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Life: Some Highlights

February 23, 2014

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Today I was going through some old paperwork that I came across when I was last home. As my siblings and I began to go through things at the house we came across some random stuff.

Mom and Dad were both only children and we’ve begun to discover there are actually three houses of stuff crammed into every closet and drawer back home. Some items like the 26,800 toothpicks (no lie) we found are ridiculous. But most often we came across some real gems of our past. Mom kept so much stuff of ours as we grew. At first it was overwhelming and seemed like junk, but upon closer inspection I realized mom had through the years captured who we are in what she saved for each of us.

For me I found some of my early certificates and artwork but for the most part she kept my writing. She’d kept the best (and worst) pieces that captured my creativity and love for writing. Somewhere along the way I forgot or lost sight of that but going through my old stuff brought it all back.

I also found an essay written when I was 11…citing the highlights of my life so far. And ever since then I have been thinking if I wrote that essay today…what would the highlights of my life be?

Aside from the obvious i.e, marrying the King, creating a family with the Princesses and the Prince what other highlights have there been?

Getting my Masters

Learning True Lifelong Friends
Freshman year, a naive, homesick and scared college kid walked out of the elevator in the dorm lobby and slid and fell in front of what seemed about 100 people. Before I could pick myself up the guy next to me threw himself on the ground and made a huge distraction and that was the beginning of a life long frienship.

City Girl
Spending just over 3 years in Washington, DC where our local news was national news and I learned I had the strength to be on my own in a big city.

Phonecalls
Getting the phone call my first niece was born. And three years later standing with her when we got the call her sister was born.

The phone interview to Ireland with a glass of wine in hand….and the phone call when my would-be Irish boss rang to say I had the job.

Taking the Leap
Packing two suitcases and boarding a plane to follow my dreams.

Saying Thank You
The day before our wedding we had a BBQ rehearsal dinner. Since 80% of our guests were in fact out of town we opened up the BBQ to everyone and it was one of those amazing upstate NY Fall evenings when the world stood still for me and I was surrounded by people I love from across the world. I was so blessed to stand next to the King that night and thank and honor so many people.

Travel Champagne in France, Scottish roadtrips, a girls week in Tuscany, weekends away in Paris, Prague, London, Rome, Barcelona, Belfast, Amsterdam. Listening to the rain on a tin roof in Montagu, S. Africa, seeing natures beauty on safari. Learning that life is an adventure and there is something amazing to see everywhere you go.

But really my true highlights of life will always be feeling the arms of family hug me and hearing them say “I love you.”

That and those moments when you first reconnect with a true friend no matter after 5 minutes or 5 years….Hearing that love in their greeting.

I without a doubt have the best friends….including that pen-pal from long, long ago.

mixed culture family

I Surrender…

February 12, 2014

surrender

4 weeks.
4 family members.
4 doctor visits.
4 doses of antibiotics.
4 days spent sitting in the hospital (A&E to be exact).

Mommy has held it together. Administering meds, bleaching the house, a mountain of laundry.

Yesterday I surrendered.

5 doctors visits.
5 rounds of antibiotics.
The house needs cleaning.
The laundry is mounting.

Daddy has escaped to work.

There will be an insane amount of screen time today.

And if I can find the energy, a big pot of chicken soup and a hot toddy.

That is how this American in Ireland is going to shake this.

Anyone else have cures for winter’s illness where they are??

Being Mommy

It’s Raining….It’s Pouring….the kids are going crazy

February 2, 2014

And quiet frankly so am I….

It’s been a long, wet few months in Cork and once again the city is underwater this morning.

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/cork-city-quays-break-banks-at-high-tide-29970680.html

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/cork-city-quays-break-banks-at-high-tide-29970680.html

We’re in recovery from a recent bout of whatever is going around and having spent the entire weekend indoors we may quite possibly kill each other if we don’t get out today. Honestly, if we don’t get out for a bit everyday I find we are all cranky with each other.

