A House At Last

Well, friends, it’s been an *interesting* week for Jon over in Ireland. The good news is: we have a house! The bad news is: it was quite the trial to get it.

As I told you in my last post, Jon’s flight got delayed going in to Ireland. He ended up being delayed so long that they had to book him on a completely different flight on a completely different airline. In all the flight mess, though, the airline forgot to book Jon a connecting flight from London to Cork. He had to buy a separate ticket in London so he could complete his journey–I’m sure I’ll be having some fun conversations with United Air about how we get reimbursed for that. Oh yeah, and they lost his luggage. His bags went to Chicago–even though Jon never did–and, 4 days later, still have not found their way to Ireland. Not the best start to this trip.

Surely after that horrendous travel experience, the house-hunting had to go better—right?

Nope.

Jon spent the first 2 days he was in Ireland just trying to get a hold of people so he could schedule viewings of the houses we were interested in. Nobody was even available to let him in to a single house those first days. Then, when he finally got to see his first houses on Wednesday he learned that the vast majority of the houses we liked had already been rented out. On those two days that nobody was available to show him the houses. Hmmmm…. Then, to make matters worse, almost all of the houses that were still available did not allow pets. Double ouch.

Long story short, our list of 42 potential houses got whittled down to 2 (TWO!) that met our minimum criteria and were actually still available to be rented. Going in to this we had prayed that God would open the door where he wanted us and close the doors where he didn’t. Sometimes God has a very direct way of answering our prayers. Doors were literally being slammed shut in our faces everywhere we looked!

Ironically, the two houses that we had to choose between had the exact same floor plan, were in the same general area of town, and were listed for the same price. When it came down to it, the house we chose is in a nicer neighborhood, has nicer finishings, and has been better maintained. In the end, it was a pretty simple choice.

So, with no further ado, here is our house! It is a fully furnished 3 bedroom / 3 bath townhouse in the neighborhood of Rochestown (kind of like the Bellevue of Cork City). It backs up to a sports complex that has soccer fields, a golf course, bowling, tennis, etc. David will even have a view of the soccer fields from his bedroom window 🙂 There is also a nice park in front of our house where we can throw the ball for Bota. It is walking distance to a bus stop and a bike path (this path actually goes right past Jon’s office), so hopefully we won’t have to rely too much on our cars (gas is VERY expensive over there). We’ll even have a couple of couches if anyone wants to come out for a visit!

Living Room

Living Room

Dining Room

Dining Room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Patio and back yard (the lady is a friend of the owner who showed Jon the house)

Patio and back yard (the lady is a friend of the owner who showed Jon the house)

Back of the house and patio

Back of the house and patio

Shed in the back yard...with the dryer in it

Shed in the back yard…with the dryer in it

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

We have about a week left before we move on the 6th, so now it’s on to packing!

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Getting It All Done

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Last week I got to spend some time with a friend who doesn’t have any kids yet. As I was packing up the boys to head back home she asked me (a bit bewildered, a bit frightened, a bit curious), “How do you get it all done?”. It’s a valid question.

I didn’t know quite how to answer her. The short answer is: what needs to get done, gets done…and everything else can just wait. The long answer is that I have several systems and routines in place that get me through each day and each week (some weeks better than others). Here’s a little glimpse into how I get it all done–or, I should say, how I attempt to get it all done!

Cooking
I usually prep dinner while the boys are napping (most days I can get both boys to nap for at least an hour at the same time in the afternoon. If not, I just prep when one of them is napping so there’s minimal chaos). If there are veggies that need to be chopped, meat that needs to marinate, spices that need to be measured out, whatever–I set it all up while the house is quiet. Kind of like how those cooking shows on TV have everything sitting out in bowls and all they have to do when it’s show time is throw everything in a pan, cook it, and–voila!–dinner! I usually only cook “hands-on” a few nights a week. The other nights I  just reheat frozen meals or leftovers (and pizza is never a bad option for a Friday night, either).

