For some odd reason, I haven't managed to read anywhere near as much since we got home...

Isambard Kindom Brunel, Hourly History  I felt like I'd heard of this engineer before, probably in something I'd read out loud to the children, but nothing at all sounded familiar, and it was very interesting. And in the five weeks or so since I finished this, I must have seen his name mentioned at least half a dozen times! I never would have picked up a biography of any length (not even a 30-minute read) on an engineer, but since it was there...I read it. I'm enjoying the Hourly Histories for the opportunity to be introduced to historical figures I wouldn't have looked up on my own.

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah  On the Monday that we were in Germany, I got to visit my friend Leigh for six hours. I've probably known her for about 26 years, although the first conversation I remember with her took place only 24 years ago, when her oldest daughter was about six months old. We had never, ever, in those 24 years, spent time together without children around. We used to talk on the phone fairly often, but always with interruptions from her children or mine, or more likely both. I absolutely loved the afternoon/evening with her, both of us finishing whole sentences and even stories. It wasn't quite long enough, though. And she gave me this book, which was fascinating. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa five years before Apartheid ended, to a black mother and white father. Most of his first five years were spent hiding, because if anyone in authority had found out he existed, his parents could have both been arrested and imprisoned. This is biographical, but not chronological, and there are some inconsistencies, such as his constant mention of never having had any friends, except in the many chapters that detail escapades with his friends. He's apparently now a famous comedian in the U.S., but I'd never heard of him. Jacob had, however, and was quite excited to see me unpack this book. Language warning for people who will be offended by that, but otherwise a great book.

So Deeply Scarred, Howard Morgan  Friends gave me this book, which is about how the Jewish community has been persecuted throughout their history, all over the world. It could be quite an eye-opener to someone who hasn't read much on the topic, but I have. Much of it consisted of lists and statistics, so not exactly smooth reading, but not long.

Like Grounded Swallows, Gerhard P. Drumm  My mother gave me this book in September and I started reading it while in Costa Rica, but most of my reading was done at night on my Kindle, so I didn't get into it until we were in Scotland, when I read it every available moment until I finished it. Gerhard Drumm is, like my mother, a United Methodist pastor (although he is now retired and she is not yet), and he signed this copy of the first part of his biography, covering the time from his birth in Serbia (then part of Yugoslavia) in 1929 until his escape, together with most of his siblings, to Austria in 1947. It was extremely interesting reading this book, about the persecution of ethnic Germans during and after World War II, around the same time as reading So Deeply Scarred, five biographies of important political figures (see below), and two other Hourly Histories about World War II. I've read so much about World War II, but never before had heard about persecution of ethnic Germans in non-German countries. Gerhard Drumm is 88 years old and living in California, and it's strange to think that he was born the same year as my father-in-law, who has now been dead for over 12 years.

Emma & I, Sheila Hocken  I actually paid money for this book, I think something like 90 pence, at a second-hand bookshop in West Kilbride, Scotland. It was admittedly the author's name that first caught my eye and made me pull the book off the shelf, but the topic then interested me as well. I enjoy memoirs and biographies in any case, and this was autobiographical. The author had a congenital condition that meant she'd never been able to see well, and eventually lost her sight completely as a teenager. The "Emma" referred to in the title is the guide dog she received when she was 17, and which changed her life completely. There was quite a surprising ending. This isn't the most well-written book in the world, but I did deem it worth bringing back with me to Cyprus, although I finished it while still in Scotland.

World War II Biographies: Adolf Hitler, Erwin Rommel, Benito Mussolini, George Patton, Joseph Stalin, Hourly History  These were really five books, each one taking half an hour. I'd never read biographies, even short ones, of any of these people before. I'd started the book quite awhile before finishing it, definitely in October, and probably while still in Costa Rica. These key characters in the Second World War have remarkably different backgrounds, histories, and characters. I was left thinking with Hitler in particular that "if only...." so many things had been different, he wouldn't have turned out as he so infamously did, whereas Rommel's character is so awful from childhood on, that one wonders how he could possibly have become involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I knew that Mussolini was more of a follower than a leader, who changed sides constantly, but not that that had also been a life-long pattern. George Patton should be seen as a "good guy," being on the Allied side, but he was just plain not a nice person. Joseph Stalin held the fewest surprises for me, probably because I'd read more about him previously.

Ivan the Terrible, Hourly History  More of the same, as far as most of the Hourly Histories are concerned: a few bits of new information about someone I had known something about, found it interesting, and don't now remember much.

A Field Full of Butterflies: Memories of a Romany Childhood, Rosemary Penfold  I bought this one in Scotland at the second-hand bookstore, as well. It was everything I like in a book: well-written memoirs, memorable characters who were a mix of good and bad, some photos of the real people, and as a bonus, about a topic that I know very little about. I'd only ever read about Romanies, or Gypsies, as side characters in other books. Sometimes "good" and sometimes "bad" and sometimes "neutral," but never as the main characters. I enjoyed also the dropping of various Romany words in the conversation, sometimes explained and sometimes needing to be understood from context (although there was also a glossary in the back), in just the right amount: enough to be interesting, but not so much as to make it stilted or frustrating to read.

World War II D-Day, Hourly History  Having just finished the five World War II biographies, much of this information was still fresh in my memory, especially as three of those five were key figures in the Normandy Invasion. Having a picture of the personalities of those people in involved also lead to a much deeper understanding of this event beyond the mere facts.

George Stephenson, Hourly History  This started out by dispelling several myths about George Stephenson, listing one thing after another that he did NOT do, to the point where I was starting to wonder why they'd bothered writing a book about him. However, they did finally end up getting to the point, and one thing he certainly had was perseverance. He wasn't, after all, the first person to do many of the things that are credited to him (such as inventing the first steam locomotive), but he WAS the person who made many of these inventions into viable components of modern society. A great idea isn't of much use if it doesn't get put into practice, and putting into practice was George Stephenson's strength.

The Book of Dragons, Edith Nesbit  I'm not sure when I started this children's book, but it may have been six or more months ago. I finally finished it in November. I'm not sure what even made me start reading a book by an author I'm not really crazy about, but since the book consisted of unconnected short stories (all about, surprise surprise, dragons), it didn't matter if I went months between stories. I like fantasy just fine, but even fantasy needs to follow rules. None of these stories, as I recall, did. Random things happen with no logical (even fantastically logical) reason behind them, everything has an improbable happy ending, and characters are all completely two-dimensional, if that. (I'm not sure how to make a one-dimensional character, but Edith Nesbit is.)

An Awakened Heart, Jody Hedlund  Unbelievable Christian romance, in which one speech makes another person change character completely, and you know in the first couple of pages who is going to marry whom. A free book that was worth what I paid, and worth less than the time spent reading it. Also the last book I finished reading in November of this year.

Books finished in October 2017

Here it is December and I never even got around to blogging the rest of our trip after the first week, and we were gone for nine weeks altogether. Maybe I eventually will, but don't hold your breath.

All but one of the books I read in October were on my Kindle, all of the Kindle books being free. We were in the U.S until October 2nd, when we flew to Costa Rica via Guadalajara and Mexico City. We had a ten-hour layover during which we just hung out in the airport, because after our flight leaving at midnight and having virtually no sleep, we weren't up to trying to leave the airport, especially since when I looked for ideas on-line as to what to do in Guadalajara, most of the suggestions were to go someplace outside of the city. Various members of the family slept at various times throughout the day and I read a lot of the day. We were then in Costa Rica for three weeks (well, about 18 hours less than three weeks), returning to San Francisco via Mexico City. (That's another long story, but it worked out very well, and we even went into the city for the afternoon, which was pretty cool.) One night in California at my sister's house, then on to Germany, where we stayed until November...so maybe I'll mention more about that if I blog November's books...

