Friday, September 30, 2016

Isn't it Ironic?

Twice in the past two days bus drivers have asked after our family.  Yesterday when Hyrum and Spencer went to have his cast removed, the driver asked where everyone else was.  Today when Hyrum got on the bus a different driver, asked about Spencer and his arm.  These experiences make me very grateful for our time here.  People have been so kind and I feel like we have begun to be a part of the community.  I feel as though we could make a home here if we ever chose to.

The irony comes that if we were actually living here, we wouldn't ride the bus and wouldn't have had these experiences.  This trip has forced me out of my comfort zone in so many ways.  we've had to rely on others for some of our basic needs.  I have a new perspective on life and how so many people live either by choice or necessity.  I fervently hope, when we get home, I can be kinder and be more understanding of those around me.

In many ways, this is why we travel.  This is why we wanted to expose our children to different ways of living and thinking.  I hope they will develop greater compassion and understanding of people.  I hope this trip will help them to be humble and grateful for the blessings in our lives.  I hope it does the same for me.

Waylaid Plans and Recovery

Tuesday was suppose to be one of the warmest as well as least windy days of the week so the kids and I determined to head into Bray so we could check out a few shops and then play on the playground down on the beach.

As we walked up to the bus stop, Charlotte and Spencer ran a bit ahead of us.  Spencer bumped Charlotte and down she went.  I watched it and didn't think much of it until she got closer.  She was concerned with her hands and her knee, but I was more concerned with the cut above her right eye.

Once more, we got on the phone to the International help line for our health insurance to find out the best place to take her for stitches or glue.  I texted Hyrum and after a few minutes determined he needed to head home to either take Charlotte to the hospital or stay home with the kids.

I ended up meeting him at the train station and handed her off to him.  At the hospital, the spent about 2 hours doing neurological  evaluations since she hit her head.  Thankfully the wound was clean and they were able to quickly clean it and glue it together.  They also placed strips on it to keep it covered and help reinforce the glue.  Hyrum and Charlotte got home around 5 pm after being gone nearly 7 hours.  Most of that time was spent in transit.  Charlotte is bruised and limping but she will heal.  We hope this is our last trip to the ER for the next few months.

I am happy to say we were able to spend Wednesday as we'd planned to spend Tuesday.  It was very windy but we had a great time in Bray.  We stopped in a couple of shops including a bakery.  The kids each picked out a treat from the case to eat after their lunch.  We also bought a large loaf for lunch.  We bought gingerbread men, caramel tarts, an apple turnover and a couple of cronuts (these are so worth the hype).  We walked down to the Promenade and spent a couple of hours at the playground.  The kids had a ball.

I'm glad that in spite of Charlotte's mishap everything worked out well.  The kids enjoyed their time at the playground and their bakery treats as well.

Dublin City

After nearly two weeks in Ireland, we made it back for a real visit to Dublin.  We made our way through the little villages between here and there to return the car we'd had over the weekend.  It was quite funny because as we approached the city the car filled with the smell of garlic.  I thought maybe Ben had smuggled the minced garlic in his pockets but no, when we got out of the car, there was the smell.  It is just part of Dublin.

We wandered up and down streets.  We visit a kitschy souvenir shop for our requisite patch and fridge magnet as well as postcards.  Our next stop was the Post Office that played center stage in the Easter Rising in 1916 .  For 5 days the Rebellion leaders were under siege there before they were martyred for their cause.  Afterwards, we walked up the street to the memorial garden.  Together these sights were a wonderful testament to the cause for freedom wherever in the world they happen.

We went through the shopping district picking up some fruit as we went.  Then we crossed the River at the Ha'penny Bridge, it is a little foot bridge that was built in 1816.  There was a toll of a ha'penny to cross it hence the name.

We walked down to Trinity College where we went to the Book of Kells Exhibition.  The exhibition was a bit crowed and it was hard to see the exhibition with the kids. The Book of Kells is amazing though.  I love the artistry of the monks copying these sacred texts.  They had such regard for the things they were copying they took long hours to decorate these pages with intricate designs and great symbolism.  After looking at the Book of Kells we went to the old section of the Trinity College Library.  It was amazing.  Tall columns and rows and rows of books.  I wish I had a room such as that and time enough to read even half of them.  It was a lovely sight.

