Your child is not JUST a child.

I cried today.

As she sat in the chair, chin lifted and eyes glued to the machine, I looked at her in awe. I could tell by her clinched fist that she was nervous.

“Nine, three, it looks like a five” she said.

I casually gazed up at the screen across from us, trying to hide the fact that she was wrong. My heart fell to the floor. “Sweetie, if you don’t feel comfortable saying the numbers in Greek, you can say them in English”, I said.
I looked over at the doctor and gave a very confident, slight eye squint and nod, reassuring her, and myself that it was clearly a language issue.

“Nine, three, five…”

Just like that, I realized that she really did have a problem. My perfect child, had a problem. I blame myself, because I have an astigmatism as well, so naturally, it’s my genes. I know I shouldn’t be making a bigger deal of this then it is, but when your child has anything. Even a cold. You worry.

Last year we were in this same chair; we bought the glasses. She didn’t wear the glasses though. I assumed it was because she didn’t feel she needed them, but I guess I was wrong.

“Miss Emma, I want these to be your magic glasses for three years. When you are nine, you never have to look at them again, if you don’t want”, the doctor told her. She was bummed I could tell, but she was still smiling.

Emma and I walked out like two high school kids that know they scored low on the SAT.
I gave her a pep talk and we walked…

And we talked…

She told me that when she wore them to school one day that her best friend laughed at her. I assured her it was a cute laugh because her friend wasn’t used to her wearing them. She asked me if she could not wear them to her party. If she could not wear them when she wanted to feel like a princess. I said of course she didn’t have to wear them on special occasions.

We went to her brother’s soccer practice and when he got off the field and he saw her wearing them, he said “wow Emma you are beautiful”

then…

We arrived home and the neighborhood kid saw Emma get out of the car and he shouted to the boys across the street, “look at Emma, she’s wearing glasses, she can’t see anything” and he laughed. Emma looked at me and strongly walked inside, as she entered her left foot in the door she looked back at me like she knew I felt like a cloud about to pour. I told her not to listen to that bad child, that he could only be so lucky to have parents like us to take him to the doctors and make sure he is healthy all around, I told her that he is a product of bad parenting…that he is a nightmare. I know it was wrong, but-

I was so hurt.

I was so angry.

I was so disappointed.

My husband put me in my place quickly, telling me that the boy is only a child. As I held back my tears for the ability to shout, I told him to stop defending the world and to take my side for once.

He’s not a JUST a boy.

I remember having a child with progeria disease in my first grade class. I remember my mother inviting her to my birthday party and I remember sitting next to her at the lunch room table almost everyday, because she was all alone.

I was just a girl. A girl that was brought up in a home of love. A girl that had parents who instilled in her empathy. That showed her by example what generosity meant.

So, for me the “he’s just a child” bull shit doesn’t cut it.
How can I raise my kids to
“love thy neighbor” but you cannot?
How can I raise my kids to not disrespect their elders, but you cannot?
How can I raise my children to be modest and kind and treat everyone as equals, but you cannot?

When we have children, it is our obligation to raise them as such. Not to let them drift along in life breaking hearts, and rules along the way. Sit down and talk to them. You will be surprised how much they will learn.

A week ago we were at a restaurant, and the waiter had one fake eye. My three and a half year old son looked at me, he didn’t say anything. I grabbed him and I took him to the bathroom. I explained to him that our waiter looked different. Markos asked why, and I told him that he may have been born that way or that maybe he was in an accident, but that whatever the case was, he was the same on the inside.I explained that because he looks different, that he is probably used to people looking at him differently, and that it probably hurts him from time to time. I challenged Markos to walk out of the bathroom and help me make that waiter feel, for once in his life, that he looked the same as everyone else.

That’s all it took.

No starring.

Four days ago we were at the airport and we saw a man with a prosthetic leg. My children didn’t stare. My children waited until we were in the car to mention it. They didn’t make fun of him, they said they were proud of him for going about his life without feeling different.

Today at the eye doctor, as we were waiting, a little girl walked in, she had an obvious vision impairment… Emma didn’t mention it at all.

That is my idea of a proud moment.

You may think I’m bragging. That is because I am.

My children aren’t JUST children. They are products of good parenting. They are the next leaders that will bring warmth to this cold world.

Again, my question is,

How can I raise my kids with empathy and you cannot?

And one more question…

Why should I raise my children to see everyone as equal, when it is very apparent that we are not?

The Princess of time…

It’s been twenty years since Princess Diana’s death. I remember the re enactments of the car speeding in the tunnel like it was yesterday. I remember the sad expressions on her sons’ faces. I went the following day and searched the entire mall for a poster of the Princess; I found one in Borders in Towson commons. It’s been in my shoe closet at my parent’s home ever since. I’m not sure why I put it in there, but it’s there. She was beautiful- she was kind and modest.

