Week one in Greece with the Kids

January 29, 2016 at 7:40 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Liam is doing remarkably well in his new school. He hasn’t really made any friends yet, but I expected that. He’s been to the nurse’s office twice, once for a bumped knee and once because he fell out of his chair and hit his chin. He tried to describe the chair they put him in  — it only had one leg that twirled around, he said. Sounds like something out of Dr. Suess! His class is putting on a play about paleontology and he will be playing a Fossil. They perform it next week, and Violet and I are invited. Very cute!

Today I had to run to the school to sign him up for a meal plan and get him a gym uniform. We’re going to give this Greek lunch a go, despite his complaints that his lunch room is “the smelly one.” I only bought him 10 meals, and even that may be optimistic. But we found something on the menu that looked agreeable at least once or twice a week, so we’ll see how it goes.

I was a little surprised he needed a gym uniform. Really, for first grade? They sold me a sweatshirt that I can already tell is going to be way too big (it was an XS), and a shirt and shorts that will probably fit. They were out of sweat pants, but he’s so short I doubt anything they have will fit him, so I’m just going to provide the pants myself. Most of the clothes he wears are perfect for PE, so it won’t be a stretch. I was pleased to find out the kids don’t have to dress in them at school — he’ll just need to wear them twice a week on gym class days. Two less outfits to have to plan, yay!

Every morning we’ve been walking down to the bus stop, carefully crossing the busy road and waiting for a long time. I like to get there early in case they actually come on time. So far this week they’ve been 15 minutes late everyday. Liam and I have been inventing games to play while we wait — jumping in sidewalk squares without hitting cracks, counting colored cars, I Spy, taking turns counting until the bus comes. I let him invent the games, and it’s been pretty fun.

Yesterday he came home raving about his Greek class. Though he still says recess is his favorite. They have three per day everyday, which he loves. Oh, and the dog in the class, apparently I got his name wrong. It’s not Mr. Chips, like the movie, but Captain Chip. He even has his own blog.

Liam still has nightly reading and occasional math homework. It’s structured a little differently — he gets one book a night like at his old school, but he also gets a longer book with several stories in it that he takes home over the weekend. They pick one story from the longer book each week and read it in class, then read it over again a bunch on the weekends. And then he has to fill out a “book report” on it for the next week. I’m hoping this will help him with reading comprehension, which he was struggling with last term.

Violet, my little smiler, is finally beginning to adjust as well. She took longer to get over the jet lag, but now she’s finally going to bed and waking up at her regular times. Feeding her has been a challenge as we have yet to procure a high chair. It’s on the to do list this weekend. I improvised by sitting her on the dining room table and pushing the chairs in, though she managed to fall forward right into last night’s take out, and she was Not Happy about that. She’s also finally getting in some good naps today. We have had a lot of interruptions over the past week, either having to go out or having people coming to the house and waking her up. But she is happily snoozing away right now, and I’m hoping she’ll wake up refreshed.

She’s been more clingy than usual, partly because she’s unfamiliar with her surroundings, and partly because we’re missing a lot of her toys. I’ve been told her exersaucer is coming in another 10-14 days. Not soon enough! These hardwood floors are tough for her, so we used a cushion from the window seat in the foyer to help her feel more at ease on the floor. It helps a little, though she still manages to slide off and bang her head sometimes. The boppy isn’t getting here for another two weeks, too!


All snug in the kangaroo coat

She’s been super good when we go out. I have to wear her everywhere, and I usually have her all wrapped up in the kangaroo coat, so she’s nice and snug. She’s content to look around, smile at people, or fall asleep. I’ve got an umbrella stroller coming in our air shipment, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to use it. The sidewalks here are a challenge even on foot. But I’m sure we’ll find a use for it. And just as well — Violet clearly likes being worn better.


Poor girl is having some constipation issues, which is not like her. I suspect it has to do with the stress of a new environment. I found some strawberry applesauce that she seems to like, and that seemed to get things moving…in last night’s bath! Ick! I guess it’s better than staining her clothes — I don’t think I can get Oxyclean here, and laundry is kind of a pain to do anyway.

All in all the kids are doing well, better than I expected. James is settling into his new job nicely, too. We’ve been invited to some fancy dinner, and I have to find a babysitter already, sheesh. And I have to buy something to wear — there wasn’t much room in my suitcase for dresses or shoes. And next week I’m going to start looking for a part-time housekeeper. I feel like I spend all my time just shopping, doing laundry, and taking care of Violet. I really don’t want to have to add cleaning this big townhouse to the list. The Embassy gave me a list of babysitters and housekeepers, and apparently they have to be vetted before we can hire them. But at least I don’t have to scour the Greek craigslist!


Liam’s New School

January 22, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Whoa is me, the jet lag! For some reason I was certain we’d be up with the sun this morning, but apparently I had it all backwards. When I finally cracked a bleary eye to look at the clock, sure it was 6 AM because that’s how it felt, it was 10AM. Crap! We had to be at Liam’s new school at noon! By some miracle we got ourselves presentable, figured out the metro system, found the school and arrived in the front office with about a minute to spare. Whew!

