Back To America

Right now I am sitting in my parents’ house in Washington state–the very same house that we spent our last night in before we left for Ireland just over one year ago. It’s strange and surreal and altogether wonderful to be back. Back to the familiar, back to our loved ones, back “home” (whatever that means…I’m still trying to figure it out). The journey back to America had its ups and downs but, if I have learned anything this year, it’s that the best adventures rarely go according to (my) plan.

We left Cork on Friday night, July 25th. This also happened to be Jon’s last day of work in Ireland, so he basically got home and we loaded up the taxi with our 12 bags, double stroller, travel crib, and two car seats for our ride out to the airport. It was a crazy feeling to be leaving one adventure for another, to say our final goodbyes to this wonderful place that we had come to know as home:
IMG_7702

 

The plan for Friday night was to fly on the last flight of the night out of Cork, spend the night in London, then wake up early to catch the first flight of the morning into Seattle. After we got checked in, however, we realized that our flight to London had been delayed an hour. Oh well, we thought, that will give us time to eat some dinner before we board. As we were eating our dinner, an announcement came over the speakers to notify us that our flight was delayed again. And again. And finally, at the time we were supposed to be drifting off to sleep in our hotel in London, our plane arrived:
IMG_7725

 

The hour-long flight to London was uneventful, and we even landed at the brand-spanking-new Terminal 2 at London-Heathrow. It is a beautiful terminal that had only been open for about two weeks:

IMG_7739

Unfortunately, if you land at 11 PM at a brand new terminal that has only been open for two weeks, there are no signs or people to direct you on where to go once you land. It’s nothing more than a brightly-lit, stainless steel-encased ghost town. Which wouldn’t be a problem if you knew where you were going. We did not know where we were going.

Well, we knew where we were going, we just had no clue as to how to actually get there. We knew that our hotel was at Terminal 4, which we thought would be easy enough to find since it’s IN THE AIRPORT. Silly us. Turns out, London-Heathrow has a circumference of 25 miles. Nothing is easy to find. Nothing. Especially a hotel that is in a totally different terminal from where you are and it’s now 11:30 and the shuttles have stopped running for the night and the only person you can ask for directions is a cleaning lady who’s texting while she pushes her mop aimlessly down the corridors. So, what do you do in this situation? You ask the cleaning lady for directions. And she tells you to go through the underground tunnel. So you do. For 45 minutes:

IMG_7755

Just when you think you’ve entered the tunnel that someone finally dug all the way to China, you pop out at Terminal ? where there is an exit to a street. You spy a “Hotel Hoppa” bus and run frantically for it with your two small children and arms full of luggage. The driver says he’s on his last round for the night so you push your way on and find the only available space in the middle of a crowded aisle. It’s at this point that the bus driver tells you he does not go to your hotel, but he’ll take all of your cash and drop you off there at the end of his round anyway. So you empty your wallet into a fanny pack he has hanging off a bar at the front of the bus and hope he can actually manage find the elusive hotel at Terminal 4.

IMG_7742

So you ride the Hotel Hoppa bus to every other hotel in this city-within-a-city-airport and curse your decision to choose a “convenient” hotel. Eventually, just after midnight, you arrive at the hotel. Thankfully the children have already fallen asleep in the stroller so you just wheel them up to the room and dump them into bed. No screaming, thrashing, arguing bedtime tonight, thankyouverymuch.

IMG_7743

You hardly sleep because the hotel room is too small to set up a crib, so your squirmy toddler has to share a bed with you. He likes to lay across you and pull your hair in his sleep. Oh well, at least somebody’s sleeping. You’re actually thankful when the alarm goes off at 6:00 because you know you can get up and take a hot shower, and hopefully that will wake you up enough to make it through the next 12 hours of travel.

So, you see, the first part of our journey was the “downs” of the “ups and downs”. But every down must have an up…right? From here on out it was up, up, up–all the way up to the magical world of Business Class travel.

