Category Archives: Ireland

We’re Not Catholic, but I Sent My Kids to Mass

My kids went to Catholic Mass today.

We’re not Catholic.

We’re American expats living in Ireland where the public school system is run by the Catholic Church with public tax dollars. Even many private schools are Catholic-influenced.

Our kids (now 7 and 10) attend a private school that is not Catholic run. As a percentage, there aren’t a lot of these schools in Ireland, but they are growing in number and popularity.

Twice a year our school offers the children an opportunity to attend a community-wide Mass during school hours. All the various primary schools in the parish attend.

Of course, as parents, we have the right to opt our kids out of this event.

I chose not to.

Here’s why.

While Catholicism is not our religion, it is the religion of almost 80% of the people in the country in which we reside. As of 2014, there were over 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world. Billion with a B.

That’s a lot of people.

When any religion is tightly woven into a society it impacts moral codes. It affects why people do what they do, believe what they believe, marry who they marry, vote the way they vote. Understanding not only what people believe, but why they believe it – even if you don’t – is important to building mutual respect.

While my kids are American citizens by birth, I hope when they grow up they will consider themselves to be citizens of the world. I want them to be curious about other cultures. I want them to dive into history, so they can understand how the past affects the present. I want them to be respectful of varying customs and beliefs, willing to try new foods and languages, empathetic to the struggles of others, open to listening to various viewpoints.

I’m not naive enough to think that them attending Mass twice a year is going to magically do all of these things. Of course not.

But in this instance, given our current cultural and historic surroundings, it is a start.

It is them (or them with my gentle nudge) taking the first step – making an effort toward approaching life with an open mind, thoughtful consideration and respect for others.

That’s all I ask.

Make the effort.

This is but one small example. There will be countless other ways they can make the effort to see the world from someone else’s perspective in their lifetimes.

We talked openly about this learning experience and the reasons for attending before the kids went and after. I listened to their feedback and answered their questions. Before I give you the mistaken impression that this was some sort of transcendental experience for my kids, let me keep it real. My 7-year-old thought the whole thing, which in his mind lasted 27 hours, was boring.

I’ve felt that way about many a church service, so I can’t really fault him for that.

Boring or not, my kids are learning things about the world that I didn’t have the chance to learn and embrace until I was an adult. In fact, I’m still learning.

Just imagine what could happen if instead of feeling threatened, insecure and instantly disagreeable to an idea or viewpoint that is different from ours we stopped and listened and learned. Through the course of listening and learning it is possible to remain true to your core values and find areas of common ground or at a minimum, mutual respect.

It’s not easy, but imagine how different our world might be then. Imagine how much kinder it might be. I have no doubt it is something worth striving for one human interaction at a time.

My hope is that my children will walk through life with integrity and an open mind. That they will place the well-being of humanity over the bottom line. That they will be adaptable, intellectually curious and empathetic. That their lives will be filled with purpose, meaning and happiness.

My husband and I don’t have all of the parenting answers. What works for our family might not work for another family. We’re learning as we go, figuring it out together, making changes when necessary and listening to our gut. Basically, we’re like parents everywhere trying to raise decent human beings.

Let’s hope we succeed.

 

Visiting Ireland: Talking Statues

If you’re visiting the Dublin area anytime soon, there’s a cool new feature in town.

Statues that talk!

And I’m not talking about the ones that ‘talk’ after you’ve spent the night at the pub.

I’m talking about ones that can call your phone.

With a lot of support, an initiative called ‘Talking Statues’ was commissioned by Sing London, whose projects “set out to connect people to each other and to the public spaces we share.”

The statues use humor and drama to tell a story and connect the listener with Dublin’s history. Plus, these stories are written and recorded by some pretty famous folks whose work you might have read, heard or seen.

10 statutes in Dublin now ‘talk’ including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw.

I’m excited for the next time I take my kids into the city because we have the opportunity to engage with history in a way that sounds different and fun.

If you have no plans to visit Ireland, why not never fear. There’s one city in the U.S. with 30 talking statues – Chicago.

How cool would it be to hear from The Tin Man, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Leif Erikson, Nicolaus Copernicus or Benito Juarez while walking around the city? Pretty cool!

Some of the people involved in Chicago’s Talking Statues are David Saltzman, Johnny Galecki, Steve Carell and David Schwimmer. Oh, you know it’s got to be good!

Sing London has also animated statues in London, Manchester, Leeds, Bedford and now Dublin.

Whether you are a tourist or a local, this is the type of engagement with history that I love. It’s free. It’s entertaining. It doesn’t take a lot of time. And you’ll probably learn something new.

Happy Travels!


Learn More: Talking Statues Dublin 

Learn More: Talking Statues


Here are more posts about visiting Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands with Kids

Galway with Kids

Our Favorite Irish Castle Tour with Kids

Belfast with Kids

 

 

Living in Ireland: Storm Ophelia

I had planned to share a delicious recipe with you today, but food isn’t on my mind.

Coming from me, this is pretty shocking, I know! I’m always thinking about food.

Storm Ophelia, the remnant of Hurricane Ophelia, pounded Ireland on Monday. It was predicted to be the worst storm in 50 years to hit the island.

The island, which includes two countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is the size of Indiana in terms of land mass and approximate population.

If you’re thinking it is extraordinarily rare for a hurricane – even one downgraded to a tropical storm or depression – to make it this far north, you’d be right. It’s definitely not normal.

At first, just a handful of counties on Ireland’s west coast were expected to be adversely impacted by Ophelia, but by Sunday night that changed. A red weather warning – the highest category – was issued by the Irish government for the entire country.

This declaration prompted school and government office closures for Monday. My kids were THRILLED to have a day off.

In the Dublin area, where we live on the west coast, it had been unusually warm for 3 days prior to the storm hitting. It was awesome, but a little strange. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll remember I mentioned that on Friday when I was in Dublin.

If you’ve lived in Ireland for longer than two seconds, you know that bad weather is to be expected and you do not squander warm, sunny days. It’s an unwritten code or something. So we did all the things you do when Mother Nature gifts you warm days in October – go to the park, walk on the beach, play outside, do yard work, etc. It was awesome! Well, maybe not that yard work part.

The red weather warning and subsequent school closure notice didn’t come until maybe 8 p.m. on Sunday night. All the things I had planned on doing on Monday were definitely not happening.

Because my internal body alarm likes to show me who’s boss, I was up bright and early on Monday. Why can’t that happen every Monday? At 7:30 a.m., I walked to the store for milk. It was still unusually warm and there was a mist in the air, but hardly any wind.

Buses and trains were operating, but there weren’t many cars out and about. Although, it was 7:30.

Strong gusts in our area started around 11 a.m. just as Handy Husband made it back from work. His company had issued an evacuation notice ahead of public transportation shutting down at 2 p.m.

