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!

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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!

 

Corn Maze and Carnival

October 21, 2015 at 11:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We packed a lot into our Saturday: First a trip to the Bergmann Corn Maze, then an evening at Liam’s school carnival.

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We first went to Bergmann’s when Liam was in preschool, and just like last time we rode the tractor to the start of the corn maze. Except this time I was considerably more burdened.

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Just like last time, we attempted to blunder our way around without consulting the map. I let him lead the way, and we meandered around until we happened across the first set of trivia questions. But then I was starting to feel it in my back, so I suggested we look at the map. He was a great little navigator this time around, and he happily took the lead and showed us the way out.

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After a short rest, we started in on the larger of the two mazes. But three turns in and I could tell baby girl needed some nourishment. I told Liam to find us a nice, secluded dead end so we could feed Violet. Such a good boy, he consulted the map further while I covered Violet up with a blanket to keep her warm. The wind whipped through the corn above our heads, and we could hear distant voices from others winding their way around the maze. No one came across us there, though. After Violet was sated, I could tell she really needed a nap. My back and hip were aching, and even Liam thought it best to call it a day. We stopped by a vendor near our house to pick out a couple of pumpkins while Violet slept in the car – much easier than attempting the trailer ride to the pumpkin patch at Bergmann’s at that point. Plus, the line to pay was getting quite long.

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By that evening we were ready for carnival! I loaded Violet back in the Bjorn and headed inside. Liam used his own allowance to buy tickets, being the grown up first grader he is now. We skipped eating there this time and headed straight for the games. His favorite again was cake walk, but after three or four tries we still didn’t win. Last year he got really bent out of shape, but this year I promised to buy him a cupcake at Dillons if he didn’t win and didn’t throw a fit, and that seemed to placate him. He got a tattoo, played giant Yatzee, did the beanbag toss, fishing, and the lollipop tree. We stood in line for the balloon darts, but when I thumb tack accidentally flung toward him and landed with a small thunk on his shirt, he decided this game was “too dangerous.” Let’s go home. Ok, dear. It was probably just as well – as we headed down the hallway one of my neighbors noticed that someone in our party had dropped off:

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After the kids were (finally!) in bed, I had to take a couple Advil and rest my back and hips. I remember wearing Liam all around DC, even hiking through the Arboretum with him when he was older and heavier, but I guess nearing 40 has taken its toll on my poor, achin’ old body. Which bums me out – Athens, like DC, is not very stroller-friendly. James may have to do the majority of the baby wearing this time around. I don’t think he’ll mind. He not-so-secretly loves it.

Liam’s First Day of First Grade

August 13, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Can I first just say how proud I am of this kid right now? I was so worried about how we were going to get out the door when I had Violet’s needs to meet, and Liam did so much for himself that I barely had to pitch in. He got himself up, made his breakfast, dressed himself, brushed his teeth and even had just enough time to pose for this photo. I took care of scrambling him an egg, brushing and styling his hair (at his request…my little man wears product now, lol), and putting on his socks and shoes so we’d have time to take a photo. Even Violet was on her best behavior, nursing while Liam made his breakfast and put on his cartoon (Scooby Doo is his new favorite), then keeping herself happy on her activity mat until it was time to get in her car seat.

Way to go, son!

Of course, all of this accomplishment takes a little prep work and practice. Every night I lay out his things for breakfast – a plate and fork set out in front of the toaster oven, and pre-cooked bacon, a big batch of waffles I make every Saturday, and his Miralax strawberry milk on the bottom shelf of the fridge. He picks out clothes and puts them on the living room couch the night before. We set his alarm clock for 6:30, and because he never seems to rouse in enough time to hit snooze, we set an obnoxious alarm on his iPhone for 6:45. (Yes, my six-year-old has an iPhone, but it’s an old 3G and he just uses it for games. And for setting timers and alarms.) He’s been practicing his breakfast routine for the past few weeks, and we did a “dry run” getting up early and going to the school yesterday. Last year we had some issues with the TV – he’d want to watch a half-hour show from the DVR, but we didn’t always have time to finish it, which always set him off. So now I’ve convinced him just to watch whatever is on his favorite kid channels, and we turn the TV off right at 7:30. 

We arrived at school with plenty of time for me to walk him to his classroom, something most of the parents do on the first day. His school supplies were already at his table – we’d dropped them off and met his new teacher a couple of days before. A boy sitting across from him told him where to put his back pack and what their morning activity was. Chatty little fella…maybe a new friend? We saw he was sitting next to a girl from his kindergarten class who is also a neighbor he’s played with. He hardly gave me a backward glance when I left…probably because Violet started to fuss and he was happy to be rid of THAT for awhile.   