Laundry
I literally do laundry every day except Sunday (Mama’s gotta have a day of REST!). It’s easier for me to do one normal-sized load of laundry to completion (washed, dried, folded, put away) every day than to do a marathon session attacking the dirty-laundry mountain when it gets too monstrous for me to handle. Between Jon and I having our everyday clothes and work-out clothes, the boys needing “costume changes” multiple times a day for multiple reasons, and needing to wash linens on a somewhat regular basis, I am always able to fill a whole load of laundry. Jon likes to look nice for work (*grin*) so I actually iron his shirts once a week. It’s one of my least favorite chores, but I do it out of love (and it helps that I can watch Hulu while I’m tediously ironing away).

Cleaning
I am not a particularly clean person. I like having things tidy and organized and not disgusting, but I’m not the lady who scrubs her toilets every day (yes, I know someone who scrubs her toilets every. single. day.). I have a loose schedule of when I will do the required cleaning each week: Mondays I clean the kitchen and pay bills, Tuesdays I vacuum,  Wednesdays I clean the bathrooms, Thursdays I mop the wood floors, Fridays I pick up the yard. I just do the basics, and it only takes me 10-20 minutes per day to do my “chore-o-the-day”.

Activities
I love being busy–probably to a fault. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who can’t stand staying at home all day. So, we have little outings most days. In a typical week we’ll go to Stroller Strides (my exercise class) or a run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings; either park play time or library story time on Tuesdays; and BSF (Bible study) on Thursday mornings. Our little outings last for about 1-2 hours. The boys (usually) have a lot of fun on our adventures– and I need the breaks in our day for my sanity. It’s really a win-win. On the weekends we do our bigger adventures that require more time or more adults: hikes, swimming, shopping, day trips.

NOT Getting It All Done
There are some days where I’ll just decide a nap is more important than whatever chores were on my to-do list. Or the boys will actually sleep past 6:30 AM and I decide that we’re going to stay in our jammies all morning instead of working out. Or I’ll be cleaning up what seems to be the hundredth mess of the day, and I’ll call Jon and tell him to pick up dinner on the way home so I don’t have to cook. Or I will be in the middle of packing up my life to move half-way across the globe (NEXT WEEK!!!). Every now and then, I don’t get it all done. And that’s okay. In the end, what needs to be done will be done–and sometimes a break is what really needs to be done!

Keeping Connected When Dad Is Away

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This week Jon is in Ireland doing his third (and final) housing search for our Big Move next week (!). Even though we are excited for the reason that Daddy is away from us, Ireland is still far away. It’s far, far away. But do we let that get us down? Of course not! In fact, we’ve come up with several ways that we keep connected (and keep our sanity) while one or–rarely–both parents are away. Here are some of my favorites:

  • We use my iPhone to record videos of my husband reading some of David’s favorite books. During story time and bed time we always start with one of the “Daddy reading” videos.
  • We print off photos of us or our family and use the back of each photo to write a little note to the boys. Each day while we are away they get a new photo note.
  • We buy little gifts for each day that we are away (stickers, a tub of play doh, sidewalk chalk, books). David gets to open one special gift each day (it’s nice to have something fun to look forward to each day when you’re missing somebody special!).
  • We use Skype or use iChat to video chat with each other every day. With time zones, naptimes and busy schedules this can be tricky, but we always try to make it happen.
  • We do special things to make the time go more quickly when Daddy is away. A trip to the zoo or the children’s museum, lunch with friends, baking yummy treats (I’ve already baked cookies twice in the last two days. Hmmm….)–anything that keeps us occupied and entertained.
  • We go on mini-vacations ourselves. If Daddy is gone for a week or more, I will usually pack up the boys for an over-nighter at one of their grandparents’ houses. They love seeing Grandma and Grandpa, and I love having an extra set of hands!
  • We make a “welcome home” project for Daddy. This could be a craft, a picture that David paints, or a video of something neat the boys did this week. We have our welcome home project ready and waiting for Daddy when he returns.
  • I get a babysitter. At least once when Daddy is away I will hire a babysitter to come by for a few hours so I can leave the house sans children. This week I have my mom coming up one day and a hired babysitter coming over later in the week.
  • We look at photos and videos of Daddy when we start to miss him. Sometimes we’ll even hook up my computer to the big TV screen so we can see the photos in real-life-size. As we’re looking at the photos, we talk about all of the fun things we were doing when the photos were taken.