In the meantime, here are the books I read in October this year:

The Wisdom of Walt, Jeffrey A. Barnes  This wasn't a very long book and had some interesting tidbits about Walt Disney, but the overtone of obsession with making money and with Disneyland was kind of off-putting.

The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger  This was the one paper book I read in the entire month, gleaned from the bookcase of my host sister, Cristina. It was quite a fascinating idea, with a man who time traveled, but had no control over when or where. He often met up with himself in other times, but especially often met up with his wife-to-be, from when she was about six years old. There were many poignant and a few tragic moments, but not, really, a whole lot of story. That each chapter started with a date and the respective ages of the two main characters (or three, if Henry was represented twice), which really helped to keep it all straight for me. Then on the flight from Mexico City to San Francisco, I was able to watch the movie. It was surprisingly well-done (I actually approved of some of the changes they made, for various reasons, but they of course left out far, far too much), but there is no way I would have been able to follow it at all without having read the book first.

Triple Creek Ranch, Book One, Unbroken, Rebekah A. Morris  Umm...I had to think about this for a minute. If I remember correctly, it was a totally predictable Christian romance, not a genre I favor...

Okay, I just looked it up (and, incidentally, it's still free at amazon), and it's not actually a romance. But it is totally predictable Christian fiction, where the good guys are too good and the bad guys are too bad and there's one terrible character who becomes perfect. Still not a genre I favor.

Thomas Jefferson, Hourly History  Like the other Hourly Histories, able to be read in about half an hour, with a good overview of Thomas Jefforson's life, and with a few details that were new and interesting to me and which I have completely forgotten in the intervening two months.

Amish Faith Renewed, Becca Fisher  Well, now, that was interesting: I had to look it up, and the description did not spark any memories. Amish romance. I started looking at the reviews to see if they would say something else interesting, and I found a one-star review with the title "Reads like a summary" that I thought might be apt to copy and paste, and then noticed the name of the commenter: it was me, in August 2015. So I actually read the book in October 2017 for the SECOND time, and still don't remember it. With no concern about copyright or plagiarism, since it's what I wrote, here it is: I'm just glad this "book" was free and that it took less than ten minutes to read. I kept hoping that the introduction would end and something approaching character development and a story would happen, but they didn't.

The Author Startup, Ray Brehm  This was all about marketing a book for the purpose of making money. In fact, it was even about writing a book for the purpose of making money. And the author must know about that, since he's apparently written lots of books about how to write books to make money, and he links to them over and over again. He seemed rather obsessed with making money. This one was free, the others aren't. I didn't buy any of them.

Angels Watching Over Me, Michael Phillips  I actually enjoyed and remember this book. I think it was a little unrealistic for the white plantation owner's daughter and the black slave girl to both be so utterly clueless about the realities of the society around them, and to so easily become friends, but it was still a good story. It's set in the South of the United States just after the Civil War. Unfortunately, it ends rather abruptly, my assumption being because then the author hopes that it will make you buy the next book after getting this one free. It wasn't a bad book, but not good enough for me to spend money on the sequel.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Books finished in September 2017

This list looks long, but most of the "books" were free Kindle books that were quite short, some of them read in half an hour or not much more. It did, however, help that my husband was gone for a week in September (so I could read one paper book in bed, but even then I didn't manage to finish it before leaving for Germany, so had to take it with us and finish it in an airport), and that for most of the 10 days of September that we were traveling, I didn't have consistent reasonable internet access, so read more than I do when I do have internet access! Also, time in airports and on airplanes (six of them in September...) contributed to available reading time.

(The above was written at the beginning of October, as was the bare list of books/authors below. I am now, over a month later, going to attempt to give extremely short comments on each one, to just get around to publishing this...)

Days on the Road, Sarah Raymond Herndon  As I recall, this was a pioneer trip and an actual diary, and I enjoyed it very much, even it was free.

The Measure of Katie Calloway, Serena Miller  Yet another very good book, with certain predictable events (who was going to show up where and why, and who was going to get married).

Ten Days in a Mad-House, Nellie Bly  Non-fiction, by a woman reporter in a time when it was rare for women to have "real" jobs. She got herself committed to an insane asylum for the sake of the story, and the scary thing is, that once she was committed, she reverted to acting 100% her normal self and telling the complete truth, but without it having been arranged for someone else to get her out 10 days later, she never would have gotten out.

Queen Victoria, Hourly History  This was the first "Hourly History" that I read, and have read quite a few in the last couple of months. Nowhere could I find an actual author's name. Most of them take me about half an hour to read, but give an interesting overview with tidbits I either never knew or didn't remember. (Contrast this book, on the life of someone who lived for over 80 years, to the book it took me MONTHS to get through, on the life of Lady Jane Grey, who lived only 17 years!) Some of these books could do with better proofreading, but I like having this "history-lite" library on my Kindle.

Mahatma Gandhi and His Myths, Mark Shepard  Another very short book, but at the very least, I should now remember how to spell GandHi, as I'm pretty sure I used to, as I see regularly, put the H after the G...

Eden Park, Charlotte Bingham   This was the one and only paperback book (as opposed to Kindle book) that I finished in the month of September. The description on the back was one of those that makes the reader think that a particular event is the main event, when it isn't at all, but as the book was better than the back cover, that was fine with me. I like books that follow different people's lives and then show how they intersect with each other.

Embers of Love, Tracie Peterson  Umm....trying to remember this one, but don't. And it's one of the first ones on my Kindle carousel at the moment, because Katie is reading it. I suspect that it's a Christian romance and basically harmless. And I feel kind of the same way about the use of the word "harmless" when describing a book as Emily Starr did. (Or was it even her Aunt Elizabeth who said that? Lucy Maud Montgomery, anyway.)

The Mayflower, Hourly History  Again, a good overview, and some facts that I'd either never learned or long since forgotten, despite having grown up in the U.S.-history-centric U.S. school system.

Ashley's Amish Adventures: An Outsider Living with the Amish, Ashley Emma  This is supposed to be an actual account, and may well be, but I found it a little unbelievable. The author was researching for writing an "Amish romance," and the Amish and Mennonite people with whom I've actually spoken about Amish romances have been generally quite disdainful about them, so it surprises me that this entire community was so happy to host the author (who was homeschooled) for her purposes.

Benny and the Bank Robber, Mary C. Findley  This was a book that started out really slow for me, and then I couldn't put it down, even when I got extremely annoyed with a twist that should NOT have happened, and yet was predictable, too. I'd guess it's written for about ages 10-12, not a difficult read, but not too terribly preachy.

Benjamin Franklin, Hourly History  No comments to add to the other "Hourly History" comments, except that I may have gotten less out of this having already read so much about Benjamin Franklin.

Andrew Jackson, Hourly History Unlike the previous Hourly History books I'd read, I previously knew very little about Andrew Jackson, so there was much more new information for me in this book, yet I was glad to only spend half an hour on the topic!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Traveling, Part Two: California Part One

Either I hardly blog for years or a manage a bunch of posts at once. (The "books I finished" posts don't really count, I think.) And for the week we were in California, I can EITHER write a sentence or two ("We stayed with one of my sisters at the beginning and end and went camping with much of the rest of the family in the middle, and it was cool that Marie was able to join us for that, too.") or write way too much. I'm opting for the way too much. Oh well, nobody is obligated to read this.

So we arrived late Monday night (September 25th), California time, in San Francisco. My sister Erin lives in San Bruno, ten minutes from the airport, in the house where my dad grew up, and in fact, where I lived from when I was three and a half until I was nearly six. The first couple of times returning to that house without my uncle and Grandma there were really strange, and even now, I half expect to see Grandma walking out of the kitchen, asking us what we want to eat while already preparing half a dozen things and sending Uncle Rich across the street to 7-11 to buy something else. Uncle Rich died in December 2007 and Grandma in August 2008, so it's been awhile now, but we don't go that often, either. (Katie and I visited Grandma in May 2008, our whole family went in December 2009/January 2010 to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary and my brother's wedding, we went again not quite a year later in November/December 2010 for my sister's wedding, and then in November 2015 for my mother's 65th birthday.)

