After Leah's recommendation, evaluation, and approval, she was able to start first grade after spring break, and move on to second grade in the fall. We had our last long vacation in the spring. We had a large crowd at Easter, with everyone receiving a fine Swiss chocolate bunny! I got to enjoy two trips to the Renaissance Festival--one with family and one without; and we spent four days at St. Pete Beach. We helped Mom out with projects around her house, and I only read ONE book during the whole vacation!
Then it was back home, getting Leah off to school, starting the garden and celebrating Leah's 7th birthday. We threw a "Rock Star" themed party, and I got to meet many of her new friends from school. I made her patchwork bedcovers with Disney Princesses, including duvet cover, pillowcase and a lampshade. I've never sewn anything more than a potholder (which I made for practice!) and the machine I have is older than I am. It was a challenge, but it came out pretty good, and she loves it.
In June, Mathis and I had a meeting with Leah's teacher, who said she is adjusting very well, except that she tends to talk all the time. No! Really?! And she has to take off her shoes and leave them beside her desk, because her constant foot-tapping was driving everyone crazy. At least she is getting straight A's. Since Leah is in school now, we were very involved in the preparation for and celebration of Jugendfest, which is a youth festival held in Seengen every four years. The weekend was filled with parades, singing and dancing performances, rides, a field day, pseudo-military maneouvres and a variety of food and drink. The following week, the school hosted the "Schnellste Seenger" 60-meter dash competition open to all school kids in Seengen. Leah came in sixth place in the semi-finals!!! I was very surprised and very proud! I gave her a new Timex kids' watch.
Summer vacation started with a slew of birthday parties for Leah to attend, and I enjoyed the quiet time sunning myself and reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. And of course, I was busy in the garden and kitchen. In August, we took a trip to Ravensburg, Germany, where we stayed at a cool old hotel right next to the old town gate. We stopped at the spectacular Rhine Falls on the way, and spent a day at Spieleland--a theme park created by a game manufacturer. Mathis and I got to enjoy two great concerts when we saw Iron Maiden and Metallica in the same week. I saw Maiden from the front row, and came away with much sweat but minimal damage. Those guys still look and sound the same-&endash;awesome. But not as loud as they used to be.
I had the experience of a lifetime when I traveled to France to visit our friend Laurent and his family. I went for the festival of La Vivre, which is held in Couches every 20 years. It's based on the good riddance of a local dragon, "La Vivre," who was terrorizing the land. Their town of 1500 people swells to 30,000 as crowds fill the streets to see the dragon, accompanied by an assortment of medieval royalty, townspeople, peasants, gypsies and wine drinkers.
I took the train to Dijon, where Laurent, Michele and I did some sightseeing, visiting the old town with it's ancient timbered buildings and beautiful cathedrals.. The next morning, we drove to Couches. The first day of the festival included a reenactment of a medieval wedding, followed by tournament with jousting, sword fighting, trick riding, and a troupe of dancers, fire breathers, and leashed "bears." There was a medieval market and other entertainments set up throughout the town.
On the second day, we joined in the big parade, and danced our way along the whole route. At one point, I was dancing with some guy, and the audience was clapping and cheering, and I realized that they thought I was supposed to be there. I had to laugh, knowing that I had just crashed the party. I thrilled with the knowledge that I was in this little village of Couches, dancing down the street, right in the middle of their once-every-20-years festival. My life is so full of bizarre but good fortune! I had SO MUCH FUN!!!
With or without a festival, Couches is a wonderful place, made so by the friendly people there. It was great how at-home I felt, even though I could hardly talk to anyone. I hope it doesn't take another decade for me to get back there for another visit!
We really missed our trip to Chipley this year, and were sad to hear of Aunt Irma's passing. She is definitely on the short list of those we want to see again in whatever comes after this life. Our two week vacation in Florida was so much shorter than we are used to, but we are always glad to visit Mom, and grateful from the bottom of our hearts for all she does for us!!! Apologies to all those family and friends that I didn't manage to see in the time we were there.
Since our trip to Florida was in the beginning (rather than the end) of October, this year I experi-enced my first-ever white Halloween. One advantage of the icy weather was that I was able to burn my pumpkins every night for a week. Leah put on the ballerina dress she got from Lily and went trick-or-treating with some friends. It wasn't the same as previous Halloweens in Florida, but it had its own specialness. I'm sure her memories of Halloween will be just as great as mine. Someday, she'll be telling her kids about how she was one of the first to trick-or-treat in Seengen, and how she could name who every treat came from. "Those were the days …"
After Halloween, I had to start right away making stuff for the local Christmas Market, which we participated in for the first time this year. I sewed tons of fabric bags (three sizes), and made a bunch of Ringelblumen Salbe (calendula salve). The Ringelblumen Salbe sales covered everything; I only sold a few bags. It was a fun community event, and my family was a big help. I started an online shop to market the leftovers, and actually had some after-sales of both salve and bags. But I've still got enough inventory to do it again next year.
Although the holiday season was busy, I had enough time to myself, as Mathis and Leah have been going skiing at every opportunity. Mathis tells me he's very proud of her progress, and that I will have to come along some time.
Leah started piano lessons in August, and practices every night while I'm making dinner. During a recital at the beginning of December, she played her two songs perfectly. She plays a lot better in front of an audience! And she made her great-grandmother very happy by playing a handful of carols on Christmas. She actually insisted that we have music before opening presents! She's such a Fingerle.
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Looking forward to 2009 and to seeing what the new president is going to do...
Stacey, Mathis and Leah