It can be difficult to have a parent away, but we can still have fun while we’re waiting for them to return!

Final Housing Search!

One of our "potentials" in Cork

One of our “potentials” in Cork

This morning Jon woke up at 4:45 AM to catch a flight to Ireland for his third–and final–housing search. Unfortunately, 12 hours later, he is still…sitting at the airport. His flight got delayed…then delayed…then delayed…until he eventually changed to a new flight plan altogether. He will now be leaving Seattle at about 6:00 this evening, flying through the night to London, and then on to Cork. This is an unfortunate beginning to the trip, but hopefully it’s not a sign of disappointments to come!

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks researching housing online, making spreadsheets, and plotting potential houses on maps. In the end, though, we will be at the mercy of the quick-moving Cork rental market. Houses go very quickly there, so hopefully the right house is available for us at the right time. Jon will have less than 4 days to set up a bank account, see houses, make a decision and sign a lease. We are planning on moving July 6th, so we are really hoping we can find something that will be available in the next week or two.  It’s a lot to accomplish, but we know that God has the right place already picked out for us!

As soon as he signs a lease I’ll update here with some photos. Crazy that by the end of this week we’ll have our very own house in Ireland!

My Philosophy Of Discipline

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I know that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, so I will attempt to tread lightly here. Each parent needs to approach discipline with their children in the way they see best for their family–and, with that, each individual child may require different approaches. I’m not suggesting that my approach to discipline is the best or the only way–if anything, discipline is the area of parenting that I struggle with the most! As a mom and a former teacher, though, I know how important discipline is for kids. In this post I will share a bit of my personal “philosophy of discipline” and how we handle discipline in our family.

Why discipline?
The Bible tells us that “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). We discipline our children for this very reason: because it is for their good, so they can become more like Jesus.

I have seen first-hand, in both the classroom and in my own home, how appropriate discipline can help children thrive. Kids not only need discipline–they want it! Kids expect boundaries and limits, and they learn life-skills from appropriate correction. Plus, discipline helps everyone live together in harmony. Nobody wants a chaotic toddler running the show. Trust me.

What is discipline?
The word “discipline” stems from the word “disciple”: to guide someone to become more like Jesus. As such, the purpose of discipline is to train a child for correction and maturity so they can follow in Jesus’ ways. The focus of discipline is on lovingly correcting the child and changing their future behavior. Discipline means that the parent applies appropriate consequences to encourage the child to make better future choices.

There is an important distinction between discipline and punishment. Discipline is NOT punishment. Punishment’s purpose is to inflict a penalty for an offense with the focus on past misdeeds–it’s basically “I’ll make something bad happen to you for your bad behavior”. Where punishment results in fear and guilt, discipline leaves a child with a sense of security and a positive focus for their future.

How Do We Discipline?
In our house, we have a tiered-approach to discipline: some offenses warrant lesser consequences than other more serious behaviors. Here are the discipline steps we follow with our son:

1. When our son does something that breaks a family rule (like throwing food at the dinner table) he goes straight to time out. There are no warnings, no arguing, no negotiating. He knows the rules and he knows that he needs to follow them at all times. We follow the rule of one minute per year of the child’s age for time-outs (David is 2, so he has 2-minute time-outs). His time-out spot is the first step of our staircase. When he is in time-out he is not allowed to play with toys or talk to us. I don’t mind if he talks to himself, moves his feet or plays with his hands. If he needs to move his little body a bit, that’s fine–I just want him removed from the situation–and our attention–that could instigate further inappropriate behavior. If he gets out of time-out before we come to get him or if he refuses to go to time-out, he gets a spanking (more on that in #2).

2. If the behavior is something that could harm himself or others (like hitting his baby brother or running into the street when I tell him to stop), he gets a spanking instead of time-out. Serious offenses warrant a serious consequence.

This whole spanking thing is very difficult for me. I was never spanked as a child and I never thought I would spank my own children. After a lot of prayer and discussion with my husband, though, we came to the conclusion that spanking is one tool we will use for discipline in our family. We use spanking sparingly and it is not our first line of defense. When we do use spanking, though, our goal is always to train–not hurt–our son.

