31 December 2009

I come to this place to write - once a year, it seems. It could be the proximity to the sea, or perhaps the familiar American coffee. The street lamps might inspire me, or the way the wind dances down the street. Maybe it's the giant mermaid in the park, or the beautiful mothers and their beautiful babies.

Sitting here, staring down the sea, I feel freedom the most.

After a few minutes, I will fasten my jacket, pull on my hat, face down the wind, and walk towards the train. Towards home. Where beautiful babies wait for their mother.

Ireland at Year End

Hunched over with covered eyes
Waves of puddles in streaming streets
Christmas music fades away
My cup is full and warm
but I am cold

The wind breaks backs and hearts
Sea wrestles land for control
The end of the world seems near
My cup is full and warm
but I am cold

Best of the Double-Os

30 December 2009

So a friend of mine posted a blog post on the top 40 songs of 2009. I'm not as adept a music listener as he, but it inspired me to make my own list. So here's my:

Top Forty(two) Songs of the '00s
(in no particular order... actually, in reverse alphabetical order)

  1. 1st of july / Foy Vance (I have no idea what album this is from, but my sister gave it to me so I heart it)
  2. yahweh / U2 / How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  3. Work / Jars Of Clay / Good Monsters
  4. When Your Mind's Made Up / The Frames / The Cost
  5. When You Were Young / The Killers / Sam's Town
  6. When The Saints / Sara Groves / Tell Me What You Know
  7. When It Was Over / Sara Groves / Add To The Beauty
  8. Viva La Vida / Coldplay / Viva la Vida
  9. Use Somebody / Kings of Leon / Only By the Night
  10. Universe & U / KT Tunstall / Grey's Anatomy Soundtrack, Vol II (I think)
  11. tribute / Tenacious D / Tenacious D
  12. This Too Shall Be Made Right / Derek Webb / The Ringing Bell
  13. Sweet Child o' Mine / Taken By Trees / Sweet Child o' Mine / Above You - Single
  14. Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking / Snow Patrol / Final Straw
  15. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) / Beyoncé / I Am Sasha Fierce
  16. Sing To Jesus / Fernando Ortega / Storm
  17. Shiver / Coldplay / Parachutes
  18. The Scientist / Coldplay / A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  19. Run / Snow Patrol / Final Straw
  20. Rocky Took A Lover / Bell X1 / Flock
  21. Revolution / Jars Of Clay / The Eleventh Hour
  22. Politik / Coldplay / A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  23. The Planets Bend Between Us / Snow Patrol / A Hundred Million Suns
  24. original of the species / U2 / How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  25. Open Your Eyes / Snow Patrol / Eyes Open
  26. Oh My God / Jars Of Clay / Good Monsters
  27. Maybe There's A Loving God / Sara Groves / All Right Here
  28. Magnificent / U2 / No Line On The Horizon
  29. Lies / Glen Hansard / Once (Music from the Motion Picture)
  30. Kite / U2 / All That You Can't Leave Behind
  31. Jeremiah / Sara Groves / The Other Side Of Something
  32. Is It Any Wonder? / Keane / Under The Iron Sea
  33. He Said She Said / Bell X1 / Flock
  34. Falling Slowly / Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova / Once (Music from the Motion Picture)
  35. Crazy In Love / Snow Patrol / Up to Now
  36. Clocks / Coldplay / A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  37. Chicago / Sufjan Stevens / Illinoise
  38. Breakeven / The Script / The Script
  39. Blessed Be Your Name / Matt Redman / Blessed Be Your Name: The Songs Of Matt Redman
  40. Best Of You / Foo Fighters / In Your Honor [Disc 1]
  41. Beauty Of Uncertainty / KT Tunstall / Drastic Fantastic
  42. all because of you / U2 / How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

What's my criteria? Well, if I can play the song on repeat like 10 times and never get tired of it. Or if only by hearing that one song was I moved to purchase the whole album. Or any song that made me laugh and/or cry out loud ("Tribute," for instance, accomplishes both of these things). Some of these songs might not be the best of the whole decade, but their my favourite. What are yours?

My Year in Status on Facebook

Nook & Nest

24 December 2009

I have a nook and a nest. When I lay down on the sofa, one squirmy child finds her way between my neck and arm - the nook, whilst the boy plops down behind the curve of my bent knees - the nest. Apparently I have the perfect body for two children, with a nook and a nest. Where do I put the third? There's just not enough of me...


Thanksgiving update and some other stuff

02 December 2009

Update: Thanksgiving was a success! It was quite the international event, as we had friends from Zimbabwe, Germany, Ireland and Northern Ireland here with us. I'm not sure how much they enjoyed the football, but the company was great and it was nice to again have a full house.

