Project 52, Week 35, Part 8 – Trip to America!

February 22nd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35, Part 8!

2000_04 1 Springtime

Okay, wait a second. Really, it’s time for Week 36!

36 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I should be covering the year I was 36 — June 14, 2000, to June 14, 2001, but the truth is, I still haven’t finished the year I was 35.

So I really need to reset. I need to give up the idea of posting all the gorgeous photos of Europe. Settle for a summary, Sondy! So — tonight I’m going to try to summarize the last half of the year I was 35. And then I will try try try to talk about the year I was 36 with ONE post. Not sure I can do it, but I’m going to try!

Last time, I got us up to December 1999. Which meant we had completed one “tour” in Germany. Since we extended for a “Continuous in place” assignment, the Air Force would pay for us to take a trip back to the States! I thought that was so fabulous. When we lived in Illinois for five years, we felt just as far away from family, but no one paid for trips to see them!

And it looked like living in Germany had truly broken my bad luck of missing snow every time I went to California and Arizona for Christmas. Not only did we get a white Christmas that first year, but this year we got a big snowfall in December before we left! Six inches of snow fell on December 19th, which was the most snow I’d seen fall at one time in my life up to that time.

1999_12_19 1 Snow

1999_12_19 2 Snow

1999_12_19 3 Snow

1999_12_19 4 Snowman

Hmmm. I’ll have to show more restraint than that! (Though you should see all the beautiful snow pictures I didn’t choose.)

Our first stop in America was Phoenix, visiting Gram E and Gramp E — and Steve’s sister Stephanie was there, too, with her husband Bruce and two kids, Karli and David. And we got to see Aunt Kay, who had now moved to Arizona.

Here’s a gathering with some Eklund cousins, I think at the Phoenix Zoo.

1999_12 1 Eklund gathering

Then we drove to Encinitas (near San Diego) to stay with my sister Becky. That was the year we’d been given Furbys. We put them in the trunk. After we’d driven a little while, we heard a loud voice saying “BORING!” coming from the trunk!

My siblings and parents gathered at Becky’s house for a Christmas gift exchange.

1999_12 2 Hatch gathering

And some aunts and uncles and cousins came, too!

1999_12 3 Hatches

We went to a Star Wars Exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art on New Year’s Day, 2000, with Becky’s family.

2000_01_01 1 Star Wars

And then we headed to Los Angeles. We stayed in a nice hotel on the water that had a deal with my Dad’s company. We connected with old friends there, as well as seeing my family.

We had lunch with my Dad near his work in Redondo Beach.

2000_01_03 Beach Restaurant

And we went to Disneyland!

2000_01_04 1 Disneyland

2000_01_04 2 Disneyland

2000_01_04 3 Disneyland

Darlene was in town, too! We got together at Ruth’s house with Jennifer there, too! And Jennifer’s two kids as well as mine.

2000_01_08 1 Friends

And we always have to do a Tall picture. This time we thought it would be fun to have the wives towering over the husbands.

2000_01_08 2 Friends

On the way back to Arizona, we stopped in Joshua Tree National Park. It seemed only fair for Josh to get a picture with the sign.

2000_01_09 1 Joshua Tree

That was the year we made a Super Timmy video. Josh wrote the script. It was delightful.

2000_01 1 Gram E

We took a trip to Montezuma’s Castle on a bright and beautiful (but headache-inducing) day.

2000_01_10 Montezuma's Castle

And now I’m sure we went to the Phoenix Zoo.

2000_01_11 1 Zoo

Back home in Germany, on February 7, 2000, we took a trip into France to visit Castle #89, Citadelle de Bitche, located in Bitche, France. (Pronounced “Beesh.”) Unfortunately, we’d forgotten how things tend to be closed on Monday. We decided we’d come back later, but thought it made a perfect Dark Lord’s fortress.

2000_02_07 1 Bitche

2000_02_07 2 Bitche

2000_02_07 3 Bitche

2000_02_07 4 Bitche

2000_02_07 5 Bitche

Josh took 3rd place in the All-School Spelling Bee.

2000_02 1 Spelling Bee

Josh turned 12 years old in March, and I went with their class on a field trip to Idar-Oberstein. And something happened which seemed like a tragedy to a mother of a Kindergartner.

Well, I went on Josh’s Field Trip. Though the trip itself was rather fun, it ended with a Horrible Nightmare.

Because the sponsors did not insist on sticking to the schedule and let kids buy souvenirs, the bus was 45 minutes late getting back to school. Well, Timmy had gone home on the bus (I had planned to get him off before they left, or else beat the bus home.) Although they were not supposed to let him off if his parent is not there, they did. (The other girl said, “Timmy, there’s your stop!” — so the bus driver let him off and Timmy felt he should go.)

While I was on Josh’s bus, we passed Timmy’s bus, so I knew it would get to Gundersweiler before I possibly could, but didn’t really expect them to drop him off. I got Josh to the front of the bus with me, and we ran to the elementary school office as soon as the bus stopped. I explained the situation to them, and asked them to call Steve if Timmy showed up there. Then Josh and I ran to the car, and I sped home — with a raging headache.

When we got near the house, there was Timmy, sitting on the step. When I saw his scrunched-up, crying face, all my worst fears came true. I burst into tears, parked the car without backing it, jumped out without closing the door, and hugged him and cried with him. I felt so horrible about not having prevented it.

When we went into the house, Timmy sat on the sofa and put a blanket over his head. I held him and cuddled him and read to him and we all calmed down.

But it was a horrible experience, which I will never forget. I really felt like I let down my son.

And I was never in a hurry to volunteer for field trips again.

The next week, Josh was one of the winners in the 6th Grade Storytelling Festival. (Such an expressive voice!) I left the festival early to be absolutely sure I could meet Timmy’s bus!

2000_04_06 1 Storytelling

We went to Holiday Park for Josh’s birthday.

2000_04_10 1 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 2 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 3 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 4 Holiday Park

Springtime in Gundersweiler was glorious.

2000_04 2 Tulips

2000_04 3 Tulips

2000_04 4 Tulips

We took a walk on our hill when everything was in bloom.

2000_04_22 1 Walk

2000_04_22 2 Walk

2000_04_22 3 Walk

2000_04_22 4 Walk

2000_04_22 5 Walk

2000_04_22 6 Walk

2000_04_22 7 Walk

We went on vacation on a quick weekend trip, traveled north, and touched 5 more castles. (I forgot to mention that we touched Schloß Herrenstein, Castle #90, on Josh’s field trip.) The castles on the weekend of April 29-30 were:

Castle #91, Schloß Sababurg, traditionally Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, so a Grimm Fairy Tales site.
Castle #92, Burg Trendelburg
Castle #93, Schloß Wilhelmsthal
Castle #94, Schloß Wilhelmshöhe
Castle #95, Burg Löwenburg – sort of a “fake” castle, built to be romantic, but more than a hundred years old, so it counts.