It’s funny how certain things hold places in your brain.

How does the brain filter so many instances, feelings? How does it know that you’re going to want to remember that detail in 20 years ? Some say that we determine that, but I disagree. There are a lot of things that I wish I had remembered as vividly as that August night in 97.  Like how I felt the first day of elementary school for instance.

Mental notes, notes in notebooks, videos, blogs, Im covering all of the mediums here and I STILL feel like today fifty things happened that arent going to be fresh and stored. I will have access to acquire them, but they won’t be powerful enough to stay there. All the time. That scares me.

I wish I could carry an electric SIMON circle around that would represent all four family members, so I could press the buttons for every memory I want to save for ALL of us.

Who made up time anyway? Why can’t we decide our own set of days, hours, and minutes. Why can’t we determine wether our child is ready to learn about the things that life throws at us?

I want time to leave me alone. I want to pretend that there are no milestones, nothing breathing up my back, taking my seconds away for the sake of a theory.

My daughter took a shower by herself tonight, she insisted, so I thought I would let her feel independent. I think that’s important. I told her to dry herself off and pick out her own undergarments and pjs also.  She walked out in a night gown that barely covered her bottom. I looked at her and giggled. She was like, “Mom, why are you laughing at me?”  I couldn’t help it. I laughed but it was a cry on the inside. At the beginning of every season, I put away last season’s clothing. Whatever doesn’t fit anymore I put into two piles: to be stored and to be gifted. That gown was still in her drawer. I wan’t ready for her to grow out of it yet.

See time… I outsmarted you.

Time is cruel- it moves whether you’re ready or not.

“Mom, I was talking about a lantern before… a magic lantern” Markos yelled from the next room.  “Ok Markos, We can talk about it tomorrow”, I said.

Silly me. Always thinking time is going to wait for me.

“Actually Marko, in coming in now so we can talk about it.  Right now – at one am in the morning”, I said

Did you hear that time? Go fuck yourself. I’m going to start my own theory.

Sorry I used the f word Mom.  There is no synonym as powerful.

A dog’s cry

I finally won the window or AC battle- I enjoyed the sounds of distant waves crashing, and an occasional gust of wind moving the loganberry tree outside in our back yard.

I was expecting one of those chiffan curtain- blowing evenings-where my husband and I would bed talk and then drift off into a magical night of blank minds and carefree body placement.

My left cheek is numb, my hand stiff, and I’m awake at 10 am. You’re probably thinking that’s a normal time, but mind you, not only are my kids asleep, but I didn’t get to back to sleep until 4am.

This neighborhood is up on a hill. My home is ,literally, on the tip of the hill. I can see a lot of green and then a lot of sea. This neighborhood reminds me of a more modest version of the hills…

My only problem are the poor dogs. Everyone in this neighborhood has a dog. We also have a dozen stray dogs and a million stray cats. The dogs however, aren’t trained. This means that every time a car passes, they will bark. This means that every time a person passes, they bark. This means every time they see a cat, they bark. This means every time they sense bad weather, they bark. This means, every time someone waters their plants, they bark. Basically, they don’t stop barking.

It’s heartbreaking. I can’t imagine the unrest they must feel either- To live in constant fear and uncertainty. Most people in the area use them as watchdogs and hunting dogs and they seldom ever take them on walks or play with them

I’ve thought about calling animal services, but there aren’t any active ones here on the island.  The privately owned shelters have their hands full trying to find homes for the strays. I’m not an animal activist- I’m not even an animal owner, because I know that I cannot give them the attention that they need and deserve. I am a person though ; I’m a mother and a Christian and I feel like I have to ask for help for these suffering souls

As far as the neighbors are concerned… They are the most selfish, inconsiderate, thoughtless, inconsiderate, small minded people I have ever met. Some of them I have never actually met, nor do I have the yearning.

On the hot summer days it’s impossible to spend time on my veranda  because of the smell and sound of the dogs. In fact, I can’t really entertain at all during the summer months because of the behavior of these neglected animals.  I know this may sound trivial compared to the intense abuse that they feel, but it’s actually like imprisonment for all of us here in this house. We are constantly trapped on both literal and psychological levels, because of the treatment of these dogs.

Before I had children, I wouldn’t have felt this situation so deeply. I often times put myself in their shoes.  I wonder how I would find the heart to cage my children and have them cry all day from the sounds and sights of eveyday harmless people and things.

It’s a crime.

I am challenging any of you reading this to help me find justice for these poor little things.