Anyway, Erin came to meet us, taking half of the family to the house and then going back for the rest. It was well past midnight and we'd been traveling for well over 24 hours by the time we arrived, so the only thing on the agenda that night was to collapse. Jörn and I got our own room and the children distributed themselves over the living room.

Tuesday, the main thing on the agenda was to Stay Awake. Erin and I took the girls shopping for underwear (that's the one thing, after 26 years of living in Europe, that I still regularly buy in the U.S. when I can...in Europe, I can EITHER pay for it OR buy sufficient numbers), and as usual, I was way overwhelmed by the sheer quantities and varieties of EVERYTHING. Oh, and we got Elisabeth shoes, too. In Germany she informed me that her shoes were too small, and I had a look, and sure enough, they were. It would have been nice to know that before leaving Cyprus, as she probably has at least a dozen pairs of shoes. Oh well.

Then we packed a picnic and walked to the park.


When I first moved to Germany, the U.S. was in a phase of freaking out about dangerous playground equipment and they were taking out all the merry-go-rounds, swings, and fun slides. So for many years, I've thought of German playgrounds as being awesome and U.S. ones as being pretty boring. However, they've apparently come up with compromises in safety and fun, and we got to visit several pretty cool playgrounds in our short time in the U.S. Still no merry-go-rounds, but swings are back, and big climbing things.

We kept them awake as long as possible, but at some point, the battle was lost with Elisabeth and Helen...

Lukas was the only one who didn't fall asleep and didn't even doze, and he also slept through the first night and every night and was never up early. It was like he didn't have jet lag at all. (My sister-in-law told me that my brother doesn't believe in jet lag. I guess Lukas doesn't, either. I'd love to not believe in jet lag, but I'm not convinced that I can just "choose" not to...)
 Lukas and Jörn made, and all of us ate, dinner, and then my parents arrived. I don't have a photo of my mom, but here's one of my dad, with the girls awake (but ready for bed) and Jörn nearly asleep.

Shortly after, Katie succumbed:

And finally, Marie arrived!

She was shocked to see how much all the girls have grown, but that does happen when it's been a full year! Marie spent December 2015-June 2016 living with my sister Erin, just for a "different experience," including taking one psychology class at the community college, and working in a pretzel store in the mall. Then after the summer in Cyprus, she returned to the U.S. last year in September to help take care of my other sister's daughter. In August she moved out, to a shared apartment in Rocklin, and is enrolled full-time at Sierra College, where my dad got his AS degree when I was a child, and where I took a few classes during high school and an over-full load between Mexico and Germany (1990-1991), but never finished. At least one of my siblings, possibly two, also took classes there.

So here we are, still not the whole family, because Jacob stayed in Cyprus. Lukas trying hard to look tall...

Without a spirit level, it's STILL not conclusive if Lukas has quite passed up Marie in height yet. I think the book slants slightly to the right, but it also appears to be angled slightly back, so...I don't know. His shoulders definitely seem higher, anyway. By Christmas, the next time we see Marie, I'm sure that Lukas will have gotten another half centimeter or so and it won't be a debatable topic anymore. He's been slow to take off growing, but has grown quite a bit in the last year, finally.

And...one last photo, of the girls coloring. They spent a LOT of time doing that, both in San Bruno and while camping, and it was such a peaceful activity that my sister even lent us some nice pencils and a mandala book, but they unfortunately haven't been as interested here in Costa Rica.

On the Wednesday my sister took Helen and me to Target again, to look for socks for me (unsuccessfully--I was annoyingly picky, because I don't need socks in general, I wanted some specific running ones like I've found at Lidl in Cyprus occasionally), and to get more underpants for Helen, since the first ones we got were too small. (So now Elisabeth has a very large supply.) I also fixed the insides of my walking shoes with duct tape, which worked very well.

And at some point, we loaded ourselves and lots of stuff into my parents' RV and my mother's car, and set off for Santa Cruz...and so the next blogpost will be about the camping trip, but yet again, I hear small people stirring, so it's time to close the computer.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Traveling, Part One: Germany

Jörn and Lukas left Cyprus way back on September 13th, to go to an art conference in Germany. The three younger girls and I then flew to Germany (via Belgrade and Berlin to finally arrive in Düsseldorf: exactly 13 hours of travel when a direct flight would be about 4 1/2 hours, but saving lots of money) September 21st, which is when I got the camera back in my possession. And here it's already nearly an entire month later, we've been in Costa Rica for over two weeks, and I figured if I'm going to blog about our trip at all, I'd better get started!

Jörn and Lukas had stayed with friends during the conference, then Tuesday (19th) they went to the Daniells' in Angermund, Düsseldorf, where another friend also visited them, unfortunately before the rest of us arrived.

Düsseldorf is where I lived for my first three years and a bit in Germany, just down the street from Margaret and Phil Daniell. It was through the house group that met at their house that Jörn and I met each other. :-)

Thursday evening was dinner and hanging out and bed, and no photos. Their flat/apartment has only two bedrooms, but is perfectly laid out for guests and we've stayed there several times for a night or two. The three girls and Jörn and I all slept in the upstairs guest room, and Lukas slept on a mattress in the living room. Friday morning the children and Margaret and Phil played outside (there is a huge back garden) while I did a major re-packing: Jörn had sold a couple of paintings and a sculpture, so suddenly had LOTS of room in his suitcase, and we also didn't want to take everything with us to our church retreat that weekend, partly because it simply wouldn't fit in a vehicle. Once I'd finished, we all went for a walk.

This bridge is right at the entrance to the woods, maybe a five-minute walk from where I lived as a nanny. Margaret and Phil have moved now, but not very far away and live nearly as close to it as they did then. We played Pooh Sticks, which Lukas pointed out happily that we ALWAYS do.
 In the photo above, see that moss-covered pipe on the bottom left? It's fairly wide and nearly flat, and I started to walk across it...and very quickly felt very dizzy and had to stand still for quite awhile before I could back slowly off of it. That was rather annoying and embarrassing, and then I realized the reason: a few days earlier, I had gotten new glasses. This is my third prescription of varifocals (progressive lenses), and the lower portion, for reading, was what had changed the most since the last prescription. So when I tried to look down at my feet, it was impossible, as they were just a big blur. Oh well.

Here's the only posed photo we took--Phil's head is just barely visible there behind/between Lukas and Jörn, but it's nice of Margaret. The only evidence there is that I was at the Daniells' was that someone must have been holding the camera.

 As we continued our walk, Elisabeth got upset about something, I don't remember what, and stormed off and sat down. Lukas was very sweet with her. And look at all that GREEN!!! 

Friday afternoon our friend Christian came, and we loaded all the luggage and all of us into his car and Phil's car, and drove to our church, where we stored all of the suitcases. Then the six of us and our carry-ons fit into the car with Christian, and we said goodbye to Phil and headed off to the church retreat, less than an hour away.

The retreat was in a hostel in the mountains, and it was beautiful. And for us, coming from Cyprus, a little bit chilly, as evidenced by Lukas NOT in shorts, but jeans, and Helen playing chess with her hands inside her t-shirt!

We did take more photos at the retreat, but all of them have photos of other people's children. We had a great time re-connecting with friends from when we lived in Germany as well as friends who were just acquaintances when we left but we've gotten to know better since, and meeting lots of new people.

On each of the mornings (Saturday and Sunday) I also went for a long walk, which was wonderful. It didn't occur to me to take the camera, however. I was also a little puzzled about my heels hurting the second day, and about having holes in the heels of both of my socks, which I'd only worn maybe once or twice before. When I looked in my shoes, I discovered holes on the inside almost down to the soles! The soles themselves and the entire rest of the shoe look practically new, still, so that was very strange. I've never had a shoe wear like that before.

