We’re Back….Sort Of

The last week has been a complete blur. Between the 4 days of travel (2 by air and 2 by car) to get home, the jet lag that had us all up before 5am and being thrown back into work as soon as we got here…let’s just say that we’re all a little bit disappointed that we aren’t still sitting on a beach halfway around the world. Wait, is that a violin I hear in the background playing a sad tune? Never mind. Even so, I remind myself that the only reason we can appreciate the island life is because we run around like headless chicken on crack the rest of the time. While I’ve never seen a headless chicken on crack, I’m positive this is the correct analogy.

I have a ton more pictures to post of our trip, but I’m not going to lie, it’s getting pretty dang hard to get anything done around here. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to edit pictures and get up a blog post when I have a mischievous little 14 month old running around wreaking havoc. She’s napping now (praise Jesus), but I have the unfortunate responsibility to actually work (can you believe it?) so I thought that I would post a quick update on the kids and get to editing pictures this weekend when I throw the kids at the Irishman and hide in my office for an hour of peace.

Let’s see, where to start. Let’s start with Parker, who is heading into kindergarten in August. To be honest, it hasn’t hit me yet that he’s going to a “real” school this year. We all know that I have a denial problem and this one runs deep because when I look at him, I still see him at about 3 years old, sweet as can be. I’m petrified that he’s going to pick up bad habits (which of course he will) and ask me questions that I’m not remotely prepared to talk about with him, but I guess that’s all part of growing up.

What I’m not worried about is whether he will get along well with his classmates or  like his teacher. Parker is one of those kids who can make a friend in any room he enters and he’s completely unanxious about it. In fact, he loves meeting new people, which I find totally bizarre because that, my dears, would be the exact opposite of my personality. Nothing makes my palms sweat quite like the idea of being put in a room with a stranger and being asked to make small talk. I think I’d rather get a root canal. But, alas, it’s a trait that I’m glad he has because it means I won’t have to drag him to things kicking and screaming and he won’t lock himself in his room reading for days on end. (Yeah, sorry about that mom!) I know that Parker will be find this coming year with his big switch and the good news is that I’ll be so busy chasing little miss sassy pants that I’ll probably forget to pull my hair out with worry.

Speaking of sassy pants, what can I say about little miss Lexi. That girl is feisty, strong-willed and full of mischief. She always has a cheeky grin on her face and if you take something away from her that she wants (but shouldn’t have), you’d better plug your ears because she really let’s you have it. She’s also a sweet little love bug (she kisses everyone and everything) and she’s incredibly bright. I am blown away by how quickly she learns things. She can (and will) imitate every little thing that you do, which has made us really mindful of everything that Parker does since she wants to be just like him.

As an aside, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but the child eats everything. Halle-freakin-luah!! Fish, sausage, vegetables, chips – if she can grab it, she will eat it. I pray that she keeps this up because having a picky eater for a child is exhausting at times. I adore Parker, but for the love of everything that is Holy, meal time drives me to drinking. Here’s to hoping he grows out of his food aversions.

First McDonald’s french fry at the Dusseldorf airport.

Back to Lexi – remember that pesky sleep thing that had me wringing my hands and hallucinating for months on end? She’s doing very well in that department. For the last 3 weeks or so, she’s been sleeping for a 6-8 hour stretch, drinking a bottle and sleeping for another 4 hours. The Irishman and I feel like new people. Sane people. Living, non-zombie like people. I know that I need to wean her from that night bottle, but I just want to relish in getting decent sleep for a month or so before forcing the issue. Plus, girlfriend is cutting her first molar and I know that the bottle is a comfort to her, so I figure she can keep a bad habit for a little bit longer.

 

 

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Last Dinner on the Beach

Last night, we had one final dinner out on the beach.

It was a beautiful sunset and I wanted to take some pictures of all of us to remember this great trip.

I always leave a piece of myself here on this island. It’s the piece that revels in calm and in rest.

Our time here was a recharging of batteries. It’s a charge that needs to last 11 months.

As the children grow and require less supervision, I’ll start staying here with them longer and longer until one day, we’re here for 3 months at a time. Until then, I will happily take what I can get.

Hunting for the Lagoon

Yesterday was a day of exploration. Previously, my mom had mentioned a lagoon that see had seen from a boating excursion around the island. It was a perfect oval and the water in the lagoon was the lightest of aquamarines. Unfortunately, she didn’t know exactly how to get there and the guidebook we had said that it was unmarked. So, we set off to go to the nearest village to ask for more specific directions.