Now we are enjoying a visit from Matt's parents, which is so wonderful and much-needed. We had such a brilliant time with all my parents here that once they were gone, we were quite bummed. And the kids so needed grandparent-time again. I hate to think that it'll come to and end too soon.

And thanks all for your kind words about dear Ella. She's back to her hell-raising self, pic below to prove it:

Ella as Flower Power

Keenly aware

25 November 2009

We had every ambitious intention of hosting a Thanksgiving gathering for our Irish friends. Really we did. But then Ella was hospitalized for four days and all hell broke loose.

I was doing fine with it. Really, I was. On Friday evening a friend drove me and the boys to the hospital so I could spend a few precious minutes with the girl and collect the car. It became more complicated due to the hospital being closed to visitors, especially children, so we waited in the cold for Matt to trade with me. The boys, so good, spent a good majority of the weekend waiting in the car in the dark and the wind and the rain. For the first 2 1/2 days, I handled that OK. It was lonely, it was stressful, it was exhausting driving back and forth twice a day - a half hour trip each way - carrying the baby to and from the car, nursing him in the front seat, feeding Jackson fast food (when I remembered to feed him, that is). I was handling it. I was super single Mom.

Then Sunday afternoon the doctors told us she'd have to spend one more night in hospital. I was with her all afternoon and early evening while she slept, reading a book in a recliner by her bedside. I thought to myself, for no particular reason, that there was no one. No one to call. No one to come visit her. No one to leave the boys with. No one to bring us food. No one to remind me to feed Jackson. No one to update. We were in the midst of a real health emergency, and I felt as if I had no one.

I cried all this out in the empty children's ward and on the phone with Matt. He reminded me that the boys were fine, Ella was on her way to being fine, and we would all be fine once she was home. "But I'm not fine!" I shouted to him. I'm not fine. I needed my family, I needed a friend, I needed someone to help me put the boys to bed and to stay with them when I was at the hospital. I needed to be in the same room with Matt. I needed Asher to take a bottle. I was in need. And that feeling really sucked.

The truth is, there are people here. We aren't alone. There are people who love us here and who we love. But having been able to rely on my family and close friends for years and years, I have no idea how to ask for help from new friends. I cry help, but only in my head - never out loud. Thankfully, I have Matt, who asks for help on my behalf. He passed the boys into the open arms of our wonderful neighbour, came to the hospital, and held me. The first time in 3 days we had been in the same room. He knew I needed help.

So Ella just came home on Monday, the house is a mess, I am a mess, and our Thanksgiving plans are now a mess. So instead of serving everyone a big dinner, we've invited them over to share in some American football joy, our favourite Thanksgiving tradition. I need the company, I need the companionship. I hope it comes.

No pigs here

22 November 2009

So we thought the swine flu had infiltrated our house. Ella had been sick for nearly a week, Asher was sounding gross as well, and Mommy had seen better days. Turns out that E had a major chest infection and is currently spending her 3rd day in the hospital. Good news is she's feeling loads better (as evidenced by the picture below), though still needs some monitoring for the oxygen levels in her blood. Hopefully she'll be released today. We're so happy to be getting our Ella-monster back. It's been quite an ordeal.

Oh, and Asher has bronchiolitis. He's finally starting to eat better, but a sick baby who can't breathe through his nose is an angry baby. Mommy's hanging in there, too. Sore throat and unbelievably runny nose, but still kickin' it.

Long week.

Late nights are good for writers

07 November 2009

I was just thinking that I wish I had time to write or update the blog, but seeing as how I've usually got a child in my hands or around my legs, the writing has been one of those things I've had to sacrifice in order to be an attentive parent. However, Saturday nights the man is away late at youth group, the kids are finally in bed (for now) and I'm finding myself with just a bit of time before the laundry buzzes and the pacifier falls out in order to write.

Now, what to say...

Like everyone else in the world these days, finances weigh heavily on my mind. It's actually been a downright scary few weeks, coming face to face with the possibility of leaving here sooner than expected. But a good friend of ours says all we need to worry about is having enough for today. And amazingly, God has given us enough for all the days up till now and the weight that's been hanging on our shoulders isn't as heavy as it was at first. We're planning on staying put for now, but I have a tendency to prepare myself for disappointment anyway.

This week the boy said something sad that made me audibly gasp and reach for some kleenex.

"It's too bad I don't have any friends." He didn't seem particularly upset about that realisation, but I was!

I said, "Jackson! You don't think you have any friends?"

"Well, I have pretend friends. And that's fun!" he replies.

