My American Mother’s Day in Ireland


As an American living in Ireland, I often find myself stuck in the middle of two cultures: do I continue to act American or try to assimilate with the Irish? This conflict has become most apparent during holidays where I have my own cultural traditions that I want to keep alive even though I’m living abroad. It came up at Thanksgiving (which, obviously, is not even celebrated in Ireland) and Christmas and Easter. I did not, however, expect my “cultural expectations” to come into play for holidays like Mother’s Day. I have never even have given Mother’s Day much thought until we moved here–that is, until I realized how important it really was to me.

You see, Mother’s Day is celebrated in Ireland–just on a totally different day than American Mother’s Day. In Ireland, Mothering Sunday occurs on the 4th Sunday of lent, which happened to be March 30th this year. It was 6 weeks before the day that I, the American, expected Mother’s Day to fall on. My mom wasn’t celebrating it yet and it  just didn’t feel right. Also, March 30th happens to also be Jon’s birthday, and I didn’t want to steal his thunder. So, we kind of just let Irish Mother’s Day quietly pass us by (even though David made me a cute card at school and we got beautiful flowers at church) and decided to wait until May to celebrate our “official” Mother’s Day.

Yesterday was American Mother’s Day, and we decided it was finally time to celebrate me. Well, more accurately, I decided it was time to celebrate me and I told Jon and the boys my expectations. They did not disappoint.

My Mother’s Day weekend started with a fun date with my big boy David on Thursday afternoon. We went to Peppa’s Big Splash, a play based on the popular British cartoon Peppa Pig (one of David’s favorites). The play was at the Cork Opera House, making this David’s first official viewing of live theater. It was a great experience–there was lots of noise, jumping around, glow sticks, ice cream and even squirt guns involved in the show. All of the characters were these huge puppets that the puppeteers danced and sang with all over the stage. I’m fairly certain that the average age of the audience was 3 years, and they did a great job catering to their patrons.


On Saturday we spent the whole day together as a family–this was kind of a big deal, because it’s been about a month since we’ve all been together for a whole day with all of the travel we’ve been doing lately. David has been begging us to take him swimming lately, so we started the morning at a wonderful pool across the city in Churchfield. It had a lap pool and a kids pool that had a playhouse in the middle of it with a slide. David was in heaven.


Jacob was actually a bit terrified of the water for the first half of our swimming session (I guess it’s been too long since we’ve been in a pool!), but once we got him sitting in a baby flotation device he calmed right down. There was also a really cool tunnel slide that wrapped all the way around the building that Jon and I (ahem…the kids…) thoroughly enjoyed. The best part of swimming in Ireland, however, has to be the swim caps. All swimmers are required to wear swimming caps at all times. Yes, even babies.


After swimming we were famished, so we drove into the city center for lunch. We went to our favorite go-to “restaurant”: Mc.’y D’s. Before you judge, though, you should know that the McDonalds’ in Ireland are a bit classier than in The States. They will do things like seat you at a table and take your order from the table (you know, like you’re really at a restaurant) and make your kids balloon animals while they’re waiting for their cheeseburgers to come out of the microwave. It’s an experience. After lunch we walked around town for awhile and did a bit of shopping. We also stopped for some delicious gelato before heading back home for afternoon naps.

On Sunday (Mother’s Day) I got the best gifts ever: sleep and kisses from my boys. I told Jon that my only request for Mother’s Day was that he let me stay in bed for as long as I darn well pleased. It was almost 10:00 by the time I peeled myself away from my pillow to get ready for church. When I got downstairs Jon made me breakfast while I read the cards that the boys had made for me. It was then that I discovered I would be getting another Best Gift Ever: a massage and relaxation day at a spa. I’m already feeling more relaxed just thinking about it!

The rest of our day was spent going to church, calling our moms in America, and lounging around at home. Jon made us a feast for dinner: gourmet burgers, bacon-roasted asparagus, balsamic potato wedges and cheesecake. I didn’t even take a photo of the food because we devoured it all so quickly. It was all delicious and lovingly prepared–the perfect end to a memorable weekend.

Thank you for parenting with me and loving me so well, Jon. And thank you for letting me be your mommy, David and Jacob. I have the best job in the world, and I even get a whole day every year to remember that. Well, unless you’re living in Ireland. Then you get TWO whole days!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing moms out there–the world would not be the same without you!


Christmas in Cork


It’s the most wonderful time of the year…CHRISTMAS!!! And, for the first time ever, I get to experience this magical season in another part of the world. In many ways, Christmas in Ireland is very similar to Christmas in America–there are trees and lights and carols and Santa. Some things are a bit different, though.

For starters, the beginning of the actual Christmas season is a bit more ambiguous here. Without Thanksgiving and BLACK FRIDAY (ugh.) to mark the official beginning of all things Christmasey, you start seeing decorations and marketing for the holiday amp up right after Halloween.  Another difference in Ireland is the big guy in the red suit. Santa is everywhere here–even more prevalent than America, which I didn’t expect. But he’s cooler here, too. Instead of just getting a photo and a 2-inch candy cane when you sit on Santa’s lap, he gives all the kids actual presents. Proper presents. Like MagnaDoodles and marble mazes and books and farm sets complete with tractors and all the animals. Man, Santa is already so busy with the Irish kids that I’m not sure he’ll have enough loot for the rest of the world come December 25th.

Differences aside, Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are in the world. It is a special time of year full of tradition and festivities. Here are a few highlights from our Christmas season in Cork:

We walked through downtown Cork to see the big wheel and the “German” Christmas market. We ate bratwurst and felt like we were in Leavenworth. It was grand.