After our stop there we headed to the luggage store to replace one of our suitcases that died on our way here.  Then we were off to the park for a bit.  The kids quickly discovered the playground and had a great time running and playing out some energy.   Then we took an hour bus trip back to Enniskerry.  There we decided to grab some dinner at a little cafe called Poppies.  The food was tasty and they were good to get to us quickly so we didn't miss our bus out to our cottage.

It was nice to get out of the cottage and spend a day seeing city.  The weather was nice, warm and bright.  It was a good day in a nice city.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mr. J's Birthday and Baptism

He made it.  This kid was our earliest walker and talker.  So many things he has grown and matured into before his time but turning 8, he had to wait just like everybody else.

We started his birthday celebration in August, before we left, when Hyrum and I presented him with his presents from us.  One of the social opportunities presented to 8 year old LDS boys is the opportunity to participate in Cub Scouts.  His presents this year were his very own Cub Scout uniform with all of the necessary bits and pieces.  We'll get his patches sewn on when we get home.  He is really excited to be a Cub Scout.  We already enjoy working on his Bobcat and Wolf requirements.

On his actual birthday, he picked tacos for dinner, had an adventure with Dad to the British Museum, got a haircut at a "real" barbershop, and enjoyed his chocolate cake from the grocery store.  He also got to open up a couple of books and some candy to celebrate.  I think he enjoyed his day.

Our celebration continued with his baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  8 years old is the minimum age required for someone to be baptized into our church.  Since we were traveling and making arrangements was difficult we weren't able to do the baptism until this past Sunday.  We are so grateful for the Bray Branch (small congregation) here in Ireland that helped us have this sacred ordinance.  The building we attend church in here doesn't have a font for baptisms so our options were to go to another building or the Irish Sea.   While the sea would have made for a good story, it's a bit cold here this time of year so we opted for another church building.  We found clothes and the Branch Presidency was so helpful in making arrangements.

Sunday came and Jonathan was ready.  He was sober and reserved all day.  I think he knew the gravity of the choice he was making.  We've spent much of the past year teaching and reminding what baptism means and why we do it.  I really believe he gets it.  This was his choice for himself and I am so proud of him.  Our whole family, sans Ben, participated in giving talks and prayers while Hyrum officiated in the ordinances of baptism and confirmation.  We had the Branch presidency with a few of their children and the Relief Society President and her children (our new friends) in attendance with us.  It was a small group but there was great love in that room.  We are so grateful for the kindness and love we have felt while we have been here from these kind Saints.

It was a special day with a special kid!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Saturday we decided to go exploring since we had a car to get around with.  We had this great little car to get around in.  Driving in Ireland is only slightly easier than England.  Generally, the roads seem a bit wider and not as claustrophobic with hedges and trees.  We were headed through the Wicklow Mountains so after only a few minutes drive we were out of the trees and up in the moorland with its bogs and heath land.  It was so rugged and lonely there.  There were no houses, scarcely any trees and only a few sheep.

This car isn't for hauling a lot of stuff.  It fit us and only us.

After an interesting drive through the mountains we stopped at Glendalough, "valley of two lakes".  Glendalough refers to a monastic settlement, as well as the national park that surrounds it.  There is a Visitor Centre that has a small exhibit.  You can wander the grounds for free but the exhibit has a fee.  If we did it again, we'd research before hand and skip the Visitor Center.  It wasn't expensive but we didn't feel like it really added to our experience.  

It was a wet and cool day but the area was still beautiful.  The headstones in the cemetery both ancient and new speak to the history here.  Many were bent over with age and marked with mold and lichens growing on them in the cold damp climate.  I love the Celtic crosses.   Some of the headstones were new, within the past decade.  One of the principle ruins in area is the round tower.  It stands 100 feet tall with the door about 12 feet off the ground.  It is an interesting building though no one really knows why they were built.  It is assumed they were bell towers and markers for these settlements.  The Glendalough settlement was founded in the 7th Century by a hermit monk.  It later grew to be quite an important religious community though in 1214, after a Viking attack, the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough were combined its importance waned.

After exploring the monastic city we went for a walk with the intention of walking to the Upper Lake.  We didn't make though.  The walk was quite easy.  There was a well paved path and boardwalk the entire way.  As we walked, the rain intensified and we got a bit cold and wet.  That didn't stop us from getting ice cream though at a small "food-truck" park.  It was enough to fill our bellies for a bit as we walked back to the car.  Unfortunately, we discovered that proper rain jackets are probably something worth investing in when traveling in England and Ireland.  The kids and Hyrum were quite wet after our little walk,  Everyone was happy to get home, change clothes and turn on the heat.  