What is a mother to do? What on earth do I say when I know it is, in fact, a true statement? The child does not have any friends. I think we've dropped the ball somewhere along the way... I'm so sad that the ball that was dropped was a need for our child.

The baby boy is tearing me apart in altogether different ways. Why is sleep always the issue? I'm facing the prospect of permanently giving up caffeine. Not something I'm looking forward to doing, but again, this mother is at a loss on how to proceed otherwise. I just realised that I'm not just a mother, but I'm a mother of boys. Plural. I worry next to nothing about the girl (she's a tough girl, with a capital T), but it's the boys that I fret over. Is that weird?

Oh, and I'm thinking of cutting off all my hair. There's only so much pulling and tearing and spit-up one head of hair can handle in a day. Thoughts? Is it really smart to cut one's hair super short if it is thick and curly?




IMG_4270 IMG_4265

I should be sleeping...

25 October 2009

...but Asher's not, so I gotta wait him out before I hit the sheets.

The man is away in London right now at the NFL game. I'm glad he got to go, but I hate being alone in the house at night. Ever since I walked into my mother's empty house (aged 18) at 3 am in the morning minutes after it had been ransacked by thieves, I just don't do well home alone in the dark. I mean, I really really hate it. Which just goes to show you how much I love him. :)

So when the man's away, I try to stay up as late as possible until I can't keep my eyes open any longer and then no longer have the wits about me to be too afraid to sleep. I do this one of two ways: by watching movies and tv shows downloaded from iTunes, or playing on the internet. Tonight is internet night and I have found myself completely drawn into the world of a baby boy who died three years ago.

I'm not quite sure what it is about this story that intrigues me. I mean, there's the God component. I saw the family on Oprah a few weeks ago and I knew just from the sound of the story that they were believers. Then there's the fact that I just gave birth to my own son, who for some twist of fate or luck or providence is totally, completely healthy. (I always wonder at the supposed randomness of God's works. I mean, I know it's not random, but I really do wonder why He chose me to be the mother of healthy children and yet He chose others... well... it's too hard a question for me, I guess).

And then there's that the baby's name is Eliot. This was the name we chose for the baby we lost in 2005. I've never told anyone that, that that was the name, anyway.

Even though I only discovered this story now, years after the fact, I desperately wanted their Eliot to live. I am completely enraptured by this story, by the pictures, by the faith, by the grief. I really don't know why. I do know one thing, though. This family knows God in a way I don't yet know Him. For that, I long...

Baby blues

29 September 2009

Ireland 2009, Day 1 066

So I'm feeling a bit trapped at the moment. The girl has a fever, the baby has colic, and when the man is at work, I'm stranded in the middle of the country without a car or a friend or a sister.

(sorry, tears came so I had to pause)

When the girl was fussy as a baby, I would just pile everyone into the Jeep and take them to Target, or go have lunch with my mom downtown. I'd visit my stepmom and nephews after school or take the kids to the park in the city that I loved so much. But here I can't do any of that. I just sit and wait and pray, hoping that eventually everyone will fall asleep and I can rest or cry, usually both.

Oh, but the big boy is brill. As long as I keep a steady stream of crisps and cartoons coming, he's happy as a clam.

So this is a joyful post. 9 more months and we go back to the States for home assignment. Is it wrong that I'm almost nearly counting down the days? Guess I'll just chalk it up to baby blues. It's normal, right?

Decisions, decisions...

15 September 2009

I've been thinking about penises a lot lately. How's that for an opening line? Well, in actuality, I've really been thinking about the circumcision issue. Now that we've had a boy in a European country, we've come face-to-face with the controversy and confusion over why or why not to circumcise. I'm not going to list all the reasons to or to not circumcise - I'm sure we all have our own. But that having been the decision we made for our first son - and were on our way to making for our second son - we now find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.

Originally, we were totally set on the matter: circumcision was the way to go for our boys. Being Americans, we viewed it as a cultural issue, as well as a health issue. However, now residing in Ireland, having your child circumcised is way easier said than done. Upon Asher's birth we were looked at with a bit of disdain by the attending pediatrician when we asked about our circumcision options. We were told that it would be at least 6 months before Asher could be circumcised, he would be put on a waiting list, and then when it was his turn, he would be put under general anesthesia for the "operation." This did not sound ideal to me. I thought briefly about obtaining the services of a Mohel and having a psuedo bris, but this didn't seem like a particularly honest or ethical option, either.

So, our names have been sent to the local pediatric surgeon, and I'm waiting to hear from him with lots of trepidation... needless to say, I'm extremely hesitant now about circumcising Asher. I'm just not sure, in the long run, if it's really worth it.