We stopped at a beach near where we thought the lagoon might be and I asked the person who ran the drink stand if she knew how to get there. She looked at me and said, “What kind of car are you driving?” Her first question should have tipped me off that this was going to be no easy trek. When I told her that we have a Jeep, these were the directions that she gave me:

“Go about 2-3 more kilometers, pass the Aeria Hotel, make a right on the second road. Then you’ll go down, down, down, down. After that you’ll go up, up, up, up. Once you can’t go anymore, leave the car and walk towards the ocean.”

Armed with these instructions (however vague), we set off. The first time I passed the hotel, I blew past the “second road.” The Irishman had told me to turn there, but it was the narrowest of dirt paths so I dismissed it. I made a u-turn once I realized that I went too far and I finally decided to trust his judgment. Sure enough, we went down, down, down, down.

And then we went up, up, up, up. Right about the point that we thought we went too far, there was a spray painted sign that say we were headed the right way.

We drove until we couldn’t drive any more and then we left the car.

When I went to the backseat to unstrap Parker from his car seat, I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his shoes. In fact, his shoes were nowhere to be found. After much discussion we figured out that Parker left his shoes on the last beach we stopped at (we had been beach hopping on the way to the lagoon). What this meant was that the Irishman was going to have to carry Parker (who is up to 50 lbs. now) down the rocky path to the lagoon.

We had no clue how far of a walk it was, but it couldn’t be that far, right? Hahahaha. Right. So, off we went.

After a hundred yards or so, the path turned to rocks and was thankfully marked with spray painted arrows.

We walked for what felt like forever and all I could think about was that (1) our water was back at the car; and (2) we had t0 climb back up to get there.

Finally, the rocky path leveled out.

And just over the crest was the breathtaking sight of the lagoon. It was separated from the deep ocean by a flat piece of rock less than 3 feet across.

Every once and a while, a wave would crest over the rock into the lagoon, but for the most part the ocean was mostly calm.

Since I had my camera with me, the Irishman and I took turns swimming in the lagoon with Parker.

Since the sides of the lagoon were high, we had to hoist Parker onto the small stretch of rock that meets the ocean to get him up. Trust me, this was no small feat since we basically had to lift him while treading water.

We decided to get more adventurous and started jumping in from higher and higher. Here’s my oh so graceful entry.

Ready….

Set…

Go!

It was a blast! Let’s take a closer look at my stellar form.

It looks like I’m practicing for the lagoon-diving Olympics. Ha! Parker joined me soon after.

As I was lifting him onto the rock near the ocean, we had a very scary moment. Just as he had put one foot on the rock, a huge wave came crashing over us. I was treading water for all I was worth as the ocean came down over my head so that I could hold him upright with one hand. I seriously had a death grip on him because all I could think of in that moment was the ocean sucking him out into the open water. When I opened my eyes, the Irishman was right there with wide eyes. He yelled, “Are you okay?” Once I assured him that I was fine, he picked Parker up and carried him to the side. Parker was completely unfazed. He trusts me implicitly and he later said that since I was holding him up, he wasn’t scared in the least. I am a much stronger swimmer than the Irishman and we both were so grateful that I was the one in the water with Parker when it happened since I had a much better chance of successfully fighting against the push of the wave.

I’m not going to lie, my legs were like Jello from the fright and it took me a moment to get myself out of the lagoon (I made the Irishman run back to get my camera since he had tossed it onto our towels as soon as he saw the wave).

After that, Parker and I were done with swimming. The Irishman wanted to do one final jump from the highest point before we left.

After that, we started the long walk back to the car.

Once we were safely back to the Jeep (and hydrated!), we took our first breath of relief. And then we went to retrieve Parker’s shoes from the previous swimming spot. On the drive back to our house, the Irishman and I agreed that now that we know how to get there and what to expect, it’s at the top of our “Must See” list for when our friends visit. Hopefully, we’ll continue to make it back in one piece time and time again.

Hiking

One of the first things that the Irishman wanted to do when he got here (after stuffing himself silly with every food imaginable) was to go on a hike of the village so that he could see the changes.

It’s been 5 years since he’s been here – the trees (that were damaged in the massive fires during the early 1990s) have grown, houses have been built and new people have arrived. This was also Lexi’s first visit so we wanted to make sure that we documented her first hike here just like we did Parker’s.

It was a warm day, so we waited until near sunset to head out. It took us about 30 minutes to make it to the “nose” of the mountain opposite ours. On a gorgeous day, it’s definitely worth taking 10 minutes to soak up the view.

The Irishman walked ahead of us a little bit and was preparing to ambush Parker. Good thing I saw him first since Parker was likely to bolt right off the side of the mountain! (Parenting Tip: It’s probably not a great idea to climb rocks with a baby strapped to your back. Don’t be like the Irishman.)

On the hike back, we saw sheep.

Lots of sheep.

Are you eyeballin’ me, boy?