2000_04_29 1 Sababurg

2000_04_29 2 Sababurg

2000_04_29 3 Sababurg

2000_04_29 4 Sababurg

2000_04_29 5 Sababurg

2000_04_29 6 Sababurg

2000_04_29 7 Sababurg

Schloß Wilhelmsthal:

2000_04_30 1 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

2000_04_30 2 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

2000_04_30 3 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

The grounds at Wilhelmshöhe and Burg Löwenburg were amazing. Walking through them gave such a sense of peace.

2000_04_30 4 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 5 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 6 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 7 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 8 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 9 Lowenburg

Oh! I wrote down in the front of my calendar that on April 28, 2000, Timmy read the whole book Bark, George!, by Jules Feiffer, aloud to us. And he learned to swing by himself the same day!

My calendar also notes that my headaches were doing terrible. I was having 3-5 headache days every week. I did finally go back to the doctor. It looks like I tried Verapamil about this time. It doesn’t look like it helped much. Let’s see, April 2000 was when I had a 9-day headache — the longest I’d ever had at that time. (Those were the days! Except later when I got longer ones, I don’t think they were as bad. That year was a super bad time for headaches.)

Ooo, speaking of illness. On May 7, we took Timmy to the Emergency Room with a 104 degree fever. He had scarlet fever. But did recover fairly quickly.

Our next day of castling was Mother’s Day, May 14. We went to Castle #96, Saalburg, and I wrote about it:

This year, Mothers’ Day was glorious. The weather was absolutely unbeatable. It was sunny and bright. The world glowed — with bright, new green and spatterings of flowers. There weren’t any clouds.

After church, we had a quick lunch and headed for Saalburg, just north of Frankfurt.

It’s an old Roman fort, built to guard the border of the Roman Empire, just set back from the Limes. 100 years ago, Kaiser Wilhelm II had it rebuilt.

The castle was beautiful — set in a park. It was a wonderful day to walk among the trees. We also looked at the exhibits of artifacts they found — even old leather shoes, remarkably like shoes we would wear today.

Next, we ate at a nice restaurant, on the patio. I had some wonderful salmon, followed by strawberries and cream.

After dinner, we walked to the Limes — the original earthworks are still there — now, almost 2000 years later. Amazing! They also had a reconstruction of the wooden fence of post that they put up past the ditches and mounds of eart. Truly a beautiful day.

I love this new tradition of going to castles for Mothers’ Day!

2000_05_14 1 Saalburg

2000_05_14 2 Saalburg

2000_05_14 3 Saalburg

2000_05_14 4 Saalburg

2000_05_14 5 Saalburg

2000_05_14 6 Saalburg

2000_05_14 7 Saalburg

We counted the Limes as Castle #97, since it was 2000-year-old fortifications.

2000_05_14 8 Limes

First, they’re being Romans.

2000_05_14 9 Limes

Now, they’re being Barbarians.

2000_05_14 10 Limes Barbarians

Some milestones happened in June: Timmy graduated from Kindergarten. Steve made Tech Sergeant. Josh completed Algebra I. And I got a Performance Award at the Library for my computerized check-out system.

And of course we went to a castle restaurant for my birthday dinner. I chose an old favorite, Altenbaumburg.

2000_06_14 0a Altenbaumburg

2000_06_14 1 Altenbaumburg

And that was the year I was 35! Now, can I even come close to being that concise for the year I was 36? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try… but not tonight!

Project 52, Week 35, Part 7 – Two More Castles!

February 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35, Part 7!

1999_10_31 2 Halloween

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

So far, Week 35 has had lots to tell about! It took four posts to talk about our England vacation, then another to get through the rest of the summer and both my kids in school, and then my trip back to America for my friend Darlene’s wedding.

First, some adorable pictures of my kids on Halloween. Josh’s Harry Potter costume was easy – my Master’s gown plus one of my knitting needles, and a lightning scar. Though, believe it or not, 1999 was early enough that not many people recognized Harry Potter. Timmy had a purchased Anakin Skywalker outfit, though, which was a lot easier for folks to identify.

We’d trick-or-treat on base (because it’s not a German tradition. Sometimes some German kids would come to our door, and they didn’t know what to say, but would say, “Happy Halloween!”), and apparently we stopped at the library to say Hello to Elfriede. So here they are at the library.

1999_10_31 1 Halloween

And here’s my dear Elfriede! (I’m sure she volunteered to work the late shift that day.)

1999_10_31 3 Library

We ran into the Ciufo family (another band family) while trick-or-treating.

1999_10_31 4 Halloween

I’m reading some interesting things in my journals that don’t really have pictures to go with them. So I’m going to write about some of them and intersperse pictures of our home in Gundersweiler.

This was when I made the Access data base we used at the library for checking out books! I enjoyed that project tremendously. Before this, to check out books, customers had to write their name and address and phone number on a card, and then the title, author and call number of every single book they checked out! It was ridiculous!

So, first, I made an Access data base to print overdue notices. Because as it was, they had been handwriting the book information onto pre-printed notices. And first checking the shelves from the cards — with the books not in order.

I wanted to expand the data base to do check-outs, but they had purchased a new computer system already, or were planning to purchase it, or something.

Here’s what I say in my journal:

I get to start writing a Computer System for the Library! They keep stringing us along — It sounds like it will be months before our system from the contract is up and running.

So Jeff is letting me write a new system for the short-term using Access. I’m having some difficulty — It’s almost just like Overdues, only I want to keep Book information in another data set.

It’s going to be fun exploring Access until I get it to work! The hard part is that I want to spend extra time on it. I do like programming!

Even writing that much has got me thinking about it!

I will add that we used my system for a full year before we got the purchased system. We only had to enter a customer’s information the first time they used the library, and we only had to enter a book’s information the first time it was checked out.

Over the next year, I added a component to track our McNaughton rental books. And then I added ISBNs – which we ended up using to reconcile the new system by loading book information from OCLC. They had scanned our shelflist before I started working in the library — and it was off by thousands of books by the time we got the Horizon system. My data base came to the rescue and made reconciling easy. Well, easy with the help of the SQL program I wrote. (And I learned both Access and SQL and OCLC for the project. So much fun!)

1999_11 1 Gundersweiler

I also spent a lot of time stewing about trying to enable Josh to go ahead in Math and take Pre-algebra in 6th grade. (6th and 7th grade math are for reinforcing skills that Josh already had.) At first, math teachers condescendingly told me that Josh needed to learn to organize their locker and notebook first. But why should Josh have to sit through a class teaching things they already knew just because they had limited organizational skills?

Fortunately, the school had a new teacher for the Talented and Gifted program that year. She advocated for Josh, who ended up going to Dr. Davis’s room for math. I was in charge of making assignments and grading homework.

Here’s what I wrote about their conferences in November:

So — I should write about the boys’ conferences. Timmy is fitting in beautifully in Kindergarten. For the first 3 weeks, he didn’t talk or participate. But once he got used to everyone, he now joins in eagerly. His teacher says he’s adjusting beautifully.