If you got stuck in the city after the trains and buses shut down, I’m sure it was not pleasant trying to find a way home.

In the mid-afternoon I took this photo out my daughter’s bedroom window.

I was fully anticipating our power to go out based on the winds we were experiencing, which continued well into the evening.

News reports were rolling in all day of power outages. At the peak, 360,000 were without power due mainly to trees falling on power lines. The morning after the storm, 245,000 were still without power. 3 people died. There was flooding and wind damage in various areas along the west coast.

For our family, this storm became a great exercise in being smart and prepared, but hoping for the best. We had water, food, flashlights and back up batteries for phones. We’ve lived in areas with earthquakes, snow storms, ice storms and tornadoes, so we have a healthy respect for Mother Nature.

This is the view I woke up to on Tuesday morning. What a difference a day makes, huh?

I’m glad public officials operated with an abundance of caution in shutting down schools and government offices during the storm because you just don’t know. There’s no reason little kids should be walking to school when winds are strong enough to uproot trees.

I am extraordinarily thankful that the storm left our neighborhood relatively unscathed. I’m so happy for the unexpected family time too. We had dinner together – all 4 of us – on a Monday night, which never happens. I’m also saddened for the people who lost their lives and for those who suffered real damage. It’s a weird thing for us human beings to carry so many conflicting emotions at one time, isn’t it?

If you are moving to a new state, region or country, I encourage you to figure out right away what the local news sources are in your area. It can be frustrating or uninteresting to read about local news when you have no idea what they are talking about and it’s hard to relate to the information. However, it is important to know where to go for trusted information should a local emergency develop. This includes signing up for news or emergency alerts for your area. You don’t want to be caught unaware.

Since I’m dialed into my local news, I now know that Storm Brian is on its way.

*sigh*

I was hoping for a slightly happier story about baby kittens or something.


Here are a few local Irish resources, but by no means an exhaustive list.

An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s National Police Service)

The Irish Meteorological Service 

Office of Emergency Planning

Irish Times

Irish Independent

Bus Éireann

Irish Rail

Dublin Bus

Luas

Living in Ireland: That Time A Tree Came Down

In mid-August the Irish village I live in started replacing sections of sidewalks (aka footpaths) on our street.

It’s now October and they are still working on it.

One might assume I live on a really long street.

Nope. Not at all. There are probably 14 houses along this stretch of road.

One might also assume this construction crew is juggling projects all over the area.

Wrong again! I know this because I finally broke down and asked.

Anyway, the point is I like to judge things I have no expertise in I don’t understand why, but it’s taking a really long time to replace the sidewalks.

So imagine my surprise when I left the house one afternoon (not much was happening in the way of construction) and I come home two hours later to find an entire tree that was right in front of our house has been chopped down and wood chipped.

(The cherry tree to the left of the machinery. This was taken a few days prior to Tree-pocalypse.)

WHAT?!?!

Prepare a girl!

I smiled and waved hello to James, Sean and the rest of the crew. Yes, they’ve been working here long enough I’ve learned their names. Then I casually sauntered up my driveway like trees being cut down in front of my house with no notice happens all the time.

I spent about 5 minutes unpacking my groceries and debating with myself on what I should do next.

Do I want to feel like an idiot? Or will I regret doing nothing more? Hmm…

Choices, choices.

Not a fan of the idiot feeling, I must say. Or the dumb American feeling.

But, I went out there.

And I asked the group of worker men, very sweetly, if I could have a slice of the tree’s trunk that they decimated was laying there in chunks outside my house.

I know they understood me because I’ve been told Americans speak very slowly. But it took a half a beat for them to process my request. Like, why in the world would she want a slice of the tree?

But, one of them – not the guy who would do the work – said, “sure!” And sent his subordinate off to the truck to get the chainsaw.

It took two of them and one mess-up (he didn’t make a straight cut for which he received merciless ribbing), but I got my wood slice.

They asked me what I was going to do with it and I said in a not-at-all-idiotic way, “I’m not sure. Yet!”

Honestly, I was so excited – ridiculously excited to have a slice of this cherry tree – that it was all I could do to not GIGGLE like an Irish school girl.

I tried to beat a hasty retreat after they gave me my tree slice, but who knew it was going to be so freaking heavy?!?

Not 5 minutes after I brought my treasure inside did I look out the window to see the wood chipper truck pulling away. That’s how close I was to missing out on this treasure.

It still boggles my mind that anything happened THAT quickly in this construction zone, but it just proves…I’m not sure what it proves, actually.

Draw your own conclusions.

The slice is drying and it did crack, but that’s okay. I love that wood slice. Someday when we leave Ireland, I will be able to take a piece of the island, from right where I lived, with me.

In case you are wondering, I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the wood slice. I’ll be happy to overshare all the details when I do figure it out though!


P.S. James and Sean said they’d plant a new tree with less invasive roots to replace the one that came down. I’m still waiting. But the new sidewalks are fabulous.

Visiting Ireland: Our Favorite Castle Tour (with kids)

I grew up on the West Coast of the United States. The places and structures we consider old there aren’t old at all when compared to, well, basically everywhere else in the world.

That perspective, in part, is why I find castles so fascinating.

Ireland has a number of castles – some of which date back to the 12th century.

The thing you need to know about castles is they are not one size fits all. They range in size, in function, in grandeur. It’s interesting to visit castles of all shapes and sizes because they each have an interesting story to tell about their place and purpose in history.

When I’m visiting castles in Ireland, it’s never alone. That would make absorbing the interesting historical and cultural information way too easy. I need to challenge the few remaining brain cells that survived that never-ending My Little Pony phase by touring these castles with Thing 1 and Thing 2 my precious offspring (ages 7 and 10).

I’m drinking the Kool-Aid convinced we lead a more enriching life because of these learning experiences.

So far, our favorite castle to visit in Ireland with kids is Dalkey Castle, which is about 30 minutes south of Dublin and easily accessible via the DART.

Dalkey Castle is not the biggest, the fanciest or the most well-known castle in the area.

So what made the tour our favorite?

That’s easy! The specific information that was presented and HOW it was presented.

The Dalkey Heritage Center clearly gets the importance of the entertainment factor when it comes to the overall tourist experience. This was the first time we’ve visited a castle where our tour was conducted by professional actors in period attire.

The eyeballs in my children’s heads about POPPED out of their sockets when Rupert the Archer walked around the corner in the graveyard with his bow and arrow. They could tell this was not going to be your average tour experience.

Rupert shared very specific information about what kind of bow you would use to defend the castle, how far it would fly, what kind of damage it would do to a human.

If it sounds a little horrible, it was and it wasn’t. The 15th century was a pretty horrible time. Rupert the Archer was telling it like it was, but I suspect it was a little downplayed for the young ears.