I’m guessing the tail end of Storm Brigid (why are we suddenly naming our storms by the way) will rule out a walk or the playground today so it will be another indoor adventure for us.

My God I am sick of all the indoor play centres. It seems we’ve been touring the lot lately and I can’t take any more…not to mention they’re getting expensive.

This morning I stood at the window drinking my coffee and looking at the rain outside thinking “How am I going to occupy the Princess today?”

We’ve really had to get creative with our adventures lately so I thought I’d share some of of Princess M’s favourite ones.

Obviously these all what we’ve done in Cork but most of them can be adapted to anywhere really…

Grocery Shopping
I know what you’re thinking. The chance to do the weekly shop on your own is like a freaking holiday. I totally agree.

Outside of the weekly shop, a trip to our local supermarket can be an event around here. The Princess ‘writes’ her list usually of what we need to bake something or make something nice for lunch. We go to what she calls the ‘fun shop.’ They have those kid size shopping carts and on these adventures I actually let her use them. They also have self-scanning & she loves to scan the items, bag them and pay herself. I’ve found this adventure works best only when I have nothing to get myself and the Princess can really take charge. You’d be surprised how much time we can kill wandering around the supermarket at her pace on a rainy day.

Go for a Cuppa
Maybe I’m raising a coffee drinker, but the Princess loves to go for a coffee. Our favourite spot is a coffee shop with a big font window and high chairs (what 3 year old doesn’t like sitting on high chairs). We sit sipping our coffee and milk and play I spy or make up princess stories about the people walking by. The Princess loves these outings and I hope the Prince will enjoy a cuppa and some pirate stories all the same.

The Library
This is an obvious, free option and in our house we can’t get enough of the library. We even venture out to other nearby libraries just for a change of scenery. The great thing about a library is you can get so much mileage out of one trip. We can spend hours in the library looking for and reading books. Then when we come home we read and sometimes even act out the stories. Then suddenly its time to get ready for dinner & daddy will be home!!!

Visit the Pet Store or Garden Centre
The Princess loves our local wildlife park and farms which are all great for those dry days, but when it’s wet and I’m desperate we visit one of our local pet shops or garden centres.

Whether it’s fish, chickens, or furrier friends, the Princess loves going for a look and a chat with the animals. With two cats and a dog at home she knows that we have more animals than we can handle so she’s happy to just visit and get a special treat for our furbabies back home.

Muddy Puddles
Like the Princess’ favourite pig Peppa, sometimes there is nothing better than throwing on our Wellies and finding the biggest, muddiest puddles to jump in.

Princess M jumping loves Muddy Puddles

Princess M loves Muddy Puddles

Disclaimer:
This all makes me sounds like “Mom of the Year” which of course I am. However, I hate reading blog posts that make me feel ‘less than’ or inadequate…which I totally don’t intend to do. In the interest of being completely honest, Princess gets far more screen time than she should especially on rainy days. And I’m not going to apologize for that because quite frankly I’m doing the best I can and I happen to think that’s ok.

But if you have any great ideas to occupy my Princess on a rainy day please share!!!!

Love Ireland

After January Comes Spring…

February 1, 2014

After years of trying to fight it and deny it I am wholeheartedly embracing February 1 as the FIRST DAY OF SPRING.

In Ireland, February 1 or St. Brigid’s day is the start of Spring.

Now all of us non-Irish know full well Spring actually doesn’t start until the 21st of March, but this year I am saying to hell with it and saying so-long to winter!!!

20140201-164017.jpgSnow Covered Syracuse www.syracuse.com

Syracuse will remain covered in snow for weeks to come even if Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow in the morning. Having endured far to many long winters I’m ok with Spring starting today.

Of course we have the fire lit and it’s too bitter cold, wet and windy to venture outside, but I don’t care it’s SPRING!!!!!!

The evenings will start to get brighter, and by the end of the month there will be a ‘grand stretch to the evening.’