Christian unfortunately had to leave on Saturday, but left us his car. Sunday afternoon Katie left with our friends Gary and Elisabeth, leaving five of us to take Christian's car to go pick up our luggage (which then fit in the car because there were only five of us, not seven), and then go to Neukirchen-Vluyn, where Gary and Elisabeth live. Once again, I spent a lot of time there re-packing, after doing laundry, which was a nice treat. And once again, we took no photos, but had a very nice time with them.

Monday morning at something like 6:00 we loaded ourselves and our luggage into two cars (theirs and Christian's) and drove to the airport in Düsseldorf. Our flight wasn't until 10:50, but security personnel were on strike, so we were told to get to the airport three hours before our flight. At the airport, it occurred to us that we ought to take at least ONE photo, and hey, I'm even in this one, as it was taken by Lukas. Katie and my Elisabeth don't look all that pleased about being awake, but Helen sure looks chipper!

So, Düsseldorf to London, London to Dallas, and Dallas to San Francisco: another 22 hours of traveling instead of a direct flight that would have cost three to four times as much.

To be continued...but who knows when, because I hear children stirring.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Books finished in August 2017

When I opened my notebook (made of paper, people!) to write (with a ballpoint pen!) the titles of the last three books I finished, I was very surprised to see that I had already finished three other books this month. It sure didn't FEEL like I'd read that many, because the last two weeks were totally consumed with one book that I spent approximately 25 hours with, and didn't even really read. But I'll explain when I get there, in the meantime, here are the books I completed in August...

Farewell to the East End, Jennifer Worth  I'd never even heard of Jennifer Worth until my husband gave me Call a Midwife last Christmas, and then a friend lent me the second book, and then I found this third one in the give-away pile at the library just before the library closed for the summer! (Aside: the library opens again this Saturday! Yay!) Again, I enjoyed the writing style and the stories, in one of my favorite genres: memoirs that read like fiction.

Gypsy, Lesley Pearse  This was a story of the kind I very much enjoy, historical fiction about people braving the trip to the New World in the 19th century, and then even beyond, to Alaska. I can't actually remember having read anything about the Alaskan Gold Rush before, except that it happened. I really could have done without the rather explicit bedroom scenes that seemed dropped into the story just for the sake of having them, rather than to further the plot, and without them, I could have handed this book to Katie to read. Also, too many people died, which I suppose was pretty realistic, but it sometimes felt like the author was killing them off to prove a point, not because it had to happen. And I felt that one rather main character changed character rather suddenly just to make it easy for the author, but that was one of only very few moments during the book when I remembered I was reading a book, rather than living in England, traveling across North America, climbing a mountain, etc. It was awesome reading this in the summer--I was startled sometimes to look up and realize that it was hot out, because I'd thought I was shivering in the snow! Despite my comments of what I DIDN'T like, what I enjoyed stood out to me much more.

Change of Heart, Charlotte Bingham  Parts of this book felt totally surreal, all the more so because of how realistic most of it felt. Unusually for a novel (at least, of those I've read), and even more unusually for a novel written by a woman, the main character is a man. Or at least...the main character for the first part and the last part. The middle part (I don't have the book in front of me and can't say what fractions these parts are) is not exactly a flashback, but a backtracking to fill in the childhood of the woman to whom he is attracted. I found it frustrating how dense some of the characters seemed, not realizing what was going on, but also thought that was probably a better reflection of the complexities of real life than the books that have everybody always understanding everything immediately. And I liked the ending, although I had to read the last several pages several times to figure out what exactly had happened!

Housewives Can Change the World, Ann S. Eagle  I received this book from the author at the end of July and started reading it immediately. This is her story (but not her real name) from childhood until about seven years ago. The combination of title and content brought somewhat the same feelings as a book I read many years ago that was written by a homeschooling mother of ten, called A Mom Just Like You. In that case, although I enjoyed the book, it was a bit difficult to believe that a mother of ten, who was homeschooling all of her children and whose husband was traveling a lot AND who wrote a book, could realistically claim to be anything at all like me. I think I had three children at the time and couldn't write a page, much less a book! (On the other hand, now that I have six children and the youngest is seven years old, I also realize that time runs differently when they're all small and many things ARE easier now than it was then with only half as many...but not all things.) In this case, "Ann" had rather more challenges to overcome than I've ever had, and moved as a married adult to a foreign country, which I think is considerably more difficult than to do so as a single 20-year-old, which is what I did. She also moved to a considerably more different culture than I did. She claims that she's "just a housewife," but certainly appears to be more involved in the work than I've ever been. (Not to mention that I refuse to call myself a housewife: I am not married to my house. But I do realize that that's just a matter of semantics.) I was fascinated by the story and then misplaced the book not just in the middle of a chapter, but the middle of an emergency scene, and didn't get the book back until the day before yesterday! I didn't actually think there was any chance at all of finishing the book that day, because I had way too much other stuff to do (see the next book...), but ended up reading for nearly an hour during the girls' piano lessons, then drove Jacob somewhere that evening and had to wait for him "just for ten minutes," which turned out to be just over half an hour and exactly enough time to finish the book.

Intercession through Creative Expression, Jörn Lange  You may be very interested in this book written by my husband, which is available at Amazon and at CreateSpace, but please do NOT order it until at least the 5th of September or so, because the version currently available is NOT the final proofread version! The new one was uploaded in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday (29th to 30th), but could take 5 business days to actually have the changes. I wasn't entirely sure whether I should include this book, because although I read every single word of it, much of it out loud, and took approximately 25 hours over 12 days to do so (over half of that in the last three days of that time), I can't say that I took a whole lot of it in. I wasn't actually going to have anything to do with the proofreading of this book, nor did my husband want me to, because, so he claims, he wanted "British English" rather than American. But when I saw the proof copy and saw about ten errors on the first page, I more or less begged to proofread it, although I do not at all enjoy proofreading and am sure that I missed many things. And, of course, with very few exceptions, I much prefer American spelling, so it wasn't like I was even going to notice things like "realize"...until I saw "realizing" and "realising" both in the very same paragraph. The biggest issue wasn't errors so much as inconsistencies, in punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. Our friend Richard spent countless hours on the layout of the book (and also designed the awesome cover), during which he found and corrected plenty of typos himself although he wasn't even intentionally reading the text, and then countless more making all the changes I'd marked. Richard is very good at very many things, and one of them is using "search and replace" effectively. So they searched for the letter-combinations "ize" and "izing" and if the word was realize or symbolize or such, he changed it to realise or symbolise. And if it was size or seize, he of course did know better than to change it to sise or seise, although that would have been interesting. ;-) Likewise capitalized Nouns (my husband is German, and in German, ALL nouns are capitalized...) I definitely should add that the parts of the book that got through to me I found quite interesting, and not too much to disagree with theologically. It's not at all the type of book I would read normally, but I think it's an excellent book for the people to whom it will be interesting, namely, artists who seek to use their arts (painting, dancing, composing, etc.) in worship and intercession. I apologize (not apologise) in advance for typos and inconsistencies I missed.

