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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Something New

When B and I picked up the big kids from the grandparents, we noticed something different.  I'm telling you, our children, who are typically well-behaved and pleasant to be around, came home from the time with their grandparents even more helpful and fabulous and willing to chip in.  

And so, à la Elsie Marley, I'm sharing our new responsibilities.  I have yet to hear a complaint about the actual tasks set for each child.  (They are just very concerned that everything is FAIR.  I don't blame them.)  Things like putting away toys, making beds, and attending to general hygiene don't count as additional chores.

Z, who is now 8:
rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher--every meal
folding all laundry
putting away everyone's clothing but M's
cleaning up after T, occasionally with his help

M, who is now 6:
taking out trash and recycling with B
clearing table and scraping dishes
putting away clean silverware
cleaning up after T, occasionally with his help

They take turns setting the table and doing other random jobs that crop up in a day, like carrying bags in from the car, or entertaining T.

Until this summer, I had been fairly inconsistent in my enforcement of such duties, and mostly because I had a hard time letting the kids work at their level (I have a habit of micromanaging).  But this evening, after close to a week of consistent dish-washing, I noticed several things that convinced me that the chores had sunk in.  Z not only figured out how to organize the silverware in the dishwasher, but she also learned how to close the dishwasher door without displacing any plates (or making that horrible crashing sound).  I call that progress!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Home Again, Home Again

I don't know if I would describe our airplane journey with the phrase "jiggety-jig," but we made it!  The kids were so extremely well-behaved and cooperative that I kept saying little prayers of thanks.  At one point I told the older two kids to turn off their movies and go to sleep, and they were both unconscious within five minutes.  T was happy as long as we took walks around the plane every so often, and he was a little loud (but happy loud).  We were over the moon to see family as soon as we landed, including a surprise visit from my niece.  She's the one who made us the sign.

The past few weeks have flown by, between unpacking and rearranging furniture and more unpacking and setting up phone service and more unpacking.  The house is still in disarray, but the important items have found a home.  The big kids spent two weeks at their grandparents' house far, far away.  T and I missed them, but we filled the time with a few activities...

...like baking and eating lots of cookies...

...playing with old toys...

...and reading the same books over and over and over.

I found a little time to knit and sew, but I was consumed with homeschool preparation.  I have never, ever felt so compelled to be quite so organized.  Ever.  And despite the fact that paper scraps and math manipulatives have exploded in our homeschool area, I can safely say that the school year is really coming together.  More sharing later.

After a couple of weeks of T and me time, B arrived home and spent a his days doing this:

Sometimes with, sometimes without, a partner.

We have readjusted to life in the States with surprising ease, making our time in Greece feel very much like a far off dream.  People keep asking if we had a good time (yes!) and would we go back (yes!).

Ahhh, it is nice to be back again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Saying Good-bye to the Parthenon

This morning I convinced B that he didn't need to go to work, and that he could spend one last day hanging out with us before we leave. (He has a few things to finish up here before he rejoins us.)  What can I say?  I think that I am largely somewhat to blame for any lack of progress on his dissertation.

Anyway, he asked both Z and M what their favorite place in Athens was, and endeavored to take them to say good-bye.  Neither hesitated.  M chose the Acropolis/Parthenon, and Z chose the Acropolis Museum.  B was only too happy to make the outing during the super-pleasant weather we're experiencing.

This photo has been recycled from one of our fall visits to the Acropolis, but M is wearing the exact same clothing for the visit today, down to the shoes!

I put T down for an early nap, ostensibly so that I could pack.  There's really nothing for me to do, other than tap my feet anxiously and wander around the apartment.  Rather than scrambling to round things up, I am waiting for clean clothes to dry.  We'll be leaving the house a mess-ish. (Sorry, honey.)  But everything we've left can be tossed into the trash.  Really.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Last Hurrah (or maybe I should say "ΖΗΤΩ!")

The view from our balcony, as I was eating breakfast.  Horses and sea in the far left.

T's godparents recently purchased a home in a village just outside of Nafplio, a city that B and I have loved since our college semester abroad days.  When we were invited to spend a little time with them and their family right before our departure for the States, we jumped at the chance.  Oh, friends, we had the most relaxing and heavenly weekend.  Despite the fact that all of their furniture was stuck in customs (things here just take a bit longer than scheduled), our friends showed us their beautiful new home, and they remained wonderful hosts.

Where, O Where, can I find such tile in the US?

We stayed at the charming Christina Apartments, which are every bit as elysian as the website makes them sound.  For some reason the tile in the bathroom made me smile.  We have definitely added this place to the list of "Must-See Again."  

Ready for our last trip to the beach, and scoping out the horses to visit.

The big kids loved the beach, and T warmed to it by the end of our stay.  For the rest of the time he chose to sit well away from the gently lapping Argolic Gulf, and yell "Scat, Water!"(in Greek, of course) whenever he felt it moved too close.  I have never been so thankful for a child who will stay put on the beach.  I was never afraid that he would wander too close to the water.  This bodes well for our trip to Lake Michigan later this summer!  

The big kids adored playing with T's god-brothers and god-sister, who are a bit older, and wonderful role-models.  My favorite memory is of Z and M chasing a school of fish, trying to catch the "teacher,"  the one fish bigger than the rest.  Z declared that the teacher must have let the fish out for recess when they saw her coming, because those wily fish would just. not. be. caught.  

Asleep on the bus ride home after a full day of beach and play

After this lovely weekend, we boarded the bus for Athens and home, at least for now.  I am so thankful for the chance to reconnect with our American friends, whom we will see so very shortly.

And walking home from "our" metro stop was so very sad.  It was the last time the kids and I would do it.  The weather had changed for the cooler and breezier, making it difficult to want to leave.

Today we said farewell to some of our neighborhood friends--most of them have gone to their villages, and we said our good-byes ages ago.  We'll miss visiting Miss Poppy at her school store everyday after school, and we'll miss the woman in the grocery store who pinches T's legs and once gave him balloons.  We'll miss the man who runs the pharmacy on the corner.  Every time I walk by, he waves hello, and he has been so patient with my poor Greek descriptions of symptoms.

Yes, I am eager to go home, but I am suddenly so very heartbroken to do so.