* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Carrickfergus Castle

Photo from Wikipedia
The last day we were in Belfast we had a few hours before we needed to catch the train home.  We are always up for a castle and Carrickfergus was quite near.  My understanding of the history of this area is a bit muddled, US history is so straightforward in comparison, but I'm working on it.  I believe Carrickfergus is one of the oldest if not the oldest castle standing in Ulster (roughly Northern Ireland).  It tended to be fairly well kept since it was often the main foothold of the Normans and English on this rather hotly contested island.

The Keep from Allen's flickr stream
The Keep (the center part of the castle, most heavily fortified and likely where the family lived) was the first part of the castle build by John de Courcy around 1177.  He was a bit of a wildcard taking on the invasion of Ulster without King Henry II's permission.  He then married Affreca around 1180.  She was a princess from the Isle of Mann.  There is a modern statue of Princess Affreca in the window of the inner ward (the wall around the courtyard) "looking off towards her home." (or something to that effect, I wasn't actually taking notes)  I really felt for Affreca.  She was married off to a man she may or may not have even met before, let alone loved.  She was then shipped off to Ulster and while the Isle of Mann isn't really all that far away, I imagine she didn't make it home often if at all.  She never bore any children.  She was likely blamed for that and felt a great deal of guilt about it.  We were there on a sunny, summer day and it was still quite chilly.  There is a strong wind off the sea and the surrounding area is arable but rocky with low mountains all about.  The Castle is built on the very edge of the sea on a rocky shore.  Her husband was the invading force so I can't imagine the locals gave her all that warm a welcome and the castle was new and likely needed rather a great deal of work, from her point of view.  I suspect that Knights, Kings, and Barons leaned towards making things secure (understandably) rather than "warm and homey."  It sort of reminded me of some of Lynn Kurland's books.  She wrote some pretty solid epic medieval historical romances.  They move a little slowly but are nice to read if you find yourself in a rocking chair for 4-6 hours a day with a rather irritable baby.
Chapel behind plexiglass so there is a glare

The other part of the castle that I just found fascinating was the chapel.  It was built around 1250.  The idea that something both so lovely and so old was just striking.  I am sure that it was used for all manner of less than holy purposes (a murder hole is just off to the other side and, later, gunports were added).  But, there was also this wonderful sense that the sun had shone in the same way, through those same stones, on holy promises we still make today in the forms of baptisms and weddings and maybe even a knighting or two.  Vows were spoken, prayers said, hopes were laid and candles were lit for almost a 1000 years, right where I was standing.  Rather appropriately, this is the only carved stonework remaining in situ in the entire castle.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy, Funny, Pretty, Real

round button chicken

At the playground

I love tugboats.  There's just something so endearing about them.

We met Allen down at the Grand Canal (sort of, I'm not really known for my sense of direction) to check out the Tall Ships arriving.  A bunch of people were riding in swan boats, like these.  Megan and Charlie were entranced but Megan insisted that they were Goose Boats rather than Swans.


On days that Allen will get home late, I try to plan some extra activities for us.  Now, mind, "late" at the moment constitutes after 2:30.  While 6 hours doesn't seem like it should be all that long and leaves me feeling rather like What Kind of Mother that I find it rather difficult.  In fact, it's not all the length of time, it also has a lot to do with the time of day.  In the US, where we have friends, activities, babysitters, an acre of yard, and enough space in the house to actually be apart, the time at which the children begin to veer a bit towards Lord of the Flies and I begin to contemplate the wisdom of ever having children at all, is around 4:30.  Since Allen would rather go in to work quite early than stay late, arriving home around 4:30 is workable.  I'm hoping some such time magic will occur once the children start school and Noah starts Mother's Morning Out.  We will still be in a just big enough house and be rather short on outside activities, friends, and a yard but perhaps the stimulation of school will provide just enough space in our togetherness that we can really appreciate one another again.