It's a Sunrise, Not a Sunset, Ann S. Eagle  After finishing the proofreading of Jörn's book Tuesday night (August 29th) just before 10:30 p.m., and handing the final page to Richard while he was working on the third to last page (timing...), I most certainly did not expect to finish reading another book this month, or at least, not one that I wasn't nearly finished with anyway. However, yesterday the children wanted to go to the playground to meet with some friends who have been here for the summer and are going home on Sunday. I do not DO the playground in the summer. But it's been a little bit cooler (well, less hot) the last few days, and there is some shade there, so I finally agreed to take them, with the understanding that I was going to sit and read and was not going to play. (I do usually play when we go to the playground, just ignoring the signs that have some random comments about ages on them...) So I took this book with me and read for over two hours, and at the risk of using Christianese, it really "spoke to me." I must admit, that after 25 hours proofreading one 300-page book, I had considerably more sympathy with proofing errors in this book than I had had while reading the first one by this author, and was able to appreciate the content more. Either way, I think I could relate personally to this book more than to the first anyway, because it's about Ann in the last several years, as a mature woman with children of ages similar to my children's ages, facing changes in her life similar to ones that we may be facing soon. So when the children all wanted to meet up again in the afternoon at the beach, I said yes, as long as I could stay in the shade. (I normally only go to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon/evening: in 8 1/2 years in Cyprus, yesterday was the SECOND TIME I was at the beach during the day.) And so I got to read for another hour or so (we were there for two hours, but the time was much more interrupted, with keeping an eye on the children, and talking with them, and talking with the other children's grandmother, etc.), and then tonight after Helen and Elisabeth had gone to bed (and after I'd finished reading the last chapter of Peter Pan to them--now THERE'S a weird book!!), I actually finished it.

I'm fairly sure that I read some books on my Kindle this month, but didn't write them down. I have another three weeks to read books on paper, and then it will be pretty much only my Kindle for at least...well, I don't really know how long. That's another story. Which I don't know yet.

Oh yes, one paragraph in particular in It's a Sunrise, Not a Sunset that I felt like I could have written:

"Have you ever been so hurt, disappointed, disillusioned, without hope of any reconciliation and yet not giving up on God? It's a weird feeling. To have peace with God, feel secure in His love, not blame Him for all that happened around you, yet feel absolutely hopeless with your surrounding circumstances."

Yep.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Days Four and Five of just Elisabeth and Mommy at home

Our five-day week alone is up, and we enjoyed it very much.

Yesterday and today involved more games of Enchanted Forest, Ticket to Ride, and Hase und Igel. I might be done with those games for a little while. Also did more laundry (I'm caught up!!!!), finished cleaning and sorting the refrigerator (tomatoes from three different bags are now in ONE plastic container, onions from two bags in ONE box in the door, carrots from TWO bags as well as all of the cucumbers and one zucchini in a drawer, all the bell peppers in the other drawer, plums that I didn't know existed in one container, except for the four or five I ate...), did more proofreading, made halloumi bread (yesterday, and there is still some left today!), cleaned the bathroom (but nothing else), washed dishes (takes two minutes once a day for two of us), and continued reading Little House in the Big Woods to Elisabeth.

Yesterday we also went to WOW! Action Park (an indoor playground) with a friend, getting in for half price. It was nice chatting with that friend and another who was there, but it's so LOUD in there...when we left two hours later, I realized my ears were ringing. We then drove to Sue and Richard's house to help with an airport run. There were four people (their son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren) needing to go to the airport, along with their luggage for two years, and they and the luggage wouldn't all fit in the one car with the driver (or without the driver, for that matter.) Three months ago we'd helped collect them from the airport, but I'd used Jörn's new car, which has lots of space. Jörn's car is parked in the north at the moment, and the luggage wasn't going to fit in my car, so I drove their big van. I've driven it often for deliveries with Jacob, so am fairly comfortable with it, and am insured on that but not on their car anyway. Daniel (and Elisabeth) rode with me, and at the airport we got out and said goodbye to everyone. I returned the van, while Sue and Richard stayed at the airport for a bit to say goodbye. That was my first and probably only airport run in August--just squeaked by to not break my record of having been to the airport at least once every single month of every year from at least 2012 onward! (It's very possible I did that in previous years, as well, but 2012 was when I noticed it.)

Today we also had some diversion, going to a friend's house about 10 minutes away. Elisabeth played very happily with their children, and I probably talked off the ear off my friend. Elisabeth and I have gotten along very well this week, but I've been somewhat starved of conversation with adults... We got there at about 10:00 and didn't leave until after 2:00, at which point Elisabeth and I headed for Souvlaki Express, just around the corner from home, for the promised and long-awaited treat of "eating out." I was happy that Elisabeth opted to bring it home to eat, though, as it was hot and noisy there.

At 5:00 we met Sue and Richard at the beach--from being seven of them (the four who left today and their other son were all there with them last week) and four of us (only four because three children were at youth group) last week, we were down to two of them and two of us today. I played in the water with Elisabeth for awhile, but then she went off playing on her own, as well. I think the fact that Sue and I were talking was boring to her, but she didn't whine or complain, just occupied herself otherwise. Richard ended up in conversation with an acquaintance of mine (the mother of a drama classmate of Elisabeth's, but I've interacted with her more on Facebook than in real life) we happened to meet there.

And then at 6:30 the campers called that they were ready to be collected. Sue and Richard offered to take Elisabeth home so I could leave quickly and I thought she would jump at the chance, but instead, when I suggested that to her she came out of the water immediately and was ready to go faster than I was! She really missed Katie, and still misses Helen, who will be home tomorrow night.

So, five people under the roof tonight, and my bed to myself. (Just for the record, Elisabeth no longer sleeps Desperate-Octopus style. However, she does still do Starfish very well when she's in the bed alone, so I had to fold her up to find space for myself. She flung her leg over me one time only, which isn't bad for four nights, and when I removed it, she rolled over. And she talks in her sleep, as do all of my other children and both of their parents, but I didn't understand any specific words except for possibly "table".)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Days Two and Three of just Elisabeth and Mommy home

Yesterday was a nice full day. I noticed Elisabeth getting out of bed at about 7:00, but I carefully kept my eyes closed (looked at the time after she'd left the room) so she wouldn't notice I was awake, and then I fell back asleep. I didn't wake up until Elisabeth knocked on my "door" (my bedroom doesn't actually have a door, but the children are supposed to knock on the bookcase outside of the curtain, or at least say "knock, knock"...) just after 8:00.

On Monday I'd given each of the camp-goers some little juice boxes, which are a rare treat, and Elisabeth of course wanted some too, but I told her that she was having enough treats on Monday and she could have hers on Tuesday. She put it in the freezer on Monday and reminded me Enough that I'd said she could have it on Tuesday. She'd asked if she could have it after breakfast, and I said that as far as I was concerned, she could have it WITH breakfast.

So...Tuesday morning just after 8:00 she informed me that she'd gotten her frozen juice out, cut it open, eaten half of it, put half of it back in the freezer, cleaned up the mess on the table, and had a bath, because she'd also gotten juice all over herself. She hadn't washed her dishes, though, she told me, because one of the shelves for the refrigerator was balanced across the whole sink, soaking. Since she doesn't normally ever wash dishes, it hadn't occurred to me that the sink needed to be kept free for her...

She wanted to play a game with me, but agreed that I could get up, have a shower, get dressed, and even have breakfast. As it turned out that she hadn't had breakfast yet either, just the juice, she also had breakfast.

Then we played Hase und Igel again, which I won by only three moves. She likes to take the chance option on that game more than I do, which means that my carefully planned strategy sometimes gets wasted!

A little after 10:00 we left for Sue's house, where we go every Tuesday morning. Elisabeth and Sue's three-year-old grandson played quite happily together, and it wasn't difficult to accept the invitation to stay for lunch. Elisabeth should have had a piano lesson at noon, but had adamantly refused to go without her sisters.

We left there at 2:30 and stopped by the house briefly to collect our swimsuits and towels, and then drove half an hour to Mazotos where other friends live. Actually, last week was the first time we'd ever socialized with them, the main person in the family with whom we'd had contact being their two-year-old daughter, Mi. I'd babysat her two afternoons a week for the last year, and two or three times her four-year-old brother, Ma, as well, but had never spent time with their mother except when we first met, and for drop-off and pick-up, and had only met their father, very briefly, twice.

