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:
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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:
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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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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….

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Moving Update: 10 Days and Counting

The countdown to moving day has officially begun: 10 days until we say farewell to Ireland.  That’s it. Ten more days to sort and organize and pack and plan and play. We’ve been living in the middle of a whirlwind here, but I thought I’d take a moment to come up for air and fill you in on our latest updates.

Last night we (finally) booked our flight back to the States. We’ll be flying into Seattle before heading down to California so we can spend a few weeks visiting friends and family. We’ll also spend some time in Washington meeting with the movers who will handle our U.S. shipment and organizing our belongings there (the majority of our household goods and furniture are still packed into our garage in Everett).

Since we want to maximize our time in Seattle before Jon starts his new job, we decided to book a flight for the evening of Jon’s last day of work here in Ireland (June 25th). We’ll actually have to spend the night in London that night so we can catch a morning flight to Seattle the next day (which also happens to be Jacob’s 2nd birthday, lucky little duck!). I can already tell that our travel home will be an adventure in and of itself–but who would we be if we didn’t keep things a bit interesting?

Today was another momentous date in our moving timeline. Our dog, Bota, blazed the trail home for us and left for her flight to Seattle. The boys were great helpers getting Bota’s travel kennel clean and testing it out for comfort and durability.

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We are so thankful to Apple who is not only moving us and our stuff all over the world, but also moving our precious dog. A handler came to our house this morning to pick up Bota and drive her to Dublin for her first flight. We said our goodbyes (tearful as they were) and off they went.

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Bota will spend the night in Frankfurt tonight, and then catch another flight to Seattle tomorrow morning. If everything goes according to plan, she’ll be running around in my parents’ backyard by dinner time tomorrow.

After the boys go to bed each night Jon and I have been spending time returning phone calls to our moving coordinators in the U.S., filling out customs paperwork, reviewing rental agreements for our short-term corporate housing, completing tax documents, scheduling flights and submitting expense reports. It’s a lot to sort through, but Apple has been amazing and we are so grateful to have their help every step along the way!

In the midst of all of our crazy, we’ve also squeezed in some last-minute fun this week.

After countless visits this year, we went for our final trip to Fota Wildlife Park:IMG_6895

And, even though we’ve been to Fota dozens of times, the animals just seem to get cuter and cuter every time we go:
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I attended a baby shower for my dear friend, Rachel:IMG_6987

We went for a family walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon:IMG_7012

I am happy to report that I have now completed my Ireland” Bucket List”. I crossed the last must-do-in-Ireland item this week when we visited our friend’s Irish dairy farm and got to drink fresh milk straight from the cows:IMG_7092

We even took the little cross-river ferry to Cobh where we helped send off an Australian cruise ship from the same port where Titanic last docked:IMG_7187

 

I still can’t believe that we only have 10 days left in Ireland, but we’re going to make the most of the time we still have. Here’s to the best (last) 10 days ever!

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!

 

A Photo Tour Through My Irish House

One of my favorite shows on TV is House Hunters (and its sister show, House Hunters International). If you’ve ever watched the show then you know the thrill of peeping into other peoples’ homes for a glimpse of how they live. When we were getting ready to move to Ireland I basically stalked the local house listing website to see every house that came on the market–every potential spot that I could be living. I wanted to know what the houses were like and how they would work for our family. Now that we’ve been living in Ireland for half of a year (how does time go so quickly?!) I feel like our “Ireland House” is our home. And I know that some of you are as curious as I was–what is it like? So, in the fashion of House Hunters International, I will now give you a little photo tour of our “typical Irish house”:

This is the view of our house from the street (our house is actually the third one in from the left with the silver car in the driveway). We live in what is called a “terraced house” (posh wording for townhouses). Most people I know here in Cork live in terraced houses similar to ours. Some people live in semi-detached homes (a duplex). Once you get out of the city you may even find a fully detached home. Notice the lack of garages–I don’t think I’ve seen a single house with a proper garage anywhere in Ireland.

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Once you walk down our driveway you come to the front door. There is a mail slot in the door where our “post” is delivered each morning (if I want to mail a letter myself I have to walk to the shop by David’s preschool to drop my letter in the large green an post bin).