Having babies brings about writer's block

10 September 2009

Since my brain is sleep deprived and incapable of putting more than a few words together, here instead are a few of my favourite pics of my burgeoning brood:




introducing Asher

God and books and stuff

10 August 2009

So I've been reading this book, Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. Now Miller is the same guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz, which everyone I know has read, and either a) adored it and are obsessed with it, or b) hated it and are obsessed with trashing it. Either way, you gotta admit a guy who can write a book that elicits responses like that must be just shy of genius.

Anyway, so as I wait for this baby to be born, I've been reading this book. And I've been reading not just because I don't have much else to do besides wait for the baby, but also because lately I've found myself really thirsty for some spiritual conundrums. Church hasn't quite been doing it for me lately, which I feel really guilty about considering that one big reason we're here is to do "church". And really, that's probably not very accurate, we're here to follow and try to be Jesus as best we can. It just so happens, that more often than not, those notions get intertwined with attending church.

It could be that I'm not really getting much out of church because I've only been able to go about twice a month. The truth is, I've not been well. Besides being ginormously with child, I've been living with daily migraines. I wake up in the morning, and it's there. I drink water, I drink juice, I intake caffeine, I refrain from caffeine, I push tylenol, I try to nap... you get the picture. These migraines last until early evening, when strangely I'm finally given a reprieve. After spending all day in bed with blinding pain behind my eyes, missing my children and begging God to take it away, I'm able to eat dinner with my family, play a bit with my kids, get a bit of work/cleaning/baby prep done, and then spend the rest of the night trying to prepare for sleep, which I know will only end in me waking up, yet again, with another migraine. (It should be noted that I have mentioned this to the doctors/midwives I see when I go in for my antenatal appointments, but they don't seem to be really concerned...).

So, yeah, I've missed a bit of church. But even when I've been there, I'm not really paying attention. Or I'm confused. Or I get frustrated (which, as you know, is a common Pregnant Karen symptom). In all honesty, this happened probably just as frequently in our churches in the States, so perhaps it really is me and not the church... at least, that's what I'm starting to get a handle on.

So I decided to pick up Miller's book because Blue Like Jazz moved me so deeply and I thought, if I'm having a hard time at church, if I'm having a hard time concentrating on prayer, if I'm struggling with studying the Bible, and if I've got these horrible headaches which keep me bed-bound most days, I need to read something that might open the window and let a little fresh air in. Or I need to read something that makes me feel less crazy and less out-of-control. (The end of pregnancy does have a habit of reminding you how freaking little you control in the first place.)

I thought that perhaps I should just share a little bit of this book with you, not in a review-y sort of way, but in quotes and small morsels. Miller reminds me a lot of my sister, Jessica, who knows that there are no easy answers and really thinks it valuable to spend a good, hard time figuring out just who Jesus is, just what the Bible is talking about, and just exactly what we are to do with our lives, knowing that information. So when I read Miller, I kinda feel like she and I are having a conversation, like we used to do in my living room in KC, with our anarchist cousin, and my husband keeping us all grounded (and trying to keep us quiet so we wouldn't wake the children with our shouting).

So here are some quotes from Searching for God Knows What. They are tidbits of thought that I have read at the doctor's office, in the bath, laying in bed with a fan directly on my face, or on that one sunny day where I could read in a chair in the back garden (with a hat on, mind you, so that the sun wouldn't aggravate the migraine). No matter where I was when I read them, I either laughed or cried, out loud. Sometimes I gasped. And occasionally I would pray and thank God for blowing my mind, or at least touching my heart just a wee bit.

(at this point, I hope you're still with me...)

About God, the creator:
Whatever it is that understands the physics of this thing that is happening to us would have to be quite remarkable, with giant oaks for feet, perhaps, and a voice like wind through a forest and a mind that creates creations of which it might ponder in a way of learning what it already knows.

About us and what we believe about God:
In my opinion, there are two essential problems with believing God is something He isn't. The first problem is that it wrecks your life, and the second is that it makes God look like an idiot.

About Jesus, and John the Evangelist:
The way John writes about Jesus makes you feel like the sum of our faith is a kind of constant dialog with Jesus about whether or not we love Him... John seemed to embrace the relational dynamic of our faith... He revealed how none of the disciples truly understood Jesus and how they were all screwups, and he didn't make himself look good, either... That's guts, if you ask me.

About nudity and the Fall:
I wondered why it was that when people talked about the fall of man, about the Garden of Eden, they never talked about how people went around naked. If you ask me, the most obvious thing that happened after the Fall was that people started wearing all kinds of clothes... I mean, evolution may explain how we came from apes, but it does nothing to explain why we wear clothes.

And that's just all in the first 70 pages...