At any rate, a lot of times we make chocolate chip cookies.  I tried making a pear sponge which I thought was quite yummy but the children feel that fruit and cake should be two distinct entities.  To answer a question I get frequently, yes, you can find chocolate chips here.  But, I've found the quality to be less than fabulous.  A better solution seems to be to buy a chocolate bar and then chop it up.  So you don't spend too much time chopping, I also buy a bag of m and ms and mix those in.  As an aside, when you are renting a house that came with all manner of completely useless implements (not 1, but 2 George Foreman grills) but not a mixer (manual or electric), a potato masher works quite nicely for creaming sugar and butter.

By the time we've hit the park, had lunch, walked to get the chocolate for the cookies, made cookies, watched a couple of shows (Curious George and Little Bear are favorites), bickered, time outed and wandered down to wherever Allen is meeting us, we've made it through the day!


Upon our arrival home from watching the Tall Ships, I started making dinner, setting the big kids up with Dinosaur Train and sending Allen off to the shop with Noah to get me some cider.  I'm a cider girl rather than beer so it's been nice to be somewhere that cider is almost as readily available as beer if not in quite such variety- it's often even on tap!  Each can is huge (500 mls which is slightly more than a US pint and slightly less than an imperial pint).  I split it with Allen over dinner as my tolerance for alcohol is a college boy's dream.

Allen asked why I felt the need for a cider today as I am generally driven to escapist literature rather than to drink.  I explained, as Megan stuck her finger down her throat (yes, really) because she had happened to get a stray tomato with her bite of cous cous (no, she didn't, intervention was swift), that it wasn't so much the frequency (although that was quite high, it being one of those days that you can't even manage to pee without someone hollering) of the difficulties today as much as the intensity.

The half pint of cider allowed me to handle Noah peeing all over the bathmat with grace.  His diaper having been removed prematurely when it was abruptly discovered that Charlie had been drawing in the condensation of the (accursed) shower doors rather than actually washing.

Happily, every day comes to an end and the next one is often better.  If not, I still have 3 cans of cider!  :-)

Monday, August 20, 2012

This and That

Google's European headquarters are just down the road from us.  I keep wanting to pepper random people on the street with questions about why blogger isn't doing quite what I want it to or what you are supposed to do with google analytics.  I've heard a lot of companies are based in Dublin due to the 12.5% corporate tax rate.  People tend to think that Allen works for Google when I tell them we moved here from America and that he's an electrical engineer.  In fact, Allen studies wireless networks which is a whole different arm of electrical engineering (at least based on my somewhat limited understanding).

Yankee Candles have different names and scents here. (I think, I don't spend tons of time in Yankee Candle stores.)  Red Velvet is already out here.  It's a fall scent so maybe you'll get it in the US?  It smells a lot like the buttercream.  I also saw a Camomile Tea scent and they had a Union Jack scent in the UK.

It is insanely difficult to find night lights here (a significant problem if you have young children).  We went on an epic quest to find them yesterday.  I think it has something to do with wanting to conserve electricity.  There is a great deal of talk about being "eco" here.  You can recycle just about all kinds of plastic and compostables pick-up happens with trash and recycling pick-up.  Being "eco" is the justification for the crazy washing machines.  At the same time, most fruits and vegetables are packaged in "punnets" (little plastic boxes) or wrapped in cling film on a styrofoam tray.  While I wind up with a less waste in some cases, I am swimming in styrofoam trays.  And, while the grocery stores charge extra for a bag, it's all you can do to get away from other stores without one.  I think some of it is an excuse to resist change.  For instance, the US frontloaders look to be just about as efficient while offering shorter wash times and larger capacity.  And, having everything heated on demand, rather than using water heaters is still pretty energy intensive- Allen has palpitations every time he looks at the meter while I'm taking a shower.  Plus, not being able to promptly hand wash the really nasty dishes (cutting board after raw chicken and the like) grosses me out.  It seems like having a smaller, better insulated water heater on a timer might be a more reasonable middle ground.  A smaller dishwasher just means that I run the dishwasher more frequently.