When we arrived last week, Mi had first looked shocked and clung to her mother, but once my children had jumped in the pool and I'd sat down and been handed a frappe, it was easy to see the wheels turning in her head. Normally, my appearance meant the disappearance of her mother, which she was fine with at OUR house, but certainly couldn't allow to happen at HER house. "But...the children are all in the pool, and She-ah is sitting down, so maybe Mama won't disappear?" After she'd looked back and forth between the others in the pool and me on the sofa several times, she then climbed up on my lap and requested some of the games we play, and she stayed with me most of the time we were there. :-) Ma also had plenty of fun with us, and I got a message from his mother the next day that he wanted to know when we were coming again. Also, when we were leaving last week, he was very disappointed that we hadn't played trains with him, so I'd promised him we'd play trains with him when we came again.

When Elisabeth and I arrived yesterday, there was no hesitation at all on Mi's part, and she cuddled with me almost the whole time. I read her one book in German (actually, a book of songs, which I sang to her...) about 15 or 20 times, and I also got to read her a book in English, as well as one in Hungarian. No, I do not speak ANY Hungarian. Mi giggled all through it. We also played with trains, and Mi and I played with a balancing game. The children were in and out of the pool, and then after dinner (Hungarian pancakes with a meat filling that were scrumptious) the three adults joined them. We didn't end up leaving their house until 10:00!

Elisabeth slept well last night and I woke up before she did this morning. :-)

Today, in contrast, we never left the house. I lost count of how many times we played Hase und Igel, but only played Ticket to Ride once (Elisabeth wasn't very happy that I won 177 to 100 and claimed I cheated) and Enchanted Forest once (Elisabeth won that one, of course). I also finished proofreading the third chapter of Jörn's book and Elisabeth had a very long bath, and during dinner I cleaned yet another shelf of the refrigerator. (The last shelf is in the drying rack now, so tomorrow I'll do the drawers. It's an exciting life. I also hung up one load of laundry and put another on to wash.) After dinner we were in my room looking at some things on the computer when we heard someone calling to us. It was three GROWN-UPS who were here to pick up something. It was nice to see them and get to say hi (and bye--two of them are leaving Cyprus tomorrow), but they didn't have time to come in. They probably sensed my desperation, too, which would increase their need to hurry off...

Finally, I read the first chapter of "Little House in the Big Woods" to Elisabeth (she read part of it to me, but she wants me to read it to her, because I've read it to all the other children, so she thinks she should have a turn, too), and she officially went to bed. Since she claims she doesn't go to sleep for hours anyway (not true, of course, but it's true that she doesn't go to sleep right away), I told her that she obviously wouldn't mind me doing my Greek lesson, and she couldn't really protest. LOL

I did get to talk to another grown-up today, when my sister Erin phoned. Elisabeth was very miffed and not getting to talk with her, and after I got off of the phone, she said, "It's not FAIR! Not even letting me talk to my AUNT! She's my AUNT, which means she's IMPORTANT." But she did indeed stay quiet through the phone call, which Erin had asked her to do, promising that she'll speak with her the next time she phones in the morning.

But I'm going just a little bit stir-crazy. The only concrete plans we have tomorrow are driving someone to the airport, and Friday Elisabeth has been invited somewhere, but I haven't, and don't know what I'll do during that time. I can only proof-read for a maximum of an hour or so at a time, sometimes not that long. We're probably going to the beach Friday afternoon with friends (two GROWN-UPS!! Yay!!), and the three campers get back Friday evening. I imagine that on Saturday I'll be missing the quiet week we've had. Elisabeth is a great companion--never whiny or bored, spending a lot of time with me and talking, but also wanting to go off and do her own thing as well--but I've simply never had so much quiet time in my whole life. It's still WEIRD.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Day One of just Elisabeth and Mommy at home

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.

WEEEIIIIRRRDDD!!!!

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...


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books finished in July 2017

It's the first of August and I'm already blogging the books finished in July!! There IS such a thing as catching up!!!

Fools' Gold, Philippa Gregory This is the third book in "The Order of Darkness" series, and although I continued to be irritated by the denseness of some characters, I was also getting to like quite a few of the characters by this point, and was very disappointed when I went on-line to discover that Philippa Gregory has not yet published more books in the series, although she said the fourth one would be out in 2016.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory  Having read the three supposedly "children's" books by this author, I finally picked up one of Marie's books. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I know I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn at some point as a teenager, but I don't really remember why. Especially as everything I've read since indicates that she wasn't a particularly nice person at all! This is mostly about Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, and there are many more details about her relationship with Henry VIII (and many other women's relationships with him...) than I was happy about. Also, enormous liberties were taken with the historic facts, more so than I feel justified in historic fiction. In a way, the story made out of the (not all that many) known facts reminded me of a movie made from a book. It was more that the facts inspired a novel than that Philippa Gregory actually set out to write a plausible "it could have been this way" story.

The Truth About Melody Browne, Lisa Jewell  It was quite fascinating to find out about the main character's childhood at the same time she, as an adult, did. She'd lost virtually all of her memories from before the age of nine, and is completely surprised by them as they start coming back. The more she remembers, the more she goes searching for more memories and explanations.

Blue-Eyed Son, The Story of an Adoption, Nicky Campbell  I think this may have been a book that Jörn gave me long ago. In any case, it had been on my shelf for a long time, but I'd never read it. This is yet another British celebrity of whom I'd never heard (like Alan Titchmarsh), with a writing style I like very much, writing memoir-type non-fiction. It's mostly a very uplifting book about his search for his birth parents. There's nothing tremendously traumatic, but certainly issues that give him serious pause for thought.

The Potluck Club, Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson  Finally, a free book for the Kindle which I enjoyed very much! I got a little bit confused at first, with each chapter being from the viewpoint of a different person, but as I got to know the characters, I was able to know immediately who was talking without the name even being said. I never quite understood the point of the existence of the reporter guy, though, but at least his chapters (between almost all of the other chapters, which alternated between half a dozen or so women, all in first person) were very short.

Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn  None of the other books I've included this year (except some of the books I've read to children, and those I only listed in January) were books I'd read before. We went up to Rocky Point (a private campground in the Troodos Mountains--this was our seventh year in a row to go!) last week, for five days, and I READ. I'd read a tiny bit of The Potluck Club before we went up, but I finished that by reading it at night after the others were asleep and I couldn't use a regular light. (I love my Kindle Fire for reading at night!) I do read at home most evenings, too, but less, because I first spend time on the computer (such as right now...it's 10:54 p.m. at this moment...) And I read this book, as well, one that I read when we went last year, and which I was pleased to see was still on the shelf in the lodge. Although I haven't included any other books I've re-read, I just had to include this one, partly because I enjoyed it very much, and partly because it almost didn't feel like reading the same book as a year ago. Last year, it was just amusing. This year, I saw so much deeper meaning in it, about how easy it is to get stuck having to go along with something that you totally disagree with, how easily that starts and how nearly impossible it is to escape. Basically, the entire book consists of letters written by Ella Minnow Pea, her cousin, her parents, and a few other people. They live on the island of Nollup, a utopian (quickly becoming dystopian, of course) society off the coast of North or South Carolina. (I don't remember which, but it's not important.) Their country is named after the person who came up with the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs," which includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet, and they of course have a monument to him, with the sentence on it, in tiles. And then the tile with the Z falls off. The council decides that this is a sign from Nollup that they should no longer use the letter Z...and the story goes on from there with fewer and fewer letters available for use, and almost nobody left on the island. The people who really feel it is absurd and have enough guts to put actions to their beliefs all emigrate or are exiled, leaving people who increasingly realize that they're in trouble but feel helpless to do anything. Which reminds me of a LOT of situations throughout history, and at this moment particularly, of the situation for home educating families in countries where home education is not allowed...