Baby Question Mark

23 July 2009

Until now, we have been referring to the womb baby as Baby Question Mark. Well, there is no longer a question as to what this baby is. A sonogram this past weekend confirmed we are expecting a baby BOY! 

We're all pretty psyched about it and can't wait to meet this little one. The sonogram also showed that while he is a bit on the big side (at nearly 35 weeks he weighs 6 lbs, 1 oz), everything looks good and there's no need for worry. Apparently short people carry big. Ha! 

As I'm sure you can tell from previous posts, it's actually been a quite difficult pregnancy, emotionally and physically. I know a lot of you have been praying for this pregnancy and our baby - I'm so thankful! 


14 July 2009

A couple of updated pregnancy photos... I feel that I've never ever been this big before, though clearly that's not the case as I gained 60 lbs with Jackson and somewhere around 10 or so with this one (I'm guessing - I have only been weighed once here, praise God).

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DSC00856 copy

Freak Out

06 July 2009

Because you know how much I love Top 10 lists, here is a list of things I'm freaking out about. 

(Note: Some of you are new to Pregnant Karen, but several of you who read this are more than familiar with the wacky, illogical and hysteria-like ramblings of Pregnant Karen in her 3rd trimester. To the new people - I hope this doesn't make you question your judgment in following my blog.)

Top 10 Things I'm Freaking Out About

  1. All the crap I have to buy just to take into hospital with me. I don't want to give birth in a night shirt with pink hearts on it. And what if this baby is huge and all the newborn things I have to take to put him/her in don't fit? And bring my own towels? Seriously? My hospital bag is already full and I still have to find/get about 6-10 items!
  2. How on earth are we going to fit three child carseats in the back seat of our car? It's not like we can just get a new one, or trade up like normal people. 
  3. What if we run out of money/funding and have to move back to the States with a newborn? How permanent is this home we're bringing a child into? And where would we go or what would we do?
  4. I can no longer bend over, so I feel like everything around me is a dirty mess or falling apart and all I can do is just stand there and cry or try to talk the children into doing my work for me, which isn't going really well.
  5. I have still not met my doctor. At this point I hope I don't have to meet him and can just have a lovely midwife/nurse/stranger by my side during delivery. 
  6. This baby is measuring three weeks ahead of where he/she should be. I have now been put on a several-week-long waiting list for a sonogram. But I'm sure everything's fine, right?
  7. Potty training.
  8. The boy and girl won't sleep at night. They wake up at varying intervals screaming/crying/talking and then wake the other one up and then it takes hours for them to go back to (and stay) asleep. Am I to assume I will be getting up in the night with THREE children in a matter of weeks?
  9. How do I take maternity leave from a "job" I technically don't have? And can I start now?
  10. How is this all going to turn out? Will we be OK?

Welcome to Week 33.

Thoughts on the definition of home...

02 July 2009

I've found myself a bit homesick lately, which has come as a quite a surprise. Not that I didn't expect these feelings to come and go at irregular intervals, but because when I was back "home" I didn't really love it the way I thought I would. And I really wasn't that upset about leaving it and coming back to the new "home". And I've been wondering about the nature of "home" and if it's really the place/people I'm missing (though there are places and people that I do definitely miss), or if it's more the feelings that being "at home" bring about. 

Being known by people who've known you for years and still love you anyway. Feeling normal or at least not out of place. Walking into a shop or cafe where friends are waiting for you. Knowing exactly what you want to order/buy and exactly how much it'll cost you. Living under the same light as everyone else - no spotlight, no magnifying glass that burns your skin when pointed right at you. Feeling the freedom to make slight mistakes without the resulting feeling of complete failure.

Whatever it is, there's a feeling in my chest that's growing sore. I can't put an exact finger on it, determine the cause, or prescribe an effective antidote, but it's there and leaving me weary.

So my new rule with a sobering post is to also reflect on a praiseworthy thing (see below). My praiseworthy thing this week: over this past year, the definite recognition of one new friend, who came over for tea last night. It may seem small to you, but it is a huge, praiseworthy thing for me. 

10 Years and Counting

26 June 2009

Today we celebrate 10 years of wedded, imperfect, beautiful bliss.



19 June 2009

I just spent the last few minutes reading through the first few blogs of this now 1 year old blog. My first thought was, "Wow, I used to be a really good writer." My second thought was, "I'm so glad I had a place put some of this stuff, emotions, thoughts, ideas, silliness." My third thought was: while there is a LOT of a hard stuff (sometimes overwhelming, all-consuming, truly terrifying hard stuff), I love Ireland and I love what we do. The hard stuff (hopefully) comes and goes, but I do love it here.

Thanks for joining me on this journey so far. I hope there's much more to come...