When a spanking needs to happen, we wait until the parent who is giving the spanking is calm and collected. Sometimes this means David needs to go have a time-out in his room for a few minutes while we gather ourselves (or soothe the crying baby that he just walloped with his lego tower). Then we take David to a private place–we don’t want to add embarrassment to the mix–so he can get his spanking. Just one quick swat to the behind, then it’s over.

3. For all discipline, whether it’s a spanking or time-out, we always have the same “script” that we follow. Depending on the situation, we either go through this at the beginning or the end of the discipline time. I want little David to start learning the specific vocabulary of “sin” and “forgiveness” now. It’s so important that kids learn that bad behavior isn’t just “bad”–it is actually going against God. But, in that, there is always forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Our script goes something like this.

“David, you are in time-out (or getting a spanking) because you chose to do _____. That breaks our rules (and can hurt you/other people). When you do _____ it is also a sin. Sin breaks God’s laws and makes Him sad. Mommy and Daddy love you and want you to be more like Jesus, so we need to discipline you now.

Now, let’s pray together (we have him repeat phrases after us): Dear God, please forgive me for (_____). Please help me (obey, play nicely, share, etc.) so I can be more like you. Amen.”

We end the discipline time with David apologizing for the specific behavior (“Sorry I threw my peas at you, Mommy.” instead of just “sorry”). Then we give each other a hug. If he hurt someone else, he also tries to make amends with that person. If he made a mess, he helps to clean up the mess. Done.

4. Go back to “real life”. Don’t dwell on the bad behavior or keep bringing it up. If it’s been dealt with properly, then it’s time to move on.

Final Thoughts
Again, this is how we do discipline in our family. Every family has different children and different parents, so I know that this model is not the best fit for every family out there. In fact, it may not even be the best fit for our family 5 or 10 years down the road. The important things will always be important, though: lovingly correct your children so they can be more like Jesus. And try not to pull your hair out when that sweet little darling gets sent to time-out for the 480th time today.

Our Anniversary Weekend Getaway In Seattle

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Last week Jon and I got to do something that all parents dream of: we left our children. Overnight. For two whole days. It was…amazing. We had a lot to celebrate last week: my birthday, our anniversary–and the fact that we are about to move 5,000 miles away from grandparents who willingly take in our offspring when we need to get away for some Mommy-Daddy time.

So where did we go for our thrilling weekend “away”? Our own hometown of Seattle! This was our first time leaving baby Jacob overnight, so we decided to stay close to home in case he started freaking out and we needed to go back and rescue him (or if I started freaking out and needed to go back and see him). Plus, Jon and I were both feeling a bit nostalgic now that we know we’re actually leaving this place for the next 2 years. It ended up being a wonderful weekend getaway that we will always remember. Here’s our itinerary if you want to check out some of our favorite local spots for yourself!

Where We Stayed:
Since there were lots of things we wanted to do in the downtown area, we chose a hotel right in the middle of all the action. We stayed at the Sheraton Seattle, located at 6th and Pike. I’ve always wanted to stay there because at Christmas time every year they host a fancy gingerbread house showcase in the hotel lobby–I have many fond memories of wandering through the hotel looking at those gingerbread houses (and wondering if anybody would notice if I sneaked a bite off one!). The hotel was every bit as beautiful and comfortable as I imagined it would be. The staff was helpful and friendly–they even sent a complimentary bottle of wine up to our room when they found out we were there celebrating our anniversary.

Where We Played:
Our first afternoon was spent shopping downtown. We went to all of our (and by our, I mean my) favorite stores. I’d gotten a few gift cards and some cash for my birthday, so it was fun for me to be able to shop to my little heart’s content with no little voices whining at me from a stroller. After my shopping spree we dropped off our bags at the hotel then started walking toward Lake Union for dinner. It was a gorgeous day–and I knew we were about to stuff ourselves silly at dinner–so the mile walk was quite welcome.