The mercury may not rise much but in a few short weeks we’ll begin to see the green stalks as the daffodils reach to the sky and start to cover the countryside with bright shades of yellow.

In our house we’re looking forward to throwing open the windows, hanging the washing on the line and endless games of football in the grass.

Happy Spring to everyone!

20140201-163511.jpg West Cork Daffodils www.fastnetweb.ie

Living Abroad, Love Ireland

Irish Healthcare

January 30, 2014
Irish Health Service Executive www.hes.ie

Irish Health Service Executive www.hes.ie

 

The King ended up in hospital not long ago….nothing too incredibly serious but still there was a sense of ‘here we go again.’

Technically we were private patients which didn’t mean much in our current situation.

For anyone thinking of moving to Ireland it’s important to know that there is in essence a two tier health system. For the most part healthcare is ‘free’ and paid for by the government. But keep in mind how hefty a healthcare bill it must be to pay for the wellbeing of 4 million people. Many (who can afford it) opt to buy private health insurance which depending on cover offers access to private hospitals or private beds in public hospitals.

As an American I can not bring myself to not have health insurance. This year we paid just under 2,800 euro for our private insurance. Of course to me this is reasonable considering where I come from. But the truth is Irish people are leaving the private healthcare system at the rate of about 5,000 per month because cosst continue to rise. Most employers do not contribute to private insurance…sure why would they when they pay taxes into the public health care system?

I wholeheartedly believe healthcare should be available to all, however, I don’t really think social healthcare works without a massive huge price tag.

Maybe the Swiss have it right but they pay considerable taxes & have a relatively small population (all of whom are socially expected to work and pay their share of taxes).

That said I had two babies with really good healthcare for absolutely free. I could have opted to pay additional to access private maternity care….after much consideration we opted to go the public route. This is a personal decision each couple makes.

In 2012, had I not had private health insurance I would have waited at least 6/9 months to have my gallbladder out.

Princess M is currently on a 2 yr waiting list for her potential fish allergy going the private route she will be seen in under 6 months.

There are many discrepancies between private and public health care in Ireland. Over the course of 10 years here I have availed of both. We are lucky that we can afford to supplement a strained public healthcare system with our private insurance.

Having seen hospital and doctors bills from the US and Ireland the discrepancy amazes me. In 2012 my private insurance paid around 6,000 euro all in for my gallbladder surgery….including anaesthetic and a 4 day hospital stay. When the summary for my mother’s recent week-long stay in a US hospital came it was nearly FIVE times that price…for no surgery and no anestetic. I still can’t fathom the difference.

I believe healthcare should certainly be affordable for all in every country. Not necessarily free but affordable and I guess I am thankful that relatively speaking it is affordable here in Ireland.

 

Expat Life

Why Everyone needs Expat Friends..

January 30, 2014

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wordsonimages.com

Obviously being an expat leads to endless opportunities and experiences that aren’t available to you in your native country. Personally for me the opportunity to meet and form relationships with people from all over is the best part of living an expat life. Upon reflecting on my expat relationships it struck me that everyone, expat or not, needs to have expat friends.

Expats have an open mind.
To leave your comfort zone and truly embrace things that are different requires an open mind. Expats often choose to live an expat life with a desire to understand others. We tend to be curious about other people/cultures. While we may at times disagree, a successful expat does so with an open mind and accepts differences.

Expats are dreamers.
Expats have had the audacity to dream big and take action. They put fear aside and took a leap. If you have a dream-no matter how crazy it may seem- tell an expat. An expat won’t shoot you down, they may just be the push you need.

Expats are optimistic.
Expats tend to see the good in their surroundings before the bad…it’s a survival tactic. If an expat lives in a perpetual state of negativity their new home feels like a prison and their expat life is at threat of an end. Sure we all have bad days, but expats can’t allow themselves to wallow for long. An expat learns to focus on the positives in their life to outweigh the negatives (like home sickness and missing family). If you are in a rut and feeling down, find an expat to help you get reacquainted with the beauty around you.