The city was all decked out with lights and wreaths and Christmas trees. David liked the Christmas trees the best because, obviously, they were covered in balls. Lots and lots of little red balls that he tried to rip off every tree we passed. Luckily for us, the city planners anticipated his ornament-swiping attempts and they actually zip-tied all of the decorations to the trees. Cork:1, David:0.


We  did some holiday baking so Mommy could eat some sweets. I found a kit at the grocery store to bake polar bear cupcakes. They turned out super cute and tasted as good as they looked.



December has been really pleasant weather-wise with mild, dry days. We’ve had fun getting outside to play with our friends:



…and even take a trip to the zoo:


After a failed mid-week attempt to go to a local “Christmas farm” I begged Jon to take us back on the weekend. He’s a good husband, and he obliged. Rumley’s is an “open farm” (a real working farm that they deck out so the public can visit it) and they had lots of animals and fun activities for the kids. They had quite a range of animals for a farm–it was really more like a zoo. They had water buffalo, alpaca, sheep, cows, donkeys, pigs, birds, lemurs, monkeys, mongoose, ostriches and even camels.


There were go-karts to drive:


…and golf balls to drive (David’s favorite):


We rode on a tractor pull:


…and got to pet some cute cuddly creatures:



And to wrap up our Christmas in Cork we celebrated with David’s first-ever preschool Christmas pageant. David was the cutest little shepherd I ever have seen (I wonder if real shepherd’s wear dish towels on their heads?). Here’s our little shepherd David with his friend Jack the donkey:

photo 2


And here’s the whole class getting ready to perform (there were about 30 preschoolers and about 5,000 parents in the audience):

photo 1


And, finally, here’s David with his sweet teacher Miss Aisling:

photo 3

We have had such a wonderful time here in Cork celebrating the first part of this Christmas season. Tomorrow, though, we leave Ireland for our big trip home to Seattle for Christmas. We will be spending three (3!) glorious weeks with our loved ones. I can’t wait to go home and see everyone and everything that I’ve been missing but, truth be told, I will also be missing Ireland.  Merry Christmas, Ireland–we’ll see you again soon!

A Very Happy Expat Thanksgiving

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a holiday that I look forward to every year. Sadly for me, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Ireland. I wasn’t going to let that stop me, though. I was determined to have ourselves a good ‘ol American Thanksgiving, even if we were the only family in our city roasting a turkey on the third Thursday of November.

The day before Thanksgiving we had a baking day. My two ‘lil pumpkins “helped” in the kitchen and we managed to bake two pumpkin pies and a casserole to prep for the big day. I am so, so, SO happy that we got to have pumpkin pie–it’s my absolute favorite treat and pumpkin-anything is very hard to come by here. Thank you to all of our American visitors who brought me canned pumpkin in the last few weeks!


I got up early on Thanksgiving morning because Jacob was ready to get the party started. Since we were up at 5:30 (ugh.) I decided to make some festive pumpkin pancakes for breakfast (again, the PUMPKIN!!!). They were awesome.


And then the former-Kindergarten teacher in me came out and I crafted not one but TWO fruit turkeys. Cute, cute, cute.


We saved one of the fruiturkeys for Thanksgiving dinner and we brought the other one to David’s preschool. David’s preschool teachers are so sweet and thoughtful–they did a whole day of Thanksgiving-themed activities at school just to celebrate David’s culture (I never even thought of us having a “culture” per se but, yes, that is our culture). We brought the fuiturkey and some pumpkin muffins for the kidd-o’s snack time and we printed off a few pictures from our family Thanksgiving celebrations so David could show his classmates what this day is all about. When I picked David up from school I even heard a little girl telling her mom that “Today we learned about being thankful and turkeys”. Yep, nailed it.


While David was at preschool I went on my own little “turkey trot” down on the Rochestown trail. It was just me and Jacob, so I guess that makes Jacob the turkey.


When we got home that afternoon I managed to find the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on live streaming. I was giddy. Like, jumping up and down squealing out-of-control-happy. David thought that I’d gone completely nuts (as if he needed any more convincing).


For Thanksgiving dinner we invited several of our American “expat friends” over to our house for turkey. It made me so happy to have a full house and good friends to share our holiday with. We are so amazingly blessed to have found such amazing people to share life with here in Ireland!


And, then, the dinner. Oh, the dinner! It was incredible! We had turkey (which, just for the record, is not quite the same as the Butterballs that I’m used to roasting. Our bird had gnarly long legs and feather stubble. Gah! After a bit of work, though, it cooked beautifully and tasted delicious). We also had mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, vegetable casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, homemade cranberry sauce,  mulled wine, pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and–of course–pumpkin pie with whipped cream. It was oh-so-good and oh-so-Thanksgiving-y.


Everyone enjoyed their dinner, and I was grateful to all of our friends who helped prepare it. Seriously, thank  you, guys. It was Ammmmmmmazing!


While we were waiting for our stomachs to make room for pie we watched What Does The Fox Say? (not sure that this will become a tradition…) and we played a rousing game of “What are you thankful for?”. David was thankful for balls and beer. I’m a bit concerned.


So, there you have it. We managed to pull off an American Thanksgiving in Ireland. It was everything that Thanksgiving should be: good times, good food, and good people to share it all with. And, most importantly, praising God for the blessings in our lives. I have so much to be thankful for this year: the awesome opportunity to live in Ireland, our friends far and near, and an incredible family.


From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

May your life be as full as my tummy.