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After dinner we flagged down a cab to get us back to the hotel (the walk to dinner was great–however, my choice in cute yet inappropriate-for-walking shoes was not the best idea). Then, after a quick shoe change, we were ready to go again. Time for a movie! We love going to movies but rarely have the opportunity to get out to an actual theater. The Meridian 16 movie theater was across the street from our hotel so we just walked over a few minutes before show time. We saw the new bank-heist movie Now You See Me–it was pretty entertaining, and such a treat to see it before it hit Red Box.

On Day 2 we slept in. Late. Really, that’s all either of us wanted to do for the whole weekend away from our kids. We even got a late check-out so we could sleep uninterrupted for as long as we wanted. It was glorious. I’d be happy if the whole weekend just ended there, but we did actually have more exciting things planned for later in the day.

After our late start, we headed down to Pioneer Square so we could go on the Seattle Underground Tour. Back in the 1800’s Seattle basically burnt to the ground and the residents decided to rebuild on top of the old city. There are still about 36 blocks of underground passage ways and old store entrances that you can visit on the tour.

seattle-underground-tour

We used a brand new tour company called “Beneath The Streets”. They started about a week ago so they don’t have a website yet, but it was a great tour. I’ve been on the main underground tour before, but this one went to the same places and was half the price. Their office is located less than a block away from the other Underground Tour location on 1st and Cherry.

After our tour we headed back up the hill for our favorite treat: massages! There’s a great urban spa across the street from Westlake Center called Ummelina. They start every treatment with a foot bath, tea and relaxation in their “sanctuary”. I’ve been there probably half a dozen times, and they never disappoint. We were feeling great after our afternoon of pampering, so we decided to top off the day with a delicious pizza dinner down the street.

Then, it was time to go back to reality. We picked up fancy cupcakes (for us) and a coconut cream pie (for the babysitting-grandparents) at Dahlia Bakery–then we left our dreamy “vacation” to drive back to our children. It was an incredible two days away, but somehow we still missed those two little munchkins like crazy!

Where We Ate:
Pasta Freska
A great Italian restaurant recommended to us by my sister-in-law. There are no menus: the chef comes out and personally greets each customer to discover their food preferences. Then he goes back to his kitchen and prepares you a custom 7-course meal. Everything we ate was delicious and we’ll definitely be going back!

Specialty’s Bakery– We stopped by to pick up a late-morning breakfast on our way down to Pioneer Square. We both ordered warm ham and cheese stuffed croissants. I also bought a peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie to munch on after our tour.

Serious-Pie-in-SeattleSerious Pie-Tom Douglas’s iconic pizza kitchen in downtown Seattle. They had a great happy hour until 5:00 with personal-sized pizzas for only $6 (there were also drink and appetizer specials). We ended up getting three wood-fired pizzas and a ham terrine–all were fantastic.

Dahlia-Bakery-2Dahlia Bakery– Another Tom Douglas institution. They’re known for their coconut cream pies and fresh sandwiches. The “fancy cupcakes” weren’t half-bad either.

10,000 Readers Strong

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This week I reached a blogging milestone of sorts–somebody out there in the wide world of internets has just become my 10,000th visitor. This is kind of mind-boggling to me–and totally humbling–that 10,000 people would actually choose to read something I’ve written. My little blog-baby has come such a long way!

I started this blog less than 6 months ago because my friend asked for my opinion on some baby things. Little did she know that I would go on to tell her my opinion on every baby thing I’ve ever come across…and start a blog because I realized I just have too many opinions on too many things and the world just has to know them.

So, who do those 10,000 readers represent? As it turns out, lots and lots of different people. I’ve had readers from over 90 countries (Can you even name 90 countries?). These readers really like to eat. Specifically, the love to eat rolls. My top posts of all time have been about Resurrection Rolls and Cinnamon rolls. They also enjoy laughing with (at?) me–my most popular non-food post was about the awkward things I do now that I’m a mom. Ireland is also on their minds–my top search engine terms that refer people to my site have mostly been about Ireland. I guess it’s a good thing people enjoy reading about Ireland, because I’m about to start writing a whole lot more about the Emerald Isle when we move there next month.

To those of you who have endured my wacky sentiments and ramblings, and actually keep coming back to read more, thank you. I love writing and I love being a mom, and this is the perfect outlet for me. 10,000 readers already, and cheers to many more to come!