Stuff.

The moment we’ve been waiting all summer for has finally arrived: our stuff is here.

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In June, movers came to our house in Seattle and packed up all of our belongings (OK, not ALL of our belongings…only the ones we deemed worthy of a round-the-world tour). For the last two months our “household goods” (the fancy term the using company uses for our “stuff”) have been traveling on a cargo ship through the Panama Canal and all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland. I’m sure if our dishes and bath towels could talk, they’d have quite the stories to tell us. As it is, though, they arrived mostly as they left us: in box after box of obscured treasures from our former life.

This was a pretty exciting day for us–we’ve been essentially living out of our suitcases for the last 2 months, and things were starting to get old. I used to love the 5 shirts that I brought with me. Now I hate them. I also hate washing the same 3 plates, meal after meal, because they’re the only 3 plates we have. First-world problems, I know… But, really, it’s great to have all of our stuff here again (I may not even have to burn my t-shirts in the back yard now).

When the movers got here, they gave us an inventory list so we could check off each box as it was unloaded from the truck. 89 boxes. How do we have so much stuff?

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Once the boxes were unloaded, the movers unpacked everything from the boxes and took the empty boxes and packing materials back out to the truck for disposal. This was both good and bad. Good because we don’t have to spend the next 2 years recycling 1 box at a time in our recycling bin that gets emptied every-other week. Bad because they emptied all of the boxes. Onto the floor. And the beds. And the tables. And into the bathtub. Basically every square inch of our house was covered in…stuff.

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Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if I could just sit there all day and sort and organize and put everything away. As it was, though, it was a Thursday. Which meant that Jon was working and I had two children under the age of 3 present to “help” with the unpacking. Thankfully, David was away at his first day of preschool when the movers came and Jacob took a nap for about an hour in the morning during the busiest part of the unloading. Once David got home, though, it was basically chaos. I survived by throwing as many toys as I could unpack into the back yard and sent the dog out to supervise the children while I sorted out the house.

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My ploy worked beautifully, and I was actually able to put away everything from the boys’ rooms and the kitchen (our main “common area” in the house) before they caught on to my absence.

As always happens in a move, though, there were a few surprises. A few things that snuck into boxes that really had no place being there. A large floor fan that doesn’t work in Ireland. Enough hangers to supply Macy’s (that’s Debenham’s, for you Irish readers) clothing department for a year. A dozen tubes of toothpaste (perhaps I was thinking we’d need to brush our teeth 20 times a day here?).  Lots and lots of…stuff.

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For all the hassle that is unpacking, though, it was definitely worth it. I haven’t had to wash my dishes yet, and I’m wearing a bran- new (old) outfit today. But the best part of it all? Jacob got to sleep in a real crib last night for the first time in months. After weeks and weeks of waking up every couple of hours, he actually slept. Through the night. Which means I got to sleep through the night. Like a baby (a baby that actually sleeps through the night). It was…wonderful. It’s good to have you back, stuff.

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First Day of Preschool (!)

Backpacks, still-pointy crayons, new shoes…ahhhh…back to school. Or, in our case, to school for the very first time. Yesterday was David’s first-ever day of preschool.  As a mom and a former teacher, I was VERY excited for this day to come. I love learning and, to be honest, I am really looking forward to having 2 mornings a week alone with Jacob (who still takes a morning nap…hehe…).

I was really hoping David would enjoy his first day of school because, let’s face it, he will probably be spending the next 20-25 years in school. I was also really hoping he wouldn’t poop his pants at school (we had an interesting weekend with potty training…). In the end, though, I just had to pray things would go well and send him off to spread his little wings.

Here he is getting ready to leave for school in the morning. He was pretty excited to walk to school and “see the pink ball” (a ball that was hidden on the top shelf in his classroom when we went by a few weeks ago for a tour). I’m sure he was also excited to meet his teachers and new friends and learn all that the world has to offer.

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David’s school is about a 10 minute walk from our house, so we loaded up the stroller and leashed up the dog for our great exodus to The Preschool.

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When we got to The Preschool, there was a definite buzz in the air. Parents and children were milling around outside the school waiting to be granted entry to this magical new land of learning. The Parents were busy snapping photos and The Students were busy trying not to topple over from the size of their ill-proportioned backpacks.

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After a few minutes of waiting, The Teacher opened the front door and welcomed her brood (about thirty 3-year olds…I’ll be praying for her). David hung his backpack on his hook, put his shoes on a shoe rack, and put on his slippers (you know it’s going to be a great day when it starts with putting on slippers).

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We stayed with David for a few minutes while he explored the classroom and checked out all of the cool Montessori supplies. His favorites were some pictures of balls on the wall (of course) and some scissors for cutting.