I loved seeing his work. On some pictures, he’d written about the picture — “i LiC GO TRK TRTN” meant “I like going trick-or-treating.” I was amazed — I had no idea that he was interested in trying to write.

Ms. Hawkins said that there are quite a few kids this year who know all their letters well — so she’s going to work with this small group on learning sight-words and such.

Josh’s conferences were not as wholly positive. His teachers agree that he’s smart, but he’s missing lots of work — and already for this semester, too. We went to his locker and found a mountain of papers in a heap. We discovered some of the missing homework — so he spent all day Saturday in the Library working on homework.

The good news with Josh is that he really gets to go to Dr. Davis’s room for Independent Study in Math — and he says that he likes Math homework.

1999_11 2 Gundersweiler

Less cheery writing shows that I was getting lots more headaches again. So quitting Inderal, while stopping the drug-induced lupus — was bad for my headaches. I count 22 headache days written down in July, August, September, and October. So it would get worse. I was steeling myself to start working with a doctor to find a new preventative. That’s hard to do because when you have a headache, you don’t feel like messing with it, but when you don’t, you hope that you don’t actually need it. And they were pretty clearly related to hormonal fluctuations, too.

1999_11 3 Gundersweiler View

Something that shakes me more is seeing seeds of our marriage problems to come. This time, I can’t chalk it up to post-partum depression. On November 5, I wrote:

I’m thrown by that talk I had with Steve. He told me he’s not even sure that he’s a Christian, and my world was shaken. Of all the things I never expected to be, it’s someone with an unsaved spouse.

And three days later, I wrote:

Today I’m really stewing about Steve and about our marriage. I still feel betrayed that for years he hasn’t even felt he was a Christian, and he hid it from me all this time.

Sondy, Sondy, remember? Steve did tell you in Illinois that he “wasn’t sure” he was a Christian. You just assumed he’d seen the light. In fact, when your view of God was revolutionized by George MacDonald’s writings, and you came to believe that everyone will be saved (eventually), you thought that explaining all that to Steve would of course set his doubts to rest.

Looking at it now, I don’t think I listened to Steve. I would complain that he didn’t tell me what he was going through, but it looks like he did tell me some things, and if I didn’t understand, I dismissed it. I was just so darn optimistic. If I was upset with Steve, I’d talk it through with God in my quiet time notebook, and I’d remind myself that I do love Steve. In this section, I say, “Lord, I want to love my husband. I do. I promised to stand by him for better or for worse.” So somehow, I thought that made everything okay — not realizing that if he was going through some of the same doubts about us, he might not be bringing it around to remembering how much he loves me.

If we had gone to marriage counseling back then, if I had started reading books on marriage then, I wonder if it would have helped?

1999_11 4 Gundersweiler

Chicken Night was also an issue. Steve liked to have people over. And since I balked at cooking frequently for guests, we started doing Chicken Night. He would get a rotisserie chicken from a place in Winnweiler. And we’d have a bunch of friends over. We did this every week.

Now, this was super fun! We had a great time! But — every week? It meant I really did have to do some cleaning every week. And I was working late one night a week, and taking the kids to AWANA one night a week, and for awhile taking a German class with Josh once a week — and always looking for time to write.

Here’s what I said in that same journal post:

In theory, I like chicken night. But Steve doesn’t consult me in the slightest as to whether it should happen or who he should invite. He had chicken night on the very day I got back from America — when I desperately wanted to be in bed. Then, last week when I’d been working for 7 days in a row and really didn’t want to.

Steve felt like since he took care of the food, there wasn’t anything for me to do, so he could plan it himself. When I finally protested, eventually we quit doing Chicken Night altogether. Which wasn’t what I wanted at all! I just wanted it not to have to be every single week….

But Snow came in November that year, on the 17th, the 19th, the 20th, and the 22nd. That always brightens things up!

1999_11 5 Snow

1999_11 6 Snowy Gundersweiler

1999_11 7 Sled

1999_11 8 Snow

And we got in two more castles in 1999. On Sunday, November 28, we visited two castles.

First, Castle #87, Ruine Eremitage, which I don’t seem to have photographed. Then Castle #88, Hardenburg. (You’ll want to remember that it gets dark early in Germany in November.)

1999_11_28 1 Ruine Eremitage

1999_11_28 2 Eremitage

1999_11_28 3 Eremitage

1999_11_28 4 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 5 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 6 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 7 Hardenburg

I like the Christmas tree!

1999_11_28 8 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 9 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 10 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 11 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 12 Hardenburg

We had a big gathering for Steve’s 35th birthday on November 30th. For this gathering I was fully on board! (And I really enjoyed that we got together with so many friends in our beautiful home. And a Birthday is a Special Occasion.)

1999_11_30 1 Steve's Birthday

And this picture’s special. Remember how we gave Josh’s 5th grade teacher Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Well, he read it to his next 5th grade class. And that was about the time that certain parents started having a fuss because it contained fantasy witchcraft. So Mr. Martin’s class advertised their love of Harry Potter with signs in the windows saying: This CLASS LOVES HARRY POTTER. It made me super happy to see it. And this was about the time that Mr. Martin told me it was the best teacher gift he’d ever been given.

1999_12 1 HP Windows

So — that brings us right up to Christmas. I’m not sure if I’ll get more posted tonight, so Year 35 may have to spill into Week 36. And Christmas meant a trip back to America….

Project 52, Week 35, Part 6 – Darlene’s Wedding!

February 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_10_23 3 Friends!

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

This is the last day of the 35th week, and I’m not even halfway through the year! I may have to start summarizing. It took four posts to talk about our England vacation, and then another to get through the rest of the summer and both my kids in school.

We were still Castling. On Saturday, September 25, we got out a map and picked a location with several symbols for castle ruins, and then tried to find out how to get there using road signs, once we got to the area. (Would Google maps take out the fun of castling? It would make it easier to know if it were possible to get to a castle. In our day, we had to pick a place with lots of potential choices, in hopes that at least one was findable.)

Castle #85 was Ruine Randeck. We had headed in a new direction, but it wasn’t real far from home in Gundersweiler. You can see that we got there on a beautiful day.

1999_09_25 1 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 2 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 3 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 4 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 5 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 6 Randeck

1999_09_25 7 Randeck

1999_09_25 8 Me at Randeck

Playing tag at a castle again:

1999_09_25 9 Randeck

1999_09_25 10 Randeck

We were the only people there (one of the cool things about castle ruins), so there wasn’t anyone to ask to take a family picture. I gave everyone else a turn with the camera. First Timmy took a picture:

1999_09_25 11 Randeck

Then it was Jade’s turn:

1999_09_25 12 Randeck

And finally Steve took a picture:

1999_09_25 13 Randeck

Timmy was in Kindergarten, so maybe this was a shoe-tying lesson? (Steve taught using a different method than I did, and it was simpler.)

1999_09_25 14 Randeck

And could anyone look more angelic?