Expats are rarely idle.
Part of being an expat is living with the knowledge that the current life may come to an end. Expats know all too well that one place may not be home forever. With that in mind expats are keen to take in and see as much as possible in their current location. If you ever wanted to experience something unique about your own home town or area, an expat is great company and always up for a weekend trip or local adventure.

Expats never say goodbye.
Well maybe it’s the exact opposite. Expats are always saying goodbye. We move on, we see our other expat friends move on, but’0l living an expat life teaches you that friendship knows no boundaries. We really do keep in touch. A true expat friend will always stick beside you no matter where in the world they are; and they are excellent at long distance friendships.

Living Abroad, Love Ireland, Uncategorized

5 Reasons I love Christmas in Cork

December 28, 2013

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Galway Continental Christmas Market 2013

I didn’t think I would ever get into the Christmas spirit this year but the past week has surprised me.  It has been hard at times but to be honest it has been far better than I had anticipated.  I enjoyed it….and of course felt guilty about enjoying it for a while but I’m not going to reflect on that.

The truth is I have always loved Christmas in Cork. 

There are so many reasons why Christmas in Ireland but today here are 5 of my top reasons.

1.  Finishing Up

At some point in November at my 9-5 we all start talking about ‘finishing up.’  Everyone wants to know when everyone else is ‘finishing up’ for Christmas.  When you get into the second week of December the evenings leaving work are filled with someone in the office wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas & New Year as they skip out of the office for the holidays.  Even though I wasn’t even in work this time I loved getting texts from my colleagues telling me when they were ‘finishing up.’   As much as I was up to it I tried to meet friends for a drink or a coffee as they finished. We got out our 2014 calendar the other day and the King and I are already talking about when I hope to ‘finish up’ next year. 

2. December 8th

As any good practising Catholic knows the 8th of December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  In Cork it is traditionally the day the people in the country travel to the city to do their Christmas shopping (after mass of course).  It is the official start to Christmas time in this house.  While we always decorate on December 1st, the 8th is when we start to crack open the ‘Christmas press’ where we have stashed all the goodies (i.e., chocolates, biscuits, mulled wine, etc) when visitors come to call.  And they will call all month long.

3. The Gift of Time

We buy very few gifts for people outside the family.  Aside from teachers and a few people who went above and beyond for us, or just needed a special gift this Christmas we just don’t exchange gifts with our friends.  We do however make it a point to be with and see as many people as possible over this festive time.  The days are busy with visitors, lunches, coffees, and evening drinks but it’s connecting with people we love that the business of life sometimes keeps us from that this time is about for us.

This is a huge change from my Christmases back home….I would often give gifts and sometimes spend very little time with my friends.  I imagine this is because Americans tend to have less time off and are busy with their families of course. 

4. The Holiday Parties

I know that most places have the obligatory work Christmas party both in Ireland and the US but to be honest I love it here.  Although I didn’t attend this year either the King or I had a holiday party every week from the 29th of November.  There are work parties,  I have team parties for the teams I am on at the 9-5 and then both our jobs have kid friendly family parties. 

5. Santa is an Event

In Ireland you have to start early to do your research and book your trip to Santa.  There are countless Santa experiences around Cork that are amazing.  Although costlier (anything from 20 euro per family or PER CHILD) they usually entail a half hour to hour long visit to a Santa wonderland of sorts which of course ends with a visit to the Mr and Mrs himself complete with a photo and gift!  It hands down beats the mall experience of Santa back home.   Although  while we were home in November  we did visit Santa at Destiny, USA with the cousins and I have to admit in the eyes of my 3 year old Princess the only thing that matters is the man himself!!!!!!

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I miss Christmas at home.  Christmas dinner just isn’t the same to me here and lets face it as someone who grew up with White Christmases each year it’s never the same without snow.  The King and I have also worked hard to combine our traditions.  There are plenty of home baked Christmas cookies in our Christmas press, and our gingerbread house is made.    But the fact is, its the 28th of December and it is still very much Christmas time here until at least the 2 January.

