Jacob’s First (Irish) Birthday

On Friday we celebrated a very special day: little Jacob’s first birthday! We love our little snuggle bear and can’t imagine our lives without him.

Before we moved to Ireland we had a celebration for him in Washington with our friends and family.  It was wonderful to celebrate with all of our loved ones in person–even if it was a full month before his actual birthday.

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On Friday we had a fun start to Jacob’s real birthday. After a french toast breakfast we let Jacob open the birthday present that David had picked out for him. It’s a little stuffed cow and Jacob is in love with it. He literally squeals with delight and starts excitedly kicking his feet every time he sees it. He may even love the little cow enough to quit stealing David’s Mimi.

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Then the REALLY exciting part of our day started. After present-time we headed out to the Department of Family and Social Services to get our PPS Numbers (kind of like Irish Social Security Numbers). We were actually one of the first ones in line before the offices even opened, so we got processed in about an hour. It could have been much, much worse. The boys were troopers and did a great job hanging out (mostly) patiently while we filled out paperwork and waited our turn to go over our applications. The most exciting part of the morning was when David had to go potty…only there was no toilet at the Department of Family and Social Services. I literally ran through downtown Cork trying to find a public restroom that was open at 9 AM. Since there were no fast food joints or gas stations to pop into we ended up going into the Court House…where all of the toilets were locked…but I managed to pop a loose door open anyway. Desperate times, people. Take that, bathroom-less city.

After our fun morning getting PPS numbers, it was time to start the real birthday adventures. We dropped Jon off at work then headed out to the zoo that we just bought memberships to. We had lots of fun eating our picnic lunch and watching the animals.

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Jacob and David both loved playing at the zoo’s playgrounds…until an epic downpour sent us running for our car.

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That night we celebrated Jacob’s birthday with some yummy cake (so yummy that Mommy has already eaten most of it. Shhh…don’t tell Jacob!).

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Since Daddy didn’t get to go to the zoo with us on Friday, we decided to have one more special outing as a family on Saturday. We went to a local pool during “family swim”–there were lots of fun blow up toys and even some floating basketball hoops to play with. The best part about swimming in Ireland, though, is the fashion. Any time you swim in a public pool here you are required to wear a swim cap. As you can see, they’re adorable. And they fit 2-year olds properly. That’s important.

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It was a wonderful birthday for a wonderful little boy. Happy first birthday, sweet Jacob! We love you!

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A Love Letter To My Baby On His First Birthday

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Today is my baby’s first birthday. How did that happen? I really can’t believe that it’s already been a year–turns out, time moves forward in warp speed when you have two young children. Each day is a balancing act of making memories and basic survival. I’ve mostly got the survival part down now, and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job in the “making memories” department this year, as well.

When I was pregnant with my first child I started writing him letters. I didn’t know who this baby would be yet, but I already knew that I loved him. I wrote my first “baby love letter” the day I found out I was pregnant–and I continued writing to him throughout my pregnancy. I did the same thing with my second child, and I still write my boys letters periodically. Whenever something important happens I will write my son a letter to let him know what I was thinking and feeling in that moment. I want to capture the memories.

Maybe some day when my boys are much older and I give them these letters, they’ll enjoy seeing what was going on in their crazy mom’s mind as they were growing up. And, even if they don’t appreciate them, I know that I’ll be glad I wrote down my thoughts during this busy time in our life where I usually can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.

I always hand-write the letters–there’s something so much more personal and intimate about a hand-written letter. It shows that I took the time and the care to pull out some nice paper and get sore fingers from gripping the pen. I start by writing the date, location, and age of my son at the top of the page. The rest is just my un-edited thoughts–whatever first comes to my mind get’s put on the page.

So, on this most momentous of days, I had to write a letter to my dear little Jacob (transcription below). Happy birthday, little snuggle bear!

July 26, 2013
Cork, Ireland
You are 1 year old!

Dear Jacob,

Wow–I can’t believe you are already ONE! Where did this year go?! It seems like just yesterday that I met you and held your sweet, tiny body next to mine for the first time. And, yet, here we are a whole year later.