1999_09_25 15 Randeck

Now here’s a picture that makes my heart happy. Timmy took a few weeks to adjust to Kindergarten. He is one of the most introverted people I’ve ever known, and was very quiet, observant, and tentative the first few weeks. But this showed that he was adjusting and finding his stride. He was Star of the Week! And I love his proud smile.

1999_09 1 Star of the Week

And the highlight of the Fall was when I took a trip by myself to Virginia to be in Darlene’s wedding! I got a seat on a Space Available flight for almost free. (It flew in to BWI, so Kathe had a long drive to pick me up.) I flew out on October 18 and stayed at Kathe’s house.

1999_10 1 Kathe

I hung out with Kathe and her son Tim, and ran some errands with Darlene and met her new husband Matt. It was strange to be in America, but have it not feel like home. (So much cement! The wide, wide roads! Ugly strip malls!) And it was hard to be on the other side of the ocean from my kids and husband. But very, very good to have time with Kathe and Darlene.

On October 21, Kathe took me and Tim for a drive along Skyline Drive to enjoy the Fall Color. So beautiful!

1999_10_21 1 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 2 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 3 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 4 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 5 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 6 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 7 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 8 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 9 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 10 Skyline Drive

And here’s the happy couple!

1999_10 2 Darlene and Matt

At the Rehearsal:

1999_10_22 1 Rehearsal

1999_10_22 2 Rehearsal

At the Rehearsal dinner, we were in booths, and here’s the group I sat with. The couple on the left were friends of Matt’s. On the right are Diane and Ed Allen, and Lisa Miller, who went to high school and church with Darlene and me.

1999_10_22 3 Rehearsal Dinner

And yes, that was when I met Pastor Ed Allen and his wonderful wife Diane! I remember he teased me about the childhood photos of Darlene that I was circulating! So now I can tease back that he had more and a different color of hair than he does now.

And Darlene Sasaki and Matt LeVault got married on October 23, 1999.

1999_10_23 1 Wedding

1999_10_23 2 Friends

The truth is that Lisa put butter on her finger to take this picture to try to shock Darlene after the fact!

1999_10_23 4 Cake Tasting

1999_10_23 5 Darlene

1999_10_23 6 Dancing

1999_10_23 7 Going Away

The reception was at the LeVault home.

1999_10_23 8 Reception

1999_10_23 9 Reception

1999_10_23 10 Reception

1999_10_23 11 Reception

My last day in Virginia was Sunday, October 24. I attended Gateway Community Church in the morning with Kathe, and wished there was a church like that where we lived. It wasn’t too small or too big (Kathe seemed to know most of the people.). I liked the singing, and Pastor Ed didn’t have a “preacher voice” and I liked the style of the service. After the service there was a Fall Fest and I thought that my whole family would enjoy such a church.

After that, I hung out with Kathe and Joe and Tim until Kathe took me to BWI Airport in the evening and I caught a Space Available flight home.

1999_10_24 Kathe

Project 52, Week 35, Part 5 – Total Solar Eclipse!

February 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_08 1 Me at Eclipse

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

And this may be the year I can’t get through in a week! It took me four posts just to cover our vacation in England. First, we roamed around Dover Castle, then we went to Bodiam Castle, Battle Abbey, Winnie-the-Pooh country, Framlingham Castle, and Somerleyton Hall, then Cambridge, London, Weeting Castle, Castle Acre Priory, and Castle Acre Castle, and finally Oxford, Castle Rising Castle, Leeds Castle, and the white cliffs of Dover.

We got back from England in time for Timmy’s 5th Birthday on July 29.

1999_07_29 1 Timmy's Birthday

1999_07_29 2 Timmy's Birthday

The book Timothy Goes to School was a good choice, because Timmy was about to start Kindergarten!

1999_07_29 3 Timmy's Birthday

1999_07_29 4 Timmy's Birthday

My journal says that on August 2, my friend Jeanine really did get the other half of my job at the Sembach Library! I had been working 27 hours per week since January, and now could go back to 20. Plus, Timmy was about to start Kindergarten, so I was looking forward to having more times for things like writing.

August 11, 1999, there was a total eclipse of the sun happening in Germany. I looked carefully at maps, though the eclipse was definitely going to be visible in Kaiserslautern, it looked like Sembach, where we worked, would be right on the edge. So I wasn’t sure we’d even get to see it if we stayed there. Kaiserslautern was having a fest on the hill above the city, so I took the day off and we went, with Jeanine and her husband, to Kaiserslautern to see the eclipse. We got special viewer glasses to be safe about it.

1999_08 2 Eclipse

We were having a great time, and enjoyed the partial eclipse leading up to total.

1999_08 3 Eclipse

And then — about one second before the eclipse went total — clouds completely covered the sun, and we couldn’t see it at all! It even began to rain a bit. Yes, it got dark, but we didn’t get to see the actual event.

1999_08 4 Eclipse

The final straw to the story is that my co-workers who had been at work said that they and the library patrons just stepped outside and got to see the total eclipse just fine! No clouds covering the sun 20 minutes north of Kaiserslautern! Oh well!

(I’m thinking about going to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse in August 2017. But will my luck continue like this time?)

Still some more outings. We went for a hike on the Donnersberg — the large hill near our house that dominated the skyline — on August 20 and went up the tower at the top.

1999_08 5 Donnersberg Hike

1999_08 6 Donnersberg Hike

1999_08_20 1 Donnersberg

The kids are wearing shirts Steve got them on a recent Band tour to Budapest.

1999_08_20 2 Budapest shirts

This is from our house in Gundersweiler. A balloon went right by!

1999_08 7 Balloon

Another Angel picture!

1999_08_22 1 Moschellandsburg

On Sunday, August 22, we decided to do some castling after church. We packed a picnic supper and visited Castle #84, Moschellandsburg.

1999_08_22 2 Moschellandsburg

1999_08_22 3 Moschellandsburg

1999_08_22 4 Moschellandsburg

See how I fill the doorway!

1999_08_22 5 Moschellandsburg

I’m not sure what game they’re playing….

1999_08_22 6 Moschellandsburg

A beautiful spot for a picnic!

1999_08_22 7 Picnic

1999_08_22 8 Picnic

1999_08_22 9 Moschellandsburg

Interesting. Josh’s first day of sixth grade was August 30…

1999_08_30 6th grade

… but Timmy’s first day of Kindergarten was September 7. And there was Orientation and a Home Visit in between.

1999_09_07 1 Kindergarten

Oh look! I wrote in my journal about Timmy’s first day of Kindergarten!

Timmy’s favorite thing about the first day of Kindergarten was — the bus ride! He drew two pictures that first day — and they were both about the bus ride. The first was him and Josh and the bus driver on the bus. The second was of me waiting at the bus stop, angry because the bus was late! (And indeed it was — but I was worried, not mad.

And some about Josh:

Josh seems to like school well enough. He doesn’t say a lot about it, though one day he did say, “I like art!” And that was very good to hear. Too bad that art will only last for one quarter. (He has Art, Host Nation, Spanish, and P. E.)

