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Monday, January 30, 2012

Greek Holidays: Surprise! The kids don't have school tomorrow!

We have been very...um...surprised by the lack of information we have received from the school here.

I keep putting myself in the shoes of someone visiting the US for a year, because there are bound to be quirks in the US system, too.  So how is someone who was born and raised in Timbuktu to know about Labor Day? The US schools put out a schedule at the beginning of the year.  I asked a friend if one was available here and she just laughed at me.  So I have tried to be flexible, especially when the kids come home from school and tell me that there's a public holiday the following day and school will be closed.  After all, it's not like I have plans.  Ever.  It's such a refreshing break to have my chickies at home all together.

Image borrowed from Josephpatterson.wordpress.com (Thank you!)
What brings this on is the feast day of the Three Hierarchs, which celebrates these saints, ostensibly the patrons of learning.  It's definitely a religious feast day that our family would observe in the US, but we homeschool, so we can do whatever we want (wink, wink).  I found out the day before that the kids wouldn't have school, but everyone else seemed to know this was coming.  We've experienced this a few other times in the past with other religious holidays, which has been kind of neat.  I definitely appreciate the emphasis on attending church.

Random Monday (again)

1)I was all set to post about this holiday, which was observed today, but we had such a lovely and peaceful and random day here, the post can wait.

2) A friend sent me a link to this video, on this blog.  I can't believe I'd never heard of Elizabeth Foss before!  Spent a while reading after the kids went to bed.

3)  Thought that this post of hers resonated with my desire to slow down and be more present, and how that desire has been oh-so-pressing lately.

4) Found another blog through another friend.  Very excited to try out some of the activities when we get home, and really geeked about the planner she uses. (Although I don't think I can make the transition to digital.)

5)  Z and M have discovered a new favorite audio book series.  Or maybe I found it and they discovered that they liked it.  Both listened to it all morning.  I'll be sharing on Thursday.

6) T has been working hard on his words.  I wish I could get him to reproduce them on film, but whenever I take out the camera, he will only smile.

7) I chuckled at the questions M was asking Z tonight when they should have been falling asleep.  The hilarity of his questions was topped only by her answers.

8) B really wanted me to look here (just at the Russian photos) and here at some things that have been floating around on the web for a while.  I think if someone offered him an excuse to live in Russia for a year, he'd say yes in a heartbeat.

9) Speaking of cold, it snowed (ok, flurried) here this afternoon and is supposed to snow tonight. Crazy, right?  The kids were making all sorts of accumulation predictions while they were watching the sparse flurries sprinkle this afternoon.  We miss snow, I think.

10) Have a lovely evening!  We'll let you know how much snow we got tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Make New Friends

I wasn't sure how the whole friend-making bit was going to happen when we moved to Greece.  My expectations for meeting my newest, bestest, best friend ever were pretty low.  Not that it couldn't happen, but between language barriers and my introverted personality, the cards were stacked against me.  And I was perfectly satisfied.  I have a wonderful circle of friends and acquaintances in the US, and emailing them fills up that need to talk to people. (Yoo-hoo!  Hello there, friends!)

To my surprise, I have made more chance and lasting acquaintances here than I have in the States.  A few are American--perhaps we cling to each other like a life raft.

My children had much higher expectations, I'm afraid.  The first night we were here, jet-lagged and hot and cross, Z came home from the playground very distraught that she hadn't played with anyone.  And after two weeks of school, when she was still getting used to life in Athens, she was still looking for a playmate.  She was miserable.

BUT, slowly, slowly she has begun to find friends.  And since we all live within a few blocks of each other, we see friends wherever we go.

And I make more pointed efforts to spend time with the friends we have.  Just this morning we spent some time with our American friends(they're coming over for dinner tonight, too).  They showed us a new playground!  That's the mother behind M.  Her little girls were getting supplies for the clubhouse everyone was making.

(T was cold and did not want to participate.  This is his grumpy face.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

What do M and Z do all day?

M examines, sorts, stacks, counts and plays with coins.  For hours.  He was excited to learn today that he (and Z) have €14,73.