Would it shock anyone to hear that I was picked out for TSA screening not once, but TWICE, when we left Reagan?  Because who screams terrorist like a woman hauling 3 children, a carseat, and a backpack full of organic lollipops through a busy airport?  The first time was a "random selection" which even the TSA screener obviously thought was just dumb.  She couldn't keep a straight face through the hand swab.  The second time was when I forgot to take my iPhone out of my pocket before going through the x-ray.  Somewhere between the iPad, shoes, toddler, and car seat, I lost track of electronics on my person.  But, instead of just letting me run the iPhone through the scanner and then me walking through the regular scanner, I got to go through the super scanner.  I then got hand swabbed AGAIN after the scan.  I wouldn't have minded it so much if I thought it was in any way keeping the skies safer.  I really wish it looked like Israeli airport security could scale.  It sounds like it can be a massive pain but does appear to be significantly more effective.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Powerscourt Gardens

This weekend found us trekking to Powerscourt Gardens.  It's a lovely estate about an hour away from Dublin by bus.  I have to say that after taking in this view, I could see the allure of marrying a man 50 years your senior.  A castle/house/fortified estate has existed here since the 13th century (thank you wikipedia).  (I'm sorry about the quality of the pictures.  It was, gasp, actually unearth your sunglasses SUNNY and I think my iphone has forgotten how to cope.)

View from "back porch"

Flowers in fireplace
Does anyone know what the pink one is?

Charlie and Shadow Shout
After having a super yummy lunch (those Avoca ladies sure can cook!), we started wandering the gardens.  Charlie got adorably interested in his shadow at the bottom of a fountain asking "Shadow Shout, how did you get all the way down there?"  Charlie has been all about shadows lately and has gotten the other 2 interested as well.  

Looking for frogs
After a quick inspection to be sure that there weren't any frogs, we moved along to flowers.  My favorite type of garden is the cottage type where there is just this riot of color.

A formal cottage garden ;-)
Then we came to this fabulous cluster of lily pads- sadly, no toads here, either.

On the way to the Japanese Garden, we got to go through this wonderful rocky passage filled with very Irish looking moss and greenery.

Next up was this little waterfall that had Noah completely fascinated.

Charlie isn't a nature boy precisely.  He's sort of the classic "boy."  He loves rockets and space ships and learning about all things mechanical and then he also loves to climb trees, pick up worms, and examine snails.  So, of course, the stream was for him.

The path wound it's way through some forested area.  Whenever I'm confronted with older growth forest, I always wonder about the American colonists.  Can you imagine getting off a ship and knowing you had to get crops planted Very Soon and were confronted with this:
biggish trees
As you went along the path you came along to this wonderfully romantic looking tower.  Sadly, all things that glimmer are not gold.  The tower is fairly modern, built in 1911 (I think- google wasn't very helpful) and modeled on a pepperpot from the 8th Viscount's dining table.  It's still fun to let your imagination roam with the image, though.  Doesn't it seem to just be screaming out for some sort of dashing adventure ala The Princess Bride?
Pepperpot Tower
And, perhaps my favorite picture of the day:

Friday, August 17, 2012


We went to Belfast last weekend.  We took a 2.5 hour train ride to get there.  I have to say, I am starting to be quite annoyed at the auto lobby which, according to my 11th grade history teacher (not actually the most reliable source) managed to get the US to veer bus rather than train.  Riding on a train is lovely, especially with young children.  They can wiggle around significantly more than on a car and if you spring for reserved seats, you even get a table so they can color and such.  Parents can attend to said children without risking life and limb.  And, most importantly, there is a potty on board as well as a roving snack cart with coffee!  As we rode, I noticed how much southwest Virginia looks like the Irish countryside between Dublin and Belfast.  I can understand why the area was such a popular settlement point.  I was able to get these shots through the train window but as I only had my iphone and we were moving, they aren't the best but do give a good idea of what I mean.

Once we got to Belfast, Allen went one way to attend a meeting and we went to the W5 children's museum.  I got absolutely no pictures because I was at a children's museum with 3 young children.  I'm sure you are shocked.  I will say that if you ever find yourself in Belfast, you should check it out.  Megan has been crying for a week over the fact that we don't live in Belfast so she can't go to the W5 every day.

When reunited it was time to take a taxi ride to our hotel.  Belfast taxi drivers are astoundingly kind and friendly patiently tolerating the rather confused woman who first tried to pay with her library card and then euros before finally landing on her stash of pound notes.