Josh has chosen to play oboe, thanks to Jeanine’s urging. I’m a little taken aback. Somehow, I always expected him to play a brass instrument. Maybe he’ll actually get his instrument next week.

This week ended up being a rough one for me. Getting the dryer replaced (It had a dead mouse in it.) was a huge hassle, that finally had me in tears. The bureaucracy can be so maddening! There was a Band Parents’ meeting on Tuesday night, and any trip to the base seems like such a huge deal with that detour on the way, making it take almost 30 minutes to get there.

Yesterday was a good day at work, though. It’s so nice to have Jeanine there! And it was a whole lot of fun ordering more McNaughtons than usual — and some old books, to fill in our collection. I love my job very much. In the morning, I had quiet Brandon McDonald laughing aloud at Story Time! (And last week, little Elisha cried when I left!) Jeanine gets Jeff more talkative than ever! We work well together.

That’s all for tonight. Tomorrow will be the test to see if I can finish blogging about the year in one week — not even halfway yet. Coming up is another beautiful little local castle, Darlene’s wedding, and a trip back to the States over Christmas.

Project 52, Week 35, Part 4 – Oxford and Castles!

February 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_24 13 Favorite

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

So far, with three posts, I haven’t gotten very far into the year, because we took an amazing vacation to England. First, we roamed around Dover Castle, then we went to Bodiam Castle, Battle Abbey, Winnie-the-Pooh country, Framlingham Castle, and Somerleyton Hall, and next to Cambridge, London, Weeting Castle, Castle Acre Priory, and Castle Acre Castle.

Tonight I’m hoping to finish describing that English vacation. On Thursday, July 22, 1999, we made the long drive to Oxford. (I’m pretty sure Steve was hoping one of our kids would decide to go to college in Oxford or Cambridge. It didn’t end up working out that way, but we did all have fun visiting.) On the way there, we stopped at a lavender farm.

1999_07_22 1 Lavender

The next stop was the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery in Aylesbury.

1999_07_22 1 Roald Dahl

1999_07_22 2 Roald Dahl

At Oxford, we visited The Oxford Story – an actual ride that taught you the history of Oxford. And of course we visited bookshops!

1999_07_22 3 Oxford

On Friday, July 23, we started out the day at Castle #82, Castle Rising Castle. (Another village with “Castle” in the name.)

1999_07_23 1 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 2 Castle Rising

This was another castle with an audio tour. You can see Jade (then called Josh) is wearing headphones. Steve and Timmy weren’t interested. (So Josh and I went through the castle much more slowly. But it was so interesting!)

1999_07_23 1 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 2 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 3 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 4 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 4a Castle Rising

1999_07_23 5 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 6 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 7 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 8 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 9 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 10 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 11 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 12 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 13 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 14 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 15 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 16 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 17 Castle Rising

There were some earthworks around this castle, too, so we did some rolling down them.

1999_07_23 18 Rolling

1999_07_23 19 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 20 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 21 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 22 Castle Rising - Copy

1999_07_23 23 Castle Rising - Copy

1999_07_23 24 Castle Rising - Copy

1999_07_23 25 Castle Rising - Copy

We suspected it might be a tacky American thing to do, but we had a picnic lunch on the grounds.

1999_07_23 26 Castle Rising Picnic

Next, the same day, since we were on an island, after all, we headed for the Beach! We went to the town of Hunstanton.

1999_07_23 27 Hunstanton

We went to the Sea Life Centre there, a small aquarium.

1999_07_23 28 Sea Life Centre

1999_07_23 29 Hunstanton

And then we took a boat ride along the coast in a DUKW — an amphibious vehicle like they used to land on the beaches of Normandy.

1999_07_23 34 DUKW

1999_07_23 30 Boat ride

1999_07_23 31 Boat

1999_07_23 32 Boat

1999_07_23 33 Boat

We had to visit the carnival there by the beach.

1999_07_23 35 Carnival

1999_07_23 36 Carnival

1999_07_23 37 Carnival

And we finished our eventful day with a walk by the sea. And in the sea.

1999_07_23 38 Wading

1999_07_23 39 Beach

1999_07_23 40 Beach

1999_07_23 41 Old boat

1999_07_23 42 Beach

1999_07_23 43 Lighthouse

Our final day in England was Saturday, July 24. We drove south to catch the ferry at Dover. (And on the way, we passed a van with a family from our church. They were heading into England.) We stopped along the way at Castle #83, another of the prettiest castles, Leeds Castle in Kent. There I snapped my very favorite castle picture (at the top) with the swans posing.

We did touch the castle, but we didn’t have time for a tour. We did walk all over the beautiful grounds, though.

1999_07_24 1 Leeds Castle

1999_07_24 2 Leeds

1999_07_24 3 Leeds

1999_07_24 4 Leeds

1999_07_24 5 Leeds

Another castle with a Labyrinth on its grounds!

1999_07_24 6 Labyrinth

There was also a Grotto.

1999_07_24 7 Grotto

1999_07_24 8 Leeds

1999_07_24 9 Leeds

1999_07_24 10 Leeds

1999_07_24 11 Leeds

1999_07_24 12 Leeds

1999_07_24 14 Leeds

1999_07_24 15 Leeds

1999_07_24 16 Leeds

1999_07_24 17 Leeds

And so we said goodbye to England. Now, when we’d arrived, I’d been thrilled to see the white cliffs of Dover with my own eyes. But it had been a cloudy day, and I didn’t get any pictures. The day we departed was perfect for that.

1999_07_24 18 Dover

1999_07_24 19 Dover

1999_07_24 20 Dover

So that was our amazing and unforgettable family vacation to England July 1999. And all the car travel of the week was accompanied by the reading of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I can confidently say that a magnificent time was had by all.

(Now I’ve gotten through a month of the year I was 35!)

Project 52, Week 35 – Part 3 – Still in England!

February 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_19 7 Books from Heffers

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

The year I was 35 began with one of our greatest European vacations, to England, so it’s taking up more than one post. First, we roamed around Dover Castle, then we went to Bodiam Castle, Battle Abbey, Winnie-the-Pooh country, Framlingham Castle, and Somerleyton Hall.

The next day, July 19, we went to Cambridge. It was fun walking around the stately buildings.

1999_07_19 1 Cambridge

1999_07_19 2 Cambridge

And next to the Cam River:

1999_07_19 4 River Cam

1999_07_19 5 River Cam

The cows really surprised me!

1999_07_19 6 Cows

But the highlight of the day was definitely visiting Heffers Children’s Bookshop! Book 3 of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had been published in the United Kingdom at that time, but not yet in America. So we bought a copy before our American friends could do so! Then all the rest of our travels in England were accompanied by one of us reading the book aloud. (And of course we read a chapter before bed as well.)

1999_07_19 3 Heffers

The picture at the top of this post is me in front of our cottage in Wisbech when we got back. You didn’t think Harry Potter was the only book we bought, did you?