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This has been a truly remarkable year. You have grown and changed so much from that tiny bundle we brought home last July. Now you are crawling all over the place– gotta keep up with your big brother David! you pull up on furniture and even try to climb the stairs. For most of this year you’ve been content to stay where I put you, but now your adventurous side is starting to come out! I hope that as you grow older you are bold to take new risks–and that you learn from your journeys, no matter the outcome.

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0251Speaking of journeys, this has been quite the year of journeys for you! At 12 months old you’ve already seen more of the world than many people get to see in their lives. We’ve taken you all around the great state of Washington, to Arizona, to California, and even 2 trips to Europe!

About 2 weeks ago we moved to Cork, Ireland. Your dad and I were just talking about how your first memories in life will take place here in Ireland. Your first steps, first conversations, and first friends will all begin in this beautiful place. We know that as you get older you probably won’t remember a lot about our years here in Ireland, but I hope that our time here will lay a strong foundation for your life.

On this very special day, Jacob, I am praying for you and your foundation. My greatest hope and prayer for you is that with each passing day and each passing year you will grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. If you’ve got Jesus, you will be set for life. Don’t ever forget that!

I pray that you will always draw close to God–the same way that you draw close to me now whenever you are tired or scared or needing some extra love. God will give you rest, He will protect you, and–most importantly–He will always love you. He is the only one who could ever possible love you more than I do–and that’s a big, big love!

I love you, Jacob Daniel. I love your cuddles, I love your giggles, I love your little snarl nose, I love your laid-back approach to life (I’m learning a bit of this from you already!). I love the way you trill your tongue when you’re upset and the way you bubble your lips when you’re happy. I love your curly hair, your bright blue eyes and your chubby little thighs. I love the way you play with my hair ALL THE TIME (thanks to you, my new–and only–hairstyle is a tight bun). I love the way you watch to learn, the way you imitate those around you, and the way you tolerate–even enjoy–your brother’s antics. You are a very special boy, Jacob, and I love you very much.

Happy first birthday to my sweet little son. May this be just the beginning of many wonderful years to come! Thank you for letting me be your mommy!

Love,
Mama

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Note: If you enjoyed reading this post, check out my most recent letter to Jacob for his second birthday! Read the letter here.

Getting Established

One of my favorite–and most dreaded–parts about moving somewhere new is getting established in my new home–getting past the unpacking and the millions of phone calls to set everything up and finally starting to settle in to this place and find my place in it. It is my favorite part of the move because getting “established” allows me to feel like I belong here and I’m not just some lost tourist. It’s my least favorite part because it’s hard. I’m actually a pretty shy and introverted person so it takes a bit of courage for me to step out there and get involved. It can also take some time and patience to discover what opportunities and resources are available and to break into a new social circle. Thankfully, Ireland has been kind to me. This week I’ve had some exciting breakthroughs in the “getting established” department.

Yesterday I took the boys to our local library so we could get library cards and check out some new books (the 4 books I carried with us on the airplane are getting sooooo BORING).

Each of the boys got his own library card that he can use to check out 10 books at a time from the children’s department. The boys’ cards were free, but I decided to also buy myself a card for 15 Euro because I know I’ll use it. I went ahead and checked out a few books on Irish history from the vast selection of books on that matter (I think about 20% of the library is devoted to books on Irish history)–figured it would be good to know a bit about what I’m getting myself into here. I also signed David up for the library summer reading program. If he reads 15 books he gets a shiny “gold” medal. He’s already 2 books away from his prize (could be due to the fact that we checked out 10 books on soccer…er…football…from the library yesterday).

This morning we did something that got us legally established here in Ireland: we registered our visas at the garda (police) station.

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As you can tell from David’s expression, it was an exciting venture. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. We were the first ones in line when the immigration office opened and they got us processed in about 10 minutes. Jon and I both have special visitor/worker permit cards that we have to carry with us at all times just in case somebody suspects we’ve outstayed our welcome.

After I dropped Jon off at work I headed out to Fota to meet up with a mum’s group (how cute is that…mum?!) from our church. Every Wednesday they go to this place called Go Safari to hang out. It’s an indoor play area for kids with food and drinks–perfect for hanging out while the kids run around and burn off some of their boundless energy.