Living Abroad

The Grief of an Expat

December 23, 2013

I have taken the past few weeks off from blogging to somehow start to come to terms with the recent loss of both of my parents. And while I now recognize grief will be a life long process I understand I am only beginning to discover what this actually means.

I never anticipated that like most aspects of my life, being an expat has an impact on how I am grieving. In more ways than one.

The Irish Don’t Know Them
I am truly lucky that I have an amazing network of family and friends in Ireland that dropped everything to help us out and be there when we needed it most. But the reality is, few of my friends here ever met mom and dad, and even fewer had an opportunity to really get to know them. It’s sometimes hard having to give adequate background information when I want to share a story or memory. And although everyone is so willing to listen and support me, they simply don’t have a memory or story to share with me in return.

How will I ever repay my friends?
It was the love and support of friends I have known for a lifetime that got me through two funerals in two months. There are no words of gratitude and I simply can not help but feel guilty and wonder how I will ever repay it to them. Will I even be able to be there and hold their hand when they bury their own parents?

The Randomness of Life
I think I have a great relationship with my sister and brother but the truth is they are busy and have their own families. Everyday I shared with mom and dad the randomness of life and all the experiences of living abroad. The truth is I miss so much being able to share the random things…..i just don’t think my sister or brother will care as much as mom and dad how I just discovered they actually do sell corn syrup here, only that it’s called something different. There are just some things that only your best people really care about and I feel like I’ve lost my two best people.

Everything Reminds Me
I thought I would get off easy with the memories. Mom and Dad were only able to visit me in Ireland twice so I figured it would be easier because few physical things or places would remind me of them. The truth is everything reminds me of them. There really is no way to escape grief.

I don’t think being an expat makes grief easier or harder but I do think it is different.

While there is crushing saddnes in our lives right now there is the immense joy that can only come with a new baby in the family. There are days when my heart moves from feeling painfully broken to swelling with wonder and love in a matter of minutes. The fluctuation of emotions is if nothing else exhausting.

And while this week will be the first Christmas without mom and dad, it will also be the Prince’s first Christmas…and we’ll get through it.

Uncategorized

Mom

November 28, 2013

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When I wrote my last post, I was just getting into the idea of posting more regularly throughout NaBloPoMo.  I was just getting into the swing of things, using blogging to recover from the painful grief of loosing my Dad in September. We were adjusting to a new normal.

Less than 24 hours after writing that post I was on a plane headed for NY.

Within a week I was holding my mother’s hand asking her to always look after the kids as she went to be with Dad.

Two months to the day we laid Mom to rest with Dad.

There are no words.
No words anyone can tell me.
No words I have that can make any sense of this.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am in NY.
The whole family is.
Mom should be here.
They both should be here.
We didn’t have a single holiday mourning Dad and now we mourn them both.

And yet life is still moving forward.
We’re getting up and moving forward everyday.
The kids need us.
We’re adjusting again…somehow trying to figure it all out.

But the truth is I have no idea how to do it. How do you keep going when the two people who have been there championing you and getting you through your entire life are gone so suddenly?

And then in my mind I can hear them…and all the years of love and wisdom and I know that somehow I’ll figure this out.
Mom wouldn’t have left so soon if she didn’t know we’d be ok.
But that rational side of me is too overcome with emotion now and all I want is for them to be here to make pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving Mom & Dad. I miss you both.

Being Mommy, Living Abroad, mixed culture family

Lunch, Dinner, Supper, Tea…. It’s all really very confusing.

November 11, 2013
Irish Bangers and Mash

Irish Bangers and Mash (Photo credit: cobalt123)

This is what has been happening in my house lately…

The King goes off to work in the mornings and its hugs and kisses all around.

We say “Have a good day Daddy!”

and he says

“You too, I’ll see you at dinner.”