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While David was at school, the “toy fairies” came to our house and delivered all of his balls from Seattle (along with about 90 boxes of other goodies for Mommy and Daddy to sort through):

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At pick-up time I returned to The Preschool and waited for my little student to be released. It was a bit strange being on the other side of that school door, being the parent instead of the teacher. As soon as David saw me through the window he was literally jumping up and down he was so excited. When it was his turn to come outside, his teacher shook his hand and said goodbye to him in Irish. Then David ran to me and gave me the biggest hug ever–my baby, my big boy, my preschooler.

David’s school day goes from 8:45-12:15, so when I picked him up from school it was time for lunch. Since our house was littered with boxes and moving supplies at this point, I decided that a celebratory McDonald’s lunch was in order. On our way to McDonald’s David kept saying, “Stop, Mommy! I want to go back to school!”. I couldn’t get a single thing out of him as to what he did at school all morning, but the paint on his elbows leads me to believe there was some sort of art-making. In all, though, he seemed to have a lot of fun and he can’t wait to go back again next week.

This mommy-teacher is very proud of her BIG preschooler. A preschooler who is brave and adventurous and smart and kind and funny. A preschooler who is learning to be the man he will one day become.

A preschooler who, I am happy to report, came home with the same dry pants I sent him to school in.

Happy Birthday, Bota!

Today is a very special day: our dog’s birthday. Now a dog’s birthday may not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve just spent countless hours and thousands of dollars arranging travel for your dog to move halfway around the world–it’s a big deal. At least, I’m going to make it a big deal.  Plus, I love any excuse to celebrate (read: eat cake) and I really do love my dog (thus my willingness to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars to move her halfway around the world). So, happy birthday, Bota! We’re going to celebrate you in style.

Bota turned 7 today, which is 49 in dog-years: she’s officially over the hill. If she were a human she’d already be scrutinizing her 401-K and buying a Harley Davidson. To us, though, she will always be our “baby”. It seems like just yesterday that we were bringing our tiny puppy home from the Christmas tree farm where she was born:

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Bota is a trusted companion and she has been through a lot with us. She’s an expert at moving, and has helped us transition to 3 new homes:

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She has been my hiking/running/exploring partner who is always up for an adventure and who never lets me sit around getting lazy for too long:

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And she has helped us raise our boys (Dogs and boys are a great combination, by the way. They have a lot in common: both love getting dirty, running around in circles until they pass out, and conspiring to destroy my house one piece at a time).

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Today we decided to celebrate our puppy-friend with a birthday party just for her. We had some delicious party food: Hot Doggies for dinner and David “helped” me bake a cake for dessert (which Bota can’t eat but, really, I do love any excuse to bake a cake!):

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We played some party games: ball-throwing and TWO walks in the woods!

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And no party would be complete without some festive party wear. Bota even tolerated her party hat long enough for me to snap a photo:

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Happy birthday, Bota! You really are man’s (and woman’s, and boys’) best friend!

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Friend-Dating

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Today I had my first-ever blind date. But it’s probably not what you’re thinking.

Ever since we moved to Ireland we’ve been blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the Irish people. Everyone here is just so…nice. It has been fun meeting new people but, with two demanding children always attached to my hip, it’s also a bit difficult to get out and socialize. Sometimes even grown-ups need some help making new friends. So, my “blind date” went down like this:

Jon has a coworker who has a girlfriend who has a friend that lives near me. The Girlfriend gave me a call yesterday and said that she’d like to introduce me to The Friend (another mom of 2 little ones about the same ages as my boys). Arrangements were made. The date was set.

We all decided to meet up at The Girlfriend’s house–neutral territory. I’d never met The Girlfriend in person, either, so it was almost a double-blind date. Talk about adventurous. I was running about 10 minutes late so, naturally, I was the first one to arrive (I’m still trying to figure out this whole “Irish Time” thing. For someone as finicky about punctuality as myself, it’s going to take some getting used to). The Girlfriend welcomed me and my children into her home and laid out a spread of tea, coffee, pastries and sweets (scones with jam and cream graced the table yet again). The Girlfriend doesn’t have any children, so she went out of her way to buy toys for the kids to play with at her house. How nice is that? I think that if I’d invited somebody with children over to my house when I was in a pre-baby state I would have just thrown some pots and pans down on the kitchen floor and told the kids to go to town. But, no, she actually bought Legos and bubbles so the kids would be entertained. Amazing.

