“The Best Day Ever”

Today truly felt like the first day of our vacation. After a handful of stormy days, a stomach bug that my mom and I both had and a sad trip into the city, we were ready for some sunshine and levity. Parker had been anxiously awaiting good weather and this morning at 8am, he came bounding into my bedroom to declare the day “beach worthy.”

Driving down the mountain towards the beach.

So, I dragged myself out of bed, chugged some coffee and changed for the beach. It indeed was the perfect beach day. The sun was shining, the wind was low and the temps were in the mid-70s.

We built sandcastles, raced toy boats in the surf and watched big, puffy clouds float by. We had no clock and no agenda so we stayed as long as Parker wanted to and then picked up a gyro for lunch before heading back up the mountain. All in all, it looks like we were there for about two and a half hours.

When we got home, Parker ran inside to greet Lexi and his grandparents and he declared this the best day ever. I agree, little buddy. Here’s to hoping that we have 21 days just like this one.

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Mourning

We came to the mainland in a hurry yesterday. We received news that my cousin had lost her battle with cancer and the burial was at 5pm (the same day as her passing per Greek custom). It is so heartbreaking. She was a fixture in my childhood and her children are some of my closest cousins here. If you have a moment, please send up a prayer that their grief may slowly ease and that they may find peace that her suffering is over.

Our House

For the last 28 years, our house has been a work in progress.  You would not believe what it looked like when my parents first bought it, but once my mom saw this view, she had to have it.

It’s a good thing that they got it at a bargain price (due to the state of the house) because pretty much every square inch of the house has been redone.

The progress had been slow going and for the longest time, it felt like it would never end. This was partly due to fact the village is extremely remote. We don’t even have an address here!

Last year, they finished the last major steps (replacing all of the doors/windows and reconstructing the upstairs balconies) so this is the first year where no major house projects have been planned.

That’s not to say that there still isn’t work to be done (in the picture above, you can see the unfinished area below the white balcony, which will eventually be made into two additional rooms), but for now, things can stay as they are.

Three fruit trees on the lowest level of the house – cherry, apricot and pear.

Not only is it a relief to my parents that they’re not having to deal with construction during their vacation, but it’s nice that they can finally enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The downstairs balcony.

I have to say that I am so greatly indebted to them for their efforts because this piece of land is my favorite place on earth and so long as I’m able, I will come back summer after summer so that my children can appreciate and enjoy it as well.

The rose garden in the front yard, planted in 1992.

It may take them 20 or so years to really understand how lucky they are, but this is their legacy, too, and I hope that one day they’ll realize that.

The Arrival

My favorite part of the journey to the island is the ferry boat ride.

Our Jeep waiting to board the ferry.

It’s only about a 45 minute ride, but it always feels like I’m leaving the last bit of civilization behind and entering another realm.

So excited to not be on a plane!

A realm that has beach days and sunsets; coffee on the balcony and no need of a clock. In short, it’s my version of heaven.

We came to the island early this year and there is still a definite chill in the air. The kids didn’t seem to care.

They loved watching the ferry cut through the water and Parker’s head was like a swivel as he watched the mainland recede and this island draw near.

Parker got his first taste of a real gyro…and loved it! Whew, what a relief!

We had a perfect view of the sunset and took a deep breath of contentment.

We were finally here…

…and regardless of the journey behind us, we’ll be sleeping in our own beds and wake up to freshly brewed coffee and cool mountain air.

The Journey Overseas

Parker playing his iPad while waiting to board.

Oh lordy, what a journey. Our flight from North Carolina to Florida was relatively uneventful, so I was pretty optimistic heading into the first leg of our international trip. Um, yeah, that was a wrong assumption.
 

We realized the first big hiccup in our trip when we got our seat assignments and we realized that while my mom was indeed in the row behind the kids and I (as the ticketing agent said), he had given her a seat in the dead center of the isle. Naturally, the single 20-something sitting next to her declined to switch seats with her and then promptly decided that he was going to sleep the entire flight. While she kept waking him up to hold the baby while I used the restroom, I was essentially on my own the entire flight.

The second anxiety inducer was that Lexi had fallen asleep during takeoff (4pm) and napped for an hour. I started trying to get her to sleep around 7:45pm (her normal bedtime), but she was too distracted by the people and the noises to fall asleep. In fact, each time I also had her asleep, something happened to wake her up – the drink cart crashed into the bulkhead when the flight attendant wasn’t being careful; an elderly man had a medical emergency 6 rows behind us and they turned all the lights on full blast to deal with it. In the end, she didn’t fall asleep until 10:30pm….and we landed at midnight. So, from 7:45 until 10:30, I rocked her. At my seat, in the isle, in the emergency row,… (My quads are burning from the exertion as I type this).