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I had a great time getting to know the 6 other ladies and their sweet little kids. They gave me some good tips on where to shop for the cheapest nappies (diapers) and who to contact for babysitting. Cha-ching! David and Jacob both loved playing in the ball pit–so much so that I couldn’t even get a photo of the 3 of us together before one of them would try to squirm away to jump in the balls again:

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On Friday we will be going to get our PPS Numbers (kind of like Irish Social Security Numbers). After we have our PPS numbers we can set up our local bank account–something we’re really looking forward to since we’ve been racking up enough foreign transaction fees on our credit cards to purchase a small car. Unless you’re in Ireland. In which case, enough to rent a car for a month. Or maybe just buy a week’s worth of groceries. Oy…

Experiencing Cork City

Jon has become quite the coffee connoisseur over the last couple of years, and item one on his agenda has been to find a quality espresso machine that he can use over here. He’s done months of research on the types of machines that are available so he was just itching to get out to a store and buy one. We decided that this weekend would be “find Jon’s dream machine weekend”. We set out early Saturday morning to downtown Cork where we had a number of recommendations for specialty coffee and kitchen shops to look in.

It soon became quite obvious, however, that this quest was not going to end well. Most stores had no espresso machines whatsoever, and the ones that did carry espresso machines were very high end and out of our comfort zone, budget-wise (we really don’t need to spend over $2,000 on an espresso machine that he can use for two years, do we?). We abandoned our goal of bringing home Jon’s espresso-baby and turned our attention to something more positive.

Since we were already downtown, we decided to make a day of it and do a little sight-seeing. We bought delicious snacks and drinks from a chocolate shop and ate them in this little park:

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Then we crossed the River Lee that runs right through the middle of Cork City:

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We walked up a large hill to Shandon where the famous “Four-Faced Liar” clock stands at the top of St. Anne’s Cathedral:

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When we got back to downtown Cork they had set up a huge street festival for the Street Performance World Championship. They had some really neat street performers for us to watch:

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The boys enjoyed watching the live performances:

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There were also lots of fun activities for the kids to do. David’s favorite? The soccer game where he won a bag of candy every time he scored a goal!

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After we’d had our fill of street fair fun (and maybe a bit too much sun) we went to pick up our NEW CAR!

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I’m super-excited about this new car because it’s an automatic–no more trying to figure out a manual while driving on the opposite side of the (narrow) roads. It was quite the journey to actually get this car. After many days of calling car companies we came to the conclusion that there was really only one way we could get a car here. We are doing a long-term rental on the car because they don’t do leases here in Ireland and we don’t qualify for insurance to buy a car. We had hoped to get two cars, but long-term rental is VERY expensive (our car rental costs almost as much as our house each month!). So, for the time being, we will share the one car. One benefit to having a rental is that we can technically change out the car we have every 28 days if we need to. If this car doesn’t end up working well for us, we only have to keep it for 28 days and then we can try something different. We are also going to buy Jon a bike so he can can commute by bike whenever he’s able. Just one more change that we’ll have to adapt to!

One more change that we’ve been thinking and praying a lot about for…well…as long as we’ve know that we’d be moving to Ireland…is the church community we would join here. Getting plugged in to a Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching church is our first priority, but–as with many things with this move–we discovered that would be easier said than done. There are very few evangelical Christian churches in Ireland. In fact, our city (the 2nd largest city in the Republic of Ireland) only has about a dozen. A few months back we heard about a church here called Calvary Cork from a friend of mine who knows the pastor. We decided to check it out today.

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From the moment we walked in the doors we were blown-away blessed. It’s a small church (50-75 people were there today), but one of the most welcoming I’ve ever been to. Everyone was very friendly and they made us feel right at home. David was able to play in the creche (childcare) during the service (Jacob could have gone, too, if he wasn’t such a cry-baby). David had tons of fun coloring, eating snacks, hearing a short Bible story and playing with lots of sweet little Irish girls (his first response when we picked him up was, “I’m girl crazy!”).

The sermon was great (at least the parts of it I could hear from the baby cry room!). One of the best parts if the whole service, however, was the music. One of the first songs they played was “Grace Alone”, a song written by Dustin Kensrue from our church in Seattle, Mars Hill. We sang this song all the time “back home”–it was so neat to hear this song halfway around the world and worship with these new brothers and sisters who I’ve just met. Really, really cool.