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After opening the front door to our house you come into the entrance way. There are stairs to the right that lead to the second level, the kitchen is straight ahead, and our “sitting room” is off to the left.

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We have converted our sitting room into a multi-function room as it is the only extra space we have in our house. The left side of the room has a couch, a chair, a fireplace, and a TV. Our house was “fully furnished” when we moved in–meaning that most of the furniture, knick-knacks, decorations, appliances, etc. you will see in these photos actually belong to our landlord. In fact, our house was so fully furnished when we moved in that there were still clothes in the closet and dirty dishes in the dishwasher!

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The other side of the sitting room is our makeshift office and storage facility.

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If you were to continue walking down the hallway past the sitting room you’d pass a small bathroom and then enter the kitchen. The kitchen is a pretty good sized room so we spend most of our communal time in this space. The far end of the kitchen has our dining space and baskets full of the kids’ toys .

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The other end of the kitchen has all of the kitchen-y stuff.

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We have a fridge/freezer that is quite large by European standards and an oven that is about the size of an Easy-Bake oven. Here is the oven all opened up. If you look closely you can see a 9×13 pan on the single rack–the edges and top of the pan are nearly touching the sides of the oven. Thankfully it is a double oven, so we can actually fit 2 sheets of cookies in at the same time!

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Another surprising feature of our kitchen (at least to us Americans) is the washing machine right next to the dishwasher.  The dryer, however, is not in the kitchen. When I’m ready to dry a load of laundry I first switch on the power to our shed in the cabinet that is next to the washing machine.

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Then I carry the wet clothes outside, walk across the back yard, and go into our shed.

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Then–Ta Da!–we find the dryer amidst the gardening tools and outdoor toys. After the clothes are dry I retrieve them from the shed and hope that it’s not raining too hard when I carry them back to the house.

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As you walk through the back yard toward the house you pass this little contraption. At first I thought it was a compost bin–how handy! In fact, it is a coal bin. Full of coal. Note the zip-ties that keep the coal bin door locked shut–for some reason this is the boys’ favorite place to play and hide their toys.

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We’ve never actually burned coal in our house. I don’t like the smell of it and I know that the boys would have a heyday smearing coal soot all over my house after the fire burned out. Instead, we use our lovely radiators. We are able to set them to come on 3 times a day. When the radiators are on, they’re ON. As in, we go from freezing to boiling in a matter of seconds. I’d kill for a Nest thermostat here.

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Continuing right along our tour, now. Upstairs we have 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Jacob’s bedroom is at the end of the hallway. It’s a cozy little space that the Irish refer to as the “box room” (because it’s tiny and is typically used to store boxes, not babies). Luckily for him, Jacob is tiny so he doesn’t mind the small space.

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And we’ve even managed to squeeze some boxes into his little box room.

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David’s room is a pretty good-sized space. Unfortunately, most of the room is taken up with a queen-size bed. David sleeps in about 1/10th of the bed and the rest is used to store his numerous “Gigi’s” (blankets) and stuffed animals.

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Next to David’s room is our “hot box”–a storage closet with the hot water heater on the bottom. The boiler heats up this tiny closet like it’s a dry sauna–perfect for keeping towels toasty before a shower or warming your hands during the hours between heat bursts from the radiators.

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Next you come upon the boys’ bathroom. The tub is always full of bath toys, the toilet seat has broken off, and the room always seems to smell vaguely of urine. It’s not my favorite room in the house.

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Finally we come upon my little oasis: the master bedroom. It’s not a large room, but it has a door with a lock so I love it.

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…Even if I do have to share my special space with about a dozen Rubbermaid bins of assorted storage that didn’t fit anywhere else in the house.

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Our bedroom also has its own bathroom. Most of the sinks here have separate hot and cold taps. If you want to wash your hands in warm water you have to turn on both taps and move your hands rapidly between “boil your hand off” and “icy stream”.

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In order to take a shower you have to first flip a switch on the wall that turns on the hot water. Then you turn on the water inside the shower and adjust the temperature on the wall mount. This took a little getting used to, but now I actually really appreciate our electric shower.