The next day, we went to London! We parked at a station and took a train in.

1999_07_20 1 Train

We began our sight-seeing with Castle #78, the Tower of London!

1999_07_20 2 Tower

1999_07_20 3 Tower

1999_07_20 4 Tower

1999_07_20 5 Tower

1999_07_20 6 Tower

1999_07_20 7 Tower

1999_07_20 8 Tower

1999_07_20 9 Tower Bear

Here’s the Tower Bridge over the Thames:

1999_07_20 10 Tower Bridge

We rode on the top of a double-decker bus around London.

1999_07_20 11 Big Ben

1999_07_20 12 Big Ben

1999_07_20 13 Tour

I didn’t take pictures of the rest, but the kids enjoyed Segaworld, and we visited used book stores at Charing Cross Road.

1999_07_20 14 Bobby Bear

The next day was a day for visiting castles we found in the countryside. First up was Castle #79, Weeting Castle. We had a picnic there (just like we’d do at castles in Germany).

1999_07_21 1 Weeting

1999_07_21 2 Weeting

1999_07_21 3 Weeting

1999_07_21 4 Weeting

1999_07_21 5 Weeting

1999_07_21 6 Weeting

1999_07_21 7 Weeting

1999_07_21 8 Weeting

Our next stop was Castle #80, Castle Acre Priory. I was endlessly fascinated by the shapes made by the ruins.

1999_07_21 9 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 10 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 11 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 12 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 13 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 14 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 15 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 16 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 17 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 18 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 19 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 20 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 21 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 22 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 23 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 24 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 25 Castle Acre Priory

Our final stop of the day, in the same town, was Castle #81, Castle Acre Castle. (The town was “Castle Acre,” and it had both a Priory and a Castle.) This was a much older motte-and-bailey castle — like those I’d read about in books about castles. Apparently they’re a lot more common in England than in Germany, and was how the first castles were built. Lots of massive earthworks around a central round ditch.

1999_07_21 26 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 27 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 28 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 29 Castle Acre Castle

The kids and Steve played “Harry Potter tag” in the center. It was like Freeze tag, but you say “Basilisk” when you touch someone to freeze them.

1999_07_21 30 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 31 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 32 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 33 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 34 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 35 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 36 Castle Acre Castle

And here’s Timmy holding Tiny Daddy!

1999_07_21 37 Tiny Steve

Well, that was three more days of our amazing English vacation. I’ll try to finish the last three days in another post tonight.

Project 52, Week 35, Part Two – More of England!

February 17th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_17 2 Me at Bodiam

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

But the years we lived in Europe seem to be impossible to condense into one blog post, so I’m giving in and posting multiple parts each week. Last time, I only got through the first day of our vacation in England, when we roamed around Dover Castle.

We spent that night near Dover, and the next day, July 17, went to Castle #74, one of my favorite castles of them all, Bodiam Castle — certainly the most beautiful castle I’ve visited.

1999_07_17 4 Bodiam

All around the castle are fields complete with sheep. And this castle has a moat (unlike most German castles where we lived.)

1999_07_17 1 Bodiam Castle

1999_07_17 3 Bodiam

And a rather amazing thing — a year or two ago, while working in the Virginia Room on genealogy, I learned that the knight who built Bodiam Castle was my direct ancestor. (This is true for thousands of other Americans, mind you, but I thought it was cool.) He wasn’t a very nice guy, and killed lots of people in France, but he did build an exceptionally beautiful castle.

1999_07_17 5 Bodiam

1999_07_17 6 Bodiam

1999_07_17 7 Bodiam

1999_07_17 8 Bodiam

1999_07_17 9 Bodiam

1999_07_17 10 Climbing walls

1999_07_17 11 Bodiam

1999_07_17 12 Bodiam

1999_07_17 13 Bodiam

1999_07_17 14 Me at Bodiam

1999_07_17 15 Josh at Bodiam

1999_07_17 16 Timmy at Bodiam

1999_07_17 17 Josh at Bodiam

1999_07_17 18 Bodiam

1999_07_17 19 Bodiam

1999_07_17 20 Bodiam

1999_07_17 21 Josh at Bodiam

1999_07_17 22 Bodiam

1999_07_17 23 Bodiam

1999_07_17 24 Bodiam and dirt

1999_07_17 25 Bodiam

1999_07_17 26 Bodiam

1999_07_17 27 Bodiam

1999_07_17 28 Bodiam

1999_07_17 29 Bodiam Moat

1999_07_17 30 Bodiam

1999_07_17 31 Bodiam

After visiting Bodiam Castle, we went on to Castle #75, Battle Abbey (which was fortified), where the Battle of Hastings was fought! The battlefield had a guided audio tour, so we could get a feel for how the battle went.

1999_07_17 33 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 34 Battle

The audio tour took us all around the battlefield.

1999_07_17 35 Battlefield

1999_07_17 36 Battlefield

We gained an appreciation of how sloped the ground was.

1999_07_17 37 Battlefield

And the tour brought us back around to the Abbey

1999_07_17 38 Battle

1999_07_17 39 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 40 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 41 Battle Abbey

This stone marked the spot where King Harold was killed in 1066. Believe it or not, my eyes got misty when I stood on this spot — because I’d recently read The King’s Shadow, by Elizabeth Alder, which tells Harold’s story. It was silly, because if Harold hadn’t lost that battle, I’m sure I wouldn’t exist — the majority of my ancestors are English, with plenty of Norman blood. But the story was so powerful, I couldn’t help but mourn for Harold.

1999_07_17 42 King Harold

Here’s Jade (then called Josh) listening to the audio tour.

1999_07_17 43 Josh Audio

1999_07_17 44 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 45 Battle Abbey

We went to a tea room in Hastings, where we had lunch and some fun with the statuary.

1999_07_17 46 Hastings

1999_07_17 47 Hastings

1999_07_17 48 Hastings

Next, we headed to Winnie-the-Pooh country! We visited the town of Hartfield, where A. A. Milne lived and explored the countryside where Christopher Robin used to play.

Here’s the Enchanted Place at the Top of the Forest!

1999_07_17 49 Enchanted Place

And the Poohsticks Bridge! The Poohsticks Bridge!

1999_07_17 50 Poohsticks

1999_07_17 51 Poohsticks

1999_07_17 52 Poohsticks

That night, we drove to where we’d rented a self-catering cottage in Wisbech, in the middle of the fens. It wasn’t the most picturesque spot itself, but it was very central, for all our further travels.

On the 18th, we headed East. First stop was Castle #76, Framlingham Castle.

1999_07_18 1 Framlingham

1999_07_18 2 Framlingham

Framlingham had another audio tour. It was mostly a shell wall, which we could walk around. Framlingham had something like 17 chimneys (added later).

1999_07_18 3 Framlingham

The view over the wall was lovely.

