Halloween in Dublin

We went with a few of their buddies from creche. I have no idea why I didn’t emphasize the candy part of Halloween sooner. After the first house, G’s eyes were wide with excitement as if he couldn’t believe his luck. “Let’s go to the next house!” he said, after every house.

This is another friend. The three of them would shuffle to a door and knock one at a time in a back-of-the-wrist, barely audible knock, then they would step far back from the threshold, apparently in case they encountered something other than a candy-offering stranger. A few households invited us all the way in, in the tradition that the children would do a song or dance for their treat. The moms ended up performing on behalf of their children. All we could come up with was the theme song to “Bob the Builder.”

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A quick hello from Rosslare (playing with our new camera)

The last few days of my mom’s visit we’re spending down in Wexford County at Kelly’s. It was beautiful this morning on the beach.

It’s hard to believe we are now into our second year in Ireland. The boys have grown so much.  I wish I had done a better job of maintaining the blog for them.

Hope you are all well and I hope to catch you up on these very busy weeks in which I visited the Irish President’s House, met my very distant Irish relatives, and went to Powerscourt.  No tonsillitis since August (all fingers crossed.)

toddler on the beach

Moving target

We’re having a big “Cars” moment in the house

Ice cream moustache

There’s a playground right on the beach

The Jersey Shore of Ireland

We have found the Jersey Shore of Ireland.

Just a 20-minute drive through bucolic green hills of sheep and cows, and distant, shimmering water, lies a fantastically tacky seafront with rides, arcades, souvenir shops, and tragic teens called Tramore. (On rainy days, it also has a warren of corrugated metal buildings known as an industrial park, where one can find such offerings as a paint-it-yourself pottery place, and two different indoor play areas for children staffed by surly teens.) I love it, in the way I loved Coney Island before most of it was razed to make way for luxury condos and hotels, and in the way that it reminds me of preteen summers in “The Sound.”

The morning started off well enough. This is the view from People’s Park in the village of Dunmore East

C in training to be a polar bear with his Gramby. The cold water did not deter him at all.

Based on the 12-year-olds with thigh-grazing hair, severely drawn-in black eyebrows and terra-cotta canned-tan skin that made them look almost forty, there is a reality show opportunity here. One appeared to be wearing a peach toga she clutched at nervously while on a ride. I wanted to scrub their faces clean. “You are my pale people,” I would say. And I would promise they would find someone to love them.

How can you not love such a defiantly summer place even when there is no real summer at all? (Yes, I should have brought my wool coat. In August. To our beach vacation. I am paying for my psychological block against doing this.)

We discovered Tramore out of desperation. Following a morning where we had already gone grocery shopping, eaten two breakfasts, gone to the playground, and the beach, we thought the boys would nap. The rain had started and so we went back to the place we are renting to put the boys down. Thus began the games: G hurled himself out of the pack ‘n play with the skill and body torquing of a pole vaulter. For an hour and a half, we tried threats and low voices. We had throbbing headaches from not enough sleep ourselves. Finally we took them into our bed, and when they still wouldn’t sleep, we put in a DVD. Fear not, American Academy of Pediatrics. TV is no opiate for my children.

We had to get out of the house.

C started having an epic meltdown out of sheer exhaustion. I think the trigger was putting his jeans on, or maybe his socks, but whatever it was we had to carry him, rigid and screaming, to the car. They were out within four minutes.

It is clear that when away from home, we need to be either: 1. Out walking in the stroller during their nap time or 2. In a car driving. It means there is no napping for us, no real downtime, until they finally crash at night. Of course it was too late now for them to have any real nap, so we needed a massive distraction.

Some may call Tramore a blight. For us the blinking, garish lights and din of shrieks and pumping bass arose from the Southeast shore of Ireland like a beacon of hope in a desert afternoon of parenting. The boys drove remote control trucks, rode fire engines, bounced in a trampoline.

G asked: “Are dere mans up there?” Somehow it rained 20 minutes away, but not here

Today we went back for the circus.

Hello from Dunmore East

Today began our planned holiday, so of course that means we found ourselves running to an emergency vet appointment, and Sascha sitting on top of our toy car trying to get the lid of the luggage carrier to close. (Sashi is fine, but she had an infected cut, possibly from a rumble with a lane cat. Also, to those of you who think my cat is a bitch, the vet said “there’s something royal about her.” So there. She can’t help being superior.)

We are in the “sunniest corner” of Ireland and it was beautiful when we finally arrived. Here’s to summer vacations (with no wi-fi). What are your plans?

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Scenes from the weekend: St Paddy’s Day in Dublin and Bray

There was a funny email going around Sascha’s office last week about what it means to be Irish:

  • Describing someone with longstanding, persistent and untreated psychosis as “a character.”
  • Saying “There’s definitely no recession here!” every time you see more than 5 people in a pub.
  • Saying “Ah but he’s very good to his mother” about some utter langer
  • Liking TK Red lemonade and white pudding. Not together of course
  • Your ma or da greeting you with the phrase “d’ya know who’s dead”?
  • That mini heart attack you get if you go out and forget to turn off the immersion
  • You’re not drinking??? Are you on antibiotics?
  • Wallpaper on your school books
  • Being Grand!!
  • Boil everything in a huge pot for 3 hours
  • Being absolutely terrified of a wooden spoon.
  • Learning a language for 12 years and not being fluent
  • Going absolutely mental at concerts because famous people rarely come over
  • Knowing that Flat 7UP heals all illnesses
  • Calling Joe Duffy or any radio station instead of the Guards from my HTC/iPhone!