I probably had panic written all over my face as the hours passed. I had been counting on her sleeping during most of the flight so that I wasn’t completed drained when we had our (7 hour) layover, but that wasn’t in the cards. Throw in some spilled milk (literally) and 3 poop diapers and I was one frazzled momma.

The only saving grace of the flight was that Parker was an absolute perfect traveler. He chewed gum during takeoff to avoid ear issues, he waited patiently until the flight attendant said he could use electronic devices and then he happily played on his iPad by himself. He helped me pour milk for Lexi, he picked up the toys she dropped and he made faces at her when she started to get frustrated during turbulence (when she had to be in my lap). He ate his chicken dinner without complaint (!) and then he watched Happy Feet 2 on the in-flight movie screen. At 7:45 (when I started trying to put Lexi to sleep), I told him that it was time for him to go to sleep, too. He curled up on his chair and passed out 2 minutes later. He ended up getting 4 hours of sleep on the plane, so he wasn’t in too bad of shape. I seriously couldn’t be more proud of him for being such a great traveler. I can’t wait to start planning trips with him (I’ve always planned on taking one-on-one trips with each kid so that they got 100% individualized attention). When we get back to the states, we start figuring out where he wants to go first.

The arrival terminal in Dusseldorf, Germany.

After landing (and with a very grumpy girl on my hands), we made our way past Passport Control and we slowly found our connecting gate. There was no rush since our flight got bumped back almost 3 hours, so we ended up with a 7 hour layover. Parker went exploring and spent a lot of time watching flights take off and land.

Flights taking off from the runway next to our gate.

After that, I recommended that he lay down for a bit because we still had a long day ahead of us. Anticipating his need to nap during the time between flights, I packed a light sleeping bag in my carryon so that he wouldn’t be too uncomfortable.

Parker catching some ZZZZZs.

While he slept, my mom took Lexi for a walk (since she still refused to sleep) and I took a 45 minute intermittent nap, which was incidentally the first bit of sleep I had gotten since travel began. My mom came back when Lexi really upped the crankiness and I put her in the Boba carrier to try and get her to sleep. While we had a stroller with us at the Miami airport and had fully planned on her napping there during the layover, the Air Berlin gate clerk said that they didn’t do gate check ins for strollers and that we wouldn’t get the stroller back until our final destination. Ack! Good thing that I packed the sling in my carryon, otherwise things would have gotten really interesting.

I recommended that my mom lay down next to Parker because she was literally falling asleep sitting up (complete with slurred speech). After both she and Parker were settled like a couple of homeless vagabonds, I took off with Lexi.

The only problem with the sling is that I have to be moving to put Lexi to sleep in it. While that’s normally not an issue, I was dead on my feet and just wanted to sit. To take my mind off of how tired I was, I took my camera with me on my walk around the Terminal and I snapped pictures. There was a bar that exclusively served beer on tap in the middle of the atrium…

 

Beer!

 

…and around the corner, I saw the promise land.

Well, it wasn’t exactly the promise land, but the sight of Starbucks and the promise of caffeine almost brought me to tears. I ordered a vanilla latte and resumed my walk.

Yes, please!

By the time I got back to the gate where I left my mom and Parker sleeping, Lexi had joined them in slumber. While I didn’t think that anything was going to happen to Parker or our stuff while I was walking around, I felt better watching over them because my mom is not a light sleeper. I confirmed this by opened my carryon (which was right underneath the seat upon which her head rested) and putting my camera inside.

Sleeping baby in a sling, Starbucks in hand. Success.

So, I read a book on my iPhone, drank my coffee and watched the rest of my party sleep for an hour. Then two. By hour three, I had to pee and Lexi woke up, so I gave her to my mom. The second flight was uneventful. Thankfully, we all sat together and Lexi slept for most of the 3 hours flight. We landed without incident and made it to baggage claim to collect our 3 suitcases, 2 car seats and the pack & play.

While we were waiting for our luggage to arrive on the baggage carousel, I noticed a random guy staring at me. With a baby sling dangling from my hips, a 5 year old running in circles around the baggage carousel and 24 hours without sleep, I probably looked like death warmed over and I assumed that he was watching the circus with amusement. As we were getting our stuff together to leave (two heavily laden luggage carts), he walked over to me and said, “I was trying to figure out if you were German or Greek.” I said, “Neither. I’m an American on vacation.” At that point, he grabbed my hand to introduce himself….and he didn’t let it go. After asking me how long I’m going to be here and where I’m staying, I realized the direction that this was headed. Good grief. After firmly tugging my hand out of his and mentioning that my husband would be joining me shortly, creepster still asked if we could exchange numbers so that we didn’t lose touch. Um, seriously?