On the way out I got to show off Vi to some of the teachers, librarians and recess helpers in the hall, as well as Liam’s old kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Sites, his awesome principal, stopped to say hi and admire the adorable little sister. She’s sure to get more attention from my mom friends when we pick Liam up this afternoon.

I heart CFS (again)

April 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Way back in 2005, I posted this little ditty about my love of school lunch Chicken Fried Steak. I still have fond memories. So imagine my delight when I saw my beloved CFS on Liam’s lunch menu on the week I had planned to eat lunch with him! Not only did I want to relive the memories for myself, but I also wanted to pass the torch, as it were, and witness Liam’s first bite of my lunchroom nostalgia. 

No surprise…it wasn’t as good as I remembered. But I don’t fault my memory. The steaks were a bit scorched, making the edges impossible to cut, they served it with white gravy instead of brown, and they didn’t include that fluffy white roll and the pat of butter I so craved. My one consolation was that Liam actually ate it and enjoyed it! He didn’t touch any of the side dishes, but I’m not going to quibble.

Sigh. I guess the CFS of my memory will have to remain there. Schools are focusing more on providing square meals, and something tells me breaded steak AND potatoes AND a roll is entirely too many carbohydrates. It has been, yikes, nearly 20 years since I last ate lunch at my high school…what did I expect, right?

After lunch Liam asked if I could stay for recess, so I marched down the hall with the rest of his class to the playground. It’s so eye-opening to observe your child with other children. Here I was worried at the beginning of the school year that Liam would have trouble making friends and engaging with other children. Today I worried that with me standing there he’d hover and talk to me, or stand around and talk to the recess lady. But instead, he took right off with a bunch of other kids. I was surprised to see him at the center of attention, directing the activities for the group. He said, “Let’s play tag!” and they all chased each other around. He made his way to the playground equipment and they all followed his lead. I thought he’d be playing mostly with the girls, but he seemed at ease playing with both boys and girls. His teacher mentioned at our last conference that Liam might be a good fit for student government someday. I think she’s right. 

Our Little Rule Follower

September 11, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The weather’s been so nice that I’ve been walking Liam to and from school lately. The morning walks are a bit hectic (Bet I can beat you to the corner, Liam! Mom, don’t make this is a race!), but the afternoons have been leisurely and fun. On the way home Liam chatters away about school, mostly informing me about the rules. Today it was rules of the playground: you have to line up when the whistle is blown. Yesterday it was the librarian’s careful instructions on caring for library books. I was informed that we should always keep his book in his book bag so our hypothetical dog won’t eat it. Or hypothetical cousins won’t rip it to shreds, which is far more likely. And if the book gets a tear in it, DO NOT try to fix it! The librarian has special glue. Ok, kiddo. It’s been fun to see what kinds of books he picks out all on his own. This week it was a non-fiction book all about penguins.

A few days ago when I met him outside, he just about burst into tears. He said the teacher had given him a time out for not listening. He’d broken one of the rules! After a big hug and some reassurance, he felt much better. I remember being terrified about breaking school rules when I was a kid, too. Course, back then the principal wielded a wooden paddle.

Friday is green day in Derby. Everyone wears green to support the Derby Panthers. I even bought him a shirt. I thought surely our little rule-follower would agree to wear it when I told him that’s what everyone does on Fridays.

Nope.

“I’ll wear what I want to,” he says. I figure I’ll keep trotting out this shirt and he’ll keep rejecting it until he finally decides that he’s in the mood to wear green. Perhaps this bodes well for peer pressure? He doesn’t seem to care what everyone else is doing.

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What d’ya know? This morning he actually agreed to wear his green shirt. And he looks super duper cute in it! I’ll try to get a photo later.

Kindergarten Learning Curve

August 18, 2014 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Liam’s not the only one learning the ins and outs of elementary school. I thought this morning would be the perfect opportunity to walk to school. He starts an hour later on Mondays, the temperature was perfect, and we’d already timed our route the week before. We had a nice, easy morning – we had time for waffles and TWO Curious George episodes. But then, suddenly, it was 8:15! Quick! A mad dash through teeth brushing, making lunch, getting shoes on, getting out the door. According to my calculations we would JUST make it. Liam assured me he could walk very fast.

Right.

What was supposed to be a nice hike on a sunny morning turned into a boot camp whine-fest. I was the drill sergeant, “C’mon, let’s get a move on!” and Liam was my reluctant recruit, “Mooom, I’m going as FAST as I CAN!” Which is to say as slow as a five-year-old can conceivably walk. As we neared the school, I could see all the kids hurrying to get inside. Liam stopped cold. There was something in his shoe. For the love of Pete!