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And with that, you have seen our whole house in all of its Irish glory. A lot of things are very different from what we were used to in America, but that’s part of why we moved here. To experience something different. And, do you know what? I love it! I love how our house is small and cozy. I love that the view out of my kitchen is lush rolling hills with meandering cows. I love that we are learning new ways to do things and that I am being forced to be creative in how I approach everyday tasks. Yes, things are different, but they are good.

Now, one final photo. This is the view you would have if you were walking out our front door. I hope you enjoyed your tour and we’ll see you next time!

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Slán (Goodbye)!

Change and “The 3-Month Rule”

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“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” – Hugh Prather

I’ve had more than my share of “life changes” over the last few years. In less than a decade I have: graduated from college, gotten married, bought a house, raised a puppy (which is a lot more work than I ever gave it credit for!), started a career, ended a career, supported my husband through graduate school, birthed two babies, and moved six times to three unique corners of the globe. With so many changes, it seems at times that the only constant in my life is change itself.  Moving to Ireland has no doubt been one of the biggest adjustments I’ve ever had to make. Living in a place that I’d never been to before, with people I’d never met, in a culture that is wonderful but different in so many ways has taken some getting used to. It’s taken some time.

And that’s where the 3-month rule comes in. In my varied experience playing the “change game”, I have discovered that it takes exactly 3 months for the pieces to come together after Big Change. The first week is always chaos, the first month is exciting yet draining, the second month is a mix of “what did I get myself into?” and discovery, and by the third month you start to figure things out. At the three month mark you finally feel comfortable in the new scenario, like you can actually handle this New Thing. And that’s where I find myself now.

Today marks 3 months since we arrived in Ireland. I finally feel at home, like I fit in here. I know how to drive places without GPS (and I don’t even have to think twice about which side of the road to drive on any more!). Our house feels like the place where our family lives. I remember to turn on the hot water boiler exactly 42 minutes before my kids need to take a bath. My son goes to school. I know where to find everything at the grocery store and I know my favorite vendors by name at our farmer’s market. I have a favorite park. I am serving at our church. I know our neighbors. I have friends. I am at peace with my Big Change.

But that still doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. There are times where I miss my friends and my family and I just want to talk to them and I go to call them and then realize that it’s 3 AM in Seattle so I hang up the phone. Or when I crave something from home that I just can’t have (where are the pumpkins, Ireland?!). Or when I start a conversation and realize that nothing I’ve said actually makes sense to the person I’m talking to. So, yes, there will still be adjustments and some things that I just have to get over. But that’s all part of the beauty of living through a Big Change: it changes you.

And that really is the best part of this whole experience: I know that I will walk away from this a different person, a better person. My life is being enriched by the people I am meeting, the places I am seeing, the new ways I am learning to think and to live. I am learning to trust God in new ways and to call on Him (no crazy time zones to worry about there!). Nobody ever said that change was easy, but I think that it is necessary. And now, after 3 months, I can honestly say that I appreciate this change.

Here’s to 3 months down, and many more to come. The learning curve is over–let the fun begin!

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

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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.

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…

Our First Day In Ireland

Today was our first full day in Ireland. We slept in and then spent the rest of the day exploring.

We started by going to a Vodafone store in town and signing up for new cell phone plans. Priorities, people! We now have (local) calling/texting capability as well as Internet access.

After getting our phones taken care of we drove up to our new house. We can’t move in until Monday, but I still wanted to see where it was.

Here is the outside of the house–it’s a middle unit in a 4-unit townhouse:

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There is a nice grassy field across the street from our house in the middle of our neighborhood. David and Bota will have so much fun playing here!

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We walked down the block to Garryduff Sports Center, the sports complex that our yard backs up to. They have soccer fields, tennis courts, and even a small golf course:

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After walking around our neighborhood for a while, we decided to go check out the walking path that leads to Jon’s office.

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It was a nice walk that took us over the water, past a small castle, and through the woods.

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We went in to Cypress and saw Jon’s new office.

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On our walk back from Cypress we stopped by the Mahon Point Shopping Center to look around.

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We got smoothies and let the boys play in the shopping center play area. I can see myself spending many rainy days here!

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We ate dinner at our rental house then had some playtime out in the courtyard.

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It’s already the boys’ bedtime here–good thing, because we’re all tired from our busy day!