Anything Praiseworthy

16 June 2009

Because the last two weeks have been so horrible and I often have a much easier time reflecting on all the horrible happenings, I'm going to take a lesson from Philippians and reflect on all the awesome and/or praiseworthy things that happened in the last two weeks:

  1. Jackson lost his first tooth, which was totally awesome because a) I didn't have to be there or pull it out for him, and b) he is SO brave.
  2. Got to have coffee/tea/diet coke with a couple of good friends, talking through some stuff and remembering that I am so blessed to have good friendships here.
  3. Had 2 great doctor's appointments. Baby is doing really well and it is so cool to hear Ella giggle every time she hears the heartbeat.
  4. Weather has been, for the most part, totally beautiful. I even have a bit of a suntan!
  5. I'm at that point where people will offer me their seats on the train. So nice.
  6. We got government approval (like a visa, but more like an ID card) to stay for another year in Ireland.
  7. Got some shopping done for the baby and for the hospital (a big relief to not feel totally unprepared).
  8. Got to go into Dublin twice in 2 weeks, which is a very rare treat.
  9. Went out for drinks with a new friend, a fellow book club goer and Alias fan. And by drinks, I mean 7-up. She abstained on my behalf. Very thoughtful. :)
  10. Had one really good hair day! I don't remember which day it was, but I do remember looking in the mirror and thinking, "Wow, lookin' good, Mama!"


05 June 2009

So, this week has kinda sucked. It appears I have yet to master the art of Irish communication. At the end of the week I wonder, is there a grand conspiracy at work or am I just missing something...?

To start, this week the boy's school celebrated International Day. Two weeks ago we got a letter home about it, encouraging us to teach him a song or story from his homeland. The letter said there would be more communication coming forthwith about the whos and whats and a concert that we would be invited to. Cut to the actual day of the event, when we realized we never received anything else about the day. And trying to pry information out of a distracted 6-year-old never works in your favour. So, we dressed him up in his Royals jersey, gave him a quick refresher course in the Rock Chalk Jayhawk and sent him to school with a "My First KU Words" book to show his teacher. And I went about my day...

Cut to 1.45pm, when the boy arrives home from school asking, "Mom, why didn't you come to my concert?" Turns out there was an all-school assembly where the international students from each class performed their bits. "Were there other parents there?" "Yes, Mom." "Did you do anything special?" "I said the Rock Chalk and my teacher read my KU book." At this point I'm near tears. "I'm so sorry! Were you sad I wasn't there?" "No, but I missed you." Commence breakdown. My first clue that I may be missing something or may just be brain-dead. Or at least a cold-hearted sham of a mother.

Item #2. Last night we have a 6.40pm appointment with an immigration officer at the police station to renew our yearly visa to stay in country. This was actually our 2nd effort at doing this, as we originally went to the wrong precinct in the wrong county (even after being told by the officer that it would be fine, but that's another story...). Anyway, so we arrive at about 6.42, give our names and appointment time, and wait... and wait... and wait... till about 40 minutes later when the same officer who took our information informs us that the immigration officer has left the building. "Where you late?" she asks. "A couple of minutes." "Well he left for a meeting at 10 till 7." "We were here then." "Oh. Well, can you come back at 10?" As we had child minders back with the kids, the answer was no. We scheduled yet another appointment (our 3rd) for Sunday morning, and I'm thinking that now perhaps maybe God is trying to teach me something, or at least give me a cultural lesson I won't soon forget.

Finally, this morning. Boy dressed, ready for school, homework in bag, heads next door for his lift to school. 30 seconds later he comes back, "No school today." We had a sneaking suspicion this might in fact be the case, seeing as it's election Friday and the school is a polling place. But having not heard a peep from the school or hearing much from other parents, assumed normal activities would take place. "No, go back, there's school today. Your teacher didn't send a note home, so everything's the same today." Another 30 seconds, "There is no school today! Why won't you listen to me? It's voting day!" At this point I realize we've missed the most important cue of all: listening to our child. I head back over to the neighbour's and discover she got a text from school last week informing her of the cancellation. We received no such text. No letter home, no info on the website, no one answering the phone. No school. Our gut instincts were right, but not receiving official written confirmation (usually the final word in the States) figured we were wrong. 

Lesson to be learned? Well, I feel like not only have I failed the communication test, but I'm a bad mother for not taking my child seriously and not being there for him when he needed me. A bad neighbour for not seeking out friends to share valuable information with, as opposed to relying solely on the school. A bad cross-cultural worker for not catching those missed cultural cues, whatever they were... still searching for them, actually. And a bad Christian, for getting so impatient and unnerved and annoyed at these things that I thought I could control, but really can't. Clearly there is a lesson to be learned here... multiple lessons. Maybe that's what year 2 is for: to fix all the things you messed up on in year 1.