1999_07_18 4 Framlingham View

And here’s the inside:

1999_07_18 5 Framlingham

1999_07_18 6 Framlingham

1999_07_18 7 Framlingham

1999_07_18 8 Framlingham

1999_07_18 9 Josh at Framlingham

Sheep dog trials were happening in the field next to the castle! We watched for awhile from the wall.

1999_07_18 10 Sheep dogs

1999_07_18 11 Sheep dog

1999_07_18 12 Framlingham

1999_07_18 13 Framlingham

Our next stop that day was Castle #77, Somerleyton Hall — more of a grand palace than the ruin that was Framlingham. But the grounds were simply lovely.

1999_07_18 14 Somerleyton Hall

This tent was actually a tea room.

1999_07_18 15 Somerleyton

1999_07_18 16 Somerleyton

1999_07_18 17 Somerleyton

1999_07_18 18 Somerleyton

And the grounds had a labyrinth!

1999_07_18 19 Labyrinth

Josh made it to the center first.

1999_07_18 20 Josh Center

1999_07_18 21 Labyrinth Center

1999_07_18 22 Labyrinth

That covers the second and third days of our England vacation!

I did mention that England was one of my favorite places, right? I’d like to say it was my second-favorite vacation of all our years in Germany, but hmmm, our Bavaria vacation was great, too. (Tied for second, maybe?)

So anyway, next up will be Cambridge, London, more castles, Oxford, more castles, and the seaside. (Perhaps not all in one post.)

Project 52, Week 35, Part One – Vacation in England!

February 15th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_16 11 Dover

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

Now that I’m in the Germany years, though, I can’t seem to cover a year in one little blog post. It makes me tired trying to post about all we did. No wonder I remember feeling a little overwhelmed! I didn’t finish last week’s posts until last night, when I finally finished up with Castles #70 and #71 that we visited the day before my 35th birthday.

To review: As the year started, Steve was still with the USAFE Band, stationed at Sembach Air Base in Germany. We loved it there so much, he’d decided to sign up for another 3 years. I had been working for a year now half-time at the base library at Sembach. It was as if the job were designed for me, I loved it so much. (And continually marveled at how much more I liked it than teaching.) We had lived for awhile in my dream house in Gundersweiler, Germany.

The catch to all this was that life was a little crazy. We were visiting castles. I was a Mom of two kids. I had a big house to keep up with. My headaches were coming back, since I’d stopped Inderal after I figured out it was giving me drug-induced lupus. And I was trying to be a writer. But it was hard to find time to write.

The good side? What a wonderful, wonderful place to live! And with Steve, Jade (then called Josh) and Timmy, the people I loved most. Steve was a great sport to do all the castling with us even though his job took him all over Europe.

I haven’t mentioned yet that it was right around the time we moved to Germany that my friends started getting email. (Darlene had it before that, but she was the exception.) So I felt much less isolated from my friends than I had when we lived in Illinois. Plus the other folks in the band knew that your family was far away — so they were friendlier than the band folks in Illinois, as a rule. (Though some of our best friends in Europe, we’d known first in Illinois, so maybe it was just that we knew more people, right from the start.)

Plus, when I went to the SCBWI Writer’s Retreat in Paris in 1999, I made actual friends who wrote children’s novels! I remember this was also about the time I discovered Knitter’s Magazine. Both things, in a rather silly way, made me feel like there were people out there like me. Kindred spirits.

And my best friend (and kindred spirit) in Germany and fellow band wife Jeanine Krause, started working at the Sembach Library that summer, sharing the job with me. That was a treat. (And sometimes we’d go into the library on the day it was closed and do photo album scrapbooking together.)

In fact, the first castle we visited when I was 35 was with Jeanine. It was Father’s Day, June 20, 1999, and our husbands were marching in a parade in Boppard (on the Rhine River). So we went to the Fest together and watched the parade — and visited the Römer Kastel in Boppard while we were there.

The bus we took to the Fest in Boppard had one of my favorite words on it! (Sonderfahrt means “special trip”.)

1999_06_20 1 Sonderfahrt

And here’s the Römer Kastell. Just a little ruin in the center of town.

1999_06_20 2 Romer Kastell

On July 2, we went to Holiday Park! I think it was a belated birthday celebration for Josh. We’d give them a choice of a party or a trip to an amusement park with one friend, so Josh chose Holiday Park with their best friend Ryan.

Holiday Park was a tiny amusement park very close to us. It didn’t have a whole lot of rides, but it was empty! So we could go on the rides they did have over and over again.

1999_07_02 1 Holiday Park

Looks like Timmy lost a tooth!

1999_07_02 2 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 3 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 4 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 5 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 6 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 7 Holiday Park

This was one of the most boring rides in the world, so the kids had fun posing:

1999_07_02 8 Scared

1999_07_02 9 Holiday Park

There’s a kid who’s come to terms with getting wet! We went on this ride many times.

1999_07_02 10 Wet Timmy

1999_07_02 11 Wet Timmy

1999_07_02 12 Log Ride

1999_07_02 13 Log Ride

And after one more time on the rafts:

1999_07_02 14 Wet Timmy

But then came our trip to ENGLAND!!!!

Our first summer in Europe, Steve’s parents chose our vacation — to Sweden (which was amazing). The next year, I wanted to go back to Spittal an der Drau. The top priority, right after that, was going to England. We were there from July 16 to July 24.

And I’ve seen so many movies and read so many books set in England — it felt like coming home.

That first time, before Ryan Air existed, we took the ferry from Calais to Dover, which was actually very expensive — but it also meant we didn’t have to rent a car.

1999_07_16 1 Ferry

Our first stop in England was Castle #73 — Dover Castle!

1999_07_16 2 Dover Castle

I liked Dover Castle a lot. A castle with a beautiful view (We could see all the way to France!), but also one that had an important function from the days of King Henry VIII all the way to World War II. Amazing.

1999_07_16 3 Dover

1999_07_16 4 Dover

1999_07_16 5 Dover

1999_07_16 6 Dover

1999_07_16 7 Dover

1999_07_16 8 Dover

1999_07_16 9 Dover

1999_07_16 10 Dover

1999_07_16 12 Dover

1999_07_16 13 Dover

1999_07_16 14 Dover

1999_07_16 15 Dover

1999_07_16 16 Dover

Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to stop there tonight. More about our England vacation is coming up!

Project 52, Week 34, Part 9 – The Most Beautiful Place in the World!

February 14th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 9!

1999_04_14 9 Happy Family

34 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

The question is: Can I finish talking about Year 34 on the last night of Week 34? This is now the ninth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, yet more castles, Ruth and John’s visit, our trip to EuroDisney, more travels and more visitors, and Writing at the Abbaye de Royaumont.

My family, including my in-laws, was still on vacation when they picked me up after my overwhelmingly wonderful weekend at the Writer’s Retreat at the Abbaye de Royaumont. Our next stop was Holland, and the next day we went to the most beautiful place in the world — Keukenhof Gardens in Springtime. I’m just going to post lots of pictures. The gardens were amazing.