I also had another dear man patiently help me sort through the jumble of 1 pound and 1 euro coins, helpfully identifying them for me as I picked through the handful.  They are actually quite different what with one having an Irish harp on it and saying "EURO" and 1 having a picture of the Queen and "POUND" on it.  But, I did have 3 very excited children hopping about me at the time, waiting to get a snack.  I find you can get a lot of milage out of simply owning up to the fact that you simply have no idea what you are doing.

We wandered about downtown and Olympic spirit was high.  Every pub and whatnot was showing the Olympics on tv.  Most interesting was the city square where they had huge Olympic rings decorating the City Hall as well as a massive screen at one end of the green where they showed the BBC coverage of the Olympics.  There were always at least a few people watching with big crowds gathering after work.  I'm guessing NBC didn't sponsor anything similar?

The next day we took a bus tour which was rather depressing.  The tour had a pretty strong emphasis on The Troubles and for good reason since Belfast was really at the center of it all and then there were pockets of trouble all throughout the history of the last several hundred years.  There was just so much hurting go on in the area for so long and not that much time to temper it.  But, it was wonderful to see the many strides towards rebuilding that were happening.  I try to find a lesson within those sorts of painful stories and the one I found in this one was to keep talking.  The thing that struck me most was when the guide began talking about how things seemed to become more tense as more people began moving.  People moved to areas of Belfast that they considered safer which mostly meant that there started being concentrated areas of republicans and loyalists.  Living around and only exposing yourself to like-minded people means that you don't really have to figure out how to make things work out; a middle way becomes lost; differences become entrenched; violence quickly seems not only justified but necessary to make your point.  This reminded me a lot of how we are currently handling differences in the US.  We are becoming pockets of liberal and conservative.  More than ever before, your neighbors are much more likely to vote like you do; shop like you do; think like you do; value what you do.  I have seen us begin to stop even trying; stop talking; become entrenched.  We are losing an awareness of a middle way.  I don't think we are on an irreversible path and I'm don't see a life of civil war becoming a reality any time soon but I do think we can learn from the past.

On a lighter note!  Mid-way through the bus tour (it was a hop on/hop off) we stopped for some fun at the Ulster Museum.  They had a dinosaur exhibit and the children really enjoyed the hands on section.  I didn't think Noah would ever agree to stop cleaning up.  He was quite annoyed that everyone kept moving the sand to the side of the table when it obviously belonged on the dinosaur bones.  :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

pretty, funny, happy real

round button chicken


The tenacity of life always strikes me more as awesome more than pretty but I thought this would still work nicely as "pretty."  The flower and fern were both clinging to little pockets between the 1000 year old stones in the wall of a castle we visited near Belfast.


No picture, unfortunately.  I thought I had one but now it seems to have disappeared into the depths vis the mystery that is my perpetual effect on technology.  Happily, I married an electrical engineer who can rescue as needed.  Anyway, I saw some wonderfully witty graffiti in the ladies room at a Dublin pub witten just above the bottom of the stall door.

"Beware rogue limbo dancers!"  

Dubliners take their legacy of dry witticisms seriously!


The children enjoy hanging washcloths, handtowels and the like on the clothes line.  This mama is happy for one less task but I may need to invest in more clothespins.  :-)


We bought Megan's new backpack this week.  She needed one that would fit a full size folder.  Megan and Charlie will be starting school on the 30th.  I'm a little nervous but much less stressed than last year.  Charlie has a September birthday which meant he was just old enough to start kindergarten last fall.  He  had outgrown preschool academically so we decided to give it a try but it was clear he wasn't ready.   He was having nightmares and crying through most of the school day.  We pulled him after less than a week and put him back into preschool with me supplimenting a bit at home.   But, he's pretty enthusiastic about starting school this year.  Megan is less sure but that's more personality than anything.

If we were still in the US, I'm not sure what we would be doing this fall.  I think Charlie is a very good candidate for home schooling and we have the needed resources to do it.  I have a lot of problems in terms of educational philosophy with the US education model as well as feeling like the current practices just don't work particularly well for my children's specific needs- especially Charlie's.  I think that there is something to be said for change from within but I'm not sure I'm willing to sacrifice my children's mental well-being for it.  I suspect this will be something that we will look at on a yearly basis and I'm strongly leaning toward pulling the children for homeschooling in the 4th-8th grade range, if nothing else.  Middle schoolers learn a lot but a fair amount of it isn't academic and directly contridicts what we would like them to be learning.  But, we'll see.  There is also a fair chance that we'll be looking at another sabbitacal abroad during that period or, at the least, a lot of family travel so that would also be a factor.