Parker was delighted to be eyeballed by a sheep even though it kind of freaks me out when they have that crazy-eye look. We got home just in time to for happy hour and to see the full sunset. And boy, was it a spectacular one.

I am going to be sad to leave later this week.

I Jump, You Jump, We All Jump…

All of the folks who have houses near us in our little village have been here for a long time. They’ve watched each other’s children grow up and they send each other Christmas cards during the holidays (my dad relishes in torturing our German friends with pictures of sunny Florida in the middle of winter). We may be a random mix of Americans and Germans and Greeks, but more than anything, we’re friends.

When we first brought Parker to the island five years ago, our German neighbor behind us (and closest friend) brought over a baby cot that he had for his son and a barrel of toys. As Parker has aged, so have the deliveries. This year, a couple of days after our arrival, we came home from dinner to find a skateboard and a trampoline in our front yard. It was a gift form a different set of German neighbors and it’s one we are really grateful for – it’s provided countless hours of entertainment. See for yourself!

Hey, what about me?!

Can you guess what Parker wants for his birthday?

Fetching the Irishman

Going to pick up the Irishman was an all day event. We had him fly into Thessaloniki because we thought that we would be on the mainland when he flew in, but since we had already made the trip in for the funeral, we were back on the island on the day of his flight.

We had to catch the 10:30am ferry and then drive two hours to Thessaloniki (the picture above is on the way to the airport). We had planned on eating lunch with my cousin, but due to a series of unfortunate events (taking the wrong highway for 20 miles thanks to our American GPS, having a small accident at a gas station and having to wait for the Greek police), we only had 15 minutes to spare before we had to be at the airport to get him.

Parker was so excited to see his daddy that he was jumping out of his skin all day. By the time his dad walked through customs, Parker launched himself into his arms and didn’t stop talking for the next 3 hours and 26 minutes (I counted). We drove back to the port to catch the ferry and had some time to burn before the ferry left for the island. That was the perfect time for the Irishman to have his inaugural gyro (can you tell this is a tradition?).

Are you ready to take a bite?

Mmmmmmm…..

After a short ferry ride back to the island, the Irishman was eager to see Lexi (who stayed behind with my mom). Unfortunately, 30 seconds after picking her up, he bonked her head against the door and she wouldn’t go to him again for 30 minutes. Oops!

After crashing early for the night, we headed to the beach the next morning. The day was perfect and the water felt like heaven.

I bought a little inflatable boat for the kids this year and Parker has been loving it. The Irishman decided to take Parker out to the deeper waters in it while I stayed on the shore and read a book (my guilty pleasure).

They played in the water for over two hours and for the first time in a long time, I saw the Irishman start to unwind.

We went home, they ate more gyros and then it was nap time. That night, we went out to dinner for souvlaki (for the boys) and fish (for me). It was a seriously wonderful day. I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt the perfection of it because at dinner, the Irishman looked at me and said, “Am I really here or is this just a great dream?”

It’s definitely real and for that, I am so incredibly thankful.

 

Mosquito “Nets”

While I normally love going out to eat in Greece, it is quite a chore to do so with Lexi. I had always heard that girls are generally less active than boys, but that is not the case with little Miss Lexi. She is always on the move. Seriously, getting her to sit still for five minutes is almost unheard of, particularly without the aid of restraints (like a car seat). While we almost always have her stroller with us, if it isn’t moving, she screams like a banshee.

Unfortunately, most tavernas (restaurants) in Greece are not easy places to have a baby roam. They’re often flush against the water with uneven ground and one of us has to be chasing her at all times. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Still, I wanted to head out to get some of my favorite dishes, so we packed up the kids and off we went to the closest big(ger) village. When we got to the taverna, I stared in disbelief when they brought out a proper high chair.

At last, we were going to strap in Lexi and have a proper, low key meal. The sunset was gorgeous behind us…

…and the food looked great! There was only one problem – the dang mosquitoes were out of control. It was so nerve wracking seeing them on Lexi and Parker and to feel them on myself. Of course, I had chosen that night to wear a strapless shirt so I was fully exposed to their feasting. In a moment of desperation, I spotted a shop across the way that was selling scarves. Thinking fast, I sent my mom over to pick a couple up so that we could protect ourselves against the ravenous beasts. Thankfully, Lexi had a long-sleeve cardigan in the diaper bag, so it was just Parker and I that needed covering.

Armed with our makeshift mosquito nets, we managed to enjoy our meal and afterwards (when the night fell and the mosquitoes tucked in for the night), Parker turned his scarf into a wrap that reminded him of Kung Fu panda.

He proudly wore it like that for the rest of the night. Whatever other problems I might eventually have with Parker, I highly doubt that self-esteem issues will be among them. He definitely marches to the beat of his own drum.