I walked outside and burst out laughing. I mean, I had no makeup on, my hair was a mess, I was traveling with two children and my mother and I’m pretty sure I had a crazy look in my eye brought on by sleep deprivation. Definitely not my finest look.

But you know, I had forgotten this about European men. It’s been so long since I’ve considered myself available that I presumed I was immune from the usual harassment. Not to generalize, but a certain segment of European men are relentless and details like marital status are generally not seen as deterrents. When I was studying abroad in Paris almost 15 years ago, dodging those guys was a daily occurrence. They would walk up to you, take you by the arm and try to redirect you into the nearest bar. The conversations almost always started with, “Where are you from, pretty girl?” One day, near the Eiffel Tower, my friend, Meg, and I were walking and I reached my breaking point. A street vendor did the “grab you by the arm” maneuver and when he asked me where I was from, I not so kindly replied, “I’m from HELL! Now go away!”

Back to the airport and my maniacal laughter – my mom noticed me becoming unhinged and asked what that guy wanted (she assumed he was someone I knew from the island). When I told her, she said,” Well Cyndy, you’ve still got it.” And then we laughed some more and loaded up the car to head to the ferry boat. Home (and a beer) was near.

**My apologies for any glaring typos or formatting issues. I’m still on dial up and it’s taken me more than an hour to get this post uploaded!**

Lazy Person’s Deviled Eggs

So, here’s the deal – I have gotten seriously lazy about feeding myself. I don’t mind pulling together a nutritious dinner to feed the entire family, but when it comes to lunch (and it’s just me and Lexi), I’m all about maximizing protein and calories with minimal effort.

Enter the lazy person’s deviled egg. At the beginning of the week, I’ll often hard-boil and peel 6 or so eggs. I keep these peeled eggs in a glass tupperware in the fridge. When I start to get hungry, somewhere between my 3rd and 4th cup of coffee, I’ll grab a couple of eggs and slice them in half.

I love the taste of deviled eggs, but I can’t be bothered with the scooping of the yolk and the dicing and seasoning of the yolks before re-stuffing the eggs. Instead, I add the following ingredients to each half of the hard-boiled egg:

  • a smear of mayo
  • a squirt of mustard
  • a sprinkling of seasoning salt
  • a shake of dill
  • a shake of paprika

And viola! You end up with something that tastes like deviled eggs, but that only took 30 seconds to throw together. I often eat 2 eggs this way with a side of sliced, salted tomato. While it’s no gourmet lunch, it gives me the protein I need without any hassle. As an added bonus, it’s something that I can make either one-handed or with a toddler hanging from my legs. Ah, motherhood.

Winding Down and Gearing Up

Well, I’ve survived the last two weeks of the semester. This is the absolute most stressful time of year for both students and myself. There is such a sense of relief when I finally hit the “submit” button on final grades. For better or for worse, the semester is done. Ahhhhhh.

Of course, now I need to wrap up a publication, finalize a survey for a new research project, begin work on the next issue of the departmental newsletter and prepare for a 3-day summer institute for faculty where I crazily agreed to be a facilitator. Next to all of that (which all needs to happen in the next 10 days), packing for our summer trip should be a cinch, right?

After two years away from Greece, I am anxious to get there. Greece is my motherland. It’s the home of gyros and baklava. Of pristine beaches and imposing mountains. Of beer and sunsets. Of cousins and friends. Quite simply, it is my favorite place on earth and this year, my friends, I am not working while I am there. That’s right, I am turning my work email off, packing up the kids and my beach bag and taking a 5 week vacation of fun in the sun. It has been over a decade since I have gotten any amount of R&R and this year, I need it. I mean, I really need it. I am one explosive poop (Lexi’s, not mine) away from losing my ever-loving mind.

In short, here’s my to do list for Greece:

  • Build sandcastles with Parker
  • Take Lexi for her first ocean swim
  • Eat really good seafood
  • Cook with my mother
  • Go on photographic outings with my dad
  • Eat more good food
  • Read trashy romance novels
  • Paint my toenails a ridiculous shade of pink, or purple, or blue (or all three)
  • Take walks around the mountain
  • Eat too many olives
  • Visit the farmers market every Monday
  • Play Uno with Parker
  • Greet every sunset with a beer in my hand
  • Laugh. A lot.
  • Make up silly stories.
  • Watch old movies.

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. Like most working-from-home moms, I so often tell the kids, “Just one more minute, honey” as I’m furiously typing on the keyboard trying to meet some deadline. This summer, I want to be readily available for silliness and seriousness. For beach time and nature walk time. For coloring and painting. This summer is all about FUN!