Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Day I Looked for Fall

 Last weekend the sun was shining, the leaves were turning as close to bright fall colors as they get in this country. My family was antsy for adventure. 

So in the spirit of adventure, we packed a lunch, a camera, and three little bodies into the car and headed out to a part of the coast we had never been.

I'm growing very aware that we are on the other side of this two-year adventure - the downhill, easy part.
 And I am very conscious of the fact that I don't just want to coast through it.

Otherwise I might miss this...
And this...

And the next 8-9 months could go by with me sitting on my computer planning our future instead of ever seeing this...

It is easy to be comfortable with this place now - it is like being home - so much so that I could become paralyzed by the fear of leaving to start our next adventure.

 And that could make me look more like this...

So lately I've been trying to create adventure in this place that has become so familiar to us that it would be easy to assume no more adventure exists.  

I still miss my friends of the Midwest, the dinner parties, and the pumpkin lattes of "home", but for now I'm gulping up the warmth and rooting myself in this other place...

Our Now Home.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lessons Learned

Being a parent is damn hard.
I know - strange that I'm just now acknowledging this.  The truth is that I'm just now realizing this.

I've always prided myself in being a very laid-back parent.  Until this past year, there were very few things in my life I could honestly say I was "laid-back" about, but parenting was one of them.  I thought my less-is-more approach would teach them independence and creativity.  I even thought it would allow them to broaden their social skills.  I've always thought that I could have 4+ children and still have time for hobbies and businesses that would nourish my soul creatively.  I thought I would be able to take my small army of children out to restaurants or to other countries and expose them to all sorts of experiences.  I assumed learning would come naturally for my kids, and that I could just nurture their creativity because the rest would come automatically.  I thought my children would share everything, and own nothing - becoming best friends, roommates, and the best of playmates.
I tried very hard to do all of these things.
But friends, I was wrong.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've tried even harder to make sure my role as "Mom" didn't interfere with the rest of my life.  

I'd like to assume that there are parents out there that can be laid-back and it totally works for their kids.  There must be people who have a zillion children and still manage to keep a life full of adventure completely apart from being a "Mommy". (Although I grow less certain of this everyday.)
I hope these things are true, but I am unsure of them.

This is what I know for sure:
  • I know that my oldest son needs a mom who will walk and talk him through appropriate social situations and reactions to social situations, rather than just allowing him to figure it out on his own.
  • I know that my children need their own space.  And their own things.  And when they can take ownership in the above, they also learn to love and play together more like friends, and less like forced siblings.
  • I know that my children gain nothing by being forced to go out to a restaurant as an entire family.  Those social skills I thought I was teaching them in these situations?  They are much better learned one-on-one during special times out with one of us, or just as easily in our own dining room at home.
  • I know that to live the life I want, and pursue the dreams I have, then my new dream is going to just have to be a family of three boys - and I am completely and totally okay with that.  In fact, the idea of it makes me smile.
  • I know that I can't just take my kids to the park and sit on a bench, like I want to.  Some parents can.  However, I have a son that needs me up in his business and teaching him the tools he needs to interact and play with other kids - including his brothers.
  • I know that for the time being, playdates won't just be me having coffee with another mom while our kids play off somewhere unsupervised. I know that I actually am scared of playdates as it stands now.
  • I know that moms (or dads) that make the conscious decision to have many kids, and to raise them well, also make the conscious decision that it will be their full-time jobs for a bit of time, and other things may have to be put on the back burner the first few years.
I know these things now.  You could say I'm a slow learner.  My dear friend Tiffani would say I'm too hard on myself.  I don't think I'm harder on myself than any other mother out there - I'm just willing to broadcast it, which someday may lead to regret.

Maybe I should have sat myself down awhile ago and given myself a stern "talking to".