The Kindergarten Handbook said his class would line up outside and walk in together, but it seemed we were too late for that. We hurried to the front door, dashed down the hall, and 50 feet from his classroom door, the bell rang. I understand they’re quite strict about tardies at this school, and he has to be in his seat when the bell rings. Damn, a tardy on the second day! His teacher was understanding and helped him hang up his bag and get to his seat. I said a quick goodbye, ready to be rid of my whiny counterpart. Let’s hope this doesn’t taint the whole rest of his day.

Always a glutton for punishment, I’m already scheming how to better this walk to school. Perhaps if we leave earlier? Or maybe walking to school is too ambitious, and we should save those walks for after school in the fall? Why am I even doing this? Because it bothers me the waste involved in driving him to school and back everyday. And I enjoy walking. It’s good for both of us.

Liam’s First Day of Kindergarten

August 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We did a lot of preparing for this day. We talked about what school was going to be like. We got up at 6:15 every morning a week before and ran through our morning routine. Some mornings we walked up to the school and played on the playground. Others we drove, timing our trip. We met his teacher and dropped off his school supplies, checked out his classroom, found his cubby and his seat. And all that preparation paid off.

Thursday morning we both got right out of bed, ate breakfast, watched only one cartoon (no arguments because we’d been doing that all week), and even had time for some photos before we drove to school. I packed him some corn dog nuggets, “yellow cookies” (vanilla wafers), granola and a capri sun for lunch. He was ready.

Many parents walked their kids to their classes on the first day, so I was happy to see I wasn’t the only one. We got him all settled in, asked the teacher to move his back pack hook to the front row so he could reach it, got his pencil box from his cubby, and sat down. We had a little helper along the way, Joshua, who we remembered from Liam’s preschool class at Jack and Jill, and who would be sitting next to Liam this year in Kindergarten. In fact, there are three boys from Liam’s preschool in his class, which I was happy to see.

With hardly a goodbye, Liam was ready for his first day. No tears. No drama. No clinging. Just a, “See you later, Mom.” Amazing.

My day was nice and quiet. I was going on week two with bronchitis, so I laid around in the bed with the humidifier on catching up on The Good Wife. At 11:10 I pondered how Liam was handling lunch. He doesn’t like crowds and strange smells. But I didn’t think he’d kick up much of a fuss without me there. He reserves most of his whining for me.

At 3:25 the kids all lined up behind their teacher and marched out the back doors. The Kindergarten class dismisses from around the back, so he was easy to spot. He almost didn’t want to come with me, unsure whether he should continue following his teacher around the front like she had instructed. But I coaxed him out of line and toward the car. I asked him how his day went, and he immediately launched into how TIRED and HUNGRY he was. I made the rookie mistake of parking near the pick-up line, so we had to wait a bit before we could pull out of the parking lot. All the while Liam was getting HUNGRIER and HUNGRIER, and whinier and whinier.

We finally made it home, opened his lunch box and discovered he’d only eaten half of his lunch. Well, there’s your problem, son. He complained that he thought the lunchroom was stinky, and he didn’t have time to finish his lunch. Hopefully he’ll get used to eating faster soon. He’s a very poky eater at home. He ate and ate and ate and ate, and finally feeling better, he was ready to share about his day. He had a little raccoon in his backpack he’d glued together and colored. He told me all about his three recesses, how he’d played tag with Joshua, but how his third recess was TOO CROWDED, which he didn’t care for. He said there had only been boys in his class – they break up the Kindergarten in half by their last names the first couple of days, so I guess all the A-L last names are boys.

Liam had Friday off, so we’ll be headed back for his second day of school on Monday. The teachers have an hour-long meeting on Monday mornings, so the students start an hour later, 9:05. A perfect opportunity to walk to school, which takes about 25 minutes. I think the walk will do him good, though I’m sure I’ll be in charge of carrying his back pack. He doesn’t like to be…encumbered. We’ve been talking up how strong he’s getting, so hopefully that will change in the coming weeks, too. On Monday I won’t be walking him to his class, instead walking him to a line outside with his teacher. He’ll be in charge of carrying all of his stuff in, putting it away and finding his seat. 

When I was a kid my mom volunteered quite a bit at my school. She worked in the library, helped in the computer lab, made crafts for our class parties, brought snacks to all the PTA meetings, led our Girl Scout troop, and ran the country store at the school carnival. In that spirit, I volunteered to help with Liam’s art class on Monday afternoons. I’m looking forward to seeing what Liam is like in class, and I thought art would be right up my alley. Should be fun for both of us.

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