Like a kick in the...

22 May 2009


Welcome to week 27 everybody! Only one more week and we're in the homestretch of the 3rd trimester. This child is kickin' me all over the place... it's exhausting. Wakes me up in the night, keeps me up in the night, and don't even get me started on the heartburn. I've been feeling like I need to blog for ages now, but really all that's on my mind is how uncomfortable and knackered (tired, exhausted, wrecked) I am. Now, I totally understand childbearing for the miracle it is (in all it's weird and icky glory), but, well, I think this is it for me. Not sure my body (or my mind) can handle another one.

In lighter news of the week, husband has become my hero by assisting in the replacement of our car's clutch. Son has become my inspiration as he handles friendship trials with never-ending laughter and pleasantness (I, on the other hand, am a pansy when it comes to watching him "go it alone" most days). Daughter has become my consternation as she ransacks the house on an hourly basis, running from one end to the other tearing things up, jumping on me, screaming at ear-splitting decibels, and generally leaving me in a state of shock and awe at her downright craziness. In fact, her new question to me recently is: "Am I so crazy?" together with a shrieking, "Are you KIDDING me?!?!" (The former question I'm sure is from me, while the latter one is a carbon copy of her brother). 

Things in our house continue to be as busy and unpredictable as ever. And yet, I still go to bed each night with a smile on my face and extreme gratitude in my heart.

Year 1 and transition observations

05 May 2009

Having recently returned from a holiday with family in the States, we now find ourselves celebrating a milestone: us and Ireland one-year-old together. Part of me feels like this is more of a birthday than an anniversary, since last May 5th was the start of a brand new life for us. But either way you slice it, celebrations are in order.

We actually flew back to Ireland just days short of the anniversary of us moving to Ireland, however, the feelings that accompanied this most recent transition were so different. Last year when we left home, my heart nearly literally felt like it was breaking. That pain left me raw for weeks and months, but like some other types of grief, the shock and awe of it eventually began to fade, paving the way for new normalcy. When we flew out of Chicago this past Friday, that pain was nowhere to be found. Sure, we were definitely sad to say goodbye to our parents again and wished, of course, that our time together was longer. But upon boarding that plane, we knew we were going home. It was weird, really weird. But weird things can be good, too.

Another odd thing about our short trip back to the US: we, as people, felt different. It was hard to find comfort in the same old things, and sometimes, on occasion, even hard to find comfort in the same people from our old life. Not that we weren't overjoyed at seeing those same things and people again. Quite, the contrary, we had some very sweet (albeit short) reunions. Target welcomed me with open doors, while my mentor welcomed me with open arms. It was wonderful spending some times with our parents and siblings and the few friends we got to see. However, the food didn't taste as good as I remembered it. Shopping at Target confused me more than pleased me.  And there were some quiet patches, lapses in the conversation I didn't know how to fill. Maybe it was culture shock, or exhaustion, or the mental recognition that time was too short to share anything of real depth. Again, it was weird, really weird. But weird things can be sad, too.

So now we begin year 2. I still feel like I'm in a pregnancy funk, but the funk isn't as deep as it was before our little vacay. Maybe all I needed was just a little perspective. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Unless the other side is Ireland. Then it is always greener. Literally. However, if it's the upper-midwest in the middle of April, then it's always a bit browner.

Zoo April 2009 066
Good times with cousins.


04 April 2009


taken on Matt's birthday, 11 March
16 weeks pregnant

A good cry with God

31 March 2009

Sunday night as we were leaving church, we stepped outside to the smell of the spring rain. More specifically, the smell of a Kansas spring rain. And I cried.

Which leads me to my short little list for the day. Every so often (not too often as not to get permanently drenched in one's own tears) I like to have a little cry with God. I have a soundtrack - not all to be played at once, mind you, probably best to start one at a time and used sparingly - that helps me give the big and little things up to Him. Listen at your own discretion.

Sufjan Stevens : Holy, Holy, Holy
Nichole Nordeman : Every Season
U2 : Yahweh
Sara Groves : Less Like Scars, When it was Over, Maybe There's a Loving God (take your pick, really)
Waterdeep : He Will Come
Jars of Clay : Water Under the Bridge
Rich Mullins : My Deliverer
Jennifer Knapp : Martyrs and Thieves
The end.

I Heart Socialism

20 March 2009

Nothing will kill your affection for a country faster than dealing with it's health care system. On the plus side, living in a country with nationalized health care means that while it's all a bit dodgy, it's still 100% free. 