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson I borrowed this the day before we left, started it in the mountains on Monday, and by Friday had read about 450 pages (as well as the other two books, and playing a lot of games with my family, and taking naps, and going for short walks (no hikes this year, not one!!), and hanging out with people, etc. The last 125 pages took me Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning before church, mostly in hurried moments of a few pages at a time. I very much enjoy Bill Bryson's writing style, the first book of his I read being Mother Tongue:English and How It Got That Way. Even in that first book, though, I knew that I didn't agree with everything he says, but that doesn't bother me. (I don't even agree with everything I say...) Overall, the book was a fascinating history of HOW people have researched and come to conclusions about many aspects of science. I did find it amusing, though, just how many times a chapter basically went, "First they thought this because of that. Then they realized they were wrong and thought that instead because of the other thing. Then it became clear that that wasn't right either, so they..." etc. over and over again, until the final sentence of, "But now we know this to be the fact." Really? After just spending a whole chapter explaining how many people sincerely believed something to be true, and then it was disproved?

I got in trouble three times that I remember in second grade. (Not counting all the times I got in trouble for reading. That was just constant, all through school.) One of the times was because I talked back to my mother in the hearing of my teacher, and my teacher gave me an extra page of math to do. Totally logical. Yep. Once was because we were given brown, orange, and yellow construction paper to make an owl, and the eyes were supposed to be yellow and the beak and feet were supposed to be orange, but I insisted on doing them the other way around. I was Wrong. That was Bad. (However, I got an A on the poem I wrote about it for a college English class.) And the other time was because when the teacher said that brontosaurus was the largest land creature that had ever lived, I asked how they could know that there wasn't anything bigger that just hadn't been found yet? I got told off for talking back. A couple of years later, we learned about several bigger dinosaurs. And MANY years later, I learned that "brontosaurus" didn't ever actually exist, because the specimen that was labeled as such was actually the body of one (already known) creature, with the head of another (already known) creature. Maybe. And much more recently, I researched some of the dates of discoveries, and learned not only that the so-called brontosaurus had been disproved a couple of years before I was in second grade, bigger dinosaurs had been discovered more than 70 years before I was in second grade!!. And even more recently (2015--I had to google to check on that, though), brontosaurus has been reinstated as having existed. They now "know." As they "knew" before. Basically, my take on it is that I wasn't there and I don't know, and that's cool.

Books finished in June 2017

June looks rather better than May as far as books finished, but at least two of them were started before June (one of them many months before), and one was very short.

The Very Thought of You, Rosie Alison I've read SO many books set during World War II, and a majority of them set mainly in England, and this is another one. It's also far from the first one I've read about children sent to the country to avoid the bombing in London. This one still stands out for many reasons, though. For one thing, it keeps switching points of view, so it's hard to say that the eight-year-old girl who first seems to be the main character IS the main character, but although most of the other characters are adults, and the book is intended for adults, the child's voice is very real and realistic, a child without being childish. This isn't a book about everything ending up wonderful, though. I had a premonition that certain people would die, who did, but other deaths took me totally by surprise. I think the thing that bothered me the most was the completely omniscient viewpoint. I don't mind when the reader knows what a particular character is thinking when other characters don't know, and when the author switches back and forth between characters (and these were not at all confusing, which some books are), but I think I generally feel that that's acceptable because that character COULD have written it down or told someone later...but it bugs me when there are things that nobody could possibly have known, such as a person's last thoughts before they died.

Changeling, Philippa Gregory Marie left a pile of Philippa Gregory books here, and a friend was here when Katie picked one up and asked if she could read it. I didn't know the book, but our friend Dena happened to be here at that moment and suggested that it might not be appropriate, but said she had some other books by that author, which were written for children. This is the first of the three books Dena gave Katie, and Katie talked me into reading it. I wouldn't have said it was "for children," so much, as I'd say Katie (just turned 12 last week) would be more or less the minimum age for this book...except then later I read one of Marie's books that is targeted at adults, and all of a sudden, Changeling (and the sequels) seemed totally innocent... Anyway, this book is the first of "The Order of Darkness" series, set in the 15th century in Europe (at least, the first three books are, and no more have been published as of yet). While it (and the others) CAN be read independently, there's definitely a story thread going through all of them that make them better to read one after another, and some plot points that only make sense when taking them together.

The Wings of a Falcon, Cynthia Voigt I have maybe a dozen or so of Cynthia Voigt's books, most of them from when I was a teenager. Homecoming is probably her most well-known one, contemporary and totally realistic fiction, along with its several sequels or spin-offs. Jackaroo was always my favorite of her books, though, set in an undetermined place or time, but giving the impression of being Medieval times in Europe, and never entirely clear about whether there was an element of fantasy or not. This book I picked up from the give-aways at the library, very excited to see a Cynthia Voigt book I didn't have (and the price was right!), then even more so when I noticed it said that it was a "companion" (not a sequel, but somehow related) to Jackaroo. I don't remember when I started this...probably last year. I found this very hard to get into, starting with a Lord-of-the-Flies situation, really (and THAT's a book I HATED...), and it mostly stayed on the shelf next to my bed. Sometimes I would pick it up and read a page or two, usually having to backtrack to figure out what on earth (or wherever this is set...) was going on and who the people were. (It didn't help any that one of the main characters didn't even have a name for quite awhile...) But at some point in June, I started to get into the book and I probably read 90% of it over two or three days. The connection to Jackaroo is extremely loose (I think the name of the possibly mythical character of Jackaroo is mentioned once, and that's it), but I take it that it's the same country, more clearly a made-up country in this book. I did enjoy the book...mostly. One person died who most certainly should NOT have died, but then, not a single one of Cynthia Voigt's books go for unequivocal happy endings, although possibly Jackaroo comes the closest. (Maybe that's why that's one of my favorite books. I like neatly tied up and basically happy endings. Real life doesn't have many of those, and I read to have something DIFFERENT from real life...)

Stormbringers, Philippa Gregory This is the second "Order of Darkness" book, and the "Order" gets "darker". I had many moments of wanting to tell off dense characters. But it was compelling enough to finish...

At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider This one is proof that my husband reads my blog! I'm pretty sure I never mentioned the book to him, but I did mention it in a blogpost, and all of a sudden, he presented me with this book. :-) Tsh's family (and no, her name is not a pseudonym nor is that a typo...her parents had decided that her name didn't need vowels) traveled around the world for one year, and this is a chronicle of that trip, with quite a lot more than just "we went there and did that." I enjoyed it very much.

A Miracle in the Making, Patricia Batoba Jones Well, once again...there's a reason that some books are only available free for Kindle. My main complaint about this book was that it would have seriously benefited from some decent proofreading. From ANY proofreading. Anyone can make typos, anyone can write run-on sentences, anyone can use non-standard grammar...but if one is going to get a book published, I think it's reasonable to at least make an attempt at having it proofread. This was about the author having a micro-preemie who (spoiler alert) survived, and that's wonderful. And her own spiritual journey during that time. Cool. Completely the kind of book I like, and with a happy ending. But exhausting to read, because there wasn't a page in it without multiple typos and weird grammar. And sentences starting with conjunctions. Fragments, too. It reads like a collection of blogposts. Maybe it was.

Books finished in May 2017

So now that it's August 1st, maybe I'll blog the books I read (or at least finished) in May, June, AND July??

Starting with May, anyway...

Ah...and now that I've gotten my list out, this is impressively short.

the totally and completely perfect even when you feel like the worst mom ever, Michelle Wilson Yes, that's how the title was written. Very irritating. And the book was too. I shouldn't even count it. I don't know how long it was. It was another free book for the Kindle that was worth what I paid...

Running Wild, Victoria Clayton This book on the other hand, was awesome. Even though there are similarities (of course) in style and plot, Victoria Clayton's books don't seem "same-y" to me. Yes, there was one rather major plot point that I think was meant to startle people but I guessed pretty much immediately, but that didn't spoil it. And there were a LOT of characters that really beggared belief (one of which I also guessed very nearly immediately was the person I thought he was, even though the main character didn't have a clue), but it still managed to feel realistic.