Now, we are normal people. Coach-Class people. People who have only ever wondered and dreamed about what it would be like to be Business-Class people. And, for the first and probably last time in our lives, we found out. Our Business-Class experience began with a visit to the exclusive British Airways lounge where we feasted on freshly-baked pastries and fruit and lattes and whatever else we fancied:

IMG_7765

After our tummies were full we got some wiggles out in the play room before it was time to jet out (no pun intended).

IMG_7775

This day was also Jacob’s 2nd birthday. We told him he was a very lucky boy to travel around the world on his birthday because he would have the longest birthday ever (32 hours, to be exact). Jacob posed for a quick birthday photo before we boarded our plane:

IMG_7761

Jacob loves Things That Go, so his big birthday gift this year was a trip on the Big Plane. He was pretty stoked:

IMG_7778

When we found our fancy-pants Business Class seats they greeted us adults with champagne and our tiny travelers with orange juice. They were already speaking my Love Langauge:

IMG_7787

After I got the boys situated in their seats I reviewed the 4-page guide that explained all of the wonderful things about flying in Business Class. Wonderful things like a gourmet menu (I chose the Caprese salad, steak, and chocolate mousse) and a fine wine list. Wonderful things like a gift bag full of spa essentials to keep you refreshed and fuzzy socks to keep your toesies warm. Wonderful things like outlets at your seat so your iPhone battery stays fully charged throughout the flight. First among the Wonderful Things, however, is the fact that the seats lie down completely flat to make full-length beds. And there are dividers you can raise so you don’t even see your children. And you can put on a movie for your kids while they’re lying in their comfy beds eating the free jelly beans and candy bars and whatever else they fancy and they’ll fall asleep. For 5 hours. Ahhhhhhh….

IMG_7798

So, yeah, Business Class is amazing. And I’m glad that I got to do it at least once in my life so that now every time I pass those seats on my way back to Coach I’ll know exactly what I’m missing.

Before we knew it, the flight was over and we were touching down in Seattle. After we got through passport control and customs (an hour-long ordeal) we finally made it to baggage claim where we were greeted by our much-missed family. Many hugs and kisses and high-fives were exchanged.

IMG_7810

We managed to collect all but one of our bags–the missing one, David’s suitcase, was mistakenly claimed by some unsuspecting passenger. I’m sure she was quite surprised to get home, open up the bag, and find nothing but 3-year old boy clothes and a wet towel that I had shoved in at the last minute when we were rushing out the door. When she realized her swap, she returned the bag to the airport and they promptly drove it down to us. David didn’t really mind, though, because he was too busy playing with squirt guns in his undies to notice some missing clothes:

IMG_7816

We all slept well that first night and our jet lag was nearly non-existent (thanks to our super-comfy flight over).  The next day, Sunday, we had a family celebration at my parents’ house for Jacob’s birthday. And, this being our first full day back in America, we ‘merica’d it up with burgers and corn on the cob and watermelon and Goldfish crackers and Funfetti cupcakes and all kinds of wonderful American goodies.

IMG_7898

Jacob (and by Jacob, I mean David) had fun opening his birthday presents:

IMG_7936

It was an all-around wonderful day with friends and family and food and fun.

 

The next day, Monday, we drove up to Everett to take care of some business at our house. While we were there we met with the U.S. moving company that will be moving our THIRD shipment of STUFF to California (how do we have so much stuff?!?!). In addition to our business, we also had some time for a bit of fun. And, as you can tell by our faces, it was a LOT of fun:IMG_7954Yep, that’s right: Costco. Oh, how I’ve missed the gallon-sized jars of peanut butter and the adorable children’s pajamas and the num-num-nummy jalapeno-artichoke dip. Seriously, I missed Costco more than just about any other U.S. location. And now that we have visited Costco, it’s official: we’re back. Back in the land of the big and the plentiful and the unusual. Back in America.

It will take some time to get settled in again (especially since we still have months to go before we can finally settle into a house in California), but I can say one thing for certain: it is so very good to be back.