And it’s all smiles and happiness.  We usually have a quiet morning playing, baking (and yes sometimes t.v.) or whatever in the house because the Prince goes for a GREAT nap mid-morning.

All is happy and for the most part calm in our little corner of the world until around noontime when this happens:

Me: “Are you hungry Princess?”

Princess:  “Yes Mommy”

I then proceed to make a mostly nutritious lunch when all hell breaks loose and I get this:

“I’m not hungry!!!!”

“I don’t want that”

“Daddy, daddy, ….DAAAADDDDDYYYY!!!!!!!!!”

“Where’s DADDY?!?!? I WANT DADDY?!?!?”

And the battle begins and continues (albeit intermittently) for the next 4-5 hours depending on the day and when Daddy is due home.  Of course she does manage to eat…she has to refuel for battle right?

I am ashamed to admit that by 5:00 I sometimes find it hard to find any joy in my darling daughter who up until recently has brought me nothing but joy.  Ashamed, I look forward to the days she goes to pre-school and I am most certainly now looking forward to returning to work myself.

But most of all I feel like a failure.  What happened to all the fun we were having?

Since she has turned three she has becoming increasingly independent and strong-willed.  For the most part I can roll with it & keep reminding myself how much this will stand to her as a young woman some day.  But this lunch time crap is a whole new level.

However today, in a major “A-ha” moment,  I think I might have discovered the root of all this drama (and trauma to be honest!!).

In Ireland the main meal of the day is called dinner (like most places).  But the thing is, dinner can be very interchangeable.

For example, sometimes our Sunday dinner is at 2:00….most always it is when we are visiting the King’s family for dinner.  Sometimes we have it at 5 or even 6 if we have plans during the day.

Growing up the King most certainly came home to a ‘dinner’ after school everyday with an evening tea or light meal.  Come to think of it my Dad always talked about growing up similarly and had a light supper most evenings.

I grew up in a house where dinner was almost always at 5:30.  Dad worked and we had our dinner when he got home and we ate it all together.

Now, while I am on maternity leave, if the King finishes at 1:30 I almost always have a ‘dinner’ ready at 2:00 or 3:00 even during the week. That is if Princess B has no after school sports.  We usually then have a light tea or supper then at 6ish (I still struggle to call a light evening meal tea.  To me tea will always be a hot drink).  In our house we try to always have dinner together.

At pre-school Princess M has “small lunch” or what I would call snack at 10:30 and “dinner” at 12:30.  The pre-school dinner is indeed a well balanced, 4 food group, hot meal.  So yes, it’s dinner.  But even on those pre-school days she still comes home and we have dinner together as a family at 5ish.  We always call it dinner because the King and I have only eaten a lunch that day.

Today,  when she asked me at about 10 this morning what was for dinner I told her chicken because that is what I am making this evening.  When I put soup and a sandwich in front of her at noon.  She ‘lost the plot’ as the Irish say, and screamed she didn’t want lunch, where was dinner. WHERE WAS DADDY??!?!?!?!?!

And I finally got it…to Princess M, dinner means Daddy is home.  Because the only thing that is really consistent about dinner is we are usually eating it together.    And sometimes this dinner in the middle of the day.

Even though I was feeding her a lunch she liked. It wasn’t good enough because in her little world it should be dinner, right now so Daddy would be home.

And it is traumatic when your king isn’t there when you are expecting him to be.

So after an afternoon of frustrated tears and me trying to explain the whole three meals of a day thing,  things are calmer.  For today anyway she is ok knowing that dinner will be served at 5:00 and King Daddy will be here for it.  She was even ok to eventually have lunch with just her and Queen Mommy (and the Prince).

So now the King and I will have to regroup and decide on if we are going to change our semantics or what.

Just as I was thinking my kids wouldn’t grow up feeling like third culture kids since they are Irish and will be able to identify with the Irish culture,  perhaps having two parents of different cultures really will pose its own challenges for them…..