So, if you haven't guessed, today - at nearly 18 weeks pregnant - I finally had my first prenatal appointment in the local hospital.  After 2 1/2 hours, 2 midwifes, one booking lady, a blood-taker, and a sonographer (no doctor in sight), I'm feeling slightly more anxious about this whole thing.

However, I am looking forward to that day 23 weeks from now when I finally meet my doctor (or consultant) face-to-face and share the birthing experience with 6 other labouring women. Fun.

One Moment in Time (cue Whitney Houston)

05 March 2009

So I've been super busy lately, so busy that I've not had much time to write, rest, reflect or clean. Well, I try not to find the time to clean, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, after missing my last book club meeting due to some wicked morning sickness, and having only read 50 pages of the current book club read (Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill), I somewhat hesitatingly drove to our local library for our monthly meeting. Now when I say local, I mean that technically it's about 8 km away, driving down 3 narrow country roads, a not-as-narrow two-lane highway (dual carriageway), to a nearby village with construction (road works) up and down it's narrow main street. I have been known to take out a side-view mirror or two. So anyway, as I drove to book club last night at dusk, I was suddenly struck with an obvious though completely awe-inspiring thought:

I live in Ireland!

I live here. In Ireland. By the sea. In the country. With people I'm growing to love. Raising my kids here.

We have a life in Ireland. Wow.

A conversation

25 February 2009

Upon arriving home from school today:

Jackson: Mom, guess what happened today?
Mom: What?
Jackson: I got ashes put on my head like a cross!
Mom: Wow! That's really neat Jackson. Did they tell you why?
Jackson: Do you know why?
Mom: Because it's Ash Wednesday!
Jackson: How do you KNOW that?!?!?
Mom: Because it's when we start celebrating the season of Lent, before Easter comes! 
Jackson: You know everything!
Mom: Yes I do. Do you know what Lent means?
Jackson: It means giving up something you want and helping other people.
Mom: What would you like to give up for Lent?
Jackson: Sweets and chocolate!
Mom: Wow! Ok!
Jackson: So can I have some sweets now?

New post

07 February 2009

So I was tired of looking at my ramblings in my last post, so here is a new post! Oh yeah, and I'm pregnant too. 12 weeks. This one's been a tough one (physically and emotionally) so not sure what else to say at this point... except that I'm really pleased that my one good ovary is apparently awesome. Too awesome, one might say. :)


Written Emotions

20 January 2009

Sitting in Malahide, waiting.
Feeling sick and unsteady, and not the least bit weak,
physically and spiritually.
The brain works overtime
while the body hibernates.
I see evidence of boats and mossy land
fancy cars and cigarettes
men in nice shoes.
The sky hints that it could be blue
- eventually - 
Until then, we wait.

Within an hour of writing this, it was raining and snowing. Within 5 minutes of writing this I realized what I fool I have been recently. It's been a rough few months with a lot of changes, a lot of sickness, and a lot of "what ifs". It's exhausting living this way, not altogether there. But today, as I sat in Starbucks in Malahide waiting and writing, my eyes were opened to the reality and blessing of where we are. The responsibility that comes with that, and the joy, and the adventure. My head and my heart have had divided allegiances, keeping me from fully investing in the here and now. Being wholly here, and soul-ly present. So this is what I wrote, 300 seconds after the first bit of Karen-style poetry.

I must be a fool to ever think of trading this: writing in Malahide, for staying in Kansas. I know there are coffee shops anywhere, and surely some lovely ones back "home", but there is no sea, no moss, no ships, no newness, no fear.

And then a thought: it feels good to write again. So good, I cried.


PS. No offense to the people and places in Kansas that are so ingrained in my history. You know who are and where you reside in my heart. 


Top 10, Ireland Style

06 January 2009

So I've hit a rough patch with living overseas recently. Surprisingly to me, the 8 month mark on the culture shock curve shows an upswing, while I feel like I'm in a tailspin. So in order to help myself look at things more rationally, here is my Top 10 Things I Love About Ireland & Would Miss if We Left:

  1. Tea & biscuits (or even better, tea & scones!)
  2. The Irish church (not just our church, but the Christian community at-large)
  3. My coworkers, who I so rarely get to see, but always enjoy and learn from
  4. Living within an hour's drive of mountains
  5. Living within 5 minutes of the sea, and getting to see it nearly every day
  6. Public transportation (especially the train that runs by the sea)
  7. Our new Irish friends, several who have taken the time to mentor us in the ways of the Irish
  8. Rugby and hurling (really fun to watch, though I don't yet understand a thing about them)
  9. Jackson's school, which he loves
  10. No political commercials! :)