Since we are in Ireland, though, it's all a little different.  They start children in school at age 4 with the 4 and 5 year olds referred to as "senior and junior infants."  Since they are sort of lumped and this is the entry to school for most of the children and this country tends to have a more relaxed attitude towards expectations for young children anyway, the infants' curriculum tends to be more play based preschool than the US SAT prep.  This is a teaching philosophy I can get behind.  Academic expectations appear to be more based on what is developmentally appropriate.  And, the infants have a shorter day, starting at 8:30 and ending at 1:10.  Finally, the classes generally stay together, eating lunch in their classroom and changing teachers much less frequently.  Some of this is because we chose (yes, it's free choice for parents with some priority restrictions- it seemed to be to somewhat similar to the NYC system) a small school but some of it is simply cultural difference.  Almost all schools have a religious affiliation so there will be some basic moral and ethical education.  I would have been a little worried about what, exactly, they were leaning if they were older but at the Infants level it's mostly the basics of "love one another," a Chapel every couple of weeks and Christmas and Easter are celebrated.

Now, we still have to see what actually happens when the rubber meets the road and it's not all sunshine and roses.  Class sizes are big- around 30 children will be in each class.  They don't go outside in rain as much as I would like.  (I expected it to be like in Ithaca when teachers had the attitude that it will be cold, dress appropriately to go out and play; children need to RUN)  We had to pay a book fee and there were several workbooks listed, even for Megan.  But, my kids seem to really enjoy workbooks so perhaps it's for the best?  

If it comes to it, we can pull them.  Requirements to homeschool in Ireland are pretty simple.  But, this is the main way the children will get an opportunity to experience the culture in a way very relevant to them.  This is also their main opportunity to make friends and get a break from all together, all the time.  We don't have the social resources we had established in the US.  So, I'm really hoping this will be a positive experience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

10 Things About Ireland

1. Gardens (yards) are very small.  If a small US yard is a postage stamp, think of those tiny 1 cent stamps you use every year when the postage goes up and you forgot to get stamps and you are digging around until you finally find the Christmas stamps from 2009.  That's an Irish yard- even in hunks of the countryside where the houses probably don't HAVE to be stuck quite so close together but it is in keeping with the traditional village development style.

2.  The small gardens mean that I almost never hear a lawnmower.  This puzzled me since they do have tended grass until one evening I saw several people using plug in lawn mowers and leaf blowers- those babies are soooo much quieter.  One lady, with even less grass, was on her hands and knees with hedge clippers.

3.  The street lamps in Dublin have several different designs related to Irish culture.  They are all really lovely and it's fun to try to spot the different designs.  I haven't been able to find much information but these are some that I've managed to get decent pictures of.

4.  If you want to get someone's attention say "Sorry."  Trying "Excuse me," "pardon," or "Ma'am" is completely pointless.  A quickly muttered, under the breath, "sorry" gets instant attention.

5. The windows are different.  You do see the sash type that are generally found in American homes, mostly in the older buildings, but most newer homes and many office and apartment buildings have tilt windows.

6.  Electricity is SCARY!  :-)  You will never find a light switch in a bathroom.  When asked about it, our Irish friends have all looked askance at our crazy American ways and explained it's for safety reasons, obviously.  Electric on-demand water heaters in the shower stall with you are totally fine, though.

7.  All sockets have individual on/off switches.  We accidentally turned off the refrigerator one day but noticed before any harm was done.

8.  Hotels provide mammoth towels and handtowels but no washcloths.

9.  Eggs are unrefrigerated in grocery stores.  I'm ok with the general concept- it takes eggs quite a while to go bad, even at room temp, but I would feel better about it if I knew how long they had been at the grocery.