After awhile The Friend arrived and I got to meet her and her two darling children, a 2-year old girl and a 4-month old boy. She was so…nice. As we were talking we discovered that she, literally, lives across the street from me. She’s my neighbor. What a small, small world this can be! Her daughter even attends the same preschool that David will be starting at next week (which, by the way, she had nothing but nice things to say about). We exchanged phone numbers and, I can honestly say, I will be calling her (does the “2 day rule” apply to friend-dating?).

In all, it was a great first “date”. I met a new neighbor-friend, ate my fill of scones, and got to play with bubbles. I also got to clean up a lot of spilled bubbles. Maybe for our next date we’ll leave the kids at  home.

iPhone Controls I’d Like To Use On My Kids

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I love my iPhone. Maybe a bit too much. It is always with me, waking or sleeping, handy and ready should I need it. Now that we are living in a different time zone from many of our family and friends, however, I have discovered that this wonderful little device can be quite a nuisance if not properly controlled. It took me a few weeks of midnight Facebook updates popping up on my screen and 2 AM phone calls ringing through before I discovered the “Do Not Disturb” icon (genius, whoever came up with that one). All I have to do is set up the hours that I don’t want to be bothered with beeps or buzzes or rings and I get to sleep through the night with my (dark and silent) phone beside my pillow. And that got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if I could transfer some of those iPhone controls onto my kids and my life? For instance…

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I would love to have a button I could push that would keep my kids from bothering me between certain hours. It’s bed time, NO DISTURBING MOMMY. No whines, cries, or shouts allowed. No “I have to go potty” or “I want another drink” may be uttered. No baby in the process of “sleep training” (sheesh, is sleep training supposed to last 13 months???) who screeches from 4:30-5:30 every morning. No dog who barks at 3 AM when a cat runs through the back yard. Just silence. Sweet, sweet silence.

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I have a 1-year old and a nearly 3-year old. I haven’t known privacy since the moment I went into labor with my first child. Sometimes I find myself dreaming about taking a shower or going to the bathroom by myself. With the door shut. And nobody crying and banging on the door trying to get in. Just me, alone, experiencing privacy. I want an icon on my life that says “Do not look. Do not touch. Leave me alone. I will contact you when I am darn well ready.”

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How awesome would it be to program your life to your exact specifications? I would check off boxes in my settings like no temper tantrums, no arguing, no complaining, no brother-hitting, no floor-licking, and no poop on the floor. I would set the day to include lots of fun and laughter and good food and good attitudes. Words like “I love you”, “please”, “thank you”, and “this broccoli is delicious, Mom” would be thrown around freely. I would schedule nap times–and the kids would actually sleep. I would set up my to-do list and everything would be crossed off by the end of the day.

IMG_3467Airplane Mode:

I would change this one slightly to be “transportation mode”, rather than just “airplane mode”. Transportation mode would allow me to control my kids’ behavior while we’re in transit. They would play happily in their seats, sing songs with me, and enjoy watching cloud animals out their windows. They would come up with creative ways to pass the time in the car or the shopping cart that did not involve kicking me. They would fall asleep in their car seats if it was naptime instead of becoming manic-depressive lunatics. They would not throw shoes at the windshield. They would respect the driver’s need to, you know, drive.

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Sometimes, as a mother, I would just like some guidance. Someone to come alongside me and show me the way. And if I get lost (which I often do), to redirect me and get me back on the right path. Being a mom is one of the best parts of my life (despite the rants in this post)–but it is also, far and away, the most difficult (again, see the rants in this post). It would be amazing to–in a what-should-I-do parenting moment–to click a button and see the best solution. Or (and this happens, too), to see the best way to fix a problem I’ve already created.

If two kids have taught me anything, it’s that I can’t parent them (effectively) alone. I need guidance. Thankfully, I have my own parenting “navigation tool” of sorts–and it’s even closer to me than my iPhone. I have Jesus and God’s Word, ready and handy at all times.

And, if I get really desperate, there’s an app for that, too.

Chicken Broccoli Strudel Recipe

Last week we had a great time exploring our local farmer’s market. I bought lots of yummy food at the farmer’s market, including a fresh rotisserie chicken from this guy:

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One of my favorite things about rotisserie chicken is that you can usually get multiple meals out of one chicken. For dinner after our market trip we ate the chicken straight-up with some roasted veggies and bread (also all from the farmer’s market…look how “fresh and local” I’m getting!).