1999_04_14 1 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 2 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 3 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 4 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 5 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 6 Timmy shoes

1999_04_14 7 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 8 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 10 Timmy

1999_04_14 11 Statue

1999_04_14 12 Bridge

1999_04_14 13 Jade

1999_04_14 14 Jade

1999_04_14 15 Timmy

1999_04_14 16 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 17 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 18 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 19 Timmy

1999_04_14 20 Timmy

1999_04_14 21 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 22 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 23 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 24 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 25 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 26 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 27 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 28 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 29 Eklunds

1999_04_14 30 All

1999_04_14 31 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 32 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 33 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 34 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 35 Keukenhof

And we finished up our vacation with a trip to the tiny city at Madurodam.

1999_04_15 1 Madurodam

1999_04_15 2 Madurodam

1999_04_15 3 Madurodam

1999_04_15 4 Madurodam

1999_04_15 5 Madurodam

1999_04_15 6 Madurodam

1999_04_15 7 Madurodam

And we stopped at the pottery factory in Delft. I got an adorable little piggy bank that I still have today on my desk.

1999_04_15 8 Delft

So we had a lovely time while the Eklunds visited, but it was also exhausting. Then we caught our breaths and the next pictures are from Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day and on my birthday, I always requested that we have dinner at a castle. And the weather in Germany in May is pretty much glorious. So we went to one of our favorites, Altenbaumburg, and had dinner outside, overlooking the valley.

1999_05_09 1 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 2 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 3 Jade

1999_05_09 4 Altenbaumburg

I call this one My Angel Picture. Behind them the yellow fields are the Rapps blooming, as they do in May.

1999_05_09 5 Angel Picture

1999_05_09 6 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 7 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 8 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 9 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 10 Altenbaumburg

Here are some from a May ramble on the top of our Gundersweiler Hill:

1999_05_23 1 Our Hill Steve

1999_05_23 2 Our Hill Jade

1999_05_23 3 Our Hill

1999_05_23 4 Our Hill

Some time in there, by the way, we began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a family, followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It wasn’t a phenomenon quite yet. We gave a copy to Josh’s 5th grade teacher at the end of the year, and he later said it was the best gift he’d ever received.

Here are some pictures from our house. The first flowers are Pfingsten Poppies that bloom around the holiday of Pfingsten. (I loved the flowers that popped up around our house in Gundersweiler.)

1999_05 1 At Home

1999_05 2 Pfingsten Poppies

1999_06 1 Gundersweiler

In June, we went to Zweibrücken and visited the Rose Garden and Castle #69.

1999_06_07 1 Zweibrucken

1999_06_07 2 Zweibrucken

1999_06_07 3 Burg Zweibrucken

1999_06_07 4 Burg Zweibrucken

And on the last day I was 34, we did some castling in Luxembourg!

First was Castle #70, Burg Ulmen (actually in the Vulkan-Eifel on the way to Luxembourg). And yes, Vulkan is the same word as volcano. The lake next to Burg Ulmen was once a volcanic crater.

1999_06_13 1 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 2 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 3 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 4 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 5 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 6 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 7 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 8 Burg Ulmen

And then Castle #71, Chateau-Palais de Vianden in Luxembourg.

1999_06_13 1 Vianden

1999_06_13 2 Vianden

1999_06_13 9 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 10 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 11 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 12 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 13 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 14 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 15 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 16 Vianden Jade - Copy

1999_06_13 17 Vianden Me

1999_06_13 18 Vianden

And here’s how my 34th year ended:

1999_06_13 19 Sleeping

Now tomorrow I’m ready to talk about when I was 35!

Project 52, Week 34, Part 8 – Writing at the Abbaye de Royaumont!

February 13th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 8!

1999_04_12 2 Abbaye

34 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

And the week is almost up, but I haven’t finished the year yet! This is now the eighth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, yet more castles, Ruth and John’s visit, our trip to EuroDisney, and more travels and more visitors.

After we went to Belgium with my family and Steve’s parents, one of the highlights of my life happened. They went to Paris — and dropped me off at the Abbaye de Royaumont outside Paris on April 11. They picked me up on April 13, after I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference.

When I walked through the gate of the Abbaye, here is the sight that greeted me!

1999_04_11 1 Abbaye

When I prayed about the conference, yes, I hoped an editor would discover my work and beg to publish it, but what I really prayed for was that I’d make some connections with other writers of middle grade novels. I was feeling a little bit of a freak, since I didn’t know anyone else who was desperately trying to find time in their lives to write children’s novels.

That prayer was answered in spades!

But first, some walking about the Abbaye grounds.

1999_04_11 2 Abbaye

1999_04_11 3 Abbaye

1999_04_11 4 Abbaye

My roommate was Vicki Sansum, and she proved to be delightful! We were pretty sure they’d given us the Servant’s Quarters, but the conference was so good, that was a minor detail in comparison.

That first night, at dinner, I sat next to someone — who ended up being Arthur Levine, the editor with Scholastic who had brought the Harry Potter books to America!

I had given Josh the first Harry Potter book for their birthday, having read about it in Horn Book Magazine. But I hadn’t read it myself yet! (What an opportunity lost!) It was shortly after this conference that Josh told us this needed to be the next book we read at bedtime. (We were trying to read to both kids at once, now that Timmy was 4 years old.) And so began a wonderful family tradition. Steve did most of the reading aloud when we were home. (In fact, when Steve moved out just after Book 6 came out, when I was crying about it, I said, “But who will read Harry Potter to us?” What, after all, is important?)

Anyway, the conference was wonderful. I got to talk with editors. I got a critique of my first book. I affirmed my intention to be a writer. And, best of all, I made connections with other writers.

1999_04_11 5 Abbaye

1999_04_12 1 Abbaye

Here’s the luxurious dining hall. Vicki’s in front in the blue.

1999_04_12 3 Lunch

1999_04_12 6 Abbaye

By the end of the conference, we’d formed an email critique group. It ended up being me, Vicki Sansum, Erin MacLellan, and Kristin Wolden Nitz. Within the next few years, all three of them did get published, and I’ve put links to my reviews of their first books. (I kept saying it was my turn next, but I stopped critiquing awhile back because now I’d like to get on the Newbery committee before getting published.)

For awhile, we emailed very faithfully, and they became my dear friends. We call ourselves the Sisters of Royaumont. We had a reunion at another SCBWI Writer’s Conference at the Abbaye de Royaumont in 2005 — which happened the day after my husband told me he wanted a divorce. These women were my lifeline! (But more about that later.) Anyway, it all began at the beautiful Abbaye de Royaumont in April 1999.

Here I am with Vicki:

1999_04_12 4 with Vicki

And here are Erin and Vicki:

1999_04_12 5 Vicki and Erin

And I’m afraid this isn’t the greatest picture of Kristin, but think of her as a Woman of Mystery.

1999_04_12 7 Kristin

It was an amazing weekend. And I came home now having new lifelong friends who shared my passion.