All the kids and even a few big ones on the tour got to hold one of the bows.

Rupert the Archer also shared other tricks for defending the castle.

There was only one castle entrance, as you can see below, where the stairs are located. Above the doorway is a little rectangle that continues up to the second floor. That’s called the murder hole. Anything and everything, included boiling urine was thrown down that hole onto the heads of invaders.

I’m just going to say it…that would keep me from invading a castle. Regular urine wasn’t bad enough…they had to boil it too?!?

Along your tour you will meet some friends of Rupert the Archer. These might include the Cook, the Barber Surgeon and/or the Coin Minter.

On our tour we met the Cook who also filled in as the Barber Surgeon.

You will NEVER look at a barbershop pole the same after hearing about Barber Surgeons in 15th century Ireland. Trust me. If only they knew one or two things about germs.

The kids did get to mint their own coin too.

They got a demonstration on coin minting and then were able to work the tools themselves.

No fingers were harmed during this process. Although, there was one close call. I still cringe.

On the grounds of Dalkey Castle is St. Begnet’s Church and Graveyard.

Notice the small opening on the far back wall of the church. There on the bottom left?

That was originally a normal-sized door.

Apparently so many bodies have been buried on this site that the ground has been raised up significantly in the past 600 years.

Think about that for a moment.

Even the adults in our group RAVED about this castle experience.

From what was presented to how it was presented, we took away from this experience far more information and understanding about this period of history than we had from some of the other Irish castle tours.

Put this tour on your list and make time for lunch in Dalkey. It’s the cutest Irish village and you’ll be happy you did.


For more information on planning your visit to Dalkey Castle, click here.

 

 

Living in Ireland: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

When our family moved to Ireland 15 months ago, I did what I could from a medical perspective to make sure our transition was as smooth as possible.

Today I’m going to share what I did in the hope that you’ll find my list helpful should you find yourself in a similar situation.

Then I’ll get to the dramatic part tell you how it all went to hell a story of what happened last week that showed the drastic gap in my planning that most certainly contributed to a new patch of grey hair.


BEFORE WE LEFT THE USA:

Prescriptions: Before I left the states, I arranged to “buy-out” the remaining months of our prescriptions. In our case, only one of us was taking a prescription and it was valid for another 4 months. The pharmacy told me our insurance would only cover one month at a time, but there was a significant discount for me to buy out the remainder of the prescription. I’m not sure why, but I learned it is always worth asking. This afforded me a longer grace period when we arrived in Ireland to find a doctor and get a new prescription.

Contact Lenses: We also visited the eye doctor before we left and stocked up on a year’s supply of contact lenses.

Dentist: The timing worked out right for us to all visit the dentist in the weeks right before we left the country. This gave us 6 months, barring no problems, to find a new dentist. Although, in Ireland, they seem to recommend only yearly cleanings.

Health Insurance: Because there was a gap between when my husband would be starting his job in Ireland and when the kids and I would join him, we worked with his employer to keep him on the U.S. payroll for an extra month so that we could maintain our health coverage and not have to go on Cobra. You know the minute we dropped our insurance would be the minute one of the kids broke an arm. I couldn’t tempt fate!

Medical Records: I also procured copies of important medical records that I thought we might need in Ireland. For example, immunization records.

Life Insurance: This is sort of medical related – after medicine doesn’t help you any longer. I called and confirmed that our life insurance policies were valid no matter where we resided.


WHEN WE ARRIVED IN IRELAND:

Insurance: Straight away when my husband switched to Irish payroll we enrolled in the private health insurance program his company offers. Having private insurance offers a few benefits – like bumping us to the front of the line for procedures, private hospitals, etc. Irish residents are entitled to state-sponsored insurance, but I’m not an expert on the details of how that works.

Family Doctor: Within a couple of weeks of moving into our new home in Ireland, I made a point to ask neighbors, our landlord, really anyone who would listen for their advice on family doctors or pediatricians. I took the list of suggestions and started calling to see who had availability to accept new patients. While there was nothing wrong with any of us at that moment, I wanted to be certain we were patients of record with a doctor’s office before someone got sick.

Our decision on which doctor to go with had a lot to do with who was accepting new patients and location. We don’t have a car, so I needed to find a doctor close to our house. It worked out that I liked the first doctor I saw, but I was prepared to keep searching.

Also, I had to adjust my expectations for medical care. Our doctor’s office (or surgery as they call it) is located in a townhouse. The doctor’s desk with his mountain of paperwork is in the room with the exam table. Immunization schedules aren’t as rigorous. Well child visits are few and far between. The doctor called pee/urine “waterworks.” Little things like that. And, yes, that last one still makes me laugh.

I do like that Irish doctors post their price lists on their websites. You are never surprised by what things cost (it’s not a lot, either) and we submit the receipts to our insurance for reimbursement.

999: When we moved here, I taught my kids what to do if mommy or daddy is hurt and they need to call for help. In Ireland and the UK, the emergency services number is 999, not 911. I’m not going to say this has been an easy transition. The kids had to learn a new street address, mommy’s new phone number and a new emergency number. Just the other day when I quizzed the kids, my son said 9-9-1?

*sigh* So close, but so not helpful. We’ll just keep working on it!

Pharmacy Visits: In Ireland, you go to the pharmacy for over-the-counter pain meds, cough syrup, makeup, etc. Over the course of our time here, I’ve familiarized myself with the fact that medications are called different things. Ibuprofen is Nurofen, for instance.

I’ve also come to accept that pharmacy staff are trained to be either very helpful or very nosy. It depends on your perspective. For instance, I bought two different types of children’s cold medicine a few months ago. The pharmacy clerk – not a pharmacist, but the lady who rings up your purchase – quizzed me about if my purchase was for two different kids? I responded, “yes, I have two kids.” Now, in all reality, I just didn’t know which, if any, medication was going to help the one kid that was sick. Basically, I was stocking up so that I’d be prepared for anything.

Also, I cannot buy a Costco-sized bottle of tylenol or ibuprofen here. I can buy 10 tylenol pills at one time. I cannot buy 2 packages of 10 pills at one time. For someone who doesn’t like to shop, this is all very annoying.


HOW ALL MY PLANNING FAILED ME 15 MONTHS AFTER OUR MOVE:

Last Tuesday after school, we went to the park. This is something we do probably 4 times a week if it’s not raining.

Our routine play time was disrupted when my 10-year-old daughter fell off the one thing all the kids climb on, but really shouldn’t. Especially when there’s a large group of them.

As a mom, you can tell the difference in your child’s cry. The I’m-pretending-I’m-a-baby cry, the my-pride-is-hurt cry, the this-hurts-but-I’m-really-okay cry, the I’m-going-to-cry-and-my-sibling-will-get-in-trouble cry, the I-didn’t-get-my-way-and-life-is-unfair cry and the HOLY-HECK-THIS-IS-REAL-PAIN cry.