Maybe better late than never. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ten Things I Know to be True on Tuesday... or Wednesday

  1. When you have a baby here everyone says to you, "well done!" after they've had a peak at the little guy.  I love this.  Mostly because it makes me feel like I've seriously accomplished something.  And I did.  I had to put up with a lot.  I should get some sort of "well done" for that.
  2. The best part about being in Northern Ireland right now?  The fact that I can ignore all political ads, and watch the debates only when I want to.
  3. The worst part about being in Northern Ireland right now?  I totally miss fall.  I'm homesick for all things apple, pumpkin, and orange.
  4. Ever since our one-year mark came and went I suddenly feel panicked about leaving - like it is just coming too quickly.  I know this year is going to fly by.
  5. After being followed around repeatedly by whining and demands, I decided that my children needed to have better manners.  Although I have always encouraged them to say "please" and "thank you", I read two weeks ago about a mom that claims her children are so polite because she models by example.  After audibly scoffing at the idea that I wasn't already doing that, I made the conscious decision to be overly polite to them - saying "please" and "thank you" even when it doesn't feel very natural.  I'm shocked to report that the woman might have been on to something.  Both Miles and Liam's manners have improved greatly.  Oliver, on the other hand, still has a way to go before he stops demanding things of me through little mini tantrums.
  6. Everything is easier at home.  I do love it here, and I love Belfast - the closest city to where we live.  However, I find it incredibly difficult to find anything easily in a city I'm not familiar with.  I need to pick up a pack of Mod Podge?  I can tell you exactly three stores in Peoria that carry it.  In Belfast?  I have no idea - and trust me, I've done my homework.  I find trips into the city to be somewhat unproductive and frustrating.
  7. Yesterday I had to pleasure of meeting many important people in Northern Ireland - from politicians, to hotel financiers, to Liam Neeson's mom.  It was great fun, and I got to photograph everyone.  When I finally introduced myself to Kitty Neeson I was so star-struck that all I could say was, "I also named my son Liam!"  Her response?  "Oh, that's nice dear..."  I could tell she was super impressed.
  8. I love Liam's stories.  He has so much to tell me.  He also has all sorts of scenarios going off in his head. I wish I could find a way to capture his words and hold on to them forever.
  9. I don't spend enough time telling Dustin that I think he's an awesome partner in this adventure.  I do, however, spend too much time telling him how I would have done things differently, or why he's wrong. Oof.
  10. This is my favorite picture today...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ode to Fall

^ How I recently found a little piece of autumn in N. Ireland ^

Dear Autumn in the Midwest,
I miss you.  I miss your pumpkin festivals and brightly colored leaves.  I miss the football games I never went to and the sound of the marching bands off into the distance.  I miss the sight of pumpkins and dead corn husks on everyone's front porch, and the awful Halloween decorations that adorned the front yards of my neighbors.  I miss the sound of rustling cornfields and of campfires on a cold night.  I miss apple orchards and hayrides.  I miss apple cider and anything with pumpkin in it.
Oh how I miss pumpkin. 
I miss pulling out my fall sweaters for the first time, and those few weeks when it's too cold for a t-shirt, but too warm for a jacket.  I miss the anticipation of Halloween and everyone dressing their kids up in age-appropriate and not-scary costumes.  I miss Homecoming games...(did I just say that?).
I promise to never take you for granted.

Sure, here I have the sea and cliff.  I have a beautiful mountain to the west and a patchwork quilt of green fields at every turn.  Don't get me wrong - it's beautiful.
But YOU'RE beautiful.  And I will never again take for granted how you make me feel.  I promise to love you and your brightly colored leaves for as long as I live.  I promise to never down-play how amazing you are.  I promise that you still hold my heart cupped gently in the smell of harvest.

I promise next year I'll be back.  I'm not sure yet where, but I do know it will be somewhere with plenty of canned pumpkin just waiting to be made into every edible pumpkin concoction I can think of.

Until then, this crappy pumpkin latte I found will have to do.  (I know what you're thinking, how can you mess up a pumpkin latte, right?)

Yours truly,

Saturday, October 13, 2012

a prayer...

and a reminder of what our children can teach us:
O God, you have called us
to be like little children.

Give us the eyes of a child - 
curious and determined
to see what is going on.
Give us the ears of a child - 
sharp and attentive
to hear your word of love.
And give us the energy of a child - 
expecting a response
and confident that we can change the world.