We decided since Liam is entering mid-semester we’d go with the American Community School, which is where most of the embassy kids go. The campus includes the elementary, middle and high school, and the focus on academics and extra circulars is what you’d expect from a private school. Class sizes are small, only 18 or so per classroom teacher. The first grade set up was similar to Liam’s school in Derby, with three classrooms connected through open doorways. We got to tour the campus, and we were very impressed! There’s a proper theater for plays and musicals that the elementary kids can use for music programs, which he’ll be doing in the spring. There’s an indoor pool, and swim lessons are a part of the PE curriculum. I’ve got mixed feelings about this — on the one hand, I’ve always felt it was important for Liam to learn how to swim. On the other hand, every swim lesson we’ve tried has ended in tears. Seriously, he’s like an angry, wet cat. We talked quite a bit with the principal about it, and she assured me they’ll work very gently with him.

We met with the school psychologist and the principal for an assessment and interview. No surprise Liam was performing at and beyond his grade level, especially in math. They were happy to have him start Monday. We toured the classroom and met the class pet, a three-legged dog named Mr. Chips. He hangs around with the kids all day, listens to them read stories and goes out with them at recess. The Athens climate is much like southern CA, so I noticed a lot of outdoor areas around the classrooms for kids to play, eat, and learn. The elementary lunch room was much smaller than the one in Derby, and right next to the first grade classroom. They cook a lot of Mediterranean food, so I have a feeling Liam will be mostly bringing his lunch. But this kid has surprised me in the past (hello…black eyed peas?), so we may try  few things and see what happens.

Before we left we arranged for a shuttle bus to pick Liam up on Monday. The arrangement was a bit complicated — we were told we’d have to cross a busy street at a cross walk with no traffic light, and the guy seemed a little overly concerned about the danger. Although, after watching traffic downtown on our way to the hotel, I can totally believe that crossing the street could be a dicey proposition. He said there was another student who moved to the area recently, and they were going to see if they could get a special shuttle that will pick them both up in a better location, but they have to work that out and get back to me. In the meantime, I’m going to go with him on Monday to make sure he gets settled in ok, get him all set up for school lunch (wishful thinking!) and buy him the required gym uniform. No other school uniforms at this school, which is one less thing to have to worry about.

I’m pleased they were able to get him into school so quickly, but a little apprehensive about getting there so soon. We’ll be moving into the townhouse on Sunday, and with barely any sense of the neighborhood I’ve got to get him to school on the shuttle and get myself back to the townhouse on a public bus. I had James count out the bus fare in Euros for me to have in my pocket. Perhaps he should pin a note to my jacket with our address as well!


Wait. Is that an elevator?!

January 10, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James was taking a closer look at the photos of our new townhouse in Athens when he noticed something peculiar. He called me over to ask if he was crazy. So here’s the entry from the front door…


And here it is from the opposite angle.


And if I’m not mistaken…THAT is an elevator.


I would assume it goes to the garage, which appears to be in the basement. But you should have seen the gleam in Liam’s eye when he overheard us talking about it. “So the elevator might go to my ROOM?!” I’m doubtful it goes all the way to the top floor, but I laughed and told him maybe it’s like the elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it’ll fly right out from the roof! Needless to say Liam now can’t wait to get to Athens.

Learning Greek and Taking Names

August 1, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three more months until the big move, and we still have a lot to do. We have managed to complete our medical exams, pay off the car we plan to ship over there, apply for credit cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees, and tomorrow we’re getting our passport photos taken. Apparently we all have to have diplomatic passports, the kids need to get regular passports, and we all need visas, all of which take several weeks to process. We still have to figure out car insurance, open a new bank account in Greece (not a local one, of course), and put together a big ass garage sale. Unfortunately there is a limit to what the government will pay to store, so we have some scaling down to do. We’ve already slated some of our big ticket items to go to friends and family, and I’m hoping to offload the garage fridge and our old IKEA furniture on craigslist. James is going to cull back the books some. (If it’s anything like last time, I’ll be taking four or more boxes to Half Price Books.)Then there are the regular moving tasks: canceling local utilities, getting a change of address to the appropriate bills, getting new phone service in Greece for our iPhones.

On the plus side, a lot of the hardest parts of the move are taken care of by the feds. Soon they’ll be sending over an agent to assess what is getting put in storage (at their cost), what is getting shipped via mail (which takes three weeks, also at their cost), and what big items are getting shipped (which can take four months, also at their cost). From what we’ve gleaned from the mountain of information they gave us last week, house will be provided to us to meet our particular needs (size our our family, proximity to the school of our choice, etc), and it will be fully furnished and stocked with linens and kitchenwares. We’ll have two government liaisons at our disposal to help us get acquainted with our surroundings, and we can rent a car until ours arrives. (Not sure yet who pays for that.)

We received information on schools, and because Liam will be starting mid-year, we’ve decided the American school will be easiest for him to transition to (similar curriculum, no school uniforms). And we got a chance to look at photos of some of the homes they have in the different neighborhoods north of Athens. It looks to be mostly townhouses and flats, though we could get a house. It all depends on what is available, I guess.

Another big hurdle: James has to go to DC for additional training. We still don’t know for how long – either two weeks or as long as six weeks – and we still don’t know when. So while we think we’ll be moving in October, it could be later in the year. Hopefully that will be settled soon.

I’m annoyed that a lot of our tasks can’t be completed until closer to our move date. So in the meantime I’ve downloaded some apps to help me learn Greek. It’s definitely a challenge – right now I’m concentrating on just learning the phonetic pronunciations, and I’ll have to learn the Greek spellings at some point. But so far I’m getting some basic words down already, and the app I’m using most (Mondly), is fun and easy to use. I’m sure I’m butchering the language, but I’ve been told that Greeks love when you try to speak it, and most of them will help you out in English if they’re able. Let’s hope! Antio!

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