Z likes to draw while listening to books read aloud to her.  When I don't have a moment to sit and concentrate on reading, we visit here or here for some favorites. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Poor, part 14

Have you read this?

You should.

Our kids love the rambling and silly tale of this wooden puppet, who just can't seem to make the right choices.  I adore the Puffin Classics format and cover design.  The collector in me wants them ALL. (We already own and have read these two.  I'd say that's a good start?)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dear Sister,

We love getting letters from you.  They're always works of art.
Please don't ever let anyone tell you that I'm the creative one.

You are.

We love you.  XOXOXOXO

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Please, come in.

 If you were to visit our house unannounced on a Saturday, you might see the following scenes.
Forts set up in the bedroom

(Very Organized Forts)

A stroller parked near the hanger I forgot to put away.

Backpacks ready for school (and a scooter, too).

The items we drop as we come in the door.
The other naked baby.
Projects in various states of completion.
Something drying on the radiator.

I took these pictures on Saturday while the big kids were out at a museum with B and T was napping.  There was such a hush over the house that cleaning up all of the messes seemed disruptive.  (I did it anyway.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

A turning point

If I hadn't been uncomfortably present for Z's birth, I would have sworn that she sprang Athena-style from B's head.  She has manifested none of my genes for appearance or personality, which makes life veeery interesting at times.

Until recently, that is. We've been unable to pry the books from Z's hands. (My high school cross-country coach remembers me running and reading at the same time.)

Whew!  I was beginning to worry.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Imogen Tee

When I first decided to turn T's yarn into something for myself, I envisioned luscious cables, deep ribbed edges and a scoop neck.  Then I counted the skeins (Eek!Only 5!), and decided to go for something with lace.  Lace, because it adds holes to the final product, uses far less yarn than cables.  I'm still thinking about the cabled sweater, but I'll save it for more yarn.

Have you visited the Quince and Co. website?  It's lovely, just like their yarn, and I've yet to see a pattern there that I don't want to knit.  This one immediately drew my eye.  Since I didn't have the same yarn, I skipped purchasing the pattern and went straight to designing it myself.  I found my measurements, my gauge, and a chart for the distinctive Frost Flowers lace.

It was a quick knit, but interrupted by other projects and life.  When I finished the top, I was a little nervous: the waistband sat at my belly button and emphasized my lack of chest curves.  My fears were only heightened when B looked at me wearing it and said: "Yep, it needs to be longer.  You can do that, right?"  Oh, dear.  Could I?

With the miracle of blocking, yes!  The wool relaxed nicely, and here's the finished project.  Yay!

(And just for the record, I wet blocked this top.)

(And also for the record, nothing will make my top look curvy but pregnancy and nursing.)

The Worsted of Imogen
yarn: Quince and Co. Lark in Peacoat
exactly 4 skeins

Friday, January 20, 2012

Living with Less

"I'm excited about living with less."

It was the first thing I told people after we announced the big move.  And I was.  I couldn't wait to shed many of our possessions and survive on whatever we could pack in our suitcases.  I knew that life would be a little simpler if we didn't have so much...stuff.  Reading this book right now has made me very thankful that we were forced to pare down, and reinforced the idea that less is more, slower is better.

And it has been slower here.  Despite the occasional inconvenience, I am so glad that we don't have a car.  Shopping has become very easy, but also very intentional: I can't carry T and twenty bags up a hill to our house.  And honestly, it's far easier to get everyone out of the house to walk somewhere than to get into the car.  We don't use our credit card, so there aren't any impulse buys.   We brought clothes, but very few.  Choosing what to wear in the morning has become ridiculously easy. We didn't bring any books; we knew we'd be buying some.  Our life fits neatly into our small living space.

I was concerned that my ideas of simplicity might not be received well by the rest of the family, though.  I prepped Z and M for weeks before we left, asking them which were their favorite toys and which they could live without for a few months.  They were allowed to pack a small carry-on bag full of the toys they wanted to have in Athens.  I made a few suggestions about things that might not be appropriate or might get lost(such as a whole bag of tiny Legos), but I left most of the decisions to M and Z.  They generally chose open-ended toys, like some favorite small cars, and art supplies.  I, without their knowledge, packed play silks and a deck of cards.  It was a challenge at first, to get used to fewer things, especially for the kids.  We purchased a few new toys and art supplies when we arrived (Thank you, Papa!), but other than that, the kids were satisfied with what they had.  They also used their creativity to come up with new toys; something they did before that made our house feel cluttered, but here has a different effect.