Janet Morley

Thursday, October 11, 2012


John Donne, in his infinite seventeenth century wisdom stated simply that, "No man is an island."
I love and believe that phrase.
But I also believe it to be true only 90% of the time.
I also believe that throughout a person's life he or she will have various moments that allow their transformation into an independent land mass surrounded by waters that allow no one within close proximity.  I like to call this the "unvitation".  These are lonely moments in a person's life, and an island is she.
One can become an island by choice - choosing the safety of one's own company over the bat-shit crazy that is outside one's door.  Or maybe one simply can't stand the sight of one more unapologetic mullet. 
One can also become an island through sickness.  From what I understand, being diagnosed with a terrifying disease, or a terminal illness is one of the quickest ways to feel as though your life is being played out on a deserted island.  It is easy to assume that no one could possibly know what that kind of hell it feels like.  No one does know.  At this point no one would blame you for the moat you've created around you little mass of land.
Or one can imagine the existence of an island - at first having the appearance of other mothers ignoring you at the school drop-off point.  Later you hear that someone has called the school principal because of foul play in the school yard.  You imagine being scorned and judged.  Your shyness can be misread as distaste.  You choose to sit in your car instead of socializing with the other moms.  You're terrified of what they think of you.  You've created your own island.
It is of your making.
It's time to get in your boat and figure out a way back to the mainland - into the world of bat-shit crazy and bad haircuts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


  • Name: Ollie
  • Age: 2 months
  • Favorite food:
    • Anything out of a breast....and on extremely desperate days, a bottle.
  • Likes: 
    • Long walks on the beach (as long as he is bundled up in a carrier and no wind is hitting his face.  Come to think of it, there doesn't even need to be a beach involved.)
  • Dislikes: 
    • Sleeping.  YOLO dude.  You can sleep when you're dead.
  • Favorite inspirational quote:
    • "He's my best friend." - Miles (the big brother)
  • Can be seen doing:
    • Very little - he's only 2 months old.  sheesh.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy Chuseok Festival

A Day to Give Thanks...

We decided to share it with our Corrymeela family by making the tradition songpyeon (rice cakes) and delicious fruits that often accompany the family festivities.

I even tried my hand at making my own songpyeon.

You're totally impressed, aren't you?  Well don't be.  They were easier than I imagined once I got over my initial fear of steaming something on pine needles.  And they were tastier than I anticipated.

We took our festival foods down to the Main House to share at dinnertime with the volunteers who don't often get to see fruit that doesn't come in the shape of an apple, banana, or orange. 
The idea was to share, but I think Miles and Liam ate half of the fruit between the two of them.

Miles did the "Moment of Silence" and announced "Happy Chuseok" to everyone so we could explain what it means to our family.

즐거운 추석 보내세요.
Have a Happy Chuseok.
(Or, rather, we hope you had a Happy Chuseok.)

Love, Us.

Monday, October 1, 2012

One Year in our Flat

Well, as I wrote a few weeks ago, we've been here for officially one year now.  When we first moved here I posted a bunch of photos of our flat the day we got here.  A lot has changed in the last year, and they have been wonderful in letting us take some ownership in decorating the space in order to make if feel more like home.  You can see the transformations for yourself.

Our living room:
They actually let us paint this room and we did some other things to it just to make it feel more like our own space.  It has been a lot of fun to figure out how to decorate with no money.  It takes me back to when we were first married. :) 

This is the largest bedroom.  It started out as the boys' room, but we quickly took it over (they're little = they take up little space.  (And plus I'm a little bit selfish.))  You can see a guest appearance from Ollie in the second bedroom shot. :)
The bathroom:
Unfortunately I don't have a before photo, but trust me when I say that this is a VAST improvement.  We were able to paint the walls, which proved to be a challenge because of the already-green tile.   We also got a shower curtain and rug to brighten it up and bit, and painted the side of the bathtub (which was a wood color).
This is the guest room:
Pretty much the same except for a few basic things.

And finally, the boys' room:
It started out as our room, but then we switched, and it has worked out great ever since.