 

Drawing a picture

Emmanouela is my first born… when summer is gone and her tan fades she begins to resemble Snow White. Her eyes are the perfect combination of large and tight. She is one of those people that is most beautiful when you catch her serious and off guard. Her arms are toned and her belly should never be referred to as a belly ; she has the most amazing posture. I put her in dresses and matching bows,  but when she is given the choice, she always chooses leggings and a very, very gaudy tee shirt. She is as obedient as she is defiant and she finds a way to be a realist even though I try and create a world of unicorns and rainbows. My Emma is the first to help out her friends and the last to put herself first. Everyone in this small town knows Emma. She was highly advertised in my belly and made numerous appearances at coffee shops and public events, and even on airplanes soon after she made her enterance in this world. Emma will be six in less then a month. She has the understanding of a 12 year old though; you can sit down and talk to her about anything. She helps me find solutions to my problems, it doesn’t matter how trivial or intense, she will find a path that will guide me. Sometimes , I sit back and watch her interact with other children and although she is a happy child, and content with herself, I see a part of her that yearns to be senseless, impolite, sassy, and rambunctious and yet it breaks my heart, I let her explore that side sometimes. Most of the time she plays the part to fit in… and usually she realizes it’s not for her… Emma is the child of example. She sleeps like a porcelain doll; hands to her side.  She is a little Southern belle, having never lived in the South, she is an aristocrat, having never been born into royalty… she is a child of God, having never studied Theology.  

She is extraordinary, or brilliant,as she likes to say often.

Then there is my little cavalier… I think I did a huge injustice when I didn’t name him Don Quixote… Markos is an Aquarius and when you see him in the water you can tell he’s in his element. He could easily be mistaken with an ancient Roman marble sculpture of a young boy. I usually dress him American preppy, but if he gets to choose, you’ll see him in a superhero shirt, long basketball shorts, and a sideways hat. His eyes are like his sister’s, large and perfectly pulled. Markos, however is most beautiful when he’s “cheesing” in front of the camera. Unlike Emma, he is obedient only on his own terms. He helps me forget my problems and he’s only three. He’s an actor and an idealist. He goes from Batman to bartender in five seconds. He’s clumsy and creative. Markos isn’t as popular as his sister was until someone actually meets him. He captures a room with his positive energy and he keeps people coming back for more of his silly, carefree personality. He’s a manipulator and a giver. He can fall asleep head on the bed and feet on the floor. Markos has an urban edge without ever having lived in a big city, He’s a little French boy without having any roots in France, he’s a child of the stars, without ever having been taught Astrology.

He is unbelievable, or amazing as he likes to say.

Markemma, as is their hashtag on Instagram, are truly a dynamic duo. They are the envy of Dora and Diego. They cover both aspects of the brain and of the heart. I have managed to raise them close yet not dependent upon one another. My goal is to build on the inside of their souls. To teach them to live with love from within. I want them to be secure enough that they can be open to all and everything.  I talk to them every day as if it were my last and I hope that they remember everything as if it is. ( if not, it’s ok because I already have everything I’ve said thus far jotted in a diary for them one day)

They are incredible, or perfect as I like to say.

My son woke up this morning in his underwear and a long sleeve shirt (it was 31celcius last night) and came into the family room asking where his sister was. He creeped his head above the couch and saw her laying there, he went to her first and gave her a hug, she greeted him with a “goodmorning my child” put him in a headlock and they popped on Disney Junior and just snuggled themselves into the afternoon. I went along and did my morning house chores as they ate their cereal and when they finished we had an English lesson; Emma on my left and Markos on my right. After that we put our bathing suits on and headed to the pool. In the car they chatted about the playlist and agreed that we would listen to Despacito first and then Paola. They both sang the parts they new loudly and mumbled the rest. When we got to the pool Markos looked like a boomerang post and Emma like Ariel.

Now, as I’m writing this blog, I can hear my husband saying repetitively, “Markos!! Stop” and my son saying “yeah yeah yeah” and Emma saying “let the kid bowl with his boxing gloves, it’s ok” and then loud laughter. Loud, loud laughter. Wait, I hear, “I surrender, I surrender”

Bowling to boxing.

Pretty much how I could have described us in just three words.

 

 

Aluminum ashtrays and plastic cups…

The  smell of Night blooming jasmine is the first sign of summer for me, here in Chania. It brings back memories of summers passed walking from my για για’s  house to the old Venetian harbor. In my one hand my cousin and in the other a 1,000 drachmas. It reminds me of family from Australia, Germany, France, and America all uniting for long table dinners on my για για’s jasmine covered veranda . It reminds me of the first time I felt like a tourist;  the light switches on the outside of rooms, the circle power outlets,  the glass Sprite bottles, the laundry lines, the little 24 hr. convenient stands on every block, the late curfews, the real ice creams, the brown eggs, the public telecard phone booths , the outdoor theatres, the sound of crickets and motorcycles blending together. It reminds me of my first encounter with time… running out.