10.  The Irish speak Irish and the Scottish speak Gaelic.  According to wikipedia- the Irish introduced Irish to the Scots and they are still quite similar.  It doesn't have a "th" sound so a fair number of people in Ireland will say "tree" rather than "three" when they aren't thinking about being clear for the poor, befuddled American listener.  When we visited the children's school, I was politely corrected when I asked about how much we would be expected to help with their Gaelic lessons.  :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not Really About Ireland

A long-time friend died and I have no way of attending his funeral.  We visited Belfast and I was sharply reminded of perversions of religious passion.  I differed rather sharply in my beliefs about religious doctrine with the church we had been attending in Dublin and was reminded of the Vision Forum letter about Virginia Tech and was clearly reminded of how easily these perversions can come about.  My first responses to both being rather far from Christian charity and grace.

To be crystal clear, I don't agree with Vision Forum on the vast majority of things but I feel it's important to be in relationship with people with different perspectives, however passive the relationship may be.

This is a devotional I presented to my MOPS group last spring.  I've been thinking on it rather a lot over the last few days.  I am trying to remember to shine brighter and love harder rather than turn my back in the face of pain; that Christianity is based on the bedrock of love; that we can fuss about doctrine all we wish but that as we all go deeper into our faith, regardless of creed, we all seem to get to the same place; we all want to share a deep and eternal love.  We can all use our lives for something greater.

"What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life" is the last line of the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver.  It's lovely and well worth reading in it's entirety.

The beginning of the devotional talked a great deal about a friend that I lost in the shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.  He actively chose to seek out the gunman in an effort to save other lives.  I withheld that section out of respect for the family's privacy.

In memory of those who shined so brightly.


I believe that there is an element to life on Earth that is epic.  I believe in good and evil.  I am not sure I believe that people are evil but I do believe we can be tools for good or for evil and that we can either choose a side or be chosen.  I believe that evil chose on April 16, 2007.

I am weak on my Bible knowledge.  If entry to heaven requires me to recite the books of the Bible, I will be in big trouble.  But, one of the passages I do know is Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world.”  It is one I turned to when evaluating what it was I wanted to do with my one wild and precious life.  I pray regularly to be a light.  To be a force of good.  To allow God to shine through me. Some days my light is dim but the North star can be as good as the sun to one who is lost.

Thing get really interesting when you pair a desire to be a light with 1 Peter 4:8-11

8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

I always appreciate it when the Bible gets specific and we aren’t wandering around in a parable.  This is the nitty gritty.  We are to love.  We are to serve.  We are to shine.  We are to plunge into relationship!

This is scary.  This is when things start getting just a little epic.  This is when evil or it’s good friend indifference get a toehold.  You are risking rejection.  You are risking weird looks.  You are distracted.  You are busy.  God knows this.  It’s ok to just maintain the line.  To give a gentle nudge to good.  To simply love as you are able.

Consider if you might be able to manage to smile at just one person that you only sort of know today.  If you are feeling wild, say “hi.”  Nod at the mom who is wrangling the tantruming toddler.  Let the little old lady at the grocery store coo over your baby.  Plunge into relationship.  Let your light shine.

Perhaps you might be up to inviting.  It is a wonderful thing to feel wanted.   It is often nice just to be asked.  You have given a gift of love even if nothing ever comes of your invitation.  I know it can be scary but it doesn’t have to be.  Start by simply sharing and then offer an open ended invitation.  You can’t be rejected and the other person feels no pressure.  For instance I might say “My children adore Maria’s classes at the rec center.  Let me know if you want to sign up for one with me next semester.”  Or “I love my church community.  If you ever want to visit, let me know and I can show you around.”  Plunge into relationship.  Let your light shine.

Some days your light will almost go out.  This is when it gets hard.  This is where dark creeps in and evil gets a toehold.  This is where we really struggle.  We must accept!  When your light sputters, accept the gift of a spark!  Give someone else a gift in your time of need.  Let someone experience the joy of sharing the light when it is most needed.  There is a season to give and a season to take and there is no shame in either.