When Christmas came, Z and M were thrilled to have new things and they appreciated them much more.  And I have learned a valuable lesson about how to rotate toys so that they please, rather than overwhelm.

 I don't think we'll be getting rid of all of our toys when we return to the US, but I will definitely be finding a way to bring peace to our toy area.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Poor, part 13

I'm guessing that everyone has seen the movie 101 Dalmations.  It's a classic.
But have you read the book?

I didn't even realize there was one until last year. (It's very different from the film. ) We listened to it on an audiobook from the library last year, but we liked it so much I knew that we had to own it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Curse of the Boy Child or A Tutorial for Patching Jeans


When M was a toddler, he outgrew pants before this Y-chromosome trait had a chance to manifest itself.  Now, he has but to look at a pair of pants and the knees wear out.  We brought two pairs of jeans  with us to Greece that were already worn a little thin at the knee.  Lovely jagged holes took up residence not long after we arrived.

A couple of years ago, I would have donated the jeans to Goodwill because it didn't occur to me to patch them.  (What was I thinking?!)  Now, with Goodwill unavailable and the price of Athenian jeans a little spendy for my taste, I am turning to my own ingenuity.  Necessity is the mother of invention, or so I am led to believe.

But really, the idea of patching jeans conjures up the not-so-fashionable pre-made denim patches that my mom used on our jeans.  (Sorry, Mom.)  If I have to patch jeans, why not make the patch look like it was meant to be there?

I started with a stained and damaged T-shirt of M's.  I was only allowed to use this shirt if I promised to cut out the bee for future use, which I readily did.  One of the nice things about this T-shirt is that the knit is thick and not very stretchy, which means that the patches will hold up well.

I cut open the seams, and traced my patch pattern onto the back and sleeves.  I traced the pattern twice for each patch so that I would have a layer inside the jean leg and a layer on the outside.

I marked the placement of the patch on the leg with the larger hole, and then I transferred the markings to the other leg.  (It would be nice to have the patches be symmetrical.)

I used an iron-on glue that I found in a store here to hold the patches in place.  The one I used was pretty light, which allows the patches to move a little.

I layered inner patch, glue, jean leg, glue and finally the outer patch.  The next time around I will probably sew the embroidered embellishments on the outer patch before I affix the inner layer.  M says that the stitches and knots don't hurt when he kneels, but he has yet to wear them for a full day.

Because the fabric is light in color, I was able to use a regular pencil to draw where I wanted to sew.  I sewed these on by hand, but I'm hoping to do this at home with the machine.

M requested lightning and a storm for the embellishments, and he's very excited to wear these pants to school tomorrow.  Very gratifying for me, I must say.

There are some great ideas out there.  Go crazy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Burning the Midnight Oil

I told M that I would finish something special for him tomorrow.  I'm so close, but it will have to wait.  I hate it when I underestimate how much time it will take me to make little projects for the kids.  Here's a clue...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Random Monday

1) Last night I loaded a group of pictures onto a draft of a blog post using B's computer. When I logged into Blogger this evening to write the text, the images had disappeared. Poof!

 2) My right hand is functioning at far less than optimal. In the past two weeks, I have developed a strange form of digital dermatitis, and an old injury to the middle joint of my right middle finger has flared up, making really important things like knitting washing dishes virtually impossible.

 3) In the past two days, I have almost forfeited the top half of my right pinkie to our oven, and stabbed my right index finger with a sewing needle.  The pinkie is still a bit of a mess; B is going to be doing the dishes until we leave Athens, at this rate. I have been wearing mittens when I leave the house, just so people won't stare at the ridiculous amount of first-aid tape I have on my right hand.

4) T has learned several new phrases, such as "oh, no" and "don't," which he can't say in anything other than a lusty shout.