Last night we were at my Mother-in-law’s house and she had an aluminum ash tray filled with water and jasmine sitting on the table. My daughter, Emmanuela, stood above the ashtray and took deep breaths through her nose and  asked “ugh Mom these are amazing, what are they?”  I replied with reassuring owl eyes “yes they are! They are jasmine”. Then as she continued to take whiffs of these very familiar flowers,  I couldn’t help  to think to myself what a classless way to unearth something that I loved so much. I felt like I cheated her out of a beautiful experience. I wondered why I hadn’ t taken her on a walk down the street that I had skipped so many times as a child. The feeling of guilt flooded my heart.  I  said fearful, “I’ll take you to a special place tomorrow for a walk”.  The whole rest of the time we sat there I was thinking of what had just happened. I realized how caught up I get on trying to recreate my own childhood memories from America, that I forget to introduce her to the beautiful things that she can appreciate here.

As soon as we got home I gave the kids a bath, threw some chicken souvlaki on the grill, whipped up some tzatiki (sans garlic because I didn’t have any), cut up a Greek salad, added some avocado (to make up for lack of cucumbers) , grilled some stale bread (due to lack of pita) and then as I was making room for this fantastic- thrown- together platter of “miscellaneous things”,  I got a whiff of the gardenia that Emma brought home three months earlier. I smiled, and all of what I felt earlier, disappeared.

One spring day my husband took the kids out for the afternoon. Emma came home holding a gardenia and when I asked her why she chose that one in particular, she said it reminded her of her Yia Yia. (she has managed to care for her gardenia, without any help, for three months of intense wind and hellish heat)

She remembered my Mother’s love for gardenias. I’m sure they remind her of our country house in Maryland. I’m sure it reminds her of how she and her cousins gathered around the pond in the late afternoon feeding fish and watching for deer crossings. I’m sure that they remind her of round table crab feasts with family friends and relatives. I’m sure they remind her of the first time she was a tourist; the light switches inside the rooms, slot power outlets , aluminum Sprite cans, the smell of bounty dryer sheets, the CVS on every block, the early curfews, the snowballs, the egg white omelettes, the iPads, the trampoline parks, the sound of birds and rain drops blending together. I’m sure they remind her of her first encounter with time… running out.

So maybe Emma will be somewhere in the world with her daughter, in some carryout perhaps, and her daughter will discover a gardenia in a plastic cup and look at her and ask her the same thing,  hopefully Emma will smile and not feel guilty, but understand that sometimes… things can’t be introduced… they must be discovered. That time never runs out as long as we hold our senses close to our hearts.

Then she will go home and throw a couple of hot dogs on the grill (on stale sandwich bread), cut up a wilted lettuce salad, and mix whatever’s left of the condiments in her fridge together to make a special sauce. She WILL do this, unfortunately, because among all of her favorite memories will be the one of us eating that fantastic- thrown together platter of  “miscellaneous things” after having inhaled some of the best memories of our lives.

 

Now what?

The idea to start a blog has been lingering in my head for the past nine years.

In 2008,  I decided that after knowing someone for three months, I would move from America to Chania, a small city on the western side of Crete, in Greece. I was jobless, friendless, on bad terms with my family and scared.  After complaining to a friend that I was bored and losing myself, he suggested writing a blog. Initially I was excited, until I got around to actually thinking about the content of the blog. I was stuck and the more I thought about it the more discouraged I became. I realized that I really didn’t have any true expertise in something. I realized that I wasn’t losing myself, but rather that I didn’t even know myself.  I was educated in private schools and colleges, and although I was a “good” student, I never really excelled at anything. I tried every sport, but just to add another piece of equipment in the closet of failure. I wasn’t ever that passionate about anything enough to become an expert. So that’s where that idea died and I realized I was just mediocre.

Mediocre wasn’t going to do, so I started the journey of soul searching… and I started awakening parts of me that I didn’t know existed. I bought a traditional Cretan cookbook, learned how to cook… or at least I think I did! I learned how to build strong relationships with strangers and I learned how to love myself.

In 2010 I got married and after deciding that we would wait a year before starting a family, I became pregnant. Then, on that late September night in 2011, I finally found my passion.

So, because my second child is starting pre school this year and I will be alone for 4 hours every morning, I thought I’d start a blog. I haven’t really thought about the content of the blog, but I think it’s going to be great. Unlike nine years ago, I think I have a lot to offer as a spouse, a mother, a housekeeper, a traveler and as a woman. Hopefully, this blog will bring out the truthful beauty in the chaotic life of a stay-at-home Mom.