We also had two of our other more petty prayers answered at church this morning. Jon got a great recommendation for a new coffee place that sounds a lot like Philz (his favorite coffee place EVER). And for me: I got invited to a mommy playgroup that meets every Wednesday not too far from our house. I’m really excited to meet some new friends and get to know the people I’ll be living with for the next 2 years!

All in all, it was a great weekend experiencing our new home city. And it really is starting to feel a bit like home.

 

One Week In: Some “Getting Used To’s”

Today marks the 1-week anniversary of our move to Ireland. To be honest, it all still seems like a blur to me–we’ve been so busy moving and getting settled in to our new house that the days all just blend together (jet lag helps with that, too). There are a lot of things here that are a lot like home–the weather, the landscape, the types of food that are available. In fact, a lot of the time  since we’ve been here I have kind of forgotten that we’re in a new country–but then something will snap me back to reality and remind me that I am, in fact, living in a very different place. There are several things that will take some getting used to here. For starters:

This is oppositesville to me. They drive on the left side of the road.

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I have to really pay attention to know which lane we should be in, which lane we turn in to, and how close to the edge of the road I am. I’ve actually only driven once this week because we have a manual transmission car and it kinda freaks me out. Jon’s giving me driving lessons in empty parking lots, though, so I feel like I’m 15 again sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time. Good times!

Another difference? There are castles. Everywhere. This is Blackrock Castle and it’s about a 2-minute drive from the business park where Jon works (it’s currently used as an observatory and a restaurant).

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I’ve had a couple of “oops” parenting moments, too. When you go out to eat here, they have these little bottles of juice that they’ll give kids with their meals. David sure loves them! And now I know why–they are cordials that you’re supposed to mix with a full glass of water–I was just having him drink them straight. Way to go, Mom–at least highly concentrated fruit syrup never killed anyone, right?

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There are also some really neat products here that we don’t have readily available back in the states. My favorite is the washer/dryer. You just put your dirty clothes in, push start, and the machine washes and dries your laundry in one go. I’ve kinda always dreamed of a machine like this, and here it is.

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Some products just confuse me. None is more confusing than the humble shower. You see, every time I want to take a shower I have to turn on the hot water downstairs, then go upstairs to turn on the hot water for my shower. See the pull cord hanging from the ceiling? That turns on the hot water. On top of the confusing hot water situation, it’s an electric shower so you have to actually turn on the shower as well (that’s the big box hanging on the wall inside the shower). Energy efficient? Yes. Convenient? Not so much.

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Another energy-saving device they have is the wall outlet. Every single wall outlet has a switch that you have to turn on when you want the device that’s plugged in to receive power. When you are done using your electric toothbrush/cell phone charger/toaster/hair dryer you flip off the switch so energy isn’t wasted going to devices that aren’t being used.

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When I went into our backyard for the first time I saw this large black bin. Since I’ve been discovering all of these energy-saving devices all over the house, I got really excited to see that we had our very own compost bin!

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Unfortunately, when I opened my compost bin for the first time, I was gravely disappointed. Turns out, our “compost bin” is actually our coal bin. I didn’t even know people still used coal! Hmmm…not quite sure what to do with that…

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The grocery store is actually a lot like the grocery stores I’m used to shopping at back “home”. There are a few key differences, though. Groceries cost about 30% more than I’m used to spending–plus I still haven’t figured out how to use coupons (called “vouchers” here).  Another interesting part of shopping here is the whole cart situation–you have to insert a coin every time you want a cart (it is returned to you when you return the cart). You also have to bring your own bags. They have no free bags available. So, if you forget your bag (or if your reusable shopping bags happen to be on a cargo ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean) then you have to buy reusable bags on the spot for about $2 a pop. Guess who has a collection of 10 new reusable shopping bags?

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Other shopping experiences are quite different from what I’m used to. I haven’t found an equivalent to Target or WalMart yet, but this place came about the closest as far as the products available. How you shop there, however, is pretty unique. You walk into a showroom that has a bunch of computer stations and catalogs set up. You browse the catalogs and find the items you’d like to buy. Then you write down the item numbers on little slips of paper and take your “ticket” to the cash register. After you pay for your items, you have a seat in the waiting area while they collect your purchases. Then they bring them out to you and you’re set to go. I actually kind of like this method of shopping because in the future I’ll be able to enter my purchases online and then just pick them up in the store–no winding through shopping aisles with 2 screaming children, thank you.