My daughter had that last one. I thought her tailbone was what she had really injured, but it turns out her arm/hand was the real culprit.

This was one of those situations where you’re not going to call an ambulance, but you know your kid probably needs to be checked out. And we’ve all been conditioned to avoid the hospital ER at all costs. No one wants to go there and THEY don’t want you to go there unless you’re really, truly having an emergency. Thankfully, urgent care clinics have filled that gap in the market for the urgent, but not dying stuff.

Now, let me paint you a picture. I’m in the park with two kids, two backpacks, two scooters and no car. I’m nowhere near my house. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m trying to decide what I should do. At a minimum, I know I need to get ice and ibuprofen.

A friend (who happened to be at the park) offered to drive us to the urgent care clinic in our area. She’d been there before and knew they had an x-ray machine on site.

Done!

Going to a private clinic was exactly why we procured private insurance! Along the way, I tried to call our insurance company, but they wouldn’t let me ask my question about clinics and coverage because I didn’t have our member number – it was on my phone. So I had to hang up and write the number now. By that time, we were at the clinic so my friend dropped us off and I hauled two backpacks, two scooters and two kids up the steps and into the clinic.

That’s where I encountered THE SIGN on the door. The sign that said, in essence, as of September 1st the clinic would not help anyone that was not a member of said clinic. We were not members. I missed the window of help by 4 days. Frickity Frack.

Trying to explain this development to my daughter who was still sniffling with pain and holding her arm at a weird angle was not fun.

I called our insurance company (again) and asked them to tell me where the closest clinic with an x-ray machine was located that would help my daughter. They gave me directions to the clinic, confirmed my pediatric question and informed me it closed at 6 p.m., which was in one hour. The most efficient way to get to the clinic would be via a cab.

As soon as I hung up the call, I opened my phone’s taxi app to hail a cab. Except, I couldn’t get a cab. My app was searching and searching and no drivers were available. Just great.

I could feel my blood pressure rising while we waited, which wasn’t being helped by the fact that my son was bored and decided to start sliding down a banister in front of the clinic that wouldn’t help us. One hurt arm is all I can handle at a time!

After about 10 minutes a random cab pulls up in with a passenger. I flag the driver down and ask if he was accepting fares. Of course he said yes. I explained how odd it was that I couldn’t get a cab when I know we were close to a shopping mall. He said, “oh, I know what it was. The drivers in the taxi rank were too lazy to get out of line to go pick up a fare. They’d rather wait for shoppers exiting the mall.”

To recap. My daughter is hurt. I have one hour to get her to the clinic before it closes. The quickest way to get there is by taxi. The taxi drivers are TOO LAZY to pick us up.

Awesome.

I’d also like to mention that it is now 5 p.m., which is getting close to the dinner hour and I’d already given the kids all the food I had when we were at the park. Nothing good happens when my kids are hurt, tired AND hungry.

I’m fairly certain I can actually FEEL the grey hairs growing out of my scalp now.

Anyway, the cab driver gets us to the second clinic in 15 minutes. I hop out with the two kids, the two backpacks and two scooters to find the emergency department, which was on the opposite side of the building from where we’d been dropped off.

I walk up to the reception desk, explain why we are there and the lady says, “I’m sorry. We only take patients 16 years and older.”

*insert a whole host of expletives here*

Thankfully, I did not say those bad words out loud.

If I hadn’t felt like crying at that point, I probably would have laughed at the ridiculousness of this situation. Bad timing. Misinformation. It was a complete fiasco.

I did calmly and politely ask the lady who would not help my hurt child who was standing right in front of her where I should take my daughter for help.

“Oh, well, you have to take her to a children’s hospital. She can’t go to a regular hospital A&E.”

I’m not sure what A&E meant at that moment, but I assumed it was the ER.

*insert another list of newly invented expletives here*

Thankfully, I did not say those bad words out loud either. But I did text them with very angry fingers to my husband.

Just keeping it real.

In my mind, getting my child help should have been a simple process. It wasn’t. And it was made worse by me not knowing how the system worked when it comes to urgent care.

Looking back, I should have just called our family doctor. And looking back even farther, when I met with the doctor the very first time, I should have inquired about what to do if there is a non-emergency emergency. Then I would have had a plan in place and would not have carried around the guilt and utter frustration associated with not being able to get my child help. This is one of those times when it shouldn’t have been so hard and I’m lucky that it all worked out okay in the end.

24 hours after the incident, my daughter saw our family doctor. He, bless his heart, told me “if you would have come in yesterday, I probably would have told you to come back and see me in 24 hours.” I’m not sure if that’s true or if he could see the parental guilt coming off me in waves, but I appreciated the sentiment.

He, predictably, referred us to the children’s hospital for x-rays.

I also told the doctor about how I woke up in the middle of the night and asked my husband, “so if a child was stabbed in the parking lot of a regular hospital, that hospital would not help that child?” The doctor rolled his eyes and said, “I know, I know. The system is a little messed up. They probably would give the kid pain meds, but they would call an ambulance and have them sent to the children’s hospital for treatment.”

*insert a picture of me shaking my head in disbelief at how asinine that is*

We ended up having a really fantastic (if you can call it that) experience in the hospital. We were in and out with x-rays and a cast in about an hour.

I did learn that children’s hospitals in Dublin are all public. So the benefits of having private insurance – unless she ends up needing a room – are negligible.

I’m sharing this story because I want you to know I have a really brave kid. And she feels much better now.

I also acknowledge there are parents out there dealing with medical situations far more horrific than a broken wrist and my heart goes out to them because I know that burden must be indescribably heavy.

Most of all, I’m sharing this story for anyone who is moving to a foreign country. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. Kids get sick. Kids get hurt. Knowing what to do in those situations – whether they be minor, urgent or a true emergency – can help you direct your energy where it needs to go the most – to your child.

As we left the hospital on foot to catch the train home, my daughter, sporting her new red cast said, “It’s a good thing I didn’t break my leg! That would have been a lot worse!”

She found the bright spot in this situation and I’m happy she reminded me it was there all along.

In truth, she’s my bright spot.


P.S. As you can see, I’m still learning the ins and outs of the medical and health insurance system in Ireland. I am in no way, shape or form an expert. Please do your own due diligence before moving to Ireland. It really is a fantastic place. I wish you the best of luck! 

 

 

What I Bought While in the United States

Confession time!

I can’t remember the last time I’ve looked in someone’s medicine cabinet, but I’m sure I have.

I love going for a walk at night and looking in someone’s window to see how they’ve decorated. I promise I’m not standing in their flower beds. It’s all legit slow-walking from the sidewalk, I swear!