It was a cold wet day but it added a different kind of beauty to the land.  I enjoyed it, but then again it may because I was dry!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk

Our first Saturday here was beautiful.  We decided to take advantage of the sunshine and go for a walk.  Bray is the nearest town of decent size and sit right on the eastern coast of Ireland.  South of Bray is Greystones.  The two towns are connected along the coast by the Bray Head Cliff Walk.  The trail follows the coast just above the rail line.  It's fairly flat and even making for a good walk for old and young.  The trail itself is just over 4 miles but with our walk to the bus stop, from the stop in Bray to the trail head and then from the end of the walk to the rail station Bray we added another mile.  We spent most of the day on the adventure though the actual walk only took 2.5-3 hours.

The Promenade in Bray headed towards Bray Head and the Cliff Walk.

Those waves were mesmerizing.

Bray is an old Victorian resort town.  It still has that kind of air.

We started with the sun in our eyes and a bit of a cool breeze.  Bray Head was straight ahead as we walked the down Promenade.  It loomed before us great and green.  The sound of the waves called us on as we walked to the trail.  We spent a few minutes watching a sea gull bob on the water.  The kids thought it was quite silly.  The views of the ocean along the trail were beautiful.  It was really hard to get good pictures since the sun was in our eyes.  I hope to get down there again in the afternoon when the light is a bit more favorable.  As we walked, we occasionally heard the train rumble by.  Spencer was fascinated by the "train-track tunnels" and loved pointing them out whenever the wall dipped below his eye line.

Looking back towards Bray from the trail.

As we walked into Greystones, we passed a marina.  Jonathan loved watching the boats but Hyrum and I were happy to see again our helper from the train station in Bray.  We formerly introduced ourselves to George and his wife ans spent a few minutes talking to them.  It was a wonderfully unique opportunity to thank this kind man.  They are lovely people and I am so glad we ran into them.  It was a fun day together as a family and a fun way to explore and get a taste of Ireland.

Coming into Greystones.


Charlotte and I took a walk the day after we arrived.
The countryside is beautiful.  

Thinking about going abroad and living there used to seem so glamorous and exciting.  I must say that London fit that idea simply because there is so much to do and see and it's free!  We were going and going everyday enjoying that vibrant and lively city.  Since leaving London and arriving in Ireland, I feel like we've had a real dose of living life here in Ireland and by extension, Europe.

Strangely enough ; ) living here is just like living at home.  I do laundry most days, I bake bread everyday, mostly because the store is too far away to go often.  I worry about clean bathrooms and three good meals a day.  We also spend a couple of hours on school work as well.  The kids color pictures, read books, help with the dishwasher and other chores, and run around outside.

One for breakfast and one for lunch.

Spencer did get fiberglass wrapped around his plaster cast
and it comes off in a few days!!

Don't get me wrong, the scenery is lovely and we are enjoying this "holiday".  We are living about 15 miles from Dublin but it is quite out of the way.  Our cottage is west of a small town called Enniskerry.  Our plan was to utilize the bus system to get into Bray, where there are grocery stores, a playground and the Church.

Cliff Walk between Bray and Greystones, it follows the coast.

As we got more information and prepared to arrive, we learned that the bus comes to our stop about once an hour and doesn't start running until after church starts on Sundays.  In addition to that, the Dublin Bus drivers union has been in the middle of a wage war causing several days of strikes throughout the past two weeks.  Our misplaced reliance on the bus meant that the kids and I have been home bound.  Hyrum has found it difficult getting to work, walking five miles one morning to the train station to get to his office.
After our first Sunday, we decided that it would be prudent to rent a car on weekends both to facilitate getting church as well as being free to explore the area a bit more on Saturdays.

Sunrise on Hyrum's walk into work.

After London, I thought I would relish the peace, quiet and solitude.  It has been more challenging than I anticipated.  It has been lonely and we are all dealing with a bit of cabin fever.

We met some new friends at church the first Sunday.  They brought some extra toys and coloring supplies over.  They have been really supportive over the past couple of weeks, bringing things over, helping me attend a church meeting and just generally being around for us.  It has made a big difference.  We're spending some with them on Sunday but, it's sad to make new friends and have to say Goodbye so soon.  The church has generally so supportive and kind while we've been here.  I write more on that later though.

