Expat Life

New Years Eve in Ireland

December 30, 2015

After over a decade living in Ireland I have concluded that my least faveorite holiday to celebrate here is NYE.  In my early twenties back home NYE was usually marked by a killer house party often in some rented house at the beach or in the mountains.

OK so I’m at the point of my life where NYE house parties would have to include a noise threshold to not wake the little people…maybe I can’t blame that on Ireland.

But I have to admit, after years of thinking it was overrated it turns out I miss the ‘ball drop’ back home.

I had high expectations for my first NYE in Cork. I found myself in an overcrowded (but favourite) pub ready for a new way to ring in the new year.  Somewhere in the vicinity of midnight free bubbly was passed around and then suddendly Auld Lang Syne was being played by the house band and it was 3 minutes past midnight!  No countdown! No timely toast or kiss, a whole lot of mass texting from everyone and NO BALL.

Fast forward ten years and a few kids later and I like NYE in Cork even less.  If there is little sense of occasion in Cork for adults on NYE there  seems to be far less for kids and families.

The lack of family friendly NYE events is a missed opportunity in my beloved city.

I’m used to day long First Night festivities back home pretty much all of which are geared towards families.  Now it seems if we want any sense of family festival you need to head to Dublin.

So we decided to take matters into our own hands.  Through the help of Pinterest I came across the idea for Countdown Bags  from Amy at The Idea Room…and our NYE tradition was born.

Now the Idea Room activities and craftiness were great but I was working pretty last minute and wanting to create a holiday atmosphere for a toddler.  So we created ‘Countdown Envelopes’ (with no crafting involved) and started at 2:00 so we could still make bed time at 7:00!


It doesn't get LESS craftier than blank envelopes!!

It doesn’t get LESS craftier than blank envelopes!!


The past few years our activities have changed and we have started to introduce times onto the envelopes but the kids love the anticipation of seeing what’s next in each envelope.  As they grow we can add all sorts of fun “Year in Review” & “New Years Resolution” activities.

Our only rule is mandatory participation in all activities for the whole family.   We’ve kept it simple with our activities:

  • Paint our nails
  • Play dress up
    Mandatory participation for the WHOLE family!

    Mandatory participation for the WHOLE family!


  • Dance Party
  • Bake brownies
  • Order take-a-way and go get it!                                                                                                       IMG_0498
  • Indoor picnic
  • Make a gingerbread house

    Know any good roofers?

    Know any good roofers?

  • Play a board game
  • Make a fort
  • Pillow fight
  • Movie Night                                                                                                                           IMG_0501
  • It’s Midnight somewhere!!  (We always end on this one which involves watching NYE celebrations on the news or YouTube, playing Auld Lang Syne and ‘midnight’ kisses before bed).

Our tradition travelled with us last year to the US when we celebrated with the cousins, and this year the kids are pitching in their own thoughts on what activities should be included.

We’ve managed to create a pretty killer family NYE party in our Irish country home!


Expat Life, Uncategorized

100,000 +

July 21, 2015

Today the American Consulate travelled to Cork.  Such a convenient service.  They come every so often  (I suppose when budgets permit).  To be honest we were waiting for their next trip down to Cork to register the Prince’s birth abroad.  We just didn’t have a trip to Dublin planned and I didn’t see the point of making a special trip up…although it would have given us an excuse to go to IKEA…

Although US citizenship transfers to a child at birth, the official paperwork (which can be used as a birth certificate) is Consular Registration of Birth Abroad. It’s also required to get passports and SS# and all that jazz. So anyway when the Dublin Embassy emailed to say they were coming to Cork I jumped at the chance.  There is plenty of paperwork to gather of course.  To register a birth abroad you have to prove your own citizenship as well as your physical presence in the US for at least 5 years.  I provided highschool and college transcripts which were accepted.   All in all it was actually pretty easy.

Out of curiosity as I was chatting to the consuls I asked how many American’s they reckon are in Ireland.  They said that at least 100,000 US citizens are registered with the Embassy in Ireland.  And since registering with the embassy is not compulsory there are likely to be MANY, MANY more.  I had no idea there were so many of us here!!  But it makes total sense given the strong cultural and familial links between the US & Ireland.  But on an island of 4million it’s a lot.

Incidentally, it’s worth registering with the embassy as an expat living in any country.  It will make things easier should you ever need consulate support.  The Dublin Embassy send emails about things that concern expats in Ireland & they let you know when the consulate is travelling around Ireland!!  You can also like the US Embassy Dublin on FB!