5) He has also learned "oh, wow," which he uses when we give him apple slices or cookies.

 6) Z is going through a growthsberg, which is not to be confused with its cousin, the iceberg. Growthsbergs leave a hole in your stomach; icebergs leave holes in ships. And I confess here that I have no idea how I am going to feed this child when she is a teenager. She told me she was hungry less than an hour after lunch.  I ate less than she did, and I was full almost until dinner.

7) The first thing that M does when he leaves his kindergarten class is peel off his coat. The other mothers stand agape as he declares how hot he is and sprints to the school gate wearing only a long sleeved shirt. He has been wanting to wear shorts every day, so I consider his pants a victory and the lack of a coat a minor setback.  

8) B went on a field trip this past Saturday to Mistra, and took some marvelous pictures.  Maybe when he arrives home, he'll let me add one to this post. (He did.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Here and There: Chivalry

THERE, politeness and manners exist, but quietly.  People hold doors open for others and use civil greetings, but I've never noticed that one group or another receives special treatment.  No matter how long the line is in the Post Office, no matter how many wild children I have in tow, I have to wait my turn.

HERE, chivalry is not dead.  The elderly, infirm, and women with children receive special treatment.  I get pushed to the front of long lines, whether at the post office or the grocery store.  People give up their seats on the bus or metro, and seem genuinely upset if I do not take them.  Elderly gentlemen seem especially eager to proffer their seats and spots in line.  I try not to take advantage too often; T can be very patient, especially when I'm wearing him.  Still, I love how there's still something sacred about mothers with small babes and the elderly.

I love that my sons are seeing how to treat others with respect.  Whether it sinks in is another story.

*Again, the picture has no bearing on my post.  The sun has returned and melted all of the snow on the mountain, which meant that we had a great time playing outside for the first time in a week!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Language

I've been putting off this post for some time now, thinking that I would have more interesting things to report if I just waited.

 Sadly, I am still (arguably) fluent in only one language.  I promised B that I would learn Greek once we moved to Athens, and I would have to use it all of the time.  I vowed to complete my Greek Now (Every time I see the book I think, "Serenity Now!") lessons every day; I did when we first arrived and T would oblige me by napping in the morning.   Now that he's busy when my brain is at its daily zenith, I don't sit and concentrate on anything.

The truth is that I hardly use Greek at all.  Sure, I have to pay the clerk at the grocery store, who tells me my total, but there's also a handy register display screen that shows me the exact amount. Yes, M's teacher speaks zero English, but there are several parents who willingly translate whatever is unclear.  I suppose, I could be more proactive, and demand to be spoken to in Greek.  (But that would take effort!)  

I am pleased to report that, however little Greek I have learned, the children's Greek has improved remarkably.  I place special emphasis on the word improved for M's Greek, since Z's has always been fluent.  Most rewarding to hear is T, who has been acquiring new words at an astonishing rate.  His vocabulary is split evenly between the two languages.  Most amusing to us is T's economy:  he chooses between Greek and English based upon ease of pronunciation.  For example,  he uses μαιμού (my-MOO) rather than "monkey,"; but he says "bear" instead of αρκουδάκι (ar-koo-DHAH-ki).

And he seems to be picking up some French, too?  What do you think?

(There's a video above that won't play on iPads, iPhones, or ipods, Mom and Nana.  You may have to look at it on a regular computer.  Feels very stone-agey, huh?)

*The picture has no bearing on this post.  I just wanted to point out the mountain between the apartment buildings that is covered in snow.  It may not be totally clear, but I promise it's there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Off the dole, again

The other night T woke up and was very restless, a side-effect of teething.  As I brought him into bed for a quick snuggle, B quipped "Don't you wish he was still nursing?"

I had to think for a minute.

No, I don't, but I loved every minute of it.  I can't even remember the very last time he nursed, like I can with M and Z.  Nursing T was such a sweet season, and then he grew into a big boy.  He discovered the flavors of oranges and raspberries and strawberries.  He learned how to walk, how to say "more."  He stopped asking to nurse, and I stopped remembering to offer.