I got a good laugh over most of them.  I also laughed over Frank McCourt’s explanation. He was writing about Limerick in this quote from Angela’s Ashes, but it’s still applicable:

Above all — we were wet.

Out in the Atlantic Ocean great sheets of rain gathered….The rain dampened the city from the Feast of the Circumcision to New Year’s Eve. It created a cacophony of hacking coughs, bronchial rattles, asthmatic wheezes, consumptive croaks. It turned noses into fountains, lungs into bacterial sponges.

This past weekend was perhaps the most recognizable celebration around the world of being Irish–St. Patrick’s Day.  I don’t know why in the U.S. it is St. Patty’s Day, and here it is very definitely St. Paddy’s Day, but it is.  After three sinus infections (something I’ve never had a problem with), and some pharyngitis, laryngitis, and conjunctivitis, I’m pretty sure my respiratory tract looks something like this:

I now understand what "catarrh" is

So I did not attend the parade. Sascha took the boys and braved the crowd of 500,000 revelers to see the parade in Dublin. Some had been there for hours to reserve a spot. Many had brought ladders to stand on; others climbed atop the monuments and statues in the city centre to get a glimpse. The boys could see only when their dad hoisted them onto his shoulders.

On Sunday, we drove south to Bray and visited the The National Sea Life Centre, a small aquarium.

Hi!

Giant octopus! It seemed to respond to our touching the glass.

Touching a starfish. It's not the most impressive aquarium, but the staff was great with kids and there was a playroom with ball pit inside

Bray has the slightly faded, dilapidated feel of seaside resort towns that have seen better days, like spots along the Jersey Shore or Coney Island, which is part of its charm. There was a carnival along the water so we rode the carousel. The boys had great fun digging on the beach and the sea air helped clear my head for a few hours.

Bray Head

Christmas recap

Is it too late to recount our Christmas in Dublin? It’s halfway through January already and I think I’m only now nearly-recovered from the sicknesses that plagued us into the holidays.

I do not have cute pictures from the boys’ carol sing. I should have seen it coming, the high expectations and the inevitable fall. G had been spontaneously singing “Jingle Bells” all week. If I sang “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and left out key words, C would fill them in. So what if they thought you dashed through the snow in a “Norse-pen play”?

At the creche holiday party, the lights were dimmed and the kids were to stroll in carrying “lanterns.” Only before this could happen, our boys broke rank, crying “Mommy! Daddy!” and we had to pull them out. They wouldn’t wear the Christmas tree hats. They were very bah-humbug. So there we sat on the tiny classroom chairs, with them clutching us, and back into the pockets went the cameras. Apparently in public, G & C are wallflowers.

As the final countdown toward Christmas began, I could feel myself getting sicker and sicker. (So you out there who is searching for the Dublin stomach bug 2012 and arriving at my blog, read on!)

Note the box of tissues and the red blanket covering one of the cushions, where we had to remove a cover that had been vomited on

I almost didn’t think we’d make Christmas — not that it wouldn’t come, because it always does, but that we’d be too ill to acknowledge it in any real way. On Christmas Eve, S was the color of Silly Putty and unable to touch his food. Earlier in the day, G had vomited, which I had attributed to the antibiotics he was taking for the ear infection after his month-long cold. I have been feeling a cold virus replicating into my bronchial cavities for days.

Sascha’s cousin from South Philly, whom we just call Aunt Giovanna, arrived into our den of sickness to spend Christmas with us before going on to Milan. Despite the transatlantic flight and the time change, she looks glamorous and well-rested, in sharp contrast to us in our various stages of viral takeover. She is bearing loads of fruit and gifts for the boys. G falls in love instantly with “Joe-Bonna.”

Christmas Eve with Giovanna.

Giovanna spent many years working for Luciano Pavarotti, and I think this anecdote illustrates her wonderful personality. Apparently, Pavarotti was so distraught at the end of one affair that he threatened to kill himself, phoning his manager to say he would throw himself out the window. His manager, frantic, got in touch with Giovanna. Obviously accustomed to histrionics, she responded, How could he fit? He’s too fat to fit through a window.

Giovanna is an original.

We had plans to spend Christmas day with Ciaran and Siobhan and family. They told us to come despite risking contagion, dismissing whatever we might have as something they surely already had. On Christmas morning, I have no real voice but I think I am getting better and I manage to make two pies. Pumpkin:

And this sea-salt caramel apple pie, which was a huge hit and well-worth making again.

This pie helped me get my pie confidence back

The finished pie

Ciaran had cooked such an amazing meal and we were so lucky to have such a warm Christmas celebration together.

We toasted to good health, and really, really meant it.

Sláinte!

New Year’s Day Dublin 2012

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Dear reader, It’s been a while. I hope you missed me. I am surfacing after the typical pre-Christmas feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed, but it was compounded by a nasty cold virus, then a stomach bug, and the boys … Continue reading