Expat Life, Living Abroad, mixed culture family

Bringing my Easter to Ireland

March 29, 2015

Easter has always been  one of my favourite holidays.  I have such memories of dying Easter eggs and searching for countless eggs.  Of eating chocolate for breakfast and watching the Disney Easter Parade.  I remember singing “in your Easter bonnet” around the house with a straw hat on my head.  As  a teenager I insisted we go through the traditions for far longer than was necessary.  Even in college I would break out the egg coloring kids and baskets.  I love Easter.

My first few Easters in Ireland were particularly hard for me. There was no egg dying, no Easter Bunny and certainly no baskets.  I knew damn well if I was going to stay here and make this work easter had to change. For years mom sent me Spring care packages filled with  Paaz kits and jelly beans.  I’ve filled luggage with plastic fillable Easter eggs and pastel colored grass.  I’ve shopped Michael’s and Target for the perfect baskets and brought them back as carry on luggage.
Easter became one of our first family holiday traditions here.  It was a holiday that seemed to be all our own…. I introduced my American traditions or  Egg colouring & baskets to the King and Princess B.  I filled the eggs for them to find & we ate chocolate for breakfast and Princess B loved searching for her basket almost as much as I did long ago.  We’ve held egg dying parties and made easter chocolates every year.   It was something truly unique to our reconstructed family here and I secretly love that all her Easter memories are here with us.
Although it is getting bigger here,  Easter still is pretty much a non-event in our little predominately Catholic country.  I still get crazy looks when I tell people how much I love Easter or suggest some Easter activity.
I don’t care.
This year my brother has kindly posted the Paaz.  I’ve managed to source some more fillable eggs from the Euro Shop….after all the Prince will be well able to hunt this year so we’re gonna need more eggs.
For the most part in Ireland Easter means two weeks of school holidays and giant store bought chocolate Easter eggs that get handed out to every child by practically every adult they know.  Sure the Easter Bunny is catching on, but it’s a bit too ad hoc to give Santa any cause for concern.
But for our house Easter means a weekend filled making memories together. Of Princess M leaving jam sandwiches and carrots out for the Easter Bunny…an Early morning wake-up call by two eager smallies ready for their chocolate breakfast.  We won’t have a parade but we will have a day together as family.
And we will as always be the American-Irish family we are.


Being Mommy, School

Because they are Irish

February 12, 2015



I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but Princess M is more than halfway through Naíorna  (kneen-ra) or pre-school.

In Ireland preschool is for the most part privately run.  Each child is entitled to a government funded free preschool year, through the ECCE scheme.  Most children avail of this free 15 hours per week pre-school roughly between ages 4-5 ahead of starting Primary School when they are 5.

We’ve opted to send the Princess to a Naíorna which is a pre-school taught in Irish.  We hope next year she will attend a Gaelscoil which is a Primary School taught predominately through Irish.

To some, sending the Princess to Irish school may seem surprising.  In fact, some may argue that being fluent in the Irish language may be irrelevant and useless….unless of course you are Irish.

Not to mention, it remains to be seen how her American mom will get through homework.  Irish is a difficult language to learn as an adult English speaker.  Not that I am making excuses.  I have every intent to try & so far I am able to keep up with the days of the week, numbers 1-10 & simple phrases.  But the truth is seeing the written Irish word will be daunting of that I am sure.

Since before she was born I have wondered how I would adapt and cope with the differences between education systems here when the time comes.  Now as we officially embark on the journey of formal education, I have apparently shoved aside everything that is familiar and comfortable to dive in the deep end.

While we have no current plans to move back to the USA, that door will always remain open to us & it is possible we will be uprooting the kids at some point during their schooling.  With that in mind so many people have asked us why we are bothering with Irish?

As a trained speech-language pathologist I could argue the benefits of learning a second language through immersion at a very young age.  I could site smaller class sizes and innovative teaching methods.  But if I’m honest none of that really matters. When it comes down to it there is only one real answer why we are sending the kids to schools taught via the Irish language…

Because they are Irish.

There will be many uncertainties & challenges that these years of education will bring for our family, but language probably won’t be one of the big ones I’m guessing.

Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.

Being Mommy, Uncategorized

The Great Doll Debate

September 17, 2014

Today is Princess M’s 4th birthday.  FOUR. That is a big, proper, kid age.  There is nothing childish about 4!!

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion around the gift.  For her first birthday Mom & Dad bought her an American Girl Doll….and not just any AG doll, the MOLLY doll that has since been retired.  The doll had been safely stored at Mom and Dad’s house for about two years; waiting for the flight where we weren’t weighed down with hand luggage so that we could bring her back as a carryon.  Last Autumn when the King returned to Ireland on his own he gallantly carried the doll with him.  It has been hidden on the top of a wardrobe here ever since.