 

Farewell, Ireland

IMG_4746

May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
-Irish Blessing

Today marks the end of a passing season in my life–a season that, short as it was, has affected me profoundly. Today is our last day in Ireland. I have known that this day would come, yet it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. I get teary-eyed every time I think about leaving this place–this home–so you’re going to have to bear with me here. This year in Ireland has been one of the most incredible years of my life, and I am sad to see it come to an end. I am excited for our future, don’t get me wrong, but this past year has touched me in so many ways. Today is the last page of an incredible chapter in our lives, and I am going to miss it–all of it–deeply.

I will miss this place–the endless rolling green countryside and the cliff-rimmed beaches. The timeworn stone walls, thick and overgrown, that line every street and farm and field. The maze of sheep paddocks that wind through the hills. The wide rivers that carve paths through the land. The unique landscape and rugged beauty that is Ireland.

IMG_5714

I will miss the culture. The people who don’t even know you but will still greet you with a smile and invite you in for a cuppa tea. The peoples’ fierce pride in place–that their city, their rugby team, their way of doing things is the best–no, the only–way to do things. The rich history and traditions. The ancient tombs and cathedrals and medieval cities and castles. I will really miss the castles.

IMG_2358

I will miss the pace of life. The lazy afternoons driving through the countryside and stopping in the middle of the road for sheep or cows or tractors to cross. The people who actually encourage us to take time off work so we can take more vacations. The laid back attitude toward everything and everyone (although, I am definitely looking forward to reuniting with my long-lost friend, punctuality). IMG_4688 I will miss the food. And by food, I mean scones. And milk straight from the cow. And beef and Guinness stew on a rainy afternoon. And a Full Irish that’s so full you can’t even think about eating again for another week.

photo 1 (2)

I will even miss the manic weather. The storms that sneak up on you, pour out their fury, then move on again before you can even open an umbrella. The light-as-a-feather mist that rolls in off the ocean in the morning. The days of endless rainbows. The sun that surprises you with its sweet presence.

IMG_6189

But most of all, I am going to miss our friends.

IMG_7306

Our friends who welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home in a place we had never even been to before. I am going to miss these friends, who have really been more like family. Living so far away from the people and the places and the way of life that you know is difficult. But having our new friends by our side to walk through life with us has made all the difference. They have helped us, taught us, loved us. They have shared in our joys and our sorrows this year–both of which we’ve had many. They have been the physical presence of people we love when all of the people we love live so far away. To all of our friends in Ireland who have been a part of our family this year, thank you! Your friendship really has meant the world to us, and we will miss you so, so much.

10534172_486787304785695_365487138275564495_o

 

When we leave Ireland tonight we will be leaving more than a place. We will be leaving a home and a family, and that’s a lot to leave behind. A piece of my heart will always remain in Ireland, so I know that I will be back again some day to find it. This is not goodbye, then. No, goodbye is too final, too permanent. So, instead I will just say farewell.

Farewell, Ireland.

Until we meet again, may love and laughter light all of your days.

IMG_2614

We’re Moving To California!?!

Yep, that’s right, we’re moving to California–and we’re just as shocked and surprised as you are. What was supposed to be a two-year stint in Ireland will be cut off right after the one-year mark. So, how did all of this come about? I’m glad you asked.

A few months ago Jon was contacted by a recruiter from Apple Computer. He wasn’t actually looking for a new job at the time, but he was willing to talk to the guy and hear him out. He had some interesting job opportunities available in Jon’s field, so the conversations continued. In fact, the conversations continued for several months and they finally convinced Jon to fly out for a face-to-face interview (which, by the way, is not easy to coordinate when you live half-way around the world and your current employer doesn’t know you’re interviewing for another job so you can’t ask for time off work so you have to fly all the way to California on a Friday, but your connecting flight out of London happens to be cancelled, then they have to re-route you to Boston, you spend the night in an airport, you arrive in San Francisco after your interview is scheduled to begin, you make it to the interview and spend 12 hours being grilled on technical questions even though you haven’t slept in 3 days, then you fly back to Ireland the next day and have be at work again on Monday morning).

After all this, Apple issued a hiring freeze for the team Jon had interviewed with…and nothing happened. No job offer, no more interviews, no more anything. So, we decided to move on.