Kayla is a great lady!  Kindred spirits.

Homeschooling has been very challenging.  I keep telling myself it will get better and it is important.  I don't think I could ever do it full time.  I tip my hat to homeschooling mothers who are really teaching their kids.  It's a hard job especially when you have children of different ages and abilities.

All that being said, the time in Ireland has flown by.  We have a week left in this cottage before we start our tour of Ireland.  We're hurrying trying to get in the last few things we want to do and see.  It should be a good week.  

Home Sweet Home

So far we've used Airbnb finds for our accommodations because we didn't want to bring a lot of stuff with us for such a short time here.  After our experience in London, I was really nervous about our other places.  With each new stop, there is a bit of fear as we open the door to the new home.

After leaving London, I figured nothing could be worse, right?  Thankfully we pulled into this cozy home in Colerne.  The kitchen was spacious, there was a separate living area with toys, bedroom space for everyone and multiple toilets.  This place was in the middle of a charming area of Western England.  There was so much to explore, we would totally go back.

The driveway was lined with rosemary bushes.
They smelled wonderful.

It was nice to spread out a bit. 

Living Room

From Colerne we headed to a border town in Wales.  We stayed in a place called Beggar's Bush.  After a scary attempt at parking in the car park we emptied our bus and found ourselves in a rustic and charming refurbished barn.  The kids made friends with the horse.  Jan was a gracious host and we enjoyed our time here as well.  She had the best honey I have ever tasted for us.  That certainly sweetened the deal ; )

The stone in the foreground and then wood to the left are the exterior to our portion of the home.
It use to be a barn and those stone walls are thick.  There were a lot of original timbers inside.

The exterior on the other side.

This was a living room, fully equipped with toys!

Hyrum snagged this shot while I was trying to get things cleaned up
and we were getting ready for church.

We made our way a bit deeper into the glorious country of Wales to find even more beauty and a wealth of national pride.  These people are Welsh, not English and don't forget.  Here we stayed in a dated but comfortable home.  The host lived just next door with two children of her own.  The kids all enjoyed a bit of football together.

The views were amazing.

We are now in Ireland at another charming cottage.  It is clean and warm with plenty of storage and a yard for the kids to play in.  I can handle this for three weeks!!  So far we're 4 for 5 on the housing, so here's hoping we luck out for a few more stops before Germany.

Cottage Exterior

Field to play in!

Living Room and Dining Room

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hello Ireland!

Our trip to Ireland was on a ferry.  It was a mini cruise ship, complete with slot machines, duty free shopping, children's play area, movie theater and restaurant.  The kids were pretty enamored and could have stared out the windows at the sea rushing pass the entire journey.

It was about a three hour ride and from the moment we started moving until the moment I met the ground again I was a little woozy.  Hannah had bit of motion sickness too.  Thankfully, we had booked a berth in hopes that the little boys would take a nap.  That didn't happen but after we munched a bit more lunch, We turned off most of the lights and tried to rest.  Charlotte and Spencer really want to go back to the children's play are since there was a movie playing.   Hyrum was kind enough to take them while I laid down to try and feel better.  I tried to convince Ben to join me but he was having fun pushing buttons and exploring our little space.  After about an hour the older kids, Ben and I join Hyrum, Charlotte and Spencer.  We all "enjoyed" some Curious George until they made a final call for dinner.

We had meal tickets since we wanted to be able to get right to our cottage that night.  It turned out this was the best choice we made of the day.  Hyrum and I went down memory lane and enjoyed some Swedish meatballs while the kids enjoyed chicken fingers and french fries.  After dinner we went back to our berth and picked up our mess.

We made our way back to the restaurant level, turned in our room keys and sat down to watch the boat dock.  It was quite fascinating to watch the ferry come into port.  As we had boarded the ferry there were large semi-truck, as well as passenger cars in the hold.  As we disembarked, so did they.  It was if Noah's ark has opened but with vehicles instead of animals this time!

Dublin port wasn't great to look at so after we gathered our bags, I was looking forward to seeing a more attractive part o the city.  It did get better.  After the ferry we had to catch a train.  The ferry company had a shuttle to train station so off we went.  We hurried to the train station and thankfully made our train.  We were on the three for quite a bit.  It was rush hour and we filled a section with our bodies and luggage.  I don't think people like it very much.  The ride however was really nice.  Once we got out of the city, the train follows the coast.  It was really lovely.

