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.

IMG_3524

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.

IMG_3527

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.

IMG_3538

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).

IMG_3541

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.

IMG_3543

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):

IMG_3546

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.

Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day and a Shamrock Craft

I’ve never really liked St. Patrick’s Day. People seem to just use it as an excuse to drink too much beer and pinch unsuspecting bystanders who made the unfortunate choice to not wear green on March 17th. This year, however, I’m seeing things a bit differently. You see, I just got back from my first trip to Ireland where I learned a lot about Irish history and who St. Patrick really was (yes, he was a real person). So this year, instead of eating green eggs in a drunken stupor, I am going to try and redeem St. Patrick’s Day for my kids.

Who Was St. Patrick?
First of all, Patrick is not really a Saint (you know, the capital “s” type canonized by the Catholic church). And he’s not even Irish. Patrick was born in Scotland and, when he was about 16 years old, he was captured in a raid and brought to Ireland as a slave (this was in about the year 405–a really long time ago). At the time, Ireland was a radically pagan place– considered to be about as far away from God as any place on the planet. Patrick’s grandfather, however, had been a priest. While Patrick remained in bondage in Ireland he clung to his faith and relied on prayer. Then, after 6 years, he managed to escape and return home.

When Patrick was in his 40’s, God brought him back to Ireland–this time as a missionary (I love God’s sense of irony!). Patrick had become intimately connected with the Irish people during his years in slavery and history tells us that one of his first converts was the very man who had held Patrick in captivity. Patrick went on to spend the next several years of his life preaching and spreading the gospel throughout Ireland. He was so successful in his missionary work that he turned the once-pagan island into one of the early centers of the Christian faith.

Legend has it that on one of Patrick’s missionary journeys through Ireland he came to a castle at the top of a rocky crag called the Rock of Cashel. I had the great honor of visiting the Rock of Cashel a few weeks ago when I was in Ireland:

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0132

It was here at the Rock of Cashel that Patrick (reputedly) used a shamrock to tell the story of the trinity and then baptized King Aengus. Basically, the illustration of the shamrock trinity is that each of the leaves represents one of God’s persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While they are each separate and unique, they are all part of one whole.

As you look out from the Rock of Cashel to the Irish countryside, it’s easy to imagine what that day must have been like:

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0136

For The Kids: Shamrock Collages
This week I told my 2 year old about St. Patrick. I told him how he was a man who lived a long, long time ago and that God used him to help other people learn about Jesus. We looked at pictures of shamrocks and I explained the trinity to little David using Patrick’s illustration. It was awesome!

Then the former-kindergarten teacher in me had to get crafty. We decided to commemorate our little shamrock “lesson” with a simple project.

I started by gathering an assortment of green things: scrapbooking paper, pom-poms, foam shapes, tissue paper and a large piece of green cardstock. I also put a dime-sized squirt of glue into a bowl with a Q-tip to use as a paintbrush:

IMG_1348

I used a pencil to draw a shamrock shape onto the cardstock (heavy construction paper or cardboard painted green would also work), then I cut out the shamrock:

IMG_1349

I sat David down at the table and gave him all of the green things I’d collected. He helped me tear the tissue paper into small pieces (this is great fine-motor practice, by the way!). Then I showed David how to use the Q-tip to “paint” glue onto the shamrock where he wanted to stick his green things. Whenever we’re using glue we use the mantra “just a dot, not a lot!”. David had a lot of fun picking out the decorations for his shamrock and sticking them on.

IMG_1355

He required quite a bit of supervision and direction (put the glue here…ok, now pick out another piece of paper..ok, now put the paper on top of the glue…please don’t lick the glue…). In the end, though, his little shamrock turned out pretty darn cute! And the best part of all: we’ll have something meaningful to think about this St. Patricks day.

IMG_1356

This Week’s Menu and My Recipe for Guinness Beef Stew

While we were in Ireland last week I spent the whole time trying to find some authentic Irish food. To my great disappointment, I discovered that you can’t find Irish food in Ireland. We found Thai, Indian, Mexican, Italian and American food–everything we ate was delicious, but it left me yearning for some hearty Irish fare. Although they disappointed me in the food department, the Irish spared nothing when it came to their beer. There was no shortage rich, dark beer in the homeland of Murphy’s and Guinness. So, this week I salute Guinness–and the Irish stew I never found. Find my recipe for Guinness Beef Stew at the bottom of this post–it may just transport you across the Atlantic!

This week’s menu:

Monday: Enchilada Casserole–using up leftover tortillas and beans from our fajitas last week

Tuesday: Potluck meal at Bible Study–I’m bringing potato soup

Wednesday: Grilled Chicken–a quick dinner for after soccer practice

Thursday: Greek Moussakas–this is a new recipe I’m trying from Rachael Ray

Friday: Dinner out

Saturday: Garlic Pasta Primavera

Sunday: Guinness Beef Stew (recipe below)–I’ll be making a double batch because we’re having people over for dinner tonight.

Guinness Beef Stew


guinness

1 1/2 pounds round steak
5-6 Tablespoons oil
1-2 onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
2 1/2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can/bottle Guinness beer (or any dark beer of your liking)
1 can beef stock
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter
Egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions

Cut meat into 2 inch pieces. Saute onions in hot oil until golden brown. Add meat. Season with salt and pepper and saute until well browned. Add brown sugar, red wine vinegar, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic. Pour in beer and cover with beef stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer for 60 minutes or until meat is barely tender, adding more beef stock if necessary. Thicken with a dark roux (2 Tablespoons melted butter and 2 Tablespoons flour). Simmer 20-30 minutes more or until meat is tender. Serve in bowls over egg noodles.

Irish For Newbies

A lot of things are different in Ireland. They drive on the other (some would say wrong) side of the car and the other side of the road. They consider dinnertime to be from about 9:00-midnight. They are obsessed with round-abouts (even in the middle of highways). They don’t keep shops open past 4:00 in the afternoon. They have about 5,000 different varieties of Kit Kat candy bars. And they have a lot of different words for things.

Turns out that even though the Irish speak English, there are quite a few differences in terminology. While we were in Ireland I picked up a bit of the local lingo. I had a few back-and-forths where my intentions got completely lost in translation–much to the frustration (and, eventually, the amusement) of both parties. I’ll spare you the trouble of figuring out all of these translations for yourself. Here are my top Irish-English translations for newbies:

  • bog – toilet
  • nappy – diaper
  • hob- stove
  • cot (or baby cot) – crib
  • Maxi-Cosi – infant car seat (note: the airline attendant will become quickly agitated if you suggest bringing a carseat onto her aircraft. Those are huge bulky seats for toddlers and there is not room for them on the little Irish planes. A Maxi-Cosi, however, is perfectly acceptable.)
  • knickers – socks
  • brolly – umbrella
  • gherkins – pickles
  • lads and lassies/ ladies and gents – boys and girls/ women and men (I just think it’s cute that they actually call everyone by these names!)
  • chips – french fries
  • chip butty – a sandwhich stuffed with fries and mayo. Surprisingly delicious.
  • trolley – shopping cart
  • bap – hamburger bun
  • pram – stroller
  • lolly – candy
  • biscuits – cookies
  • savoury biscuits – crackers
  • creche – daycare/ child care center
  • boot – car trunk
  • wellies – rain boots
  • GHT – hair flat iron
  • mineral – soft drinks
  • garda – police
  • Sat Nav – GPS
  • mobile – cell phone
  • the craic – a jolly good time!

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0086

I hope this helps if you ever plan your own trip out to the Emerald Isle (or if you just want to impress that bartender at your local Irish pub)!