So as the birthday approached the King and I had much discussion of whether or not it was time to give her the doll….

The box says 8+.  Just about every parent of an American girl knows the cost of the doll and how precious the bloody hair is.

We have watched the Princess play endlessly with her dolls and babies.   We wondered for how long would she be truly playing dolls.  8 seems so far off.

I even did the ultimate in research and googled it….and it turns out there are two sides to the ongoing (sometimes heated) AG doll debate.

If we gave her the doll we agreed we would have to turn a blind eye to any throwing, tattooing, haircutting and general neglect/abuse that may occur.  We had to decide if we were ok with the doll being loved while all real collector value is  lost.  We had to vow not to be precious about the doll…and to be honest we weren’t so sure  we could.

Ultimately it was one last birthday gift from Grandma & Grandpa, after a long year of missing them and the hope that playing with the doll might offer a comfort to us all.

Tonight mom is either up there cursing us for giving a 4 year old such a costly doll, or she’s keeping a watchful eye over two new friends sharing one toddler bed.


Either way, I’m sure Mom would agree in hindsight the pyjamas would have been a good buy!


Who I am & Why I’m Here

September 15, 2014

I’m sure most people take a “Blogging 101” challenge within their first year of actually blogging, but here I am some 17 months later…

I guess the timing is right since I seem to be having difficulty sitting down and actually writing.  The truth is that despite thinking about blogging daily, when it comes down to it I have no idea which way I am heading, or even if I want to continue.

When I started this blog it was easy to identify who I was and what my little creative outlet was all about.  I was an expat mom trying to share my Irish experiences with whoever wanted to listen.  My original intent was to impart any ‘wisdom’ I had gained in my 10 years as an expat and in doing so perhaps provide that ‘gentle nudge’ for anyone who maybe was daydreaming of throwing caution to the wind and following their own expat dreams…

but then life took several turns and I somehow lost my way.

First I became a mom again….and it turns out being a mom of two is a game changer.  It was the best turn life could take for me in 2013 but it was a massive learving curve.

Then there was one and then another major losses and well my life and this blog couldn’t possibly be the same.

And then there was a return to work, a new job and a seemingly uphill battle to balance life as a working mom.

All of this while still being an expat who loves living in Ireland and is homesick each and every day.

So it remains to be seen what Both Sides of the Atlantic becomes.  But then again every expat knows it’s the journey that matters.

Living Abroad, Missing Home

An Irish Independence Day

July 4, 2014

The alarm went off at 6:00 am this morning…as it does everyday around here. For the first time in weeks it was overcast enough to have to turn the lights on in the house. For a moment I thought to myself;

“that’s it, that’s the end of our Irish summer, and to think it’s only the 4th of July.”

Wait today is the 4th of July?!?!

I mean of course I KNEW what day it was, but somehow it crept up on me this year. I was totally unprepared for it.

I went in to get the Prince out of bed and was tormented with pangs of homesickness and guilt all mixed into one.

Happy 4th of July to my little Irish-American Prince and Princesses & not one thread of red or blue clothing seemed to be clean.

Not one salad of blueberries & strawberries with fresh cream for breakfast.

Oh well, in Cork it was another Friday morning and the end of a very long week. There was a real sense of “let’s just get this week over with” to me.

By the time we made it to my in-laws to drop the kids off I had already forgotten what day it was…maybe that was some sort of self preservation thing. But they were there with open arms, hugs & kisses & offers of a cup of tea before I headed off. Sure how else would they mark the morning of the 4th?

At tea break, as I was tucking into a fresh made scone with jam and butter I almost hung my head in shame when asked what I was doing to celebrate today.

How did I let this happen? I usually take today off! I usually pull out all the USA books and puzzles we have for the kids! I usually have the BBQ (& umbrella) ready to go!

Not this year. What’s worse was when I came home I realized our dinner was actually Shepherd’s Pie. I’m not so sure you can get more un-American.

The kids were happy, the World Cup was on in the background & all I felt was for the first time in a really long time I felt like a foreigner here and it was all my own doing somehow.

And as much as Ireland is my home now. I will always be homesick for home. Especially on the 4th of July.

mixed culture family

Soccer Solidarity

July 1, 2014

If you live in Ireland, any European country, or at least for me, if you live with my King, a love of soccer comes with the package.

I knew early on there were three beings in this marriage, me, the King and sport.
Any sport.