To equalize things, even though I will never be in 99.999% of your homes or flowerbeds, I thought you might like to know what I bought during my visit to the U.S. after living in Ireland for a year.

It is juicy, scintillating stuff. Of that I can definitely not promise you.

Here are the highlights.


KING-SIZE SHEETS

Just like crisps are chips and chips are fries in Ireland, so are bed sizes.

A queen is a king and a king is NOTHING. American-sized king beds don’t exist.

Are you confused yet? Are you in shock and bewilderment? Me too.

I have ZERO regrets about shipping our king-size bed to Ireland. None.

Plus, my husband’s company paid for it. That really eases the regret levels, I must say.

For the first 5 minutes of our marriage, cuddling on a small bed was great. Now, almost 20 years later, my viewpoint is a little more nuanced. I tend to describe it more in terms of GIVE ME ALL THE SPACE. This is ironic since I regularly wake up to find a child has snuck into our bed and I have a sliver of space and a neck ache.

Since I don’t know when I’ll be back to the U.S. (even though I can have stuff shipped here), I decided to get another set of sheets since we’ve been using the same ones for over a year.

I’ve had great success with the Threshold brand sheets at Target. Even after a year or two of constant use, they don’t pill up. I picked up these sheets in the Blue Diamond pattern. I had plain white sheets, also from Target, so these are jazzing things up a little.

Also, I find it weird that I just showed you a picture of where I cling to the edge at night my bed.


BACKPACK

Handy Husband has been on me for a year to buy a “proper” backpack. Whatever that means. He thought it was embarrassing that I had been carrying my son’s gigantic LL Bean backpack. It was too big for my son, which was why I was using it, but man, does it hold A TON of groceries!

It also holds frying pans…as you can see below.

The problem was, I don’t really like the look of most backpacks – especially the ones that will hold a ton of frying pans groceries. So I didn’t see the need to spend money on something that I didn’t really like anyway.

Well, my son needs to use the backpack this year, so I felt pressure to finally purchase one for myself. I found the Women’s Recon Backpack at the NorthFace outlet for $55. It’s $99 on the Northface website right now. Mine might have been last year’s model though. It’s slightly smaller than the LL Bean pack, but it is working okay so far.

Time will tell if it lasts longer than Handy Husband’s Deuter Backpack. I’m feeling competitive about this because he’s a big Deuter fan.


MEDICINE AND TOILETRIES

My husband takes a daily allergy pill. The type he was buying in Ireland wasn’t working as great as what he used to take. I saw a year’s supply of a generic Zyrtec allergy pill on Amazon for $15.99. For that price, he couldn’t not try it. That would save us around $150 per year, which is no joke.

When people ask how I stay so youthful (they don’t, but whatever) it’s because my skin still acts like it is youthful and breaks out from time to time. Yes, I know I’m DECADES past my youth, but again, whatever.

Turns out, benzoyl peroxide-based acne creams are not available in the U.K. and Ireland. They are banned until further testing is done. I’m choosing to ignore their science and go with my own interpretation of the facts on this one because I’m too old to mess around with zits. For real.


COOBIE BRA

I’ll try to keep this next one g-rated! And I hope these pictures don’t show up in the Facebook feed.

A friend raved about the Coobie Bra and said I had to try it. I’m a skeptic. It’s no secret that she is more, uh, well-endowed than I am in this particular area. My needs run more in the training bra bralette category – especially after having kids. A little padding is helpful though – especially after having kids. You don’t need me to elaborate do you?

PHEW!

I was even more skeptical when the bra said ‘one size fits most.’ She and I are lightyears apart in body type. This is supposed to fit her and me? But the freaking miracle bra did! Well, I didn’t try hers on – that would be weird. The one I tried on fit me and I’m just taking the label at its word.

I went on the Coobie Bra site to do a bit of research because I am sometimes thorough over here. Their FAQs say the bras fit sizes 32A to 36D. They also have a new full size for 38-42D. There are nursing bras too.

The Coobie Bra is like a prettier, fancier sports bra that doesn’t give you a uni-boob. The best part is the padding insert has held its shape after multiple washings – even though you are supposed to take it out first – oops! I don’t put the bra in the dryer though.

I got mine at a local shop called Felicity’s in Salem, Oregon. Shop local when you can! Otherwise, you can find them online at The Coobie Store. I also found them on Amazon for the same price or less. I’m wishing I would have got more than one now.


MINI IPADS

We don’t have a TV, but we are a technology family. My husband’s in the biz. Our kids get screen time. It works for us.

We decided to use our trip to the U.S. and our visit to a state without sales tax to switch the kids to iPad minis. Their old devices were limping along, but just barely.

I will caution you though. If you buy an Apple device in the U.S., but you live in a foreign country, your warranty is tied to the U.S. This can be problematic if you are prone to dropping devices.

We usually buy our devices straight from Apple, but the Apple store in our area did not have any iPad minis. What?!?! So, we ordered ours through Best Buy, who was having a sale on them. We ended up saving over $200 by doing this. I’m not sure if they are discontinuing the minis, but they were definitely trying to get rid of remaining inventory.


LINEN BATH TOWEL

I finally bit the bullet and bought some linen bath towels. Well, after a friend gifted me one! (I wrote about my bath towel quest here.)

I ordered two of these linen towels made by LinenMe.

If anyone is interested, I might write about my experience with the towels and the two different brands I’ve tried so far. One of the brands has been softer than the other. Suffice it to say, I’m definitely happy with the choice to invest in the linen bath towels – they are the ones we reach for first now.


We bought some food products while we were in the states. I love dried mangoes! We also came home with Goldfish crackers and graham crackers – both of which are not available in Ireland. I did buy some clothes when I was at the outlet mall too.

All in all, though, I’ve let go of most of my brand attachments in the past year. The hard things are the personal items – makeup is a good example. This isn’t because you can’t buy makeup in Ireland – quite the contrary. It’s just the trial and error involved in finding something to replace what you had been using can be time consuming, frustrating and expensive. On the flip side, it can also turn out amazing!

I try to remind myself when I’m shopping for a new brand of jeans, makeup, spaghetti sauce, etc. that this is all part of the adventure. When my attitude is in the right space, everything is just a bit brighter and happier.

But my wallet might end up lighter!

 

 

Affiliate links to Amazon contained in this post. 

Visiting Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands (with kids)

I can’t believe we waited over a year to see Ireland’s #2 tourist spot, the Cliffs of Moher.

The #1 tourist spot in Ireland, by the numbers, is the Guinness Storehouse. Tourists have their priorities!

As much as we enjoyed the Guinness Storehouse, the Cliffs of Moher just might be my favorite spot in all of Ireland. So far.

When visiting the Cliffs of Moher, most people will home base out of the city of Galway.