We were pretty loaded down but we were determined to make it work.  As we were getting off the train a gentlemen took pity on us and helped us get everything and everyone off the train.  He started to give us directions to get out of the train station and then said he would just help us get out.  He took a bag, directed us to the lift (elevator) and after a couple lift rides (the lifts could accommodate half of us with suitcases in tow) we all found each other again and made our way through the turnstiles.

Our new friend, said good bye while Hyrum went to get our Leap Cards, passes for the buses and trains in and around Dublin.  A few minutes later though, he was back again with information about taxis.  I was so impressed with his willingness to help us out.  I was grateful for a complete stranger's help.  We were still about 30 minutes from our destination and it was getting to be a very long day.  His kindness helped easy the growing worry I had in my mind.

We were hoping to find a taxi van to take us to our cottage since we would have to wait nearly and hour for the next bus and that would mean we still had to walk about .5 miles before we got there.  With all of our stuff that was a bit daunting.  Taxis to go to the little village we were staying near are rather hard to find, add to that 7 people and 8 suitcases/bags and we couldn't find any takers.  We ended up waiting for the bus and riding the 30 minutes on the bus.

By the time we got off the bus it was very dark outside.  We were on this country road in the middle of nowhere with only a vague idea of where we were suppose to go.  We set off walking down this dark road single file with our phone flashlights on to see where we were going and help cars see our little caravan.  We finally turned down our lane and the fear was growing inside me.  Initially there were beautiful flowers, but quickly we were walking past junk piles, overgrown bushes and derelict-looking houses.  I didn't think things could get worse after London but I was beginning to think maybe they were about to.  We hit the end of the lane and it went from paving to gravel.

Just as I made it, Hyrum open the door to our new home.  We quickly got everyone and everything into the cottage, got pj's on and assigned everyone a room.   We were met with a clean, bright, sizable home that would suit us just fine.  I could finally relax, after we put everyone to bed.

Conwy Castle

View inside the Keep from a tower.

Conwy (pronounced Conway) Castle is a magnificent castle built on the northern Welsh coast by Edward I.  It is am imposing sight as we drove into the city.  It was part of a system of castles meant to impose English rule on the Welsh.  It never fell to enemy fire but once found itself ruled by a few Welsh rebels that snuck in dressed as carpenters.

This is a classical example of a fortified town with a central keep.  The entire city is fenced by a massive wall.  Then the castle itself has another wall and towers there.  It was a massive structure.  We were all in awe.  The castle sits on the bedrock below it making it quite strong.  There was a series of clues and placards for the kids to ind and learn from.  They gave details about the Welsh who took the castle in 1401.  The kids had a good time finding the clues and coloring their pictures.  They ended up with Welsh dragons and English lions on their cards which they presented for a badge.  It was a great way to keep them busy and engaged.

Jonathan liked looking for the murder holes and arrow slits.  Hannah wanted to find all the answers. Charlotte just wanted to sit, Spencer tried his best to keep up with the older kids without really understanding what they were doing and Ben just enjoyed being out of a harness for most of the time we were there. It was a great day a neat place to stop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jubilee Tower and Moel Famau

Our last stop in Wales was this great place on the edge of the Shropshire Hills, another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.   After getting settled in, our host told us about hike and playground not very far away.  The large hill is known as Moel Famau.  We took a trail from the playground area and walked up the mountain through heather and other plants.  It was pretty even for a while and then went sharp uphill.  In addition to the up hill we came into intense wind.   The kids were troopers though as we finished our climb up the hill.

On top of the hill sits The Jubilee Tower, a monument begun in 1810 to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III.  It was not completed and eventually ruined over time.  The older kids enjoyed checking out the views.  The views were amazing.  From the top of that hill you can see most of Wales, and into England.  

We ate a snack and then made our way back down the hill by another trail.  The trail back down wound through a sheep pasture though we didn't meet any near the trail.  The weather was overcast and windy but a good temperature for hiking.

After our hike we enjoyed lunch and then the kids quickly ran off to play.  The playground was bird themed.  There was a large swing that was like a large nest as well as a set of tunnels that also lead to nest-like tree forts. We enjoyed a few hours playing and them back to our house so I could get things packed up and ready to go the next day.