Not willing to be fooled I did bring my own sports to the house. We’ve got hurling, basketball, hockey, american football, GAA, baseball and rugby.

But soccer…which will never be football in Ireland because that would only be an insult to the GAA….soccer continues to allude me.
I am quite content to sit by and potter around on the iPad jumping from time to time as my gentle Irish husband yells profanities at the ref over some off-sides rule. But really I’m not paying attention.

It’s taken me 10 years to get that there are really 5 major leagues that matter in European soccer but don’t ask me to name them. Every year I comment on the anti-climatic end to the English Premier League (give me a good championship of any sport and I am hooked).

So given my ‘vast’ array of knowledge and experience with soccer, there wasn’t much choice as to which team I would back.

I unwittingly became a Manchester United fan long before the King put a ring on my finger, and despite my insistence that the children will one day ‘choose for themselves’ let’s face it their fate is already sealed by the King.

But then every four years it happens….

I can’t help but get utterly consumed by the World Cup. It’s the patriotism and pride in each country. The differences of race and culture all coming together for the GAME. The drama & excitement once we’ve moved beyond the group stages. The nail biting endings in a penalty shoot out. But most of all the images like this…….

20140701-210426.jpg www.commercialappeal.com

the obvious solidarity of team USA is palpabale. The pride and honor of representing one’s country get’s me everytime. A nation backing a team who stands together as one under one flag….

And if soccer can do all that…then maybe it’s time I learn the rules

Expat Life, Love Ireland, Missing Home


June 30, 2014


This October will be my 10th Irish birthday or as some expats in Ireland like to call it- my 10th Eire-versary. There will have to be some celebration to mark the occasion, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

It seems impossible that it will be a whole decade since I landed here with two suitcase and not even a rain coat.

I remember telling my mom they day I left I would be back in two years.
She simply said “You won’t.”
Moms are always right.

What started out as a two year stint to have Europe at my feet has become…..life.
An unexpected, far from perfect but joy filled life.

I have without a doubt lived more of my adult life in Ireland.
I have owned more cars in Ireland.
Lived in more houses.
Had more hospital admissions.
Had massive successes.
Experienced great saddness.

Ireland is home…..Syracuse is home.

Is it possible that as an adult I am more Irish while my inner child/teenager remains American at heart?
With every passing day I become more at home in my new country, but I still hold on to my native identity with all my strength.
I catch myself correcting my language…it is NOT ‘rubbish’ it is still ‘trash’ and some days I am making it a point to teach my dual passport holding children to be more AMERICAN. I wonder if it’s all in vain. Should I somehow learn to let go and just be?

Ten years is a LONG time.
I mean it’s a significant amount of time in my life thus far.
And yet I’m still not ready to leave (although I do reserve the right to change my mind).

As I reflect back on the past decade I can’t help but wonder what the next decade will bring. And in another ten years time will I still be lucky enough to have the dilemma of having two homes?

What have you been up to the past ten years?

The 9 to 5

Back to the 9-5

February 24, 2014


Today there was one last coffee and cake with my smallies before I head back the the 9-5 in the morning.

I am so so lucky to have had over 9 months off. I am also so so lucky to be returning to a job that I love with good people.

I’m not so sure I can say I have enjoyed my time off. Try as I did to make and remember happy memories, I know I will always look back at my time off as “the time when I lost mom and dad.” I hate that, but I am learning to accept it.

If I am completely honest with myself, I know that I am not cut out to be a SAHM. I have so much admiration and respect for the women who are. I love the idea of it, but I know it’s not me for the long haul. That’s not to say I don’t dream about handing in my notice and setting sail on other adventures. I just know for me work will always be part of the adventure.

My current 9-5 is being part of an amazing team that assesses, diagnoses and offers intervention to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. It’s a sad job but it also brings such joy to my life.

I love the challenge, I love being part of a team and I love helping others. I do love my job.

So why the worry??

I am just not sure how as a family we are going to function with two full time working parents. I know MILLIONS do it, but right now I feel like the house is going to fall down around us as it is….what happens tomorrow when we have to get out of the house all at the same time? How will all the laundry get done when the stupid Irish washing machines take 2 hours per load?!?!

I’ve also gotten really used to staying in my sweats all day and not having to engage socially with anyone in the outside world. It’s been easy for me in my grief to ignore everyone if I wanted to. And believe me there were a lot of days when I did. Starting tomorrow though I’m going to have to make an attempt at following the social norms at least some of the time.

I’m looking forward to new challenges, routine and using my brain but at the same time it all seems so exhausting too.
All I can do is take it one day, and one load of laundry at a time.