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Then there are the beds. The beds come in many sizes: twin, full, queen, california queen, king and california king. The sheets, however, only come in 3 sizes. We’ve looked in half a dozen stores and can still only find sheets that are in the sizes “single”, “double”, or “king”. None of those sizes fits any of the beds in our house. So, we just bought a bunch of flat sheets (since none of the fitted ones fit on our mattresses). We put one flat sheet on top of the mattress and do our best to tuck it in–then we re-tuck it in every morning. I think someone could make a killing here selling sheets that actually fit mattresses. Just saying.

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Yes, there are many things that we’re getting used to. It will probably take awhile but, slowly and surely, we’re starting to get the hang of it all.

Moving To “Ireland House”

Yesterday we officially moved in to “our” house!

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While it feels good to finally be in our own space after living out of suitcases for the last two weeks, the move itself could have gone more smoothly.

Our house is fully furnished–which we took to mean there would be some furnishings in the home. Furnishings there are…as well as cupboards full of pots and pans, closets full of old linens, and dressers full of clothes. The dishwasher was even full if dirty dishes for me to clean–just what I wanted to do on moving day!

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Needless to say, there was there a lot of organizing that had to be done before we could even begin unpacking. To make the day even more interesting, yesterday was also Jon’s first day of work. So, while Jon went off to the office, the boys and I went to work on the house.

David helped by sitting in a basket watching Daniel Tiger episodes on the iPad (what did parents do before iPads???):

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And Jacob helped me by being a good little baby and taking a nice, long nap:

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Jon came home during his lunch hour so we could make a run to the grocery store (I thought it was a good idea to replace the previous tenants’ moldy food with some fresh options). The grocery store had everything we needed…and then some!

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In the afternoon Jacob helped me do laundry the European way: we washed our clothes in the washing machine that’s in our kitchen, then hung them out to dry.

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Now that I got some of the major organizing and cleaning out of the way, our house is already starting to feel (a bit) like home. The boys seem to like the house (we have soccer fields in our back yard–what’s not to love?!) and it’s a nice cozy space. It’s a bit smaller than what we’re used to, but it has everything we need. Commence “Project Family Closeness”!

Now we’ll just have to see if we can find room for the 57 boxes of stuff we’re having shipped here from the states. My next order of business may have to be finding the Irish equivalent to Goodwill stores…

Fota Wildlife Park

We had expected to be able to move in to our house yesterday. However, as we were getting ready to leave Seattle a few days ago, our landlord contacted us to let us know that his tenants wouldn’t be moved out until Monday. So, instead of unpacking and settling in to our new home this weekend, we found ourselves with some free time on our hands. We rarely have free time together as a family–let alone a whole weekend–let alone in a foreign country. Plus, the church we found here is out of town on a retreat this weekend so we didn’t even have that to go to today. All that to say, we got another family fun day today. Yahoo!

We decided to drive just outside of the Cork City Center to the Fota Wildlife Park.

It’s a really neat zoo with free-roaming and barely-fenced-in animals–perfect for getting up close and personal with the wildlife. Here’s Jon walking up to some Mara (large South American rodents) and wallabies:

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There were also zebras, ostriches, and giraffes in a large enclosure near the entrance:

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We saw lots of monkeys, including a sprightly baby Gibbon (on the roof in this photo):

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All of the monkeys are housed on their own private islands:

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We had so much fun at Fota that we bought a membership so we can return again soon!

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On our way back to Cork we drove through the town of Cobh (formerly called Queenstown). This was the last port that Titanic stopped at to pick up passengers before making her fateful journey out to sea. Coincidentally, this is also the port where the ship Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Missile , thus instigating World War I. Besides it’s fascinating history, Cobh is just a quaint little town:

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From Cobh we caught the (2 minute ride) car ferry back across the water to Rochestown (where our house is).

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Tomorrow will be moving day and Jon’s first day of work–back to reality!