And...that was it. I did start or continue other books which got finished later (or haven't been finished yet), but May was rather consumed with drama rehearsals. Mondays I helped in the class for three- and four-year-olds (okay, no rehearsal, just an hour of FUN); Tuesdays when I could I helped in Helen's class (mostly ages 8-9, I think), rehearsing The Giant's Giant Pizza (Helen made an awesome queen), although I usually could only help for part or not at all because I was babysitting a little girl; Wednesdays I helped in Elisabeth's class (ages 6-8, although Elisabeth was the only one who was six, and she turned seven the day before the exam performance), rehearsing Daffodil Scissors; Thursdays I had adorable little girl again as well as going to Midi-Club with Helen and Elisabeth, where I sometimes helped (and Katie and Lukas had their rehearsal for Shut Up, followed by Jacob's for Nuts, but I wasn't involved in either of those at all); Fridays I only had to show up ten minutes before the end of Elisabeth's other drama class (for ages 5-7) to watch their weekly performance; Saturdays there were a few rehearsals; and Sundays there were rehearsals with Helen and with Elisabeth and sometimes for Katie and Lukas. Then the performances were on two Sundays in May, plus the exam performances (of all four plays) in June.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Books finished in April 2017

July is nearing its end, so why not finally blog the books I read (or finished) in April?

Folly, Alan Titchmarsh  Yet another book by this author (also given to me for my birthday by Sue), I enjoyed it very much, definitely my favorite of his books that I've read so far. Most of the chapters alternate between the years 2007 and 1949 and it was fascinating putting together some pieces, suspecting some things before the characters did, but mostly having "aha!" moments about the same time as they did.

Finding You, Giselle Green This is the sequel to Little Miracles, which I read sometime last year. I was EXTREMELY disappointed with the ending of Little Miracles, which ended without solving the mystery of nearly the entire book. Sue admitted that she knew the answer to the one burning question, and I begged her to tell me, which she finally did. I don't remember if she found it out by reading this book, or by looking it up on-line. Either way, despite having a wonderful writing style, I highly disapproved of Giselle Green's ending! I like tied-up ends, or at least, the hope of them happening. This book answers that one burning question in one fell swoop, and poses a whole lot more. While leaving the ending open as to what might happen next, it was still a satisfying ending. In particular, very early in the book I thought, "Hmm...it's interesting that the trauma of this situation would mimic that particular diagnosis." It turned out that it wasn't the case at all...that particular diagnosis was actually correct.

Crown of Blood, The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, Nicola Tallis This book rather dominated April. The first two books had both been started in March, and then Jörn gave me this one as a late birthday present right at the beginning of April. I like history in general. I love historical fiction. I very much like biographies that READ like historical fiction. This didn't. This was loooooooong. And yet...compelling. Just as I was deciding I was giving up on it (like, 135 times or so...), there would suddenly be a new, intriguing fact or link or something, and I kept reading. For at least a few weeks after finally finishing it, I could have told you just about anything you might have wanted to know (or not) about Lady Jane Grey and her nine (or 13, depending on how you count) as Queen of England, and why so many paintings are inaccurate, and what kind of things probably happened and probably didn't. I think I've probably forgotten most of it now.

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth  This was a free book for the Kindle, and although I'd heard of Sojourner Truth, I didn't really know anything about her. She was born a slave and escaped to freedom in 1826, only half a year before all slavery was ended in New York anyway. She never learned to read (her books were dictated) and she never stopped fighting for abolition, and after the legal end of slavery, for equal rights for former slaves, for women, and for anybody and everybody who was oppressed. This book was published in 1850, well before slavery was finally abolished completely in the United States. Quite fascinating.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Books finished in March 2017

Since I wrote them down (at least some of them...), I figure I may as well go ahead and list the books I finished reading in March this year. I'm curious how many of them I'll even remember!

Dance With Me, Victoria Clayton I continue to enjoy Victoria Clayton's style, although by the third or fourth book of hers I read, I knew certain things about the plot for the whole book by the end of the first page. Still, I don't mind predictable when it's well written (which this is) and has lots of surprises despite the overall predictability, and just the right number of loose ends are tied up.

Rosie, Alan Titchmarsh I discovered Alan Titchmarsh at the library a year or so ago, never having heard of him (he's apparently well-known in the U.K. as a TV gardener...), and really enjoyed the couple of books I read then. My friend Sue, who is better at remembering what interests me than I am, gave me two Alan Titchmarsh books for my birthday in March! It's a little debatable who the main character of this book is. Rosie is definitely central, but it's really her grandson Nick who is the one changing and growing throughout the story, and most of it (if I remember correctly) is told from his point of view. I haven't particularly enjoyed very many novels written by men, but this is a wonderful exception.

The Midwife's Tale, Delia Parr Every week I get several free books for my Kindle, and this was one of them. It was...okay. It was one of those that reminded me that sometimes things that are free are worth about what was paid for them. There were quite a few anachronisms that irritated me, but the story was interesting enough to keep going. I disagreed with one plot twist. Not so much that it happened (that's up to the author, and it DID surprise me...), but because it wasn't, in my opinion, at all foreshadowed, and depended on yet another anachronism and so felt totally fake...

Beautiful Child, Torey Hayden I thought I'd read all of Torey Hayden's books (and I think I have most of them), but came across this in the give-aways at the library and it didn't look familiar. I can't ever read more than one Torey Hayden book in a row, as they can be too depressing. The author has received a certain amount of criticism for allegedly implying that she is perfect, "look at all the children she has saved." I don't think she comes across that way at all. She's honest about her failures, signs she's missed, etc., but yes, obviously she writes about cases where she was successful in her job with children with some pretty extreme special needs. I find HER encouraging, while the situations of some of the children make me very sad.

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Despite the best efforts of several people, I haven't been able to get into Terry Pratchett, really. But this book was lying around (sort of...it's Marie's, and I was moving some of her stuff from one place to another and saw this and it appealed...) and I started reading it, and actually finished it. Neil Gaiman is apparently also famous, but I'd never heard of him. Surreal and very funny and thought-provoking, too.

Parker Twins Bundle: Cave of the Inca Re, Jungle Hideout, Captured in Colombia, Mystery at Death Canyon, Secret of the Dragon mark, Race for the Secret Code Jeanette Windle I think I started this last November or so. I got it (them?) free for the Kindle, and it's pretty much another case of getting what I paid for. I think the target age group is around 10-12 and they're certainly very easy reading, but I have nothing against well-written children's books. These aren't, particularly. There's a pair of twins who get to travel to South America with their uncle. In the first book they're in Peru and stumble across smugglers. Spoiler: the twins don't get murdered. (That's clear anyway, because there are five more books.) The smugglers also get caught. This is because the twins pray. In the second book, they're in...Bolivia, I think and they stumble across...hmm...some other lawbreakers. The lawbreakers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the third book they stumble across drug smugglers. The smugglers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. (Sorry, I know I'm giving away the whole and complete plot of each and every book here...) In the fourth book they're actually back in the U.S. They stumble across smugglers. The smugglers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the fifth book they're also in the U.S. They stumble across a violent gang. The gang gets caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the sixth book--PLOT TWIST--the boy twin doesn't pray. He gets tricked into doing stuff he shouldn't. This leads him to stumble across more illegal behavior. Finally, like a couple of pages before the end, he prays. So he doesn't get murdered and the bad people get caught. I don't really know why I finished these books, unless it was because I was reading them when I couldn't sleep...

I also read lots and lots of books to the children and don't feel like leaving my comfortable seat in the air conditioning (set at 28 Celsius) to look at the list in the living room, which isn't even a complete list. None of the books I read to them were books I hadn't read before, except maybe a few picture books from the library.