I wrote about visiting Galway here. It’s not a big city, so you can hit all of the high points in a day, maybe a day and a half. That leaves plenty of time for excursions like the one we took to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

Since we do not have a car, we booked a one-day guided tour with Galway Tour Company.

We selected them based on careful research luck of the draw, in all reality. They had availability for the sites we wanted to visit on the day when we could visit and a coupon code. I do love a good coupon code! They have absolutely no clue who I am, but we had a great experience.

If you’re curious, we booked this specific tour for the Aran Islands and the Cliffs Cruise.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS:


Riding The Ferry to the Island of Inisheer (Inis Oirr)

(ferry image courtesy Doolin Ferry)

After leaving Galway, our first stop of the day was in the small town of Doolin where we took the Doolin Ferry over to the island of Inisheer.

While the boat does has stabilizers, whatever that means, you are traveling over open ocean. It was a bit rollercoaster-ish, which added to the excitement. It should be noted we were traveling on a relatively calm day!

The good news, if you are prone to seasickness, the ride is only 15 minutes on the express ferry. Otherwise, it takes about 30 minutes.


Inisheer (Inis Oirr)

In terms of land mass, Inisheer is the smallest of the Aran Islands. In terms of people, it is the second smallest. The permanent population on the island is approximately 260 people.

Our ferry had 190 passengers, which means in the course of a normal day, tourists will definitely end up out-numbering the locals.

I couldn’t help thinking about how much I complain about Amazon deliveries to Ireland. I can’t even IMAGINE living on an island where everything they consume has to be ferried over. I saw restaurants, but I did not see a grocery store, so I don’t know how that works.

As soon as you get off the ferry, you will be asked by many different locals if you want to rent a bike (they have kid bikes and helmets too) or take a horse and carriage ride. Either of these activities are 10 euro per person. Make sure you have cash!

I wish we would have rented the bikes because the island is only 3 km wide. It would have been easy to cycle around and see the sights in our allotted time of about 2 hours on the island.

However, we were starving. Okay, it might have just been me, but it was either eat at noon on the island or wait until 3 p.m. for a late lunch. 3 p.m. is like my snack time, people. Not lunch. There was no way me and my stomach the kids were going to survive in good spirits until 3 p.m. for lunch.

So we headed to the pub. Yes, kids can go into pubs in Ireland.

After that, we did some exploring around the island.

Inisheer has a really lovely swimming beach.

I managed to snag a picture without any humans in it, but yes, people were actually swimming on this grey day.

In addition to a beach, the island also has a cemetery, an abandoned church, a small castle, a fort, a lighthouse and a shipwreck you can check out.

The shipwreck is also visible from the ferry just before you dock in Inisheer.

You can see a glimpse of the castle and fort on top of the hill in the below picture.

If jumping on rocks and playing on the beach is not your kids’ thing, there is also a nice playground right behind the beach.


Cruising Along the Base of the Cliffs of Moher

After a couple of hours on the island, we boarded the Doolin Ferry, but instead of heading straight back, we cruised along the base of the Cliffs of Moher.

We had quite a few Princess Bride fans onboard our boat and they were VERY excited to see the Cliffs of Insanity!

I was too! I knew it was going to be cool to stand on top of the cliffs, but seeing them from the Atlantic Ocean just completed the entire experience.

The captain will get you as close as is safe to the cliffs. Parts of the cliff break away periodically, so in the interest of safety, they don’t get too close.

Unfortunately, my youngest kiddo did start to feel a little seasick during this cruise, which lasted about an hour. Thankfully, he returned to normal just minutes after we reached dry land.


Visiting the Cliffs of Moher

After a quick stop for a late lunch for the rest of the tour group (we went to the chocolate shop instead – who are the smart ones now?!?!), we headed for the Cliffs of Moher.

The nice thing about going on a guided tour is that your admission to the various attractions are all included in your tour price.

I think we had about 90 minutes to explore the top of the cliffs.

We felt safe enough taking the kids along the northern cliff route toward the round tower.

It was well fenced, with a (mainly) paved path and steps. It’s about a 5 – 10 minute walk to the tower.

You can pay an extra 2 euro to climb the 25-foot tower. I felt 700-feet above sea level was plenty high, thank you very much.

The views were – I don’t have adequate words – spectacular.

This below photo is looking back at the south side of the cliffs. Those black specks on top of the cliffs are people.

As you can see, it was a relatively calm day and the water was exceptionally clear. I felt incredibly lucky that we had some blue sky during our visit. That doesn’t always happen here!

Our tour guide told us the south side of the cliff walk was more dangerous and without railings, which is why we started our hike on the north side.

Since our kids did a good job of not going completely crazy hiking responsibly, we told them we would hike up a little way on the ‘dangerous’ part if they held mom or dad’s hand THE ENTIRE TIME.

Well, the first part of the cliff walk on the north side is completely fenced in with rock slabs, so that was safe enough.

There was a point when people jumped the fence and were hiking on the wrong side of the path though. The unprotected side. The side that occasionally breaks off and drops 700-feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

I probably would not have done that even if we didn’t have our kids with us.

It was a good lesson in, if your friends jump off a cliff hike on the edge of a cliff, would you do it too?

NO! Because your mama will find out and ground you until you are 107!

We did get a lovely family picture while at the top of the cliffs.

Yes, I was sporting the always glamorous wind-whipped look.

And my precious son. He was sporting the ‘tongue sticking out of his mouth at the camera’ look.

I did not notice this until much later.

So no, we will not be sending out Christmas cards this year! At least not normal ones where everyone is smiling at the camera.

There is a neat visitor center at the cliffs. It’s built into the earth just like something out of Lord of the Rings. That in and of itself is cool!

There’s also a cafe, gift shop and restrooms.


Coast Road and The Burren

After we finished hiking around the Cliffs of Moher, we boarded the coach for the 2-hour ride back to Galway. We took the coast road back to the city and I had my eyes glued to the landscape the entire time.

You will travel through a region called The Burren. Burren means great rock and I’ve never seen anything like it! I’d like to go back and explore The Burren National Park.

In total, our trip lasted 10.5 hours. We left Galway at 9 a.m. and returned at 7:30 p.m. It was a long, but amazing day. If you were taking a Cliffs of Moher tour from Dublin, you would probably leave around 6:30 a.m.


GUIDED TOUR TIPS:

We’ve been on a couple of guided trips while in Ireland. Both times our kids (ages 7 and 10) have been the only children on the trip, but no one seems to mind and the tour groups almost always offer a child discount. If your trip says kids go free, you still need to book them a spot. Otherwise, they might not have a seat on the bus and you won’t be able to go on the tour. If you have any questions about this, call or email the tour company to confirm your reservation.