At this point we had kind of set our hearts on moving back to the States, so we started working with Jon’s current company to coordinate our move back to Seattle. They were very understanding and helped get the ball rolling for the Big Move. We even had movers scheduled to come out to our house in Ireland a couple of weeks ago (June 26th) so we could have our first official moving assessment completed. Then, three days before the movers were supposed to show up, we got a phone call.

Apple was back, and this time they had a job offer. The hiring freeze was over, and Jon was the first person they called. They wanted to hire him. The job would be an incredible opportunity–both for Jon in his career and for our family–so we decided to go for it.  And that is how–literally overnight–we went from living in Ireland and potentially moving back to Seattle to being ready to move to California.

Our move will be happening the last week of July, so we still have a few more weeks to enjoy the Irish summer. This has been an unexpected week in what I’m sure will turn in to a very unexpected year for us. There are so many details of this turn of events that are evidence of God’s hand in our lives. Many, many prayers have been answered and we are truly grateful and humbled by the whole thing.

And even though we are thrilled, we are also a bit nervous and a bit sad. Nervous for having to uproot our family and start over in a new place yet again. Sad to be leaving Ireland after one short year. Even though our time here has been brief, we have cultivated new friendships and have started to grow our roots–shallow as they may be– in the community. Leaving now feels premature, and I know that I will be leaving a piece of my heart here in Ireland. There are so many things and so many people that we will miss dearly when we move. And yet, it is time.

On the other hand, we are also looking forward to continuing another adventure that we had left behind. It has been almost exactly 4 years to the day since we left our tiny apartment in Palo Alto and moved back up to Washington. Even though it hasn’t been that long, that season of our life seems like it was a whole lifetime ago. Since then we’ve had two babies, Jon and I have both had career changes (he went from grad student to worker, and I went from worker to Mommy), and we’ve moved to Ireland. It will be so fun to return to the Bay Area, reconnect with old friends…and soak in the California sunshine (I’m thinking we may just campout in someone’s back yard for the first few months so I never have to go inside!).

I will post moving updates here on the blog, so check back if you want to see our progress.  Thanks for all of your support, friends, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in this next adventure!

 

Things I Miss (Or How I Am A Junk Food Addicted American)

aisle

This morning we dropped Jon off at the airport for his first international business trip since we’ve moved to Ireland. He’s going to…California! We figured that it’s actually going to take him longer to fly to California from here than it would have taken him to drive there from Seattle. Go figure.

Before he left for his trip he asked if there was anything I needed him to pick up for me while he was back in the states. And, since we’ve been here for all of 3 months now, I already had a list of things that I can’t find here that I miss from “home”. As I looked the list over, however, I came to a disturbing realization: I am a junk food addicted American. I mean, really, why was I eating this crap in the first place and, more importantly, why do I miss it all so much? I swear I didn’t eat these things THAT often, but somehow now that I know I can’t have them I’m just craving them like crazy. The list went something like this:

  • 12 boxes Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (the blue box, not cheap store brand)
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Fruit snacks (10% real fruit juice or less, please)
  • Puffs (for baby)
  • GoGo Squeez pouches
  • Chocolate chips (the 10 lb. bag from Costco should do just fine)
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Root Beer
  • Graham Crackers
  • Grape jelly
  • Pho with extra hoisin sauce
  • Funfetti Frosting
  • Toffee
  • Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
  • Peanut Butter M&M’s
  • Jif Peanut Butter
  • Peanut Butter Twix
  • JUST ANYTHING WITH PEANUT BUTTER!!!
  • Individually packaged frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup (NOT real maple)
  • Baked beans
  • Black beans
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Chai Tea mix
  • Pumpkin puree
  • Pumpkin puree (I actually did–unknowingly–write it 2 times on the list…I guess it’s really just that important to me)
  • A shop/cafe/restaurant/coffee stand with a drive-thru. Preferably a 24-hour drive-thru. I’d even settle for anything that’s open before 10 AM and/or past 7 PM.
  • Starbucks

So, there you have it, I am a glutton. Have fun shopping, Sweetie, and I hope they let you back through customs. Anything you are not able to procure on this trip will be added to my “binge list” for our trip home at Christmas time. You’ve been warned.