Add light and remove dark in very quiet ways.  Something that I often do is pray for someone I don’t like.  And, by that, I mean the prickly mom at school, the dad who ALWAYS takes the good parking spot at preschool, the cashier who sighs when you give her a stack of coupons.  And, when I pray for them, I am careful to keep it all about them, not about what I hope will change in their interaction with ME.  I might pray that the mom find a friend; that I might have an easier time finding qualities in her to appreciate.  I might pray that the father get the support he needs since he is so obviously stressed and frazzled and that I find more compassion in my heart.  I might pray that the cashier find fulfillment with her job or that she get the opportunity to peruse a dream.  I have been surprised at what an impact this simple and silent act of love has had on me.  I do find myself liking the previously un-liked.  I can feel my light shining brighter as what was once an absent-minded negativity is removed from my day.

Be a light.  

Choose your side.  

Don’t allow yourself to be chosen. 

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


I invite you to share my prayer. 

Dear God,

Please help me be a force of good.  Please help me push back the dark.  Please shine through me.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Perpetually April

Moving to Ireland has reminded me quite a bit of the year I got married.  I call it the year I got to have 3 springs.  I finished up my Master's degree in Nashville and graduated just as it was starting to turn into hot and muggy southern summer.  I then went back to my parent's home in Maryland for the remainder of May and got married in mid-June.  It was an outdoor wedding and I had hoped the weather would stay on the mild side.  It had been cool and cloudy the week before- so much so that I had begun to try to figure out where I could get a cardigan to co-ordinate with the wedding dress!  But, it was hot and muggy the day we got married.  Happily, the garden was lovely and the marriage is still going strong!  We honeymooned in Prince Edward Island.  I highly recommend it.  The food was marvelous; the scenery wonderful; the weather is perfect; and there isn't much for a newly married couple to do but wander about enjoying it all- exactly what you can manage after a stressful wedding!  I then moved in with my husband in Ithaca while he finished his PhD where the summers aren't much different from Ireland's.  I don't think I wore a pair of shorts that whole first summer.

Anyway, over the course of all that moving up the coast, I sort of followed spring the whole way.

Dublin, with all the rain, the highs around 17 (the mid 60s) and the lows around 10 (50), feels a lot like April to me.  

When I went to the hardware store to acquire plants for my windowbox and pots, I asked about what would do well here.  The short version is that all those plants that are a distaster in Virginia, thrive here.  The garden man was shocked when I told him that I considered geraniums to be a spring plant only and that they often had trouble growing in Virginia.  They are the old reliables here, popping up in just about every garden and window box and looking lovely for months.  

I have finally gotten what all the fuss is about roses and why those colonists worked so hard to bring over some roses.  Of course, they give us fits in the US climate with our fungi and pests but here, they are beyond lovely.

I have also decided that I must manage to put some cosmos and anemones into my garden in Blacksburg.  Look at these beauties!

We also pass this lovely plant on our way to Sandymount proper.  I have yet to figure out if it's a Rose of Sharon or a tree peony.  (Should tree peony be capitalized?)

Oddly, at least to my eyes, the mild winters allow exotics that would never make it through a winter in Blacksburg to flourish here.  It's not uncommon to see date palms getting ready to fruit as well as other types of palms.  Fuscia plants are commonly planted in the ground and grown as perennials here while being strictly seasonal, hanging basket plants in most of the US.

I suspect it would be difficult to have a black thumb in a country where flowers even grow on the roof!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pretty, Funny, Happy, Real

round button chicken


To prove that occasionally the sun DOES shine and sends the temperatures positively soaring to the high 70s, the children playing on the beach at Sandymount Strand.  Allen writes about that here with more pictures.


Noah loves to pull off his socks and pretend they are mittens.  The other day I found him struggling to get his socks off his feet and he said "Socks are stuck on my mitten holders!"  We have been calling his feet "mitten holders" ever since.


The children had a wonderful time pretending to be castle guards at Dublin Castle.  
I wrote about that here.


Do you notice the spot in this room, the children's room to be exact, that is just the perfect size for a crib?

Moving blew little Noah's mind.  He kept waking up, disoriented, in the middle of the night and there was much trotting back and forth with the big kids being woken quite frequently.  I cried uncle after a few days when the tummy bug ran through the family.  It was quite an effort but I did finally get him sleeping in his crib although only in our room and within sight of me.  I'm still hopeful that we will get him moved back in but Noah is a child who does things in his own time and I can bang my head against a wall for months or just be patient.