The great thing about a guided tour is that your day is completely planned out for you. You don’t have to think about where you are going or how to get there. Just sit back and enjoy. The flip side of this is that you and the kids have to go with the flow and your schedule is not your own. That’s why I always pack water, lots of snacks and plenty of things for the kids to do while on the bus. On a day like this one, you’re going to be on the bus for over 4 hours, so make sure that is something your kids can handle.

A guided tour means the tour guide is going to be talking while you’re on the bus. When the guide is talking, the passengers need to be quiet so everyone can hear the information. If your kids aren’t at a stage where they can do that, you might want to wait before taking one of these tours.

Don’t be late! You’re sharing a bus with 50 other people. Don’t be the person that returns to the bus 5 minutes late. Not only is it rude, but it throws the schedule off for everyone.

These large coaches usually (not always) have a small restroom on board, so keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

Don’t switch seats on the bus when you get back on after a stop. People get really irritated by this. Also, your driver will let you know if you can leave items on the bus and if it will be locked.

If you are booking back-to-back tours with the same tour company, they usually offer a discount, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Last, but not least, take layers! Irish weather – I don’t care what the weather forecast says – is unpredictable. Be prepared for wind, rain, sun…did I say rain? All of those.


Our day spent exploring the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands was even better than I imagined it would be. Partly because we were going to an amazing place and lucked out with the weather, but also because we had a great tour guide who was funny and informative.

All in all, I’m so happy we finally visited this iconic spot in Ireland. Without a doubt it is a true treasure not just for the people of Ireland, but for the world. Be sure and put it on your bucket list!

Visiting Ireland: Galway (with kids)

Over the past year we have spent long weekends here and there visiting different parts of Ireland.

Every place we visit is new and exciting for our family – it’s a perk of moving to a new country!

Our kids are 7 and 10 and they are definitely becoming seasoned travelers.

Last weekend we finally made our way from Dublin over to the beautiful city of Galway.

Galway has a population of approximately 80,000 people. It is also the home of National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway). Approximately 17,000 students attend university at NUI Galway each year.

LOCATION

Galway is located on the west coast of Ireland. The River Shannon is located to the city’s east. To the west is Galway Bay, which opens into the Atlantic Ocean.

Galway is a 2.5 hour train ride from Dublin’s Heuston Station. It is a great hub for tourists who want to visit the Cliffs of Moher (to the south) and Connemara (to the north).

(map)

TOURIST HIGHLIGHTS

Galway is not a big city. In a long day (or a day and a half), you can see all of the major tourist attractions in the city itself. After that, you’re going to need a car or a tour bus to see the sights outside of the city.

For a PDF of a Galway city map with attractions, click here.

Here are some places we visited:


Galway Cathedral

Galway Cathedral is not an old church, but it is impressive.

The church is located along the River Corrib and is free to visit. They do ask for a 2 Euro donation.

This was a good place for my kids to:
1) Practice their inside voice.
2) Not drink the holy water.
3) Not play with fire from the why were there so many?? hundreds of lit candles.

The cathedral also offers a unique opportunity to teach kids about sound and acoustics. In particular, what happens when you make fart noises in an echo-y building. The wrath of God mom. That’s what happens.

The part my kids most enjoyed was the beautiful mosaics on the walls. We had an interesting whispered discussion about how mosaics are made. At least, that’s what I think we were talking whispering about.

By the time our 20-minute visit was over, I was wondering why the tour hadn’t included any communion wine.


Eyre Square

Eyre Square is a park smack in the middle of Galway and half a block from the train station.

There’s a playground, green space, benches and statues/sculptures.

There was also a water fountain around the base of one of the sculptures that would have been  a TON of fun to play in if I had brought a second pair of shoes for each kid, towel, change of clothes, sunny weather, etc. I really dropped the ball on that one.

Eyre Square gave me one of those “thank God there’s a playground” moments though. We can offer kids all sorts of fancy experiences, but simple is usually best.

Look! There’s a swing and something dangerous to climb on! Go have fun while mom and dad figure out where the heck we are and how we are getting to the next place (in peace).

Everyone wins.

The copper sculpture at Eyre Square (above) represents the red sails of the iconic Galway Hooker boats, which are unique to the area.

So, now my kids know what a hooker is!

My work here is done.


Fishery Watchtower Museum and River Corrib Path

Galway has a beautiful path/sidewalk system along the River Corrib. You can walk from the NUI Galway campus down to Galway Bay on these paths. It’s fantastic! Truly.

Plus, if it rains (it will) there are plenty of trees to duck under for a little protection.

Along the way, you’ll be able to see evidence of the fishery system – past and present.

Random fact: the city can let 1 million gallons of water through that dam (below) in 4 seconds!

Be sure and visit the teeny, tiny Fishery Watchtower Museum. Your dining room might be bigger than this museum, but it’s probably not as tall. The watchtower was an actual place from where officials kept track of the salmon count in the river and of any illegal fishing activity.

The museum is free to enter no matter how many questions you ask the staff. I asked a lot! They were so helpful.

Also along the River Corrib Trail you will see poetry plaques such as this one…

The poetry plaques were erected by the Galway Civic Trust and the poems all refer to Galway and its waterways.


City Museum

The free museums in Ireland are really top-notch and Galway City Museum is no exception.

The museum does a fantastic job of explaining the history of the Galway area – including the significance of the Galway Hooker. Much to Handy Husband’s disappointment, we raced through all of those parts and made our way to the hands-on Sea Science section.

Science for the win! But in all reality, our museum visits go much better when I don’t have to say “DON’T TOUCH” 50 gazillion times.

Also, there are decent bathrooms in the museum that don’t cost 20 cents to use. Knowing where free bathrooms are in a new city is super important! I don’t want anyone to have a situation!

(image)


Spanish Arch

The Spanish Arch, one of 4 built in 1584, is right outside of the Galway City Museum.

All you’re going to do is walk through it, maybe do a little parkour if your parents aren’t watching.

It takes 4 seconds.

There is history and significance to the arch though and you can read more about it here.


Latin Quarter and City Centre

I’m not exactly sure where the Latin Quarter ends and the rest of the City Centre begins in Galway. I’m not even sure why it is called the Latin Quarter. Clearly, my knowledge base has limits.

Regardless, there is plenty for the eye to take in while visiting Galway.

There are a ton of shops (department stores and speciality shops) and restaurants (pretty much any type of cuisine you can imagine) in this area, which is mainly a car-free zone.

And tourists too. So. Many. Tourists. In. August.

When it rains, they will scatter…usually into a pub.

Our favorite restaurant was the Pie Maker.

We ordered our savory pies for takeaway since the restaurant has approximately 2.5 tables. Be sure and check out the copper ceiling…it took 60 hours to install.

If your kids don’t like savory pies, I can pretty much guarantee they will enjoy the apple pies!