After dinner there was still a good amount of meat leftover, so I knew we’d have another delicious chicken dinner coming soon. Sometimes I use the leftover rotisserie chicken to make soup or pasta dishes, but this week I decided to make one of my all-time favorite recipes. I got this recipe from my friend Elizabeth (who just happens to be a food genius) and it is ammmmmmazing! It has a few simple ingredients and takes very little effort to put together, yet it tastes like it came from a fine-dining restaurant. I’ve made this dish for guests, and they’re always asking for more. So, with no further ado, the recipe:

Chicken and Broccoli Strudel

Ingredients:

a little butter or olive oil for the tray
1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 C minced onion
1 large bunch broccoli finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 medium cloves garlic
2 cups bread crumbs
2 cups grated cheese (I usually go for cheddar)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breasts, chopped as small as possible
1 heaping Tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 sheet of refrigerated puff pastry (or 1 frozen and thawed sheet of puff pastry)
1 egg, beaten
DIRECTIONS:
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and oil baking tray
2) Heat olive oil or butter in skillet and sautee onions 5 minutes
3) Add broccoli, salt, pepper and garlic and cook 10 more minutes, remove from heat
4) Stir in bread crumbs, cheese, lemon juice, herbs and chicken
5) To Assemble: Roll out the puff pastry onto a clean, dry board. Use a sharp knife to cut the puff pastry into four even sections. Put 1/4 of the filling onto half a section of puff pastry, leaving about a 1/4 inch border around the bottom and sides of the puff pastry. Fold the puff pastry in half over the filling and pinch tightly to seal shut (like you’re making a hot pocket…a classy hot pocket…). Repeat with each section of puff pastry until you have four strudels. Place the strudels into the greased baking tray.
6) Brush the tops and sides of each strudel with the beaten egg.
7) Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden and crisp.
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And, as always, ENJOY!

Medieval Festival In An Ancient Walled City

This has been one of those wonderfully rare weekends that had just the right balance of fun, rest, and rejuvenation. On Saturday morning I basically got a mommy-vacation: I went grocery shopping by myself for two glorious hours (because it still takes me that long to figure out where to find things and what packaging to look for and convert prices from dollars/pound to kilograms/Euro so I know if the item is actually worth purchasing).

After my little “shopping spree” I went to our church for a women’s mini conference. It was a beautiful event with a talented speaker, heartfelt worship, and delicious food–including my favorite: scones (oh my, the scones here are to die for. Seriously, one of my favorite things about Ireland.  The fact that scones with jam and cream are a part of daily life makes living here 100% worthwhile).

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While I was at the conference noshing on scones, Jon took the boys to our local castle in Blackrock for a tour of the dungeons. Turns out, this was not nearly as cool as it sounds. The dungeons were not actually dungeons–it was just the basement, and had never been used as a dungeon at all. Very misleading. The boys enjoyed themselves as much as they could walking around an empty castle basement for half an hour, and at the end of the tour they got to go up to the top of the castle to check out the view (upon which David stated that he was going to throw his baby brother off the roof. We may need to work on the whole “brotherly love” thing).

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On Saturday night, Jon and I got to go out on our first date night since moving here to Ireland. A sweet girl from our church came over to our house and looked after our (sleeping) children so we could go out to a movie. It wasn’t the most unique date, but it sure felt nice to get away from our house and enjoy some time together.

The big event of our weekend, though, was the Youghal Medieval Festival. The event was in Youghal (pronounced “yawl”), an ancient walled city in County Cork where people actually lived during medieval times–how cool is that?!  There were lots of fun events going on at the festival: food, music, crafts and medieval demos. And lots of people dressed up in awesome medieval costumes. We forgot our costumes, but we tried to fit in as best as we could.

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We all enjoyed listening to the Youghal Pipers:

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And we got a great view of the town:

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When asked what his favorite part of the day was, David said it was “watching Mommy get scratched.” This is what he was referring to:

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They had a tent set up with all sorts of medieval torture apparatus and drawings showing how they used to be implemented. Gross. A little girl was manning this tent and she convinced me to help her demonstrate some of the apparatus. She literally tied me up to this torture board and started hacking at me with a foam axe. I was putting on a great show for the kids, cringing and writhing in pain each time her axe came down on me. It was all fun and games until my tormenter went over to her table of torture devices and picked up a real metal anvil. I quickly slipped out of my restraints before she could finish her demonstration.

I have suspected for quite some time now that our son is crazy. My suspicions were confirmed today. There was an arena set up for toy sword fighting. All of the kids were invited in to use foam swords to attack some guys in medieval garb. While all of the other kids rushed to attack their targets, David ran in the opposite direction and started “stabbing” an unsuspecting spectator (David is in the green shirt in the left side of this photo). Thankfully David’s victim wasn’t caught too off guard by David’s advances and he managed to fight off the wild little beast.

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After all of the excitement of the festival we had to get some nourishment. We ate grilled kangaroo (yes, the jumpy things from Australia–not totally medieval, but definitely different), sausages, pizza and ice cream. Yummmm…

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A very sweet weekend, indeed.