And suddenly we were just snuggling on the couch, not snuggling and nursing, like before.

And with so much love from his siblings, mama, and daddy, I don't think he misses it, either.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Rarely, very rarely, all three children are silent.  

It means they're plotting something, or they're busy doing this.

I recently discovered Instagram, so bear with me as I over share pictures...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Poor, part 12

I recently received an email asking if the following book, pictured in the stack of books here, was a hint that we're expecting the fourth little plexichild.*  The real reasons I added this book to my Amazon wish list are the dress on the cover, the quilt draped over the crib, and the pants pictured below.   I also highly respect the author, Anna Maria Horner, who happens to be a talented fabric designer, a practicing Orthodox Christian, and a Nashville resident.  B and I could have accidentally bumped into her at church when we lived there!

I am really excited to make the maternity dress because the pattern is modest, as in covering my knees. When I was pregnant with T, I was astounded that the only dresses I could find barely covered my thighs.  Let's face it, the changes that pregnancy wreaks causes on my body are miraculous and beautiful, but that doesn't mean the whole world wants to see my thighs! Also, the dress can be adapted for non-maternity wear.  I can't wait to make a non-pregnant version as a dry run.

The above pants are reversible.  And adorable.  And the pattern comes in lots of sizes.

*For those who are interested, we're not.  At least to my knowledge.   While we would welcome our fourth child with joy, B and I are growing another kind of baby: his dissertation.  Of course the last time I said that was in October 2009.  T was born in June of 2010.  You do the math.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


yarn: Cascade 220, held double
needles: 10.5 double pointed

Theophany has come and gone, and taken the last remnants of Christmas with it.  B took the kids to a packed Liturgy in the morning, and when they returned to the house, we had a Watching-the-Blessing-of-the-Waters party.  Here, the hierarchs bless the Mediterranean Sea by saying prayers and throwing a cross into the water and it's televised.  How cool is that?  Traditionally people dive to catch the cross in the water.  The event looked pretty cold to us as we listened to the wind whip around our apartment.  The kids will be starting school again on Monday, and I think it's safe to say that they're ready to see their friends.

 We're also waiting patiently for the next wave of victims to fall ill, and I thought I'd share the only knitted Christmas gift that I made this year.  The pattern was in the Greek Burdastyle magazine I purchased a while ago.  To be honest, I just looked at the picture and ignored the pattern.  B was curious about the Greek knitting terms, so he read the pattern.  (I know!  Imagine that!)  They turned out so well that I am making a child-sized version for a friend's daughter and maybe, just maybe, a pair for myself.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas isn't Christmas until...

...someone gets sick.  In our nine years of marriage, B and I have spent only two totally healthy Christmas vacations: our first, and last year.  Some years have been worse than others.  None will forget the Great Rotavirus Plague of 2008.  It laid out sixteen family members in a two week period--everyone but my mother-in-law.  We're still trying to figure out how you dodged that bullet, Nana.

This year, when we'd had nothing more sinister than head colds by New Year's Day, I started to breathe a sigh of relief.  Alas! it was too soon.

T developed what promises to be a doozy of a stomach bug yesterday; B and Z are complaining of stomachaches.  I am thankful that we held off the disease for B's parents' visit.  We had a wonderful time sightseeing, relaxing, and playing, with nary a hiccup.  Nana and Papa are winging their way home from their stay with us as I write, and I pray that any bug they get also waits to present itself.

We'll stay close to home today, despite it being the Forefeast of Theophany.  Hopefully I'll have a chance to work a little on my knitting.  On my way to the store to add to my cracker/broth/ginger ale stockpile this morning, I passed a few groups of carolers.  We're glad that someone is enjoying the holiday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Poor, part 11

So much for the Greek books in our collection!  We're riding high on the piles of English books from both sets of grandparents.  Please bear with us as we share our favorites.

I read about this book here and threw it into my Amazon wish list.  Oh, how we all love it!  

 T loves the bright pictures; M and Z love the animal facts; I love collective nouns.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

τι είν᾽ αυτὀ;

I found this advertisement for a play.  Can you guess which play and who wrote it?

Here's the front of the flier. Does it help?