There are also all sorts of fun alleys and side streets to walk down in Galway’s City Centre.

I usually tell the kids we are taking a shortcut when I spy an interesting looking side street/alley/crack between the buildings.

Sometimes that ends up being true…


Walking and the Salthill Promenade

Galway is a walking city. Be prepared to lace up your shoes and hit the sidewalks and promenades.

Try to wait until the weather is ‘nice’ though. Walking some of these stretches on a oh no we are going to blow away blustery day isn’t quite as enjoyable.

If you walk down the Salthill Promenade, there is a small amusement park and an aquarium. We did not visit this aquarium because while it received great reviews, we’ve visited a lot of amazing aquariums in the past couple of years. We were on the hunt for something different.

At the very end of the Salthill Promenade there is a diving board. Even on a “cold for everyone else, but warm for Ireland day” there will be people diving off the board into the bay.

I think my kids would have done this. Me? No. Way. No way. Brrr.

(image via Irish Times by Andy Newman)


River Cruise

If you need some time to CHILL and would like to see some scenery too, then I’d highly recommend the Princess Corrib cruise up the River Corrib.

You can sit inside or outside on this boat, so weather should not be an excuse for skipping this excursion.

The peaceful cruise is narrated by the captain (who was driving the boat in his stocking feet), so you can’t help but learn a few things along the way. About the river, not the captain’s feet.

One of the things you will see on the cruise is Menlo Castle.

It has quite the story behind it involving a fire and a missing body.

I was just blown away by how beautiful ivy looks on an abandoned castle.


OTHER HANDY TIPS

Luggage Storage: If you need a place to store suitcases, there are lockers at the train station. However, we used the ‘Left Luggage Facility‘ at Big-O Taxis. It’s right around the corner from the train station and across the street from Eyre Square.

Hop On, Hop Off Bus: We hopped on this bus tour when we first arrived. It was a spontaneous decision and it was SO helpful in getting our bearings on where everything was in Galway.

Train Tickets: If you are traveling with kids, make sure you buy (or at least price out) a family ticket on the Irish Rail site. Sometimes that option takes a little more searching, but it does exist

Food on the Train: These longer train rides do serve sandwiches and snacks from a food trolley. They aren’t the greatest or the most affordable. Dublin’s Heuston Station has great options for buying sandwiches, salads, sushi, etc. to take on the train. The train station in Galway does not, but there is a Starbucks. I’d recommend buying food from Marks and Spencer, Tesco or Dunnes before boarding the train in Galway for the return trip to Dublin.

We definitely enjoyed our visit to Galway! I’m going to follow up this post with another one about our excursion to the Cliffs of Moher, which might be my new happy place.

If you have any questions about Galway, please don’t hesitate to ask. I can’t promise the answers you are looking for, but I’ll do my best!

Living in Ireland: Back After a Month in the U.S.

It’s flat out STRANGE to visit the United States after living in Ireland for a year.

I tried to put my finger on why exactly.

In part, I think it’s because I’ve changed. Evolved, shall we say? How could you not after moving to a foreign country?

But when I went ‘home’ I realized how much HADN’T changed. There is something comforting in that though.

I also realized that I’d gotten used to being slightly uncomfortable ALL. THE. TIME. while in Ireland.

You can try to look and act local in the face of constant new experiences, but as soon as you open your mouth you see a flicker of “you’re not from around here” pass across someone’s face.

This is especially funny when someone asks me for directions. I take it as a huge compliment that the poor soul assumes I’m a local. Fake it ’til you make it! But then I have to respond to their question and I can visibly see them trying to decide if I REALLY know what I’m talking about. Don’t worry. I mostly do.

When I’m in the United States, I’m not special at all.

Oh, we all know I’m SPECIAL, but what I really mean is I fit in. When I was back, I noticed I fit in, which is a weird thing to be acutely aware of.

That lady at Panera just assumed I’d been in her restaurant quite regularly because I was quick to order. I always get the same sandwich though.

The guy at the gas station just assumed I’d remember what zip code the credit card I hadn’t used in a year was attached to. I did…after a long, awkward pause and a quick prayer.

And the lady at the rental car company…well, let’s just say she should have asked me how long it’s been since I’ve USED my driver’s license, not if I have a valid one or not. Rest assured, I surprisingly remembered how to drive.

Our visit to the U.S. went by super quickly. I’m beyond grateful that I have this quirky blogging job that allows me to be home with the kids and gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. Even from a farm, 10 miles from civilization with slow-as-molasses internet. Talk about roughing it!

I was worried the kids would not want to return to Ireland. Not because they don’t like it here, but because it’s fun being with friends, cousins and grandparents. Thankfully, they were ready to go home. They missed daddy and all the things they normally play with.

Apparently, the neighbor’s cat missed them too. We call her Mittens. I’ve stopped wondering what her actual name is.

(In case you are wondering what my daughter is doing in inside-out pajamas, she is painting her LPS to look like Warrior Cats from her favorite book series. It’s a messy activity best done outside.)

I was a little concerned the kids were having a hard time adjusting when they announced they were going outside to play ‘cold weather survival.’

It was 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

Definitely not my idea of summer temps, I’ll grant them that.

We also needed to stock up on food because Handy Husband’s idea of stocking the refrigerator does not include food things like fruits and vegetables.

I’m teaching the kids how to ring up the groceries because I have dreams of one day just giving them a list and sending them to the store. These are important help your mama life skills.

Now, folks. Jet lag is real and it can whoop your behind. This happened to me the last time we did the 8-hour time change.

I’ve figured out what works for me though. The magic formula is to stay up all day and then sleep for 14 hours straight.

I kid you not, it works every time!

Handy Husband’s idea of overcoming jet lag is to go for a 4-mile hike the day after we land.

He’s so helpful.

I told him the 14 hours of sleep had me feeling pretty good, but no, no.

A hiking we did go!

We did get to see some awesome views of this lighthouse though.

Meanwhile, can you spot which kid and husband are mine?

Finally, we eased back into Irish life by going for a bike ride and discovering my favorite thing of all time a carnival.

This is what happens when I let the kids ride ahead of me.

But!

Here’s the good news. I think.

My boy, who has a healthy fear of these death traps, decided to get on that big sky swing.

If he showed even the slightest sign of being scared, I was prepared to go all mama bear on the entire carnival to shut that ride down, but my concerns were not warranted.

He had a fantastic time. Funny how you blink and they’ve done some growing up on you.

All in all, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to spend time in the U.S. this summer.

The place of your birth has a strange tug on your heartstrings. I realized this when I got teary-eyed listening to the national anthem being sung at a rodeo. Legit tears in my eyes, people.

Someday I’ll be back, but until then I’m happy to be home in my own bed in Ireland.